Saved By: A Cell Phone

Lost? Alone? Phone low on juice? There’s no app for that.
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Lost? Alone? Phone low on juice? There’s no app for that.

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Your cell phone could save your life. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Flickr)

Call for help, obviously

Go high in search of a good signal, and be ready to give emergency services personnel your location (as best as you know it). If your phone’s just about dead, try warming up the battery in your armpit, then making a quick call or text.

Signal for help

Reflected sunlight can carry for miles. Aim the signal by forming a peace sign with your fingers. Position your target (airplane, distant hiker, houses or cabins) in the V (this is how you aim) and flash an SOS signal (three quick flashes, three long ones, then three more quick ones).

Make a compass

All cell phones have a magnet in their speakers that you can use to establish north. Remove the speaker (you may have to crack open the phone for this). Scavenge a small piece of wire (touch it to the magnet to make sure it’s conductive). Brush one end of the wire with the magnet at least 10 times in one direction. Float the magnetized wire on a leaf or piece of plastic or wood in a still puddle or non-metal
cup. The end you brushed will point north.

Improvise knives and tools

Think like a bushcrafter and your phone will become a mini arsenal. Use plastic and metal bits for fish hooks, scrapers, or arrowheads. Crack the circuit board in half and file it sharp against a rock. Affix this to a thumb-thick green branch and you’ve got yourself a spear.

Make fire

Even if you lack the juice to make a phone call, there still may be enough battery left to produce heat. Remove the battery and any casing that blocks the terminals. Touch a scavenged bit of wire to both terminals simultaneously and it’ll immediately get red hot at the center. Touch this to your tinder and blow.

Make snares and cordage

Did you pack your headphones? They’ll make excellent cordage for lashing together shelter poles or making snares. For fishing and snaring small rodents, split open larger wires and separate out smaller strands.

Catch a fish

Make a gorge hook out of a straight, strong piece of plastic or metal sharpened at both ends and with a notch in the middle (for tying the line). Grab some live bait (worms, crickets), put it on the sharpened plastic, and plunk it in the water. Be sure to pay out extra line so the fish can swallow the hook. Once it does, a gentle tug will turn the gorge sideways in the fish’s throat. Dinner is served. No luck? If you’re really hungry, eat the bait(remove hook first).