Altoids tins have been repurposed for some time now as super-small and surprisingly durable containers for all sorts of things, from survival kits to stashing odds and ends.
They also make a wonderful, low-profile container for EDC gear that might come in handy.
It doesn’t have to be survival supplies, necessarily, but anything that will help you overcome those little challenges and hurdles that invariably seem to pop up in life.
Below is a list of 27 of my favorite EDC items for the purpose. Keep reading, and I’ll tell you all about them…
1. Tiny Knife
There is no proper out there worth the title it doesn’t understand the importance of having a good night at all times.
And I’m not even saying you need some huge survival knife, but you do need a good blade. An inconspicuous Altoids tin is a great place to stash a backup.
There are lots of good makes on the market these days too, from Spyderco, Benchmade, Gerber, CRKT and others. If you lose your primary this can save the day.
2. Tiny Multitool
In the same vein as a good knife, a dependable multi-tool is it worth its weight in gold whether you’re surviving in the urban or suburban jungle.
And though most multi-tools today are pretty large and chunky, several are ultra-compact and still surprisingly useful.
I keep a Gerber Dime in mine, but Leatherman and Microtech also make viable options.
3. Needle and Thread
You might not need to stitch up a wound with this, but perhaps you just need to reattach a blown button so you don’t look like a slob at the office.
If you have the skills, a needle and a few types of thread and perhaps a thimble are a perfect hedge against losing or loosening a button, or performing any other necessary quick repairs to clothing or gear.
Make sure you do something to protect the tips of your needles so they don’t get bent up.
4. Spare Buttons
This goes with the needle and thread above. You know those spare buttons that typically come with nicer grades of clothing you?
This is the perfect place to stash them if you’re going to carry the needle and thread, and if you know how to sew.
Particularly if you wear a uniform or very similar garments to work every day, you won’t need to carry many to cover all of your bases.
5. Super Glue Vial
Tiny little pipettes of super glue come in handy for all sorts of things. From quick, improvised repairs or even improvisations of problem-solving tools, super glue can get it done.
It also serves double duty as a truly effective method of wound closure for small cuts and scrapes. Do make sure you keep these tightly capped and unopened so they don’t leak.
6. Duct Tape Roll
The one thing that can solve most problems. Duct tape is so useful you should always have some on you, but a full-size roll is just too much when you’re going about your day.
Take a tiny dowel rod, empty pen barrel or some other similarly small item and cut it down to size before wrapping a little bit of duct tape around it.
Make sure it can still fit in your tin and the lid close. Ultimately, you can create a fold of it to be unfolded and used as necessary but it’s more difficult to access and use.
You ever had an annoying little cut that just won’t stop leaking?
Sure, you might play He-Man out in the woods and just let it flow, but in the middle of a civilized situation it can be embarrassing and potentially ruin your clothes or upholstery.
A few spare Band-Aids of various sizes will prevent this embarrassing mishap. Remember to leave them in their sterile paper packaging.
8. Single-Dose Meds
It might be a headache, upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, heartburn, allergies or something else.
You don’t have to be a mortal danger to feel miserable, and having a small selection of the most needed and useful over-the-counter medicines close at hand might bring you, or someone else you care about, sweet relief.
As always, keep it on your medications and rotate them as necessary. Remember they will go bad quicker if you keep them in a car.
9. Spare Key
If you’ve ever lost your home or office key you know what a day-wrecking disaster that can be out of all proportion with the cost and importance of the item in question.
Keep a spare key or two inside your Altoids EDC kit and that particular issue will be a thing of the past.
10. Post-It Notes
Sometimes you just need to leave a note for someone else, for maybe even yourself! To do this and most situations, post-it notes are perfect and ultra-convenient.
No explanation needed, you know how to use these.
11. Tiny Notebook
For keeping a record of truly important stuff, just taking notes or even scribbling down your own musings and great ideas before they disappear into the ether, a tiny paper notebook, always kept close at hand, is ideal.
Sure, you can use your phone, I guess, but where’s the fun in that?
12. Golf Pencil
You need a pencil to write with, and golf pencils are perfect for fitting into your tin. Sharpen them with your knife.
Alternately, you can cut down a full-size pencil or include a small pen. Your choice.
13. Important Phone Numbers
This is a biggie for me. Write down the most important phone numbers you need, and not just for people you know and care about.
Local police emergency and non-emergency lines, fire department, animal control and things like that can help you summon help quicker than you would otherwise if you have a busted device or just really messy hands.
14. Pocket Game Kit
Sometimes you’ll have occasion to make a friend while you wait, and in that instance there is hardly anything more interesting than playing a simple game.
You can print out or create your own game board for checkers or chess using a pencil, and add some tiny pieces scavenged from another game kit and you are in business.
I know lots of guys that love to keep an ultra-compact fishing kit in their vehicle, and an Altoids tin is their tackle box.
A few weights, lures, hooks, bobbers and a small coil of line married with a collapsible rod or a sturdy stick and you can do a little bit of fishing pretty much anywhere you happen to be.
We are moving towards an increasingly cashless society, sadly, and whether you pull out your credit card on the regular or stick with good old-fashioned paper money, it pays to have a small backup stash in case of loss, or just running a little bit short.
A couple of twenties or a 50 stuck inside your Altoids tin might get you a favor or get you out of a tight spot. Just remember to keep it secret and safe so no one finds it.
If you’ve got the skills, lockpicks can get you past barriers to entry in all sorts of places.
Obviously I’m not condoning anything you would do that is illegal, and you shouldn’t even be in possession of lockpicks if they are illegal where you live.
But an Altoids tin is the perfect place to keep a tension wrench or two and a variety of your favorite picks.
If they are steel, consider using a thin sheet of magnetic liner to keep them from rattling around. Otherwise, wrap them in a small cloth or use a holder.
Even if you aren’t out on the trailer in the middle of a survival situation, a bad blister in a tender spot will make you absolutely miserable and slow you down.
A little patch of moleskin can alleviate the pain in irritation, and keep the blister from getting worse.
I’ve suffered from too many of these in my lifetime, and this is one item that is always in my EDC kit, no exceptions!
A firefly is a tiny flashlight, one that typically uses button batteries. Sometimes used as a zipper pull or as a backup to a larger and more capable EDC light.
Lots and lots of companies make these, and no matter which brand you prefer or how much you care to spend on one, any of them are a good choice for a kit like this.
Just make sure that if they have a protruding lens that you take care to secure the light or protect it in some way, and also protect it from inadvertent activation.
You don’t want dead batteries when you pull it out!
20. Razor Blade
A razor blade, all by itself, is just about the most compact kind of knife you can possibly keep in a kit like this.
These are useful for all sorts of little projects in a pinch, and potentially even self-defense in a really desperate situation.
I like to use those extra rigid glass scraper-type blades. They hold an edge better and they’re much easier to hold safely without modification.
21. Zip Ties
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve needed a zip tie and didn’t have one handy. This never happens to me anymore because I keep a small selection in my Altoids kit.
The great thing about zip ties is you can actually carry a surprisingly substantial and lengthy one in a kit like this because they’re flexible.
These come in really handy for car repair and improvised solutions to all sorts of obstacles.
You know it, you love it, and you always need more of it. Paracord is great because it is so super strong while being very small and light overall.
A small hank or coil of paracord will easily fit inside your Altoids tin and be ready to put to use for all sorts of tasks.
I actually use mine all the time, and not in the way you think: I pull it out to practice tying knots when I’m sitting in traffic or stuck waiting anywhere else.
23. Tiny Pry Bar
If there is one EDC tool that has come out in the past 10 years or so that I really get a lot of use out of, surprisingly enough, it is those tiny compact pry bars.
Made of good steel, they can generate a shocking amount of leverage and are perfect for popping out small nails, paper clips and other fasteners, opening bottles and countless other tasks that you might not want to commit your knife to for fear of damage.
Even the beefier ones are small, flat and usually perfectly-sized for an Altoids tin.
24. Flash Drive
Whether you want to carry backup documents with you, or just have a spare flash drive handy in case you need it at the office or anywhere else, your Altoids kit is the ideal place for one of these little things.
I don’t know why, it seems like they get lost if you keep them anywhere else.
Remember to encrypt your files if you are keeping anything sensitive on there as a hedge against loss, and take care to protect the connectors if you have other gear inside also.
25. Spare Charger Cord
If you have a cell phone, you’ve experienced the pain and aggravation of not having a charging cable when you really need one. I like to keep those little bitty, short ones that usually come with your phone or with other rechargeable devices in the kit.
They aren’t as convenient because they aren’t as long or flexible, but they do the job and don’t take up much room.
Sometimes you just need a light. Lighting a cigarette, lighting a pipe, lining a candle or holding up your lighter during that sick ballad at the concert.
Whatever the case, your tin is the perfect home for a mini Bic or other similar lighter.
27. Sting/Bite Relief Pads
Where I live, we’ve got the deal with every kind of stinging insect and other critter that God created: Fire ants, wasps, hornets, horse flies, no-see-ums and a lot more.
No matter how hard you try, it’s only a matter of time before they get you.
Instead of suffering through the blistering pain and maddening itch, you can just whip out a sting or bite relief pad and press it to the scene of the crime.
At least then you can go back to focusing on what you were doing.
Tom Marlowe practically grew up with a gun in his hand, and has held all kinds of jobs in the gun industry: range safety, sales, instruction and consulting, Tom has the experience to help civilian shooters figure out what will work best for them.