How to Make a Water Bottle Survival Kit

by heather

Imagine this scenario: you’re trying to race out of town to stay ahead of an impending winter storm. But thanks to heavy traffic, you wind up getting stuck, in your car, in the season’s worst blizzard. You have no blanket, no water, no food, and no way to stay warm once you car runs out of gas. And because there are hundreds of others just like you on the road, you can’t expect help anytime soon.

Sounds frightening, right? Well, this was the reality for thousands of people during the 2010-2011 winter season. Many cities, like Chicago, had to cope with miles of stranded travelers when snowfall quickly outpaced their ability to keep the roads clean. I know I’ll never forget seeing Jim Cantore, in Chicago, freaking out about the thundersnow.

Anyway, all of this is why it’s so important that we keep some kind of survival kit in our car, or in our backpack. And, we need one not just for winter but for all year around. What if you get lost while you’re out backpacking for an afternoon? What if you’re out in the middle of nowhere and you run out of gas?

I’m going to show you how to make a very small, but very effective survival kit that fits entirely in a water bottle. Yep, it’s cool.

The Water Bottle Survival Kit: What You Need
This genius idea comes from my good friend Ronin, who’s the  master of anything survival related. He made me one to keep in my car, and here’s what it contains:

  • 1 stainless steel water bottle
  • 10 yards of paracord
  • 1 Swiss Army knife
  • 1 Emergency space blanket
  • 1 small flashlight
  • 1 bunch of matches, in a waterproof container

Here’s the picture…

water bottle survival kit

What else could you add? Well, if you ended up getting a bigger water bottle you could also include:

  • A small first aid kit
  • A Leatherman tool (which I’ll be picking up this week for mine)
  • A light stick
  • Some water purification tablets
  • A small section of rolled duct tape
  • An emergency whistle
  • A small compass (which you could attach to the outside)
  • A mirror (for signaling)
  • A small ziploc baggie with cotton balls and petroleum jelly (makes a great firestarter)
  • A small fishing kit
  • A small piece of aluminum foil (to make a fishing lure, to make a cap to heat water faster, etc.)
  • Emergency nibbles, like nuts or peanut butter crackers

It’s also helpful to keep a small, empty tin can in your car. Why? So you have a small place to start a fire; this little fire can be used to melt water if you happen to get stuck in your car during a winter storm.

    What’s the Paracord For?
    Paracord is nylon cord that will hold 550 lbs of weight before it breaks. And, this cord is highly useful when you’re in an emergency situation.

    For instance, you can use it to tie limbs together to build an emergency shelter. You can use it to make a tourniquet, as a shoelace if yours breaks, to hoist food or supplies up in the air, to tie up a robber…you get the idea. Like duct tape, paracord has a million uses.

    Wrapping the paracord around the water bottle also serves several purposes. First, it saves space. Second, if you have to put cold water, on a cold day, in your water bottle, the paracord will insulate your hands when you’re holding the bottle; this will help keep you warm since you don’t have to touch that cold steel.

    Last, and perhaps most importantly, imagine you’re stuck in your car in winter. You need water. Melting snow in your mouth is going to lower your core temperature and use precious calories, which is very dangerous. As I said a moment ago, you can use the stainless steel water bottle as  a “pot” to melt water (using the matches and a tin can to hold the fire). And, the paracord will cushion your fingers from the hot steel.

    This is another reason why choosing a stainless steel water bottle is better than going with a plastic one (like a 32 oz. Nalgene). However, a bigger bottle means you can hold more supplies.

    Final Word
    This is a fairly frugal survival kit to make, especially since you likely have a bunch of the stuff you need already on hand. You can just toss it under your car seat and leave it alone. Hopefully the day will never come that you need it, but if you do it could save your life.

    (photo courtesy: Sarah_Ackerman)


    Hugh April 21, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Wow, that is a great idea. I would use it for camping/hiking. Leatherman is the way to go, I have broken countless Swiss Army Knives. Maybe a flint too?

    Hunter April 25, 2011 at 11:56 am

    I appreciate articles like this. It’s just too easy to become lazy and assume that everything is readily available in this just-in-time system society has developed. A little forethought can go a long way, to keeping you alive, in this case. Thanks.

    Carie June 1, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Great idea! Have you heard about Survival Straps? I just bought one for my husband for our anniversary and he LOVES it. They are essentially bracelets made out of military weight paracord (they look similar to woven nautical bracelets). I ordered his with the stainless steel clasp. Survival Straps is a small family company, the straps come in a zillion colors and a portion of the profits go to support the Wounded Warrior Project. And a plus! If you ever use it in an emergency (you just break the seal and unwind), just let them know how you used it and they replace it for free! I’m definitely getting myself one. Anyway. Their site is

    Elizabeth June 7, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I couldn’t find your blog about real-estate. I just read your article on the 5 items that will reduce the price of your house.

    10% knocked off the value of my house for lack of a fence, or 10% knocked of the value of my house because my (personal items) fridge and stove are white or 15 yrs old?

    Did you get your degree from a Cracker Jack box or are you Cracker Jack himself?

    You mean to convince people out there that if their house is worth, say, average price of $350,000, that they can expect to lose $35,000 on appliances or $35,000 for a missing $5,000 fence???

    What you and writers like you are trying to do is rob people of their possessions. Thankfully, 90% of homeowners who are selling their homes don’t read anything you or people like you write because they know they’re dealing with spoiled children who want, want, want but don’t want to “earn” or “pay”. It is people like you who have destroyed the house buying/selling experience. It used to be when you bought a house and the land, you were buying the HOUSE, not the poor owner’s PERSONAL possessions! I’ve heard some doosies – people want the TV, Pool table, appliances and sometimes the very furniture that do NOT belong to the HOUSE and are not integral to running the HOUSE like a furnace, water heater and a/c are.

    Thankfully, I don’t take you seriously. How can I? $35,000 because a fridge is old! That’s rich!

    alette March 14, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Lovely post. I will add CS, a packet of chicken soup, dried croutons, teabag and ramen noodles with the soup. With CS you can purify your water, clean your hands…. Also an extra pair of glasses and prescription medicines. I have a bucket with these items in as well as extra undies extra clothes tp toothbrush and paste and a comb. The small waterbottel carry the little things and the bucket carry a live worth saving. Greetings out of Africa. Ill visit again. Alette.

    john brackenbury April 17, 2016 at 1:33 am


    My first thought as I have been interested in survival kits long before it became a fad, was that this would be a good read because I am helping my scouts create a kit with a steel water bottle. However, you lost me and hopefully others serious about this on many levels.

    There is a concept called the rule of 3, it is simple. 3 Minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter (Warmth), 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. Going by this rule of three, you covered shelter… Space blanket, paracord for bow drill fire or cordage for shelter, and matches as fire starter. Water is covered with a container to BOIL water. You lost all credibility when you said “melt” water. Water is in a fluid state, ice is not. This would serve a much better purpose in boiling water to kill pathogens.

    But… Most importantly, your kit contains six items and you state “If you had a bigger container you could add~” I’ve seen more complete kits in an Altoid tin.

    Guys, if you are reading this, wrap duct tape around the bottle, then foil, then cordage. Water tablets take very little space, however, you can boil in this bottle. (Not needed)
    Fishing kit (essential), again takes little space it will fit. if you have to, wrap line around bottle.
    Jute cord makes good tinder.
    Mirror, glue to bottom of bottle.
    Needle and tread, will fit.
    Razor blade, will fit.
    Candle to prolong a lit match, will fit.
    Cotton balls, will fit.
    Lighter, second source of fire.
    Snare Wire, wrap the bottle.

    The point is… the list clearly goes on and I feel like your kit is very incomplete. The SAS handbook or many free download apps are available. This is a great start, but this kit is incomplete.

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