Thursday, March 28, 2013

Survival - Altoids Tin Pocket Survival Kit


“Survival Kit” . . . . what the heck is that?? Survive what?? Hurricane? Fire? Flood? Car Accident?? When a person uses the words “Survival Kit” in the context of having basic tools at hand to enable them to live an additional minute, hour, day, week . . . or more, it should give a person pause . . . . If you find yourself in an actual “survival” moment, you are having a bad day – to say the very least.

And still, working on such kits, thinking through various scenarios, hashing out “options” or “plans” has a tremendous amount of value. In the Wilderness Survival courses I have taught, my stock line is “you have all the time you need NOW to plan for your survival”. And, indeed, you do. If you are reading this post I suspect you are fairly comfortable, your life is not in danger, you have the next few hours to actually think about YOUR survival kit and what you would need in it. Use the time.

So, let’s talk about a typical element of a survival system – a Pocket Survival Kit.

Let me be clear up front – I LOVE Altoids Tins. Probably one of the best containers for a geek like me. I have had friends build everything from HF transceivers to small stoves out of them. I have fire starter tins, first aid kit tins, fishing kit tins – to name but a few. For this post, I am talking about my ”Altoids Tin Pocket Survival Kit”.

About a year ago I did a post entitled “Survival – The Rules of 3” to describe the incremental points in a survival event - Three minutes without air, Three hours without shelter, Three days without water and Three weeks without food. A Pocket Survival Kit has little or no use in the first three minutes where you are simply searching for your next breath. You will either live or die – that simple. However, once that event is over and you have entered the Three Hours to find shelter . . . . then a Pocket Survival Kit can begin to make a difference between your life and your death. A couple further caveats . . . .

  • Let’s assume a wilderness environment . . . .
  • Let’s assume you are a significant distance from civilization – say a day’s hard travel . . .
  • Let’s assume a solo trip – backpack, bike ride, canoe paddle . . . .
  • You are your support system, you are your own self rescue . . . .
  • You have your EDC gear – knife, flashlight, Para cord Bracelet, compass and whistle around your neck (a MUST during wilderness travel), 3-ways to start a fire – and let’s leave your firearm out of it.
  • For whatever reason – a fall, you rolled your canoe, you went SEVERLY off course and are lost, storm, fire – you have entered the “Rules of 3” between the 3-hour stage and the 3-week stage. The event is significant and you will either think your way through this or you will become a statistic.


Most survival events begin with panic – remember your mind is both your best survival tool and your worst enemy. I teach the word STOP in my course:

Stop: find a comfy spot, sit down, gather your wits and calm your mind.

Think: your time spent in the wilderness (or on the water, or in the city, or on the road) has given you a tremendous amount of knowledge. Calm your mind so you have access to this knowledge.

Observe: take stock – where are you, what kind of shape are you in, how’s your gear, how’s your food, what’s your probability of rescue, do people know where you are . . . . it’s a long list. It’s a list you should play over in your mind PRIOR to your trip as you review maps and your plans. Remember – you have all the time you need . . . . NOW.

Plan: Once you have calmed yourself, taken stock of your situation – you have time to plan.

An actual dependence on your survival kit would imply that you have had a catastrophic failure of some type and lost most of your gear due to a storm, fire, rolled a canoe and your gear is now at the bottom of the lake. You are left with what’s in your pocket. This is the juncture where a Pocket Survival Kit can be of real use.

Here’s mine – and what I have put in it.


It is, indeed, an Altoids Tin – Cinnamon to be exact. I will typically place this tin inside a quart freezer bag and then in a cargo pocket or a small waist pack. The freezer bag helps keep it dry and can double as a canteen if needed. Inside this little guy, you will find this:


  • Striker: backup surface for matches
  • Lighter: you just can’t have too many of these
  • Storm Match: start virtually anywhere
  • Paraffin Cotton: to start stubborn fires
  • Strike Anywhere Matches: can’t have too many
  • Candle: cheap fire starters
  • Razor Blade: think scalpel if you need one. It’s is a sheath made of a milk carton side
  • Alcohol Wipes
  • Tylenol
  • Band-Aids
  • Pencil and Paper: for notes on wound treatment, where you are going, last thoughts if it really is not your day . . . .
  • Darning Needle and Dental Floss: good suturing material. Remember, you can sterilize the needle with flame as well as the alcohol swabs
  • Safety Pins
  • Fishing Kit: Sinkers, Hooks, Steel Leader and 30-lb test line on a sewing bobbin.
  • Cotton Thread: again on a sewing bobbin
  • Fresnel Lense: quick fire starting in a sunny environment

These are VERY BASIC items. Yet, they will give you the ability to start fire, close gaping wounds, either catch fish or snare small animals, and gather water. They are meant to provide you some mental comfort and give you a bit of a safety net. Still . . . .

They are NO GUARANTEE that your family and friends will not weep over you. Practice your survival skills. I am fond of the “one gallon” test . . . . take everything you think you need to survive for a weekend and put it in a 1-gallon freezer bag. (yep, you will need to do some “sorting”). Then go campin’. And stick it out, regardless of weather. Make notes, do an AAR, modify your gear . . . .

As with a defensive pistol skill – practice make for a better shooter . . . .

. . . . and practicing your survival skills enhances your chances for making it home.

No comments:

Post a Comment