This one’s for the ladies! Improvised Purse Survival

When I was a boy I can remember when my Mom would dump the contents of her purse on the kitchen table a couple times a year for a thorough (and much needed) cleaning.  I couldn’t believe all the stuff she would accumulate in her purse over the course of a few months!  It was always a mystery what was going to spill out onto the table.  My brother and I would anxiously watch for any random candy pieces that might scatter.  Mom’s ‘MYSTERY PURSE DUMP’ is my inspiration for this post – except now I pretty much look at everything through a survival colored lens.  So you know where this is headed…

So the photo above is probably representative of an average “MYSTERY PURSE DUMP” – give or take a few 100 items 🙂

Can the contents of an average purse be used (directly or indirectly) to meet basic human survival needs?  Let’s explore and see.



My Mom always had a spool of waxed dental floss.  This is some serious cordage.  The spool pictured above contains 55 YARDS of floss – DANG!  Waxed floss is incredibly strong – surprisingly strong actually.  Some flosses have a tensile strength of nearly 20 pounds!  It can have 100s of uses to a survivor.  Below are just a few ideas that come to mind:

  • Fishing line (also detailed below)
  • Lashing cordage (also detailed below)
  • Snare lines
  • I guarantee I can make a bow-string out of dental floss – note to self – TRY THIS!
  • Tent tie downs
  • Cordage for lashing shelter frameworks
  • Sewing and/or gear repairs
  • Clothes line
  • Hang a Bear Bag!
  • Wrap and whip other rope ends to prevent fraying
  • And the list goes ON AND ON…



Hand Sanitizer, Chap Stick & Bic Lighter

These 3 items all have something in common.  Each are excellent FIRE MAKING TOOLS!  Whether you smoke or not, a BIC lighter is an excellent piece of survival kit to keep on hand.  Hand sanitizer is not only a great personal hygiene item (which is also very important to survival) but it is also a very effective accelerant when starting fires.  It burns fast but it can help in a pinch – especially in damp conditions.  Chap stick and Lip Balm are outstanding FIRE EXTENDERS.  I’ve done a post on this already – YOU SHOULD READ IT HERE.  Mix this stuff with fluffy fire tinder such as cattail down and you’ve got an amazing fire starting aid.



Almost every girl has one of these in their purse.  Mirrors are the quintessential signaling tool and still used around the globe as an emergency rescue tool.  A reflective flash from a signal mirror can be seen for miles by a rescue team – air, water or land.  There is an art to effectively ‘aiming’ the flash from a signal mirror.  It all starts with the peace sign.

Place your target (a rescue plane for example) in the V of your peace sign.  Then, holding the signal mirror back toward your face, flash the sun’s reflection across your fingers back and forth – always keep your target in between them.  You will be able to see the reflection on your hand – confirming to you that the reflection is flashing in the direction of your target.  See the reflection on my hand below?

Signal mirrors can even be used with the light from a bright moon.  They are incredibly effective survival signaling tools and have saved many lives throughout history.  What other reflective objects can you think of besides a make-up mirror?


Feminine Hygiene Products

If you’ve not read my SURVIVAL TAMPON POST, read that here:  I’ve even added a few survival uses EXCLUSIVELY for in an article here:  Tampons make excellent:

  • Improvised first aid bandages
  • Crude water filters
  • Fire tinder


Hair Clips and Bobby Pins

These look almost exactly like items in my fishing tackle box.  Either can be fashioned into a crude improvised fishing lure or fish hook.  If you bend them in one spot repeatedly the metal will eventually break.  Don’t forget your dental floss line.  Scratch up some live bait and you’ve got some pretty descent chances of landing a fish or frog.

I found that wrapping the bottom bends of the hooks made them almost impossible to bend out flat.  I couldn’t do it with all my strength so there is no way a fish can bend it out.  I hope Blue Gill like MINT FLAVOR!



Whether working or busted a cell phone is an incredible survival resource.  I’ve done a couple of posts on this already that you should read if you haven’t already:

I’m currently working on a very detailed post about BUSTED CELL PHONE SURVIVAL SKILLS that I am sure you will enjoy – look out for it soon!


Tweezers & Nail File

Women keep all kinds of little working tools of the trade in their purses.  Of these, my favorites have to be TWEEZERS and NAIL FILES.  These just look like little weapons and I love any kind of weapon.  After a little thought, I determined that both of them would make excellent frog and fish gigs… so I went to work.

I used a 1 inch willow sapling for the gig shaft and tapered down the end.  Then, I split the end and fitted it with the gig tip (either tweezers or nail file).  Waxed dental floss made the perfect lashing cordage and held the hardware on surprisingly well.  I’ve gigged many a frog in my life and I have no doubt what so ever that this would be a very effective frog (or fish) gig.  These tweezer points are really sharp!



So, what’s the lesson here.  There are 2 actually.  First, it’s another look at creatively using everyday items as survival tools to meet basic human survival needs.  Innovation is at the CORE of survival.  Whether the end use is practical or not, it’s important to always challenge yourself to think creatively about products and items – TRAIN YOUR BRAIN.  Second, pack actual SURVIVAL TOOLS in your purse.  Don’t rely on improvising.  Heck, you’re already lugging it around anyway. Toss in a few light-weight survival items just in case.

So, ladies, what did I miss?  Anything else that can be used as survival tools in YOUR purse?

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



  1. Shepherd says:

    Awesome post. What could you do with Chewing gum? I love the use of the dental floss as it is so practical and compact. If you make that bowstring, be sure to post it!

    • I’m sure that there are ways to use chewed gum to plug up holes — I’m thinking filling the hole, and then letting the gum cure and harden. It might be necessary to put another layer of something outside of the gum to prevent it from causing issues. There must be ways for that particular sort of adhesive to come in handy.

    • Les Stroud once blew a bubble using Bubblicious gum and stuck it to his improvised fishing line about 18 inches above his improvised fishing hook. Instant bobber that will stay afloat for a surprisingly long time.

      You can also make a bobber by bending an old gift card to a 90 degree angle, poking a hole near each tip, and threading your line through. It floats quite well and is more dependable than a wad of chewing gum.

  2. How about ladies who carry nail polish and cotton balls? I would think that could be useful for fire-starting.

  3. Hmm… I can think of a few items that I’ve regularly carried around in my bag, which could be helpful in a survival situation:

    1. Eyeglass repair kit — Some of these are amazingly tiny!
    2. Makeup/remover — I know some of this stuff is flammable, particularly oily removers.
    3. Mini pliers — I make jewelry, but I figure other crafty folks might have something like this in their bags too. The most useful tool would be the standard pliers that include a cutting edge. I’ve used mine for all kinds of random things, and these can come in very compact sizes.
    4. Other manicure tools — Particularly the tiny cuticle scissors might come in handy. The two pieces could also be taken apart and each attached to a handle as a scraping or piercing tool of some sort.

    Oh, I’m sure there are others, though they’re not coming to mind at the moment.

  4. This probably doesn’t apply to most ladies, but I personally keep a small, water-proof zip-up bag (the kind you would use for make-up or tampons) in my bag full of crochet hooks. Metal, wood, and plastic, some of them are already fairly sharp (weapons, gigs, etc), and the rest could easily be sharpened. I also have a stitch counter (keep track of days?), metal and plastic needles (obvious uses there, I even have a curved needle useful for stitches in case of injury), small scissors, a cable tool (used in knitting, it’s like a giant safety pin. I’m sure one could find some use for it), rubber bands, and usually some small bits of thread or yarn (fire starters, untwist and connect to make longer cords, brightly colored lures?). I also usually have a book, which aside from providing entertainment, could be used for fire starting or *ahem* personal hygiene. I always have some sort of snack, or at the very least, glucose tablets, and some various medications. A couple pain-killers and some benadryl would go a long way. I also keep single-use nitrile gloves and band-aids, but those and the meds ought to be in any survival kit.
    After reading this article, however, I have determined that my purse IS a survival kit. Great article, thank you!

  5. My purse EDC makes the men i know wish they had a purse too, but i also have some typical womens items in there. A diaper and travel wipes pack take up little room and have many uses beyond knowing you,re covered if you are away from home lonnger than expected. Todays disposable diapers are incredibly absorbant and could be used over a wound or to remove condensation or to dry yorself if you got wet in cold weather, etc. Baby wipes are great when running water isn,t available and will even take pen and crayon off a wall. When dry, they will burn. Makeup pencils and lipstick have enough wax to leave a rainproof message. Hair rubberbands are great to faste/repair many things. Safety pins or diaper pins are endlessly useful. I once used a hairbrush tied to light cord to remove dead branches i couldn,t reach for firewood.

  6. Michelle Ruel says:

    I always have a small pack of water purification tabs in there as well.

  7. Meghan Cameron says:

    In my purse I have a small first aid kit- nothing fancy, I keep it in a travel soap container so it's waterproof, with antiseptic and a few band-aids of varied sizes as well as a hand salve I made myself (shea butter, tea tree oil, and peppermint oil) and hand sanitizer. As a non-smoker I'd probably go for a very small pill bottle with a few matches in it instead of committing to hauling about a full on lighter since it would be emergency use only. Other than that I have the floss and sunscreen chap-stick and emergency contact cards with my kid's info on them, names, ages, schools, pictures, everything I would need to take to the police if they went missing today to get out an Amber Alert.

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