Turning Your Phone into a Survival Tool


Some people can always find excuses not to be prepared. They say they can’t carry an EDC bag or survival kit with them in the car, because they’re already carrying too many other things that they use all the time. But the reality is, they are already carrying an EDC, everyone does; the only real difference is that a survival EDC will help us to survive when things go wrong, rather than just helping redo makeup or having a paper clip to keep some documents together.

In fact, to someone who truly thinks survival, many everyday items can be turned to survival uses. They may require a few tweaks to make them effective; but that doesn’t stop their effectiveness. But the best thing is, this makes it easier to survive, without increasing the amount of stuff you’re carrying around every day.

Cell phones are a great example of this. Almost everyone carries around a smartphone these days; but few people actually use their smartphone for anything smart. Rather, they have become expensive electronic toys. That’s not saying that they can’t be used for smarter things though. With a little preparation, a smartphone can become a useful survival tool.

Keep it Charged

Any cell phone is only useful as long as it’s charged. Yet today’s smartphones go through battery power at an alarming rate, especially when you’re using them constantly, such as for surfing the internet. Few can make it through an entire day without recharging, regardless of what the manufacturers say.

In order to keep your smartphone useful in daily life, let alone in a survival situation, you’ve got to keep it charged. That means having a means of charging it with you at all times. If you’re going to make that phone part of your EDC survival gear, I’d recommend carrying a solar charger with you, as well as chargers for your office and car. Left on your car’s dashboard, the charger can be kept ready. Then the solar charger will keep your phone going, even when the power is out.

Getting the Right Apps

As with everything else involving smartphones, survival is all about the apps that you have installed. What you need are apps that will allow your smartphone to do things that you need to do, when it comes time to survive. This can include apps such as:

GPS – Most smartphones come with GPS capability built-in. Android phones come with Google Maps as well. But you might want to consider getting an actual GPS app, as most will provide you with more information than Google Maps does. Be sure to store the maps on your phone, rather than just depending on the online maps.

Topographical Maps – You can download topographical maps onto your phone, giving you a means of finding your way, even if the GPS system is out. These maps are available for free from the USGS (US Geological Survey) website.

Flashlight – Everyone needs a flashlight, right? While I prefer using a tactical light, having a flashlight app on my phone gives me a spare. Just remember, you’re eating up battery life whenever you use it.

Compass – Knowing where you are is one thing, knowing where you’re going is another. The compass has solved this second problem for centuries. A simple app for your phone, which can make it easier to find your way home, or to wherever you need to go.

Survival Manuals – If you don’t have the Kindle app on your phone, you should. Then you should fill it up with survival guides, edible plant guides, books on bushcraft, first-aid and those on herbal medicine as well. This portable library of information can do more to help you stay alive than just about anything. But be sure to download the books to your phone’s memory, as you may not have signal to access them in the cloud.

Other Uses of Your Smartphone

There are also things you can use your smartphone for, which don’t require adding new apps, but rather use your phone’s built-in capability.

Binoculars – If your phone has a high resolution camera, you can zoom in on something at a distance and see it much more clearly than you can with the naked eye. This can help you find specific landmarks you’re looking for, help you find water, and help you to avoid trouble spots.

Use the Camera – When you’re walking in the great outdoors, it’s easy to get lost. But when you turn around to go back, everything looks different. Using your smartphone’s camera to take pictures of your back trail can help you recognize those landmarks when you’re trying to retrace your steps.

Take a Selfie – Selfies do actually have a survival use. You can use the phone’s camera to take pictures of yourself, allowing you to check on your health. Many medical conditions will show up on your face, giving you the first indication that you’re in trouble.
Call for Rescue – The simplest use of a smartphone may very well be the most important; that’s simply calling for help when you’re in a survival situation. As long as you have signal, you can call or text someone, asking them to contact the authorities and effect a rescue.

Even a Broken Smartphone Can Help

While I would never recommend breaking your smartphone, just so that you could do these things, a broken smartphone still has parts in it, which can be of help in a survival situation.

Battery – The phone’s battery can be used to start a fire, if you don’t have any other fire starter. All you need is a gum wrapper; the kind made of waxed paper, with aluminum foil on one side. Cut a thin strip of the wrapper (about ¼” wide) and then notch it in the middle, making a spot that’s only 1/16” wide. When the two ends of the wrapper are touched to the positive and negative terminals of the battery, it will start burning at the notch.

Glass – The glass screen on your phone can be broken, giving you shards that can be used as a knife or as makeshift arrowheads.

Signaling for Help – Before you break the glass on your phone, consider using it to signal for help. The glass screen is reflective, allowing you to use it as a mirror, reflecting the sun’s light to show where you are. In order to aim it, place one hand in the direction you want the light to go, then angle the phone wit the other hand, pointing the light at your hand.

Make a Compass – The speaker in your phone has a magnet in it, albeit small. Cut a wire out of the phone, strip the insulation off of it and then stroke it over the speaker magnet, magnetizing it. You can then place this on a small leaf, floating in the water. The earth’s magnetic force, working on the magnetized water, will turn the leaf to align the wire with the magnetic poles.

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