Altoids Survival Kit
Altoid tins are super useful. They are inexpensive and highly functional. For the price of a box of mints you also get an actual metal box with working hinges. People have been coming up with creative uses for these for years. One interesting and very practical thing you can use these tins for is the creation of a mini survival kit.
Mini Survival Kit
It is important to understand what this is and what it isn’t. This is not a full pack. It doesn’t contain everything that you should bring with you if you want to be fully prepared for survival. It isn’t what you would bring if you know you are going to be out in the woods in a survival situation.
It does work very well as an emergency kit. The idea is that you can carry the absolute bare essentials with you in situations where you normally would not be able to carry a pack. Often times it is not possible or desirable to bring a full pack. It is very common to want to travel light. Rather than go completely unprepared you can bring a mini survival kit.
Mini survival kits are great because they are tiny and you can carry them pretty much anywhere you go. You can bring them places that you can’t bring a larger pack. With something as small as an Altoids tin you can bring it on small day hikes and fishing trips. You could even carry it with you every every day if you like. You can just stow one of these away in your car, in your fishing box, or with your hunting gear.
When putting together a mini survival kit you want something that is small and self contained. Tins work great because they are inexpensive and durable. Being able to use something made of metal is kind of nice. Altoids tins are a very common choice. They cost almost nothing and even include hinges.
Pocket Survival Kits
These are small enough that you can pretty much stow them away anywhere. They fit nicely even in your pocket. When using something as small as an altoids tin for a survival kit you don’t have to worry about finding space to keep it.
Altoids tins are great and all but how much practical survival gear can you actually store in one of these things? They are a whole lot smaller than a backpack. Even a fanny pack seems huge compared to an altoids survival kit. You can actually fit a lot inside one of these. For the absolutely tiny size of these boxes, this kit can provide a ton of functionality. The way we do it we even include three different methods of starting a fire and tinder. You can also include just about everything you would need to catch fish.
List of things to include:
- Mini Bic lighter
- Waterproof storm matches
- Striker for matches
- Ferro rod
- Cotton balls
- mini multi-tool
- Dental floss
- Fishing string
- Fishing hooks
- Fishing lures
- Fishing sinkers
- Alcohol swabs
- Safety pins
- Paper clips
- Mini compass
- Wire saw
- MRE Beverage bag
- Water purification tablets
- Mini LED flashlight
What is missing?
This kit doesn’t include any type of tarp, poncho, or emergency blanket. It doesn’t include any large cutting tools that can actually chop things. You will need to be able to construct a shelter almost completely from the materials that you find. It doesn’t include much in the way of cordage.
Inventory Deep Dive
Lets talk about each item in a bit more detail.
Mini Bic Lighter
This is one of the most important items to include. It is right up there with matches and the ferro rod. A mini bic lighter is tiny and can be used to start hundreds of fires. This is also an advantage if it is windy/rainy and you are having trouble getting a fire lit. There are advantages and disadvantages to each fire starting tool. I think that the disadvantages of a lighter aren't as big of a deal as some people make them out to be. Such a small item takes up so little space in your Altoids survival kit that it almost seems crazy not to include it.
Waterproof Storm Matches
These are another really excellent item to carry. You can fit a few of them in an altoids tin very easily. The take up only a little bit of space. The downside to these is that you can only really start as many fires as you have matches. You would normally carry more in a larger kit. Waterproof storm matches specifically are really great since they work even when wet. They can be lit in the wind and rain. You can even submerge one in water after lighting it and it will reignite. Note that you will need to remember to pack a striking pad. The matches will be pretty much useless if you forget one. The pad is flat and can be stuck to the inside of the Altoids tin.
Striker for Matches
As mentioned above, you are going to need a striker pad for your matches. The exception to this is if you were to use strike anywhere matches but we don't recommend them. You are going to be way better off with waterproof storm matches. The striker takes up almost no space at all. You can stick it to the inside of the Altoids tin if you like or just leave it loose on the bottom of the tin. Just don't for get this one tiny item.
A ferro rod is really great to have. This is yet another fire starting tool. It may seem excessive and redundant to add a third tool just for starting fires, especially when you are trying to conserve space so much, but a ferro rod doesn't have to take up much space. It provides great value especially for such a small size. It can be used to start hundreds of fires. Unlike the lighter or the matches, it is much less likely to break or fail. You won't use it up quickly. The disadvantage to a ferro rod is that it can be a bit harder to start tinder if the tinder isn't really fine. Lighters and matches are easier if you don't know what you are doing. One thing to realize is that you won't be able to fit a large ferro rod inside your Altoids survival kit. Make sure you get something that isn't too big. You may also consider removing the handle from your ferro rod if you need to so that it will fit in the Altoids tin.
These are great when used as tinder for starting fires. You could probably find a ton of other uses for them as well. They are extremely easy to light and can save you a lot of extra effort. They are great for times when you either can't find good tinder or just don't want to take the time because you have other things to worry about. Either case these make starting a fire much easier. Just a few sparks from a ferro rod (or anything else) will light these right up. They don't take up much space and can be compacted a great deal. You can squeeze them in just about anywhere. Also worth noting is that these are much better than dryer lint. Cotton balls will always be consistently made fo the same material (which works great) whereas dryer lint will consist of whatever fabric was in the drier at the time (this can very). Cotton balls are also so super cheap so it isn't worth using dryer lint just for the purpose of saving money. Tip - you can soak these in flammable liquid or dip them in petroleum jelly for even more convenience but you will need to seal them up somehow and they will take up a bit more space in your Altoids survival kit.
You are going to want to have some type of blade in your Altoids survival kit. A mini multi-tool will give you that and a bunch more functionality. You might consider swapping the multi-tool for a small folding knife with a better blade but you would be giving up all of the extra stuff that comes with a multi-tool like pliers, scissors, screwdriver, etc. You could also design your kit in such a way as to include both. Another popular choice is to substitute a small swiss army knife for the mini multi-tool. This is a totally valid option and could work well for you. You might have a better chance of getting a good blade this way also. If you do go with a swiss army knife, don't just get one of the keychain size knives. Get something a little bigger and more functional.
The idea with this item is to have some general purpose cordage. It is compact and doesn't take up much space. It is also relatively strong. It gives you something that is stronger than the sewing thread but doesn't replace it. Having this available means you won't have to waste your fishing line. You can use the floss for just about everything else and save the fishing string for actual fishing. If you didn't bring fishing string, floss can be used for fishing if you really need to. It just isn't as good. It can also be used as tinder for starting fires. It is great for making snares and other traps. It is helpful for tying the end of a spear, for example a wooden pronged fishing spear or frog gig. It can be helpful when constructing a shelter. It is great for repairing things and can be used for so many things. It just makes sense to have this. I would say that it is probably more useful than the spool of thread but less useful than the fishing line.
This is an incredibly useful item to have. When combined with fishing hooks this will go a long way towards providing you a good source of food. You are going to need to be near water and the fish are going to have to be biting. There are tons of other uses for fishing line as well. It can be used as general purpose cordage. It can be used for creating traps, and just about anything that we just mentioned for the dental floss. It is most important for fishing though. I wouldn't want to waste it on anything else. This is why I recommend also bringing both floss and thread.
These are one of the most useful items on the list. Given, you still do need to be near water and the fish do need to be biting. If the season is wrong and the conditions just aren't right, you could be fishing all day and not get anything. These don't guarantee that you will have a source of food but oftentimes conditions are good and these can help you acquire fish very easily. Fishing hooks take up almost no space in an Altoids survival kit and provide a ton of utility. I would recommend just always bringing them. You should bring fishing string too but even if you forget the string you still may be able to catch fish with hooks. You can also use an alternative type of cordage and potentially have luck with it.
Fishing lures can be helpful, especially in situations where you can't find any natural bait. Finding worms or other bait may seem easy. It may seem like you are always seeing things around that could be used. It is not uncommon to not be able to find anything on the spot. It does happen. A lure saves time as well. Sure you could find live bait or construct your own lure from natural materials but having a lure on hand is helpful, especially when you have other things to worry about. This still isn't the highest priority item. It is nice to have but not really necessary. You may wish to cut this from your kit to save space. Whatever you do bring should be small and compact to fit in an Altoids survival kit. Pack the smallest lure you can find or just stick with hooks and bait.
This is another item that is nice to have but not really necessary. I would consider these optional. These can be really handy and they don't take up much space at all so it may be worth bringing them. at the very least you could throw one or two in you kit and you probably wouldn't even be able to tell the difference. They really don't take up much space and because of this I would say don't leave them out.
These can be handy but are far from essential. They make things a tiny bit more convienient if you want to be able to switch hooks without having to cut your line every time. You could easily do without these but they take up so little space you might want to throw them in anyway.
These are useful for obvious reasons. You can patch up a wound, stop bleeding, and reduce your chances of infection. Chances are you are going to be doing a lot of work with cutting tools and a number of other things that could result in deep cuts or other injuries. If you do get a bad cut you are going to want to stop the bleeding with something. You are better off using something clean to avoid infection. Infection can turn a small cut into something much more serious. This is the last thing you want when you are lost or in a survival situation. In the worst case scenario an infected wound could be deadly. A bandaid is a fast easy way to solve a small problem so that it doesn't become something more serious. These are flat and basically take up almost no space at all. You can just place them at the bottom of the Altoids survival kit.
A butterfly bandage is a little bit different. It isn't designed so much to just cover up a wound. It is specifically designed to pull two sides of a cut together. These are very useful if you have a deep cut that really needs to be held together. It serves somewhat the same purpose as stitches. Keeping a wound closed doesn't just stop the bleeding but it promotes faster healing. These bandages are designed to stick to the skin on either side of the wound but not to the wound itself. These are great as a quick fix and are much faster and more convenient than stitches.
These are really nice to have in your Altoids survival kit. They are relatively small so they won't use up a lot of your space. They are important for cleaning and sterilizing wounds. This may sound like it isn't strictly necessary and you may be able to get away without them but if you have the option it is a really good idea to sterilize. A dirty wound is much more likely to become infected and this is the last thing you need when you are in a survival situation. You don't want to have to deal with an infection. This can turn a small problem into a very big one. All that said, there are also alternative uses for alcohol swabs. They are flammable and can be used to help start a fire. This can be a great help if you are having trouble getting a fire going. You can light these pretty easily with a ferro rod or pretty much any other firstarting tool.
Needles are useful for a few different reasons. These aren't one of the most critical things you could pack but they don't take up any space either. I would usually say that you should pack a few because they won't take any space at all. They basically have no impact whatsoever in terms of how much space the use up. They can be used for the obvious things like stitching up a wound or repairing torn clothing. Both of these are really nice things to be able to do so just throw a few needles in your Altoids survival kit. You're going to want to remember to also pack some thread. The thread will take up some space if you don't remove it from the spool. You could also probably use the needles with either floss for fishing line if you don't have thread. A third use would be improvised fishing hooks. You can use the pliers on your mini multi-tool to bend a needle into a fishing hook. That may seem really creative but we have another even more interesting use that you probably haven't thought of. Needles can be used in the construction of darts which can be fired out of a blowgun. This can help you catch small animals for food (or big ones if you have poison for your darts).
You are going to want to bring some sewing thread to go with the needles. It can be used for sewing torn clothing or gear. It can also be used to stitch up a wound. You could using it for fishing if you don't have fishing line. It will only be strong enough to catch small fish without breaking. It definitely won't be as strong as either the floss or the fishing line.
These are good to have in your Altoids survival kit. Safety pins don't have one single primary use but can be helpful in many different situations. They don't take up much space although they aren't quite as compact as needles or fishing hooks. You can use these to quickly repair torn clothing, fix a damaged backpack, or repair a tent or shelter. You can also bend these into working fishhooks if you have a small multi-tool with pliers. Even without the pliers, you could probably figure something out. Safety pins can be used to bind all sorts of things together. If you happen to have an emergency blanket or a poncho, you can use safety pins to bind things together. You could also use these to seal a wound shut. We don't generally recommend doing this if you don't know what you are doing. You have a good chance of making things worse. If you are bleeding to death and you have no other choice, it might make sense to use a safety pin to keep a really large cut closed. Safety pins can be used to remove splinters and ticks. If the button for your pants is broken, you can use a safety pin to hold your pants up. You can also use them to keep your pants hemmed up if you are walking through water and they just don't want to stay rolled up.
Paper clips are another compact item that are really useful. They can be used when you need a really fine tool for repairing something or cleaning things out. You can bend them in pretty much any shape you need with just your fingers. They are great for binding things together. You could theoretically use them to construct a makeshift fishing hook but they aren't likely to be strong enough. They will probably bend too much unless you are catching really small fish. They could be used in the construction of blowgun darts. They can also be used in the construction of traps.
These are a great general purpose tool to have around. They don't take up a lot of space. They can be used to remove splinters and ticks. They can be used to repair or otherwise work with very small parts. They are good for anything that requires precision work. An example of where this might come in handy could be when repairing a broken lighter. Just think of all the small parts like the flint or the spring. The same goes for any number of other devices with small parts. This could include things like an emergency radio. We've included a pretty good set of tweezers but we could have included a smaller pair which would have helped us conserve even more space.
A compass is always a good thing to have anytime you venture far from civilization. Besides being used to plot a course or find your way around with a map it can be helpful to know what direction you are going in. You might think that this is not a big deal since you can just use the sun or the starts to determine which direction is North but this isn't always possible. On a cloudy day (or night) you won't necessarily be able to easily tell anything from the sun or the stars. You may want to walk in one direction if you happen to know the relative position of your destination but you also just plain don't want to be walking in circles. If you want to actually make any progress and get somewhere you are going to want to be able to follow a straight path. Using a compass can be very important for this purpose. Just the simple ability to follow a straight path makes it worth carrying a compass. That may not seem so hard but it can be easy to get turned around. This is especially true when walking around a hill, a rock formation, or a pond. It is easy to walk part way around and think that you have gone further than you really have. Bring a compass and be sure. Compass we've selected here is somewhat compact but nowhere near as compact as some models out there. We would recommend actually including a much smaller compass. In my experience, smaller compasses are more likely get stuck if you hold them at the wrong angle. This can give you a false sense of where you are going so be careful with smaller compasses.
This is probably one of the top items I would recommend including in an Altoids survival kit. It is compact so it won't take up too much of your space. It will make cutting branches much, much easier. It isn't as good as a hatchet, Bowie knife, or folding saw but none of those things can fit inside an Altoids tin. If you want something small and compact that can cut stuff reasonably well, this is your best bet. The mini multi-tool will give you a small blade for cutting small things but it isn't going to help you much for cutting anything but the smallest pieces of wood. If you don't include a reasonably efficient cutting tool you are going to have a much harder time constructing a shelter. You could still get by using already fallen, dead wood from the ground but with a wire saw you give yourself the option of cutting life wood and cutting wood into pieces that are just the right size. This will help you tremendously. The incredibly usefulness of this tool combined with its small size make it one of the most important things you can have in a small Altoids survival kit.
MRE Beverage Bag
This item is more important than you might think. A lot of people end up leaving this out of thier Altoids survival kits. You have to consider that you need some way to actually hold water. You can't really fit a metal container inside an mini survival kit like this so boiling water is probably out of the question. You should include water purification tablets (we will cover these next) but these will also be useless if you don't have any type of container to actually store water in. You can't fit a water bottle in your Altoids survival kit either. Your only real, practical solution is to carry some type of plastic bag. This still rules out boiling your water but you should be able to purify it with the tablets. MRE beverage bags are relatively compact and should do the job relatively well. They are also usually somewhat tough so they should last. If you don't have any of these you could make due with just about any plastic bag that doesn't have holes and won't break easily. Just make sure that you bring something small that will easily fit in an Altoids tin. One thing that a lot of people recommend is using a condom. These are compact and come in a self contained wrapper. They are meant to be somewhat tough. They supposedly can hold a relatively large amount of water though I'm not sure how that would work if you are filling them up from a lake or a river. If you go this route, you probably don't want to use anything containing lube.
You could theoretically just use the altoids tin itself to boil water. I've never tried this but it is inefficient at best. It might work but only for very small quantities of water at a time. Another alternative would be to actually carve a container out of wood. If you include a folding knife you could use that to carve something but it will still probably take quite a while. You could burn a hole into a large piece of wood and then clean out the hole to make something that can carry water. This is going to be a huge pain that could be avoided by just bringing a small plastic bag.
Alternatively, you could also make something out of clay and heat it up with a fire but that is going to take a ton of time and effort and wouldn't really be practical in an emergency survival situation.
A more realistic solution is possible. If you happen to have birch trees in the area It is possible to make waterproof bowls by folding birch bark.
Water purification tablets
You are going to need a clean source of water. Water purification tablets are the best solution in this case. Since we are constructing an Altoids survival kit and have seriously limited space to deal with, we won't have a metal container to boil water in (unless you count the tin itself which would be kind of tricky). We won't be carrying any kind of water purification pump. Even a Lifestraw is out of the question. As discussed above, we are going to need something to actually hold the water. This will have to be some type of plastic bag. Tablets do take time. You basically have to leave them in the water for a while before you can actually drink it. When combined with a plastic bag, water purification tablets are probably the most compact water purification method you could include in your kit.
A mirror is good for signaling and doesn't have to take up a lot of space in your kit. If you have the left over space, you might want to include one. It isn't going to help you build a shelter or start a fire but you may be able to signal someone if you are in a hard to spot location and people are searching for you.
This is good for letting people know your location. It can be used in the woods, the mountains, or just about anywhere that you might be lost. If people are searching for you it might help. A whistle makes much more sense if you are lost at sea in a lifeboat or life raft. You can find really small whistles that can fit into a small survival tin.
Mini LED flashlight
This can be really helpful, especially if you have to fumble around in the dark with your gear. You may think that you will just use fire for light but that doesn't really give you an immediate source of light before you have the fire started. You also won't be able to get much done way from your campsite after dark.
These are small and useful. You can light a candle once and then use it to light a fire in multiple different spots. You could also just light the candle and place tinder and small fuel on top of the candle itself giving the fire a better chance to start. It also doesn't hurt to have an extra source of light, so long as you keep it out of the wind.
Obviosly you are going to need an Altoids tin to keep everything in. You can find these at just about any convenience store for a few dollars.