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Altoids Survival Kit

Since I do a lot of hiking, I have developed a passion for wanting to be prepared.  So just in case I have to face a survival situation, I have to be prepared 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. 

One of the first hiker/backpacker mottoes I learned was "every ounce counts".  I also believe in the old business motto about "doing more with less".  So, in order to make a survival kit useful, it has to be light and small.    So its important to try to find for it items, that are light, small and can service multiple purposes (if possible).

In case you ask why make a survival kit out of an Altoids tin, it is because it's a small, durable, inexpensive and readily available storage container.

The hardest part of creating this compact survival kit, is fitting everything you can get into it.  You're going to have to get selective on what items that you include and how its packed together in order to get everything to fit properly.

The list below includes several different items that can be included, but you're going to have to decide what works best for you.  Also, items that you collect will come in several different shapes and sizes, so you're going to have to get creative to make it all work.
  • Whistle - Useful as a signal if you're lost, or may be used to scare off wild animals.
    • Aluminum Whistle, Harbor Freight, SKU 98588
  • Compass - Helps you find the general direction you're traveling even if you don't know where you are.  The main advantage to this device is it can help prevent you from wasting time and energy by walking in circles.
    • Chain Compass, Meritline, SKU 248-047-001
  • Flashlight - Useful for finding your way at night, or as a signal if you're lost in the dark.
    • Photon Micro-Light II
  • Aspirin - For pain relief or if you get a fever.
  • Storm matches (waterproof/windproof) - Useful for starting fires in all kinds of weather.
  • Magnesium fire starter - Useful for starting fires. 
    • Tips:
      • Use the sharp side of a knife to scrap pieces of a Magnesium into a pile (about the size of a nickle) and then use the knife to strike the flint to create sparks to ignite the tinder.  Make sure to have lots of extra dry tinder ready to go.  After the tinder starts burning, slowly start feeding the fire larger pieces of wood, start small at first then use larger pieces.
      • Magnesium fire starter (w/flint) that are in the shape of a rod take up less space (such as a Mini-Match magnesium fire starter).
    • Note: Not all magnesium fire starters, are the same.  A trusted brand is from a company called Doan.
  • Plastic lighter - Useful for starting fires, or for emergency lighting
  • Wire - Useful for creating animal snares to catch small animals.
    • Mechanic's Wire, Harbor Freight, SKU 97773
  • Band aids (one large and two small) - Useful for keeping wounds clean.
  • Alcohol swabs - Useful for cleaning any wounds
  • Razor blade (backup, taped to cover) - A backup for a knife if one is not available.
  • Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil (two foot long, used to boil water) - Useful for boiling water.
  • Water purification tablets (iodine/neutralizer or Aquamira) - Kills harmful living organism in the available water.
    • Tip: Iodine tablets can also be used for treating wounds
  • Sewing thread and needle - Making repairs to clothing, or for making emergency stitches for an open wound.
  • Fishing line, lures (w/hooks) and sinker - Obviously useful for catching fish for food.
  • Rolled up mask - Provides protection from smoke and dust in case of a disaster.
  • Wire Saw - Useful for cutting down small branches for starting a fire.
    • 12" Tungsten Carbide Wire Saw Blade, Harbor Freight, SKU 66387
  • Small Pencil - Obviously useful for writing down information, but you can also use the shaving to help start a fire. 
  • Safety Pins - Can be used in for repairing clothing, a backpack or shelter.
  • Condoms - Can be utilized to make lightweight and collapsible water containers.
    • Tip: The hard part is collecting water which has to be done by first filling the condom with water, then forcing it to the bottom.  Hold back the water at the bottom with one hand and fill the top of the condom again.  Just repeat this process until the condom is filled.
  • Petroleum Jelly soaked Cotton Balls - For use as tinder to get a fire started. 
    • Tip: With a chopstick you can stuff these into a straw and seal the ends.
  • Rap the duct tape around the tin, slice the tape where the lid opens.  The tape can be used for repairs and as bandages to close open wounds
  • Put the tin into a double sealed freezer bag, This will protects the contents from water, the bag can be used for water storage
    • The bottom of the tin can be used as a signal mirror
    • To help get a fire started, with a knife blade shave bits of wood for kindling and twigs.
    • If assembling your own kit seems like too much work, you can buy commercial ones such as the Adventure Medical Kits, 800-324-3517;