Introduction: How to Turn Your Mobile Phone Into a Survival Tool

So you’ve embarked across the unknown to reach Alaska!—the land of mystery and intrigue. Your mind is racing full of Jack London adventure novels and various wildlife scenes from the dozens of National Geographic episodes you consumed months leading up to the trip. You find yourself looking out the window of a small, yet reliable Cessna 127 as it soars delicately through the wild blue sky. Below a thin layer of misty cloud, you’re able to see a bit of lush Alaskan tundra—truly a modern day Eden. If all goes well you’ll catch a glimpse of a pack of majestic grey wolves in search of their next prey; or perhaps a herd of the noble Bull Moose standing confidently in a field of indigo wild flowers. 

Everyone on the plane is ecstatic, conjuring a bit of that excited nervousness one feels just before touching down in a new and strange land. Little do these passengers know that in ten minutes time this very plane will be nothing more than scraps of bloody metal littering the landscape. The beauty and destruction posing as complete paradox. The Bull Moose with their grand antlers will look on indifferently…

You are the only survivor.

You find yourself a little bruised, having received only a few cuts, but to your surprise, relatively unharmed. After the shock, you experience sheer panic, then an unusual sort of level headedness. One question permeates your thoughts: “What now?”

There’s nothing left. Everything is charred and burned beyond recognition, all except the cellphone in your pocket. The screen is cracked and it won’t turn on. It’s broken, yet not useless. It simply needs to be pried open…

Here’s how you can turn your cellphone into a survival tool.

Note: In this demonstration an Android phone is used, however, I've also done the exact same experiment with the T-Mobile Blackberry 10 phone. The parts may vary from phone to phone, but the core concepts remain the same.

Useful Parts

-LCD Screen
-Metal Divider
-Circuit Board

Step 1: Fire Starting

Items Needed:

-Wires (See arrows)
-Kindling from environment


This process is quick so have all components close at hand. First, touch the wire to the positive and negative nodes on the battery. Almost instantly, the wire will become hot. This is when you’ll add the kindling. By touching these materials together the kindling should ignite. However, you should be warned, the wire is likely to disintegrate in only a matter of seconds so you will only have one shot per wire (a Brillo pad works really well too, so keep one in your backpack). Watch this video for addition instruction.

Step 2: Cutting Tools

Items needed:

-Circuit board
-Metal divider
-Rock from environment


Take one edge of the circuit board and sharpen it against a stone. Break off the metal mount by folding it back and forth while creasing it with the rock. These items can then be used as rudimentary cutting tools.

Step 3: Signal Mirror

Items needed:

-LCD Screen


Every phone screen is comprised of multiple mirror-like layers. To use the mirror as a signaling device, hold it up just below your eyes with one hand and with the other hold out a peace sign.

You’ll then line up the mirror so that it’s reflecting light onto your two fingers. While keeping the light on your fingers, align the rescue craft (plane, vehicle, train, etc.) between them.

Step 4: Creating a Compass

Items needed:

-Steel wire (or a needle, or a seconds hand from a watch)
-Leaf from environment
-Puddle of water from environment


Extract the magnet from the speaker. Straighten the wire (needle, seconds hand, etc.) and rub one end against the magnet for a few seconds. This end of the wire is no magnetized.

You’ll then place the wire on the leaf making sure it’s able to float in a puddle of water. The wire and the leaf will align so that the end you rubbed will point north.

Step 5: Survival of the Fittest

Feel like an Eagle Scout yet? Now that you’re essentially MacGyver of the Alaskan wilderness with merely a phone, a few rocks and a leaf, your chances of surviving are much greater. Safe travels and don’t forget your phone at home…you never know!

Credit: This instructable article was inspired by an infographic found here