Most of us hear the word survival kit and assume someone is talking about a bug-out bag or a get-home bag, or any number of different-sized kits out there.
A lot of people, though, aren’t just thinking about end-of-the-world scenarios, but day-to-day preparations. These smaller survival situations occur much more often than a widespread disaster situation, like Hurricane Katrina. These small situations can be things like car accidents in the middle of nowhere or hiking and hunting accidents.
Trying to carrying a bug-out bag or even a get-home bag everywhere is not realistic. Sure, your get-home bag would be great if you were in a car accident, and that’s what it’s intended for. Let’s say you are in someone else’s car, though. Or perhaps you are unable to access your bag due to severe vehicle damage. When hunting, you really don’t want to pile gear on yourself; this would make moving quietly nearly impossible.
Turning small Altoids tins into survival kits has become quite popular. These kits are easy and cheap to make. The tins are lightweight, but tough, and fit in the pocket well. Someone with good organizational and packing skills can pack these kits to the nines.
Buying such a kit isn’t a bad idea, but building your own kit is enjoyable and more efficient. You know where you live and what you’ll need. The personal needs of someone in Florida are going to be different than the needs of someone in Massachusetts or Colorado.
For example, someone living in the desert isn’t likely to need fishing hooks and line. Building these kits is usually cheaper, too.
Let’s go over some of the non-negotiable items that are useful to everyone. This items are useful no matter where you live and can make life a whole lot easier. Use these examples to get a decent idea of what these tiny kits are made for. Don’t expect to fit a tent, a gun, and a kitchen sink in there.
The first concern is always fire. Fire can be the difference between surviving and thriving. Now, a small lighter is capable of fitting into your kit, and is a good option. A long-lasting and more robust fire-starter is a fire-striker; they work wet, and they aren’t cheap plastic and they don’t run out of fuel. They are also more difficult to use effectively and take a bit of practice. Storm-proof matches are another option, but are one time use and carrying a lot of them takes up more room than either a lighter or a fire striker.
Another must: tinder. Tinder simply makes life easier. Good homemade tinder can be made for pennies and is easily storable. Cotton balls that are slathered in petroleum jelly are an excellent tender. It burns bright and strong for several minutes. Making them is easy, but I suggest carrying them unmade. The cotton balls have to have some dry fibers, so you need to keep them from being drenched in jelly. The jelly and cotton balls can be stored in small plastic baggies, or wrapped in saran wrap. They can be mixed as needed.
Light is another must-have. A good SureFire 1 inch flashlight loaded with batteries is probably one of the best lights you can get. Unfortunately, that’s not fitting in an Altoids tin. There are a number of small key chain LED lights out there for about a buck. Some of them are less than an inch wide and about as wide as a thumb. Flashlights like the Photon Micro-Light II are small and powerful for their size; another good option is the Browning Shotgun shell led. This small light is built to look like a shotgun shell, but is only about an inch long.
Finding your way home is pretty important — or at least knowing which way you are walking is important. The Brigade Quartermaster mini survival compass is about the size of a quarter and about as thick as a dollar’s worth of quarters. They only cost about $4 and disappear in an Altoids tin. These little compasses work quite well.
Water is another necessity one must have to survive. Water purification tablets are small and at least a dozen can be stored in your tin can with plenty of room for everything else. One may choose to go with water purifying drops, and their small container is easy to fit in the tin. Another consideration is water storage. What’s the use of purifying methods if you have nothing to hold the water? Believe it or not, condoms are an excellent answer. They’re strong, tough and expandable. You can seal them with rubber bands and carry them with if you choose. That means carry rubber bands, too.
Another useful little trick is some sort of signaling device. This can be a small piece of mirror, or something as small and simple as a whistle. These can alert search parties and even search planes to your location. A whistle is cheap and a piece of reflective glass is easy enough to acquire and break until it fits just right.
A small rope is something else one should consider. Rope is extremely handy, and is up there with the pocket knife in terms of necessity. Rope can be used to fish or to make snares. Braided paracord is extremely compact, and the tighter it’s braided the better. It’s best to separate rope from fishing line; both are built for their own purpose and should be used accordingly when possible. Thin wire is also useful when building snares.
Razor blades are another useful tool that are incredibly thin and easy to carry. These can be ultra-sharp and can act as spare blades in a time of need. A couple of them can be taped together and disappear into an Altoids tin.
Now if your area permits it, fishing hooks are also helpful, along with a sinker or two. I also suggest some form of inspiration, something near and dear to you. Something that is worth living for. For you, this maybe your favorite verse from the Bible, or a picture of your family. Having some form of mental relief and motivation is what’s really going to keep you alive. At the bottom of a survival pyramid is will. The will to survive is greater than any piece of gear, any training, and any skill.
This guide should give you a decent idea of what an Altoids tin is capable of holding. More can be added, and things can be switched out per your needs. You may choose to use a container a bit bigger than the Altoids tin, or even smaller. The point is to have a survival kit you can keep with you anywhere. This little kit can fit in a laptop bag, a gym bag, or your pocket. It can be stored anywhere in a vehicle and weighs next to nothing.
Building these kits is not only fun, but educational. You start thinking critically about what’s necessary and if you have the skills to use it.
All in all, these kits are a lot of fun to build — and incredibly handy.