backcountry survival kit in altoids tin

How to Make Your Own Pocket Survival Kit

Ray Mears has been known to say something to the general extent of, “the more you know, the less you need to carry.” While I fully agree with his sentiment, I don’t claim to know that many things, but I know hate carrying a ton of gear on day hikes or similar. That being said, I’ve been meaning to downsize my medical kit to reduce my regular carrying weight. Making a pocket survival kit seems like the right thing to do to shed some ounces.

Pocket Medical Kit

The most important thing in my pack is my medical kit. While there are important medical and injury supplies in here, it’s also where I keep common medications. If I’m out for the weekend and someone has a headache, I know exactly where the Ibuprofen is. If someone has allergies, I have that covered. Diarrhea? No problem.

However, my personal first aid kit weighs in over 20-oz. That’s right. I have over a pound of medical supplies. Can I really downsize and maintain reasonably effective first-aid as part of my pocket survival kit? Yea, probably.

backpacking first aid kit

My Altoids Tin Pocket Survival Kit Contains:

Swiss Army Classic vs Gerber Dime Mini

When I started writing this, I figured the SAK Classic had to be the smallest, useful multi-tool that could fit in an Altoids tin. However, they don’t seem as useful as the Gerber Dime Mini, which seems comparable in size.

As far as this pocket survival kit goes, the most important things I need on this multitool are things that I’m leaving behind in my first-aid kit: Scissors, tweezers, and a blade. Stingy things, be damned. I have tweezers!

Straws: A Size Hack

Putting ointments and other things into straws is one of my favorite outdoor hacks. You take a straw, put a one-sized serving of something into it, and close it off with needle nose pliers and a lighter.

For my pocket survival kit, I’m using straws to carry single-serving anti-biotic ointment and fire starter. I’ve seen people make fishing kits and seal them off in a straw as well.

Survival Items in my Backcountry Kit

Outside of what has already been listed, there are a few items in here that are simply useful if the scenario were to arise and you found yourself needing some emergency supplies in the bush.

My fishing kit lives in a tin that mirrors where I keep my pills. Within this tin, I keep 6-lb test line, a mess of split-shot sinkers, various sized hooks (mostly super small), and a few flies. I can make this work with a straight branch and fish Tenkara style.

Firestarter and water purification round off the survival items in this kit. The firestarter lives in sealed one-use straw packets, and water purification comes in 3 forms – tablets, bleach, and iodine.

pocket survival kit in altoids tin

Backcountry Survival Medical Kit

For me, making a pocket survival kit isn’t about making a kit that will allow me to forage for food. Rather, I’m more focused on emergency supplies I would think I need in 99% of the scenarios I’d be in.

Taking a hard look at the list above, most of my space is taken up by bandaids, individually wrapped pills, and means to close wounds. I have some sterilization in there as well. This is my first priority in survival. Secondarily, I have a several means for water purification and fire starting.

Outside of those priorities that live in this kit, I always keep a knife on me. I’m the type of guy who heads into the sticks with a general idea of what I’m taking with me to be comfortable and safe.

backcountry survival kit in altoids tin

My pocket medical kit, however, is something I want to not actively think about. I want to be comfortable knowing it has what I need, when I need it. It’s like my mother’s purse, but for the backcountry.

As to my old kit — well, it’ll still have a place. With a kid, more child-friendly medical supplies are needed, so the larger medical kit will need some modifications. I’ll likely put the larger first-aid kit in my family camping bin, to be written about in another article.

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