Make a Survival Kit out of an Altoids Tin
The Pocket Kit
Fitting inside an altoids tin, this kit is easy to keep on hand at all times
This is ideal for anyone who wants to have the essential survival gear along each time they head into the field. Everything fits in the Altoids tin (above). It fulfills all the component groups (see “Make Your Own”) except for shelter and protection, but add a survival blanket to your pocket and you’ll be covered. Keep clicking through the following slides for details on all of this kit’s components.
Fire and Light
From left to right: Steel striker with Mini-Match magnesium fire starter. One side of the starter is magnesium and the other is flint. You scrape shavings off the former and then light them with a spark from the latter. Waterproof-windproof matches with a striker, placed in a mini zip-seal bag, then rolled and taped. 5 Tinder-Quik fire tabs, which light even when wet. They’re great for stuffing in all the extra spaces of a survival tin to eliminate rattling. Candle. I cut a 1/2-inchdiameter emergency candle down to the height of the Altoids tin, so it fits in one corner. Photon Micro-Light II, a bright LED flashlight.
Water and Food
From left to right: Water bag. A Reynolds Oven Bag does the trick, cut down to fit in the tin, with a 1-quart marking as a guide for using iodine tablets. 20 Potable Aqua water purification tablets, repackaged in a mini glass vial. 50 feet of braided fishing line wound on a round sewing-machine bobbin. Fishing tackle kit in a plastic tube. Inside are assorted hooks, swivels, and split shot. 10 feet of 24-gauge snare wire.
Signaling and Navigation
From left to right: Custom-made signal mirror. Commercial versions are all too thick to fit in this kit. I used a durable, ultrathin piece of plastic called mica (locksmiths slide this between a door and jamb to push the lock back). I glued on a piece of Mylar film, rounded the corners, and made a sighting hole. 20mm AA liquid-filled button compass. It’s the best-quality instrument that will fit in the tin.
Tools and Medical Supplies
From left to right: Commando Wire Saw, a small survival cable saw. 2 X-Acto knife blades, without the handle. You should always have a real knife on your person; these blades are for backup. Small packet of antibiotic ointment. 2 butterfly closures.
From left to right: Several yards of nylon string. 2 magnetized sewing needles for sewing or making an emergency compass (floated in water on a leaf, the needle will face north). Small piece of glue, cut off a glue-gun stick. Small laminated card with instructions for water purification tablets and fishing knots. Fresnel magnifier. This lens can start a fire by magnifying the sun’s rays to a point on your tinder, causing combustion. Safety pin, for repairing clothes and straps. 2 feet of aluminum foil for making a cup, signaling, cooking fish, etc.
Make Your Own: Three Steps to a Life-Saving Survival Kit
1. Think about skills
Focus not on the components but on the tasks you’ll want them to perform. In a survival situation, you’ll need to do most of the following: build a fire, construct a shelter, get and purify drinking water, gather food, signal for help, navigate back to civilization, and administer basic first aid. Once you know what types of functions you must be prepared to carry out, you can select the proper items.
2. Pick your tools
Choose at least one component from each of the groups below. Some items can meet the requirements of more than one. Fine-tune your selection to match your location or the season, and remember that you may want more than one item from certain categories. For example, I always bring at least three ways to start a fire. Fire and Light: matches, disposable lighter, flint and striker, magnesium fire starter, tinder, candle, and a magnifying lens. For the latter: flashlight, headlamp, and chemical light sticks. Shelter and Personal Protection: survival blanket, poncho and rain gear, tarp, tube tent, parachute cord, headnet, hat, extra clothes, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, and bug repellent. Water and Food: basic needs are water purification tablets or a filter, and a water container. Add snare wire and fishing kits for food collection, plus emergency rations, a small cup or pot, and a small stove. Signaling: signal mirror, whistle, smoke signals, flares, dye markers, and emergency strobe. Navigation: compass, maps, and GPS unit. Knives and Tools: knives, saw, trowel, and shovel. Medical: first-aid supplies for wound management, like bandages and first-aid ointment. Plus antibiotics, pain medicine, and personal medications. Multipurpose: aluminum foil, wire, duct tape, large garbage bags, bandanna, surgical tubing, zip-seal bags, dental floss, sewing thread and needles, glue stick, and safety pins can all fill more than one function. Miscellaneous items include a survival manual, knife sharpener, thermometer, pencil and paper, toilet paper, and a cellphone.
3. Build your kit
Determine what size kit you want to carry, then decide on what you’ll pack everything into. This can be a tin, a waterproof container, or a soft case such as a belt pouch, waist pack, or backpack. For mini kits, I usually prefer a tin, like the kind that Altoids come in; since you don’t have room for a cup, you can use it to boil water. To make a mini kit, select the smallest components from each group. Be innovative when choosing items. Repackage them compactly if necessary, and whenever possible, select things that can perform more than one function.