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Tin Can Survival

Sure tin cans are not the lightest way to tote around food, but in a situation where you are having to scavenge for survival not only would the food be welcome (if unspoiled), but what you can create with the empty cans could be quite valuable too. 

Tin cans come in all sizes from tuna cans to those large #10 cans and while some sizes will be more versatile, they all can serve a purpose.    Even the paper labels can serve as notepaper and/or fire starting material. 

Here are ten ways the tin can could be useful to you in a survival situation.

1.  Container

The most obvious use is what it was designed for – to be a container. You can carry virtually anything in a tin can – water, food, sand, small implements, and so on.  

A wire is also found in most places, and by punching two small holes in the side of the can with a pocket knife, a piece of glass, sharp stone, a piece of metal, or a nail you can attach a wire handle to make a useful carrying container.   This is where a #10 can is really going to excel given it’s larger capacity.

2.  Scoop/shovel

Another obvious use.  Tin cans are made of a sturdy material and their shape makes them perfect tools for digging or tunneling.   We use #10 cans to scoop feed for our livestock – not a survival use, just a practical everyday use.

3. Cutting blade

Tin cans have naturally sharp edges, which allow them to serve as makeshift cutting tools or weapons in a survival situation. Simply remove the lid and fold it in half. Wrap one side with durable rope or tape, so you can safely hold it without cutting yourself.  You can also insert half of the lid into a split stick that you can then bind closed so you have a handle.

4. Transporting Fire
One of the most overlooked survival skills of all time is to carry fire with you as you travel. This way, you don’t have to worry about putting a fire together when you arrive at your campsite of choice because you already have a fire with you. This allows you to immediately focus on other tasks such as building a shelter or finding water.

5.  Cup/pot

You can also use tin food cans as a cup or as a small cooking pot. The ability to boil water is of cardinal survival importance, and a tin can makes it possible for you to boil water to purify it and make it safe to drink.

You can also use the tin can as a pot to cook food in, prepare medicinal potions, make hot drinks, or sterilize instruments. When heating contents in the tin can over an open fire, take care not to burn yourself when lifting it.

Use a piece of cloth or a small branch to lift the hot tin by the wire handle, so that you don’t burn yourself.

6.  Hobo Stove
The larger cans such as a #10 can will work best for this. 

  • Cut a hole in one side of the can near the bottom. You can use a knife—or better yet, tin snips—to do the cutting. This hole will provide access to add fuel, and also allow oxygen into the stove.
  • Next, poke or drill smaller holes around the top of the can. These will serve as exhaust vents, and you’ll want plenty of them so your fire isn’t smothered.
  • Optional: poke more air holes around the base of the can. These will provide additional oxygen to keep the fire burning.
  • Insert some tinder and kindling, then light it up. Have more sticks on hand to keep the fire going.
  • Set some tent pins or wire mesh on top of the can, to prevent your pot or pan from tipping over or falling in. Start cooking!
  • With a little extra ingenuity, you can even create a rocket stove with three tin cans as in this video.

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