2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – October 2012

Saved by...Cell Phone

Dead battery? No reception? No problem. Find plenty of survival gear inside your phone.

by: Kristin Hostetter

Spear Made From a Cell Phone (Photo by Andrew Bydlon)
Spear Made From a Cell Phone (Photo by Andrew Bydlon)

  • Signal for help. All phones have metallic, mirror-like layers behind the screens, perfect for flashing a distress signal that can be seen for miles.
  • Navigate. Most phone speakers contain magnets, and all phones contain many little wires that can be magnetized to serve as an emergency compass. Only ferrous (iron- or steel-containing) wires will work; ferrous wires are stiffer than copper or aluminum, and are attracted to the magnet. Sweep the magnet across one end of the wire 10 or so times in the same direction (you can also magnetize wire by rubbing it across your hair). Then float the wire in a small pool of completely still water on a leaf or shaving of wood. The wire will align itself on a north-south axis, with the end that you magnetized pointing north.
  • Make a knife or spear. Abrade the circuit board against a rock to create a cutting edge sharp enough to make natural cordage or scrape tinder. Shape the circuit board into a spear point and lash it to a stick for hunting small game or fish.
  • Start a fire. Use a thin wire scavenged from the phone to short circuit the battery—just touch the wire to the positive and negative battery terminals simultaneously­—and produce a red-hot poker that will ignite dry tinder. Check out the video.
  • Fish. Use some of the remaining parts to create fishing hooks, lures, and gorges (rather than hooking a fish, a gorge gets lodged in its throat).
  • Snare small game. Headphone wires can be fashioned into a small game snare.

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -


Star Star Star Star Star
Sep 29, 2013

Lot of hate on this one. If it's all you got...
With all your other great material. I'll give you a pass on this one!

Star Star Star
BERT not Ernie
Jun 17, 2013

Jayson, the people who listen to Justin Bieber are just the type of people to go out there completely unprepared, but at least we have one less Bieber fan.

Jun 14, 2013

Sounds like the next installment we should expect from the Backpacker Editorial Staff is how they use their bong for wilderness survival.

Star Star
May 20, 2013

So I brought my phone, I just didn't bring matches, a pocket knife, or watch where the hell I was going on my hike. Luckily I have Justin Bieber's complete albums on my SD CARD, which, when played, cause everything within a mile radius to die. And I'm sure I could snare game with my headphones if I could ever figure out how to get the ^&#(!*&# things untangled!

Oct 20, 2012

But how am i giung to remember all these steps if I tear up my phone? :-)


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

What sleeping pad are you using?
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: Blazer
Trailhead Register
Elephant Coffee, Anyone?
Posted On: Aug 22, 2014
Submitted By: big_load

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions