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Bush Craft: Condom-wise


Recently I looked at several alternative uses for tampons, and this month I felt it only right to let one those little packets of rubber shine. Yes, the humble condom.

Something which causes a lot of young men to go bright red when they go to pay and there’s a young lady at the checkout − but this piece of latex has very many uses in a survival situation. There are some that you may be aware of, but at least one may surprise you.

For almost all of the uses I am about to describe, unlubricated condoms work better.

First aid
The primary function of the condom is to prevent pregnancy; it also acts as a barrier against the spread of sexually-transmitted and blood-borne diseases. In this respect, if you need to treat a bleeding wound, but don’t have a pair of surgical gloves, slip a condom over your hand and use it as a makeshift rubber glove. It may not offer finger dexterity, but it’s certainly better than using your bare hands.

While on the subject of hands, note that a condom can be slipped over a wound on a finger, thumb or hand. It will keep the wound dry, and protect it from dirt and stuff, so reducing the chance of infection.

Yes − you all know this, don’t you? A condom can be used as a water carrier. And, if treated gently, will hold a whopping two litres. That’s a lot to get into such a small thing. Of course, the only problem is that it is very thin, so is easily punctured or damaged when filled. To improve its resilience, first place the condom in a sock. Filling can be difficult, so you will either have to sweep the condom/sock through the water, or hold it in moving water.

Another problem is how to tie it off when full. If you make a knot in the condom itself, it will be exceedingly difficult to untie, and you may end up losing all the water in the process. A better idea is to tie it around a smooth twig. With care, a condom can be used several times before it gets holes in it, or bursts.

Although using a condom may not be your first thought, it can be used in several survival-fire situations. The most obvious is as a container for dry tinder. Finding dry tinder is key to starting a fire, but keeping it dry can be a problem. If you’ve made char cloth or found some perfect fire-lighting tinder, slip it in a condom, tie it off, and it will stay dry until you need it.

If you have no tinder, use the condom instead. Obviously, it won’t catch a spark, but it will ignite from a match or lighter. It not only burns hot, but lasts for a couple of minutes − just long enough to ignite a feathered stick or fine kindling.

So, we can use the condom to keep tinder dry. We can also ignite a condom to get a fire going. But, what happens if you have a heap of tinder or condoms, but no matches, lighter or ferro rod to light them? The condom comes to the rescue again.

Believe it or not, if you fill a condom with water, it can be used as a magnifying glass to direct a ray of light onto tinder and ignite it. I used this technique once, and must confess that it took a lot of effort. The condom has to be formed into the right shape, which involves the correct amount of water, and a very sunny day. It will never work on an overcast day. Bet you didn’t know that one, hey?

Nope, I’m not going to suggest for one minute that you eat one, although it would make interesting chewing gum! What you can do, is improvise a catapult with it. It won’t bring down anything large enough to provide a substantial meal, but, with a lot of practice, will bring down small game if you aim for the right place.

Slip two or three condoms inside one another. Make a pair of these. In each, place a small smooth stone. Using duct tape, fix the end with the stone to the fork of the catapult. The stone prevents the condom from slipping out of the tape. Secure the open ends of the condoms together with string, or a patch of vinyl or leather or something similar, and −hey presto!− you have a catapult.

Fish float
Condoms are airtight; if you blow some air into one and tie it off, it can be used as an improvised float for fishing.

As a survival aid, a condom provides good bang for your buck. It just goes to show − pack a tampon and a condom, and you’ll be able to get yourself out of a lot of trouble.