DIY Survival 101: 15 Clever Kits, Tricks & Hacks

DIY Survival Skills and Kits Main

What would you do if you got lost or injured on a wilderness hike, or found yourself with a broken-down car and no working cell phone in the middle of nowhere? Planning ahead will save your life, and it doesn’t take a lot of money to compile the supplies you’d need to stay warm, fed and hydrated, and alert rescuers to your location. Here are 14 kits, tricks and hacks that you can DIY, from all-in-one survival packs to simple solar stills that convert air condensation into drinkable water.

All-in-One DIY Survival Kits

DIY Altoids Tin Survival Kit

(image via: field and stream)

Even a tiny kit filled with the most basic of implements can make a big difference if you’re ever caught in an emergency situation while out in the woods. You can purchase pre-made kits, but it’s best to make them yourself and ensure that you’re familiar with the contents and how to use them. Plus, you can customize them to your particular needs. Field and Stream offers a tutorial to make a survival kit inside an Altoids mint tin. These ultra-compact kits are easy to carry, no matter where you’re going. Make sure you’ve got a compass and you know how to use it.

Water Filter

If you’re ever stuck in the wild without clean water to drink, there are a few options that might just save your life. Fast-moving streams and rivers are the safest and easiest source, but what do you do when there’s no obvious source of water around? Build a pit-style solar still from a few basic materials that you should always carry. A solar still gathers condensation from the air into potable water. See the video above for a tutorial, or read more at How Stuff Works.

Tinder and Kindling

DIY Survival Tinder Fire Starter

(image via: instructables)

When the woods are wet and you’re getting cold, dry, flammable materials are like gold. One option is to peel strips of bark off a birch or cedar tree, which makes great tinder, and shred the papery parts inside. You might also be able to carve slices of dry wood from the inside of a branch. But the best option is to simply carry a little bit of emergency tinder with you. Learn how to make waterproof fire starter bundles, or your own little fire-starting gadget, at Instructables. You could also carry baggies of dryer lint, which tends to be very flammable, or cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. According to one Instructables tutorial, you can even make fire from ice (good luck with that.)

Super-Cheap Stove

DIY can stove

(image via: instructables)

A single-can backpacking stove is a very lightweight and valuable material to keep on hand when hiking, camping or participating in other outdoor activities. It’s practically free to make, and runs on denatured alcohol, which can be found in large tins at hardware stores. Get the tutorial at Instructables.

Rigging a Shelter

DIY survival tarp shelter

(image via: michael pollack)

There are dozens of different ways to rig tarps into emergency shelters, whether you find yourself lost in the woods on a hiking excursion or you just want to get out of the rain for a little while. Carry a small tarp or, at the very least, a compact and inexpensive mylar emergency blanket, as well as some paracord, which is strong and durable cord that can hold a lot of weight. See the tutorial above, and more options at Practical Survivor.

Ways to Stay Warm

DIY survival how to stay warm

(image via: nappent)

A hat, gloves, proper-fitting boots and some protein- and carb-packed snacks are your best friends when it comes to staying warm in the outdoors. Dress properly for the weather and be sure to always pack these items, even if you don’t plan to stay out overnight. Avoid wearing cotton, which absorbs moisture and causes evaporation next to the skin, which has a cooling effect. Always carry an emergency blanket, which reflects your body heat back onto you rather than allowing it to dissipate into the air. Stay dry, stay out of the wind, beware of exhaustion and never ignore shivering. If you get wet, feel overly tired or start to shiver while outdoors, go back to your vehicle or camp right away. Learn the signs of hypothermia and what to do in response at

Paracord Bracelets and Belts

DIY paracord bracelet

(image via: instructables)

Paracord can be used for everything from emergency shelters to replacement shoelaces, so it’s a very handy item to have. You can pack a large amount of paracord without adding weight to your bag pretty easily. Construct your own paracord belt or bracelet.

Fish Hooks and Spears

DIY survival fish hook

(image via: instructables)

Most of us non-fishermen would like to think that we’ll never get caught in a situation where we need to catch fish to survive, but you never know what can happen. Add a few small, basic fishing supplies to your emergency kit, or learn how to make your own fishing spear out of bamboo. You can even turn the tab from a canned beverage into a basic hook.

Trapping Animals for Survival

DIY survival snare

(image via: instructables)

Here’s another scenario must of us would like to imagine will never happen, but especially if you spend a lot of time in the wild, it’s better to have the knowledge just in case. Some people think that, in the worst case scenario, they’d hunt animals to survive, but hunting – especially if you haven’t already mastered it – can use a lot of precious energy. Snares are a much easier way to go.

Car Survival Kit

DIY survival car emergency kit

(image via: instructables)

If your car ever breaks down in the middle of nowhere, or you’re trapped in a blizzard, you’ll want to have some basic supplies. DIY car survival kits can be customized to the climate you live in, as well as your preferences, but should always contain a few basic items like a first aid kit, flashlight, pocket knife, emergency cell phone and protein bars or other high-performance, long-lasting foods.

How to be Rescued

DIY survival signal mirror

(image via:

Imagine being stranded, seeing a helicopter pass over you and having no way to attract attention to yourself. You’ll dramatically increase your chances of survival in an emergency if you know a few basic ways to alert rescuers to your location. Few items are as important in this situation as a signal mirror, which is small, lightweight and cheap. Using them is easy, too – see the video above.