Sometimes in survival situations you have to improvise. Many common household items – like extension cords – can double as survival gear and step up and save the day in surprising ways.
You probably have at least a few lying around the house or garage, and whether you leave them whole or break them down into their components they can serve different survival functions.
When left whole, they can be used in place of rope or paracord as cordage. Cut through the insulation and you’ll find fibers inside. Once you’re down to the wire, you can twist the thick wire to make it stronger, or you can untwist it and use the fine, individual strands for precision work.
Here are 13 survival uses for extension cords:
1. Tie Off a Makeshift Shelter
Tarps make an excellent makeshift lean-to shelter to protect you from rain or sun exposure. Most tarps have eyelets. Simply thread the extension cord through the eyelets and tie it off to some trees.
If your tarp doesn’t have eyelets, cut small holes to run the cordage through. You could even use some of the internal wire strands as thread to keep the hole from tearing any further and use the rubber casing as your rope to tie off your shelter.
2. Create a Clothesline
String your extension cord between two trees and use it as a clothesline. Or tie it between two camp chairs to let wet clothes or shoes dry in front of the fire.
3. Lower Survival Supplies
If one of your hiking buddies falls into a pit or ravine and you’re unable to reach them, you could use an extension cord to lower down survival supplies.
You could also lower an extension cord – or multiples twisted together for added strength – to create a harness to lift them to safety.
4. Use as a Lifeline
Save a life and use an extension cord as a rescue line in water or mud. There was a news story during Hurricane Ian of an aunt and her niece lashing themselves together with extension cords to stay together as they moved to higher ground and safety.
5. Make a Siphoning Tube
Remove the internal wires from a heavy-gauge extension cord and set them aside for later use. Now you can use the hollow cable jacket as a siphoning tube.
6. Craft a Handle
Large buckets are great for transporting water and supplies, but if the handle’s missing, they can be a real pain (in the back) to bear hug and carry.
A more practical solution is to fashion your own handle out of extension cord. Most buckets include handle holes, but if yours doesn’t (or if they’re too small to push the extension cord through), drill two holes across from one another near the top of the bucket.
String the extension cord through each of the holes, giving yourself slack until your handle is the desired length, and then tie the ends off inside of our outside of the bucket. Now you have a sturdy handle to grab your survival supplies.
7. Get a Grip
Sometimes buckets are designed with thin, metal handles, and when you’re carrying something heavy, they’ll dig into your hands. Wrap that metal handle with an extension cord and it’ll be easier on your hands, and you’ll have a better grip.
You’ll be less likely to get blisters too.
8. Fix Eyeglasses
The thin, individual wire fibers found inside lighter grade extension cords are a great hack to fix broken glasses. You can use them to reattach the nose piece or the arms.
9. Fix a Broken Backpack Strap
The solid internal wire, when all the fine strands are still woven together, is extremely strong and a quick fix for a broken backpack strap.
Run it through each piece of the broken strap buckle and then twist it until it’s secure. Sometimes mobility is key for survival, and a hasty repair that’ll hold is good enough to get you where you’re going.
10. Attach Extra Supplies to Your Pack
Maybe your backpack was so full that’s why it broke in the first place. Using the same principle described above, you can attach extra supplies to your pack.
11. Secure Food Stores from Predators
In a wilderness survival situation, it’s important to keep predators from eating your food supply. You also don’t want to attract them to your camp.
String up your bear bag with and extension cord, or multiple cords tied together, to get it off the ground and away from your tent. Ideally, it should be at least 100 feet from your campground, 12 feet off the ground, and 6 feet from both the trunk and the branch it’s hanging from.
12. Catch Dinner
You could use the inner copper wires to craft and set a snare trap. You could also use the thin individual threads as fishing line. Either way, an extension cord could help you catch dinner in the wild.
In a pinch, you could restrain an intruder with an extension cord.
You could also use one to keep your dog close to camp if you want to scout around your campsite. Tether your dog to a tree near camp by tying one end of the extension cord around their collar and the other end around a tree. You could also use it as a makeshift leash if their leash snaps.
Sometimes You Need a “Next-Best” Option in Survival Situations.
You may not always have rope or paracord at your disposal, or maybe your rope’s already in use. Extension cords make a good “next best” option when you need extra cordage, and the inside fibers have their own unique survival uses.
As a final word about safety – obviously you wouldn’t use a plugged-in extension cord for any of the above, but it’s important to note that once you’ve used an extension cord as a piece of survival gear, its electrical days are done. Even if you’ve left it in one piece but used it in a load bearing manner, the internal wires could’ve been frayed.