Survival Signal Mirror | How Does It Work?

A signal mirror is one of the many important survival gears every prepper needs. Though small, this survival gear can make the difference between life and death when used effectively.

Here is everything you need to know about a signaling mirror.

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Everything You Need to Know About a Signal Mirror

What Is a Signal Mirror

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As the name suggests, a signal mirror is a lens specifically designed to signal for help when in distress. It is designed with a hole whose sole purpose of canceling out the flaw in the typical mirror while signaling.

This is because it is difficult to point a reflected light from a mirror to an object in the sky or air, even though you can easily do it from the ground. Therefore, the hole allows you to see through it as you aim the reflected light on your target, in this case, a rescuer jet or boat.

When Should One Use a Signal Mirror

If you’re stranded or lost at sea or out in the woods, a signal mirror can make the difference between life and death when used effectively.

There are two ways to use a signal mirror when in either situation:

Firstly, if you can’t see anyone in the distance, sweep the horizon with the mirror.

This way, you increase your chances of catching the attention of a rescue team that is yet to reach your visual range. Even better, consider spelling out an SOS message.

Secondly, if you can spot rescuers, aim the reflected light directly at them, and send a signal to identify yourself as a person out there in need of their help.

How to Use a Signaling Mirror

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The hole in the mirror’s middle enables you to accurately shine the reflection on the aircraft’s window to indicate your location. However, signaling mirrors come with an instructional menu about signaling effectively.

Here is how to use this survival gear effectively:

  • Firstly, hold the mirror in your fingers, ensuring your fingers tips are aligned on the mirror’s edges. This guarantees that most of the reflected light reaches the target.
  • Next, ensure the mirror perfectly faces in the direction of the sun to create a reflection. You can use your inactive hand to shield your eyes from the intense sun rays.
  • Using the hand that is blocking the sunlight, tilt the mirror to hold the reflection before focusing it on the rescue team or aircraft.
  • Next, draw the mirror closer to your face, and while looking through the hole, aim for the aircraft above you by focusing the reflection towards it.
  • While doing this, ensure that the aiming hole is where the bright light is. Alternatively, if the sun is not too bright or is lower on the horizon, stretch your arms outwards and aim with one eye shut.

Note: The instructions are more often than not written on the mirror’s non-reflective side to make using it easier for you.

How Can I Improvise a Signal Mirror

As important as a signal mirror is, especially during outdoor adventures, rarely will you carry a purpose-built one with you every time as it is easy to forget due to its small size. In that case, you can always improvise one when in distress.

Go through your belongings and look for a variety of shiny that can easily reflect light and catch the attention of rescues. Any metallic object with a glossy surface, such as belt buckles, shiny cookware, or emergency foil blankets, will do.

Hold any of these reflective objects in one hand and use them to reflect the light from the sun. This way, you will create a beacon of light that will signal your location to the rescuers.

Remember: It is vital to first locate the reflection and only point it to the sky when you have a vivid idea of where to focus it.

What to Consider When Buying a Signal Mirror

clipboard-checklist-know-preparing-natural-disasterseconomic | how to make a signal mirror

While you can use practically any reflective object as a signaling mirror, you have a better chance at contacting rescuers if you have a specialized mirror for that purpose. For that this reason, you need:

  • A big enough mirror that can comfortably fit in your hands. A two-by-three-inch size is good enough as long as it has a small hole in the middle for you to see where you’re focusing your signal. This way, you’ll be better placed to capture the eye of a search team.
  • According to experts, plastic mirrors are advantageous as they are light and can be manipulated with one hand without breaking. However, keep in mind that glass mirrors can reflect sunlight much farther than plastics.
  • Thirdly, if you opt for glass mirrors, ensure you carry them in a bubble-wrap sleeve to prevent them from breaking.
  • When shopping for a signaling mirror, always go for the best deal possible. For instance, some dealers have spiffy models that come equipped with a viewing window that has a superimposed red dot on your target.
  • This way, you can point out the exact spot from which you are signaling. Others come with a whistle attachment to help rescuers zero in on you.

Note: Consider practicing how to use a signaling mirror before heading out for your next outdoor adventure.

Pro Tips

  • When improvising a mirror, hold up your thumb and index finger in a V-shape and angle your reflective material. It ensures that most of the light goes through the V as this will help find the bead of light.
  • Besides flashing the mirror, you can also send a detailed message with the mirror or reflective material using Morse code. You can find a cheat sheet on how to do this.
  • If you choose to use a mirror, flash it towards your target and then turn it away from the target or cover it. Do this in quick succession three times. This is the international distress signal that is recognizable to the rescuer.
  • Once you are sure that rescuers have spotted you and are zooming in towards you, it is crucial to stop signaling. Why? The reflected light may cause them momentary blindness and may cause more accidents.

Watch this video as Canadian Prepper presents the complete guide to survival gear:



There you have preppers. Outdoor adventures should be as fun as they are responsible for ensuring safety. The only thing better than one outdoor adventure is another one, and a signaling mirror is just what you need to survive in case of distress to see another day.

What thoughts do you have on using a signaling mirror? Let us know in the comment section below!

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