Survival Kits

(If a picture does not load, right click on your mouse and choose, “show picture” or refresh your browser, lots of pictures…)


I have to take the time now to thank everyone who started writing the “Altoid Tin” articles and whatnot on the Internet. When I was a kid, hunting with my Dad, I always put strike anywhere matches, cord, a small compass and pocketknife into a metallic Sucrets Tin. Remember those? I have not been looking for them, but I think they switched from metallic tins to regular plastic boxes now.


Those things were extras to matches, pocket and sheath knives and another full-size compass I carried elsewhere when I was hunting.


I have to thank everyone because I had actually forgotten about doing that and it brought back very fond memories of my Dad and it also set me on a path to make several different types of similar kits. And I have been making these things and tweaking them – going back and forth with contents, etc., for about two years now.


I started out with Altoids Tins then and I have been experimenting with others, as you will see.


This article is going to be a bit different from some other “Altoids Tins” articles you see online. I won’t go into every single thing I can cram into one of these little tins. I have these on hand as well, don’t get me wrong, but my main ones are going to be a bit different. I would rather go without a couple items or carry them somewhere else instead of having a kit that you need to be an Engineer to get re-packed. It can be a bit nerve-racking trying to jam everything back in there the way you had it.


It is pretty clear to me that some of these people who write these articles are very serious about what they carry and their contributions are very valuable indeed.




Wonderful Parachute Cord, otherwise known as, “550 Cord” or “ParaCord.” A survival kit just isn’t a survival kit without a goodly amount of 550 Cord. Pack as much as it will hold but not to the detriment of other important necessities. Utilize lanyards on items even if you don’t like lanyards, you will like them when you need them. They always offer even more ParaCord to use on other things.


For example, a lanyard on a folding knife intended to be a defensive knife is not necessarily a good idea in my opinion. A lanyard on a Swiss Army Knife is entirely different. Even if you don’t find the lanyard to be necessary or even “handy,” it offers yet another way to carry more valuable ParaCord. (You might find a lanyard on a knife and some other gear to be very valuable if you are around water or perhaps deep snow.)


Real ParaCord, not the cheaper variants, can be opened and the inner seven (7) strands of cordage removed and then used for sewing, fishing and various other things while the outside sheath of cord remains tough enough for most of the original applications you would use the cord for.


Some people will wrap their “Survival Tin” with 550 Cord and then wrap that with duct tape. That is a great idea. When I use an Otter Box for a “Mini-Kit,” I use a long lanyard that is 550 Cord and don’t wrap the box at all.


Tinder and Firemaking


There are excellent commercially available tinder materials now and you should purchase them for your kit. Along with cottonballs and dryer lint, you should carry a lot of this material. The commercially available tinders are waterproof, if you are using cottonballs and/or dryer lint, you will have to store them in a waterproof container or make them waterproof. Some people use Vaseline to waterproof cottonballs and others have various concoctions using wax.


You should be skilled at firemaking in a number of different ways if you truly want to be able to make fire when you might be cold and shaking like a leaf or possibly injured. If you know how to make a fire from scratch with lesser items, that means you are intimately familiar with what makes a good fire to begin with. Plus, you will be able to use better materials under great stress or possible injury…much easier.


I don’t think it would hurt to take a step back to the primitive and learn how to use a fire bow and drill and learn how to make these things. Even if you cannot possibly imagine a situation where you would have to make one and rely on that in order to survive, what it will do is give you a far greater idea of building fires. A good fire is pretty easy to make when you are starting a fire in the backyard grill with charcoal and lighter fluid. A good campfire without the flammable liquid is a bit more difficult for a novice. Don’t fool yourself, if you did not grow up camping and all of this is foreign to you and your idea of starting a fire is putting a Bic lighter to something, think again.


A good campfire is all about construction. The reason I am saying all of this is, I have been camping, hunting and fishing with absolutely clueless people who tried to light a log on fire with a Bic lighter… Or they rolled up an old newspaper out of the trunk of their car and they jammed that under a log as big around as a gallon milk jug and thought that they were going to have a roaring fire in five minutes.


If you understand the construction of a proper campfire and then you can make one and light it up using a flint, steel and a dry cottonball… And you can do this repeatedly; you are well on your way to being able to light one when it really counts.


So that is where I would suggest you start to learn, by purchasing a flint and steel and a bag of cottonballs. Learn the basic construction of a campfire and then add them both and Voila! You will be able to start a fire very well with the minimum equipment I would suggest you have in your kit. If you want to go farther back and learn the fire bow and drill that’s great too. But the minimum should be knowing how to do these things:


1.     Flint and steel along with dry tinder.

2.     Proper Fire Construction.


The flint and steel will make you viable because it makes you pay careful attention to details. It is not antiquated, what it is – is incredibly valuable. The Magnesium Firestarter, made for years by Doan, is a great tool and in the grand scheme of things, it is dirt-cheap. I have had mine for about 15 years.


At one time, I had an Aitor Jungle King Survival Knife. It came with a survival kit that went into the hollow handle of the knife. It remains the best kit that I have ever seen that is included with a knife. With that kit was a small plastic tube with a blue cap for a small sewing kit and a cylindrical flint for firemaking. I still have both of these things although the Aitor is long gone (I need to get another one of them, I find great value in that knife. It served me well because I did not try to use it to try to chop boulders in half and other stuff you see in knife “tests” now.)


If you give me that small flint rod, a fraction of a cottonball and a piece of steel to scrape with, I can make a fire! As long as I have access to some tinder and kindling, I can make a roaring fire in minutes.


The magnifying glass on a sunny day will make a fire as well; you should learn how to do it. The Victorinox Swiss Champ has a small magnifying glass in it. Along with the tweezers included with that knife or with the Swiss Card, which will be mentioned later. With the magnifying glass in the Swiss Champ, you can dig a stubborn, nagging and painful splinter out.


Personally, I was the camp-fire-bug when I was a kid. When I went fishing or hunting, that usually entailed a camping trip as well. I would find any bit of trash in an area and I would start collecting everything and POOF! It was going in the fire. My Dad taught me when I was a child all about making a good, rapid and hot fire in case of emergency. You know how he did it?


He taught me how to make one correctly. Seems simple, doesn’t it? It is for some people used to camping. Others like I mentioned before, they are used to house fires or something where a spark can send a house up in flames and they think that campfires, or worse yet, “survival” fires, are going to be as easy.


“Let the fire breathe, Son…”


I would try to make the campfire and at best I would be smoking everyone out of the area. He pulled me aside and taught me. Directed me what to gather and why, in what order and how to feed the fire fuel and oxygen so it would not smother.


You can’t start a log with a match. Even the Mighty British Lifeboat Match won’t do it. You have to start out with tinder. You make what resembles an Indian teepee (tent) with the tinder and then the kindling and you leave the front of the teepee partially open so you can easily access the tinder. Once you have ignited a small portion of tinder like a cottonball, it can be placed in that area or you can arrange the tinder and kindling so you can ignite it “in place.”


When using a flint and steel, it is best to take a cottonball or some commercially manufactured tinder and spread the fibers apart like they are a spider web, which will catch a spark. The tinder you place or feed onto that should be dried leaves which are crushed and rolled between the hands, extremely small twigs the diameter of toothpicks and other types of material like dry, dead pine needles. You want a good supply of natural tinder and kindling in a pile beside you as well as larger pieces of wood for the fire once it gets going.


Laying a fire in the form of the teepee is easy and you get excellent results from that. You should start with tinder and work your way up through the twigs, the diameter of toothpicks and going up through the diameter of a pencil. The layers of kindling going outwards and upwards should get thicker and thicker. But do not smother the fire, don’t try to pile everything on it at once or you will stifle the fire, it won’t be able to breathe. When that teepee pile of kindling ignites, you can then feed it the larger branches the diameter of broomsticks and continually feed it larger sticks and eventually logs if you so desire.



Never start a fire unless you have collected all of the wood you will need for the entire night! Don’t get a great pile of tinder and construct a solid pile of kindling and then think you are going to run around the area and collect all the rest of the wood you will need for the night. You will find in some cases…that you come back to a fire that has already burned out. Kindling sized wood is easy to catch fire and being easy to catch on fire means it also burns up in a few minutes. You have to have everything ready to go from the start.


Pine needles, dead grass, leaves and twigs all make good tinder as long as they are bone dry. You can usually find large amounts of these materials. Twigs and small branches are best snapped off of dead tree branches that are suspended up off of the ground. These will usually be the driest. If the ground is dry, it makes no difference then.


It is pretty macho to snap broomstick-sized branches across your knee when you are camping, don’t do it. Just lean a branch up against a tree and apply your weight via your foot to snap it. Avoid green branches for fires and if you run short of dead branches, save the “greener” ones for when you have an incredibly hot fire. They will be a bit smokey, but they will burn.


Very large branches and logs should be used for fires that you want to burn all night or all day while you forage or hunt for food…checking your traps, etc. Most of the large logs that are in pieces are going to be very rotten, possibly wet and of very little use to you. If you are lucky to find large, dry logs partially suspended up off of the ground, all that much better! You can have a very comfortable fire indeed. If the logs are a bit wet but you can move them, chop them or otherwise break them apart, you can also use them as a reflector to reflect heat back to your shelter and they will dry out and can then be burned later on.


Don’t stick your hand into old logs to dig the rotten “punk” out of them. You might just find a snake in there. Take a sturdy branch and pry the top off of a large log and flip it over, hopefully that top will be much drier than the rest and you can burn that up as well. Unless the ground has been bone dry for quite some time, the bottom of the log touching the ground is usually going to be quite wet and not worth your time.


Without one of the large flexible handsaws that are based on “chainsaws,” you might as well forget about dragging huge logs back to camp. If you have one of those types of saws, a hatchet or axe, you can chop down a large dead tree and then sectionalize it into pieces small enough to drag back. Forget about the “Survival Saws” that are based on the old Gigli Bone Saw. They come in handy for some things, but you are not going to be buzzing a large tree down with one. They are good pieces of equipment to have in your kit if you use them correctly, however.


So, if you have one, take it slowly when cutting with it so it does not heat up and snap. If you have the extra room, get one of the larger models that are patterned after the chainsaw type of blade. You can take down some rather large dead trees with one of those.


I’m writing this as if you are not used to making a fire, if you know all of this, I hope you are not bored. I decided to spend a lot of time on it because if you are cold, it’s obviously important for you to be able to make a fire. You must be able to defend yourself against your adversary, cold weather. I did not write this for Ron Hood (he already knows this stuff and has forgotten more than I know); I wrote it for people that don’t know about a lot of these things and as an interesting article from some that do know.


As we have moved to a more modern society, we have lost some of our survival capabilities that everyone used to possess as a matter of simply living every day life. One of these lost skills is making a good fire. Many people have oil, gas or electric heat now and they have simply never had to start a quick, hot and long-lasting fire to keep warm. Even people who have fireplaces now, many of them have easy to light “logs” which are impregnated with wax or other firestarting elements that make them easy to light. So, the mere presence of a well-used fireplace is no guarantee of lifesaving skills either. Learn to make a fire with a flint and steel. Carry them in your kit along with a lot of tinder like cottonballs, it helps to keep the other equipment from rattling in the various kits as well!


Nature’s Attacker, Hypothermia


A direct analogy. The cold can kill you just like a human attacker. Your firestarters and tinder are your weapons and your firemaking skill are like your shooting skills. It’s just that simple.


If you have three of the finest firestarters and you are shaking and possibly injured in the wild, if you have not practiced with them, you are going to get mixed results up to and including a failure. Like the Gun Owner who buys a firearm for Self-defense and then does not learn it well, all of the best equipment in the world will do you no good if you have to use it in a real situation when your life is on the line. Firearms are not horseshoes or rabbit’s feet; they’re not good luck charms or something to ward off evil. Neither is a flint and steel to ward off the cold. Learn them well.


Matches and Match “Safes”


Avoid the cheap, metallic Match Safes you see in places like Wal-Mart. Try to find the green plastic U.S. G.I. Match Safes. They have an O ring and they are tough. They have a very small flint glued onto the bottom of them. I have never tried to start a fire with that flint. It’s pretty interesting that they included that little flint there when you think about it… I have had one of these for years and it has many miles on it. I have also seen much older, possibly World War Two vintage models, which had a compass on the top. If you can land one of them, that’s great as long as the compass works after all these years!


There is no better “Survival Match” than the British Lifeboat Match, period. It burns hotter and longer than an ordinary strike anywhere kitchen match and they’re impossible to blow out. I have not measured the burn time, as I have not had any for a few years. I have to get some more. But for more on this type of match, go to Doug Ritter’s website.


If you have a tube of these matches, you’re probably not going to need flint and steel. If you construct a proper tinder and kindling pile and you have more kindling on hand as well as the larger branches to feed it when it gets going…and eventually logs to make a good fire…one British Lifeboat Match will ignite it. If you have dry tinder and kindling from your search and you keep it all dry as you carry it back, one of these matches will light it in relatively high wind with some rain too. 


More Fire


Candles are an excellent thing to have for stubborn fires. If everything is soaked in the area and you cannot really find any sort of kindling or tinder to go with your cottonball tinder…you could light a good candle and shield it from the wind and dry a lot of the material out and eventually catch it on fire. Smaller candles can be a big help as well, especially the “Re-Lite” candles mentioned elsewhere. But the smaller, birthday sized candles won’t dry much out, you need much larger candles for that sort of thing.


Imagine taking four small logs and making a square. Place the candle in the middle of the square and start placing long twigs and lighter branches across the logs so they are suspended above the candle.


Paraffin blocks that are used for canning foods are a good thing to have as well. Shaving some of the material off onto the kindling makes the material act like a candle wick, the material melts into the wood and you can get a relatively hot fire going in a few minutes this way too.


WetFire Tinder is excellent! A couple small packages of these can make all the difference in the world. These are available from TAD Gear too. They burn very hot and they are pretty easy to light up!



What’s in the picture?


1.     The “Trick” Re-lite Birthday Candles

2.     WetFire Tinder Packs

3.     Doan Magnesium Firestarter and Flint

4.     This is a BCB (British) type of Flint Rod with a cut down hacksaw blade as a striker. Next to a P-38 Can Opener

5.     Another Doan Magnesium/Flint Block, I have had this one for over 15 years (just to show you that the longevity of the item is very good)

6.     Gerber Strike Force Firestarter (Bulky but has a very large Flint Rod that throws a good amount of sparks, also has a small compartment in it for ready-made tinder)

7.     NATO Windproof/Waterproof Matches, a/k/a “British Lifeboat Matches” which should be in every kit along with some type of Flint and Steel



Fishing Kit


I think if you have a Mini-Kit and there are a lot of fish in your area, you should have an excellent fishing kit. Not a “good” fishing kit or a “bare bones” fishing kit, but an extensive and excellent one. It makes it easier on you!


If you have nothing, then you have to resort to trying to tie fishhooks or improvised fishhooks onto coins and whatnot to make lures. If you have the ability to buy these things and carry them and you don’t…I think you’re making a bad situation worse.


You can have an “excellent fishing kit” in a relatively small tube that goes into the Mini-Kit you have put together. You don’t have to have a whole tin dedicated to fishing. But that is really not a bad idea if there are a lot of fish to be had in your area.


Here is some excellent fishing equipment:


·        Small Eagle Claw Hooks. These are excellent hooks, perhaps the best. I have used them all of my life. Don’t buy “shark hooks,” buy small hooks!

·        Small Eagle Claw Treble Hooks. It is probably illegal to use these with bait in some areas as well. These are the three-hook arrangements you see on larger fishing lures. They do increase your chances of actually landing the fish, even by a snag!

·        Small, Life-like insect lures. Ants, crickets, grasshoppers and other small fishing lures in the form of an insect.

·        Small Trout Flies. These can also be tied to line and then that line to a long pole and you can catch large bullfrogs this way. Frog legs might be fine eating if you’re hungry. So, these are good for fishing and if you buzz the fly around the head of a frog, they will usually snatch it!

·        Fresh Monofilament Fishing Line. Sunlight will age it and make it brittle. Replace it every year or so. Carry several yards of line in various sizes, say, 20, 30 and 60 pound test.

·        Small Splitshot Sinkers.

·        Small snap swivels.


You can pack a large amount of this stuff in a bottle or tube smaller than a regular sized prescription (pill) bottle. I used plastic tubes with secure end caps made for muzzleloaders. I cut them to fit in the Otter Box; one is for firemaking, one for fishing and the other for the sewing kit, which carries some other important items as well.


Sewing Kit


I personally like an extensive sewing kit, compared to what a lot of other people advocate for their survival kits. The reason being, if your clothes are ripped badly, you might need more supplies than many people advocate.


There is also something important about sewing other than the ability to repair your clothing. If you do not know how to sew, like many other survival skills, learn now. You might not like it but it is very important to do it.


You are lost and darkness is coming, you have been a success with the fire-making and constructing the lean-to shelter. Well, let’s say you did rip your jacket or pants badly. Now you can sit down after you have collected enough wood for the night and you can start to make a repair on the jacket.


Understand that surviving something like this has a very “Martial” aspect to it, in that, mindset becomes everything. The psychology of surviving is paramount. That’s the link.


Performing a task like making an emergency repair by sewing can take your mind off of the more negative thoughts that can enter into your mind. At the end of the repair, it can be a positive thing that you can silently refer back to that you can survive whatever incident you have unfortunately found yourself thrust into.


Just concentrating on the sewing instead of sitting around and constantly worrying about your predicament can be incredibly important.


In years past, I have spent a lot of time in the woods, mountains and flat pine forests as well as around water. Clothes get ripped, I remember having to wear heavy canvas pants and jacket just to be able to make it through some of swampy areas on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, thick with briars.


You have to adjust the kit to fit your needs and where you are likely to need them. Perhaps an extensive sewing kit is not a priority to you. That’s fine if it is an honest assessment. The more you envision being lost in an area where your clothing might be ripped or any other gear, the more important sewing is. Several feet of some very tough thread and three needles should be an absolute minimum in any survival kit in my opinion.


I like Marlow #4 waxed polyester whipping twine and Mercerized Cotton or other heavy duty thread, but finer than the Marlow twine. This thread and twine along with about one half dozen sewing needles of various sizes is some great kit to have on hand and takes up very little room.


The U.S. P-38 Can Opener


This device is so handy, light, tough and flat that it should be included in any survival kit, again, in my opinion. (You can see a picture of one of these handy little devices further down inside the Otter Box Kit, lying on top of the Swiss Card with safety pins and snare wire.)


You can use it to split and strip bark, as a screwdriver, you can even clean small game with it if you carefully sharpen one up a bit more.


I want to sharpen the little hook blade with a Dremel Moto-Tool using the sanding wheel to bring that little blade up a few notches on the scale of usefulness so I could clean game with it if I had to. And I might modify another area on one by sharpening it slightly for a flint striker although it will work as-is for that purpose.


Credit Card Survival


“Credit Card” sized devices


I am not going to place pictures of all of them in this article; I want to save a little bit of space and load times for readers. You can do a search on the web for any of these things and get a picture of these items anyway.


Let’s cover three of them:


1.     Swiss Card

2.     Spyderco SpyderCard

3.     SOG Access Card


The Swiss Card


Victorinox, the same wonderful people who bring us Swiss Army Knives, makes the Swiss Card. The Swiss Card neatly stores the following items:


1.     Scissors, excellent scissors!

2.     A small knife blade

3.     Stick pin

4.     Nail file and screwdriver

5.     Writing pen

6.     Toothpick

7.     Tweezers

8.     Ruler


The ruler is a built in addition to the body of the Swiss Card, I don’t know what you will have to be measuring in a survival situation, but it is there and takes up no further room. There is also a writing pen and I don’t know what you will be writing either, but if you have to take notes or you want to write a “diary,” the pen is there and it works.


The scissors are elegant in their simplicity and amazing in their effectiveness, step back to years ago and look at the folding scissors that people advocated for survival kits. These scissors in the Swiss Card are about 80% smaller and 100% better. The knife blade is very thin and razor sharp from the factory. You’re not going to be chopping wood with this thing, but it will serve effectively for cutting fishing and other types of line as well as cleaning fish and small game.


A toothpick used carefully can be a handy thing, you don’t want to be puncturing your gums while you are trying to survive so you should always approach that with caution. If you have ever eaten an “Old Tom” gray squirrel, I think you can appreciate a good toothpick. Is it a “must?’ No, but it is nice. Likewise, are tweezers really “necessary?” Maybe not, but they come in handy for tick and splinter removal, both of which can be a miserable thing when you are in the woods.


(Don’t mash or squeeze ticks or you can launch their innards into the wound, not good. It is better to place a small amount of something like petroleum jelly to smother the tick so he backs out. There is something better than that, garlic pills. Put them in your kit if Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is bad in your area. Garlic pills, taken daily when hiking and camping will make your breath smell like garlic, it will also repel most ticks. I have seen it with my own two eyes.)


Stick pins are used to pin together materials temporarily so you can sew them easier, nothing to say about this, it’s in the card and secure and can come in handy for its intended purpose while making emergency repairs.


A fingernail file that has a screwdriver tip, handy thing! Instead of taking up precious space with fingernail clippers, just grind a torn fingernail down methodically with the file. You can use the scissors carefully as nail clippers anyway. The screwdriver is a screwdriver and it is always a handy thing to have.


A neat little trick with the Swiss Card.


If you remove the fingernail file accessory, you can drop at least two regular sized sewing needles down into that compartment and then carefully replace the fingernail file. Just another place to conceal more useful items!


Overall, the Swiss Card is very light and flat and makes a nice multipurpose accessory even in an “Altoids Tin” type of survival kit.


Spyderco SpyderCard


This is a very cool credit card sized folding knife. It is a liner lock and has the SpyderHole for one-handed opening. This is for those that have to have a very flat knife in their kit that still has a good sized blade.


It is flat, it is extremely sharp due to the thin blade – it is like a large scalpel. It is fast opening and the lock is secure. I love them, but that’s just me. I find it to be a nice pocketknife, wallet knife or Survival Kit Knife.


SOG Access Card


Like the Spyderco SpyderCard, the SOG Access Card can be opened with one hand and has a good lock. It also has a tiny foldout tool kit that has a toothpick, tweezers and a micro-sized screwdriver (the type you usually buy to fix reading and sunglasses, etc.).


The SOG Access Card is a bit smaller in overall size, but it won’t lie flat in something like an Altoids Tin because it has a money clip on the back of it. It’s a pretty handy knife to have for a money clip or to be inserted into an inner pocket of a jacket or vest with the clip securing it better. But as a “kit” knife, I’d rather have a SpyderCard.




If you are not cheating, you are not trying. Many “Purists” might scoff at some of my shortcuts, so be it.


Eye Screws


Having small eye screws in your survival kit is common sense. For me they are a must for my survival kit. It’s not that I ignore other ways, but I am going to make use of technology whenever I can. I am, after all, interested in surviving more than ego aggrandizement.


The uses for these things are varied; snare making can be a snap with eye screws, etc. And if you think the appearance of something man made in the woods is automatically going to scare an animal, I have a word for you – leg hold trap. You just have to camouflage it, the mere fact it is man made is not so much the concern that some make it out to be.


When making a fishing spear, it is best not to tie your knife to a pole to do so. Make a spearhead by whittling. You can also make small spearheads out of old knives and arrowheads and carry them in your kit. You can use small eye screws to attach a line from the barbed spearhead to the pole. That way you don’t have to pin the fish; you can simply spear them and the head stays in the fish and you still have the line between the pole and spearhead. Just pull the fish in, this is important if the water is deep and you cannot pin the fish.


Wood Screws. Finishing Nails and other hardware


More cheating! The uses for these items are so many. They can make short work out of some trap, spear and shelter construction. Use your imagination and choose wisely. Larger eye screws that can support more weight along with screw in hooks have a great value as well. Especially if you have a tarp type of tent like a “Basha.” You can, of course, tie off on trees with ParaCord or 3mm Kernmantle Cordage to string the Basha. Or, you can screw the hooks or eye screws in and hang it up.


Wire Ties


Wire ties are incredibly useful items. For one thing, you don’t have to lash poles for a common lean-to and you can assemble a shelter very fast. That is not to say that it is incredibly time consuming or anything to lash the poles, I just think using wire ties is a very secure, quick and dirty way of doing it while still being very secure.


One half dozen for a very small kit does not seem like too much to me. Two or three dozen of them in a larger kit seems to be like a good idea!


You select the location of your shelter; you find some suitable poles and cut or collect them. Then you place them on the ground at the site and zip zip zip zip…you have the frame for the shelter in minutes. You save ParaCord doing this; wire ties weigh basically nothing and take up very little space.


Survival Books


The best book I have ever found on Survival is “Outdoor Safety and Survival” by Paul H. Risk I have had my copy for about fifteen years. I don’t know if it is out of print or not, but if you want one book for a larger kit and you want to learn a lot, that would be the one to get in my opinion.


If you’re sporting a large kit, it is a good manual. If not, you can photocopy the material you feel is important and carry that folded into small size.


An excellent Survival Light Source


I chose the CMG Infinity Ultra LED Light for a specific reason. That reason being, in a survival situation, you might have to use batteries others have discarded. How many “button” batteries (for a Photon II) or lithium DL123As (Sure-Fire and Inovas) do you think you are going to find out in the world if the trucks stop rolling to grocery stores? Not too many I would imagine.


That is not to “condemn” Sure-Fires and Inovas, which are incredible lights! I love mine and I have several of them, but this is a different game here. 


I wanted to test something out. I don’t have an “excellent” digital camera; I would not even categorize it as a “great” digital camera. It is “OK.” What it does best, above everything else, is eat AA sized batteries while it is taking mediocre pictures. I mean, it will go through four AA Energizers in a heartbeat. Using the flash simply speeds up the process four times faster so I find myself only trying to take pictures on a sunny day.


I put aside the last set of depleted AA Energizers so I could test something. These were batteries that would not even fire up the LCD viewing screen on the digital camera. As soon as the screen would come up, the camera would turn itself off because the batteries were completely gone.


Or so one would think…


I placed one in the CMG Infinity Ultra and screwed the head (bulb housing) down on the flashlight. Screwed it down just a bit further and Voila! Bright light from the single LED in the CMG! Not just bright light, very bright light! So I started digging through the desk drawer and found some more old AA Energizers and a pack of four Ray-O-Vac that were never opened! I have enough AA batteries to power this little light for quite some time and they would not power a AA Mini-Maglite or anything else. But they work in this little light!


I waited until nightfall and went outside and played with it a bit. Gave the CMG to my Wife and let her do some tasks with it. The “dead” batteries in the house have been given new life. This will no doubt cause a problem, as I won’t throw batteries out anymore until they get cycled through the CMG or other light(s) that will accept them.


I chose the PAL a long time ago for the same reason I chose the CMG recently. You are more likely to find a 9-Volt battery than a DL123A or button cell in a pinch. Be advised that the CMG does far better with partially depleted AA batteries than the PAL does with 9-Volts that are partially depleted.


From the literature:


“CMG's patented infinity circuit now provides double the brightness output. The Infinity Ultra circuit is also coated with epoxy for extra durability and protected by two o-rings for a waterproof seal (to 30 feet). With a 25 hour peak brightness burn time and a bulb that lasts 100,000 hours, the Infinity Ultra is a flashlight that never lets you down and belongs in your pocket or pack whenever you step outside.”


Uses 1 AA battery (not included). Includes lanyard and metal clip.


Length: 3.25"

Diameter: .75"

Body Material: 6061 T6 Aluminum

Battery: 1 x AA

Range: 30 feet 

Burn time: 25 hours 

Weight: N/A   

Waterproof: Yes, 30 feet


The lanyard is suitable for neck carry, nothing to write home about. The pocket clip is excellent! What attention to detail. It’s not a simple pocket clip from a pen or even an otherwise OK flashlight like a Mini-Maglite. No, the pocket clip for the CMG light really grabs the clothing very well and holds it in whatever pocket position you choose.


Here is a picture of the Government Issue (G.I.) Match Safe mentioned earlier next to the CMG Infinity LED Light and the TAD Gear Survival Capsule with a quarter for size comparison.



When you check out the CMG light, you just know you have a really high quality item, it really is a terrific little flashlight.


Another Survival Light: The Krill



I’ve used Cyalume Lightsticks for about fifteen years now. Times change. Once you use them, they’re gone; they’re trashcan fodder. I even went out and purchased the Military “housing” for Chemical Lightsticks so I could “turn them off,” so to speak, when camping, etc. That does not really turn them off, it just blocks the light. Once you snap and shake one, that’s it, they’re dying then, it’s only a matter of time.


From now on, the Cyalume Lightstick is simply a Jack O’ Lantern light as far as I’m concerned. Carve the pumpkin, put it on the porch and throw an eight hour Cyalume Lightstick in it. That’s about it. After Halloween, throw the whole thing in the trashcan.


I used to use Cyalume Lightsticks when I worked for an alarm company and had to clear large warehouses, some of them deserted and with zero light inside except for a fire exit sign. I would have a few of them in my map bag and if I had to go through an area and I thought someone was there, I would snap one and throw it hard, skipping it across the floor. You can whip one for a good 30 yards, just like skipping rocks on a pond. But that is about the only use I could see for them now, for situations like that.


I have a Krill now…and I want some more of them.


First day I had the 360-degree white Krill Extreme I put two depleted AA Energizers in it. Twisted down on the housing and turned it on, I have a soft light now. I turned it on at 1:30 am and left it on the nightstand and when I woke up the next morning at 8:00 am, it was still glowing as softly as when I turned it on although it was daytime now. Very impressive.


I think that having the ability to scrounge for batteries and still have workable light in an emergency situation is a must. The CMG LED Flashlight and the Krill Lamp fit the bill. So does a PAL. You can hang them in a shelter, tent or your home if you have to during emergency situations.


The Internet is a very strange medium, when I was a kid; we used to explore abandoned houses. Now there are entire websites dedicated to adults and “Urban Exploration.” Pretty interesting reading. My point is, people leave all sorts of stuff in abandoned houses and batteries are usually found rolling around the floor and in kitchen drawers, etc. I’m not talking about stealing anyone’s stuff, I’m talking about surviving in an area that has been deserted or blasted. You never know what the future has in store for us now, all bets are off.


A high-quality LED Flashlight usually has a “bulb” life of 100,000 + hours, quite impressive! The Krill has an expected life of 2,000 + hours for the Extreme model that I have and 3,000 + for a regular Krill. It is waterproof to 150 feet and available in six colors and each color in two basic models, one that emits light for 360 degrees and the other limited to 180 degrees.


TAD Life Capsule


I chose this container because it can carry a good amount of essential gear and it is waterproof, extremely tough – you’re not going to crush this thing! And unlike an Altoids Tin, you don’t have to modify it for neck carry. You can just hang this thing around your neck and you can catch fish, start a fire to keep warm and cook your fish and have water purification tablets for drinking water from where you caught the fish! All of these things in a neck carry unit! This is incredibly attractive.


The TAD Life Capsule is a double-ended cylinder made out of aluminum. Both ends are O-ring sealed and this is very important, keeps everything dry! The one end can carry a few water purification tablets or a very small NATO or other “button” types of compasses. The other end can carry quite a few items, which you will see in the pictures. This is an awesome piece of gear in my opinion and I highly recommend it.


I deliberately chose the Life Capsule from TAD Gear to ride alongside the CMG Infinity Ultra Flashlight for a reason. They are both waterproof and incredibly tough items. They can be worn around the neck together and offer a lot of versatility for a relatively small amount of money.


My Life Capsule is packed with firestarting and fishing gear, primarily, with Potable Aqua Tablets in the other end. You could also place rolled up money in there, $10 or $20 bills or perhaps Credit Suisse 1, 2, 5 or 10 gram Gold Bars.



From TAD Gear’s website:


Description: Precision machined from a solid billet of T6-6061 aircraft grade aluminum.


Matte Black Hard Anodized Type 3 Finish


O-Ring Seals – Watertight


Two Compartments


Dimensions - 4.125" length X 0.78125" diameter


Waterproof Box for Mini – Survival Kit


The Otter Box! 


Again, from TAD Gear’s website:


OTTER BOX 1000 clear




OD = 4-3/8 X 2-7/8 X 1-3/8


ID = 3-15/16 X 2-5/8 X 1


Water clear. Closed cell neoprene o-ring creates a positive seal which does not allow water in. Leak proof to at least a depth of 110 feet. Great, compact “wallet” size.


What follows this section of the article is a discussion of Candy Tins for Survival Kits. I look at it this way, I would rather spend roughly five times what a Tin of Altoids cost here locally and have a very tough, waterproof box designed to hold small gear.


Here is the way I built my personal Kit around the Otter Box. Knowing that it is tougher than a Candy Tin is and watertight makes me feel much better and at about $7.50, it is not expensive.



First of all, I went to the local gun shop, which carries fishing gear as well and purchased some plastic muzzleloading ammo tubes with end caps manufactured by Thompson/Center. I removed the end caps off of each tube and then using a magic marker I marked each tube because I would have to saw some of the material off to shorten the tube so it would fit in the Otter Box. I actually modified three tubes altogether. They fit in the Box perfectly with a little bit of room between them.


Three of these tubes cost about $3.50 locally.



A Victorinox Swiss Card lies on the bottom, snare wire on top of that, two very large safety pins, a P-38 Can Opener and you still have room between two of the tubes to place a Victorinox Signature Series SAK there.



Or perhaps you have a friend like I do that has an extra Executive Edge “Pen” Knife (thanks Randall!). That is a very tough little knife, it’s not going to close on your hand, takes up little space and if you sharpen it up good, it’s like a straight razor! I don’t think Executive Edge Knives are made anymore and it would come as no surprise, most of the best stuff gets discontinued, doesn’t it?


Tube One



Firestarting materials, the Sparklite Firestarter and all of the tinder that comes with it was placed into the tube and compressed with no problem and the single “birthday” sized candle that came with the TAD Life Capsule is placed in there as well. (Get trick, “Re-Lite” birthday candles that are harder to blow out, I have been modifying these tubes and other kits for some time now. I’m using British Lifeboat Matches and the tinder with the Re-Lite candles and Sparklite Firestarter now.)


Tube Two



Fishing Kit, this is quite an advanced kit when you consider it is placed in a plastic tube that is roughly .50 caliber in diameter. There are several yards of high strength monofilament fishing line in there, several lures including a grasshopper, cricket and two ants. A good supply of small Eagle Claw hooks, two Eagle Claw treble hooks, four small snap swivels, and four splitshot sinkers round it out. There was more room so I placed in there more small eye screws for various things like twitch up snares used for fishing.


Tube Three



This is the Sewing Kit along with more snare and fishing materials too. Several yards of heavy-duty thread and several yards of Marlowe waxed whipping twine is wrapped around sections of credit cards. Old credit cards given new life. Place a few sewing needles flat on the pieces of plastic and then wrap the thread/twine around them and secure them. Safety pins, small nails and more eye screws round it out. You will notice there are a lot of eye screws between the two tubes. You can substitute some of them with small wood screws or a couple yards of brass wire for more snares, etc. That’s up to you. I will be modifying mine with some brass wire. Still keeping the steel wire for snares that stay between the three tubes and the Swiss Card.


In the next picture you will see that British Lifeboat Matches were added to the “Firestarter” storage tube, I took this picture after the others, this is the personal changes being made as I go along. You can also see the small Swiss Army Knife (SAK) Signature Model between two tubes, you can also cram the Executive Edge Pen Knife as an alternative, if you can find one. There is still more room between the tubes for small cordage and other items too.



Survival Tins and other Containers


Everyone interested in pocket survival kits knows about the Altoids Candy Tin. Personally, the Tin is worth more than the mints. I hate Altoids mints and usually buy them when they are on sale, trash the mints and rinse out the tins. And you should rinse out your tins because the Altoid Mints are strong and could effect your fishing and snaring equipment in the kit too.


There are three sizes of Altoids Tins that I have found. There is the regular sized tin that everyone is familiar with and this is readily available. It is also the most useful in my opinion. Then there is the “Tiny Tin” which is quite a bit smaller and harder to find in some places. When I saw them two years ago, I bought a whole package of them for future use and trashed the mints. The tin that is larger than the regular size is apparently quite rare and I have never been able to get my hands on one of them.


You can do a search for survival kits with the Altoid Tin being used as the container and come up with quite a bit of information online.


Even with the Altoids “Tiny Tin” you can jam a good fishing and sewing kit in there along with some tinder, a few British Lifeboat Matches and some water purification tablets. Quite a package for something you can hide in the palm of your hand! The tinder would be cottonballs, which also keeps everything from rattling around in the tin. The Altoids “Tiny Tin” can house a Signature Series SAK or a Leatherman Micra Tool as well! You can just keep stuffing them and then tape them shut with duct tape and you have a useful little kit indeed. Not as good as the larger candy tins, just useful and “different.”


What other “Tins” are there? Why, there are Velamints Tins as well! Those are pretty common where I live and they are just a little bit smaller than the regular sized Altoids Tin is, still effective though. Same with Everest Mint Gum, good tin too that comes in regular and “tiny” sizes.


You can also find teas in the same basic sized tins, especially during the holidays as special offers in some stores. “Sleepy Tyme” brand comes to mind.


Then there are the America Online CD-ROM Tins. Like the Altoids Mints Tin, the contents are not palatable, but the container has some value.



These tins are unlike the others mentioned, they are not hinged for one thing, for another, and they are flatter and larger in size. Not exactly a “pocket” size unless you are dropping one into a BDU type of pocket.


I know that some people have written about using various tins for cooking. I don’t know if that is a good idea because I don’t know the composition of the metal or the paint involved. However, you could place enough heavy duty, compressed aluminum foil in there that you could line the tin in foil and then you could use it as a small skillet with no adverse effects in all likelihood. You’re not going to be able to cook a large trout in it. But you could cook larger fish or other animals in it by sectionalizing them or using an open roasting method for them and using this improvised skillet for quail or other eggs. As well as things like grasshoppers, grubs and snails. All of which are probably more palatable fried than they would be raw. They might be edible, that does not mean they are palatable and if you don’t have to eat raw bugs and other nasty creatures, don’t (unless you like the taste of them).


You could also use the CD-ROM Tins for storing a lot of folded and compressed toilet paper. You could place a lot of fishing line and snare wire in there as well.


You could place a lot of snare wire, fishing line and a few finishing nails and eye screws in there, add some sturdy nylon wire ties and the aforementioned aluminum foil and you have a good bit of kit to go with another tin of the Altoids type.


For a long-term storage “Tin,” there is some real potential for the AOL CD-ROM Tins. If you have a dedicated First-Aid Kit for the car and it has some room in it, like one of the zip-up types of First-Aid Kits, you could get two of these CD-ROM Tins in there. Two of them would be quite flat and would probably be better than a Candy Tin.


I have toyed with the idea. I was able to get an incredible amount of important equipment in one of them, if you use two of them, I think you would have almost everything covered! You could wrap one in brass snare wire or steel fishing leader and the other in ParaCord and duct tape them both together. The duct tape can come in quite handy as well!


Katz Ltd. Survival Tin



On one website, I had ordered what was advertised as a, “Penrith” SAS Combat Survival Tin and I received this Katz Ltd. Survival Tin instead. Go figure. That site was NOT TAD Gear, by the way.



It turned out to be a pretty good bit of kit anyway. I’m not going to list all of the contents, let the pictures speak for themselves really. I trashed the little Pakistan, miniature “Buck 110” copy of a pocket knife and placed the Executive Edge in there as well as some other items. The Katz Tin came supplied with a half-decent (wet) button compass and some brass snare wire, a terrific triple strand wire saw and good British type of hacksaw steel striker for the flint supplied, which is also British type. I added a tube of British Lifeboat Matches, replacing the regular pack of paper matches and placed cottonballs in the tube with the matches too. It’s a pretty good little kit. I’ll be getting one of the “Penrith” Tins in the future and I’ll review it here.


Here is a picture of the Katz Ltd. Tin next to the Otter Box.



One more word, in between all of these various types of kits. You can cannibalize one kit for certain items, to place those items in other kits, etc. Use your imagination and be creative when you create your kits.




This article has become huge! It is beyond the scope of the article at this point to offer much information on the type of compass you should have. Suffice it to say, you should have a good one on you as well as a couple “spares” in case of damage or loss, and your diminutive kits can have a small compass in there as well.


TAD Gear sells an excellent and economical compass from Brunton. Terrific buy and quite handy. Much larger than a “button” type of compass. Here is a picture of that one.



They also carry the NATO/SAS type of button compass that can fit in one end of their Survival Life Capsule. They have others as well, all excellent gear you should look into.


More than that, learn how to use them!




Here is a source list for some of the excellent gear:


Tad Gear carries a lot of the gear you see in this article. They are good folks to deal with!


You can get the Otter Box, Life Capsule, Sparklite Firestarter, Doan type Magnesium and Flint Block Firestarter, Wetfire Tinder, CMG LED Light and the Brunton Compass there and I suggest you use them as a source if you want to assemble kits like these because you can do a lot of “one stop shopping.” No running around trying to find various components, etc.


Click on their logo and go bookmark their website and then visit it again and search the site for a while. Lots of great equipment there!


TAD Gear is also supposed to have British Lifeboat Matches in the near future, I suggest you give them your business.



I take pride in the fact that I don't want to be your pied-piper of anything. I don't know everything and refuse to be a wanker and steal from other people and pretend I knew something all along. What you have read in this article is honest and that's about all I can say. The value of it is up to you. Know that this is what I do and things I have found to be valuable.


Here are some more fine people that can help you out along the way.


Doug Ritter's excellent Equipped to Survive website. He has forgotten more about survival in many different environments than I will probably ever know. He has the right line of thought when it comes to so many things and I find great value in his website. I especially think he is right on the money when it comes to urban survival and let's face it, our world has changed. The city dweller has now, hopefully, risen from the slumber of false security and is now keenly aware that their ass is on the line just like a Hiker on a far off mountain or even a Marine or Soldier on a battlefield in some cases. I encourage you to search his site to fill in the gaps that I have left on how to use a lot of this stuff. He has helpful hints on just about everything in this game.


For example, like everyone else, I used to carry NON-lubricated condoms in survival kits for carrying water. I read elsewhere that SAS Troopers are taught to put them in a sock to support them, you don’t see too many people writing about that. Doug Ritter had a great idea that I went out and tested. Gerber Brand Breast Milk Seal & Go Bags! They work great!


So, seek out more information! Don’t ever stop. When you’re an “Expert,” it usually means you have nothing left to learn. Don’t embrace the term “Expert” too easily.



Here are some other articles of interest:




Don Rearic


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