Fishing, Hunting, & Trapping

Booby Traps: How to Cleverly Surprise And Incapacitate Intruders

Booby Trap

History teaches us that booby traps were used since ancient times and that even the great pharaohs of Egypt trusted their efficiency and used them to secure their tombs. Hollywood also teaches us that booby traps can be either a fun way to prank your friends (if you know how to do them correctly) or a nasty trap for monsters and other creatures you don’t want around your house (or cabin in the woods). Anyways, these cunning devices date from ancient times and show how ingenious the human mind really is.

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If you look it up in the Wikipedia you’ll find out that the booby trap is a device, created by a person, designed to threaten, harm, or kill another person with the element of surprise. More often than not, the device is unknowingly triggered by the victim itself.

As you can see, even if the words sound funny, this is serious business. You can actually kill someone with this type of contraption so make sure you know what you want to do with it before considering installing one. Booby traps are really useful to have around your house as they serve these main purposes:

  • To scare and intimidate an intruder that is faint of heart. This way you’ll get rid of attackers that are not prepared to engage in close body combat without even having to confront them;
  • To delay the assailant and raise the alarm that someone is trying to barge in;
  • To hurt and/or trap the enemy in a place where it’s safe to confront him (or her);
  • To protect your assets from curious snoopers (of course this means the device is going to be smaller and meant to scare).

Booby traps are effective in both a home invasion situation and a survival one. During a home invasion usually the attacker has the element of surprise; you realize you’re under attack when the attacker(s) is already in the house. If you install a few intricate and cleverly hidden devices in your yard you may ruin their plan and be alerted in time of their intentions. Of course, you will also need a defense strategy in case you are unlucky enough to find someone in your home. So, to find out more about an effective strategy, take a look at our best home defense tactics.

Beginner boobie trap

In a survival situation devices like these can make the difference between life and death. Imagine you are with your family at a cabin in the woods, somewhere outside the civilized area enjoying a prolonged weekend. Everything is nice and quiet when the TV broadcast is interrupted and you find out that your country is under a terrorist attack and there are ground troupes in your area.

You’re alone there with your family and any rescue team is miles away. Can you honestly say you will be capable to defend you and your family out there? Do you know how to build weapons and fight with a trained soldier? You’re only hope is to be found by a rescue team before the terrorists do. In order to even the odds you should know how to make booby traps that you can install around the cabin. This way you might have a fighting chance.

Yes, we may have exaggerated a little bit but in a survival situation it’s important to be aware of your limitations and learn to use the environment to your advantage. Learning how to make a booby trap can be a really fun DIY project to do in your spare time. You get to learn a lot of useful stuff and you can get your entire family involved.

In this article we’re going to talk about how to make devices like homemade booby traps by yourself, with things and materials you have around.

The trip wire

I’m sure you’ve all heard about a trip wire but you had no idea that it can be categorized as a booby trap. If you take a moment and think about it, you realize that it fits perfectly:

  • it is designed to be activated by an unknowingly person;
  • it is efficient in delaying the attacker;
  • it alarms you that someone is trying to tress pass your territory.

The trip wire is actually used to set up the actual trap or the alarm.

Trip wire

The principle behind this device is simple and very easy to put in practice: you set up the trap (or the alarm) and install a wire that when interrupted or disturbed sets up the end device. The end device can be anything from an alarm to a big rock that falls over the assailant (remember Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner?).

The trip wire alarm for your home

You can install trip wires on doors and windows that will alert you if someone is trying to force their way in the house while you are inside. Of course there are alarm systems specially designed for this but this will only cost you about $5 and you don’t need any advance knowledge to install and operate it. It’s also very efficient and it doesn’t rely on electric power as it runs on batteries.

Now let’s see the materials you’ll need to make a trip wire device at home:

  • an electric toy you don’t need any more that runs on batteries and makes a lot of noise or it lights up;
  • electrical wires;
  • tape for isolation;
  • one clip or a clothes pin;
  • aluminum foil;
  • double sided tape;
  • thick string.

As we know that a video can explain the creation process better, here you can see the video tutorial on how to make a trip wire alarm for your house.

Of course you can use this to prank your friends and family if you want to have some harmless fun but in the end, this is a simple device that lets you know someone is coming.

The trip wire trap for a survival situation

Well, when you’re in a survival situation, things change radically and you don’t really have the mood to make funny pranks. Also you don’t have the same materials you could use at home (not that they would be useful in this environment).

When you’re in the woods, fighting to stay alive day after day, knowing how to make a trapping device will prove to be a very valuable skill. You don’t need many special materials, just some paracord (or any type of strong strings), a knife, a thin wire to use for the trip wire, and the environment around will be enough to make the trap. If you don’t know what type of wire to use for the trip wire you can find it in specialized stores. It usually comes in two colors: yellow and green. The yellow wire is for sunny areas and the green one is for leafy, dark areas where it’s harder to spot.

If you’re not yet familiar with paracord and the tons of projects it can help with in a survival situation, take a look at our paracord projects article.

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The trip wire can help you catch small wild animals that can be your dinner and it can alert you when larger, dangerous animals approach your shelter area. Explaining the building process in writing can be a bit difficult which is why we found a great video tutorial on how to build a trip wire trap in the wilderness.

The trip wire trap is great for catching small animals (as we already mentioned) to keep you fed but when you’re in the wilderness alone you need to install protection devices against big, wild animals too. The fire is a good start but you can’t stay up all night by the fire. You are bound to fall asleep (willingly or not) and then you need something to alert you if a puma tries to sneak up on you.

The simpliest and most efficient protection devices in this case are spikes. You simply need tree branches and your knife. Cut the branches in small pieces (about 6 inches long) and sharp them at one end. After you’re done sharpening, stick each spike in the ground (with the end that it’s not sharpened) at a 45 degree angle facing the outside of your camp. Make sure to surround your camping area with these and then cover them with leaves. If your spikes are sharp enough they will hurt a big animal’s paws thus alerting you on the danger.

Also, make sure that you don’t step in your own trap. The spikes may not be sharp enough to poke a hole in your shoe but you’ll be destroying all your hard work.

As you can see, the knife shows up a lot in this tutorial so you may want to evaluate the one you have. You will need a sturdy knife, well-sharpened, which will resist the elements and everything else. If you don’t have such a knife, take a look at our reviews on best fixed blade knives.

Clever ideas for homemade booby traps

Besides the trip wire alarm you can make all sorts of homemade devices to help you protect your house and family. Of course, sometimes the “threat” is always inside the house, living or working there, which is why there are all sorts of booby traps that are meant to protect your belongings from a curious co-worker or sibling. For example you can make an actual alarm out of an Altoids tin and a Holiday card that plays music.

Alarm system for under $10

For this extremely “elaborate” alarm system you’ll need an Altoids tin (we’re sure you have one around as a true survivalist that you are), the holiday card (actually the mechanism inside), some tape, and a multitool. We have a great set of reviews on the best multi-tool to own in case of an emergency so don’t forget to take a look at our article here.

Altoids tin

The main idea is to insert the music playing mechanism in the Altoids tin and then poke a few holes in it to make it play louder. After the entire system is done you can simply stick it on a drawer or any place you want to protect. When someone moves the tin to snoop around the alarm will be triggered and you’ll be able to catch the perpetrator in fact.

The elaborate production process can be observed on this video tutorial on how to make your own alarm system.

Small catapult device to protect your drawers

We’re not saying that this device is going to protect you from big, bad guys but it’s perfect to teach a nosy co-worker a lesson. It’s also perfect if you want to pull a prank on someone. The catapult device is quite ingenious and you can see that the creator is really an extremely creative person (who may have gotten extremely bored one day at the office).

All you need to build this contraption are office supplies:

  • a metal lid from a square tin (or the lid from an Altoids tin);
  • a few rubber bands;
  • a lolly stick;
  • a pen (only the outer tube and the spring);
  • a small plastic clip;
  • paper clips and pins;
  • the lid from a water bottle;
  • string;
  • two magnets;
  • glue;

If you take a look around any office you’ll definitely find these items lying around. Now that you’ve gathered everything, is time to see how to actually make the catapult. Here is the video tutorial on how to make you own drawer catapult so people will quit messing around with your drawers.

Also it’s a fun DIY project for a rainy afternoon.

How to make homemade animal traps

These traps are extremely useful when you have a wild animal snooping around your yard and causing damages. For example, if you keep hens in your yard and a fox decided that you may have too many of those or if you keep pigeons and a ferret just discovered their taste. There are many small wild animals that can produce quite a load of damage to a household with domestic animals.

Homemade Trap

The animal traps help you trap the little perpetrator and then release it into the wilderness, somewhere far, far away without harming him. It’s the most humane way of dealing with this situation.

How to make a trap out of a shopping trolley

We found a very nice and educational video tutorial on how to use a shopping trolley as an animal trap.

If you watch the video you’ll see that this job requires a little bit more work and some power tools but the result is absolutely amazing. The resulted booby trap (after all the fox or badger triggers the mechanism unknowingly which adds the element of surprise) is safe for any wild animal of medium size. It will only give them a mild scare (of being incarcerated) without causing any harm.

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We think it’s very important to not harm the wild animals that interact with your household even though they produce damages. They don’t do it out of pleasure or spite, it’s their nature to look for food and your hens were simply the easiest place they could reach. Of course if the animal gets violent and there’s no other alternative, you will be obliged to answer with force to protect your family and household but otherwise, they will be extremely happy to get back in the forest and won’t disturb you ever again.

DIY project for an animal booby trap made out of wood

This is a more complex project that calls for the carpenter in you. If you get bored one afternoon and you have some wood lying around, this can be a really fund DYI project to test your skills. The result is quite nice and very effective (according to the author).

The main materials that you’re going to need are these:

  • one wooden plank that is big enough to be cut in 4 pieces, each of them about 24 inches tall – you can also use 4 wooden planks of the same size, it’s not absolutely necessary to have one plank and then cut it up;
  • smaller pieces of wooden plank for the door shaft;
  • nails and hammer;
  • a saw;
  • a piece of wire for the trap door;
  • a wire net to secure the end without the trigger door.

The video tutorial on how to make your own animal trap is very explicit and you can watch the entire process, from start to finish.

The sound quality and the English used are not of the best quality but you don’t actually need sound to learn how to make this trap. Anyways, if you do this kind of project for the first time and you’re not used to working with your hands a lot, you might want to clear up a few hours out of your schedule as it requires some handyman skills. The end result will be very satisfying though; even if you don’t catch anything with it.

Booby Trap

The end conclusion here is that booby traps have been out there for as long as the human kind. They are nothing else but creative, ingenious ways to use the objects around us in order to provide us with food and safety. As survivalists and people who believe in preparedness, we should be able to at least put together a trip wire.

It’s one of the most basic and simple trapping devices and you don’t need special materials or skills for it. Start by trying one at home and when you’re confident in your newly acquired skills, try to make a trip wire in the forest. In survival, it’s important to know how to manipulate the environment around in order to obtain what you need.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you click on one of these links and make a purchase, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Also, as an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If the information in this post has been helpful, please consider purchasing through one of the links in this article. Thank you.

About the author

Andrew McKay

Andrew McKay is a seasoned hunter and fisherman from Anchorage, Alaska. Andrew thinks that he is the luckiest person in the world, as he lives in the most gorgeous place in United States and does what he loves to do. As a member of Alaska Professional Hunters Association and International Hunter Education Association, he is always looking for the ways to improve his skills and to teach people around him.


  • When I was a teen, I used to attach strands of my hair strategically around my drawers, so if they moved or disappeared, I know that someone has been messing with my stuff. Many years later, I learned the real booty traps and their benefits; now I might as well set up some advanced traps around my precious things.

  • Don’t forget that for any of this booby traps to work, they must be located discreetly, tactful and out of sight of its intended victim. Creativity is essential because the trap will become less effective if it’s “visible,” never assume that the attacker is will never see it.

  • Interesting. I never used traps for home defense but like to use it to hunt small animals while out camping.
    it is a great semi-passive way of hunting and making them is a lot of fun.

  • It is such an interesting thing to go and try out the traps that I see here. I guess I will try to do the trip wire alarm this weekend. I only want to try out the alarms instead of harmful traps because I want to avoid the risk of hurting innocent people.

  • Nowadays, there are a lot of alarms that are available in the market, but nothing beats old school traps to help you secure your home. It is both fun and gives you a sense of fulfillment when you know that you are doing it to keep your family safe from intruders and unwanted guests.

  • Booby traps have and will always be the most effective method of trapping your attackers or slowing them down. Even though, booby traps are considered dangerous, there are some that are basically safe to use in your neighborhood. The most convenient booby trap for home defense is the trip wire alarm.

  • Booby traps are effective in a home invasion and in a wilderness survival situation. Booby traps always eliminate the element of surprise for you. Therefore, you will not be caught unaware by attackers. In actual fact, the attackers are the ones that will be caught by surprise.

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