What is a Sillcock Key and Why Might it Be Useful?

Living in an urban environment makes it easy to take water for granted. You turn on a tap and have access to as much water as you need.

What would happen if that supply suddenly dried up? What would you do for water, then?

Can I let you in on a secret?

The only thing standing between you and an almost limitless supply of water costs less than $10, weighs less than 10 oz and measures less than 5 inches in length.

What is it? A sillcock key.

Why You Need A Sillcock Key In Your Bug-Out Bag

Although not specifically designed for survival situations, a sillcock key is a handy item to have in your bug-out bag. Widely used by plumbers, contractors, and engineers, it’s a simple device used to open tamper-resistant sillcocks and hose bibs.

These outdoor water faucets are on almost every residential, commercial, and industrial building.

Also known as hose bibs, spigots, and valves, sillcocks are external water supplies you can attach a hose to or use to access water outside. Even if the power is off, there will still be water in the pipes. For any self-respecting prepper, that means a vital step towards survival.

While the sillcock valve on your house probably has a lever or handle to control the flow and turn the water on and off, these are often removed from commercial and industrial buildings to prevent theft and vandalism.

Sillcock valve
A typical sillcock valve on the exterior of a building.

The absence of a handle means you need a key to operate the valve. Not all sillcocks are the same, so even the most basic sillcock key generally has four different attachments, each slightly different in size or shape.

I’ve Got A Multi-Tool, So Why Do I Need A Sillcock Key?

While some sillcocks are square, others are triangular.

The sillcock valve will be loose enough to turn it with your fingers if you’re lucky. You may even manage to turn a more stubborn valve with a good survival multi-tool or pair of pliers, but many sillcock valves and locking mechanisms are tamper-resistant, so will thwart such attempts.

Furthermore, many sillcock valves have never been used, making them difficult to open even if you have the right tool for the job.

How Does It Work?

So, how does a sillcock key work? Just like any other key, really. Slot it into place, turn it anti-clockwise, and collect the water in your survival canteen.

Still not clear? This demonstration should clear up any confusion:

What Else Can A Sillcock Key Access?

In addition to opening water faucets, some multipurpose sillcock keys can also be used to access electrical control cabinets, gas supplies, radiators, and equipment panels.

Those featuring a triangular wrench and a variety of square fittings can also open train doors and windows and even windows in hotels and museums.

A sillcock key may not only be the key to water and equipment but could be the key to your survival – giving you access to potentially life-saving escape routes.

What To Look For

The rule of thumb with a sillcock key is “the more, the merrier.” If you opt for an entry-level, budget water meter key like this one from Danco, you’ll be limiting your options unnecessarily.

This single key has the benefits of being both small and lightweight, but it will only open one type of sillcock. In an emergency, this may not be enough.

A slightly more expensive model, like the one from Hautmec, gives you four keys and, therefore, four times as much chance of finding water. Sure, it’s a bit heavier than a single key, but at under 4 oz, it won’t weigh you down and will give you a durable 4-way sillcock key that can access most of the valves in regular use.

Like the best survival multi-tools, a top-of-the-range sillcock key adds more keys and, as a result, greater versatility. The Knipex  (reviewed below) adds tools for opening electrical control cabinets, gas supplies, ventilation systems, switchboards, and radiators.

Mini-Reviews – Sillcock Keys

Best Overall
Knipex Tools - Silcock Knipex Tools - Silcock

his Knipex tool goes beyond being a simple sillcock key, giving you access to gas, electrical supplies, and water. 4-way wheel wrenches are included in this 8-arm zinc die-cast tool, which also features a reversible bit joint.

Costing over four times the price of our budget sillcock key, this versatile tool isn’t quite as robust as the steel option but makes up for its ability to access a much more comprehensive range of valves. It’s also an ounce lighter than the Cobra and a little smaller.

Budget Option
HAUTMEC 4 Way Sillcock Key HAUTMEC 4 Way Sillcock Key

This durable steel sillcock key is simple yet effective. It has keys to fit the standard spigot sizes of 1/4", 9/32", 5/16", and 11/32". A little heavier than some of the more expensive options, the Cobra will add just under 6 oz to the weight of your bug-out bag and measures just under 5 inches long.


Not only can a sillcock key give you access to water in an emergency, but it could also give you the means to obtain valuable materials, like wire, for instance, and enter secret passageways that could serve as convenient escape routes in a disaster.

When looking for a sillcock key for your bug-out bag, don’t limit your options by purchasing a cheap single key – opt for a more versatile multifunctional tool worth its weight in gold when the SHTF.

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  1. In an urban environment, one of these keys is vitally important. A good practice is locate these outside units on all nearby buildings and keep information handy. Especially hidden locations where filling can be done hidden from public view.

    To make your container easier to fill, purchase a hose connection for washing machines, Cut in half (now you have two units) and connect the end to the hose bibb for quicker / less messy container filling. Containers which stand on their own is also very convenient.


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