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Hook & Barrel
A Lifestyle Magazine for Modern Outdoorsmen

Being stranded on a desert island in the middle of nowhere is a dream for some folks, but for others it’s a nightmare scenario of thirst, wet, cold, starving, bug bites galore, and wondering how Robinson Caruso survived? You are unconscious, and all of a sudden you wake to the sound of waves crashing, a cool breeze, and sand as far as the eye can see. What do you do now? Is panic creeping in? Are you letting the situation overwhelm you? Or, do you get up, shake it off, look around, and see a beach full of solutions to your current plight? You are alive and breathing, so now it’s up to you to keep it that way. Continue reading to learn about desert island survival hacks you can’t live without.

Desert Island Survival Hacks

The first thing you need to do is remain calm. Panic and fear are the psychological enemies to any survival situation, and they will cripple you. Next, assess the situation. Check yourself out, and make sure you are not seriously injured. If you have anything going on medically, take care of that first. Now, look around at where you are, and get your bearings; what items do you have on you that will help, (we call it pocket check). Next look around for  natural or manmade resources.

Then gauge the dangers such as wildlife, weather, and terrain. It’s time to to make a plan now that you have your wits about you and checked out the situation. The sure-fire way to reduce stress in any survival situation is to take control of it, make a plan, and keep your mind occupied, focused, busy. When you have a plan, you have established like priorities of tasks for survival. These small goals will give you mental victories that are so important in this situation to keep you going, and physically they help you tend to your basic needs..Now it’s time to execute, and that means get to work. 

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When you first looked around, in addition to miles and miles of sand, what else did you see? On most desert islands, one constant is that the waves will bring in trash from all over and deposit along the beach. The saying,“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” holds true. If you think outside the box you will see many different uses for rubbish to make your life better. Necessity is the mother of invention. You will be amazed at what type of useful items and tools you can make. 

Here are my top  hacks for surviving on a desert island


It’s upsetting to see how many plastic bottles wind up in our  oceans. A great source of fresh water is rain, and if you are on a desert island, it’s not a matter if it will rain, because it will, the big question is: are you ready to capture this great source of fresh water. The Plastic Two-Liter Bottle Rain Catch is very easy to set up, and you will only be limited by the amount of bottles available. First make sure the bottle has a top. If not, look around because most average plastic water bottles have interchangeable tops. Next, cut the bottom off to leave about a two-inch container. Place the bottom container in the open with a small rock or shell in the bottom to anchor it from the wind, and it is now ready to catch rain. Second, take the upper portion of the bottle turn it upside down and start cutting down towards the spout till you’re about five inches away. Repeat this action several more times to make four to five sections. Now take each section and bend them down towards the spout and crease them at the fold. Next dig a small hole in the ground, and place the upper portion of the bottle spout down, place a small stone or shell inside to help anchor it. The sections will be bent out resembling a flower pattern and will now be ready to catch lots of rain, that will run downward into the spout catch section. When they are filled you will have several fresh drinks of water that will not need to be boiled to purify, they are ready for drinking immediately. You get two rain catches out of one Plastic Two-Liter Bottle. Drink away!

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Water is often scare on an island. It can be painful to see a vast ocean of undrinkable water….or is it? The biggest issue is salt. Here’s an easy way to help remove that problem. The Solar Still Desalinate is made up of two plastic bottles, one large and one slightly smaller. You first take the larger bottle, ensure it has a lid on it and cut the bottom off (save it and place a small rock or shell in it—place it in the open to catch rain). Next fold the bottom of the bottle, up into the inside of it creating a catch section at the bottom of it of about two inches. Cut the top off the small bottle to make a cup, and fill it full of salt water. Place it on the ground, and slide the larger bottle snugly over the top of it. As the sun heats up the still, it will start the condensation process removing salt and leaving fresh water droplets on the inside of the large bottle’s walls. Occasionally check the system and lightly tap the bottle so that the droplets drip down into the two-inch water catch. Once there is a significant amount of drinking water, carefully remove the larger bottle, remove the top, and drink away. Repeat, and drink again later.

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Food, like crabs, can be abundant on a desert island so build several traps to do the work for you. The Pail Crab Trap is easy to set up. Find a plastic pail or five-gallon bucket or even a cat litter container (a large square olive oil tin can work too). Start at the open end, cut down each corner for a square shape to about a third of way down to make four slats, but if it’s a round shape you can do the same but cut four to six slats. Next, bend each slat downward toward the outside of the pail. Move to an area where you have seen crabs and dig a hole, placing the trap deep enough so that it’s even with the bottom of each slat. Fill in the void areas around the pail with sand to stabilize. Bend each slat down so it’s flush with the ground, putting sand on each end to hold the slats down flush and act as a trigger. You can add some bait in the bottom of the pail and on the slats near the pail opening to attract crabs and other creatures. When a crab walks on the slat the vibrations shake away the sand holding tension and the slat springs up sending the crab into the bottom of the pail, the crab can’t climb out because it can’t get a grip on the plastic to climb out. 

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At some point you are going to need fire, and on a desert Island that may mean thinking outside the box! We’ve all seen Tom Hanks on Cast Away doing the friction fire method of the fire plow, which takes a lot of work, energy, and patience…and it’s never a guarantee. The Coffee Can Mylar Fire Lens is made by taking a discarded plastic coffee container, with a piece of mylar blanket or a silver helium balloon, and the bottom end of a ball point pen is all you need to create fire! First, take off the coffee container lid, and cut a hole in the inside of it as close to the outer edge as you can. Poke a small hole on the side of the container towards the bottom, and insert the bottom end of a ballpoint pen into the hole by screwing the threads in until it’s sealed. Now loosely place the piece of mylar over the container opening, and place the lid back on top of the container holding the mylar in place. Now take your tinder bundle and hold it in front of the container (mylar side) while you suck in on the pen end like a straw causing the mylar to create a convex lens. Reflect the sun’s pinpoint light onto the tinder bundle. After some concentrated steady light and some time, the tinder bundle will ignite. Now you can take the bundle to your firewood to start your fire.

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Glass bottles wash up as much as plastic bottles. They can be used for several survival hacks. One trick is to take the bottom of a glass bottle and use it as a Glass Bottle Lens by taking the bottom of a glass bottle and separating it from the rest of the bottle. You make a tinder bundle and place it on the ground and hold the glass bottle lens over the top of it, angling the lens to catch the sun’s rays and make a pinpoint of light onto an area on the tinder bundle. It is the same as using a magnifying glass. Once enough heat is built up in one spot over time, it will start to burn and cause the tinder bundle to ignite.

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Keeping your health in check on a desert island is a big concern and needs to be monitored, but knowing a few survival tricks can help. Sunscreen: apply mud or clay all over your body to shield yourself from the suns rays, as a sunburn can be painful and super uncomfortable. Mud and Clay can also protect against bugs as well as burning green wood to cause a very smoky fire to keep the pests away. Termites’ mounds can also smolder in the fire to help as well. Termites aren’t only a tasty and nutritious snack, but you can smash them all over your skin, and they become insect repellent. Charcoal can be used for several things: you can eat it to settle an upset stomach as it neutralizes toxins; crushed into a powder it can be used to brush your teeth; and it can be crushed with water added to make a paste to be placed under the eyes like athletes do to cut down on the sun’s glare (this can prevent headaches). Charcoal is also a key layer when making a primitive water filter. 

Click here to read an article from another Naked & Afraid cast member, Laura Zerra.

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