Survival is mostly about preparation. You have to prepare yourself with knowledge and have to prepare the things you’re going to need. Granted, you can manage to survive without knowledge, if you have enough of the things you’re going to need. We do that every day. You can also get by without a lot of the things you need, if you have the knowledge to make them or make do with something else.
While everyday survival requires knowledge and preparation, surviving an emergency requires it even more. Being caught in a snowstorm, lost in the woods, or stuck in a broken-down car can put anyone into survival mode. The question then becomes: are you sufficiently prepared to ensure your survival?
Disasters and problems don’t bother to call up and schedule an appointment. Like the birth of a baby, they come when they are ready, regardless of whether you are or not. Therefore, you have to keep yourself ready at all times. That means having the knowledge, as well as some survival equipment with you at all times. Hence the need for a survival kit.
I tend to carry a larger survival kit, because I have been lost in the woods and needed it. But most people don’t like carrying ten or fifteen pounds of equipment around with them. For them, something smaller is needed. Since anything you take along to help you survive is going to improve your chances, there’s really no valid excuse for never carrying a survival kit with you. At least carry something that you can fit in your coat pocket. That way, you’re at least somewhat prepared.
Altoids mints come in a very convenient tin, which can be made into a pocket-sized Altoids survival kit. While small enough to carry everywhere, you can actually carry quite a bit in it. Properly thought out and properly built, you can carry enough in that tin to guarantee your survival, while you are waiting to be rescued.
What Do You Need?
To be a survival kit, the kit should provide you with all the basics you need for survival. So we need to start out by understanding what we need for survival. The most basic survival needs are:
- Protection from the cold
- Purified water
So, we want to make sure that our Altoids tin survival kit provides some means of coming up with all those things. When we talk about protection from the cold, that means a combination of shelter and fire. Both of those or the means to create them must be included in the kit, as well as a means to make water safe to drink and a means to catch food. The one thing on that list that we don’t need to have our kit provide is oxygen, we get that out of the air that we breathe.
Building the Kit
The trick with this type of survival kit is fitting everything into a small space. I’ll have to confess, I’ve cheated a bit, by attaching some of the survival items to the outside of the box. I suppose you could leave those out and fit it all in the box, but I’d rather not.
Here’s what I’ve got inside the Altoids survival kit:
- Fresnel lens – This is my backup fire starter. A Fresnel lens is a magnifying glass, so it will focus the sun’s rays onto the tinder.
- Condom (large size) – Makes a great water bottle that won’t tear easily. Make sure to get the type that isn’t lubricated.
- Halazone water purification tablets – There are ten tablets here, enough to purify 5 quarts of water.
- 12″ x 12″ Piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil – For making a cup, cooking or use as a signaling mirror.
- 2 Safety pins – Great for emergency clothing repair, or repairing the strap of a carry pack for that matter.
- Wire saw – I removed the rings off the end for this kit, but I could always use the rings from my key ring or sticks for handles.
- Button compass – This one is about 20mm in diameter, enough to read and help you get out. The cardinal directions are glow in the dark.
- 30 feet of fishing line – For catching fish or making repairs.
- Split shot and fish hooks – For fishing. I carry the type of split shot that are designed to be removable, as they are easier to reconfigure without tools.
- Bobbers – For fishing
- Adhesive bandages – For the obvious reason.
- Antiseptic ointment – Very important, for protecting any cuts or abrasions and avoiding infection.
- Ibuprofen and anti-diarrhea medicine – Diarrhea can dehydrate you, ultimately killing you. This works quick to stop diarrhea, keeping your water inside your body.
- A micro-flashlight – This is the smallest ‘good’ flashlight I’ve ever found. Made by Streamlight, it’s their LED “Nano Light.” Produces 10 lumens of light and will last over 10 hours on the included battery.
- Multi-tool – This particular one is a Gerber, it includes pliers, two knife blades (one serrated) and the usual compliment of screwdrivers and tweezers. Solves the problem of needing a knife, plus a bit more.
- Magnetized needle – Can be used for repairs, with either the fishing line or the inner part of some paracord. It is magnetized so I can use it for an emergency compass.
- Stormproof matches and striker – The best matches for any survival situation, can be started in the rain and will burn for over a minute.
- Cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly – The best emergency fire starter I know of.
- Guitar string – For making a snare to catch small game.
- 8 feet of Paracord (wrapped around the box) – Good cord has 1,000 uses in a survival situation.
- 5 – 3 1/2″ strips of Duct tape (stuck to the box) – Like the cord, has 1,000 uses in a survival situation.
- 30 gallon plastic trash bag (carried with the kit) – This wouldn’t fit in the kit, but I would carry it along anyway. A trash bag can be used as a raincoat and emergency shelter.
- Ziplock bag – Once everything is packed in the kit, it is stored in a plastic bag to keep it from getting wet. The bag gives me another emergency canteen for carrying water.
This is enough to allow you to survive a couple of days, out in the wild, until you were rescued or could walk out. It doesn’t really have enough for a longer period of time, but for a couple of days, it would be enough.
Altoids survival kit photos by Survival Joe