7 Urban Survival Hacks Using Everyday Items

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There are a lot of skills you will need for urban survival, but I believe the most important one is creativity. Yes, creativity!  Creative people are able to think outside of the box to find solutions to problems.

They don’t look at problems as a jigsaw puzzle in which you need each piece to complete the picture.

They treat problems like a quilt.  You see what you have available and use them to make something.

There are literally thousands of way that you can exercise creativity as a survival skill.  I couldn’t possibly go over them all.  However, I want to share with you some of my favorite urban survival hacks using everyday items.  These hacks should get your imagination going about the many ways you can use what’s around you to survive, so long as you act creatively.

Make a Fire with a Battery and Piece of Chewing Gum Foil

Fire is one of the fundamentals of survival.  You need it for warmth, for purifying water, for cooking food…  But how do you make a fire without matches?

One option is to grab a battery.  Now touch the ends to a piece of foil at the same time. The current going through the foil will cause the foil to light on fire.   A chewing gum wrapper works great for this if you don’t have any tinfoil.  You can also touch the battery to steel wool to light it.

Note that this will give you about 10 seconds to use it to light a fire.  It will drain the batteries, so don’t use this urban survival hack with batteries you actually need!

Turn a Crayon Into a Candle

If you have a kid like I do, then you probably have a bunch of crayons around the house.  These actually work great as emergency candles.  Just heat up the bottom of a crayon so the wax starts melting.  Then set it onto a plate.  The melted wax will dry and stick the crayon upright.  Now light the top of the crayon.  It will burn for a couple hours!

Make a Stove Out of Aluminum Cans

This is one of my favorite emergency stove designs.  It goes by a few names, including a “hobo stove” and a “penny stove.”

Basic design

There are a few variations on how to make them and we show you step by step instruction in this post – How To Make a Hobo Stove

Brick Rocket Stove

A rocket stove is a great emergency stove for people who don’t have their own wood-burning stoves, gas stove, or other off-grid stove.  You can make rocket stoves out of all sorts of materials.  One of the simplest methods of making a rocket stove is to use bricks and a metal pipe.  Check out more DIY rocket stove designs here and learn  how to make your own.

brick rocket stove design

Rope from Plastic Bottles

One of my favorite devices is this plastic bottle cutter.  You just put a plastic bottle into it and spin.  The cutter will cut off thin strips of plastic.  Basically, you are getting super-strong rope made from plastic bottles!

As this video shows, you can easily make your own device.  It just requires a piece of wood, a sharp blade, some nails, and a knife for cutting the wood.

plastic bottle cutter to make rope

Paper Logs

One of the things which really concerns me is urban survival in the winter.  Yeah, I know how to make an emergency heater – but I will still need fuel to burn in it!

A great solution to this is to make your own “logs” out of scrap paper.  As you can see in the video, it is actually pretty easy (though it does take a while for the logs to dry before you can burn them).

You basically just follow these steps:

  1. Drill some holes in a sides and bottom of the bucket.
  2. Fill it with shredded scrap paper.
  3. Cover the paper with water and let sit.
  4. After the paper has gotten soft, mix up the paper (this will take some time without an electric mixer). It will turn into a mushy pulp.
  5. Put something heavy on top of the pulp to press the water out of the holes.
  6. Let the water drain for several hours.
  7. Remove the drained pulp from the bucket and let it dry.
  8. When the pulp dries, it will be a long-burning paper log.

Here is a video showing you exactly how it is done.


Rebar Tomahawk

To survive in an urban environment after a disaster, you are going to need weapons.  And you are going to need weapons which look damn intimidating!  My theory is that simply having a bizarre DIY weapon will keep people away because you will look so threatening.

One of my favorite DIY weapons is the rebar tomahawk.  There is a bit of a learning curve required for making this because you’ll essentially be forging the metal.  However, even an unskilled person can make a tomahawk.

Check out the video to see how it is done.  Or check out these other Terrifying DIY Survival Weapons.


What are some cool survival hacks you’ve made from everyday objects?  Let us know in the comments.

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