Hard-Times call for desperate measures… or at least a little inventive thinking and a handful of basic supplies. When all hell breaks loose and the oil is gone, or the winter winds kick up and the rain tries to drive you from your home, when the power-lines are down and there are Zombies at your door, sometimes it helps to have a little heat by your side.
Whether you’re battling the cold or the undead, staying warm often means staying alive. The Hard-Times Emergency Survival Heater isn’t a new idea, in fact alcohol-based heat sources have been around for ages. Made from basic household or easily scavenged supplies and resources, this powerful little heater can follow you just about anywhere you need a little extra warmth to get through the night… and it doubles as a cook-stove and water purifier as well.
Tools: Rubber mallet or padding and a regular hammer, electrical or duct tape.
Materials: Clean quart-sized paint can with lid (available at most paint/hardware stores), 1 roll plain unscented toilet paper, 32 oz. 70% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), matches or fire-striker and quarter or similarly sized coin.
Step 1. Remove the cardboard tube from the center of the toilet paper roll. Stuff the full roll of toilet paper into the empty paint can, only removing sheets if you absolutely have to. You want the paper to completely fill the width of the can.
Step 2. Slowly fill the container with 70% rubbing alcohol (higher concentrations burn too intensely), letting it soak into the fibers of the toilet paper until it’s fully saturated. Leave 1/2 – 1/4 inch head-space below the rim.
Step 3. Using the rubber mallet or hammer and padding, carefully seal the lid of the Hard-Times Emergency Survival Heater until it is completely secured against spills and/or contamination.
Step 4. Tape or attach both the matches/fire-striker and the coin to the top or side of the can. This will keep your lighting instruments always at the ready. The coin can be used to pry open the lid for use of the Hard-Times Emergency Survival Heater.
OPTIONAL STEPS: Place the quart sized heater into a larger gallon sized metal container. Doing this will create a diffuser/safety buffer that can help radiate the heat and protect individuals and their surroundings from burns.
USING THE HARD-TIMES EMERGENCY HEATER: This heater uses an open flame and is therefore dangerous, whether or not it’s being used in an enclosed space. The Hard-Times Emergency Survival Heater should only be used by responsible individuals and in well ventilated areas. As always, this DIY or Die Trying Project is not a toy and the handling and use of it should be taken seriously.
Storing The Heater: Clearly label the contents (70% rubbing alcohol) onto the side of the Hard-Times Emergency Survival Heater, and keep it away from outside heat-sources, open flame and direct sunlight. Once properly sealed the Hard-Times Emergency Survival Heater can store for years at a time, though the water content may eventually cause rust and structural failure of the can.
Lighting The Heater: Lighting the Hard-Times Emergency Survival Heater is as easy as using the coin to pop open the lid, and carefully placing a lit match against the surface of the alcohol soaked toilet-paper or by using a fire-striker to gain ignition.
Adjusting The Output: Placing the lid partially over the can will adjust the intensity of the flame, increase burn-times, and decrease the heat output. This is critical to rationing fuel in a disaster situation.
Extinguishing The Flame: The Hard-Times Emergency Survival Heater is easily extinguished by replacing the lid over the top of the container. This will starve the flames of oxygen and cause them to extinguish safely. DO NOT USE WATER TO EXTINGUISH THE FLAME!
Re-Fueling: The toilet paper acts as a wick, pulling the unburned alcohol to the surface of the container to keep the flame ignited, but it will occasionally require re-fueling. If and when the toiler-paper begins to singe, fully extinguish the flame before re-fueling.
Boil Water / Cook With: Just like with any open flame, the Hard-Times Emergency Survival Heater can be used for both boiling water and preparing meals. In order to keep the flame from extinguishing, prop the cooking surface or water container roughly 1/2 inch or more ABOVE the rim of the Hard-Times Emergency Survival Heater.
CAUTION: When using this heater in small or enclosed spaces, open windows slightly to allow for ventilation. Although rubbing alcohol doesn’t produce large amounts of carbon monoxide, it’s better to be safe than sorry… especially when your life is on the line.
In addition to the risk of poor ventilation, burns are a serious concern. Rubbing alcohol burns with a nearly clear flame, making it difficult to see when the heater is lit or not and the appropriate precautions should be taken to avoid a direct burn. The surface of the Hard-Times Emergency Survival Heater will heat rapidly and likely become too hot to touch with bare hands. Always use caution when handling open flame and high-heat materials.