Improvisation is an essential skill for survival. Almost any day-to-day item can be utilized for certain emergency purposes. Things like empty soda cans might seem useless to other people, but, with a little bit of creativity, soda cans can be utilized for several of the most ingenious and practical survival hacks.
Soda cans are one of the most common items you can find anywhere. And to some extent, that is a sad fact because you do find them littered practically everywhere. However, as preppers, we can collect these soda cans and even hoard some for use on specific needs that may arise later.
What makes soda cans ideal for preppers is that they are easy to cut and shape into various forms with tools and any knives and scissors. Just remember to take extra caution when handling the sharp edges, as they can cut deep!
Therefore, here are some survival hacks wherein you can make excellent use of soda cans:
Firstly, a whistle is an essential tool you’ll need in hand if you get stuck, injured, or need to signal your companions.
What it is needed:
- 1 Soda can
- Scissors (or a sharp knife)
Cut out a sheet from the can. Stay clear of sharp edges that might cut your fingers.
Cut a long strip from the sheet (depending on the size of the whistle you want).
In one end of the strip, bend a small portion into a 45° angle, then using your fingers, roll the end part of that bent portion upwards into a small circle. Make sure to leave a small gap between the end of the rolled-up portion and the rest of the sheet. Also, remember to keep the chrome-colored surface exposed as you do steps 2 and 3.
Cut a short bit from the other side of the strip. Make sure this small strip is long enough to extend over on the sides of the strip when placed horizontally across, right next to the rolled-up portion.
With the chrome-colored surface of the longer strip facing up, place the small strip underneath the longer strip in a horizontal position, right next to the rolled-up portion. This should form a cross shape, with the ends of the small strip extending across on the sides of the long strip.
(The printed portions of both strips should face each other. And the chrome-colored surfaces should face opposite directions.)
Then fold those extended sides of the small strip up over the longer strip.
With the chrome-colored surface facing up again, fold the end of the longer strip up and towards the rolled-up part. It should now cover the folded portion of the small strip.
Remember to fold this well and make sure the end of the strip goes right into the angle bend of the rolled-up portion. Cut the end to size to make sure it stays tight in place. Your can strips are now shaped like a regular whistle.
With the mouthpiece of your improvised whistle facing you, you will notice a very thin space between the small strip and the folded longer strip. Insert a small flat tool in the space and try to make it a bit bigger. Be sure the gap will be enough for air to be blown into it.
To use it, cover both sides of the rolled-up portion with your fingers, then blow into the mouthpiece.
Fire Starter & Signaling Device
Being able to start a fire is a crucial skill in any survival situation. A can of soda can prove useful for starting a fire in two ways.
To start the fire
The concave bottom of the can may be used to direct sunlight to ignite kindling. You will need to polish the bottom of the can for it to be shiny enough to reflect the sun’s rays. A bar of chocolate, toothpaste, and even some mud can be used to polish the can. Rub whatever compound you have on the bottom of the can until it is sufficiently polished. The polished bottom of the can will have a mirror effect that reflects the sunlight and heat up and burn whatever flammable materials you have prepared.
*The polished bottom of the can may also be used as a signaling device for planes, search parties, or your companions. You can also use other parts of the can for signaling, such as the top of the can or by cutting it open and using the smooth reflective surface inside the can.
Using the can as the base of the fire
If it’s not sunny and the breeze is too strong, or if the rain’s pouring down, you can use a soda can as the fire’s base. The insides of the can will build up the heat quickly and maintain it. Use suitable tinder such as dry grass, pine cones, or even a candle.
Penny Can Stove
Making a penny can stove takes a little more effort, but it will surely come in handy if you need something portable to heat water on or cook small portions of food with.
- 2 Soda cans
- Cutter (or a sharp knife)
- Penny coin
Cut the bottom ends of the cans (a little over an inch and a half, or a little bigger if you like).
With one cut-up can, use the hammer and nail to punch five holes on the inside (shaped like a cross). Then, put a circle of holes around the exterior of the concave. Space holes evenly.
With the other can, use pliers to bend the edges inwards to make it easier to attach together with the can with the holes. This can will serve as the bottom while the can with holes will be on top like a cover.
(Optional step) For a starting wick, put fiberglass insulation, cotton, or other flammable materials inside the bottom can.
Attach the two cans together, with the can with holes serving as the top cover. This now serves as your improvised can stove.
Put a considerable amount of denatured alcohol (or other types of fuel) into the can stove by pouring it into the concaved part of the stove. Pour some on the holes on the side of the makeshift stove as well. (Make sure to put a lot of fuel if you didn’t put a starting wick inside the stove)
Light it up with a match or lighter, then put the coin (penny) on top as soon as the fire begins to build up.
Related: How to Make A Cool Rocket Stove For Free
Unlike a standard planter, soda cans could be useful for growing plants on almost any surface. It’s also easy to do. All you need to do is cut out the top part of the can, and then you can place your plants and seeds in it. You may use any type of plastic to cover each planter during seeding.
Additionally, you may place a few rocks at the bottom of the can so that water collects below and won’t soak your roots in it. Make sure to paint the soda can to protect it and also make it suitable for different temperatures.
Paint the planter cans a lighter color so the can will reflect the heat outwards. The paint will help keep the plant’s roots cooler while also reducing moisture evaporation.
Paint the planter can black so it can absorb the sun’s heat.
The soda can tab seems like an insignificant part of the can, but it can be made into an improvised fish hook. This fish hook tab may look crude, but it has been tried, and despite its limitations, it has been proven to work quite well.
What you’ll need:
- 1 Soda can tab
- Scissors, pliers, or small knife
- Fishing cord
Using the scissors (or pliers, or knife, whichever you prefer to use), cut a section of the larger circle of the tab to reshape it into a hook.
Sharpen the tip of the tab with your tool of choice until it resembles a hook.
Tie the fishing line to the smaller circle and put some bait on the makeshift hook, and you’re good to go.
You can also turn your soda can into a lantern or lamp with a few items and tools. Check out this DIY Soda Can Candle Lantern article for some guidance.
Various Makeshift Tools
You can easily fashion different tools with a soda can as well. The cut-up edges of a can are quite sharp. Using some wood and some ingenuity, you can easily create a cutting tool.
It only takes a little bit of creativity and skill to fashion simple items for survival uses. Knowing these soda can survival hacks could ultimately help you if ever any such need arises.
Soda cans are easy to get hold of and can be very useful for several more purposes other than the ones discussed here. With the soda can’s adaptability you can even come up with your own survival uses for it.
You may also like:
16 Survival Uses For Crisco That You Never Thought Of
This Hidden Survival Garden Will Keep You Well Fed When SHTF (Video)
The Easy and Practical DIY Snares to Catch Small Wild Game
How to Make a Nutritious One-Year Shelf-Life Vitamin Bar for Your Stockpile
You always have interesting articles Claud. Thank You for all that you do. Excellent tips for the normal persons trash. Wishing you, and your family, the Best of the New Year. What a Trip 2020 has been.
Wow! These are just great. Is it OK if I share these with a Boy Scout leader? These would be so good for scouts to know. Well, everyone, but our son is a Scout leader. He only has 3 in his troop. =(
May I ask what the purpose of the penny in the middle? Does it need to be a ” copper” penny pre 1983 pennies had alot more copper than the post 1983 pennies which are mostly nickle. Thanks!
KB: It’s just enough weight to keep the burner from warping in the heat. That’s what I was told. niio
The newer zinc pennies will warp, I have a baggie with several of these stoves and a few pennies in it, I keep a bottle of alcohol and a lighter on the shelf with it. I also have a larger can with holes around the bottom to let in air, for supporting a pot over the stove. All told, it probably cost me $3 for this primitive stove kit. And it works really well. Test your stuff before just putting it away, and rotate your fuel.
You can use a 1983 penny or later year in a soda can burner but it will deteriorate. A 1982 is questionable as the metal material was changing at the mints. A 1981 or earlier penny will work fine. Another option is to use a “nickel slug” which is 1/2 inch punch out of a metal electrical box.
Actually, the metal composition of the Lincoln penny was changed from mostly copper with a small percentage of zinc and nickel to mainly zinc with a plating of copper in 1982 and will not hold up and a 1982 and later pennies will deform quite badly and quite quickly whereas a pre-1982 penny will not.
For those of us who don’t want the deposit return money and honestly think these VERY CLEVER recycling ideas for common soda cans can be practical survival strategies, go for it! Yes,do I think the Boy Scouts would be interested in these projects–if there is time for them.
Japan National Broadcasting has a method to make a stove from a couple of soda/beer cans that is simpler than the method here. I will pay closer attention the next time it airs and post it here.
They have PSAs that offer helpful survival information similar to what is posted on this site. A lot of them have to do with folding paper which is an extension of what they do as a national pastime. The only problem with the paper folding is that they do it far too swiftly for a clumsy-fingered gaijin.
LCC: Is this wick stove what you meant?
Tony: Yes, that is exactly what I had reference to. I’m amazed. I spent over an hour yesterday searching NHK’s website looking for even a trace of that particular video without success.
Thank you for posting the link. If you watch it, you will see what I mean about the folding going so fast it is hard for a fumble-fingered gaijin to follow. For people who have twenty or thirty or more years of origami history, piece of cake.
The Japanese version uses vegetable oil which if spilled is not as flammable as alcohol. Alcohol will burn cleaner than vegetable oil. Always a trade-off. There is no safe, clean-burning fuel that I am aware of.
Thanks again, Tony for doing a fine bit of research. As you can probably tell, with regard to the information super highway, I am still racing along the frontage road searching for the on-ramp.
I remember reading an article about how Dennis Weaver (actor) had built his home with sand-filled soda cans.
Karen: Tires packed with clay. Cans were used in arches over doorways and windows, then covered in adobe. It’s a two-story home. Very cool place. niio
Agree! Very nice and creative! Thank you!
Happy New Year and many blessings!
Very clever and resourceful! God bless and love from wyoming! Happy new year!!
Happy New Year! niio
Why close off some of the holes in the burner top? You are adding to the time it takes to bring whatever you are heating to the desired heat. I don’t understand the reasoning behind blocking five of the holes in the top of the can. Please explain.
best use of the cans is melting them down for the raw aluminum – get enough material for a mold pour for a small cast part ….
Warrior: Yeah, especially here. We’re so far from Tucson, only seniors save the cans to donate to different things. Happy New Year. niio
red, we are 20 miles S.E. of Tucson. I take our cans into town and recycle them for cash, which goes into a prepping fund in an empty coffee container. Although we do save the cans from canned vegetables for different uses.
k793: 40 miles north. A kid from town was taking half a truckload in every few weeks, but they demanded the cans be whole and not crushed. He stopped and found another way to help support his family. He was 14 then. niio
That doesn’t make any sense as the cans are smashed down flat before they are shipped to be smelted down. It makes a lot more sense to haul 40,000 pounds of smashed down cans than it does to haul a truck full of air with unflattened cans. There was something else going on. He must have been cutting in on somebody’s business who had an interest or a relationship to the recycling company.
LCC: that’s what I thought, as well. The reason was, with uncrushed cans,they can tell if there’s dirt or rocks in them. Still, the kid works his butt off and his parents are proud of him. niio
made my $$$ as a kid with the old pop bottle deposit – big return was a quarter back then ….
find a Nehi or a Green River and try to sneak it past the grocery guy ….
Illini: I’m older than you. It was 2¢ for ten ounce bottles and a whole nickel for the quart size. When I was old enough to work in the grocery store Saturday morning was the day spent sorting the bottles and putting them in crates for the delivery guy to pick up and take back to the bottling plant. It usually took two of the bag boys all Saturday morning to sort all the bottles and crate them.
Guess I’m showing my age. Bag Boys is probably not politically correct these days. Courtesy clerks is the gender neuter term for folks who do odd chores around the grocery store these days.
Red: The guy running the recycling yard is in the running for the Guiness Award for the dumbest employer in the world.
That is an incredible waste of employee time if he is checking each can for possible inclusion of foreign material. He can easily use a scale to check crushed cans for extraneous material. As a matter of fact, if the employee has worked there even a short while, he can tell just by feel if the can has junk in it, crushed or not.
When I had my print company I could estimate how many sheets of paper were in a stack just by feeling the stack. I would come to within 1% of the actual count if I didn’t get it right on the nose.
I have noticed the clerks in the deli section of the grocery store can grab almost the exact weight of the product they are selling and hit it almost on the head every time. They too will be within 1% if they don’t hit it right on the head. It doesn’t matter, quarter pound, half pound, full pound, without even thinking about it they can grab the right amount. Watch them the next time you buy sliced meat or cheese or even salads.
I know that before those cans are loaded on a trailer for hauling to the smelter they are crushed. Nobody who is hauling stuff for income wants to haul a load of empty cans. The smelter doesn’t want uncrushed cans either. When they scoop up a backhoe load of cans they want to get as much aluminum as they can get in that scoop to cut the costs of running the machinery.
LCC: It’s that way in PA, too. They get run thru a blower that rejects heavy cans. Flat cans get stuck, but the uncrushed are flattened before leaving the yard.
Last time I took any in, it was 10 garbage bags up in Hazleton, PA. the dude kept cussing that he did not want them, but the woman in the office called and snapped at him. He kept accusing me of cheating, so I dumped them. That, he didn’t like 🙂 I told him, “Find where I cheated you.” Every figgin can was paper flat from running over them with the company truck. He weighed them and I walked out. the lady said he got stuck a few times with loaded cans and paid for it. niio
Wow, nice article. Happy New Year! niio
There are so much more things that you can use this can for.
You can make a
Comb for your hair
Tips for Arrows
Glasses for snow blindness
Splint for broken bone
With a hammer and tin snips. It’s endless.
There was a man in the small town I grew up in that picked up bottles along the highway. Everyone just called him BottleO. Bottles were between 5 & 6 cents each back then. That’s how he got money. I think he was homeless.
My kids all saved cans for spending money I until the recyceler refused crushed cans. We x stopped bothering.
Those little alchol stoves have always been favorites of mine.
Whistle is interesting.
Let’s not forget also that, especially considering this holiday season and the parties that go along with it, significant collections of cans can be stacked inside wooden frames with other pertinent materials (forget all of which materials are needed at the moment) and mounted to serve as solar air heaters for buildings, rooms, etc.