Why You Should Always Pack a Harmonica When Camping or Backpacking

Learn how this age old instrument may one day save your life!

By: Alex Anderson

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A harmonica has been a staple of American culture since the times of gun slinging Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid, who played the popular instrument around campfires. Other than smooth tunes, I'll tell you how this age old tradition of camping with a harmonica can save your life. I know a harmonica probably isn't the first item you think you will need in a survival situation. But with a little ingenuity the old "Mississippi Saxophone", as it's called down South, will be your best friend if you ever get stranded in the wild. A harmonica can be used for just about anything you can think of, from an extra tent spike, a way to prop up a dead fall trap, or even make a fire from the wooden comb inside. Here are my top 6 reasons to always pack a harmonica:

1. The Soul Music

Whether you are solo hiking and need a little company around the campfire, or need to keep a large group of friends entertained, the blues will definitely set a positive mood. Get everyone's feet tapping and head nodding as that soul pours out. The great thing about a harmonica is that it fits easily in your pocket, you don't have to be an expert to play it, and it's fairly easy to learn.

2. Signal Mirror

The metal cover plate is already very reflective on most harmonicas. But with a little polish, possibly from the chocolate in your trail mix, you can make your harmonica have a mirror like finish. Take that newly polished metal cover plate, put the aircraft you are trying to signal between the "V" of your index and middle fingers, then aim the reflected light at the aircraft.

3. Survival Knife

You can use one or both of the metal covers to add strength to your knife. The covers can be ground down and sharpened against a rock to make a very sharp edge. Take a small piece of cloth from your shirt or some bark from a tree to wrap the metal in order to handle it safely. You can use this knife to clean fish with, or as an aid to build a fire. 

4. Cast Master Shine Bait/Fish Hooks

Other than live bait, nothing attracts a fish's attention better than a shiny, flickering metal bait that looks like a bait fish swimming through the water. Use the corner of the cover plate with the screw hole to tie off your knot or connect a hook. This is a perfect place to tie your knot. You can also bend the metal cover and sharpen the tip to make a hook to land your fish.

5. Broken Finger Splint

Since we use our hands the entire time while we're outdoors, I've see many people sprain, dislocate, or even break their fingers. If you don't want that finger to heal improperly and be deformed for the rest of your life, you need to splint it. By using the top and bottom plate covers, you can sandwich your finger in the middle for the perfect splint.

6. Bottle Opener

If all else fails and trying to survive with a harmonica just isn't working out, then use your final moments to crack open that last cold beer, sit back, enjoy the sunset and hope someone spots your signal fire.

I hope these tips help you think outside the box if you are ever in a real survival situation. I've tested these tips multiple times (not in any distress) with different results. Sometimes they work perfectly and other times it fails. If you truly want to survive, I believe you will find a way. I hope this inspires you to get outside more, and find more interesting ways to survive with the items we bring on trail!

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.