Altoids Tin Survival Kits Are Silly

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I’m sure I’ll upset a few people here, likely due to some nostalgia they have for Altoids tins or whatever, but, in my humble opinion, these mini survival kits are silly.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve made versions of them myself and I even carried an “improved” version in a GSI Lexan N-Case (because it’s waterproof and very sturdy) for quite a long time but I continued to find that these “extra” mini kits, whatever they were contained in, ended up getting left at home more often than not.

Ultimately, only a few EDC items stayed with me, particularly those items found on my keychain and in my wallet, a quality folding pocket knife, my Leatherman Wave (with a few additions in the sheath), a pocket flashlight, and that’s about it. That’s how it’s been for years and I’m used to it.

Again, I’m not against adding more survival supplies… I’ve got crap shoved and stashed all over the place, from crevices in my cars to around the house and other places I won’t name. But there’s something about these mini survival kits that just don’t “do it for me” and never have.

I think the two biggest problems are that (1) most of the items just wouldn’t be that useful to me and my expectations and (2) they’re super small and likely not THAT truly useful for survival.

For instance, I used to have some commando wire saws that looked great but turned out to be all but useless when I actually used them. Maybe I just got a bad bunch but they’re no substitute for pocket chainsaw, for instance, and a sturdy pocket knife would be one hundred times more useful in nearly every situation anyway.

Here’s some more items typically found in a mini survival kit that, in all honesty, probably aren’t that useful for most folks UNLESS you spend your days in a nearby forest:

  • Button compass – these are a neat idea. I know I’ve bought several of them over the years. Where are they now? I haven’t a clue. Lost, most likely. And that’s precisely where my survival tin kit button compass will be about ten minutes after I decided I need it… lost. Yes, I know I could secure it and maybe glue it but I’m not that ambitious and, besides, I should be able to figure out which way is north without one.
  • Fishing line and hooks, etc – Even though I live among the trees and water these days, I just don’t see myself attempting to fish with a few dozen feet of line and a few hooks… ever. I’ll function for a few days without food if I have to and if I’m that screwed I’d be better off building a fish trap.
  • Razor blade (or other mini knife) – I’m not against having an additional blade of any sort but a small razor blade or X-acto knife isn’t going to help me much at all. Honestly, I’m more likely to cut myself using something like this than it would come in handy if I’m stressed or in a hurry. Carry a good folding pocket knife at all times.
  • Needle and thread – If I just need to fix a hole in my pants or shirt, for example, safety pins would work well enough and faster. And if I need to stitch up a major wound I’m probably better off just covering it and leaving it alone in order to avoid infection.
  • Bandages, Alcohol Prep Pads, etc – Though I keep some bandages in my wallet because I can, the odds of me actually getting an infection that a bandage and/or prep pads would have kept from happening are probably very small. If you’re going to include bandages then get some that are big enough to cover more than just a simple paper cut.
  • Super glue – I see little use for super glue, even as a wound treatment. Leave it at home where it belongs.
  • Mini screwdrivers – Uh, there’s no need for these and if you keep a quality multi-tool then it probably already has them.
  • Buttons (for shirts and pants) – I can live without a shirt button or two and if my pants popped a button, that’s probably a good thing if I’m trying to survive because my belly is stuffed. 🙂 Besides, I’d like to think I can figure out how to keep my pants together if I had to and since I wouldn’t keep a needle and thread as stated above, a replacement button or two would be all but useless to include.
  • Mini scissors – While scissors do have their place, just get a good knife.

I’ve also seen some oddball items that I don’t see much use for at all, including:

  • Balloon (perhaps it’s for holding water)
  • Carabiner
  • Rubber bands (these will probably be brittle by the time you used them)
  • Sugar packet (may be useful for a small burst of energy)
  • Paper clips
  • Hail clippers
  • Wood nails
  • Dental floss

I’d imagine the above items were included just because people felt that if they could fit it in an Altoids tin, why not?

Nope. Don’t do it!

Some items that *may* be useful depending on the situation, include:

  • Tweezers (for ticks)
  • Safety pins (better than a needle and thread and take up almost no space)
  • OTC pills such as Benadryl or Ibuprofen (I keep some in my wallet)
  • Zip ties (may be useful to replace a strap or what have you)
  • Pencil and paper (never know when you may need to take notes or leave a note)
  • A “trick” birthday candle (best just to have the items needed to make and sustain a fire)
  • Aluminum foil (I’ve kept this in my wallet and may have several uses if it’s a large enough piece)

Other items which are probably useful in a variety of situations, most of which I keep on my person somewhere, such as in my wallet or on my keychain, include:

  • Whistle – There may be any number of reasons where you’ll want to attract attention and a whistle is definitely easier to hear and continue to use than just yelling. I keep mine on my keychain and for the price these whistles are a good option.
  • Keychain flashlight – I don’t think I’ll ever be without a light on me and a mini keychain light is a great “last ditch” option but it can’t hurt to choose to keep a bigger light, such as the Cree flashlight on your person.
  • Mini Lighter, matches, firesteel, etc – I’ve got no problem including these items and actually keep a mini lighter on my keychain and a firesteel both in my wallet and with my Leatherman Wave inside a sheath pocket. Though I don’t keep any, some TinderQuik or even cotton balls could be very useful to start a fire.
  • Extra cash – Until the economy crashes, cash is still accepted almost everywhere and there’s no harm in adding a few twenties as an emergency stash.
  • Duct tape (wrapped around a credit card, for instance) – I’ve actually used EDC duct tape a handful of times.
  • Mini signal mirror – Maybe noise doesn’t attract the attention you desire but light will, hence, a signal mirror.
  • Cordage (such as paracord) – There are other ways to include cordage such as on a keychain, replace boot straps, as a paracord belt, and so on.
  • Emergency numbers and info – Does anybody actually remember phone numbers anymore? I remember only a select few because my phone does the rest for me and, so, it would be wise to include a list of useful numbers and information you may need to recall during an emergency.

Ultimately, most items I’ve seen in a mini survival kit are fairly useless for most urban dwellers with only a handful being definitely useful, in my opinion. Again, most of these items can certainly be included in or with items that most folks are more likely to take with them each and every day (think keys, wallet, and purse).

The Altoids tin kit, though fun, is simply not necessary.

What about you?

What items would you include?

Do you actually keep and use a mini survival kit or know somebody who has made use of one for survival?

Author: Damian Brindle

How To Effortlessly Get Prepared For Emergencies Of All Kinds In Only 5 Minutes A Day... Fast, Easy, And Inexpensively... In Less Than ONE Single Month... By Following An Expert In The Field: Discover My 5 Minute Survival Blueprint And Get Prepared Today.

4 thoughts on “Altoids Tin Survival Kits Are Silly”

  1. I prefer a container larger than an Altoids can. I feel the case should hold a pocket knife, space blanket, flashlight and lighter. I have used Cabela’s wallet and Naruto card tins, or even Nalgene water bottles. No, they won’t go in a regular pocket. But, they will fit in a cargo or jacket pocket. For folks that are reluctant to build a mini-survival kit, I frequently recommend buying the SOL Survival Toolkit. It is the coolest thing, a combination of gizmo and container. They generally go for about $35.00, but I’ve seen them as high as 60 bucks! I purchased a bunch of them from CH Kadels/BUDK when they had a 30% off sale. This “kit” is about the size of a fat wallet, but has multiple attachments, plus space for additional items. It has a small knife, light, whistle, signal mirror, compass and “Sparkie” fire starter, attached to a small plastic container that holds Tinder Quick, aluminum foil, braided nylon cord, wire and a fishing/sewing kit. There is space left over for personal items, like meds.

    1. Yeah, I remember you mentioning the SOL kits… you almost had me sold! Ultimately, it all boils down to what YOU are willing to carry. Personally, it seems I don’t want to carry a ton of stuff on me at all times but others are. Of course, I don’t see most folks carrying around a Nalgene water bottle full of supplies on a regular basis, though, they are fun to make and toss in a car, for example. 🙂

  2. You mention stuff stashed or simply stuck in places in the car, well I’m sure we all have worthwhile items in our glove compartment so if the stuff hits the fan we’re gonna grab anything worthwhile.
    But nobody says anything about where we’re going to put those handsful of stuff (light, matches,cheapo rain poncho, energy bar and what-have-you). I suggest we also consider throwing one of those waist bags in the car to put that stuff in.

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