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9 everyday items that could save your life in an emergency

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At the cottage, improvising is a fact of life. No worms for bait? Use pieces of hotdog. Forgot your swimsuit? A t-shirt and shorts work just fine.

Sometimes, though, emergencies hit and you’re too far from civilization to stock up on supplies. Here’s how a little improvising and some creative adaptation can actually save your life.

Baking soda

Chances are, the fire department closest to your cottage isn’t actually all that close. Having commercial fire extinguishers on hand is always a good idea, but if they malfunction (or you didn’t get around to buying one) baking soda is an effective fighter of small fires—especially those you shouldn’t use water for, like grease fires.


Practicing safe sex can also keep you safe in other situations. A condom can carry up to a gallon of water, and can be used to keep things like matches and walkie-talkies dry. Buy the unlubricated ones if you don’t fancy flavoured water.


Handy for insulating you against the cold when the power goes out (and the woodstove’s sputtering), for signaling a rescue vehicle, for protecting food you might need to cook on an open fire, for creating a solar cooker—tinfoil’s uses are many, so always keep a roll or two handy.

Tuna packed in oil

The water packed stuff is good for eating, but tuna packed in oil makes a great emergency light if you don’t have a candle or lantern. Punch a hole in the top, insert a rolled up piece of newspaper to use as a wick, wait for the oil to soak in, light the wick, and you’ve got instant (tuna-scented) atmosphere. The oil will burn for about two hours, then you can eat the tuna afterwards.


Bras are essential pieces of clothing for many of us, but in the case of a fire (and dust storm or building collapse), a bra cup can also be a debris mask. Simply fit the cup over your nose and mouth to filter out fine particles.

Feminine hygiene products

Sanitary pads were first developed from leftover bandages from World War I, so it’s probably no surprise that pads are still super-effective at bandaging up wounds. Put the absorbent side next to the wound, and use the sticky part to hold the bandage on. Tampons, on the other hand, are super fire-starters: if your kindling is wet (or non-existent), a tampon will help get your flames started. Just don’t try to burn the applicator—take the tampon out first.

Lip balm

That tube of Chapstick can double as a teeny tiny candle—handy in an unexpected power outage or to provide a few extra degrees of heat if your car is stuck in a white-out. Just take the string from a tampon (you know, the one you just used to start your fire) and use a paperclip to make a hole in the waxy lip balm. Your Carmex candle should last about two hours.

Junk food

If you need to make a signal fire and your kindling is wet (and you don’t have a tampon), oily junk food can save the day. Light a bag of chips to help get the fire started—just don’t do this if you’re also running low on food.

Plastic wrap

If you get badly burned, plastic wrap is an effective bandage: it won’t stick to the wound, it’s virtually sterile when it comes off the roll and it’s inexpensive. Use it only for thermal burns (not chemical or acid) and wrap a single layer around the wound.