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You can modernize the SAS survival tin for the twenty-first century. The SAS survival tin has been around since the 1970s. John “Lofty” Wiseman, who is a retired SAS Sergeant Major, popularized the use of the survival tin in his book, SAS Survival Handbook (1986). The book is currently in its third edition. Additionally, The survival and prepping worlds have made use of Wiseman’s suggestions for the construction of a survival kit.

Consequently, there are many commercial and private versions of this survival item currently available. The primary purpose of the survival tin is to enable survival in an emergency. As useful as Wiseman’s survival kit is to wilderness survival, its contents reflect the technology and understanding of survival from the 1970s. How can this kit be upgraded to address 21st-century concerns?

The Container

A typical survival-type tin utilizes a simple metal box that measures around two inches in width by three inches in length and three-quarters of an inch in depth. It is sometimes called an Altoids® tin. The current SAS Survival Tin being used is 3.5 x 4.625 x 1.25 inches. Therefore, it is larger than the commercial Altoids tin. Moreover, there are arguments about the practicality of using such a container for emergency survival purposes. These arguments reflect the trouble of taking a military item and adapting it for non-military uses.

The Purpose of the Container

The tin box has purposes beyond being a container of smaller items. For example, the use of such a small box allows for making charred cloth for fire-making. Similar boxes on the market have a rubber or foam seal under the lid to make them watertight or waterproof. These features defeat the purpose of the box. The survival tin box has more than one purpose or function. A sealed version of the tin can still be placed in a fire to make charred cloth, but the seals will melt and become useless to keep out water.

Secondary Uses of the Container

Another purpose of the tin is for water collection. A soldier escaping and evading the enemy is always on the move. The tin can be used to quickly gather water from a stream or during a rainstorm for quick consumption. The survival tin also can be employed as a simple stove to purify water or cook a simple meal of edible plants, insects, or small fish. Wiseman suggests wrapping duct tape around the edges to help make the tin watertight until it needs to be used. Unfortunately, the contents become vulnerable to moisture once the tape is removed

Assessment of the Container

The survival tin should not be disregarded as a legitimate container for a survival kit. Its small and compact size makes it ideal for backpacks, cargo pockets on pants, glove compartments in vehicles, toolboxes, or tackle boxes. However, there are some things that you can do to keep the contents dry. The first is using a small Ziploc-type bag. The second is vacuum sealing the contents. A third option would be to put a Ranger band around the edges instead of the duct tape.

The Contents

The contents that Wiseman recommends for his survival tin are fifteen items. However, these items can be sorted into eight categories of consideration: fire making, land navigation, illumination, food procurement, water procurement, wood processing, first-aid, and equipment repair. Furthermore, the size of the container dictates what kinds of items to place into it.

1. Fire Making

The first category of consideration in a survival tin is that of fire-making. How will you make a fire? Wiseman suggests a “matches” and a “flint steel.” Flint steel is a ferrocerium rod. The author suggests the storage of simple wood matches dipped in wax with the stems trimmed. The flint-and-striker that is pictured in the diagram is still available on the market. However, the idea is to have a mini-Ferro rod in the kit. What would be an upgrade to these fire-making items?

One of the most popular replacements for the matches and ferro rod is the miniature Bic® lighter. You can find many survival tins being discussed on YouTube® that have the miniature Bic® lighter in them. However, in sticking with the military nature of Wiseman’s tin, a simple mini-ferro rod with a striker would be sufficient. An example of such an item would be the Bayite® mini-ferro rod. The NATO Survival Matches by ProForce® are a significant upgrade to the simple wooden matches.

2. Lighting or Illumination

Lighting or illumination is a genuine concern in a survival situation. Wiseman suggests a tea candle and a “Beta Light.” Does anyone know what a beta-light is? A beta light is a self-illuminating light using tritium. These are not an item on the market in the United States. A U.S. equivalent version of this U.K. item would be the snap lights or chemlights produced by Cyalume®. Therefore, an option to consider is the micro-flashlight or a mini chemlight by Cyalume®.

Tea candles have been a suggestion for survival kits for many years. There have been improvements to the tea candle. One such improved tea candle is made with bee’s wax. An example of bee’s wax tea candle is those sold by Best Glide-Aviation Survival Equipment. Exotac® also offers a version of the tea candle, the candleTIN™ Nano. These can be a consideration for an upgrade to the SAS Survival Tin.

3. Food Procurement

Food is an essential part of survival. A person’s ability to procure and process food in an emergency survival situation can determine the difference between life or death. The SAS Survival Handbook suggests placing snare wire and some fishing items in the survival tin. These items continue to be a recommendation for survival kits. However, your food procurement items must be tailored to your environment. For example, a fishing kit may not be necessary for a metroplex environment. Nevertheless, an excellent upgrade to the fishing items in the SAS survival tin would be Readyman’s® Enhanced Wilderness Survival Card or the Fisherman’s Survival Card. You can also read my article on making an emergency fishing kit and place that in the tin.

4. Land Navigation

Land navigation is an important skill to know when you are outdoors hunting, fishing, or backpacking. Interestingly, land navigation also is essential for an urban environment. I recently had an experience with OnStar®, where I came within 300 yards of accidentally crossing into Mexico at night. It turned out that the operator put the wrong destination into the directions as it led me through the city where I live.
The SAS Survival Tin calls for a button compass. A button compass is still a good option if you have no compass at all. However, some excellent wrist compasses would make a significant improvement over the button compass. The Suunto Clipper wrist compass is an example of such a compass.

5. Wood Processing

The early survival kits contained a wire saw. The wire saw, or flexible saw is part of the SAS Survival Tin recommendations. However, the quality of the commercial saws tended to be substandard and often failed when employed in the field. BCB USA/UK still sells a wire saw that is constructed using the military standards and specifications for the U.S. Government. A secondary option for a saw would be a small hacksaw blade cut to 1-2 inches in length.

6. Equipment Repair

Equipment and clothing will always need repair. Many combinations of needles and thread will do the task of mending clothing or tears in a pouch or backpack. However, the best dual-use thread is the Kevlar nylon thread. It is useful for repairing damages or as a fishing line. Therefore, I recommend taking a plastic floss sewing bobbin and wrapping as much Kevlar nylon thread on as is practical for both fishing and equipment repairs.

7. First Aid

Medical treatment always will be a concern in a survival situation. Wiseman recommends several medical items to make up a small emergency first-aid kit. Many of the questions are still available on the market. Therefore, use your best judgment about what to put in your kit. The purpose of a survival tin is as an instrument of last-resort to enable survival in an emergency. As such, it will not hold everything that you may desire for your first-aid items.

8. Water Procurement

One of the more interesting pieces of the SAS Survival Tin is the inclusion of a non-lubricated condom to be used as a water-carrying device. The kits sold by BCB in Britain still include a condom. Yet, condoms can fail in the time of need. A more sure replacement for the condom would be the NASCO Survival 1 liter Water Bag. They are thin enough that two could be included in the kit.

Additionally, Wiseman calls for water treatment tablets. Water purification tablets used to come in bulky packaging, forcing them to be placed in a smaller container. However, water purification tablets now come in aluminum foil packaging in sets of ten tablets each. The new packaging makes it easier to put water purification tablets in a survival tin.

Final Thought

John “Lofty” Wiseman gives a solid starting point for thinking about resourcing your survival. One’s preferred content for a survival tin may vary. Yet, the concept of ensuring that you address the basic needs of survival will not change for any type of emergency survival kit. The answering of the questions about food, fire, water, shelter, and first-aid will characterize any survival kit configuration. The SAS Survival Tin is a great place to start thinking through these concerns. The recommended upgrade to the items in Wiseman’s kit will ensure that you have a kit that will address 21st-century survival in the outdoors or the city

There are 5 quality fire starter options to consider for your fire kit. The spring and summer outdoor season is upon us. As we plan to go and enjoy the outdoors, having a good fire kit is an essential part of your packing list. Fire is one of the core elements of survival along with food, shelter, and water. Thus, having a reliable, quality fire starter is an essential part of an effective fire kit to carry on your next adventure. These five fire starters are a great items as your build or improve your fire kit.

1. Bic® Lighter

Most outdoor, survival, and preparedness experts agree that a Bic® lighter is quality fire starter. It is an excellent addition to any level of emergency survival kit. The Bic® lighter is a butane fuel lighter and will work well under most conditions. It produces a flame pretty consistently. Therefore, in an emergency situation, you can not go wrong having a Bic lighter as part of your fire kit. Moreover, carrying one of these lighters in your Urban-Suburban EDC bag is a must.

There are a couple of limitations with the Bic lighters. First, they contain a limited quantity of butane fuel. The next limitation with this lighter is that the thumb-depressed valve can be pushed open. This can cause the butane vapors to escape. Finally, a third limitation of these lighters is that the butane fuel can leak out over time. However, most of these limitations can be overcome by simple hacks or with an Exotac® FireSLEEVE™.

2. Ferro Rod and Striker

The ferro rod and striker another quality fire starter. Ferro rods are a standard item in most bushcraft fire making kits. The ferro (short for ferrocerium) is a metal rod of iron alloy. Ferrum is the Latin word for iron from which the ferrocerium rod gets its name. The ferrocerium rod is a combination of iron (ferrum) and cerium. Cerium is another natural element on the Periodic Table of Elements. Carl Auer von Welsbach discovered the fire making aspects of them when these two metals are combined into the alloy compound, ferrocerium.

Ferro rods come in many lengths, widths and configurations, such as having a wood or plastic handle on one end. The Sigma 3 Survival Store offers one of the best ferro rods and strikers on the market. The ferro rod is 6 inches long and a ½ inch in diameter. These dimensions ensure that the rod will last in the field. Moreover, it will give you plenty of fire making capability long after the Bic® lighter has run out of fuel.
The only limitation with the ferro rod and striker is it does not produce a flame within itself like the Bic® lighter. To gain a flame with this fire making instrument, you will have to possess or obtain a combustible tinder source. For more information on tinder sources check out the article, Four Optional Tinder Sources.

 

3. Exotac® NanoSTRIKER XL™

The Exotac® NanoSTRIKER XL is another quality fire starter on the market. It is one of the most popular ferro rods being purchased by outdoorsman. It has a small diameter (.43 in.) and a modest length (4.17 in.). The striker has the dimensions of a tactical ball point pen. As a result, it fits well into an EDC kit or any level of emergency survival kit. Moreover, it is well suited to be carried into the field on a multiday outdoor activity such as a fishing, hunting, or thru-hiking. As with the ferro rod-and-striker above, you must use this in conjunction with a tinder source. Some optional tinder sources can be Birch Bark, Quick Tender, Wet Fire Cubes, Fire Stix, or some other natural or manufactured tinder.

 

4. UCO Gear® Survival Stormproof Match Kit

Another quality fire starter to consider for your fire kit is the UCO Gear® Survival Stormproof Match Kit. UCO produces the best quality stormproof matches and match products on the market. The Survival Stormproof Match Kit is perfect as a redundancy item in your fire-making kit. Furthermore, stormproof matches are part of most military survival kits. Therefore, you can not go wrong with adding this match kit to your field packing list.

The kit comes with a clear plastic waterproof container. The container measures approximately 2.25 in. long and 1 in. wide. There are 15 water and waterproof matches inside. There is cotton batting in the lid and a paper match striker on the side. Some have complained about the quality of the matches on venues like Amazon®. However, you can purchase this match kit directly from UCO Gear or the Sigma 3 Survival Store if you want to ensure the quality of the product.

5. UST® Spark Force™ Firestarter

The final consideration for a quality fire starter is the UST® Spark Force™ Firestarter. Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST)® makes two versions of this product. The Spark Force™ and the larger Strike Force™. I have owned both products and they are excellent items for your kit. You will not go wrong with either product. The Spark Force ™ is more compact. Consequently, it is more easily stored in EDC packs, your pocket, or your personal survival kit.

The Spark Force™ is 3 in. long and ¾ in. wide. It has a lanyard that keeps the striker and rod together. The casing is high impact ABS plastic. The ferro rod is around 2 inches long. The purpose of this striker is for emergency situations as a backup fire making option. It was not designed to be your main fire starting instrument. Moreover, it is small enough that children can use it when they are properly trained on it.

Some Final Thoughts

A quality fire starter is a crucial item in your survival kit or outdoor adventure loadout. Redundancy items in your fire-making kit will ensure that you can make a fire in an emergency. One of the best fire-making kits on the market is the Sigma 3 Fire Kit. You can read my review of the Sigma 3 Fire Kit if you want more information about it. However, if you choose to build or improve your own fire-making kit, the five fire-starting options listed above will greatly enhance your fire making capability in the field.

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