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Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Altoids tin kits on 11/19/2011 19:10:52 MST Print View

Altoids tin

There have been a couple threads on survival gear and another on small items and the old Altoids tin survival kit came to mind. The small tin measures 3-3/4"x2-3/8"x7/8" and weighs 1.2oz. They are popular as a case for a pocket survival kit and I have been impressed at the ingenuity of the list of items that people have managed to fit in one. I like the idea from the ultralight perspective in that it demands using a defined space to get a particular job done. The tin could be used for any collection of gear, from survival items, a fishing kit, or perhaps a collection of herbs, spices, sugar packets or tea for trail cooking, or just a catch-all container like a ditty bag to keep all the small stuff organized.

Altoids tin survival kits typically have items from the list of hiking essentials, along with a selection of items for improvising and repair. There is an emphasis on pocket carry, so the kit is always with you.

Items that are commonly included (not necessarily all at once):

*Mini Bic lighter
*Single edge razor blade
*GI "P-38" can opener
*Small gauge wire
*Spectra fishing line
*Fish hooks
*Fishing split shot weights
*Duct tape
*Hotel "freebie" style sewing kit
*Safety pins
*Pencil stub or pen refill
*Photon micro light
*Button compass
*Signal mirror (or use polished lid on container)
*Water purification tablets
*Condom or small bag for water
*Wire saw
*Tick tweezers
*Super glue
*Hard candy
*Band aids
*Insect repellent
*Alcohol gel hand cleaner
*Aluminum foil
*Esbit tablets
*Rubber band(s) -- on the outside to keep it closed.

Anybody use one?

Jonathan Kreusch
(Awakeru) - F
what's it weigh? on 11/19/2011 20:40:26 MST Print View

what's it weigh?

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: what's it weigh? on 11/19/2011 21:28:11 MST Print View

The tins are 1.2oz. The list is simply items that some people put in them and as I wrote, not everything on the list. I think the real value is in having a set volume to keep extras under control.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: west coast best coast
Re: Re: what's it weigh? on 11/19/2011 21:50:47 MST Print View

This guy did a great series on his personal survival kit (in an altoid tin) and demonstrated using it for an overnight. He is a former sere instructor and boundary waters guide. He is also a moderator for bushcraft usa and runs a free online "school" of sorts called bushclass usa.

Edited by justin_baker on 11/19/2011 21:51:42 MST.

Simon Wurster
(Einstein) - F

Locale: Big Apple
Re: Altoids tin kits on 11/19/2011 22:57:25 MST Print View

I moved onto the plastic ones, mainly because they're inherently waterproof, while the Altoids tins are not.

I have two, one is from a Japanese supermarket and has the brand name Takeya, and what could be the series name, Porro, on it. Unfortunately, the USA website doesn't list these containers. I have one of the smallest, 110 ml capacity, about 2 7/8" x 1 3/16" on the inside. It has a simple snap lid, and weighs 1.3 oz. Right now it contains some dryer lint in a tiny zip-loc bag, a mini Bic, a sawed-off ballpoint pen refill (also a pen from a Swiss Army knife), a tiny soy sauce container refilled with contact lens solution, two tiny single-use eye droppers (from a pack of 25), a tiny MontBell compass, a Black Crater cord-lock light, and nail clippers for a baby, with room to spare. I know a Kershaw Two Can knife will also fit. (I've gone thru several iterations, and I don't think I brought this on my last trip. Nail clippers? Really? LOL)

The other is from the Container Store and has the brand name Sistema, and the series name Klip It on it. Sistema is from New Zealand. The Klip It has some clamps that secure the lid like the Lock & Lock brand, affording a very secure connection. The one I have is 200 ml capacity, about 4" x 2.5" on the inside. It weighs 2.0 oz. I just got this, so I haven't had a chance to fill it up.

On a related note, I switched to a Gladware Entree container on my last trip to hold all my sundries. The Entree size weighs 1.4 oz. and holds a lot, and keeps everything dry. I was tired of using a Zip-Loc bag for these items (which often fail) and the hard shell of this container made it very easy to find inside my pack with one hand. It contained my camera remote, phone battery, sunblock, duct tape, Mini 123 flashlight, Zebralight H30 w/JakStrap (yup, flashaholic), MicroPur (6 tabs), waterproof paper, earplugs, and a micro Sharpie marker with room to spare. (I'm still perfecting the contents.) It also made a nice durable "valet" of sorts in my tent at night for my wallet, knife, wedding band, and earplugs. Definitely a keeper. Rubbermaid has a similar item, weighs the same, holds less, but seems like slightly more durable construction.

Joseph Reeves

Locale: Southeast Alaska
tape on 11/19/2011 23:02:25 MST Print View

use duct or electric tape to seal the container and have ready access if needed

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Altoids tin kits on 11/19/2011 23:34:17 MST Print View

Instead of an Altoids tin, I pack my winter emergency stuff in a flimsy bag that fits inside a 1.2-oz titanium Sierra cup. That way, the cup/container is the water boiling vessel. Two rubber bands keep the flimsy bag inside the cup, and that fits into one cargo pocket on my trousers.


Pete Wilson
(Muddy-Pete) - F

Locale: east coast
Re: Altoids tin kits on 11/20/2011 06:26:51 MST Print View

I have a few Altoids kits. I tried making an all in one kit and found it too limiting. I have also used Red Bull bottles, prescription medicine bottles and the tubes that Nuun tablets come in. My preference is for Omni-Seal 4"x6" vinyl pouches. More comfortable in pocket then the metal tins and a little bit larger.

I use sections of bicycle inner tubes cut into large bands. They will seal the altoids tin and are easy to put back on when you want to close the kit back up.

Edited by Muddy-Pete on 11/20/2011 07:45:36 MST.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Altoids tin kits on 11/20/2011 07:34:19 MST Print View

A Q-tip container is what I use for a few survival items, but lately I have not taken it on backpacking trips. They weigh 16 g, are a little smaller than an altoids tin, and can be had for $1 at several stores.

Pete Wilson
(Muddy-Pete) - F

Locale: east coast
Other small kit ideas. on 11/20/2011 08:19:09 MST Print View

Here is an Altoids mini kit that I have been playing with.

Mini Altoids1

Basic button compass, dog tag knife, firestarting tool & tinder quik, aspirin, fishing line and a peice of char cloth.

Mini Altoids2

My buddy likes cigars and gives me the empty tubes, which can be cut down.

Cigar tubes

Edited by Muddy-Pete on 11/20/2011 08:22:30 MST.

Pete Wilson
(Muddy-Pete) - F

Locale: east coast
Other small kit ideas. on 11/20/2011 08:43:21 MST Print View

Altoids fishing kit.


Tin for charcloth.

Charcloth tin

Small match safe kit with waterproof matches and striker, Speedy Awl needle, tinder and a firestarting tool. Duct tape on the outside.


Also will fit in the Altoids tin is a signal mirror made from auto repair material. It's half the thickness of a standard signal mirror.

homemade signal mirror

Edited by Muddy-Pete on 11/20/2011 12:02:29 MST.

Pete Wilson
(Muddy-Pete) - F

Locale: east coast
Other small kit ideas. on 11/20/2011 08:51:45 MST Print View

Other tins I've tried.

Other tins

round tin

Kit tool



Red Bull bottle kit.

Red Bull

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Other small kit ideas. on 11/20/2011 10:42:54 MST Print View

Pete, thanks for the great input! I like that small piece of sandpaper.

I've wrestled with the idea handle-less firesteels--- can you get enough grip on one with cold wet hands?. I epoxied one to the outside of a match case, with scraper, tinder, and matches inside. I've thought about epoxying one to the outside of a tin. The Light My Fire mini works okay there, although that is on my pocket/key ring version of a survival kit.

Pokcet survival items

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
km matchcase on 11/20/2011 10:52:33 MST Print View

Dale, how heavy is your KM matchcase? I was suprised by the dimensions and heft of the brass long ones, guess I didn't really pay attention to the dimensions on the web-site.

Pete Wilson
(Muddy-Pete) - F

Locale: east coast
Headless firesteels on 11/20/2011 11:11:58 MST Print View

Thanks Dale,

The firestarting tool in the little Altoids tin came with the ARS dog tag knife. A few of the others same from online store and They are all pretty decent but yes, cold, wet hands make using them a challenge.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: km matchcase on 11/20/2011 11:39:54 MST Print View

Diane asked, "Dale, how heavy is your KM matchcase?"

My long aluminum model is 1.2oz empty and 1.4oz with matches, strikers, and a "no-blow-out" joke birthday candle. It is roughly 4-1/2" x 7/8". I use the long version to work with the REI/UCO storm matches.

I think it is an excellent study in function and design and always there if I need it.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: Altoids tin kits on 11/20/2011 11:58:58 MST Print View

The smaller the kit, the more likely it is that I have it on me when I need it. I've been using a film canister. This weighs 0.2 oz. In it, I carry:

Cotton ball tinder
Safety pins
Coil of wire
hooks, sinkers
Large eye needle
fishing line (coiled around the outside and secured with electrical tape)
Dental floss (as above)

Around my neck I wear my knife with firesteel and spectra cord wrap.
In winter, I carry a second canister with larger supply of tinder.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - M

Locale: Western Washington
pods on keyring on 11/20/2011 12:24:17 MST Print View

Ok, Dale, next question, what are the two little pods on the keyring? I can identify the Classic and a whistle, a flashlight and firesteel, but there are two little metal pods that I assume unscrew to something useful, but wasn't sure what.

also, I see you have the strikers for the storm matches jammed in the case--I take it that the striking surface on the inside of the cap doesn't work well for these matches? haven't had a chance to try it, but was going to experiment.

Edited by dipink on 11/20/2011 12:30:13 MST.

Pete Wilson
(Muddy-Pete) - F

Locale: east coast
keychain fobs on 11/20/2011 12:30:54 MST Print View

Keychain pill bottle and Zippo. I have two of the little pill bottles on my EDC keys. One for meds and the other I keep a Tinderquik tablet.

EDC keys

Edited by Muddy-Pete on 11/20/2011 13:36:48 MST.

Nick Brown

Locale: Highland Park
Altoids tin kits on 11/20/2011 18:45:51 MST Print View


This is my first post here. 3 year lurker. I'd like to say thank you to everyone for providing so much useful information.

I use an Altoids Smalls tin to keep my fire starter in. I use about a quarter sized diameter dollop of Murray's 100% beeswax pomade with 3/4" of jute twine wound in it. I wrap it in wax paper which ignites easily. I leave the starter in the tin which stops the wax from running away when it melts. In fairly sheltered conditions this combo will burn for 20 minutes! The tin survives the fire for reuse.