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Did You Forget The Can Opener Again?



tin can

Have you ever headed out for a nice weekend of camping only to end up frustrated and hungry because you forgot one little thing… a can opener? Fortunately there is a little trick that lets you open up any tin can with nothing more than a rock.

Modern cans are sealed using a roller that bends the top of the can over the wall and the bends it again to form a leak proof crimp in the can. This leaves only a small amount of metal around the top lip of the can that actually seals the contents.

If you ever find yourself without a can opener simply find a large flat rock or piece of concrete, the rougher the better.  Simply place the can upside down on the rock and press down slightly.  Begin sliding the can back and forth across the rock until you begin to see moisture from the contents being left behind.

Once you see the juice, it means that the seal on the can has been broken and you should be able to use a knife or other sturdy utensil to pry the top of the can off.  If you are not concerned with saving water and only want the food, you can keep sliding the can across the rock to further erode the seal and make opening the can easier.

This is a much safer alternative than trying to hack away at the can with your pocket knife and if you apply the right amount of pressure should take you less than a minute open.

Do you have any other alternative tips for when you don’t have the right tool for the job at hand?

Be sure to check out my favorite canned meat product perfect for any survivalist. Shop for it here.

Want to know more? Check out these related articles from our site:

The Tomahawk as a Tool for Wilderness Survival and Camping

How to Cook Food on a Rock

7 Genius Camping Hacks

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  1. SchemaByte

    December 3, 2012 at 7:14 AM

    Nicely done, I wasn’t aware of this. Makes my old stab-a-circle approach seem undignified, to say a least. 🙂

    • tom42

      October 4, 2013 at 11:11 AM

      Very good tip. never thought of it. Thanks much.

  2. Rick Holmes

    December 3, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    I have a little Gerber multi-tool that I keep in my pocket all the time. It is only about an inch wide and about 2.5 inches long. It has a can opener on it and I’m almost never with out it. I like your solution too. I’d never tried that way to open a can.

  3. Ralph De La Huerta

    December 3, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    I always carry my trusted P38. It is the first one I got with my rations in VietNam.

  4. Sharon

    December 3, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    I taped one p38 to the top of a can inside each case of stored food, one on my key ring and one in my bug out bag. These cost about $.40 each so you can afford to have them in several locations. I like the new method when even my multiple locations are not available. Good hint.

  5. Fred

    December 3, 2012 at 4:59 PM

    I don’t see many flat rocks or sidewalks when I’m out in the sticks.

  6. Herb Wyatt

    December 4, 2012 at 12:59 AM

    The old p38 on my key ring was transfered from my dogtag chain in 1957 when I was discharged. It has served as a screwdriver, both slot and phillips all these years and has opened many cans. It was good for breaking down an M1 into the three major parts for cleaning. Indispensible tool for a few hours or many days in the woods or on the water. A never fail can opener that is very small, very light and VERY durable.

  7. georgia prewett

    December 4, 2012 at 1:14 AM

    The old P38’s were made of much better metal but the new ones will do the job. They were called p38’s because it took 38 whops to get around the world war 2 rations.

  8. Mike

    December 4, 2012 at 5:19 AM

    Wouldn’t it work just as well to keep the can right-side-up and rub the stone on the top of the can? Then you would not lose any of the juice.

    • Joe

      December 4, 2012 at 3:44 PM

      Hi Mike,
      If you have a stone that is large enough to do that with, then by all means save the water. I simply listed it as an indicator that the seal has been broken on the can. great idea though!

  9. Paul

    December 5, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    I like this idea, it seems much easier than opening one with a spoon and a safer option then trying to open a can using a pocket knife.

  10. Donna

    December 7, 2012 at 5:03 PM

    For years there have been Swiss style pocket knives with a can opener (for punching a hole in a can) and a tiny saw blade, a regular blade, tiny scissors, tweezers, and a toothpick. Who needs a separate can opener or a stone when all this is available in one pocket knife?

    • Oscar Rodriguez

      January 21, 2013 at 9:50 PM

      Donna, You will wish for a stone if you ever survive a plane crash and there is nothing to eat except can food. You are not allowed anytype of knife in a plane. By the way, do you own a Swiss pocket knives? very few people do, but all need to eat.

  11. Mariowen

    December 13, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    I keep a can opener in my bug out bag, in the car glove box, in my storage room, in my purse – everywhere. They are cheap and you will always want extras if TSHTF.

  12. Johnny B

    December 16, 2012 at 4:51 AM

    As with all prep items, try it before you buy a bunch, even with athritis you can use a p38, and they also made a larger version. Bought a crank/twist/standard can opener with the large handle, and it folded up trying to open the first can. Rock rubbing idea is great, will try it soon on my p&b. Most pocket knife openers are just duller p38’s with more leverage, but sharpen them and they are better than p38’s, but the original is always with me. JBG

  13. Chuck

    September 2, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    I never go out without my Swiss Army knife and my Leatherman Supertool 300. I only buy trousers and shorts with two hip pockets and one tool goes in each hip pocket. The Swiss Army knife can opener is far superior to the Leatherman. In fact, it is the best can opener on any knife/combo tool presently manufactured. I have owned it for at least 40 years and maybe even 50. It no longer has scales on it, but I would rather go out without my trousers than without my Swiss Army knife. The knife blade is a little loose, but is still kept surgically sharp. I occasionally touch up the can opener and it too is extremely sharp. Not being able to take it on the plane with me is one of the reasons I eschew air travel as much as possible. It travels in my checked luggage when I fly overseas.

    P38’s are great but I can open three cans while you are still struggling with your first one with a P38. It is too bad the two Swiss Army knife manufacturers no longer make a SAK with this particular can opener. The new “Improved” can openers are not improved. They are worse.

  14. Jeff Cain

    October 17, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    The following works for your 15 oz cans and up: holding and end of the can in both hands (think eating corn on the cob) bring the can down hard on a concrete curb, big rock, even the fender of your car. Just find a nice right angle edge. You want to dent the can in its middle, parallel with the ends. Rotate the can 180 degrees and repeat, until the two dents about come together. This creases the can and allows you to actually start bending the can back and forth as if trying to fold it in two. Quite soon, the metal starts to tear at the outer ends of the crease. Hold the can over a container to catch liquid as you bend/fold the can back and forth. Soon the can tears along this crease. I wish I could take credit, but I saw this on a youtube video, it works!

  15. Pingback: Open A Can Without A Can Opener Survival Hack | Survival Life

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