(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
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.
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
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:
Flint and steel along with dry tinder.
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,
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
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!
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
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.
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
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.
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
What’s in the picture?
The “Trick” Re-lite Birthday Candles
WetFire Tinder Packs
Doan Magnesium Firestarter and Flint
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
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)
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
NATO Windproof/Waterproof Matches, a/k/a “British Lifeboat Matches”
which should be in every kit along with some type of Flint and Steel
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
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
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.
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.
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” sized
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:
SOG Access Card
Victorinox, the same wonderful
people who bring us Swiss Army Knives, makes the Swiss Card. The Swiss Card
neatly stores the following items:
Scissors, excellent scissors!
A small knife blade
Nail file and screwdriver
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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
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.
Body Material: 6061 T6
Battery: 1 x AA
Range: 30 feet
Burn time: 25 hours
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.
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
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.
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
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:
machined from a solid billet of T6-6061 aircraft grade aluminum.
Matte Black Hard Anodized Type
O-Ring Seals – Watertight
Dimensions - 4.125"
length X 0.78125" diameter
The Otter Box!
Again, from TAD Gear’s
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
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
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?
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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
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
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
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.
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
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