How to Make Homemade Survival Gear

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We live in uncertain times. It seems wise, in this day and age, to follow the Boy Scout motto and ‘Be prepared.’ Personal readiness and basic survival equipment doesn’t have to cost a fortune. By improvising or altering things you already have around the house, and following the steps in the guide below, you can fulfill the critical requirements for survival--shelter, water, fire and food. With your physical needs met, you stand much better odds of surviving under any conditions.

1 Gather shelter materials

Gather shelter materials, such as a poncho, space blanket, parachute cord and waterproof tarp. The poncho and blanket can be used to keep you dry and warm in inclement weather. The tarp can be used in conjunction with the cord to create a primitive shelter. Simply run a length of cord between two trees and drape the tarp over the cord. Separate the sides of the tarp away from each other by running short pieces of cord through the corners and pulling them away slightly. Secure the cords with stones.

2 Collect water with an improvised solar

Collect water with an improvised solar still. Find a sunny patch of grass and hollow it out, creating a cavity approximately 3 feet deep and 2 feet wide. Place a collection bowl in the center of the cavity. Take a clear plastic sheet and roughen one side by rubbing it with a stone. Cover the cavity with the plastic sheet, roughened side down, and secure the ends with stones. Allow the sheet to dip slightly in the center, or place a stone in the middle of the sheet, to ensure that the condensation will collect in the center and drip into the bowl. You will be able to obtain approximately a pint of drinking water from this location every day for one week, and then you will need to relocate.

3 Build an earth stove

Build an earth stove by creating a horizontal hole in a pile of earth with a large stick. The horizontal opening should be 6 to 8 inches wide and 1 foot long. Then make a vertical hole in the side of the earth pile. The vertical opening should be slightly smaller than whatever you are planning to cook in. Burrow downward until the vertical opening connects with the horizontal one. To use, push burning material into the horizontal hole with long sticks. Only use enough wood to make visible flames. Wrap your cooking pot with aluminum foil and place it over the opening of the vertical hole. Keep the pan slightly off to one side to allow smoke to escape and the fire to breathe.

4 Make a small pot

Make a small pot to cook your food in from a 24 oz. drink can. Begin with a full can. Remove the top of the can with a side opening can opener. Dump or drink the contents and thread a section of nylon cord through the pull tab, without actually opening the tab. This forms the pot lid. Coat the center of the can with cold weld compound and cover it with several layers of fire-resistant tape. Seal the ends of the tape with epoxy and allow the tape seam to dry. This will enable you to hold the hot can without burning your fingers.

5 Create fire starters

Create fire starters from cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. To do this, place a small amount of petroleum jelly in a pan and put it over a low flame. Once the jelly has melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the cotton balls. Stir to coat evenly. Allow the pan to cool and remove the cotton balls. Store fire starters in old film canisters. Not only do they make great fire starters, they can function as fuel for small stoves or, when placed on a piece of aluminium foil, they can be used as a small candle.

6 Build a food catching kit

Build a food catching kit. In a waterproof container, gather the following items: fishing line and hooks, parachute cord and thin wire for snares, and a double-sided knife, which can be thrown at a target or used to clean anything caught in snares or traps.

7 Make a survival vest from a cargo vest

Make a survival vest from a cargo vest. Place large pockets on the inside of the vest with rectangles of durable material, such as denim or canvas. Stitch the pockets on three sides and close them at the top with strips of Velcro. Inner pockets can be used for the storage of your larger items: tarps, plastic sheeting, squares of aluminium foil, etc. Fill smaller outside pockets with your other items, this way, if you find yourself in an emergency situation, all your gear is together and ready to go. Be sure to include waterproof matches, iodine tablets for treating water, unlubricated condoms for water storage and a compass. Alternatively, toss everything into a rucksack.

Lisa Parris is a writer and former features editor of "The Caldwell County News." Her work has also appeared in the "Journal of Comparative Parasitology," "The Monterey County Herald" and "The Richmond Daily News." In 2012, Parris was honored with awards from the Missouri Press Association for best feature story, best feature series and best humor series.