PVC Survival Gear: How to Make It – Part 1, by J.H.

In this article, we will be examining why PVC may be one of your best choices for crafting usable, durable items at a fraction of what you’d pay to buy the items from a store. I will also be providing simple steps for you to follow to easily create five different, unique PVC survival items identified as five projects. The survival tools and gear that I have chosen for this article are all items that I have personally made and have used and tested repeatedly. Some of the methods and ideas that are listed I have learned from other people and some are of my own creation, in which case some trial and error came into play. As with any survival task, there is more than one way to skin a rabbit (I’ve never skinned a cat). So, if you find a better way, use it. These are simply the ways I currently think work the best for me. Your imagination is the key into how and what to make; so be creative.

Also, it is important to always use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) while heat forming or painting/staining any of the pieces you create. I use a respirator, safety glasses, and wear work gloves while heat shaping and forming. When I am painting or clear coating the items, I switch out the leather gloves with latex gloves. Working in a well-ventilated and well lighted area is important as well.

One noted downfall of PVC gear that must be mentioned is that in cold weather PVC can become brittle. When the item you have made is exposed to certain elements and temperatures, you may find it weak. For a piece, like a bow, where the integrity of the structure is paramount to its use, a compromised item is useless. Now, there are ways to make the item more structurally sound and efficient for cold temperatures. For example, you can double the strength and integrity of a PVC bow by fitting a PVC pipe into another. For example, a 1/2” diameter pipe will fit into 3/4” diameter pipe when the larger diameter pipe is heated, thus reinforcing the bow. There are also products that you can use to coat an item after it has been painted that will increase its durability as well as its “function-ability” in cold temperatures.

Another thing to pay attention to with a PVC item that is generally a good rule for most pieces of gear is to keep it away from fire. Also, you don’t want to set these PVC items on a heater or any heat source that may soften the item, thus rendering it weaker or misshapen. All that being said, I have only had one item fail in the three years I have been testing them. It was a take-down bow that had too many thin parts. I have since rectified the problem with the take-down design. I have made at least 30 items out of PVC, and I regularly use the majority of the pieces that I kept. (I gave several pieces to friends and family who have all loved them and have used them.)

The projects that I will be writing about are mostly heat based. However, there are many PVC survival items that can be made without heat.

You will need a heat source. A stove burner, camp fire, heat gun, or space heater can be used. I prefer to use a heat gun, as it seems to be the most versatile and controllable. There is a heat box that can be made for PVC bow making. The tutorial video for it can be found on youtube on BackyardBowyer’s channel. I am a subscriber to his channel, and he has many great tutorials. PVC is a thermal plastic and therefore can be heated and “sculpted”. There are some other items you will want for shaping and polishing as well. A rasp or file, a coping saw or other thin blade saw, and sand paper are good to have on hand for working PVC. As you make more PVC projects, you’ll find what tools work best for you. I only started with a couple of hand tools, and now I have a full tool box devoted to my PVC projects. With each project below, there will be a materials and tools list of what I used for the given item built. We’re starting with the most simple project of the five included in this article series.

PROJECT 1: A Simple Survival Cache

This one’s easy, back to basics, and it requires no heat; however, it is still amazingly useful. You can make several of these of various sizes and put them in different cache locations. For this particular example, I will be referencing one diameter (3”). However, caches could easily be made in smaller or larger diameter or length of pipe. The idea is to decide how much you want to cache and pick the pipe size that best suits the size of what will be hidden inside. These are safe, air tight, water tight, and scent-blocking containers, which may serve to save your life in a TEOTWAWKI situation, when you retrieve whatever precious contents you have stowed away.


  • 3” diameter Schedule 40 PVC pipe
  • 18” length 3” diameter Schedule 40 PVC pipe cap (closed end glue on fitting)
  • 3” diameter Schedule 40 PVC Glue on fitting adapter, with female threads
  • 3” diameter Schedule 40 PVC threaded (male) clean out plug
  • PVC cement(You may also want some PVC Cleaner to use before applying glue, to be certain that it’s water tight.)
  • Two 50-Gallon drum liners
  • Paint and clear coat (These are, of course, optional, but I feel in this case that it might be an important decision. You may want to choose a color that can be easily seen or is high visibility in night time conditions or you may want something the same color as the place you bury it.)
  • I also suggest two or more ranger bands
  • The survival items you would like to put inside the cache


  1. According to the directions on the back of the PVC cement, glue the cap on one end of the pipe.
  2. In the same manner as in step 1, glue the threaded adapter to the pipe. The glue side of the adapter will slide over the end of the pipe, leaving the female threads available to receive the clean out plug.
  3. Place your survival items in the PVC cache for fit. Do not yet include the drum liners. You do not want to cram pack the items in the cache, so be sure to leave room for them to slide out freely as one bundle.
  4. Once you know that your items fit well within it, remove them from the cache and put them in one of the drum liners in an organized fashion. Wrap the unfilled portion of the bag around the contents. Then, put the entire contents in the other drum liner and do the same. Use ranger bands around the package, or wrap it with some cordage to keep it secure. Put the wrapped contents in the cache, and thread in the clean out plug.

    Some would say that the way I choose to package the items is overkill and that the items will be fine without the bags and bands. They are probably right. However, the way I see it, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and it’s always good to have bags and bands, blades and band-aids, bullets and batteries and… Oh, sorry. I got sidetracked.

    A QUICK NOTE: Before putting your items inside to cache and bury, you may want to test the water tightness of the PVC cache container. To do this, simply thread in the clean out plug and place the empty cache container under water, completely submerged, for 30 minutes, give or take. If the inside is dry with no signs of leaking, you’re good to go. If not, glue may be added to the leaky area to create a seal. You can also use epoxy putty (the waterproof variety) to seal any leaks. I haven’t had an issue with leaks in any of my caches. You want to be absolutely certain that your cache will not leak (especially if there are electronics or other items that will be severely damaged by exposure to moisture inside).

  5. Now, having made sure your contents slides in and out smoothly, set the package aside. Paint the cache, and clear coat it. Remember to keep the plug in when you paint it. Secure the contents in the cache and make sure the threaded end is nice and snug. I have been told that you can use petroleum jelly in the threads for better opening in cold weather, but I have not tried this myself.

Now all that is left for you to do is to find a place to hide your cache, dig a hole, and bury it. Just be sure you can remember where it is when you need it.