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20 DIY Survival Hacks | Prepper Hacks for When SHTF

Survival can be a difficult concept to learn, especially when SHTF and you are left with the bare minimum to survive. Lucky for you we are experts on DIY survival at Valley Food Storage.

To help you prepare for when SHTF we have created a list of 20 DIY Survival prepper hacks that are easy to learn.

Once you finish reading this article you will be looking at everyday objects with a whole new perspective for all the survival uses they have.

20 DIY Survival Hacks: What Are Prepper Hacks?

Prepper hacks are exactly what they sound like, hacks that any prepper can do with the bare minimum. In this article we detail 20 survival hacks any prepper can learn within a matter of minutes. Click to know more as well in securing a home for survival.

how to survive

A majority of these hacks contain quick steps on how to turn everyday objects into useful survival equipment.

In addition to the quick steps we also sprinkle in a few use cases for some highly versatile everyday carry items.

These use cases aren't the only uses for these items but they will get you thinking critically about the extensive uses for common household items.

1. Fire Starter Survival Hack

We all know how important it is to have fire in a survival situation. But what do you do when you don’t have any dry tinder to start a fire?

how to start a fire

Lucky for you we have a list of a number of products you can use as a fire starter. All of the household products listed below are highly flammable items and will work amazingly to get a fire started in a pinch. 

  • Cotton balls soaked in alcohol
  • Duct Tape
  • Waxed Paper
  • Chips
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Pinecones

2. DIY Survival Alcohol Stove 

Sometimes creating a fire isn’t an option to cook your emergency food. However, there are other options for cooking food during an emergency.

diy stove

Our top pick for cooking when fire isn’t available is creating a DIY alcohol stove. Below we list the steps for creating one of these stoves out of items that are commonly found around your home or a campsite.

  1. Find a metal can that is able to withstand the heat of a flame. An aluminum can, metal coffee tin, tuna can, or any other metal tin will all work for the survival stove.
  2. Prepare the metal tin by drilling or poking holes in the top and side of the can to allow the flame to escape. (If the flame keeps dying inside, you can add additional air holes in the bottom of the tin to allow for more airflow.)
  3. Add any of the DIY fire starters from the post from above to the inside of the can (Longer burning fire starters like alcohol soaked cotton balls work the best to avoid continuous stoking of the fire.) 
  4. Create a stand out of wood or any other low flammable material you have to avoid smothering the fire when you place a cooking pot on top.
  5. Make a second alcohol stove to move your cooking pot to if the flame dies out (This becomes more important the quicker your fire starter buns.)

preparedness checklist download

3. Emergency Water Collection

Our top pick for water collection is a rain barrel; however, having a full size rain barrel isn’t always a possibility in some emergency situations.

diy rain collection

When you’re away from your home and a rainwater barrel isn't available you can create a makeshift rainwater collection with an emergency blanket or tarp. 

  1. Find a large open area that doesn't have any tree coverage. 
  2. Dig out a large surface area where water can collect.
  3. Lay a tarp or emergency blanket inside your dug out area to keep the water from soaking into the ground
  4. Secure the tarp with rocks.

IMPORTANT: Remember this water should still be treated before drinking.

4. Duct Tape Survival Hacks 

As we already discussed earlier duct tape can be used as an emergency fire starter.

boot repair with duct tape

As you probably assumed there are a million other uses for duct tape in a survival situation.

Below we list a few of our favorite uses for duct tape. These are not the only uses for duct tape in a survival situation but they are the ones we thought you would start to help you think critically about the uses for everyday household items.

  • Canteen, clothing and tent Repair
  • Emergency bandage / Sling / Splint
  • Makeshift cordage
  • Duct Tape canteen
  • Reseal Packaged Food
  • Duct Tape Shelter
  • Extra Boot Insulation
  • Mark a Trail
  • Fishing Pole Repair
  • Makeshift Belt / Shoes
  • Open a Jar

5. DIY Survival Candles 

Most of us keep an emergency flashlight with us in our emergency or survival packs. But flashlight batteries don’t last forever.

diy candle

So what do you do when your flashlight runs out of juice and you're left in the dark. You make a homemade survival candle!

Our personal favorite is a crayon candle but that's not the only household item that can be used to burn for multiple hours.

Below we list five other household items besides a crayon you can use to produce light for hours.

6. DIY Sling 

When SHTF, professional medical care is usually not an option. That's when you need to put on one of your many prepping hats and become Dr. Prepper.

diy sling for arm

You're not a real doctor and this isn't medical advice but It can buy you some time before you can get the professional medical attention you need. So to prepare you for when you need to become Dr. Prepper we listed a number of common items that you can use to make a DIY sling in any situation. 

  • Ripped t shirt
  • Duct tape
  • Neck tie
  • Tied blanket

7. Homemade Fishing Hook 

This is one of our favorite DIY survival hacks because it shows just how innovative you can be with the few items you have around your home.

soda can tabs

With something as simple as an aluminum can tab you can turn it into a life saving tool when SHTF. Below we list the steps to turn your aluminum can tabs into a survival fishing hook.

Even if you don’t need a fishing hook in your emergency situation we hope this gets you thinking tactically about the many uses for the items you use everyday.

  1. Remove the tab from the can.
  2. Use a wire cutter (or anything that can cut through) to remove a small section of the loop part of the tab while cutting at a slant.
  3. File the slanted cut part of the tab to a sharp point.
  4. Add live worm bait to increase the odds of catching a fish (this isn't necessary as the sine from the aluminum tab will attract fish on its own).

8. Survival Compass Hack 

In an emergency situation knowing your cardinal directions can be the difference between wondering around the woods aimlessly and safely making your way to civilization.

diy survival compass

With a survival compass you can find the true north anywhere in the world with only a few household items.

The items you will need are listed below in a bulleted list so you can easily read over them and remember exactly what you need to find true north.

  • Needle used for sewing
  • Small magnet (refrigerator magnets will work)
  • Piece of cork
  • A tiny bowl
  • 1 pair of pliers
  1. Magnetize the needle by rubbing the needle along in one direction only.
  2. Cut a ¼’ piece of cork
  3. Grip the needle with pliers and push the needle through the cork
  4. Fill your tiny bowl halfway full of water.
  5. Place your needle pushed through a cork into the water (the needle should start moving back and forth as it tries to find true north).

9. Survival Shelters 

When SHTF you might not always be in the safety of your home. If you find yourself away from your home knowing how to build an emergency shelter is an incredibly valuable skill. Why would you need an emergency shelter, you ask?

diy survival shelter

Well emergency shelters will protect you from the elements as well as predators depending on what region in the United States you live in.

If you don't already know how to build an emergency shelter we have an easy step by step guide below that will detail how to build a simple emergency shelter.

  1. Create a bedding of leaves or grass to insulate your survival shelter.
  2. Frame the shelter with large stocks and logs in a rectangular shape
  3. Place a long large stick down the center of your structure. Prop the front of this stick up with two smaller sticks by forming a triangle with the two smaller sticks allowing them to overlap, then tie them together with whatever you have on hand (this will be the entrance of your shelter so make sure you can fit inside of the triangle entrance without knocking the sticks over). 
  4. Lay sticks on alternating sides of the stick being held up by the entrance (There will be gaps between the sticks but the smaller the gap the better).
  5. Lay an emergency blanket or pine branches and leaves to insulate and allow water to run off of your shelter (the more pine branches and leaves you use the better insulated and water resistant your shelter will be).

10. DIY Smoke Signal flare 

This is another one of our favorite DIY survival hacks. Not only because it's a great survival hack but because it's just a lot of fun to do and extremely easy to make.

diy smoke signal

Okay, now that you're as excited as we are let's get into it. To make a DIY smoke signal flair you will only need three supplies, a ping pong ball, a lighter and some tin foil.

This works because ping pong balls are highly flammable and produce a lot of smoke.

Although you only need one ping pong ball the more you have the better as you can produce more smoke and create a bigger signal.

  1. Place the ping pong ball in a large sheet of tinfoil
  2. Create a volcano-like structure with the tin foil (be sure to leave an opening at the top to allow smoke to release).
  3. Light the ping pong ball on fire with your lighter or a piece of tinder if you are not using a grill lighter.

11. Frostbite Prevention Hacks

This might single handedly be one of the most useful survival hacks on this list. Frostbite is extremely dangerous and anyone can fall victim to it if they are in the cold long enough.

baby oil for frostbite

However those who know our secret frostbite prevention hacks will have much better odds of avoiding frostbite when SHTF in low temperatures.

And the best part about this hack is that it's extremely simple and only takes two steps.

  1. Obtain baby oil
  2. Apply baby oil to exposed skin

12. DIY Canteen 

We know that humans can survive a week without food but only 3 days without water. In a survival situation water can often be scarce so when you find it you want to be able to store it and keep it close.

diy canteen

This is where the DIY canteen comes in handy. With a DIY canteen you can create a bottle to carry water when one isn't available.

Can you guess what our DIY canteen is made of? Our favorite material, duct tape!

  1. Wrap a cylinder object in duck tape with the sticky side exposed.
  2. Wrap more duct tape around the exposed sticky side of the duck tape
  3. Remove the duct tape from the cylinder
  4. Repeat this same process without the cylinder to create a cone-like funnel around the open end of the duct tape cylinder.
  5. Create a strap with tin foil and duct tape if necessary.

13. Survival Food 

Now this survival hack may seem obvious but we think it’s the lowest hanging fruit to prepare you for an emergency situation.

valley food storage emergency food

This hack is simple and only involves stocking up on survival food for emergencies.

The emergency food you stock isn't the only part of this hack however. Where you keep the emergency food is the most important part of this hack.

emergency food from valley food storage

Below we list the steps you should take once you secure emergency food to make sure it’s available in emergency situations. 

  1. Obtain emergency food.
  2. Stock a weeks worth of emergency food for every member of your family in your home.
  3. Stock 72 hours worth of emergency food for each member of your family in your high water vehicle.
  4. Make sure you always have 24 hours worth of emergency food for each member of your family readily available at any time.

14. DIY Water Purification

As we mentioned earlier humans can last a week without food but only 3 days without drinking water.

water purification lifestraw

There are non-DIY options for drinking water such as water filtration straws and  water purification tablets.

Sometimes an emergency can strike and these non-DIY water filtrations methods won't be available.

In these cases you will want to know how to create your own water filtration system to avoid parasites and diseases that come with drinking unpurified water.

  1. Gather a plastic water bottle, small rocks, gauze, sand, a coffee filter and rubber band.
  2. Cut the bottom of the water bottle away.
  3. Cover the neck of the water bottle with gauze and secure it with a rubber band.
  4. Place a coffee filter inside the water bottle.
  5. Fill a quarter of the bottle with sand on top of the coffee filter.
  6. Place small rocks on top of the sand inside the bottle.
  7. Pour water into the bottle and enjoy the filtered water that comes out of the bottle (this is a great method to filter water in a pinch however, a true water filtration straw or purification tablet are better methods for filtering water).

15. DIY Fish Trap 

This DIY fish trap is not designed to catch large fish. This fish trap is designed to catch small bait fish that you can use to catch larger fish.

water bottle fish trap

These bait fish can be used on your DIY fish hook or a store bought hook if you have one available.

Once again we will be using a plastic water bottle like we have used for a few other DIY hacks in this article. 

  1. Cut the plastic water bottle about 3” away from the neck of the bottle.
  2. Invert the neck end of the water bottle and place it inside the larger part of the water bottle. 
  3. Place fish food inside the bottle by dropping the bait inside the neck of the bottle (this can be worms, insects or any other bait you have on hand). 
  4. Submerge your bottle securely under water ( use rocks to keep your bottle submerged underwater).

16. Dental Floss survival Hacks 

Dental floss can be an extremely versatile survival tool when you find yourself in a survival situation.

dental floss

The uses for dental floss are almost as limitless as duct tape; however we have picked a few of our favorite uses and listed them below.

Just like duct tape you might not need these exact uses in your survival situation but it should get you thinking critically about all the uses for dental floss. 

  • Mend clothing
  • Replacement Shoelace
  • DIY snares
  • Cordage
  • Fishing net
  • Tinder

17. Homemade Lantern 

Earlier we talked about how to make DIY candles in case you don't have a flashlight on hand.

diy lantern

Now we will discuss how to make a DIY lantern if you do have a flashlight. To create a lantern from a flashlight you will only need 2-3 supplies, a milk jug, a flashlight, and something to secure the light to the milk jug.

You can bypass securing the light to the milk jug if you are using a headlamp instead of a handheld flashlight. 

  1. Obtain a milk jug, flash light, and material to secure the light to the jug.
  2. Attach the light to the milk jug (This can be done with the headlamp band, duct tape, or whatever else you have on hand).
  3. Hang or place your DIY lantern wherever you need light to be dispersed over a wide radius.

18. Tinfoil Hacks

We have explained how to make a survival flare from tinfoil earlier but that is only one of the many survival uses for tinfoil.

diy tin foil fire

Just like duct tape and dental floss DIY survival uses for tinfoil are vast. Below we list a few of the most useful survival hacks for tin foil.

However as you probably guessed these are just to help you think critically about the uses for tin foil and not the only uses. 

  • Cooking over a campfire
  • Reflective signal strips
  • Solar Oven
  • Fishing lures
  • Boiling water

19. DIY Flotation Hack 

In some survival situations you will find yourself facing high water that you will need to cross.

floor survival

This can happen when you need to cross a deep river or from flooding after a hurricane.

When you find yourself in these situations knowing how to make a DIY floatation device becomes crucial.

The best part about this hack is that you will only need duct tape and a pair of full length pants.

Duct tape isn’t a necessity in this hack, however it does seem to work the best and is often available in most survival situations. 

  1. Remove or obtain a pair of full length pants.
  2. Tie both of the ankle holes securely with duct tape or anything else you have on hand.
  3. Fill the pants with air by moving them from over your head to your chest then quickly securing to ensure air is trapped within. 
  4. Tightly secure the waist of the paint, ensuring that air is still trapped inside the pants.
  5. Test that the pants float with your body weight before trying to cross a section of water where you can’t touch the bottom.

20. Trail Marking Hacks

We can’t take full credit for this hack as it comes from the children's story Hansel and Gretel.

trail marker

The idea of this hack is leaving markers along the trail you are following to make sure you can find your way back to your campsite and start mapping out your surrounding area.

Unlike Hansel and Gretel we don’t recommend using bread crumbs as a way to mark your trail. We recommend marking your trails by using trees with high visibility markers.

Below we list some of the best markers to track a trail with but they aren't the only things you can use.

As long as the marker is highly visible and can be secured to a tree it is suitable to be used as a trail marker. 

  • Bright Fabric
  • Paint (if available)
  • Duct tape
  • Tin Foil
  • Large knife markers or cuts into bark