Author Topic: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?  (Read 1299 times)

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Offline Moe M.

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   Along about four years ago I started a thread titled When survival turns serious,  it was a discussion about just how one small laps in judgement can have life changing ramifications, it's was framed around the story of a hunter who made a couple of small decisions that got him injured, lost, and finely ended up taking his life.
   The story I used was from Mike Barton's Bushcraft Barton's U-tube channel,  it was titled "The lost Hunter",  it's still up I believe and can be found using that title on his channel, this thread is a departure from the old one but along the same lines.

   I've been seeing allot of forum chatter lately on outdoor forums touting the usefulness of Personal survival kits,  the kind that packs away in an Altoids Tin,  Compass pouch, or even a cargo pocket,  they are truly an exercise in futility, everyone I'm sure is familiar with the size of the average Altoids and Sucret tins,  they are about a big as the average shirt pocket and they don't hold much in the way of survival items.
  The average PSK might carry items such as matches, a small Bic lighter, or a ferro rod, along with a small knife, water purification tablets,  dental floss for cordage, a few band aids for cuts, a piece of fatwood, maybe some lip balm, and other assorted survival items that can be fit into the kit.
  The idea being that with these small items carried on ones person as an EDC one would be in pretty good shape survival wise in most any emergency,  personally I'm more than a bit skeptical about such claims,  but I do try to keep an open mind about things like this.
  Most members that have been here for a few years have heard my story of getting myself "twisted"  in a cedar swamp in Maine while caught in a freak white out snow storm, it was one of those learning experiences that stay with you the rest of your life.
  What I learned was that schitt happens fast,  most survival situations don't always happen as planned, and what ever survival stuff you have in your survival kit had better be more than what will fit in a candy tin or a cargo pocket of your pants.
  I've no doubt that in good weather with allot of natural resources and time to act one of those little PSK can help you survive for a few days in the wilds depending on what you have in them ,  and then there's the standard arguments often used by PSK fans "Pocket survival kits are better than no kit at all",  "The more you know, the less you need to carry",  or "Skills trump tools".
  I just can't argue with that kind of logic,  but I can point out that in my opinion,  different environments call for different tactics and tools,  time is not always on your side,  bigger tools usually make tasks less difficult, usually get them done much quicker and often better constructed,  a construction trash bag is not a shelter by anyone's standard,  being caught in a fast moving storm, rain, snow, wind, and sleet can rob you of core body temperature pretty quick,  if all you have is a pen knife and a piece of space blanket you aren't going to get a suitable shelter up before it's too late,  you're also going to need a fire, ground wood is wet,  there is dry standing dead wood available,  an axe, folding saw, even a stout bushcraft knife would make the job go faster,  but for the  "personal survival knife" with a 2" blade that fits in your tin it's going to be a big job and take a long time to get your fire going, hypothermia can kill you in less than fifteen minutes.

  So, where do you stand on pocket sized survival kits ?     
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Offline Quenchcrack

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2017, 01:05:41 PM »
For once we agree on something, Moe.  I put fire starting stuff in the Altoids tin but that kit is part of a much larger survival pack.
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Offline Unknown

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2017, 01:48:25 PM »
I think the benefit is in the thought processes of building the kit. Thinking things through to decide what goes in, some of it the inventiveness, hacking, repurposing necessary to make things fit. And, then perhaps the diligence in keeping on one's person.

The tin, being small, enforces limits on what can be added. It's cheap and easy to get-which makes it something anyone can try.
The utility is questionable if that were all one had in the world, but obviously better than nothing if something bad happened.

It can be kinda fun to put together as an exercise and imo what they are for- a thought exercise and experiment
It is better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war

Offline Quenchcrack

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2017, 04:45:02 PM »
Unk, I think the thought process is beneficial, it is the faith in a tiny can of tiny tools to save your ass that troubles me.  Water, Shelter/heat, and food does not fit in the Altoids can.  Unless you can live on curiously strong mints.
I guess he'd rather be in Colorado.
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Offline wsdstan

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2017, 04:46:08 PM »
I don't limit what I take along in my truck or SUV when we go somewhere in the winter.  I am a little less prepared in the summer but do always carry a blanket and water.  In winter weather I carry a first aid kit, a knife, fire starter kit, a blanket, small tarp, shovel, and high lift jack in my truck along with a few other items depending on the weather.  A rain coat, stove, water, small food supply box, and winter boots.  I have not had occasion to use them. 

A friend, who lives over in Wyoming, did get to use his gear last year in a blizzard.  Returning home from a wedding or some similar family thing, he got stopped on the highway by deep drifts and a closed road.  He sat there for about twelve hours.  He cooked his supper on a white gas stove he keeps in the  cab, slept in his sleeping bag, and was generally as comfortable as being at home except for the bathroom.  He had plenty of water and food and could have easily stayed three or four days if the storm had not abated and the snowplows gotten through.  There were other motor vehicles stopped there as well.   
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Offline hunter63

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2017, 05:05:17 PM »
I agree with the thought process "What would I do if....?"

Anything else is simply a personal preference...If it make ya feel good....do it.

Do they do any good?......99.9 % will never be used except to post pics on the interwebs so everyone can "ah and ooh"
Did I make 1 or 13.... yeah....but never a Altoids container no waterproof...
Mt first was a plastic cigarette box for smoke and matches because I got my wet falling in a marsh.
Grew from there.

I'm a pocket guy....or shoulder bag...for certain tasks.....

Unless you count the ultimate Altoids kit....LOL

Geezer Squad, Evoking the 50 year old rule..First 50 years, worried about the small stuff, second 50 years....Not so much

Online xj35s

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2017, 05:07:23 PM »
I'm more of an EDC guy than a PSK.

    I laugh at most of the kits out there. For instance the fishing kit, usually a few hooks, 50' of line, and a couple split shot sinkers. I'd die. I suck at fishing and that line would be an instant rats nest. Then I'd snag the hook and break a section of line.

I can build a fish trap that doesn't need tending and utilizes the stupidity of the fish not being able to find their way back out.

I have a small cable key ring that has a piece of Bic pen wrapped with duct tape. A peanut lighter that has fluid from 3 years ago and still lights right up. A whistle with ferro rod scraper. I put an exotac on there that has it's own scraper too. A key chain light that has two 2025 button cells that seems to last forever. The best part is a two hole pencil sharpener. I can hold it in my knees and use both hands to spin a branch. It's almost as good as a cotton ball in a pinch, if you can find the right size birch branch. What ya do when the cotton ball is burnt up?

I put it together for canoeing. That duct tape saved me some major blistering a few times.

I think the whole topic is more than circumstances in the woods. As simple as being caught and making bad decisions.

For example. I'm a truck driver. I've seen so many people dead because they made the wrong decision or simply didn't know. The best example is front wheel drive cars in a skid. I grew up with rear wheel drive and can recover from a skid, keep it sideways for miles, maybe even get a donut thrown in. Front wheel drive, I drive slower. I can't figure out how to properly control one in a skid. I've seen cars whip the wheel and end up in a ditch upside down to avoid hitting a deer. I guess you don't need to worry about car repairs when you're dead.

I would think if you're out hunting then you'd be pretty well dressed. Usually start in the early dark hours. It's all about keeping calm and thinking things through. No, that's a misconception. It's about knowledge, experience, and instincts. I've had the big rig  kick sideways and have been able to keep it on the road and straighten it back out. I've had wind blow the trailer off to one side on ice and kept it from jack knifing. Many drivers just don't have the instincts or reflexive actions for it.

To elaborate on the point I'm trying to make. If I'm lost and need to walk out and the sky lets loose. First I'd be paying attention to the sky for several reasons if only orientation. I'd be on the ready to hunker down under a large pine, fallen log, or dry side of a steep bank. You could even squat on the dry side of a large diameter tree.  I've been there. Where I live it doesn't usually last long anyway. You think I couldn't get a fire going to dry out some with my key ring? A trash bag and a candle (improvised) for a palmer furnace. A knuckle head might keep walking, with reduced visibility and footing.

Yes a small amount of supplies can help a great deal, But you can't fix stupid or alter destiny.
pessimist complain about the wind. optimist expect the wind to change. realist adjusts the sails.

Offline Moe M.

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2017, 08:30:11 PM »
  The first time I remember hearing about small pocket survival kits was back in the '80's, I had just got my first PC and while doing some internet surfing I ran across a fairly new web site called Hoods Woods,  a retired SF vet had started a survival school and was selling video classes on survival made by he and his wife Karen.
  I was into period trekking at the time and so was he,  we exchanged e-mails and I got to know Ron Hood pretty well,  he was a big proponent of minimalist survival,  he and his wife did allot of woods bumming and often took out groups of students for three days to week long trips equipped with little more than a folding pocket knife, some matches or flint and steel,  a condom or plastic ziplock bag,  and a construction size trash bag.
  They collected water in the condoms or ziplock bags,  made pots out of bark and heated stones to boil their water, they used the trash bags for shelter, sometimes filling the bag with dried grass, pine needles, or dried leaves and crawl into the center of it like one would get into a sleeping bag.
  Ron taught his students how to make traps and snares to get food and how to forage for simple edible plants,  I tried going solo a few weekends using his methods with just a few survival items I could fit in my pockets,  it was an interesting experience,  being limited to just a few items means that every thing that you need to do you have to work harder to get done, for example,  with my day pack I carry a 38 ounce SS water bottle, if I run out of water I can use my Sawyer mini to refill my bottle by gravity in just a few minutes,  or I can boil five cups of water in my Mors Bush Pot and transfer it to my water bottle or skip the bush pot and stick the water bottle in the coals and boil it right in the water bottle,  doing it primitive means making a bark basket that will hold water long enough to get it to a boil, and then you have to build a fire and heat the stones, then place the stones in the bark pot to get it boiling,  then you have to use a bandana to filter the sediment out of the water while filling your condom or plastic bag.
 Getting food is not as easy as some would like you to think,  you need at least half a dozen dead falls and snares set up if you expect to get a meal,  and chances are it's not going to be a rabbit or squirrel,  you'll more often than not be cooking a mouse, frog, or if you're lucky a little ground squirrel, if you aren't so lucky you'll find a skunk in your trap,  it'll be alive and pissed off (no pun intended).
 As long as the weather is with you you can survive for a few days, but you are going to be tired, cold, hungry, thirsty, dirty, and most likely ill tempered.
 Surviving is hard on the mind as well as the body,  the fun part of it gets old fast,  but give me my day bag, complete with all it's gear and a good blanket it's at about 14 pounds,  stick me in the same place for a long weekend in moderate weather and I'm no longer surviving,  I'm camping and having fun doing it. 
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Offline madmax

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2017, 07:25:12 AM »
My "survival" (emergency) kit is bigger that an Altoids can.  Even in FL.  Tried the itty bitty can kit.  It frustrated me more than helped.  I do carry char cloth in an Altoids can.  Does that count?  lol
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Offline wolfy

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2017, 11:55:55 AM »
I never subscribed to the Altoids survival kit theory.....seems like a teaser and an excercise for disaster in an emergency situation to me.  My EDC 'survival kit' is contained in a #3 shell bag (man-purse) from the Duluth Pack company.  It is so named for it's capacity for holding 300 12-gauge shotgun shells.....just about the perfect size for a semi-comfortable, yet unplanned night in the woods. Of course, YMMV. :coffee:
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Offline Moe M.

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2017, 04:47:03 PM »
I never subscribed to the Altoids survival kit theory.....seems like a teaser and an excercise for disaster in an emergency situation to me.  My EDC 'survival kit' is contained in a #3 shell bag (man-purse) from the Duluth Pack company.  It is so named for it's capacity for holding 300 12-gauge shotgun shells.....just about the perfect size for a semi-comfortable, yet unplanned night in the woods. Of course, YMMV. :coffee:

  I've tinkered with a couple of pocket sized survival kits,  I used quality items and gave my choices a great deal of thought,  I never did reach a point where I was satisfied that the kit would help me survive "most" emergencies.
  It never crossed my mind to do an overnighter using just the little kit,  even if I was 40 years younger,  I've never been into suffering needlessly at my own hand, that's why I carry my regular day pack, all 12 pounds of it when ever I'm headed off the pavement.
  Not to belabor this post but I posed the same question on two other bushcraft/outdoors forums,  you wouldn't believe the solid trouncing I received in reply,  probably 70% of the replies blasted me for not knowing what I was talking about, or not owning any woodsman's skills if I had to rely on a bag full of tools to survive a couple of nights
away from home.
  The last time I remember seeing so much flak was in debates about which was better S&W or Ruger, or who makes a better truck Ford Or Chevy,  ??? or maybe when I suggested that Mora knives were nothing but disposable
carpet knives,  anyway, I didn't make many friends with any of the above.  (big grin)
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Offline SamD

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2017, 06:01:49 PM »
My PSK fills an Otter Box 2000, it combined with my EDC (all ways in my pockets and on belt if I leave the house). will get me through most anywhere I am.
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Offline Phaedrus

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Re: Pocket sized/Altoids tin type PSK's, Real Survival or Feel Good Thinking ?
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2017, 11:30:42 PM »
An excellent topic!  I've never been a fan of Altoid's tin PSK's, either.  The tins are kind of neat and useful for storing individual items, especially since the tins are basically free.  I've built small fire kits in them in years past but as time goes on I have moved on from them even for those tasks.  The first reason is that while they're inexpensive they're not really great containers.  They're not super strong nor even partially watertight.  Occasionally I see videos where the author wraps the case with electrical tape to keep the contents dry; this seems to a kluge at best, especially if you plan to open and reseal the tin repeatedly.  I think it's pointless when there are now so many small containers that size that are watertight.  I really like Systema Klip-it cases.  They're available in a wide array of shapes and sizes and since they're made to store food they have O-rings and are air- and water-tight.

Of course the biggest failing of the Altoid's PSK is the size- they're simply too small to fit enough stuff to make a difference.  Oh, to be sure some quality gear beats nothing.  And I have purchased some small kits that I really like, either as the core of a home made kit or to augment other packs.  The Ritter PSP by AMK is a good example of a small kit that contains useful gear.  But I would never intentionally set out into the woods with just that!  As others have mentioned even when I began getting interested in bushcraft and survival skills many years ago, I noticed that the first obvious failing of the Altoid's kit was shelter. There's simply no way to accommodate shelter in a container that size.  Even the lowly space blanket alone won't fit within.  Space blankets are on some level the most over-hyped and overrated piece of gear ever made in the sense of the claims made for them vs what they can actually do but they can at least keep you dry and help constructing a shelter.

I am a huge believer in going prepared.  This might mean a dedicated "survival kit" or it would just be ensuring you're carrying gear and clothing appropriate to the time and terrain.   About as small as I go on the PSK is a water bottle bag kit.  I have four of them, with each being slightly different but all have similarities.  Three are from Self Reliance Outfitters and one is by Maxpedition.  Each of them will hold a 40 oz bottle and has a pouch on the front and PALS webbing.  In addition to that I have added two pouches to each one, a 2"x4"x8" on each side.  Generally I use the PALS webbing to MOLLE a knife to the outside of the bottle.  So at minimum I always have the water bottle full of water, at least one nesting cup, fire gear, a good light and spare batteries, a water filter plus a good stash of Clorine Dioxide tablets, some cordage, a well stocked fire kit with plenty of "cheats" (eg ESBIT, fatwood, candles, Bics, UCO Matches, fire rods, etc), a compass, two mylar blankets, one or two disposable rain ponchos, a small thermometer on a zipper pull (to keep an eye on temps for wind chill, etc), some bankline, a few safety pins, a sail needle, some duct tape, a whistle, a signal mirror, etc.  Sometimes I'll have a couple of ration bars, occasionally a SAK or multitool depending on circumstances.  The bag has a comfy shoulder strap with a bandana wrapped around the padding.  The weight really isn't all that much and most of it is the water.  I wouldn't want to camp overnight with just that nor is it all I will have with me, but if I leave camp on a short hike I can take that and know that I have at least minimal gear to keep me going if I can't get back to my camp or car.  I consider it the minimal kit I would ever take for a day hike even in a park where getting lost should be virtually impossible.

As others have noted, constructing an Altoid's kit can be fun and good exercise to help conceptualize what it takes to survive and help assign priorities.  But as a tool for actual survival it's lacking.  Of course, building one and making a video can be a fun way to spend a day when you can't get out to the woods. ;D