How to open a can without a can opener: 9 Alternative methods
By Janine Acero // Oct 02, 2019

If you're a prepper, you probably have a pantry fully stocked with canned food to bring with you on camping trips, hikes, or for emergencies. But no matter how prepared you think you are, sometimes it's easy to forget to bring the most basic things, such as a can opener. If you find yourself outdoors with all your canned food but without the proper device to open them with, would you know how to improvise? (h/t to


9 Ways to open cans without a can opener

Preppers are resourceful and always find a way to accomplish tasks using whatever items are available. Should you forget to bring a can opener before going out or if you lose it along the way, there are other tools you can use to open your canned food.

If you keep some tin snips in your camping bag or bug-out bag, you can use them to open cans. Simply cut the outer rim of the can with the snips. However, you may be more likely to carry a knife or machete with you than tin snips.

To open a can with a knife or machete, place the can vertically on a surface and put the tip of the blade on the outside surface of the can. Hit the end of the knife or machete handle hard enough for the tip to pierce the can. Then, work the blade slowly around the lid of the can. (Related: Chopping wood will never be a chore with these 5 machetes.)

Other tools you can use with this method include a screwdriver or chisel. If you happen to have a hammer, you can just beat the side of the can near the lid to open it. Problem solved!

If you have a chef's knife on hand, you can use it to open a can the same way. The only difference is that a chef's knife has a blade that goes below the handle. Push that lower edge into the top of the can, then work the knife around the side, as if using a regular can opener.

You can also use your cutlery to open cans. Before you open a can with a fork, wear gloves, or use a thick piece of cloth to protect your hands. Put one of the fork's prongs on the can's outside edge, making sure the prongs are facing away from you, along with one of the prongs inside the top. Then, press down hard until the prong pierces a hole in the lid. Move the fork up and down as you turn the can, slowly tearing the metal. Make a hole large enough for a spoon's handle to open the can the rest of the way.

Or you can just use the spoon from the get-go. Like with the fork, wear some protection for your hands first. You can use a spoon to open the lid like a regular can opener; only it may take some more time because spoons are blunt objects – this is where the gloves come in handy.

If you're still skeptical about using a spoon to open a tin can, the video below shows an easy way to do it.

You may be carrying a metal file in your bag, which is another useful tool to open cans with. Hold the can upright, then file off the top rim. Pop off the lid with a spoon or something that can get leverage under the top. One major concern with using a metal file is the metal shavings that can get into your food or stepped on by other people. Take extra precautions for avoiding such incidents.

If someone from your camping or bug-out group is carrying an ax, you can use that to open your cans. Lay the can on its side and hold it with your hand on the opposite side of where you intend to strike. Then, pierce the side of the can with the ax blade, making sure to keep it steady and not roll off in the process.

If you're not in a hurry and won't mind a bit of a mess, you can rub the can's lid over concrete or a flat stone repeatedly until it wears down through the rim, again taking care to avoid the metal shards that shed off and may get into your food.

Lastly, preppers would not be caught dead without a multi-tool, and many multi-tools sport a pair of pliers. If you have a pair of flat-nose pliers, you can use it to pinch and twist the outside rim of the can repeatedly until it breaks the seal of the can. Then, use the pliers to grab the edge of the lid and pull upward to remove it.

You don't have to go hungry even if you forget or lose your can opener – all it takes is some good old prepper's ingenuity. Learn more at

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