We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” but how can one be adequately prepared for unforeseen events without lugging around a hefty survival kit int their backpack? The answer might be in your pocket. Enter the Altoids Survival Kit. It’s small, compact, and unassuming, but inside this tiny tin lies the potential to be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major problem.

This article will walk you through the educational process of transforming an everyday tin into a valuable tool for survival situations. Let’s break down pocket-sized preparedness and learn how to assemble an Altoids survival kit.

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Outdoorsman slides an altoids tin survival kit into his pocket.
An Altoids survival kit is perfect for day trips. Craig Caudill

What Is an Altoids Survival Kit?

Believe it or not, an Altoids tin, when packed thoughtfully, can hold many essential survival items. This compact container can be a lifeline in emergencies, from fishing lines to fire starters. Whether you’re a hiker, a camper, or just someone who likes to be prepared, this guide will show you how to assemble your Altoids survival kit.

survival gear for a pocket-size survival kit
Believe it or not, all of this gear fits inside an Altoids tin. Craig Caudill

What Goes Inside a Mini Survival Kit

Here is a list of the gear that I include in my Altoids survival kit. As you assemble your kit, you can make changes or substitutions to best suit your needs

  1. Mini Multi-tool: I prefer a well-engineered mini multi-tool. These tools can be tasked to do some critical work. I want an excellent name-brand tool I can count on and not some cheap knockoff.
  2. Small Compass: Button compasses are hit or miss with their accuracy. Whenever you get one, check it regularly to verify it still points correctly. (Looking for a compass? Check out our list of the best compasses.)
  3. Ferrocerium Rod: I save some space in the tin by choosing a ferro rod that does not have a handle. I place a small rubber grip on one end to help hold onto it. 
  4. Fire Starters: There is no shortage of great fire starters on the market. I like the dried ones so the accelerant does not leak off under heat in the tin.
  5. Fishing Lines and Hooks: Fishing, even for small fish, is a great way to get nutrients and passively get your food.
  6. Whistle: The sound of a whistle travels farther than your voice, and does not require you to expend as much energy. 
  7. Duct Tape: Duct tape has a ton of uses, such as for first aid coverings, trail markers, or holding your shoes together. Great stuff to have for many uses. 
  8. Water Purification Tablets: If you can only take one thing to help purify water, take tablets, not a filter. Tablets help sterilize more contaminants than does a filter. 
  9. Aluminum Foil: Use this as a signaling device, to boil water, or hold food. 
  10. Water Bags: Use the bags as a collection tool to hold water so you can purify it with the tablets. 
  11. Wire or Kevlar Wire: Much like duct tape, the uses for this are endless: It works as fishing line, it’s useful in constructing a survival shelter, it even works as boot laces. Whatever you can use cordage for, this can do it—and lasts a very long time. 
  12. Survival Guide: I recommend some small guide to keep with your tin. Great way to learn before you need to use it. It is best to be prepared ahead of time with it. Plus, if needed, it can be burned as a fire tinder.
  13. Large Rubber Bands/Inner Tube: A great way to hold the tin together so it does not spill. They can also be used as fire tinder. 

How to Pack Your Altoids Survival Kit

To pack an Altoids survival kit well, first keep in mind that the tin has rounded corners and a flat bottom and sides. I know this is rather obvious, but it will help you to pack it efficiently. 

packing survival gear into an Altoids tin.
Place the flatest items into the Altoids tin first. Craig Caudill

Start packing your Altoids survival kit with the flat items placed them on the bottom: duct tape, aluminum foil, water purification tablets, and a flat whistle go well on the bottom of the Altoids tin. You can then place the ferro rod along one of the edges. These other items help hold it in place. 

placing survival gear into a small survival kit
Next, place the rounded items, like the compass, into the curved corners of the tin. Craig Caudill

Next, take anything rounded and place it in the rounded corners of the Altoids survival kit. Things like the spool for fishing line, button compass, and similar items will nestle into those rounds and not leave unused space.  Now, you can place the remaining items in any way you can fit them. I like to put the fire-starting cotton items on top because they can easily be pushed down to hold everything tightly when the lid is placed on. I did not do it on this tin, but you can also tape things like cordage or similar to the inside top of the lid so it gets pulled up and out of the way when the lid is opened. 

An Altoids tin full of survival gear.
Place the remaining gear on top. Craig Caudill

Using the Tin as a Survival Tool

Let’s not forget the uses of the tin itself in your Altoids survival kit. A tin like this is helpful because you can use it in a fire, and it holds up well to repeated use in this way. And while the tin can’t hold a lot of water, you can also boil enough water in order to get you some sterilized water that avoids most bacterial contamination. In a survival situation, one of the best strategies is to stay in place and wait for help. So, having a fire that you sit, watch, and boil several tins full of water is not a problem. 

Rubber band is secured around an Altoids tin.
A thick rubber band is a smart way to ensure the Altoids survival kit stays closed. Craig Caudill

Secondly, you can use the inside cover of the Altoids tin as a signaling device. If you take some sand or the multi-tool and scratch that surface, it will be even brighter than it already is. Use it to reflect light to show others your position. This is true of both air and ground searchers.

Lastly, you can use your Altoids survival kit to make charred material to aid in fire starting. Char cloth and other materials are organic materials heated to near combustion but not to the critical burn point. This means you have a thin piece of charcoal to catch a spark and then blow into flame using a tinder bundle. To do this, place anything organic like dried grass, punk wood, or even cotton clothing pieces in the empty tin. Place it in an already burning fire. There is enough oxygen that can pass through the opening of the tin that it starts to char.  However, there is not enough oxygen for it to become consumed in flame. You will see smoke coming from the tin. Pull the flame out and close it tighter if you see the flame. After the smoking slows down, pull it from the fire and let it cool. Inside, you will have an excellent tinder starter. 


What do you put in a survival tin?

All survival situations should prioritize personal safety, shelter, warmth, water, then food. There is not enough room for shelter in a tin, but the others can be easily assembled. Navigation items like the compass to keep you from getting lost and a whistle to help you be found. Fire-starting materials for warmth. Then, the items you need for emergency water purification and storage. With hooks and cordage, you can gather food. The survival guide helps you improvise in many ways to help take care of your other needs.

What is the use of an Altoids tin?

Tins were used in frontier days to hold items like tobacco, char cloth, flint steel, and more. Who knows how this whole tin box movement in modern times got started, but it is an excellent way to introduce the topic of pocket survival tools to others. What is great about an Altoids survival kit is that it allows us to discuss different needs in survival situations. Ask any two people what is in theirs, and you will get two different answers.

Why are condoms sometimes in survival kits?

Condoms are versatile. They can store up to a gallon of water when carefully filled. They’re also waterproof, making them ideal for protecting matches, tinder, or other small items from moisture. I typically carry water bags for the same reason, only because they can be rolled or laid flat in the tin. This allows for better packing scenarios. 

What is in a mini survival kit?

A mini survival kit typically includes essential emergency tools and items compact enough to fit in a pocket. This can range from fire-starting materials, fishing gear, a mini knife, and first-aid items to water purification tablets.

How should a mini survival kit be used?

These kits should not be considered your go-to kit for survival needs. They do serve a great purpose in a pinch. They are compact enough to throw in a pocket, glove box, tackle box, or a pack to help in unexpected circumstances. Plus, they meet the trifecta of survival supplies: they don’t cost much, weigh much, or take up much space.