The Ultimate Compact Survival Kit

Got your attention?

We have all read many posts on those Altoid Tin kits, at least I hope you have. They
look like a fun project, affordable, and useful. Put your hands up if you liked the idea,
but couldn’t convince yourself because it was too wimpy or small to be effective. What’s a tinkering survivalist to do? Make it better and a little more robust, at least in the eyes of the creator.

By Pineslayer, contributing author to SHTFblog and Survival Cache

So my mission that I chose to accept, was to build a survival kit based around a wide mouth 32oz stainless steel single walled water bottle. This container would try and house the 10 C’s of survivability with some multi functional items inside. My main concern, if you could call it that, was to have the kit be robust enough for possible long term use.

The Container

It is a thrift store find, 32 oz single walled stainless steel wide mouth, cost one or two
bucks, I can’t remember. It was covered by paint with some companies logo, so I took it
to the bench buffer and it came out with this cool tiger striped hue. Make sure you use
a single walled unit or when you go to boil some water in, if it is a double walled
insulated piece, you could find yourself with a face full of shrapnel. The air between the
walls will expand and find a weak spot. Now there are other containers that would work
for this project, but I wanted one that would be easy to carry full of water and virtually
unbreakable. If your bottle has any decals or paint on it, get rid of it, it will cause noxious
fumes. Wide mouth so you can stuff things in it and get them out, and easier to clean.


The quintessential USGI Ripstop nylon poncho in woodland camo. I have it packed in a
drawstring cotton bag with 6 aluminum stakes. The cotton bag may weight a little more,
but I like them over nylon for some kits for two reasons. First, cotton makes great char
cloth and second it can double as a sediment filter with less than clear water. I chose
the ripstop over the old school rubber coated bullet stopper that was issued through the ‘80’s for weight reasons, bulk was a factor too. As a side project I took a old unit, installed a poncho liner, it is ridiculously warm and as rugged as anything out there. I went outside in 22 degree temps, wind howling, in a T-shirt and flannel house pants, A.K.A pajama’s, felt like I could walk for miles and not get cold. I think I stayed out for about 15 minutes bringing firewood up to the house. Sorry, got off in the weeds there! Back to our regularly scheduled program.

Also read: Survival Gear Review: Hybridlight Journey 160 Solar Flashlight

There are many recreational options too, Outdoor Products, EMS, GoLite, and so on.
All great units, especially when the rains starts, just make sure it has grommets or
straps at the corners for shelter making. The sil-nylon units are very light, more
expensive and hard to repair, so if you can carry an extra pound, avoid them. I chose
the poncho over a tarp for the obvious fact that a poncho can be worn effectively for
protection from weather while on the move while still being able to string it up for a

What’s in the container

Here’s where the fun begins. Before we detail the contents, remember most of us have
our pockets filled up and this will embellish our ability to make it home or to whatever
our destination may be and we are trying to make a kit that most people can afford to
throw in a pack and forget about it.

  • A knife – schwing! I went for a Cold Steel Pocket Bushman. $23 bucks during their Xmas sale; I bought more than one. Now before you balk, have you had one in your hand? I have more knives than I know and this is the one that brings affordable to the table and throttles it. This knife is sharp, strong, and plays like a fixed blade for less than $30. Let that soak in. It is a real deal, you need one or a dozen; think stocking stuffers. Mine is wrapped in a cotton bandana for silence and more cotton, plus a functioning head wrap.
  • A hank of 550 paracord, 20’.
  • A pot hanger, makes the steel bottle more functional and gives you a way to pull it off the fire.
  • A compass. Now I went with a pinned ball unit, because it fit in the bottle. A Suunto button compass is a good option too.
  • Some duct tape, I have about 10’ of 200mph tape. Yea that is what it is called, it will
    pull the skin off of you. Gorilla tape rocks too.
  • I opted for some light sticks, tough call. Batteries were my achilles heel on this one, I
    almost always have a flashlight or headlamp on me.
  • A repair kit. Safety pins, sail needle that is big enough to repair anything. Regular
    needles and thread, buttons, and I put a magnet in there to keep the steel from
    banging around. This is a good place to wrap some additional tapes. There is a little
    room left for other small items.
  • A firekit. Now this is a fun thing to assemble and maybe as essential as anything. Bic
    lighter, firesteel ⅜ x 3”, fatwood, wetfire cube, some homemade tinder (wax coated
    jute twine), shredded inner tube, storm matches, and TinderQuik.

Now there is a little space left in the bottle. It could hold some more matches, another bandana, another lighter or two. Point is maybe I could/should put a small flashlight in there, some fishing items, or signalling stuff. It is a work in progress, but is ready to go
as is.

Also See: Best Fluoride Water Filter

So the weight of this kit is: Poncho and stuff 1lb 10oz, and the bottle stuffed came in at 1lb 12oz for a total of 3lb 6oz. Now, weight was not an issue for this assembly; I was going for ease of carry in a pack or any bag and affordability. The weaknesses of this kit are lighting – I prefer headlamps – and no handgun. Easily fixed, but originally this set up was to be carried in an environment that guns were/are forbidden. There it is; tell me
what you think!


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7 comments… add one
  • Kevin November 8, 2018, 6:47 pm

    Nice kit! I agree that the biggest weakness here is the lack of lighting, but as you noted I always have a headlamp when spending extended time in the bush.

  • Mechanic November 9, 2018, 7:52 pm

    Good kit. Carry one very similiar. I like the waterproof properties the stainless water bottle provides. I carry one on my kayak in my cargo pocket. Had an experience of dumping my boat and all my gear and capsized boat was lost for the bulk of the day. Fellow kayakers down river recovered for me thankfully.
    Found my self with nothing but the wet clothing on my back. Had everything I could have needed, inside the boat, capsized, and down river…..
    The water bottle kit (in my cargo pocket) provides me essentials should I ever lose all my gear again. I found fishing gear, 2 emergency blankets and some 10 common nails a good addition to the items you mention

    • Pineslayer November 9, 2018, 9:10 pm

      Thanks guys. I’m going to put together another one so keep the ideas coming. As I mentioned, as did you, fishing/snare kit is going in the next one. There is room for some tea candles also, but I’m leaning towards a flashlight and hope I can remember to keep the batts fresh. I’ll store them separately so they don’t ruin the ‘torch’. I have been toying with the idea of nails wrapped in some baling wire. Saw it initially on Youtube ‘Survival Russia’ . It sure would be easy to add some more stuff wrapped around the bottle, but then we get off into the weeds and defeat the purpose of a smallish survival kit. Long live the struggle.

  • Hawkeyes November 11, 2018, 1:56 pm

    Things to ponder:
    – Cut scrap denim into 1/4 to 3/8 inch wide by 3 inches long. Dip 3/4 of the strip into paraffin. Twice. To use, ‘fuzz’ the non-waxed end with knife, use firesteel or whatever to ignite. Will generally burn for 15 minutes. Wrap in paper towel to store. Weight: negligible.
    -Wrap poncho with the 550 cord. Helps to eliminate poncho bag from hanging up on things, and makes for more room in bottle.
    -Add wine cork. Wrap fishing line on cork, put hooks into cork along with needles. Cut cork in half, use as float when fishing. Store in pill bottle. Will have room for other things.
    -Keep magnet away from compass.
    -“Light sticks” only work once. Go for flashlight. Vacuum seal extra batteries with food saver.
    -Opt: Wrap bottle in 550 cord. Makes for sound deadening and extra cord.

  • Roger Jensen November 11, 2018, 9:21 pm

    Since you’re planning on putting this kit in a backpack, isn’t the backpack part of the kit? I like using shoulder bag(s) so the kit can be complete, and in addition to my EDC! Also, since you’re using the water bottle as a container to carry most of the rest of the kit this means that you don’t have any water with you. In dry climates especially this is putting you behind the eight ball to start with. A compass has little use without a local map. My compact fire kit consists of 3 disposable lighters (each with a twist tie blocking the gas lever from being accidentally being pressed) wrapped in Saran wrap for waterproofing, and 5 tea candles in a pill bottle (3 1/2″ x 2″), with 1/2 cotton balls partially melted into them for sure-fire fire starters (even if the small kindling is wet), and a tea candle lantern that carries 3 more tea candles. I use a 2-quart S/S tea kettle with a 12oz S/S round cup instead of a S/S bottle because it boils faster, is more stable on a fire, & keeps ash and dirt out of my boiling water; (2) 1-gallon zip-lock bags fit easily inside for extra potable water on hand. I’m sticking with my USMC-issued heavy poncho, had it for almost 40 years, and its never let me down, better water-proofing than the newer versions, and a old army-style wool blanket wrapped inside it. I have one of the Cold Steel Pocket Bushman, good knife but it’s very hard to open or close with one hand, I prefer my Ontario locking folding knife that hardly left my side for nearly 30 years, an oldie and a goodie! And yes both 550 and gorilla tape rock big time! Yes, my kit is bigger and heavier than yours but IMHO much more useful! GLAHP!

    • Pineslayer November 11, 2018, 9:54 pm

      Well Roger obviously you missed the point. This is not a B.O.B. or G.H.B. Compact being the motivation for this piece and functional. Yes the Pocket Bushman is hard to open with one hand, you got me there, but it is much more robust than my Ontario RAT 1. Don’t diss the compass, this system is in state use. I can head in any cardinal directional at night and get home around any obstacle, plus it is just cute as heck. The SS container is for housing the gear, which will get emptied when needed to boil water. I would put this set up against most others for weight and size. I do believe that a flashlight would make it darn near perfect and some MSR AquaTabs. Thanks for forcing me to think about it.


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