How to Make a Smoke Signal From Your First Aid Kit

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How to Make a Smoke Signal From Your First Aid Kit

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Most first aid kits have everything that you need to create an improvised smoke bomb or signal in the field.  Knowing the following trick can end up saving your life during an emergency, and it only takes a couple of steps to prepare the material and be up and running.  The secret to this resource lies in the ingredients that are found in most instant cold and some heat packs. 

Required Items:

Instant cold or heat packs

Bucket

Water

Cordage

Some newspaper

Rubber Gloves (optional, but recommended)

Getting Started

The first step is to gather your water, bucket and material.  Carefully cut open the top of the heat or cold pack.  You will probably notice that there is dried material as well as a pouch of water inside.  Some packs have the material in a pouch whereas the water is what is on the bottom.  In any case, you want to remove the dried material from the pack and pour it in the bucket. 

Next, carefully pour water into the bucket and give it a good swoosh until the crystals or powder has dissolved.  Try to use just enough water to dissolve the material.  Too much water can dilute the ammonium nitrate and reduce the effectiveness of this trick.  Add water slowly, swoosh and add more as necessary.  Keep in mind that you can use more than one pack for this project, and the more material you put in the bucket will lead to more smoke later.

Next, take your newspaper and start adding sheets one by one to the liquid.  You want to use sheets because they will be dried and then rolled into a cylinder later.  Keep adding sheets until they are all soaked and all of the water has been absorbed.  Remove the sheets from the bucket and spread them out on the ground in a sunny area if possible.   You want the sheets to completely dry out before proceeding to the next step.  If you are working in cold, cloudy or wet conditions, you can place the newspaper near your fire.  However, the material is flammable, so keep it far enough away from flame and try to prevent embers from falling onto the material.

Preparing and Deploying the Signal

Once the newspaper has dried, roll the sheets up into a singular tube or cylinder.  Tie it off with string to keep everything densely wrapped.  When you need to deploy the smoke signal, all you need to do is light one end and let it burn.  However, it is safer to set the paper down before lighting it up.  This will minimize the chances of getting burned if the material burns faster and hotter than you anticipate.  You also want to make sure that you are deploying the signal in a patch of ground that is away from flammable material or other people.

This is a great trick to know if you need to signal for help but don’t have any other options available.  However, it does not burn bright or for a long period of time.  Make sure that someone is in the area before deploying it, and consider making more than one to have on hand just in case.  At the end of the day, this simple trick can end up saving your life by calling attention to your location.  This is also a good reason to double check your first aid kit to ensure that you have the proper heat or cold packs on hand.