moriel73®’s Altoid Tin Emergency Kit Question
Hi. Can you help me to make my Altoids emergency kit?
Our Response: Build Recommendations for Altoids Tin Survival Kit Contents
Altoids survival kits have been a mainstay of the survival community for many years – and for plenty good reason! These ubiquitous tin mints can be sourced from nearly anywhere, and that all-too-well-known container that the mints are housed in offers a discreet form, useful in and of itself for survival, with enough storage to pack plenty of small-sized survival goodies.
I did intend to scribble down a guide at some point, but thanks to moriel73®’s question, this article’s coming out sooner rather than later!
Quite a while back, I discussed the contents of a commercial/ready-made survival kit that came packaged in a pocket-able tin around the same size as an Altoids tin. The gist of the article is my firm belief that one should be going out and making their own compact survival kit, rather than purchasing one from a retailer. The article hones in on my dislike for “pre-assembled” survival kits, as well as how much crap gets bundled into them under the guise of offering numerous “features” for buyers.
The core issue with the pre-assembled crap is primarily this advertising gimmick that’s typically played: packing in more items (in terms of sheer number) than the competition, rather than focusing on providing good tools, even if they’re less in number, that would prove extremely useful in survival situations. A good example would be throwing in a dozen band-aids and a razor blade instead of the far more useful single large wound dressing plus a small quality pocket knife.
Obviously, commercial survival kit assemblers have economic realities and can’t offer the best tools without jacking up the price considerably, but at the end of the day, this is precisely why I encourage everyone to assemble their own survival kits.
All this to say – if you want your own small survival kit, you’re going to want to make it yourself. Not only to save on cost, but also to be able to control the quality of the products that you’re supposed to be trusting your life with!
Planning Your Altoids Survival Kit
The very first thing to do before assembling your kit is to think about your environment (in terms of what you will need to survive in that environment), and the nature of the space you have. An Altoids tin is both annoyingly small and surprisingly large! With some elbow grease and smart organization, you can really pack in those items, but you are always limited by sheer physics and that’s something you should plan out at the earliest stages as opposed to having to cut a bunch of items later because, say, the knife you chose was too big.
Try finding the smallest items you can without having to sacrifice utility, usability, or practicality.
The goal of the Altoids survival kit, as you well likely already know, is ultimately to cram as much useful stuff into as little space as possible. When finished, you don’t want to have the items rattling inside due to empty space (ideally), whilst you still want to be able to access everything should you need to, and to do this you will need to carefully plan things out.
The exact method of your plans for your Altoids kit will vary on your choice of items, but generally speaking, you want to pack both the bottom and the lid with large squishy items like bandages to act as a soft buffer, and then place your more awkward items (like superglue and rolls of tape) as the obstacles the rest of your gear will have to navigate around to fit into. It really is worth experimenting with different methods and item choices to get a kit that works perfectly for your environment, and that has all the options you want.
I know that some people also pack two Altoids tins – one for first aid items and a second for all other survival items, but I don’t bother doing this as I feel it defeats the point. If you’re going to carry one compact item, the Altoids tin survival kit is ideal. If you’re planning on carrying two of them, they become less than compact, and it’s easier to carry a small survival bag than two Altoids tins at that point. So I would definitely stick to having just one.
How to Choose the Contents of Your Altoids Tin Survival Kit
Now that we have discussed the most important factor, which is the container and its packing limitations, let’s go over the particular items you’ll want to throw in!
My personal kit is based on my own environment and the realities of my everyday life. I live in the city, where it’s more likely that I’ll be needing medical help than help getting food or water, so whilst I have the basic fishing kit and snare wire thrown into my Altoids box survival kit (due in large part to how little room they take up in my kit), I personally focus more on the medical supplies than bushcraft gear considerations.
If you live far outside a city this should likely be reversed. If you’re more likely to get lost in the wilderness than you are to get into a car crash, your Altoids tin survival kit should be adjusted accordingly. Everyone has their own environmental factors to consider, and what may work for me may not work for you. So as always, view my personal survival kit as a broad guide on what to include in your own survival kit, and not as an absolute rule to how they should all be.
My Personal Survival Kit: Items Used and Breakdown
So what exactly did I put inside my own personal Altoids survival kit? Take a look at the picture below and the points underneath for a breakdown of the items.
- Fishing kit with line, hook, and sinkers. Like this one. This is definitely for a prolonged survival scenario, and realistically, I am unlikely to ever use it. That being said, its compact size makes it an easy choice to bring along; it takes up no space that I would rather use a different way.
- 3 x Large Elastoplast band-aids. From this box. I love Elastoplast, as I find their band-aid quality to be above average, when it comes to adhesives used and flexible fabric. Not at all a fan of plastic band-aids, as for me, they fall off too quickly to truly be useful.
- Hand wipes. Like these. Genuinely “handy” products (yes, pun intended). Especially great at disinfecting those little cuts.
- Brass snare wire. Like the one found here. Much like the fishing kit, its day to day applications are limited, but the wire could certainly prove invaluable in a true survival situation.
- Medical tape. Like this one. You will count your lucky stars for having this on you if you ever have any larger wounds in an emergency situatoin, especially if you don’t have a trauma pad around. Fashioning a trauma pad out of fabric with medical tape would be a decent enough replacement if you’ve got nothing else you can use.
- Button compass. The one here. Okay, so I will say upfront that this is not the most accurate compass (you want an accurate compass, you get a Suunto, but those don’t fit into an Altoids tin!), but for general navigation, it’s damn useful to have on you, and fits nicely into the inside of the roll of tape (what else are you gonna get in there? – always make the most of the space you have!).
- Fire steel. The Light My Fire Mini. I pretty much always carry one of these on my keychain, but the goal of this survival kit is for it to be self-contained (i.e. in the event of an emergency, if you have nothing, you should be able to grab this and be okay with only its contents; so forget what you have EDC’d in your pockets). In Canada, the cold is the biggest issue, and I tend to always carry the means to start fire just in case I get stranded someplace (an unlikely scenario, but it can happen). Even if cold isn’t an issue where you are, you should probably keep a firesteel on you just in case. If you can get a fire lit, you can cook, frighten animals away, disinfect water… there are a lot of advantages to being able to get a fire lit.
- Safety pins for clothing & medical emergencies. Here (though you probably already have many around the house). You can see the pattern of choosing small objects that offer situational flexibility whilst not taking up much room here!
- Case Wharncliff folding knife. The Case Cutlery Pocket Worn Sway Back Gent. A good knife is worth its weight in gold and I don’t go anywhere without one. You can see this one reviewed here if you’re interested.
- Imodium. Which you can pick up here. Food poisoning is more likely to take place when I am out and about than the systematic collapse of society, so I plan accordingly. If I feel I might get the runs, just one of these will stop that from taking place. Being a foodie, I don’t ever leave home without a few caps of Imodium – just in case. Imodium has situational applications beyond mere food poisoning, however. It can force your bowel movements to regulate when faced with adverse conditions and extreme changes in diet (like eating gathered and wild food with little to no carbs when you’re used to a regular carb-heavy diet). Just don’t use it in excess or super regularly (which you wouldn’t if you’re only planning on pulling it out for emergencies), and you’re good to go!
- Superglue. Like these. An absolutely fantastic choice for sealing small cuts. Learn how to tell whether to use super glue, stitches, or band aids here.
- Disinfectant pad. One of these. It’s probably not surprising, but with the sheer amount of knives I own (and play with), I do tend to incur cuts pretty regularly. Definitely a must have for me.
- Water purification tabs. Like the ones from this bottle. Once again this is an item that I am extremely unlikely to ever need (even if I’m in a real survival situation, there are a lot of streams, and tonnes of precipitation and thus rain water for me to gather up here in Canada), but as the old adage goes – I would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
- The tin is an item in itself. Mine was the Ginger box. Yes, it’s small and it’s unlikely you will be able to use it as a primary container in a real SHTF situation but as a way to keep tinder dry, make charcloth, and as a reflective surface to get help, it functions pretty damn well. Like much in life, value is determined by what the possessor can do with it – not the object itself.
- This lil’ water tight capsule which contains another Imodium tab & a teensy tiny compass. Water capsule like this one, and a magnetic ball compass that I can’t seem to find the equivalent of online. Once again, I plan for life’s likely scenarios whilst packing 2 or 3 small items as backups – “just in case”. You can also keep some tinder in here (but chances are, whether you’re indoors or outdoors, you’ll be able to find something dry and flammable unless you’re in the rain forest), or a tylenol or something like that. Your call there!
My kit is designed to pack everything with very little wasted space. I keep the core items like my folding knife easily accessible for convenience’s sake, as I’d probably pull out the knife more often than anything else, and I don’t want to constantly be rearranging. I see a lot of these mini survival kits that are packaged like a jack in the box. Honestly, I hope those who pack their Altoids tins so tight will never need to use them, because in a real emergency, I imagine if they open them, half the items will find themselves on the floor.
The point of a kit like this is to be used – in my opinion. Saving them for an emergency is great. Not using them in an emergency because you’re saving them for a really big emergency – kinda pointless in my opinion. If you need something – use the item and replace it if it was a band aid or pill or something along those lines.
Ate something that’s not sitting well with you? Slip out your emergency Altoids kit and pop an Imodium. Cut yourself accidentally? Clean that cut and bandage it up! Don’t let the cut get infected because you were “saving” the contents of your Altoids tin survival kit for a “bigger emergency.”
Its all about real world situations and being prepared for them. I am a firm believer that having an inconvenient kit, one you wouldn’t want to open and use, is nearly as bad as not having a kit in the first place.
Alternative Items to Add to Your Altoids Box Survival Kit
I will reiterate that depending on your situation the items or even the order in which you pack your kit will change significantly. You can replace the knife with a multi-tool like a Swiss Army Cadet, or perhaps you might want to throw in some allergy caplets if you have particularly bad allergies. Sugar pills would be especially helpful if you (or someone you see regularly) is type 1 diabetic. Get headaches frequently? Keep your migraine medication in your Altoids survival tin. A twenty or fifty dollar bill might also come in handy for you to throw in if you’re in the city like me, but are maybe a little more likely to forget your wallet at home. Think about your life, what emergencies typically take place, and how small items you can place in your Altoids tin emergency kit can help you get out of those emergency situations. Then pack accordingly.
I will always caution against marching to someone else’s drum. I do not know your life as well as you, and thus, I could not possibly know what the very best, absolute most ideal configuration for your Altoids survival kit would be. I can only advise you by telling you what I have done for myself, and why you might want to adjust depending on your own environmental conditions. Only you would be able to come up with the very best configuration of items for you, as you know more than anyone else does what might go wrong in your life.
Anyone who claims to have the “best way” of making a survival kit is just plain wrong right off the bat. The best way is different for each and every single person. It really depends on a multitude of factors – environment, comfort, personal health conditions, and what the most likely emergencies are to happen to you. Nonetheless, I hope reading through this guide has helped to open your mind up to possibilities for items that might be good to start with.
What do you think you’ll pack your Altoids survival kit? Let me know in the comments below!
If you have a survival, preparedness, or gear related question you’d like us to answer, don’t hesitate to let us know! Find out how to reach us via the contact page. Although we don’t publish every question we’re asked on the blog, we try our best to respond to each and every one we receive.
In case you’re interested, you can also view our past responses to reader questions here.