Sometimes it takes a tragedy to focus attention on preparedness and wilderness survival.
by Leon Pantenburg
The world is a dangerous place, and you could be stranded out in the thick of things without the slightest warning.
When safe inside your home or behind your office desk it’s easy to forget how fragile our lives are. The Altoids Tin Survival Kit and the supplies within could very well be the difference between life and death when you need it most.
The idea behind the Survival CommonSense.com Altoids Tin Survival kit started after two fatalities in Central Oregon in late 2006.
In November, veteran snowmobiler Roger Rouse, 53, of Bend, died of hypothermia in Deschutes National Forest, about 10 miles west of Bend. He and his son had intended to only be out for a morning ride when a fierce snowstorm overwhelmed them. (To read the complete story, click here.)
Less than a month later, in December 2006, Californian James Kim, 35, died in the Rogue River Wilderness after leaving his wife and children to get help. The family car was stuck in snow on a remote road. (To see Larry King’s coverage of the Kim tragedy, click here.)
Shortly after the Kim tragedy, the editor of The Bulletin in Bend, Oregon, asked me to put together a
practical winter survival guide.
“Talk to (Deschutes County) Search and Rescue, find out what the trends are, and what gear people need to take with them,” the editor said. “Then, come up with a practical survival kit for our readers, based on the experts’ recommendations. This is an investigative assignment. Check out all sources, and test everything.”
The Altoids tin kit is a small piece of that project, and it is by no means all you should carry for survival!!! But you need to have something in your pockets, in the event you are separated from your gear.
I couldn’t find a pocket-sized commercial survival kit that was worth a damn. In some, the quality of gear was pathetic. In others, unnecessary or cheap filler items were included to flesh out the list of “necessities.”
One kit, I found at the local sporting goods box store is called “The Essentials Survival Can” and retails for $4.99. The components are: one book of “waterproof” matches; three feet of duct tape, four fish hooks, a whistle, and emergency cord.
In January, 2007, I asked the late Dr. Jim Grenfell of Bend to help develop a survival kit that would fit into a standard Altoids mint tin. This pocket kit would be limited in size to an Altoids tin, and weigh about five ounces. (That’s about what an iPod weighs, or my wallet, depending on which side of payday we’re on!)
An incessant tinker, Grenfell was also an Air Force combat veteran and graduate of three Air Force wilderness survival schools. I made an Altoid kit, too, and for the next several months, we added and subtracted gear, and tested, researched and refined the final kits.
Once the kit was completed, two veteran outdoorsmen took the prototype on a backpacking trip for final testing. Their input lead to further refinement. (To read their review, click on Altoids tin survival kit test.)
The final kit is not cheap to make. It will cost between $50 to $60, depending on the quality of the materials. But I have several, and one rides in my coat or hip pocket at all times.
Here’s the list of what you need:
• Altoids tin
• Six pieces of duct tape, about 2-1/2 to 3 inches long, layered on top and bottom.
• Rubber bands cut out of bicycle tube. They can be used for firestarter, as well as keeping the Altoids tin cover shut.
These items go inside:
1. 12-inch square of aluminum foil
2. Bicycle tube rubber bands on outside of container
3. Two alcohol prep pads
4. Petroleum jelly: use for medical needs, and in conjunction with jute twine and flint stick for fire-making
6. Emergency whistle
7. Boy Scout Hot Spark wrapped in 18 inches of jute twine. Used with petroleum jelly and item 13 for fire-making
8. LED flashlight
9. Glover’s needle and 2 feet of dental floss
10. Signal mirror
11. 6 feet of seine twine
12. Pills: aspirin, Imodium, Benadryl, water purification
13. Knife — (Swiss Army Classic: contains knife and screwdriver blades, scissors, tweezers and toothpick)
14. Safety pins and nail
15. 12 feet of 19-gauge annealed wire
16. Waxed fire starter
Not intended to be the primary collection of survival gear, the Altoids tin kit is designed to be compact, and easy and convenient to carry. It was never intended to replace a complete survival kit.
For more information, click on making your own survival kits!