How to Customize Your Altoids Survival Kit




About: I'm "Survivor Jack™", since my NatGeo's "Doomsday Preppers" (S1E9) episode. Help me Please by viewing "Survivor Jack auditions for Ellen's DJ" -----

Disasters like Japan 2011 and Katrina, remind us. Our only Tools are our Survival Knowledge & whatever we have on us or within reach. While I normally carry a fanny pouch or backpack, I take an Altoids Survival Kit seriously. At a wedding where my major gear would be in the car, that Survival Tin's gear might be my only resources in a sudden emergency. There is no safe place on Earth. Be prepared the best you can.
What should You include in a miniature survival kit like the Altoids tin? And why?
For example, my wife is asthmatic, She would carry two spare inhalers and those are too big for for the standard Altoids container. She needs a "larger Survival Kit" yet small enough to fit in a purse, or back pocket.
Pick your gear wisely: Ounces Add Up To Pounds and Pounds Add Up To Pain!

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Step 1: Survival Skills Knowledge & the Need for Small Items

Your basic Survival needs are Shelter, Water, Food & Medical.  
What do you carry on your body?  I already 'wear' Paracord 550 bracelets (parachute cord = 550 lbs), a whistle, compass & aspirin.
I want each Item I pick for my Altoids Survival Kit to perform double duty if possible.  The miniature lighter and matches may only give me fire BUT fire provides many other benefits: boiling water, cooking food, light and heat.  It keeps predators away and more.  Since most people can't 'make fire', lighters are easiest.  Matches are your back up.  ( *A magnesium striker with its scraper takes a little practice to make fire safely but lasts longer & is more reliable than a lighter.  SEE photo)

Step 2: The Basics of Your Customized Altoids Survival Kit

I carry one large and two small band aids with alcohol swabs. Beneath them are small items like a cotton Q-tip, toothpicks and sunscreen because of my fair skin. Remember: in an emergency, we may have to walk long distances outdoors.

Lastly, notice I taped a large razor blade to the Altoids Survival Kit lid. It's my back up knife for cutting small items: cord, tinder, skinning game and more.

Some items may seem odd but as you continue to read, I'll explain in more detail.

Step 3: How Can I Carry Water in My Altoids Survival Kit?

This is a two foot long piece of aluminum foil, doubled over and shaped to form a metal bowl. IF I find untreated water, I can gather it and boil it in a cup or pot from my 72 Hour Kit. I'll talk about how to store it near the end. I'll also include iodine water purification tablets and neutralizer for 2 quarts as back up to Boiling which is always best, if possible.

MYTH BUSTER: you do Not have to boil water for two or three minutes. At the moment the water reaches a full boil, all the organisms are dead. It may taste like crap (more later), but it will hydrate you. Drink as much water as you can as dehydration will add to your misery and cloud your thinking..

Step 4: Starting a Fire During a Disaster Situation

You have seen my matches and the mini-lighter. The knife blade on the lid can shave bits of wood for kindling and twigs. During bad weather, wind and moisture can make starting the fire making materials difficult. Here is The Trick: I cut a straw the length of the Altoids Survival Kit Tin. I seal one end (heat, tape or a mini-clamp). I take cotton strips or balls and twist them around Petroleum Jelly. <
Using a chop stick, or any long pointed device, I stuff the saturated cotton into the straw. Once It's filled, I seal the other end.
Easier fire starting is one reason How an Altoids Survival Kit can provide you some serious help.

Step 5: Fire & Boiled Water - Tea Anyone?

Something horrible has happened or you wouldn't be using your Altoids Survival Kit. Your life is now Hell. (Remember Japan 2011)
One is the BIGGEST problems you face is depression. The tiny human touches I've added remind me of How It Will Be Again.
REMINDER: When the water begins to boil, take it off immediately. All the bugs are dead and it's silly to steam away "good" drinking water.
The water is probably going to taste like crap if you found standing water. When in doubt, Boil All Water.
I pack two drinks: tea and ... (electrolytes, lemonade, your choice). This can give you a great psychological boast. When you've lost everything, this is a simple reminder of a better future.
It's the same basic reason I wrap my matches and striker pad in 80' of Dental Floss and 108' sewing thread. (See photo) First, if I eat, I can clean my teeth plus enjoy the 'minty' after-taste for dessert. It's a small comfort but that's the benefit of the Altoids Survival Kit.
NOTICE the needles in the center of the matches. (Toothpicks or sewing up clothes or a wound)

Step 6: Remember 911 - Dust & Smoke Can Kill You

From 911 to fires to nature, we are often blanketed with smoke and dust.  My Altoids Kit contains a tightly rolled up mask and ear plugs bound by rubber bands.  The reason for the mask is now obvious.  (PS: it could also filter water if that were the greater need.) 

Step 7: Ears, Eyes, Nose and Teeth

The ear plugs are handy with dust or smoke also BUT I want to sleep. In a disaster, getting rest will be a challenge due to noise or conditions.  These simple, cheap little ear plugs have saved a couple of nights in thin-walled Motels on vacations.  The Mask can be used as a head, neck or eyes light protector.  Take care of your health.  Surviving disasters are hard on your body.

Step 8: What Survival Gear Seems to Be Missing?

Where's the signalling device?  The shiny interior of the Altoids can is a good reflector but - remember the Aluminum foil.  I'd unfold and flash a large, multifaceted shiny surface.  

Step 9: Packing Your Altoids Survival Kit

In the seams along the bottom of the Altoids Tin, I tuck the Qtip, toothpicks, and paperclips.  Now I press down the Larger band aid.  Because of the paper bending at the corners, those tiny items fit quite well and are held in place.  The Sunscreen and the two regular band aids fold and fit to one side - creating a deeper cavity on the other side of our survival kit.  (Picture on the next step - but wait)
WHY? The reasons for the alcohol swabs, larger and small band aids is obvious.  People ask why I don't trim the paper back or take it off.  In a Survival setting I might use the paper as fire starter or writing.
Taking care of my health during an emergency is important, thus the toothpicks and dental floss.  Both could double as fire starting materials in desperation.
The paper clips: animal snare makings, or trip wire holders so I can sleep in my defensible position without someone trying to harm me and steal my supplies.  IF I'm smart enough to care supplies, I better be smart enough to defend them.   Thus, I carry the knife blade which has many wonderful, positive benefits besides.

Step 10: The WHYs in My Survival Kit - Altoids or Not - Part 1

This is loosely packed so I can explain the various components.  In the photo of my Altoids Survival Kit, I'll start from the top edge and left to right.
The blue tube at the top is the sunscreen pressed against our 'water bowl' aluminum. 
The the left - in a mini-plastic bag,  I have 1st Aid Tips wrapping some fish hooks and a paper clip.
Right of that are my two alcohol swaps rolled and wrapped in wax flavored dental floss.  (Tooth care, pleasant flavor and fire starter)
The white and yellow straw - sealed at both ends - contains cotton saturated with petroleum jelly.  (Fire starter or medicinal)
The metal ball is a weight for the fishing line.  The 5 matches, striker and sewing needles are held tight by about 20 feet of white nylon string.  The fishing hooks can double for sew up a wound also.
The mini-lighter will be stood on it's side. 

Step 11: The WHYs in My Survival Kit - Altoids or Not - Part 2

Once the lighter and matches are positioned properly in place, I'll slide the dental pick in beside the aluminum foil.  The drink and clip are laid along the top beside a water-resistant plastic bag with the rubber band, mask, tea bag, ear plugs and 'gallon' of water purification tablets with their instructions.

Step 12: Survival Kit 101 - Thinking Outside of the Cube

During my test runs, as I pushed down the lid, I popped the hinges on my first Altoids box.  It made me realize A) they needed reinforcing and B) I need to include duct tape.  I used about a yard.  WHY?  It's extremely strong and I could use my blade to cut it into strips for securing items like pant legs to keep out bugs or a sling for a wound plus plus plus.  The tape also protects the box and increases it's water resistance.
On top of the duct tape, I laid a Wire Saw - capable of cutting through limbs, lumber and simple objects.  Good for fires, shelter, medical and other tasks, like Trip Wires for my sleeping security.

Step 13: CUSTOMIZATION - What Would Make Your Life Slightly Better During a Disaster?

I will wrap my Altoids Survival Kit in a spare elastic band aid - knee brace - arm sling. This protects my pocket or purse and my survival gear plus it makes it about the size of my wallet for balance. I hold it all together with a girl's hair ribbon - very strong.
I have arthritis thus a spare knee brace could improve the quality of my situation in a Survival scenario.  What would you include in your kit?

Here is my Altoids Survival Kit Inventory:
Regular size Altoids Tin - Protects your gear, can boil water or cook small game, Rescue reflector
Aluminum Foil - gather water, boil it (doubled over) and Rescue reflector

Step 14: BONUS Survival Tip - Water Storage System

Do you want the Absolute Best, Customized Altoids Survival Kit?

Put your Altoids tin into a Double Sealed Freezer Bag.  One of the accurate complaints about the Altoids Survival gear is the can is not water tight.  Put your finished, customized kit into the bag and 'bleed out' all of the air and then seal it.  Lastly, I wrap one of those heavy, hair bands to hold it in place. 

The Freezer Bag - IF replaced yearly - should provide a larger water container for travel.

REMEMBER: Enjoy the Best of Life but Be Prepared for the Worst.

Step 15: An Important Final Thought

My Logo is a Clue.

Yin-Yang - good & bad, up & down, male & female, left & right.  Life needs to be in balance to work effectively. 

Enjoy the Best that Life has to offer; but Prepare for the Worst.   

IF you would like to see what I learned from Japan's 2011 Earthquake & Tsunami: Lessons From Haiti and Japan

You can get a free Survival Gear Checklist and Newsletter here. 

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    73 Discussions


    5 years ago on Step 2

    Q tips for ears? It does say on every box ever not to insert into ears... I'm sure there's either a better use (first aid) or a better item in its place.

    1 reply
    Survivor Jackebabin

    Reply 5 years ago on Step 2

    Suggest an item, ebabin. That is the fun of the "Altoids Survival" tin exercise.

    You are right, Qtips are not ideal for cleaning ears. They can push the wax further in. During an Emergency, I'm willing to risk it.

    PLUS, I can use the cotton for fire starting & the wax for 'greasing' a bow drill. The cotton swab stick could be used for 'Early Warning' or an animal snare.



    3 years ago

    You can go enthusiast and build a kit during a tine otter box waterproof case, however, the total plan here is created one thing sufficiently small that you just haven't any excuse to not carry it and low-cost enough that you just haven't excuse to not make one.

    Here's a useful link that I thought I'd share on an article that lists 100 things you'd need in case of an emergency.... there's several on there that I din't even think of until reading it


    4 years ago on Step 3

    If you have the time and the patience, drinking water more slowly will actually hydrate you more as otherwise your body doesn't have sufficient time to absorb it.


    4 years ago

    I really think the straw with the cotton balls and petroleum jelly is a really nifty idea i never thought of that i just made a tin tonight and will be showing my unit a few things in an upcoming survival class im teaching thanks for the new trick


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you so very much for putting this together. I appreciate the instructions as well as the uses. Great job. One thing I never see in a kit though, is some type of blood stop. A small packet of black pepper (like the kind from a fast food plastic utensil kit) will help stop bleeding. Thanks again and yes, I am taking your tips to heart!

    1 reply

    Survivor Jack from Aurora - Thanks - You are right about the Black Pepper. I mention it about three times a week. Good Sugestion.

    PS: Please help me become Ellen DeGeneres's DJ.

    For five minutes of your time, I promise some smiles and a laugh.

    IF You chuckle, "Like It" or Comment, and Link It where you enjoy sharing 'social media' news or add a happy "PS" to your family or friend's emails.

    For example,
    PS: my friend, Survivor Jack, needs your help to become Ellen's DJ. Smile and laughs at his audition (2:47). Please Like It or Comment at

    Listen carefully from the beginning.


    Lo Tec

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Survivor Jack!

    I'd love for you to check out my Altoid Survival Tinand provide some comments to improve it. Here's a link:

    Love the article,


    1 reply
    Survivor JackLo Tec

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I added a few comments. Keep teaching "Survival" - it forced You to learn more. Be Honest, Be Excellent & Walk About Prepared. Survivor Jack

    Lo Tec

    5 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Jack. Love the tin! I will be making an Instructable soon of my own Altoid's Smalls Survival Tin. These tins are about 60% smaller than a regular Altoid tin, so it will be a real challenge! One thing I would recommend is switching your Mini Bic lighter from yellow to white. The white color can be used as a light diffuser along with a flashlight to keep a low profile and also allows you to see fuel levels easier. Also, by putting a cable tie around the red "trigger" on the lighter, you can stop the use of fuel until you need it. With the cable tie, you can still use the lighter as an effective sparking device. Also, I would use something called "RangerBands" instead of a ladies' hair tie. They are simply rubber bands cut from an old inner tube from a bicycle. They are extremely strong and can make your tin much more compact. Thanks for the great Instructable,


    1 reply
    Survivor JackLo Tec

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I love the 'cable tie' idea around the butane button. I did have a buddy who backed an item against his 'spare lighter' and found it empty because the object depressed the trigger and let the butane out. PS: the spark is good either way. Thanks Lo Tec


    5 years ago

    For fire starting you can add a small piece of dryer lint to help start fires

    1 reply
    Survivor Jackzfrye0

    Reply 5 years ago

    I am always careful with dryer lint. I want only cotton or other natural fibers. No Synthetics!


    5 years ago

    That's just it though. If I couldn't get to it or was separated from it in any way, the Altoids kit would have what I NEED to survive. The full kit carries things that would be an extreme advantage but wouldn't be completely necessary. The pocket kit is by no means the only thing that should be carried. I carry my pocket kit and full kit everywhere.


    5 years ago

    I like's the but.....BUT.... The purpose of the Altoids kit is to fit easily in a pocket and have the basics. Mine carries just that the basics for survival (eg. Fire starting tools, fishing gear, knife, etc.). It seems that yours contains too much "luxury items" that I carry in my full survival kit but not in my Altoids kit. Just a thought

    1 reply
    Survivor Jackjberry15

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    What IF you can't get to your 'full survival kit' or your car? Another Thought! THIS is why this is such a good game for preplanning. When I went to my son's Wedding, I didn't carry my full kit, but I did have my "Tin" in my back pocket.


    5 years ago

    I used double sided tape on the inside of my lid and attached fish hooks and dry flies. Sealed split shot sinkers inside a pen cap and punched a hole in one side of the tin. Added a nail to go through the hole turning it into a handle for the tin making it a small cooking tin.

    1 reply
    Survivor Jackshakedowndoug

    Reply 5 years ago

    When I wrote the article, I forgot to mention I had a large razor blade taped under my lid. That's a smart use of space, SDDoug.

    I have seen another 'survival tin' where two holes for a nut and bolt and a slit in the tin held a saw blade. The Tin became the handle. Cleaver but how sturdy?

    Keep thinking ahead! It will serve you well IF you have to improve during an Emergency. Survivor Jack

    Oh,bye the way,you should also find something like a mini harmonica
    (which I have) to fit in the survival tin.