Modern man seems to be permanently attached to the smartphone. For that matter, modern woman and modern teen are just as attached, and modern child is catching up. Basically, the smartphone has become an inseparable part of most lives.
It also can be a vital survival tool. Used properly, it can help you through a wide variety of calamities — saving your bacon before you fall into the frying pan.
We can break the ways a smartphone can help you down into two different generalized categories — things that it can do while intact and things that a broken smartphone can still do.
The Intact Smartphone as a Survival Tool
When I refer to an intact smartphone, I’m referring to one that is still functioning. Some of this will be via using the phone as intended and others will be via apps. If you are out of range or your phone service provider is out of service, your phone will still run local apps. Some of those can be of great help, even if you can’t communicate through the phone.
One thing to remember is that if the phone is not connecting to a tower, it will constantly try to do so. That will kill the battery. To prevent this, you have to shut the phone down when you’re not using it or turn it to airplane mode. You should also have an alternative power supply for your smartphone, either one of the battery packs or even better one of the various solar chargers available on the market.
1. Calling for help
The first and most obvious survival use for a smartphone to help you survive is to call for help. It doesn’t matter if you’re stuck in a snowstorm or you fell down a mountainside, as long as you have a signal, you can make a call and let someone know where you are and that you need help.
You should always let someone know where you are planning on going and when you are planning on getting back. That way, if you don’t make it back, they can get people looking for you. Many phone have a “find my phone” feature for such emergencies. Teach your family members how to use this.
2. Survival library
Most people don’t bother using their phone as an e-book reader, probably due to the small screen size. However, you can get e-book reading apps for all smartphones, regardless of the operating system. With that, you can read whatever books you want in electronic form.
Build yourself a library of useful survival e-books. This should contain books on bushcraft, wilderness survival, urban survival, food preservation, fire-starting techniques, finding food in the wild and identifying wild plants for medicinal and edible purposes.
Make sure you download these books to your phone; otherwise you can’t access them when you are out of range or the phone company’s system is down.
3. Locating yourself
Don’t know where you are? Let your smartphone help. To start. turn on the GPS function and get your location. Unless you are really out in the boonies, it should be able to plot you a route back to the nearest civilization. While you’re at it, look for any streams or bodies of water, so that you can take care of yourself while you are walking out.
You can also download a compass app, which will allow your phone to act as a compass for you. That will be a big help if you forgot to bring a compass with you. Instead of having to look for moss on the side of a tree or use your watch and the sun to figure out where south is, you can just use your smartphone.
The screen of your smartphone will work somewhat as a flashlight, but you’re best off if your smartphone has a light (often the camera’s light) that doubles as a flashlight. It will produce much more light than the screen will and will be enough to light your way.
This only works on smartphones that have high pixel cameras in them. If you can’t see something clearly, such as looking down the valley and trying to determine if there’s a town down there, take a picture of it. Then, zoom in on the picture and get a more detailed look at it than what your eyes can provide.
The Broken Smartphone as a Survival Tool
While an intact smartphone will do a whole lot more for you than a broken one, don’t throw it away if it breaks. You can still use various parts of the phone to help you survive and even be rescued.
6. Starting a fire
Believe it or not, there is more than one way you can use your smartphone to start a fire; it all centers around the battery. Open the phone and take the battery out. If you have 0000 steel wool, take a small piece of it and spread it out, then then brush it over the battery’s contacts; it should start burning. You can do the same thing with a gum wrapper, depending on the type you have.
The gum wrappers that work are the ones that are waxed paper with aluminum foil on one side. Cut a strip of the wrapper that’s about ¼ of an inch wide and make a spot in the middle that’s about 1/16 of an inch wide. This will work like a fuse. Attach one end of the strip to the positive terminal and the other end to the negative. The “fuse” should burn, igniting the waxed paper.
Another way is to find a wire inside the phone and cut it loose from wherever it is soldered. Strip off the insulation in the middle so that both ends and the middle are bare. Then, attach one end to the positive battery terminal and the other to the negative. This will cause the wire to heat enough that you can ignite some tinder with the bare spot in the middle.
If all else fails, the battery will burn by itself. All you need to do is stick a knife into it and it will ignite, producing a thick smoke. Just make sure you’re ready with your tinder when you do so.
7. Signaling for help
The LED touch screen for your smartphone is reflective. You can use it to signal airplanes and rescuers by reflecting the light of the sun. To aim it, start by aiming at your hand. Move your hand to be in front of the person you are trying to signal and check that the sunlight is still being reflected onto it. Then simply remove your hand, without moving the mirror. The same light that was on your hand will be shining on the person, attracting their attention.
There are several parts of the phone that can be used for cutting, with a little sharpening. The green fiberglass circuit board can be sharpened on a rock, making a cutting tool that is good enough for soft materials, such as rope, fabric and meat.
By shaping and then sharpening the circuit board into the shape of an arrowhead, you can attach it to a stick with wire from the phone or plant stems, making a spear for catching fish.
Most smartphones have some sort of a metal panel in them, which is used for holding things in place. Remove this panel and break off an edge by bending it back and forth. That broken edge will be sharp and work as an emergency knife.
A broken glass screen is already sharp enough to cut with and may be the best knife you can get out of the smartphone. However, if your screen is intact, you’re probably better off using it for signaling.
9. Finding your way
You can make a small compass out of items from your smartphone. Take out the speaker and a small piece of wire. All speakers have magnets in the back. Take the wire and rub one end of it on the back of the speaker to magnetize it. Set the now magnetized wire on a small leaf and float it on a puddle (you have to have water that isn’t moving). It will turn the leaf until the end that you rubbed is pointing north.
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