How Small is Too Small?

Many people go out every day with an Altoids tin for a survival kit. However, what these people fail to realize, is that the point of the Altoids kit is to get you safely to a larger kit, not be an alternative to a larger kit. I understand why many people would think that. Here is a list of what is in the "Coghlan's kit-in-a-can":


1 "Toy" Whistle
1 Polished Foil with Adhesive Backing - "Signal Mirror"


4 Strike Anywhere Wood Matches - "waterproofed" by dipping head in wax
20 Paper Matches - 1 book
2 Fire-Stick Tinder - 5/8 inch long pieces
1 Button Compass
3 ft. Brass Wire
101 ft. Waxed Fishing Line - approx. 5 lb. test - wound tightly on plastic core
2 Fishhooks
9.8 ft. Nylon Utility Cord


2 Adhesive Bandage Strips, 3/4 x 3
2 Alcohol Antiseptic Swabs


1 Bubble Gum
1 Sugar Packet
1 Chicken Bullion Packet
1 Tea Bag (not in sealed package)
1 Peppermint Candy


1 Plastic Zip-Loc Sandwich Bag - 24 oz. 1 Sewing Needle
1 ft. Duct Tape - 2 inch wide
1 Single Edge Razor Blade
2 Nails - 6 penny - galvanized
2 Safety Pins
3* Twist Ties - 3 3/4 inches - paper covered (* one secures nylon cord)
1 Note Paper - 3 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches
1 Pencil - plastic
1 Instructions - not weatherproof - very small type
1 Sardine Tin, 4 1/4 x 3 x 7/8 inches (10.8 x 7.6 x 2.24 cm) - cannot be re-closed (*Credit to this list to Equipped to survive*) At the quick glance that looks like it would be good enough to be a complete survival kit, doesn't it? Well, truth be told, all that is crammed in a little tin.

I am not a 'survival expert' at all, but if you take the time to examine that, it is made to be a complete survival kit, excluding one of the most important things in shelter. Now, when you actually look at the things in it more carefully, there is NOT enough in it for it to be a complete survival kit. Indeed, it has almost everything you would need, if not a little more (Excluding the shelter) but, that stuff that is a 'little more' isn't actually that helpful to surviving.

An example I can think of right off the bat is the instructions. If you are going out with a survival kit, I don't think you should need instructions to know what you are doing. Another, in my opinion, is all of the food that is here. If you can go 3 weeks without food, than I would take that out. Why? Because of what else is in it. There is stuff to go fishing with. (Which, in reality doesn't need to be there either, as this is not designed to be more than a 3 day/72hour kit?) Keep the strike anywhere matches, but ditch the book of matches. In the room that you can fit that, you could put in a mini BIC lighter. Many more fires. Also, the twist ties are useless in my opinion, as they can't really be helpful for anything. That is just a little examining of the kit in question.

In short, take out the following things, as this is MEANT TO BE A 72 HOUR KIT!
Twist Ties
The food*
Matches Book
Fishing Stuff*
Sewing needle
*= Unless you NEED food and can't live for 1-3 days without it.

That being said, you could take out all of that, and then shrink the size much smaller, and still be able to do everything you could before basically in terms of survival. There are also a few things that you would be thinking 'Why not take that out as well' and those are most likely:

Medical Stuff - You may have an injury, and however insignificant it may be, that will help a little if the injury isn't too bad.
Nails - Most likely going to be useless, however, you could make a spear head with them (Protection) or if you have a Poncho with you, or garbage bag or tarp, you could use them with your shelter.
If you question these: Razor Blade, Duct Tape, Wire, then I believe you should read a little bit more into survival. However, so you don't have to do that:

Razor Blade - NOT a replacement of a knife, however it could be helpful when something needs to be cut.
Duct Tape - I really shouldn't have to explain here. It is duct tape, Shelter, wounds, and more! (I can't think of at the moment)
Wire - Shelter. Snares, if you need that food still! Possibly to help hang your clothes to dry.

Alright, you got the idea that it shouldn't be a complete survival kit, right? Well, if you look around a bit, there are people shoving all kinds of stuff into even smaller container and then calling them a 'Survival Kit". I am not saying that is wrong, as, it isn't. However, I would like for them to say 'mini' in front of that. Mini, in terms of survival, if used in front of survival kit, implies a 72 hour kit.

Now, with that in mind, the Coghlan's kit-in-a-can is still a pretty good deal for the price, as it comes packed for you. However, buy one of the survival tins, and make your own. The tin is cheaper than this kit, and everything that you need you should have at home. And this way, you can re-seal it, and also add something for shelter, and add any meds you may take.

Or if you are bent on buying a kit buy the Pocket Survival Pak! Or if that is too expensive, buy the Coghlan's Survival Kit! (Both available on this site). Both are much better than the kit in a can. (Though, you should still carry a mini survival kit to help you get back to your main survival kit) Here are a few of the other things that many are using as a mini survival kit, claiming they are a complete kit:

35 MM Film Canister - Honestly, I do not believe how many people are calling this a complete kit. It is a little tube with some survival gear that, if you're lucky at most will get you through a WEEK. The reason that is, is because there is enough water purifier to get you that long. After that, you are going to need an alternative to purify water. Also, there is nothing for shelter, so that means a quick shelter, likely not extremely waterproof.

Altoids tin - Again, same as the film canister. Only thing that may different is you can actually fit some kind of bag into it, possibly a knife as well.

Here is what you SHOULD be using if you want a small but complete kit:

Fanny pack - It can fit shelter, some water, water purification, Fire starter, means to gain food, and can keep a picture of family and friends safe - Without the will to live, survival will never happen. Many times, without that picture, survival never happens, therefore, no will to live.

Or you could go all out and get a back pack and make a full BOB (Bug Out
Bag) and go survive for months on end, (However, the main point of a survival kit, as taught in a class I recently took, is to get you through 1-2 weeks)

To answer the opening question: An Altoids tin for a complete kit is too small. A Survival Tin is too small. A Fanny pack is right on the edge, and a Back Pack doesn't really need an answer.

-Dale Reynolds


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