What the Heck is a Survival Tin?

survivaltinIt’s great to have emergency supplies stockpiled in your home. Unfortunately, that won’t do you much good if disaster strikes when you’re on your lunch break downtown or caught in traffic.

When you think about it, how much of your day do you really spend at home? For some of us, that’s an hour in the morning, an hour after work, and however long we’re asleep…

That’s why the concept of a “survival tin” has become a mainstay for those who live by the Boy Scouts motto: Always be prepared.

What is a Survival Tin?

Simply put, a survival tin is a pocket sized version of a bug-out bag. A survival tin is a small can, usually an empty breath mint tin or a can of snuff, stuffed with a few select items that may come in handy during an emergency.

Common items carried in a survival tin are: Pocketknives, can openers, dry tinder, compasses, fishing kits, bandages, suture kits, and sewing kits.  As you can see in the nearby image, space is limited in your survival tin. The selection process involved in building your own survival tin is part of the fun.

Why You Need a Survival Tin

Total preparedness can be a problematic concept, because you never know where you will be when you’re thrust into an emergency situation. Read: you may be separated from all of your most important gear.

A bug-out-bag is one solution for this problem, but a backpack is a little bulky for an “everyday carry” item. An Altoids box, on the other hand, is designed to be pocket sized.

Thus, if you have an empty Altoids box, you already have an excellent foundation for a custom survival tin. As I said before, the process of deciding what goes into your tin is half the fun.

Will you spare the space for a cigarette lighter? A magnesium fire starter? Or a few waterproof matches?

If you typically carry a pocketknife, putting one in your tin may be redundant.

A strand of strong 40lb test fishing line can serve as an alternate for paracord in many applications and it takes up much less space.

Below is a list of typical survival tin items, just a few quick ideas just to get the wheels spinning:

  • smd_tr7Compass
  • Bandana
  • Paracord
  • Suture kit
  • Matches
  • Bandages
  • A needle and thread
  • Fishing line and hooks
  • Tinder
  • Pain killers

What items would you put in YOUR survival tin? Share your ideas in the comments section below!

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  1. credit card knife ….gold piece …100 dollar bill ?

  2. bug out fanny pack in every car you own ; office ; home …in addition to the basics , a nylon jacket with a hood fits nicely in small bags… gloves …bandages

  3. Maybe a couple of water purification tablets? A sealable plastic bag might come in handy. Make the Thread for the needle polyester (it doesn’t rot and it’s good and strong). I think I would add a razor blade or two (single edge). Good and sharp!

  4. Good call on the purification tablets!

  5. $$ is good, but I would put in smaller bills. Too hard to break $100 except at a bank. Also a password protected flash drive that has all your important info on it. Like meds taken, medical history, bank accounts, insurance accounts, etc. If your house blows away or burns, you haven’t lost all that info. Also if it’s not in some “cloud” but a protected device, no one can hack into it and take your id or info. Make sure the password hard to break too. I have an awesome one called The Safe. It’s all formatted. You just fill in your info. http://www.lifelinksafe.com (hope they are still in business!)

  6. You’all are so right-on…….and might I add some pain killers.

  7. What about your prescription meds?

  8. How about condoms (water collection) an empty potato chip bag, (to boil water).

  9. small magnifying glass..for fire starter when all else fails.

  10. If you put a needle and thread, go ahead and thread the needle. What if you lose or break your glasses? Forget the matches. Put a small firestarter in instead. Here’s another thought: if you wear lace up shoes, lace them with paracord. It comes in just about every color in the rainbow. Love all these suggestions! We’re a very prepared bunch! And can always refine.

  11. -A folded reflective space blanket: Preserves your heat, works as a solar heater for food-water-signalling, totes water, works as lean-to, etc.,.

    -Small, plastic Fresnel lens sheet: Starts fires, doubles as glasses if lost-left-broken.

    -Small, flat or tubular LED flashlight.

    -Small, flat AM/FM “card” radio (they make them small enough to fit flat in an Altoids tin).

    -A couple bullets (for use in a homemade “pen gun”, or Vietnam-style booby trap … if desperate). Powder could also be used for firestarting, etc., and lead used for “pencil.”

    -Couple of cigarettes: Use for barter or befriending, as well as doubles as tinder and slow-burn wick (or just for calming…if you’re hooked on them).

    -“Energy”/Caffeine Pills: In emergency, where you need to keep on going or stay alert, but exhausted.

    -Small, good-smelling “Kibble” bits: For use to befriend noisy dogs, should you need to travel secretively on foot, or attract wary animals/fish (domestic or wild) for bait/trapping for food.

    -Vial of vaseline: combined with strand of cotton string or cloth, can be used as candle and firestarter “tinder.”

    -Lock-pick set (may be considered illegal if stopped/searched in some areas, or just suspicious in others). If your escape route (or a bad situation) would be aided by going through locked gate, etc., (and many other situations), it may be very helpful to be able to pic a lock.

  12. BTW, As far as the micro-miniature radios that would fit in an Altoids tin (or perhaps strapped on one … doubling as a strap to hold the kit together), here are just two links to some, though there are also very inexpensive Chinese “card radios,” too.

    A blog entry on the subject:

    A company with several, high-end, waterproof, very cool and very mini radios:

    ALSO – You could build a very mini crystal/diode radio (that would require no batteries) in the lid of your Altoid can. All you’d need is a diode (such as a N34A diode (Radio Shack part number 276-1123)) or a chunk of the mineral “galena,” a small ferrite magnet (if using a diode) and some fine wire, and maybe a thin credit card (or the thin fake ones they send with credit card offers) for wrapping the wire around as an antenna, and as an insulator. Also a small headset or one-earplug-type speaker. This would work in areas where you have a decent AM radio signal.

    Here is one example, with instructions:

    Hope this helps. I like the idea of build one of these in the lid of the tin. You would not use much space, and would have some access to news on the fly. A piezo speaker (or headphone jack) could even be mounted on a side of the tin.

  13. Dear Sir:

    After wading through all that repetitive rhetoric, I was so disgusted I decided I don’t need your info. I can get that anywhere for free.

  14. @ regular strength aspirin to take in case of a heart attack to thin blood.

  15. @ should be 2

  16. I would put a Gerber Dime in mine. Best micro multi-tool I can think of.

  17. How about making char char cloth in your tin? Then you can make it in the tin. That way, all it takes is an ember to get a fire going.

  18. If you are taking poison (prescription drugs) you are not paying attention. M.D. stands for Many Dead and More Dying and More Drugs… they have turned into nothing more than sales people for big pharma.

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