I have read several books about survival and outdoor field craft skills. Many of these books suggest building a survival kit out of an Altoids tin or something similar. These kits include very basic materials to allow someone to survive until help can be found. Many retailers sell pre-made kits and there are plenty of How-tos on the internet.

Does anyone have a first hand accounts, links to news articles, or maybe a few books describing how someone used one of these kits to get rescued in a survival situation?

  • An interesting question. I assume you mean non-contrived, ie not a training run? Aug 28, 2012 at 9:02
  • Yeah. I'm looking for real life or death situations. @RoryAlsop has the right idea. Aug 28, 2012 at 21:38

3 Answers 3


I have heard of a wide range of stories where people were saved using some string, a piece of flint etc. (A related example from earlier this month is reported in the Hamilton Advertiser where a boy used the laces from his trousers to save a dog.)

and if they had had a survival kit they would have used that, but the problem is that most people do not carry a survival kit. The only people who regularly do tend to be military, and their kits do get used - records are available on 2nd World War aircrew who had to bail out over enemy lands, or more recently Andy McNab described using some of his emergency kit in the middle east in Bravo Two-Zero.

Some paracord was even used by astronauts during STS-82, the second Space Shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope!

More anecdotally, my father once had to use paracord to tie Prusik knots to get up out of a crevasse (not sure whether it was Antarctica or Greenland) - not a full emergency, as the rest of the team had possible alternatives, but a good practical use, nonetheless.

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    I was hoping for civilian stories but I figured the reason they are not more common is because most people don't carry survival tins day-to-day. The Bravo Two-Zero looks interesting. I guess at the end of the day civilian vs. military doesn't really matter in a survival situation. Aug 28, 2012 at 21:44
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    Also I think things will tend to follow into the situation of Rory' dad, where it was not a full emergency because there were options. Having a survival kit doesn't just indicate that you have a kit. It also likely indicates that you are prepared and thought things out -- which means you are less likely to need the kit. A prepared experienced outdoorsman is much less likely to put themselves into the situation where the kit is needed. Aug 29, 2012 at 13:50
  • @RussellSteen Exactly. I hike and the only experienced people I am aware of getting in trouble needed a medical evacuation, not a survival kit. I have seen multiple people in iffy situations (one of which would likely have been serious if I hadn't gotten them to turn back) but they were always novices who weren't prepared for what they were getting into. Oct 12, 2020 at 20:59

I carry a tailored pocket kit with me wherever I go, simply due to how easy it is to throw into a pocket or backpack. May as well carry one if you have the space, right? Note that I said tailored. It's not a commercial tin and it's been constructed to meet conditions in South-East Queensland. As such, it carries items I know will be practical in this region. I've had cause to use my folding knife, ferro rod and tube of super-glue for all kinds of purposes, but only once in something close to a life-or-death situation. I'd torn a deep gash in my calf after getting caught on a barbed wire fence. Since my kit contains a dozen water purification tablets, which double as prophylactics when dissolved into a cup of water, I was able to get a fire going, boil the billy (context: this was during a fencing repair run on the farm, so I had the ute and what amounts to a full camping kit at hand) and was able to mix up an antiseptic solution. After cleaning the wound to the best of my ability, I glued the gash back together. Didn't have time for stitches, so super-glue it was. It held up long enough to get into town and drop by the clinic, and I avoided infection, so the puri-tabs must have done some good.

Moral of the story: Carry a kit with you, but only carry what is practical for your expected conditions. For me that means not wasting space with fishing tackle and cold-weather gear. Still keep a space blanket in there with all the necessities for a rough and ready shelter, but everything i did to patch myself up could have been just as easily achieved with local bush ingredients (melaleuca leaves, acacia sap and palm leaves for bandaging).

It's always worthwhile to carry a basic kit tailored to your environment, but commercial tins try to be all-in-one and thus are practically useless without adequate practice and foreknowledge of the conditions.


I have carried an Altoid tin survival kit for years, but have never had occasion to use it in a life-and-death situation. I have used the flashlight, knife, duct tape, and ferro rod, but always in non-threatening situations.

  • Hehe, you sound like you are sorry that you have never badly fucked up.
    – Vorac
    Sep 23, 2020 at 14:34

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