Saved by Your Cell Phone

Most people—outdoorsmen included—keep their cell phones well within reach throughout the day. Even on the trail, far from the bustle of daily life, a cell phone can be of great use, offering access to GPS, digital camera, or weather reports. However, accidents or emergencies can occur without warning and in such a situation, your cell phone—dead or alive—can be used for more than just apps. Below you’ll find five ways you can use a cell phone when lost or stranded in the backcountry.

Signaling for help is key in the outdoors, a fact made obvious by the amount of signal mirrors or emergency whistles available on the market. Cell phones can be used as signaling devices by gaining access to the metallic layers of material that are found behind the screens. With this, you can flash a signal from a high, visible point.

Once you’ve had to take your phone apart, you’ll have access to a variety of bits and pieces. The circuit board, for instance, can be filed to a point against a rock and used as a knife or a spear tip for hunting game or spearing fish. You can also use the sharp edge to scrape tinder for starting a fire.

Speaking of starting a fire, that tinder you just shaved with the circuit board will need to be ignited. Your phone will most likely have a few wires snaking around inside. Touch the ends of one of these wires to both ends of your phone’s battery at the same time, which will heat the wire enough to light the tinder.

It may take a few minutes to get it right, but your phone can be used to navigate even without access to its GPS technology. You can use a strip of wiring (needs to be iron or steel wiring) to create a rudimentary compass by stripping it and rubbing it against your hair to magnetize it. Find a small pool of still water and set the wire on a leaf. The wire will align itself with the end you rubbed in your hair pointing true north. Yeah. How cool is that?

Lastly, if you have headphones available for your phone, or perhaps a cord for a charger, you can use it to fashion a snare for small game. You’ll need a few feet of cord to be safe, but most cords consist of two individual strands joined together that can be split and used separately to make more than one snare, which doubles your odds.

A cell phone is a small price to pay for living another day, so the tips outlined above are well worth the read. Yes, you’ll need to replace your cell phone when you return home, but destroying your phone at least enables you the chance to return home if you’re lost or in an emergency situation.