Survival Uses for Headphones




I may not carry a knife or 10 feet of paracord with me daily, but I always have my headphones. If I was thrust into a survival situation without being given any time to plan they'd be one of the few things I'd have with me. They are also surprisingly useful in the event of an emergency. You aren't likely to need them, so you can break them apart without a second thought and re-purpose them.

Thanks to everyone who voted for me in the Unusual Uses Challenge!

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Step 1: Compass

It's extremely simple to make a rudimentary compass; all you need is a magnet, a thin piece of ferrous metal (ferrous metal is metal containing iron; ferrous metals will stick to magnets), and some easily-found natural components.

What You Need:

- Headphones

- Ferrous metal; wire, paper clips, needles, or any other piece of thin, straight metal works. I used a piece of wire in the pictures. I tried this with one of the pins holding my watch strap together later on and it worked too.

- Leaves or bark; something that can float

- A dish or hollow that can hold water

How To Make It:

- Break apart one of the earbuds and remove the speaker. The speaker has a magnet in it.

- Run the magnet along the ferrous metal in thesame direction 25-50 times. Pay attention to which end you are moving it towards; this end will be the one that points North.

- Fill the dish or hollow with water. Make sure that the water is undisturbed; ripples will affect the result.

- Place your piece of metal on a piece of leaf or bark; it's a good idea to have multiple leaves on hand, as they tended to sink fairly quickly for me.

- Float the leaf and piece of metal on the surface of the water. The piece of metal will point North-South. The end that you moved the magnet towards will point North.

Step 2: Slip Knot Snare

These instructions will teach you how to make an extremely simple snare. Snares should be set near or on small animal trails or dens.

What You Need:

- Headphones

- Twigs, preferably with forked ends

How To Make It:

- Hold the headphones the way shown in Image 2.

- Run the free end through the loop to make a sort of pretzel shape.

- Run the free end under the "pretzel" and up through the top left loop of the pretzel.

- Hold the free end and long section of cable in one hand and pull on the top right loop of the pretzel with the other.

- If you're having trouble this video should help.

Setting the Snare:

- Before setting the snare try to mask your scent on the wire by rubbing it in pine needles or dirt.

- Tie the snare to a tree, or drive a sturdy stick deep into the ground and tie it to that. Try to do it near or on an animal's trail.

- Stick the twigs in the ground and use them to prop open the snare. For small animals suspending the snare four fingers above the ground is a good height.

- Check the snare regularly.

Step 3: Sling

The sling is one of the easiest projectile weapons to make. However, it takes lots practice to become good enough with a sling to actually hunt with it. While a sling may not be the most practical I still included it in this Instructable because I was surprised at how well this sling worked, and I thought it was pretty freakin' cool.

What You Need:

- Headphones

- Tough fabric

How To Make It:

- Break your headphones apart into three sections; the left earbud and it's cord, the right earbud and it's cord, and the long section of thicker cord that splits into those two cords.

- Remove the splitter from the thicker cord.

- Poke a hole through the fabric about 1/4" in from each of the shorter sides.

- Tie the ends of one of the earbud cords and the thicker cord to the fabric.

- The thicker cord should be a few inches longer than the earbud cord. Tie it into a loop you can fit your finger through and make the two cords roughly the same length.

- This website has good instructions on how to use a sling.

Step 4: Other Uses

These were just a few things I came up with. If you can think of anything else let me know!

- You can use the magnets to attach things together.

- You can use the wire for hanging things, fastening things together, and conducting electricity (of course) if you remove the rubber coating.

- You can spend a long, long time sharpening the jack into a point.

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    28 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    thin headphone wire and a 9v battery or perhaps even a few AA's you can start a fire. could also make a Tourniquet, or tie a loop and use them as an arm sling should you break or damage your shoulder

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Introduction

    In Step 1, you say "In Northern hemisphere." A compass does not switch poles when you cross the equator. North in Australia is the same as north in Canada. However in northern Canada we have an area of compass unreliability due to the proximity of the North Magnetic Pole. Nice 'ible'!

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    I wish I knew what you were trying to say. Emoticons have their place, but you are not limited in how much you type in this forum. So far you got Canada right.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    That's true, I can't remember why I wrote that honestly :p I think I might've read something somewhere...


    4 years ago on Introduction

    You claim the end of the wire etc. you keep moving the magnet towards will be the end that points North when used as a compass. Doesn't the final polarity of the needle depend on the stroke direction *and* the magnet pole you use for magnetizing the needle? In other words: Use the other end of the magnet instead, and this needle will point South

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    That could very well be true. However, when reading and listening to people explain this method I don't believe they mentioned the pole of the magnet used affecting the direction the wire points. I'll try it out and get back to you. Thanks for the comment!


    4 years ago

    For the compass, did you try magnetizing it without disassembling the earbud? The neodymium magnet within should be strong enough to magnetize it even from that distance and you might save a pair of headphones!