Penrith Tin


This is just a fun and informational review of the legendary Penrith Survival Tin! Nothing more and nothing less!



OK, well, a little bit more…


This is the excellent Gaffer’s Tape that is placed around the kit.



Here we see how this tin can easily disappear in the pocket of some shorts.



It can also be your online guide to re-packing your Penrith Tin by simply noting the packing order in the pictures or perhaps modifying it. So, if you cannot remember the original packing order of the kit and curiosity got the better of you, this can be your handy guide to re-packing if you don’t decide to rearrange everything or add and delete items.


Here is the official list of items found on the “waterproof patch” on the top of the tin:


Signal mirror


5  BCB NATO Wind and Waterproof Matches with striker


1 BCB Flint Firestarter with Hacksaw Blade Steel (with sharpened end) and 16 inch bead chain


2 Cotton Balls (for firestarting tinder)


1 Plastic Button Wet Compass


1 Brass Wire Snare


32ft. Twisted Nylon Line (for fishing and other uses)


3 Fishhooks


1 Wire Saw (without brass swivels and finger rings)


1 Tea Candle


1 Hacksaw Blade with sharpened end - 3 3/4 inches (9.53cm) long - 24 TPI (Teeth Per Inch)


1 Potassium Permanganate - 5/16 I.D. x 3 inch plastic "test tube" with cap - approx. 3.75cc


1 "Extra Large" Plastic Adhesive Bandage - 2 x 4 1/2 inches (5 x 11.43cm)


1 Non-sterile Adhesive Bandage Strip, 5/16 x 2 inches (7.9 x 50mm)


1 Non-sterile Adhesive Bandage Strip, 5/16 x 1 5/8 inches (7.9 x 42mm)


6 "Puritabs" Water Purification Tablets (Chlorine Based, not Iodine.)


1 Condom (Ultrasound Probe Cover, for water storage and treatment)


1 “Sachet” Dioralyte Oral Electrolyte Powder, Citrus.


1 "Lypsyl" Lip Balm with sun screen (SPF unspecified)


2 Sewing Needles


25.5ft.  Sewing Thread on plastic bobbin (half filled) - polyester wrapped cotton


22" Cloth (Duct) Tape - 15/16 inch (24mm) wide (used to seal kit tin)


2 Single Edge Razor Blades


2 Safety Pins


1 Golf pencil


2 Waterproof Survival/First Aid Instruction Sheets with minimal space for notes


1 Tobacco Style Storage Tin (under "signal mirror" in photo)


1 Metal Handle, for tin bottom, for cooking


1 "Waterproof Patch" - plastic adhesive label on tin's top may be used as an adhesive patch or tape - 2 1/4 x 3 1/2 inches (5.7 x 8.9cm)


Pictures of Contents


The following pictures show the contents of the kit, layer by layer, piece by piece.


The Ultrasound Probe Cover / Condom (sterile water carrier, place it in a sock) and Puritabs for water purification are the top layer as you open the kit.



The next layer consists of a flat baggie full of fishing line and the Sachet of Dioralyte Powder. Mine has an expiration date of March 2004 so I will probably replace it with something equal to it like a Gatorade packet of similar size.


My Wife and I mixed up a portion of this Dioralyte Citrus drink per the instructions. The expiration date is not too far away so I wanted to test it.


It tastes very bad. Incredibly bad, very tart. If I were burning up in the heat of the summer, I’m sure it would taste like a cold glass of Pepsi if my body needed it. At rest, at home, not needing it – it was not exactly something you want to taste every day.


Next picture:


You can then see the “Waterproof Plasters” and Cottonballs after these two items are removed.



After the Cottonballs and Plasters are removed, you begin to see the guts of the contents…


British Lifeboat Matches, Tea Candle, Pencil, Lypsyl and other items.



In this next picture I have numbered some of the items.



1       Coiled Wire Saw


2       Metal Band “Handle” for gripping a hot tin when used for cooking


3       Brass Wire Snare and cordage for attaching snare


4       Button Compass, Wet – Plastic Body


5       Fishing Equipment (buried under other things)


6       Lypsyl Lip Balm


7       Two Single-Edged Razor Blades


8       Tube of Potassium Permanganate


9       Pencil


10  Bobbin of thread


11  Flint w/ Striker


12  Instruction Sheet, etc.


Here is a close-up of sharpened hacksaw blades found in these kits as well as the flint for firestarting.



Some general observations…


My Wife confiscated the tube of Lypsyl Lip balm early on and now she is pestering me to get a friend in Britain to send her over tubes of the stuff. She swears it is better than the commonly available Chap-Stick in this country. I would take that as a glowing endorsement of this stuff. I don’t have a problem with this sort of thing, I don’t use lip balm, and I don’t plan on visiting the desert anytime soon… So I can take that out of my personal kit and use the space for something else. In the grand scheme of things, that does free up a good amount of space in this tin.


In fact, you could find a slightly smaller diameter tube and use that for some garlic pills and Vitamin C perhaps. Maybe some Advil too. Garlic pills that you use for the woods are not the type that are currently being hyped for health concerns, no, the garlic pills you want for the woods must make you stink like garlic! The purpose of such a stinky pill is to help keep ticks off of you, etc. The other health benefits of garlic are beyond the scope of this article but I know for a fact that garlic pills will repel ticks and some other miscreants of the insect world.


If you wish to sell someone on garlic pills for hiking and camping, simply eat a couple of them in the morning and when you get on the trail, the first person who finds a tick on their person, ask them for it. Then place it on the bare skin of your forearm and watch the tick walk right off of your arm. I have seen this many, many times. I have never seen it fail. The garlic pills I use are like gelcaps and they would have to be separated from other pills by some cellophane, etc. This does work. It works to a lesser degree against flies and mosquitoes, but works well with ticks.


I don’t know why they included a beaded chain for the flint and the (smaller of two included) hacksaw blade “striker.” It’s not that beaded chain is not tough enough or anything like that, it’s just that the chain takes up space where you could use some sort of tough nylon or cotton twine or perhaps some (7-strand) ParaCord instead. You can get more use out of twine or ParaCord than a ball chain necklace which is too “single purpose / single minded” for a small kit like this.


It’s not “terrible” that they include a ball chain necklace for this use, you can modify it and make everything better and then keep the ball chain for some other use in the future. Like using it for a small neck knife you might also have, etc.


The Heliograph (“Signal Mirror”) is an adhesive piece of Mylar attached to the inside of the tin’s lid. I’m sure you can use it as such in a pinch, but a purpose-built Survival Signal Mirror is a lot better. This is a pretty good use of some paper-thin material that takes up no space at all, however. The manufacturer is trying to squeeze as much stuff in there and that’s a good thing. In the future I am going to try to secure a few of the BCB 2 X 2 inches (square) Signal Mirrors. I think the BCB 2 X 2 mirror would be better in a small tin instead of the slightly larger 2 X 3 Starflash, which is probably a better signal mirror – but you can’t have everything.


Several items come in small, zip-lok baggies. The baggies that contain the cotton balls (cotton wool), fishing hooks, safety pins and sewing needles should be discarded and those items should be secured in a small cylindrical or other container if at all possible.


Compression of cottonballs using some weight will allow you to get a lot more cotton in the tin, much more than currently offered. You cannot have too much tinder.


The small zip-lok baggy that has the “Plasters” in it can remain.


The Button Compass


This small, liquid filled plastic compass is an accurate little bugger. It compares with the Brass Button (NATO) Compass that is an optional item in these kits. I have tested/compared the small plastic (cheaper construction – lower price) with the Brass Button Compass as well as with Recta, Silva and an U.S. Military Lensatic Compass.


Of course, it would be hard (if not next to impossible) to perform extremely accurate land navigation with these small button types of compasses, but the point is to have a general idea where you want to go to get to safety and start on your way. This is what they are for. They take up very little room, they are accurate enough to be a survival aid and that’s about it, but that’s all they are designed for so if some people demand more of them, that’s their problem.


I always check these compasses out with my larger ones that I know are accurate. Any deviation is noted on a small piece of waterproof paper that I place in the specific kit that contains that specific compass.


General Modifications


Opinions, of course, may vary. I prefer to have some clear plastic tubes in these types of kits for ease of identification and to place various parts of the kit into other pockets, etc. This is a good way to keep everything from being scattered all around in case you want to actually use the tin for something like cooking (which is one of the functions of the tin).


The tubes take up some space, but so do the small plastic zip-lok baggies in the kit.


I can squeeze a lot of stuff into a small tube and in the end, add a lot of material to the kit without having to use a slide rule in an attempt to figure out how to re-pack everything! The added materials are a big bonus too.


I tried to touch on that in the other article about survival kits on the site. Make no mistake, my hat is off to those people who can pack most of the stuff in something like this Penrith Tin – and then get it to fit inside of something like an Altoids Tin! Some of these people have far more patience than I do – something is going on. I understand the Altoids Tins are cool, I have a collection of them myself – for various, smaller kits. But I prefer a larger tin.


In fact, I wish the Penrith Tin were one inch deeper, one inch longer and a half-inch wider. That would be about the maximum size for a “pocket” kit as far as I’m concerned. And the amount of stuff you would be able to get into a tin that size would be amazing.


I always tend to get some high quality fishing lures in these little kits right away as I think they are very important for food procurement. I also add some more splitshot lead sinkers as well as excellent Eagle Claw brand fishing hooks. I just add them in; there is plenty of room for small items when you begin rearranging items, etc. I have been able to take some of the items from an American Military Survival Fishing Tin and use them in the Penrith Tins, etc.


In one of my Tins I have a very, very thin Perrin Custom LaGriffe with an equally thin Kydex sheath that Fred made for me. It is an excellent little survival fixed blade. It would also be a nasty surprise as a weapon…as all Perrin LaGriffes are.


You can also add a small folding knife in there as well. Some of these kits, depending on the exact manufacturer, have a small Pakistan made lockback folder. These are incredibly horrible knives, if that is all you have, you will have to make it work! But it would be better to replace it with an Executive Edge “Pen Knife” Model or something similar to a Buck Prince Model lockback which is the same size and about (literally) 100 times better than this type of Third World Pakistan folding knife.


I used to have a Buck Prince in the 1980s and lost it on a camping/hiking trip in the Shenendoah Mountains in Virginia. They are a bit expensive for what they are, but they are well worth it. Let’s say you bought the Penrith Tin and a Buck Prince to go in it, you would probably pay more for the Buck than the Penrith Tin. The Buck Prince usually sells for about $40.00 but you get what you pay for…


You can also place more single edged razor blades in these kits for cleaning game, etc. These are the type with the stiff back; the strip of metal that is located topside on the blade. You can place a couple of Stanley brand single edge razor blades in there as well – the type used in carpet/utility knives, etc. These would prove invaluable – they have many uses and if you take care of them and don’t abuse them, they would last for quite some time in the field. If you have access to a drill press, you could drill a few holes in these thicker (Stanley) blades. They could then be secured to handles you could craft from hardwood in the field – add a few screws in your kit to attach the blade to your handle…


A couple of Steri-Strips so you do not have to resort to trying (perhaps in vain) to suture yourself if injured and you have to close a wound. Always a useful addition to any kit, big or small.


Replacing the Electrolyte Powder with newer (Gatorade) Powder was discussed earlier. You could also include a packet or two of bullion powder (Herb OX is excellent) for flavoring wilderness stews, etc.


Along with adding to the fishing equipment, I always add more and better sewing needles and thread.


Leroy Thompson Idea


I decided to experiment with something that Mr. Thompson put in one of his books. When discussing the Aitor Jungle King II, he mentioned that in Vietnam he would remove a couple/few arrowheads from USAF Survival Kits and he would place them in personal Kits that he made up.


I thought this was a terrific idea and I have been thinking about it a lot.


There is not a lot of room in a Penrith Tin to do as many things as you want to do, that’s quite obvious. But, being a rather devious sort, I want to try some more stuff out and try to get as much bang for the buck I can get and try to make something workable that would fit inside one of these small tins. I am going to try to make a mini-spear or something, I have not got it worked out yet. But it would just be for small game and fish, things like that.


Something to go with the Tin


There is something that you can purchase that is pocket sized that goes well with this Tin. I advise you buy it.


That is a Survival Book written by Barry Davies. “SAS Essential Survival.”


It would be good to have all of the information stored in your brain, but a pocket guide is an excellent thing to have as well. You might be disoriented, upset, whatever, and not remember a few small things that could make the difference between life and death or at least relative comfort and absolute misery. The book could help you out in such a case.


To quote the back of the book:

“Specifically designed to fit in rucksack or pocket, this book is the essential companion to any outdoor activity. It might just save your life.”

I agree, it costs $11.95 and it’s worth it.



These Penrith Tins are about $30.00 a piece and I think they are well worth the money. They are good “as is” and you can modify them quite easily and increase their versatility for a little bit of money. Cheap life insurance to be sure. I think you should add a good pocketknife like the Buck Prince Model (which is expensive as I warned), but overall, I highly recommend these Tins and the Davies Book...



Don Rearic


copyright 2004 DonRearic.Com

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