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Mirrors and Magnifying Glasses For Prepping and Survival

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: February 16, 2021
Mirrors and Magnifying Glasses For Prepping and Survival

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Magnifying glasses and mirrors can make a difference during a long emergency.  I started thinking of a few uses and that led me to believe that everyone should have a small mirror and a magnifying glass in their preps.

Check out all these different uses and I bet you will find a few that apply to you and your household.

Starting fires

While you need a somewhat sunny day, it is amazing how fast you can get dried leaves and other tinder to light. You don’t have to buy the most expensive magnifying glass to start fires. I remember starting fires with just a little magnifying glass my Dad let me buy at the grocery store in the office supply section. I suppose they still sell them at grocery stores by I am not sure.

Working on delicate equipment

While holding a magnifying glass could be awkward for some more intricate repairs, you can purchase a stand or even special magnifying glasses that are premounted. This can save you from dropping small parts and losing them as well.

Helps those that have vision issues

During a long emergency it may be hard to get glasses and even less likely that you can get your eyes examined and a new prescription. A few magnifying glasses can help those that do not see well lead a more enjoyable and safe life during a long emergency or SHTF scenario.

Not being able to see well can lead to a lot of situations that are not safe for anyone let alone an older person.

Plant and mushroom identification

When it comes to mushrooms and plants there are more look a likes out there than you might think.
If you plan on foraging much, then having something that can help you see the small details could keep you from making some life threatening mistakes.

Examining yourself or others can be easier with mirrors or magnifying glasses.

It can be hard to see some areas of your body without a mirror. This is especially problematic if you are alone and need to take care of wounds, rashes, bites, etc. A magnifying glass can also help see small details when examining your skin.

Dosing out medications with a mirror can be helpful.

Although popular culture loves to show illegal drugs on a mirror and portioned out, years ago in America it was fairly common for doctors to compound and mix medications for patients right there in their office or when out on house calls. There are even special pocket knives that were made for doctors to do this. My Dad used to have one but sold it to another collector.

Case XX Doctor’s Knife

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Although pill cutters are handy, they are not always around so if you needed to split a pill 4 ways you may just crush it and separate into 4 piles. This is a useful way to make a medication easy to put into food if you have a child or someone that just gags a lot if they swallow a pill. Some health conditions can also make swallowing difficult.


Magnifying glasses are like all optics in that you can pay very little or you can pay an astronomical price. I like to go mid range when it comes to something like a magnifying glass. I would not trust a $5 glass to perform very well or hold up over time but at the same time you may want to have a few very inexpensive ones for some tasks.


For a survival situation or long emergency you want to make sure that magnifying glasses and mirrors will not shatter into dangerous shards. Remember that eye glasses are plastic for a reason. There are some good quality magnifying glasses out there that are still made of glass and they may be good to have around your place but I would not want them for bugging out.

Get a mirror that is made for camp use and situations where it could be dropped or banged around. It really doesn’t cost much to get a shatterproof mirror; a broken mirror is at the very least useless and at the worst, dangerous.

Stainless steel mirrors are very durable but they weigh more than the shatterproof acrylic materials many mirrors are made from.

Coghlan’s Stainless Steel Mirror

This mirror weighs under 2 oz and it is a full 3.25 x 4.25 inches instead of the 2 x 3 inch size that many signaling mirrors measure. This is probably my choice if I wanted a very useful mirror because the size is big enough that you don’t have to struggle with it.

Mirrors are useful for signaling

The reflection of a mirror can be used to transmit messages. There is a way to do this using Morris Code for the more complex messages although there is something to be said for keeping it short and simple

Learning to signal

It can be fun to learn how to signal. Homeschool families may want to add this to their activities list. I wrote an article about signaling that you may want to look at. There is a ton of information online about it. This is a cheap skill to learn and could be valuable. All you need is a mirror, some directions, and time to practice. It is better if you have a friend to practice with so you can determine if either of you are doing a good enough job to actually understand what the other is trying to convey through signaling.

Be careful when practicing.

Directing light towards someone’s eyes can cause pain and possibly permanent damage. If someone is driving or doing some other task where they need to pay a lot of attention, can be temporarily blinded by signals and lights. This is not something you want to do by accident.

Coghlan’s Featherweight Mirror

This budget mirror is ideal for those that want to put back just a few inexpensive signaling mirrors for survival needs. This mirror weighs about 0.5 ounces so you will not notice the weight in your bag.

Amk Sol Flash Signal Mirror

I like the products that SOL offers. They are affordable and trustworthy out in the field. This mirror is designed with signaling in mind and can be seen for up to 30 miles if there are no obstructions. The mirror is designed for one handed use and has an aiming feature that helps even those that are not the most experience signalers get their message where it needs to go.

Signal mirrors can be really small

Mirrors made for signaling are often quite small because they are meant to be part of a bag or kit.

Mirrors vary and some are definitely not the best for a ton of different uses

Some mirrors that are made for signaling are not the best for other uses. Some people may find that they like to have two small lightweight mirrors rather than one for this very reason. Signaling mirrors sometimes have holes cut out in the center to help you aim you signal better for example. That is not the best for dosing out medications or looking at areas on your body. It can be done, but it is another challenge.

Extra mirrors could be a good inexpensive trade item during hard times

Mirrors are a sign of decent times and normalcy. Any item that meets those qualifications is a good item for barter in an SHTF scenario. When an item has the bonus of being practical from a medical or signaling stand point, it is even easier to justify adding a few extras to your preps when you have a few extra dollars.

Where to carry your mirror or magnifying glass

While any good camp or signaling mirror will be made of shatter proof materials, that doesn’t mean they are indestructible. Some magnifying glasses may be made of thick glass too.

Just be aware of what materials your items are made of and pack them appropriately. Some mirrors and magnifiers will fit in your wallet and are designed to take some abuse related to being in something that often gets sat on either by accident or on purpose.

Consider glasses that magnify for vision issues

I really think that for working on things or for emergency vision correction when someone cannot get prescription lenses, it is hard to beat the inexpensive glasses style magnifiers. When working on things or performing first aid or dentistry needs, a pair of magnifying glasses seems like it would be a big help and reduce the risk of errors.

ASE Credit Card Size Fresnel Lens Fire Starter and Magnifier Lenses

A Fresnel lens offers a decent level of magnification and is useful for starting fires when needed. The Fresnel lens is a very compact and thin lens that was originally developed for use in in lighthouses. The design allows for capturing more oblique light, so it can be seen for a longer distance. The design means you can get more lens for the amount of materials used. The lenses above are made to fit in a wallet and are under $6 for 3. This is a good way to play with a Fresnel lens without spending a lot of money.

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Bausch & Lomb 4X Folded Pocket Magnifier, 36mm Diameter Lens

This small pocket magnifier comes from a trusted company and it is made in the USA. If you are looking for a small magnifier to add to a bug out bag or firestarting kit, then this will suit your needs well. Users have reported being able to get a fire to catch within 30 seconds. It is nice that you have a strong carry case included so you don’t have to worry about scratching up your lens when hauling it around under tough conditions or if you throw it in with other items.

Carson SureGrip Series Hand Held or Hands-Free 2x Power Magnifying Glasses

Carson makes a variety of magnifiers in different size diameters. One thing that really stood out to me about this magnifier is that it includes a very powerful spot magnifier right above where the handle starts. While you enjoy 2x magnification with the main magnifier, the smaller one gives you an amazing 11.5X magnification for when you really need to see every little detail. While I think a 5 inch diameter magnifier seems nice, it does weigh double what some smaller magnifiers do, so that is something to consider. Carson includes a bag to cover the glass for storage and transport.

Carson Optical Clip and Flip 1.5X 2.25 Diopters Magnifying Lenses

These are kind of neat because they just clip on your favorite pair of safety or prescription glasses and they are very inexpensive. For those that want affordable hands free magnification, these are worth having a few of. If you want to see normally you just flip them up, no taking off your glasses required.

LED Lit Magnifiers

Lights are nice to have if you can keep them going during a situation. LEDs are very efficient but some people are uneasy about the long term health effects of them. I am going to include a few magnifiers that light up because at times they could be handy and batteries last a long time in something so small that is LED powered. The magnifier is still useful even if the lights are not on or become depleted.

MagniPros LED Lit Magnifier

This magnifier features 3x-5x magnification and 10 dimmable LED lights.  It is shatterproof optical grade acrylic just like many of the eye glasses worn daily by millions. The handle folds so that you can fit the magnifier in a small pocket.  The disadvantage is that it is powered by 3 AAA batteries. Since it is fairly easy to recharge AAA batteries, this may not matter that much to you. I have a book light that I have used fairly often, and it has LED lights. I think I have only changed the batteries twice over a few years. I could see getting a magnifier like this for an older person or someone with moderate-to-severe vision issues.

Being able to see well is very important to safety and magnifiers can help make that possible for more people during a long emergency. Mirrors help you keep a watch on wounds and hygiene so you can stay healthier.

Magnifiers can help prevent mistakes. A lack of good vision is definitely a disadvantage during an SHTF scenario or long emergency. With so many people living alone, especially the elderly, it is worth considering during good times what can be done to help overcome these obstacles.

Have you been in a situation where a mirror or magnifying glass came in handy? What size magnifier or mirror have you found to be best for packing and getting a lot of use out of? Is there anyone out there that has actually used a mirror to signal for help when they really needed it and not just for practice?

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7 Responses to “Mirrors and Magnifying Glasses For Prepping and Survival”

  1. I filled an empty glass gallon wine bottle with water as a water source during a picnic. I placed the full bottle on the wooden picnic table. After some time I noticed a small spot on the surface of the picnic table immediately adjacent to the bottom of the bottle began to smoke, and catch fire. I had inadvertently created a magnifying lens and in the bright sun I had started the table on fire. Just a small spot but it was a smoking red hot coal. And I was not even trying to start a fire. How about that?

  2. dollar tree carries a Fresnel lens that is 8X10 inches. I keep several around because they fit in a binder or book. set them side by side and focus them on a single point for a very hot point of light that will start a fire. it also makes it handy to enlarge a whole page at a time for people like myself with aging eyes and all for a dollar———Grampa

  3. instead of using a mirror for signaling, you can use a computer disk, especially one of the little ones that are about 3′ in diameter. they already have a hole in the middle and they’re virtually weightless.

  4. Very good article. I am still amazed at how well fresnel lenses work at starting fires! Almost easier than using a lighter! With practice you can start a fire or create an ember nearly anywhere, anytime…
    Good work Ms. Biggers…

  5. Samantha, I purchased a set of hands-free glasses with a built in LED light and easily interchangeable lenses 1.0X, 1.5X, 2.0X, 2.5X, and 3.5X on Amazon. There are several versions that look identical. I’ve used these to do fine work and read in substandard lighting. They worked great, a little heavy, but easily tolerable. Give them a look using the following in the Amazon search box: 9892B2. Couldn’t get the link to copy right. See ya.

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