13 Ways a Survivalist Can Use a 55 Gallon Drum

Spinning 55 Gallon Drum Compost Bins

You might be wondering what all the excitement over DIY 55 gallon drum projects is about. Well, like pallets, these barrels are really cheap if not free. Do a little poking around your community. Try a soda bottler, olive importer or local breweries for plastic drums. For the steel ones you could ask at a local auto garage or metal scrapper.

Both the steel and plastic barrels are useful for a variety of projects. The steel drums can’t be beat for DIY smokers, grills or classy furniture, though the plastic ones are easier to work with. Here are 13 resourceful uses for an old 55 gallon drum that survival preppers will find inspiring.

Barrel Grill

Image courtesy of lapseshot.com

1. 55 Gallon Drum BBQ

A BBQ grill is one of the most popular ways to reuse an old barrel. It makes the perfect frame. All you need to do is cut in half, add a handle and lay a grate across the bottom.

These grills have become really popular. If you have the proper tools to build them and can find a cheap source of steel 55 gallon drums, selling drum grills could become a great source of extra income.

55 Gallon Drum Boat

Image courtesy of lexingtoncontainercompany.com

2. 55 Gallon Drum Boat

This is actually one of the simplest projects as far as the 55 gallon drum is concerned. You don’t have to cut, bend or do much of anything to it. Just lash a few together, lay a wood frame on top and you’ve got a primitive raft.

Of course, if you choose to add a rudder, sails and fishing rig like this fellow, it will get a bit more complicated. The great thing about this raft is you have a lot of security. If one barrel is punctured or springs a leak, the others will remain buoyant and take you safely to land.

Barrel Chicken Plucker

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3. 55 Gallon Drum Chicken Plucker

Yup. That’s a chicken plucker, built out of a plastic 55 gallon drum. If you’ve never butchered 100 chickens in one go, you may not understand the need for such a device. It really speeds things up. Imagine trying to hand pluck that many birds and get them into the freezer. You would need a chicken plucking army. It works on grouse, pheasant and turkey too.

The fingers are made out of rubber or flexible, yet firm, plastic. The whole thing needs to spin really fast, so you’ll want to connect it to a motor. Why not use a wind turbine to power it?

55 Gallon Drum Compost Barrels

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4. 55 Gallon Drum Compost Barrels

This is an extensive compost operation. Much of the raw material comes out of the chicken coop in the center. Each barrel can be slowly rotated by hand, effectively mixing the compost.

A large scale operation like this one may be practical if you have livestock producing ample manure. If you don’t need all the finished compost for your garden, you can package and sell it. Any gardener will tell you: it is a valuable material. In fact, quality compost would be a great barter item in a financial crisis.

Barrel Aquaponics

5. 55 Gallon Drum Aquaponics System

Plastic barrels are perfect for building a DIY aquaponics system. Aquaponics is a type of gardening that uses the water from a fish tank to feed vegetables. Depending on your climate you can use edible fish like trout, perch, cod, catfish or tilapia. That way the system grows a valuable protein source in addition to produce.

The waste from the fish is perfect for feeding growing plants. The roots filter the water, as does the gravel, and it is returned clean and pristine to the fish tank. With careful planning it can become a self-sufficient closed system.

Barrel Goat Feeder

Image courtesy of cornerstoneacresfarm.com

6. Goat Feeder

Goats are notoriously difficult to feed. They love to throw their feed all over the place. They love to climb into their feeders even more. You’ve probably heard that goats will eat anything. The truth is they are picky. Once a goat has trodden or soiled its hay, it won’t eat another bite.

Most goat owners have fretted over the cost of wasted hay at one time or another. This particular feeder is still not doing its job, as you can see from the scattered hay at the goat’s feet. But the idea is sound. Just cut smaller holes at various heights in the barrel, so the goat has to work a little for each bite.

Beer Making Malt Smoker

Image courtesy of beerandwinejournal.com

7. Home Brewer 55 Gallon Drum Smoker

This rotating smoker, built from a 55 gallon drum, is used for smoking malt. It’s for one of those new fashions in home beer brewing: smoked beer. People either love it or hate it.

But the design of this smoker is more important its current use. It could also be used to smoke meats, cheeses or even fruits and vegetables. Keep in mind that this smoker is intended for cold smoking. A small fire is made in the box and allowed to smolder. It should never get hot inside the barrel. For a hot smoker use a steel drum.

Barrel Storage Cabinet

Image courtesy of furniche.com

8. 55 Gallon Drum Storage Cabinet

Your barrel was probably used originally as a storage container. It held motor oil, perhaps. Well, now you can turn it into a nice cabinet in your garage. The ridges in steel 55 gallon drums are perfect for placing shelves.

This design is useful for making a concealed storage container as well, though be careful. If things go sideways and someone is raiding your home, fuel and oil are likely going to be valuable. A steel drum is probably not the place to hide anything you really need.

55 Gallon Drum Vertical Aquaponics

Image courtesy of engineeringforchange.com

9. Vertical Aquaponics System out of 55 Gallon Drums

Do you want to try aquaponics but lack the space? This unit only takes up three by five feet of floor space. Remarkably, a single five foot tower can produce 200 heads of lettuce per year. Aquaponics is such an efficient way to garden, you don’t need much space to produce enough food to feed your family.

Barrel Furniture

Image courtesy of homecrux.com

10. 55 Gallon Drum Furniture

If you are creative you can make a whole furniture set out of steel barrels. These were painted a nice retro shade of green. They are even ergonomically designed to fit the curvature of your spine.

Spinning 55 Gallon Drum Compost Bins

Image courtesy of instructables.com

11. Double Decker Drum Composter

This DIY 55 gallon drum composter spins for easy mixing. There are three chambers so you can start a new batch while older ones mature. There is no better way to recycle your kitchen scraps and animal manure than turning them into rich, black soil that will feed your garden. An efficient system can produce mature compost that is ready to use in only three months.

Rocket Stove 55 Gallon Drum

Image courtesy of permies.com

12. 55 Gallon Drum Rocket Stove

This is an example of sheer creativity. The man who designed this wood burning rocket stove is trying to start a homestead and become self-sufficient. He is building a house, but needs to get his family through their first winter in a converted chicken coop. With a few materials and a lot of ingenuity, it seems you really can accomplish anything.

55 Gallon Drum Garden

Image courtesy of gardeningnut.com

13. Easy Vertical Garden

A few cuts into a 55 gallon drum and you’ve got a vertical garden bed. This is a great space saver if you have a small yard. It can also be used as an herb bed near the kitchen door.

If you feel creative, try growing potatoes in a drum. Just keep covering them up as they grow, and by the end of the summer three plants will fill your barrel with spuds.

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