Pocket Survival Items And Their Unbelievable Uses

If you ask a woman to empty her purse or a man to empty his pockets, you’re going to find a few quirky things unique to the individual but you’ll also likely find some common items that most people carry around with them.

What may surprise you is exactly how many survival uses those common items have. If you’ve ever watched McGyver, you know that these items can be used to make just about anything with a little ingenuity.

Today we’re going to talk about these pocket survival items and their unbelievable uses.


Just about every woman over the age of 14 will have at least one tube of lipstick in her purse. In addition to making herself beautiful while she kicks ass, she can also use it to start a fire because its main ingredient is petroleum. Other uses include:

  1. Writing a rescue or location message
  2. Lubricant
  3. Barter
  4. Sunscreen (many lipsticks have sunscreen in them but even the colored ones will block the sun mechanically in an emergency)
  5. Lip balm
  6. Waterproofing small items such as matches


Many people don’t think much about how to use a car key or a house key for anything other than its intended use but a key can be used for a few different survival tasks including:

  1. A hand weapon – put the key between your fingers when you form a fist and you can do serious damage. Just be sure that the key is flat between your fingers. If you have the teeth facing your skin you’ll do damage to yourself, too.
  2. Scratching messages – if you need to leave a message for somebody, a key will scratch concrete, wood and even glass.
  3. Pry tool
  4. Directional marks – if you want to leave a mark somewhere so that your family will know where to find you, a key will mark a tree without being too obvious. Make this part of your meet-up plan.
  5. Emergency saw – it won’t hack through much but a small branch or rope won’t be much of a challenge for a key.

CLICK HERE to find out more about using unconventional weapons for your defense.


This is an item that both men and women often carry and is an essential for your bug-out bag. Condoms have many uses and take up very little space so keep a few on hand even if you don’t need them for their “intended” purpose! The unlubricated kind may be best.

  1. Water containers. Condoms can hold up to two liters of water if you handle them correctly. Because they’re so delicate, put it into a sock to give it protection and stability before you fill it. You’ll do best if you can find a source of downward-running water such as a small waterfall.
  2. Keeping your matches or tinder dry. Just be careful not to break the condom and your stuff will be ready for a fire when you are.
  3. Tinder. A condom is extremely flammable and will burn hot for several moments; long enough to get your fire going.
  4. Thumb loops to put pressure on the top of your hand drill to give enough pressure to start the fire while you’re spinning. Use either end as thumb loops and place the middle on top of the stick.
  5. As the elastic in a slingshot – use 3 stuffed inside of each other on either side of your missile launcher then duct tape or zip-tie them to the fork and the missile launcher.
  6. Rubber glove.
  7. Protect the muzzle of your weapon when crossing streams of wading through mud.
  8. Fishing bobber
  9. Tourniquet


If you get rid of your pre-conceived notions of tampons, you’ll realize that they’re just lengths of extremely absorbent cotton tied to a string.

When you think of them that way, I’m sure that a million purposes pop into your head.

Here are a few:

  1. Packing wounds
  2. Stopping nosebleeds – particularly effective if you spray them with a bit of Afrin before stuffing them up there.
  3. Plugging bullet wounds to stop bleeding
  4. Filtering water
  5. Making fletching for your arrows or blow darts
  6. Packing a dental injury
  7. Plugging a hole in your boat or roof temporarily
  8. Tinder. They’re extremely flammable. Add some petroleum jelly to really get your fire going.
  9. Candle wick. Just lay it in your fat, oil, sap or wax and leave the string sticking out to light.
  10. Cordage. A tampon string consists of several pieces of 4-6” string. That can be useful!

CLICK HERE to find out more about simple and effective first aid techniques that you need to learn for survival.

Hand Mirror

OK so this is mainly a girl thing but if you’re a guy, you most assuredly have a mirror above the visors in your car or truck, so they’re accessible. Here’s what you can use them for:

  1. Signaling using the sun
  2. Checking to see if somebody is breathing – place it under their nose and watch for it to fog
  3. Starting a fire. Focus the sun onto your tinder and leave it there until it starts a fire.
  4. Weapon – a piece of mirror with a broken edge is extremely sharp and will cut through flesh in an emergency
  5. Cutting rope – again, it’s sharp

Bank Cards

Bank cards are just pieces of plastic when you think about it. They do have several uses though so don’t ditch them when you run.

  1. Removing stingers. Just slide the card in the opposite direction than the stinger went in and it will pull it right out.
  2. Starting a fire. They’re flammable and will burn for a few moments
  3. To cover a sucking wound: tape it down securely over the wound and it’s just as good, or better than, plastic wrap
  4. Finger splint: cut it in half lengthways and tape it to either side of your finger

Reading Glasses

Especially if you’re getting a bit older, reading glasses should be an integral part of your survival kit. They have a few more uses than just reading though!

  1. Reading directions, maps, med bottles, etc
  2. Starting a fire – use sunlight through the lens. They are, in essence, magnifying glasses.
  3. Signaling
  4. Eye protection


Frankly, I feel kind of silly even mentioning this because it’s such a well-known survival item but I would be remiss to skip it! Here are just a few of the reasons why you should have a few bandanas in your survival kit.

  1. SlingBandana survival
  2. Water filter
  3. Face mask
  4. To carry items
  5. Wash cloth
  6. Tourniquet
  7. Bandage
  8. Sweatband
  9. Cleaning your gun
  10. Toilet paper
  11. Feminine hygiene
  12. Keeping your neck warm
  13. Pot holder
  14. Keeping cool – soak it in cold water and place it on your neck/forehead

In addition to these carry-around items, there are also a few uses for clothing items that may be useful in a survival situation.


These accessories are good for way more than holding your pants up!

  1. Tourniquet
  2. To choke or hit somebody
  3. To tie somebody up
  4. To strap items together

If you have a survival belt made from paracord, your uses for your belt just quadrupled so think about getting or making one of those!


Yep, they keep your feet warm but socks have many other uses as well.

  1. Filtering water
  2. Holding your condom so that you can carry water
  3. Bandages
  4. Keeping your hands warm
  5. Carrying stuff
  6. Potholder
  7. To lash things together
  8. Hair tie
  9. Stuff it with leaves and use it for a pillow
  10. As a mask


Though they’re great tools for their intended purpose, bras have a few other uses if SHTF, too.

  1. They make good air filters. The bigger the better!
  2. Water filters
  3. Face masks
  4. Underwires are good for fishing hooks or even weapons
  5. Earmuffs
  6. Elbow or knee pads
  7. A baby’s hat (don’t laugh – it would work!)
  8. The elastic can be used for any number of uses
  9. Bandages

As you can see, there are many uses for the things that you carry around with you daily other than just the uses that they were made for! If you can think of any other pocket survival items with unbelievable uses, tell us about them in the comments section below!

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

Written by

Theresa Crouse is a full-time writer currently living in central Florida. She was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, where she learned to farm, hunt, fish, and live off the land from an early age. She prefers to live off the grid as much as possible and does her best to follow the “leave nothing behind but footprints” philosophy. For fun, she enjoys shooting, kayaking, tinkering on her car and motorcycle, and just about anything else that involves water, going fast, or the outdoors.

Latest comments
  • Most shoes/boots now have a metal support in the soul. They could be removed and sharpened as a knife. Shoe and boot laces can serve multiple purposes.


    • I think it would be good for you to do some research on faraday cages. If there are openings less than 1/4″ square, it might help, but won’t shield emps.

      • Correction: Greater than 1/4″

  • This appears to be a pocket list for women. We teach a class for Boy Scouts and Leaders that has a more realistic list of universally accepted items that men and boys would actually carry. It follows the concepts of the Rule of Threes, the survival priority setting system used by the Military and the Search and Rescue community. Here’s our list: 3 bandanas, pocket knife, whistle, wallet sized signal mirror, garbage bag, ferrocerium stick, chewing gum or hard candies, band-aids, tube of lip balm or antibacterial cream, head lamp, and metal cup. It takes either cargo pants or a fanny pack to fit all this in. Our Scouts train with this gear constantly so they will always Be Prepared to meat their body’s needs in any situation. Oh, by the way, we teach our wives and daughters these same things so they can be ready too.

    • Aside from the lipstick, this list is as good as any other I may not carry all the items she listed, but the area is covered. My team and I always had tampons in our load vests. We’d never kit up without them. They really are useful for plugging a hole in your body. We also carried condoms – they serve a variety of purposes besides keeping your barrel dry.
      That probably didn’t sound exactly as right as it sounded in my head.
      I think it’s a good list or at least a great starting place.

    • This isn’t a survival or camping packing list. It’s an article about how to use common items you may have on you if the SHTF. It encourages readers to think outside the box.

  • Hi Theresa,

    Good pointers. Well thought out.

    A flexible plastic mirror, the size of a business card, is a good idea for a purse or wallet as a tactical tool. Careful use of the mirror to see around corners in dangerous situations will keep your vitals out of a potential kill zone.

    Oh, and while I understand your “Mc Gyver” analogy…..may I suggest you and all other writers quit using the character and the anti gun star of that show as a model of preparedness. Not only was the show as contrived and phony as hollywood gets, but the lead actor is a liberal clown.

  • Here is one you have to try yourself. Keep a bag of fritos corn chips in your bug out bag. In a real bad situation, they are edible, with a big energy kick. If you need fire, this is the most active fire starter I have found. I accidentaly lit some and was amazed at the potential. I have also tempted a squirrel to within easy reach by baiting with corn chips. meat. lightweight fire. Fattening, greasy, terrible salty, …………useful.

    • I’ll try the flammable test with Fritos, but in all seriousness, I try to say away from really salty food items, if at all possible. I really don’t want to consume a food that’ going to make me want to drink a quart of water after consuming. Just some food for thought on your idea.

      • actually in a survival situation the salt will help you conserve water in your system, also if you are on the move you will sweat, replenishing the salt on your body without depleting yous store of actual salt is not too bad of an idea

  • Maybe this will be of some good. The toothpaste companies LOVE the commercials with the little children putting on 1 1/2″ of toothpaste. I’ve got a very new & money saver for all of you. Rather then the 1 1/2″ dragon, think of Bryl Cream & the “Lil Dab that did the job?!!!! Teach the children to put just a squeeze of paste STRAIGHT ACROSS the brush. Not only will you get just as much foamy lather, but the tube will last for weeks & weeks!!!! I got tired of mine, it lasted soooo long!!! When the SHTF, toothpaste will be a valuable commodity. Try it & see!!!

    • about the size of a kernel of corn will do it, great disinfectant for cuts and scrapes, even has anti inflammatory properties, good for small iskin infections and rashes, burns a bit but it is great at killing germs

  • Good job Theresa, not many people would have known you can use a credit card to cover a sucking chest would, but it’s has been taught in practical pistol circles since the first quick-thinking officer used one for just that.

    • Bras and socks are useful, ‘in extremis’ type things but are not pocket items.

  • One more thought on the credit card and one I’ve used, is using the CC as a self-defense weapon. Firmly grasped and a swiping motion across the throat or face. It will slice. Granted, while its in your wallet, it’s not that useful (or purse I reckon.) but if you have it on your hand and you encounter a in your face scenario, aside from a firearm or handy knife, it can cut enough for you to evac and run.

  • Hey Theresa,

    Great pointers. Interesting read.

  • sometimes BIGGER IS BETTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • i LIKE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!