19 Survival Uses for Plastic Bottles

by Ryan

I must say that it saddens me seeing what humans have done to our planet.  Any time you find a water source, you will likely find trash scattered along the shore.  Often times this trash is going to be plastic bottles.  It seems to be the most common item to be tossed aside, especially in water.  This littler is absolutely destroying our planet.

However, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  I cannot tell you how many times I have used garbage in the wild to get through survival situations.  Plastic bottles are one of the most common and most useful pieces of trash you will ever find for survival. I can assure you that we will show you enough uses for plastic bottles that you will think twice about walking past one in the wild.

#1. Boiling Water

Most people do not realize that you can boil water in a plastic bottle.  The key to this process is that the temperature of the water keeps the plastic from melting all the way through.  Simply build a fire and then construct a tripod above the fire.  Then suspend the plastic bottle of water to where the flames barely lick the bottom of the bottle. It is best to do this with the lid off so steam can escape from the bottle.  After a few minutes of boiling, the water is purified and ready to drink or ready to add elements to make tea.

#2. UV Purification

While not the most consistent way to purify water, this method does kill most of the pathogens that can make you sick.  Simply fill the clear plastic bottle with clean, preferably filtered water and cap it. Remove any label and lay the bottle in direct sunlight for at least six hours.  This should kill most of the pathogens so that the water is safer to drink.

#3. Water Filter

With a large plastic bottle, you can build your own water filter.  You need to cut off the bottom and layer gravel, sand, and charcoal.  You also need to put a layer of cloth at some point to remove debris.  The charcoal will draw out toxins and pathogens.  As the water passes through this filter, you will be left with drinkable water.

#4. Create a Float

Floats are any device that has enough buoyancy to float in water.  Any plastic bottle filled with air and sealed is a perfect float.  These are great for fishing or for fish traps.  If you have enough of them, they can even be used as personal floatation devices to help you traverse bodies of water.

#5. Dry Cache

Often in survival situations, you have supplies that cannot get wet.  These include fire-starting supplies, medical supplies, or dry food.  A plastic bottle with a lid is perfect for keeping supplies dry in a survival situation.

#6. Trip-Wire System

If you are on the run and expect people to be closing in on your location, you need a way to alert yourself if they get close.  By running cordage around your camp and attaching a plastic bottle with stones inside, you will hear any people that trip over that cordage.

#7. Lantern

You likely will have a flashlight with you in your bug out bag, but you may not have a lantern.  If you want to light a room, you will want more than just a flashlight.  By filling a plastic bottle with water and shining your flashlight into the bottle, you will radiate light in every direction.

#8. Firestarter

You can actually start a fire using a plastic bottle. If you fill the bottle with water, you can create a lens that magnifies sunlight on a specific focal point.  This will allow you to heat tinder to the point that it will flare up.  Please note that you will need strong, direct sunlight and super dry tinder for this to work.

#9. Cordage

You can cut any plastic bottle into thin strips to create cordage.  In fact, there are several designs of homemade devices that can make this process easier.  With only a knife and some patience, you can get dozens of feet of cordage from even one bottle.

#10. Bulletproofing

Just adding dirt to a plastic bottle can actually protect you from bullets better than bricks or cinder blocks. You can line your walls with these bottles or even strap them to your chest if you have no other option.

#11. Planting Veggies

You can use plastic bottles for planting veggies.  Just cut off the top and cut some holes in the bottom.  Add potting soil and plant your seeds.  If you already have potted vegetables and want to water them, you can use plastic bottles as well.  Just fill the bottle with water, punch a hole in the cap, and suspend it over your veggies.  This will give you a controlled drip for watering your garden.

#12. Fish Trap

You can use any plastic bottle to trap fish.  Cut the top off of the bottle just below the taper. Then invert the top so the spout faces inward.  Punch holes and use cordage to secure the top.   Then add bait to the inside of your trap and add a few stones to weigh it down.  Drop it in a pond or stream and come back later for your catch.  Feel free to cut open a wider spout to allow bigger fish to get into the trap.

#13. Solar Still

If you have a two Liter bottle, you can use it as a solar still.  Cut off the bottom, stuff the inside with green plants or place it over a water source.  Be sure that the sun is beating down on the bottle. Fold the bottom of the bottle back inside itself so that water running down the inside will catch at the fold.  Then come back periodically to collect your water.

#14. As a Funnel

It is easy to make a quick funnel with about any sized plastic bottle.  Just cut the bottle in half just below the taper and remove the lid.  The tapered end is now your funnel.

#15. Zero-Electricity Refrigeration

If you fill plastic bottles 80% full with water and then stack them in your freezer, they become a backup cooling system.  They can help keep items in your freezer cold after the power goes out.  They can also be moved to the refrigerator or to a separate cooler to accomplish the same thing with unfrozen foods.  These bottles can even be stacked in front of a large fan to create a makeshift air conditioner.

#16. Foot Protection

If you somehow find yourself stuck in the wild with no shoes, you will start to tear up your feet quickly.  With a couple two Liter bottles, you can quickly make a pair of makeshift sandals.  Flatten out the bottles and poke holes so you can fish cordage through the plastic.  Stand on the plastic and run the cordage around your toes, heel, and ankle to secure them in place.  You should be good to travel.

#17. Broom

You can actually clean up your area with a two Liter bottle if you make a few modifications.  First, cut off the bottom of the bottle and flatten out the rest.  Then use scissors or a knife to cut thin strips a few inches up the bottom of the bottle.  They should be just thick enough that they will not break.  Attach a handle to the spout and you have your broom.

#18. Warm Shower or Hand Wash

Find a plastic bottle of any size and paint it black.  You can also coat the outside with mud if that is your only option.  Fill it with water, cap it, and set it out in the sun for several hours.  You can test the warmth by putting your hand on the outside of the bottle.  Use cordage to suspend the bottle above you with the cap facing downwards.  Then just open the cap enough to get a trickle of water.  This should leave your hands free to wash up in the warm water that trickles down.

#19. Eye Protection

If you are doing work in the wild that sends debris flying such as flint knapping, you may want some eye protection.  For basic safety glasses, you can just cut out two circular pieces of clear plastic and use cordage to secure them over your eyes.  You can also use this same concept to make goggles for spearfishing.  On the bottom of two Liter bottles are plastic bumps that form a flat surface for the bottle to set upright.  You can cut and shape those bumps to fit over your eyes with a space for air.  To get a good seal, you will often need to add pieces of wood or rubber around the edges.  Then use cordage to secure everything in place.  Seeing underwater can be a huge advantage in a survival situation.

Final Word

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons that plastic bottles can help you survive in the wild. If you find yourself in a SHTF scenario, slow down and start to look around for resources that will help you.  Collect anything of value as you start to develop your survival plan.  You can always discard it again, but you may not have the strength to go back and get it later.

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6 thoughts on “19 Survival Uses for Plastic Bottles”

  1. About the “Zero Electricity Refrigeration” section, you spoke of putting a few bottles in front of a fan, however if you are in a SIP situation you can also do the following:
    Have a foam cooler on hand, in the lid of the cooler, trace the widest part of your fan (they even make battery & USB powered fans, which work wonders if you don’t have electricity) cit out the trace circle, set aside the lid. (Here is the plastic bottle part) I usually use a 32oz Gatorade bottle, cut the bottom off the bottle, also cut half way down from the spout end of the bottle, near the bottom of the main cooler, about 2″ from the bottom, trace on one side the widest part of the bottle. Cut a hole just INSIDE the traced lines (this ensures a tight and secure fit.) Now, gently, with a circular turning of the bottle, use your hands as if “screwing” the bottle into the hole, the top part of the bottle should pwrtrude inside the cooler until the wide part is snug. Place as many frozen bottles in the cooler as will allow, (I always have two sets fro,en, this way when one is 75% defrosted, I take them out, replace them with the new frozen ones, and refreeze the bottles, works quite well) now put the lid on the cooler, it is a foam cooler so the lid should fit quite snug, now, tale your fan, and face it so it is blowing INTO the cooler, set the cooler on the counter, bookcase, etc, (anywhere above you) or on a night stand for while you sleep, now turn the fan on, the higher the speed the better this will work. Wait about two minutes, hold your hand in front of the open Gatorade bottle acting as the air flow director. You will feel icy cold air. The reason this is so great, is because no matter how much warm air gets blown across the I’ve, the foam cooler keeps your ice for at least 50% longer than ice bottles exposed to room temp in front of a fan. Thought folks might be interested.

  2. Note to AJ:
    In a zero electricity (# 15) setting you won’t be freezing and re-freezing anything in your ELECTRIC freezer. If one still has a functional freezer for continuous operation to keep frozen enough water bottles for this endeavor, why not just turn the air conditioner back on and relax in the air-stream of the ELECTRICAL air cooler? If the freezer will freeze, why re-invent the wheel for cool air?

    • If budget is tight and can’t afford to run electrical air conditioner but need cool or cold air, this is a great alternative. It’s not reinventing the wheel, it’s rather offering an inexpensive way to keep cool.

      • Great ideas here. A word? When deployed for prolonged periods off grid we use our 12v Dometic fridge/freezer which will cheerfully fteeze anything. It is powered by a portable solar panel with plenty of spare wattage for usb fans, lights, chargers, etc.


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