Making Your Smart Phone Part of Your Survival Strategy

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

We all have things we carry with us every day (EDC). Depending on the person, those can range anywhere from cash to makeup, a pocket knife to a pocket comb. Some are there because they help us in our day-to-day lives, while others hopefully are there to help us navigate the waters of a survival situation.

Ideally, everything we carry would be able to fulfill both needs. Probably the best example of this is a knife. Anyone who has studied survival for any time at all knows that a good knife is the single most important piece of survival gear to have. But it’s also useful as a tool for countless things.

I’ve carried a pocket knife since I was a kid. I still remember that first knife, which my dad gave me for Christmas. It was as special moment, and in its own way a rite of passage. He had deemed me old enough to take on the responsibility of carrying a knife, trusting that I would not misuse it, hurting myself or others. I carried that knife for years.

I have several other things I carry as part of my EDC, which can be considered to fall into both categories. My key ring has a number of survival related items on it, most of which I find other opportunities to use. Likewise, my billfold has a number of “credit card” survival tools hidden within its many pockets. In cases ranging from lighting the candles on a birthday cake, to having to tighten the screws on a piece of equipment, my EDC helps me make it through the day.

But there’s one part of my EDC which eluded this dual-purpose aspect of my life; that was my cell phone. Now, I’ve got to confess, I was very late catching up with the smartphone movement. To me, a cell phone was for making phone calls and text messages. I really couldn’t see why I needed all the games, frivolous apps and other whiz-bang goodies that people have on their phones.

I realize that might sound a bit funny, coming from a guy who started his career out as an engineer; but it’s true. While I like gadgets as much as the next guy (or maybe more), I really couldn’t see spending $600 to buy the latest iPhone. My kids thought I was nuts.

But technology finally caught up with me, or maybe it was the other way around. Now I’m on my third smartphone, having given up on one OS and had the second phone die on me. I’ve even got one with a six inch screen on it, putting my kids and their iPhones’ to shame.

What do You Need to Turn Your Cell Phone into a Survival Phone?

Before we talk about how your cell phone can be used in a survival situation, let’s make sure that your cell phone is survivable. As with any piece of gear you might carry, your cell phone has to be working, in order for it to help you.

So the first thing your cell phone is going to need is a rugged case. I’m not talking about the cute little slimline cases that some people are selling these days; nor am I talking about one of the wallet style ones. I’m talking about a military-style case or perhaps something you’d expect to find on a construction site. It’s got to be able to protect your phone from falling, no matter how it falls or what it falls upon.

My kids use those slimline cases for their iPhones, and I have yet to see one of their phones last six months, without a broken screen. While most modern smartphones will work, even with broken glass, I’d rather not take the chance.

The other thing you’re phone is going to need is power. It seems that no matter how big the battery on these things is, it’s never big enough to make it through the day, at least not if you actually use your phone a lot. You’ve got to have the means to recharge it on the go, so that you can keep using it. That means either carrying along a battery pack or a solar charger.

Personally, I like the idea of a solar charger, although I have to confess that I don’t carry it on my person. Rather, I keep it on the dashboard of my car, so that it stays charged. That way, I can use it when I need it. If I find myself going into a survival situation, I can grab it, along with the EDC bag that I keep in the car and I’m ready to go.

How Can a Cell Phone Help You Survive?

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we’re left with the question of what a cell phone can do to help us survive. First of all, I’m going to lay some restrictions down. While the number one use of a cell phone in a survival situation would be to call for help, I’m going to assume that we can’t do that. So, we need other ways in which the cell phone can be of help to us. That’s still a rather impressive list:

  • Flashlight (although I prefer using a tactical light)
  • Compass (download an app)
  • GPS – To help us find our way home
  • Topographical maps – Download them free from the USGS for whatever area you’re in and keep it on your phone.
  • Survival guide – I don’t know about you, but my memory isn’t perfect. Having something in writing or in pictures can be very useful. Take snares as an example. While I’ve built snares before, I don’t do it often enough to remember every design I’ve ever seen. So, I’ve downloaded pictures of snares onto my phone, put them in a collection, and have them available for reference.
  • Wild plant identification – This is another really important guide to download. There is food all around us, but most of us don’t recognize it. Rather than trying to memorize what the various plants look like, I’ve got a regional guide for edible plants on my phone.
  • Camera – I use the camera to take pictures along my back trail, when I’m in wild country. That way, I’ll have a reference as to how it looks, when I’m going back.
  • Selfies – Yes, there really is a survival use for the selfie. That is, taking a picture of yourself, so that you can check your health. You can’t see all of your body with your eyes, but you can get your phone in place to take a picture.

Once I started looking, I actually found a lot of survival stuff I could do with my cell phone, making it even more worthwhile to carry along with me, wherever I go. As with most other things in my EDC, my cell phone has become something that can help me to survive.

Till next time, keep your powder dry and your cell phone close at hand… oh, that was supposed to be survival gear. Well, you know what I mean,

Dr. Rich

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