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Too much, too little?

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by koyote, Sep 4, 2011.

  1. koyote


    Mar 29, 2007
    With some recent responses in other threads, I got to thinking.

    I was a bit put out by the expression of the idea that an altoids tin kit is just a mental exercise and couldn't be used.

    Why? Why is it too little? what, exactly, do we need? For how long, and where?

    What's too much? 90 pounds on a frame pack trying to get out of a city quicklike? (way too much) - the same 90 pounds leaving your truck behind already out in the big empty with the ability to make camp within 5 miles and adjust?

    A lot of this comes down to - what is survival? In the shotgun thread, people talked about wanting scoped long range rifles to get out of urban areas, or snares and traps being better than hunting. Both of these views can be valid in the right circumstance, but which circumstance? (I'm still leery of the scoped rifle to get out of a city bit, but I suppose a red dot could vaguely count as a scope.)

    This brings up a very important bit- defining survival. A "FIRE! NOW NOW NOW!" bag next to my bed has shoes in it. And for good reason. But an office escape kit is going to have prybars.

    And altoids kit in a cargo pocket while out hiking is going to have some stuff to help me get by while I'm waiting for a rescue or hiking back out after losing everything.

    What's in my van would scare a lot of people but is just basic stuff for the Great Basin

    So- the situation is really, really important. (I'm stressing this because in every thread there's some guy who can only think tactical urban combat and escape terms and cannot, ever, see that there are different situations. zombies zombies zombies zombies zombies, mushroom, mushroom.)

    What's the least you want, for what situation?

    What's too much, for what situation?

    I've changed up gear several times. My "bum around Europe on leave" kit included some spare lighters, a couple space blankets, a poncho liner, first aid, spare socks, t shirt, and scivvies- but it was light on things I'd carry here. (for example, it had one SAK of medium size and relative disposability as European authorities tend to be very touchy about the ability to defend oneself or cut down one of the Holy Royal Trees)

    My urban bag had the clothes, and the space blankets, and a nice 8-10 pounds of tools. I was always working in some technical capacity and I needed half of them on a daily basis, but that just made it more fun.

    If you carry and altoids tin in a cargo pocket while hiking- is it enough? is it too little? what else is in your pockets?

    If you honestly have a 90 pound pack, have you tried a practice bugout with it?
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2011
  2. grunt soldier

    grunt soldier

    Dec 4, 2009
    i have used my altoids tin kits on many of occasions. they are definitely not the most ideal but you should easily be able to use your skills and that kit to survive a night or 2 in the woods for sure. i have never truly been in a true survival situation in the woods but i have practiced with my tin many times and i know it could very easily keep me alive. If your trying to bug out for real and are going to be gone 3 plus days i would honestly want a pack with some goodies to keep me going.
  3. sicily02


    Nov 23, 2005
    It comes down to exsperience. That will be a factore in what you carry.

    I do like how George Jasper of the United States Rescue and Special Operations Group, in his survival / SERE book
    Six Ways in and Twelve Ways out. On page 121 George writes " A great knife, a large wad of 550 cord, 2 dozen fish hooks, a butane lighter, 6'x6' plastic sheet and a mylar space blanket will probably got you out of just about any hell hole on the planet". With some woods time and that kit I think George is pretty much right on.

    George goes on to say that there are some other itiems that you could add to that list to make a miserable existence more tolerable.

    I base my hiking kit pretty much off that list but I did add a few more items. small first aid kit, hand saw, leather gloves, small compass, SS military canteen, bandana flash light, and some binos, little packet of drink mix and some slim jims put into a military butt pack with a shoulder sling. It makes for a light but good hiking/ got to get out of the area kit.


    Again it comes down to having practiced survival skills and spent some time doing just that.

    I can make a night or two out just fine.

    If I gave same little pack to some of my family members they would still die.
    Knowledge and some tools to start out with can really make your situation so much better if you were to get lost or have to leave the area that you are in. Out door type Clothes and good foot ware.
    not flip flops, shorts and a tee shirt lol.

  4. sloth357

    sloth357 Platinum m0f0 Platinum Member

    Jan 5, 2011
    Yeah, it really comes down to knowing how to use what you have but in various ways.. I carry a space blanket, plastic shelter/bivy, 50ft of fish line, a few hooks, a couple weights for line, a titanium 2.5" cutting edge with pry end knife, fire stone and sparker, titanium spork with bottle opener and 2 holes for random use and hex wrench built in, some tea, aspirin, a large safety pin, a pencil, paper folded up, an orange wistle, 25ft cordage, a mini first aid kit w/ the usual alchol swabs-bandaids-gauze-butterfly patches-few other things I can't think of , a 3x3in flexible mirror, water purifing tablets (yes I throw them out and repurchase new ones to keep them usable), and I think thats it.. all from memory and I open it up and reorganize once a month or so if I haven't used it to keep it fresh in my memory.

    I can use the plastic shelter for tons of survival needs: rain fly, water catch, a make shift cup (out of a small corner cut off if I need it), another signal as it is bright yellow and about 7'x5', wrap up in it if the space blanket isn't enough, a ground tarp to keep dry, wind break, cut a long strip and use it as a make shift tourniquet with some cordage to help tie it down.. on and on.. just be imaginative.. A few camps I went through as a teen helped get the idea train rolling.. several books since then, and creativity..

    The fish line can be tied to the spork so I have a better handle, the line can be used as a snare, or the cordage.. or use both for different things simultaneously...

    I could bore you.. and myself.. but this bag with first aid takes up two cargo pockets MAX if I were to carry them on my person.. they reside in my man pack that pretty much goes everywhere I go now days.. as it doubles as a hiking bag and city bag for water bottles, phone, my son's crap (whatever it might be at the time), river trips, camping.. day hikes.. coast hikes.. you get the point..

    Key is keeping the weight down so you can and want to bring it everywhere. If I'll things are real bad, then I'm screwed.. I do pack far more survival gear anytime I am on a road trip or camping, or PLAN on being gone for more than half a day or going to be more than 20miles from home.. plus my truck has many redundant items in it all the time and I carry extra water in the truck that I refill to keep fresh.. it makes sense to me.

    If zombies show up, and a revolution AND and.. yeah, then f'it let me die :) I'd rather not be the last one remaining :)

    edit: first aid kit has enough nutrition in it for a two days for 2 people, albeit MEAGER.. however, and again, I know local edibles for the NW and would hopefully be seeking a stream to catch either fish or river lobster which I know we have and know many areas in the state to at least get that.. [email protected]$
  5. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    Too much, too little? No, just right for it's intended purpose. Worthless if left in the desk drawer, priceless if you need it and everything else is lost or out of reach. Of course, even with this minimalist kit, we each would pack it differently. A person with knowledge and creativity would do well without it, but a bit better with it. Even a "survival wallet" that is carried all the time is better than nothing.
  6. kgd


    Feb 28, 2007
    The big thing is getting into the habit of carrying something that you have planned ahead for a situation which you think has a sufficient probability of happening and the tools helping your situation a bit. So a few nice things to have in my normal hanging around suburbia lifestyle or stuff like a mini-bic lighter with a couple ranger bands acting as a guard/waterproofing for it (never know when you need to light a candle), some bandaides and a few alcohol wipe packets, immodium, couple of rollaides, a $20 bill, sewing kit etc. Doesn't have to be super elaborate. Doesn't need to allow me to survive in Borneo for 96 h. Thats what I view an altoids kit for, really and urban EDC. Now when I go hiking and camping I take a bigger kit with me (not huge, but bigger) that has a more in depth item list of possibles for the outdoors (fuller FAK, PSK etc). I think the altoids serves its purpose and has limitations, but its better then no kit contents............Immodium when needed is always a great thing!
  7. Esav Benyamin

    Esav Benyamin MidniteSuperMod

    Apr 6, 2000
    Where are you, what are you doing, is "survival" a half hour stroll home from the other end of town?

    I almost always have one of my small 4" x 6" Army pouches: rubber gloves, band-aids, alcohol pads, lip balm, and Sliver Grippers. That's no more than an Altoids tin in cloth. For deeper in the woods, for a day or two, add fish hooks and line, add a small sharp knife. I like to carry Tums and sugar tablets, with food and water that's another pouch.

    Tinykits like these can be a module added to a bigger kit, so they should usually be available, with the specific bigger kits stashed where they are appropriate.
  8. Thomas Linton

    Thomas Linton

    Jun 16, 2003
    The more you have, assuming the requisite knowledge, the more contingencies you can meet.

    The smaller it is, the more choices you have to make.

    But if the kit gets so big you leave it behind, it's too big.

    So the size is a mater of personal preference. I know people that have a waist-pack kit and think it's just the right size. Others would not tolerate anything that does not fit in pockets or, perhaps, around the neck.

    No "right" answer, except for you, which is why we get so many interesting threads/posts.

    How high is "high"?
  9. Cpl Punishment

    Cpl Punishment

    Jan 28, 2006
    My "minimal kit" of course varies with the time of year, due to different clothing requirements.

    For a 3-season kit (remember I live in FL), my minimal dayhike kit looks nearly identical to Sicily's (probably because I read the same book), except I carry a standard plastic GI canteen and bring the cup, too, a package of 20 MP1 water tabs, a full size compass, a poncho, and outside the bag I carry either my kukri or a tomahawk. Considering the general wetness of my area, I also carry a container of dry tinder (maya dust, PJ & cotton and fatwood sticks). I do not carry the saw or binos. I've even used a butt pack with shoulder strap to carry it around in! In cooler weather, it's easy to strap a poncho liner to the bag.

    I generally have a firearm as well, but don't consider that part of the kit as I carry one with me all the time, it's not a special consideration.

    My problems with the Altoids tin:
    Water -- people carry a plastic baggie. Really? That's going to be easy to carry a round -- a baggie of water. What happens when your two purification tabs are used? Boil in the bag? Yes, it can be done, but even if you are practiced at it (I don't see a lot of guys practicing this), you still take a big chance of destroying your container. Bit of aluminum foil? OK, but it WILL develop holes, sooner rather than later.

    Food -- a couple of fish hooks and a tiny bit of line. C'mon man, NOT ENOUGH, even if you use it for non-fishing food procurement.

    First ad -- commonly two band ads, a one use neosporin, and duct tape. OK wholly inadequate for anything but the slightest of wounds, and I'm not the only one who has warned of the possible dangers of using duct tape as a medical treatment.

    Then it often gets disclaimed that they have a couple of drum liners in a pocket, some 550 cord in another pocket. . .in other words, admitting that an Altoids tin isn't enough room while claiming that an Altoids tin is enough.

    Now, you can use them as little kits -- fire kit in one, fishing kit in another, very basic (IMO still inadequate) first aid kit, as part of a larger kit, but it still seems like a better mental exercise than sometime to truly rely on.

    You can take a MASSIVE leap forward in survivability, comfort, and ease of doing things with something the size of the aforementioned butt pack. Kind of like how the old timers carried a fire kit in their Altoids tin (ok, brass tinderbox) INSIDE their possibles bag, rather than try to fit everything in the tinderbox.
  10. Bo T

    Bo T

    Feb 12, 2011
    I consider anything we do to adjust to or modify our environment as being survival oriented. So clothing is the minimum survival kit that most of us carry around with us. The next step up for me is an orange whistle match container with a compass. I have the end of a hacksaw blade taped to it and assorted goodies inside of it. The maximum? What can you carry unaided, the distance you need to go in the time you need to do it in.
  11. meismjg


    Nov 21, 2010
    I've seen the contents of many altoid tins and have personally never needed any of the contents in urban city life..certainly my "survival" did not depend on it.
    If you are intending to go into wilderness and are afraid you may get separated from your main gear then why an altoids tin? you could carry less as back up or more. To me, I've seen pictures of altoid tins filled with stuff that do not contribute to "survival". Over the counter painkillers (other than aspirin for heart attack) and band aids treat the simplest of medical issues and are not necessities.

    For the climate and region I live in, probably the most useful thing an altoids tin could be filled with is altoids themselves (assuming the goal was to get home).
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2011
  12. Mannlicher


    Nov 19, 2008
    I keep going back to the old 'this stuff is pretty much an individual decision, based on location, need, and ability',

    Personally, I don't subscribe to the Altoid tin technique, but if others do, then that is fine with me, for whatever reason they choose to do so.
  13. koyote


    Mar 29, 2007
    Oh, I don't personally carry an altoids tin. I have, a couple times, and there's still a couple altoids first aid kits floating around the bags. You can pack a very decent first aid kit into an altoids tin out of medical tape, some gauze, a couple alcohol wipes, an "annointing oil" sized bottle of iodine (WAX SEAL), 2 butterflies, needle and thread (use something appropriate), and the classic mini victorinox rambler or classic. I dont' live in florida, though. Leech removal isn't a chore, and we don't have much in the way of nasty infections from exposure to the water.

    I think they can be very reasonable if constructed right. But trying to combine all the areas of a "standard 72 hour kit" into an altoids tin is pointless. I've never put a baggie in one, for example. When I have had them, before I started using other containers, it's been various bits and accessories to add usefulness. cordage (some waxed thread like used in leather stitching, and some monolilament line), a spare bic lighter, a couple hooks, yes, needles and an awl blade. And the SAK. Because I always have other knives, but the classic is a fair minimum backup for scissors, tweezers, and a knife blade than can be left sharp and tippy enough for deep splinters and thread cutting chores.

    A point was brought up: "I generally have a firearm as well, but don't consider that part of the kit as I carry one with me all the time, it's not a special consideration."

    At what level do you separate daily use, EDC, or "regular" items from survival items?

    I've made a point of keeping the two combined as much as possible- m regular first aid kit in my bag is daily use (and really is, I'm a knifemaker.) - The only reason I carry reloads for the bulldog at all is "survival prep"- as I don't live in a combat zone- when I was more urban and was working in technical jobs, the tools and urban survival stuff were much the same in many respects. I would certainly not pack an EXTRA set of drivers and security bits just to have a "survival kit".
  14. akula83


    Aug 19, 2008
    For me it's about location, location, location. I have carried too much and too little. Here in Pennsylvania it's a butane lighter, SAK, mylar blanket some 550 and a one of those cheap pocket poncho's. I always have plenty of water. If I am hiking in the Cascades or Olympics you know I have alot more, emergency bivy, extra matches, thermals, fleece cap, no matter what season.
  15. kgd


    Feb 28, 2007
    Good point Esav!

    I think people are getting too caught up in this kit as a real survival kit. In thinking about it, I like Pict's definition of what he constitutes as his possibles bag versus what he defines as his PSK. His PSK was a minimalist, 'off-limits until emergency' type of kit designed to meet water, food, shelter, signalling, nav. ect. His possibles bag was a re-supply gear bag of sorts where through time and experience he found it useful to pack extra of this and extra of that because his usual consumables brought with him were found to run short in different situations from his past.

    When I walk around an urban environment, I really don't have survival mentality in mind with my PSK. It is more like the possibles variety that having such kit items saves me time, pain and inconvenience. Again, I think you have to gage things based on probabilities of what is likely to happen and what would get you out. Some people fear being trapped in their office building might be a high risk and warrant something to aid in their escape. Makes sense to me if hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes etc are a strong probability. It isn't really in mine, although we were hit with a tornado not too far from my area a few weeks back (but it is very rare). The rarer the likelihood of a given event, the less
    likely am I to consider a special tool or kit contents to take care of it. When camping, hiking etc. the possibility of getting lost and having to spend 24-48 hr on my own increases dramatically and my kit contents reflect that. In a car, the possibility of getting into an accident causing trauma increases dramatically and I keep a bolstered first aid kit in the trunk and then beef it up in the winter with other stuff to keep the hypothermia risk at bay.

    As Esav indicates, kit contents can be modular or run in multiple flavors tailored to individual needs and activities. I tend to go the later route and even acknowledge that one hiking trip presents different risks than another depending on location and proximity to resources. An altoids kit works plenty fine for me on most day walks spent in small forest stands where walking in any direction for 1 km will take me to a road and nearby home.

    Plastic bags - these are very often used by me. Whether it be for gathering and storing tinder, wild edibles, storing left over food, keeping garbage in my pack manageable. I must admit that I have never used a plastic bag for water treatment, but they are still among my most commonly used items when on out on small day hikes and larger trips. No way I'd get rid of ziplock bags from any of my kits!
  16. DrivebyTrucker


    Nov 8, 2005
    I don't carry ziplocks. I think that poster was saying they could be used, but they're not ideal. What I feel is deal is making sure your little kit has some quality to it. In fact, you could even reason that your survival kit should be better than what you would normally use when woods bumming. I'm wondering if others on this forum do the same.
    For example: carrying a better quality knife and fire starter than what you might normally use in the woods. After all, it's fun to try new knives, fire starters, and other various equipment and gadgets in the woods. But in my kit are some proven standby's that I can trust.
  17. Cpl Punishment

    Cpl Punishment

    Jan 28, 2006
    And this is what I'm really prejudiced against. IF it's JUST a FAK, or JUST a fire kit, you can get a decent kit in it (make great repair, i.e. sewing, kits as well). But I think the whole "This is what I can survive 72 hours with" is an iodea that came about by overhyped marketing. To wit: it seems to have come about when Cheaper Than Crap started advertising the SAS tins as "Everything you need to survive a hostile combat zone for 72 hours!.. Escape and evade with the best of them!, Only 19.95!". The reality is, those tins are there to supplement what an SAS trooper normally carries and uses with seldom-used items that would get lost if they weren't all stuck together. Then people wanted to make their own kits for cheaper, or with better items. As a mental exercise I think it's very valid and useful. As a practical carry, not so much. Contrast this with the USMC survival kit that was around for a while, which was meant for 72 hors, and came in two bags that barely fit in BDU thigh pockets.

    Simple, if I carry it on my body all day, it's EDC, if it's in a separate kit, it's part of the "survival kit".
    Example: I don't consider my Benchmade Barrage as a survival kit knife, it's in my pocket whenever I have my pants on. There's another (fixed blade) knife in my SK. Being a machinist, I'm well versed with the "cargo pocket FAK". However, my survival kit contains another, more generalized FAK.

    No, I really think you know what I'm, talking about. Look at the Altoids kits posted here and elsewhere, and you'll often see plastic bags (very often open top plastic bags, not even ziplocks) specifically for carrying water. That and condoms.

    Now, in a possibles bag sized kit, you can carry at least a Platypus bag which is designed to hold water, usually has provision for carry whether a molded in handle, or at least a place to hook a caribiner. The possibles bag can also carry enough purification tabs or a small filter to last you for the duration of the event you are planning for.
  18. plumberroy

    plumberroy Gold Member Gold Member Basic Member

    Jan 27, 2007
    My altoid tin is basicly a first aid kit It does have duct tape a needle, 15' spider wire 2 small hooks and split shot The smallest swedish fire steel minus the handle and 6' of floral wire and a zippo tender stick mole skin assorted band aids alcohol and iodine pads neosporan ,sting eze , cortazone creme and motrin tabs it has 2 foot of black tape around it as a seal and paracord wrapped around it It is a "might need" kit not a survival kit I carry a vic farmer and a windmill classic lighter every where. My Dad taught me from a youngin that if you had a knife and some way to make fire you can survive. I have pulled the black tape off to tape up wires . used the wire to put tags on stuff and the paracord to tie a pipe up till I could go get hangers , the first aid supplies from fixing boo boos for the kids in the family to treating cuts till we could get a co worker down to E.U. for stiches.

    I basicly have a layered system altoid tin and pocket stuff I have a generic maxpedition jumbo that has next layer it does have tarp and space blanket water bottle sewing kit, t.p. trash bag bigger f.a.k. perscription meds etc. it is 4-5 lbs

    I really don't consider going into survival mode till I have to go in to my day pack behind the seat in the truck bigger first aid kit, tarps, water treatment.etc

    I also have the totes at home one with freeze dried food and stove, fuel, pots etc. one with tents, sleeping bags ,cloths hygene supplies . plus water cans filled and bottled water lanterns set up for easy access or grab and go .

    By the way grab and go is the last option I have all my resources at home Even with the truck I can only carry so much
  19. sicily02


    Nov 23, 2005
    kgd, what you said about the plastic bags is right on. They could be used for water, but for the most part I do not use them for that.
    I am always picking different types of tinder, and plants of some sort, seeds etc. I carry a canteen always. I just get to thirsty if i do not.

    I think a small pouch or tin has its place. Just like a small knife does and can be a great item to have.

    I think Cpl. P. said it right it about the Cheaper than Crap stuff. thinking or even wanting to go out or even be put in a situation where you all you have is a tin and the contents and use that for at least 72 hours. YUCK. Some people might belive that is all you really need, but they have not really gone out and practiced with it. Talking about and doing it is another thing.
    Unless you find a cave, over hang or one nice big hollowed out log for use as a shelter, building a good shelter with what is on hand will take time and you might not have time on your side.

    Lets face it most of us on this forum carry more than just a tin. There is key chains and pocket gear and then belt gear, day pack, how many of us on this forum really do not carry a day pack or shoulder bag at the minuim with more gear than a tin can carry? Beisdes what is in your car or truck.

    I know in my first post that I menitioned that George Jasper talks about a 6'x6' plastic sheet or tarp is a item to carry but I tell ya I like a 10'x10' or 12'x14' much better. My kit has a 2 Mil thick drop cloth that is 10'x10'. I have learned over time and trial and error that a smaller piece of plastic tarp is not what I want if I were to really be in a surival situation.

    It again comes down to what you know and what you have practiced. Just like that thread not to long ago about using a log reflector for reflecting heat from your fire back at you. If it is really cold and windy those things do not throw that much heat back at you.
    If they did I would be showing pictures of them in my winter camping and hiking threads. They work great for wind blocks if they are some what tight fitting.
    And most survival books talk about them refletors as though they are the cats meow. unless you go out and try that on a cold let alone a windy day you will find out real quick just how much they DO NOT work for that. Rocks are way better and heat the area much longer and better than any wall of logs will and rocks do not catch fire either like a wall of logs can,but if they do catch fire they will be putting more heat out in the area lol.

    Real cloths ( check the weather before you head out for your days hike/camping trip), a real shelter/tarp, metal pot, fire starting, FAK, PSK items, knife, is going to improve your odds of living to see the next sunrise that much better than just a few items in a tin IF you are put to the TEST.

    What test?

    The test that comes for some, but not all. If life puts you in a situation like what happened in Japan several months back. A earth quake plus a 30 plus foot wall of water comming at you and around you. you do not want 90 pounds on your back but just having a TIN to help you with shelter, food, fire, plus all the other things you might have to deal with IF you were to survive something like that does not sound like a good or great thing start your survival situation with. again it would probably be better than nothing.
    Knowledge and some great gear could make your life so much easyer/better if life were to give you/me the test.

  20. XanRa


    Apr 13, 2011
    Best random reference ever:D (but sadly now that's stuck in my head again)

    Very informative thread- some very good points...

    I have nothing to add and I'll keep doing things the way I do them

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