Survival Uses for a Tin Can

Since most of us have at least a modest stash of canned foods for an emergency, it’s really great to know a few different ways they can be used for survival. Metal is very valuable for makeshift tools, and tin cans provide a cheap, relatively easy-to-manipulate supply, not to mention probably a pretty steady one if you’re stocking up on canned foods.

Since you will most likely have access to tin cans after SHTF, the one crucial component you need to prepare for is being able to use them, so having tools that can cut and pierce the cans will of course be necessary in many of these examples. Some needle-nose pliers are probably your best bet.

Here are just a few clever ways to reuse a tin can for survival:

DIY Knife

If you’ve ever accidentally cut your hand on the lid of a tin can, you probably don’t have to be convinced. Those buggers are sharp. Just fold one edge over with some pliers to create an edge to grab or you might cut yourself while using it.

Lantern/Candle Holder

Tin cans are great to keep a candle in, or either cut a hole or poke several small holes in them, to use as a lantern. With some string or wire, they could be hung.

Cooking pot

One of the great things about tin cans is you can literally stick them on a fire to heat the original contents. They can of course be easily re-used for this purpose.


You won’t catch anything big, but if you’re desperate, you can bury a tin can in the ground and cover with leaves and brush to trap frogs, insects or mice.


A hobo classic, you can light a fire inside the can and heat up small amounts of food either on a sheet of tin foil or a small skillet. You will need to poke some holes in the side for ventilation.

Water Filter

Tin cans can be filled with charcoal, sand and rocks with holes poked in the bottom to make for a very basic-but effective water filter.


Tin cans can be strung on some twine and set up to be tripped over as a very simple alarm system.

Target practice

Need I say more?

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