The Do-it-yourself Coffee Can Survival Kit

This is a compact kit that can be carried in the car, on the boat, or in a pack for hunting, hiking, exploring, etc.  Most of the contents will fit in a one-pound coffee can which doubles as a pot for melting snow and device with which to dig an emergency snow shelter. (However, if you can carry it, include a small shovel.  It is far, far better than trying to use a coffee can.)  You should be aware that if this kit is carried while on hiking or hunting trips, you still need to carry the other Ten Essentials not included below.

Keep three points in mind when putting together a survival kit.  First, make it small enough that you'll actually carry it and not leave it home.  Second, use the list as a guide and customize it to your needs.  For instance, if you are allergic to insect bites, bring the appropriate medicine, or carry appropriate wrap if you have knee problems.

Thirdly, bring enough to enable you to spend at least one night out.  It is usually the first 6 hours that determine whether you'll be able to survive an emergency.  If you can make it through the first night, then your chances are good that you can make it a few more nights if necessary.

Thanks to Allan Priddy who helps teach the Wilderness Survival class for putting this list together.

General Items

Braided nylon rope (25 feet)
Matches (2 boxes)
Fire Starter
Poncho (bright orange to attract attention)
Toilet paper
Candle (wrapped in aluminum foil)
Paper and pencil
Fishing line, hooks, split shot leads
Money (2 nickels, 2 dimes, 2 quarters, $20 bill:  helpful for making phone call or paying for gas if broken down along highway)
Garbage Bags (2 large size bags)
Bright orange surveyor's tape

Repair Kit

Sewing kit
Dental floss (It's strong and useful as thread for sewing, or a fishing line or for lashing branches for improvised shelters.)
Safety pins
Wire (bailing wire)

First Aid Kit (Also see Lightweight First Aid Kit)

Sterile pads (2 x 2 and 4 x 4)
Sterile Gauze
First Aid Tape


Honey Packages (available in small foil packages available at convenience stores)
Instant Soup or tea (a couple packages)


Folding saw
Compass (learn how to use)
Hard Candy

Carrying container

Coffee Can (1 lb size) or nylon stuff bag

All contents except the plastic bags and the optional items will fit in a 1 lb coffee can.  (Or you can flat "Spam" cans or oval-shaped containers available at outdoor stores.)  The plastic bags can be affixed to the outside of the can with a rubber band.  To keep things from rattling in the can, wad up some wax paper and stuff it around the items.  The wax paper stays dry and also doubles as a fire starter.  To save weight the contents can be placed in a stuff bag and a metal cup can be used instead of the coffee can.


2/13/98.  Compiled by Allan Priddy

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