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12 Ways a Beer Can Could Save Your Life

Bourbon isn't the only alcohol that can help you get out of a survival situation alive. Even a can of cheap beer can be used as a survival tool in the right circumstances. Just ask Clifton Vial of Nome Alaska, who was stranded for more than 60 hours outside of town on Nov. 28, 2011. While he was out for a drive, his truck veered into a snowdrift, and with no cell service he couldn't call for help. He was wearing only jeans, a thin jacket, and sneakers.

Vial did everything he could to endure temperatures of 17 below zero. He insulated his clothing with random rags and used the truck's heater for warmth until he ran out of gas. For nourishment and hydration … you guessed it, he turned to a few cans of frozen Coors Light. Mr. Vial survived his ordeal thanks to turning his attention to an unlikely hero––a beer can. Check out these 14 ways to use a beer can to survive.

1. Boil Water

One man's trash… right? Just a single can of beer is capable of becoming a life saver if the can is used to boil raw water to make it safe for human consumption. The trick with boiling in cans is to set the water-filled can next to the fire; in the ashes. Do not place the can in the center of the fire, as the metal will break down quicker.

In 10 or 15 minutes, the water will start to boil. Then boil for 10 additional minutes just to be on the safe side. Let the water cool and have yourself a pathogen-free drink.

2. Make Char Cloth for Flint and Steel

This will be a one shot deal, but a beer can is capable of producing usable char cloth for flint and steel fire making. Cut the top off the can and pack the inside with fibrous tree bark, punk wood or cotton cloth. Fold the top of the can shut and throw the can into the camp fire for exactly five minutes. The can should be melting by the end of five minutes, but if you are lucky, your char cloth will be ready before the can disintegrates.

3. Fishing Reel

This classic fishing reel can be made of almost anything cylindrical, but the beer can makes a fine spool for storing the fishing line. It's even possible to cast the line right off the can. To make your fishing kit, tie the monofilament to the can's pull tab, or better yet, tie the line through a small hole that you have pierced through the can.

Wind up the line around the can, trying not to overlap the mono too much. For storage, put a rubber band or tie a string around the can and mono to keep it from unraveling. The can fishing rig casts a bit like an open face reel, so be patient and be cautious to avoid tangling the line.

4. Fire Starter

This method plays off the principles of optical fire making. Polish the can with little smears of chocolate to create a shine so the light of the sun can be reflected off the can's concave bottom. Select a fine, fluffy tinder, preferably one that has a dark color. Play with the zenith and azimuth angles of the can until you get some smoke coming from your tinder.

5. Pull Tab for a Fish Hook

While a soft, malleable fish hook is just about the worst fish hook you could ask for, you can catch fish by using a gorge hook fishing technique and some pretty flimsy improvised hooks. Break off the can's pull tab, and cut out a section of tab so that it looks like a fish hook. Sharpen the hook tip to a point, attach it to your line and bait it appropriately. Instead of trying to set the hook in the fish's mouth when he bites, give him some line and let the fish swallow the hook.

The pull tab hook will hang up on the soft stomach or esophagus a lot better than it would pierce the fish's jaw. Be advised that this is not a catch-and-release method, as you'll probably be ripping the fish's guts out to retrieve the home made hook. This is survival fishing.

6. Candle Lantern

I love a good, cheap little camp lantern. A simple candle nub and a creatively carved up can will give you a surprising amount of light for a cheap price. It's even lightweight. Just cut a line down the side of the can. Cut two more lines so that the cuts resemble a capitol "I."

Fold open these little double doors and drop in a tea light candle, or add a hand full of sand and stick a candle chunk inside the lantern. Hang it from the pull tab on a nearby twig, or hang it from a piece of wire. Don't hang the lantern from the pull tab with a meltable or flammable line. Trust me, those lines won't last long above the hot candle.

7. Bow Drill Friction Fire Socket

Another way to get fire from the can is to use it as a bow and drill fire component. The bow and drill method has the muscle to work through cold and wet situations, but it needs to spin freely at the top of the drill. Crush the can so that it has folds in the side which will receive the top of the drill. The slick metal will not require any lubricant, like a wooden block would. However, it will get hot very quickly.

8. Reflective Signal

If your beer can isn't shiny on the outside, cut the thing in half to expose the metallic interior. It's not going to be as shiny as a signal mirror, but it can still reflect light as a form of signaling for help. You can also hang it up in a prominent place and let it twist in the wind as an "automated" distress signal.

9. Survival Stove

Cut a can in half, add a few ounces of high test alcohol to the bottom half, and you've got yourself a dollar friendly camping stove. No, it won't perform like a Jet boil, but the price is right. You can also prowl the Internet for plans to build a can stove with little jets around the top lip, which will increase the stove's efficiency.

10. Cheap Survival Kit Container

You can create a waterproof and fairly inconspicuous survival kit for dirt cheap if you are able to get your beer out of the can in a creative way (like through the side) and leave the pull tab intact. Use your knife to punch a hole in the side of the can, and pour the beer into another container. Let the can dry out inside.

Load it up with fire starters, first aid gear, signaling equipment and all of the other usual suspects. Wrap 20 to 30 feet of duct tape around the can as a way to seal it up. Then you can tell your buddies about the duct tape wrapped beer can that could save your lives.

11. Camp Perimeter Alarm

This trick is ideal for bear country. Throw a few small rocks in an empty beer can and set it up somewhere that the can will fall down with a crash. Tie a string to the can, and then run the string around your tent or camp as a tripwire about one foot off the ground. Just one bump of the line from man or beast will send the noisy can tumbling down from its perch, and hopefully give you a head start on the intruder.

12. Fishing Float

By punching a new hole in a can, next to the hole you drink from, you can thread a small rope through the openings to make a float for fishing nets, trot lines and fish traps. Yes, this one is teetering on the brink of littering more than the others, but keep in mind that this is survival that we are talking about here.

You can go on a recycling quest later, if you lose some cans but save your life. To finish the float, use a small rough rock to grind the can openings smooth to reduce wear and tear on the float line. We don't want the float to cut the line.


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