There comes a time in your life when you question whether or not you are prepared for an emergency situation. No, not zombie apocalypse. As much as Hollywood likes to throw it around, it is still far from real.

A more plausible emergency might be getting stranded out in the wilderness with cans of food but without a can opener.


Opening a can without a can opener can be really cumbersome, especially in emergency situations when you are not at home. When camping or hiking, you may not have the liberty to take sophisticated domestic tools with you. In such a scenario, the basic tools you brought with you or can find in the surrounding area are your best bet.

Here are two methods you can use to open a can without can opener in emergency. Depending on what you have available to you, to remedy this situation and get some food in your belly.

Method 1: Using a flat stone or concrete slab

This is a practical solution that will work in most emergency scenarios that you can imagine. It uses the force of friction to cut open the joint of the can lid.

Things you’ll need:



  • Can of food
  • Flat concrete slab or stone

Step 1. Hold the can firmly

hold the can firm

To open the can by rubbing it on a flat stone or concrete slab, you must hold the can firmly. It is necessary to provide an even frictional force across the joints of the can.

Step 2. Rub the can on the slab

rub the can on the slab

Hold the top end of the can upside-down against the surface of the concrete or stone. The idea of the process is to sever the bond between the lid and the rest of the can by frictional force.

Now, start rubbing the can on the stone slab. Keep in mind that you must apply an even downward pressure so the force covers the complete circumference of the can.



If you look at the edges of the can midway through the process, you will see the lid is starting to separate from the body.

If your can contains liquid, it will start to come out of the crevices between the lid and the body as it slowly separates. Keep the can inverted or wash the slab before using it so as to prevent the dirt or concrete particles on the slab from getting mixed with the contents of the can.

Step 3. Press the sides of the can

press the sides of the can


Turn the can upright and grip it with both hands between the top and middle portion of the can. Now, try to crush the can inward so that it will put pressure on the lid and force it to pop open.

If the lid is not opening, try rotating the can and applying pressure from a different side. If it still doesn’t open, resume rubbing the can on the stone slab.

Step 4. Open the can

open the can

Once the lid of the can severs its bond with the can, you can pull it open with your hands and enjoy the contents of the can.


Method 2: Using a small knife

If you have a small knife with you, it will prove effective in opening your can. It is the best method if you just have basic tools with you.


Things you’ll need:

Method 2 things need

  • Can
  • Knife

Step 1. Make a depression in the can’s lid

make a depression in the can lid

Place your knife vertically near the edge of the lid of the can, with the blade pointing down. Hold the knife firmly with one hand, and use the other hand as a hammer to make a depression on the surface of the lid.

If you feel that it is not making a difference, you can scratch the surface of the can with the sharp edge of the knife.

The successive scratching will chip off the top material, making it easier to create a depression.

Step 2. Pierce the knife into the can

pierce the knife into the can

Now, you need to pierce the knife into the lid. Apply enough pressure so the edges sink in. With successive chipping, the material of lid is thinned enough for the knife to pierce through.

Step 3. Move the knife around the lid

move the knife around the lid

Start moving your knife in a circular motion along the edge of the lid. With a small knife, it won’t be so easy if it’s not sufficiently sharp. Use a lever-like movement to cut through the lid. Be careful not to accidentally cut into your hand holding the can.

If you get stuck midway through the process, lift the lid with the knife as much as possible. It will create tension near the cut and enable you to move your knife further.

Step 4. Open the lid

open the lid

When you’ve cut through more than three-fourths of the circumference of the lid, you can pull up the lid with your knife, using the affixed part as a hinge.


In case of extreme emergency, a spoon can be used instead of a knife. However, a spoon will take more time to chip off the lid and pierce through the can. Moreover, it will take sufficient strength to move the spoon around the lid to cut it open.


Additional Tips:

  • Before using a stone or concrete slab, wash it thoroughly.
  • Use a strong and hard stone to rub the top edge if you are unable to find a flat slab of stone.
  • If your knife has a weak tip, chip off the material first and then cut through the lid.
  • You can open a can with a spoon instead of a knife too, but that will require adequate physical strength.
  • When using a spoon instead of a knife, see to it that its edges are sharp.
  • Wrap a cloth around your hand if using a spoon, as you may have to apply tremendous force to open the can. The cloth will provide a cushion against the spoon pushing into your skin.