The Do-it-yourself Coffee Can Survival Kit / Packing a Backpack


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.

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.

This survival kit can be used for almost all environments. With this you will be able to survive a long time in the wilderness.


  1. First find a backpack or fanny pack.
  3. Carefully pack the following basic items:
    • Reliable compass
    • 30 ft coil of parachute cord
    • 2 waterproof match holders with strike ANYWHERE matches
    • “Trail” or “Backpacker” first aid kit
    • Rain poncho
    • Large Plastic Bag
    • Signal mirror
    • Loud whistle
    • Flint and Steel Kit with attached Magnesium block
    • Reliable, sharp folding pocket knife
    • A two-person or 3 single-person Mylar emergency blankets (space blankets)
    • Water bottle
    • Water purification tablets
    • Tinder kit of fine wood shavings, dryer lint, or fuel soaked tinder
  4. Pack additional items as you see fit. Here are some suggestions:
    • Glowstick
    • Candle
    • A small pot
    • Tin foil
    • A bandanna
    • A small fishing kit. In the fishing kit you should have 3-5 small hooks, 5 split shot weights and 20ft of line.
    • Small backpacking stove and can of fuel
    • Wire
    • Duct tape
    • Bug Spray
    • Sunscreen
    • Lip Balm
  5. Food items to include:
    • Protein Bars
    • Tea – many herbal teas have useful effects in a survival situation
    • Gum


  • ALWAYS take your survival pack with you, even if you are going on “just a short hike up the canyon”. Many people have run into trouble on short trips.
  • If you are buying a backpack also, it is advisable to buy a pack with a detachable day pack (usually a fanny pack), and make this your survival pack. Then when you leave camp for any reason you can leave your big pack behind and just take the small survival pack.
  • When deciding what to pack, try to make the survival pack complement what you usually put in your big backpack. i.e. if you have bug spray in your survival pack then you don’t need it in your big pack.
  • To save pack space or to carry more rope, replace your boot laces with para-cord.


  • If you don’t know how to use the stuff in your kit, it won’t do you ANY good; so practice-practice-practice!
Blog Entry

Foods for BackPack

Do carry at least 2 quarts of water.Do not discard any food in natural areas–including fruit peels. Food:
Pack all food in one self-contained bag with some sort of strap that will make hanging it easy.
Pack all food in resealable plastic bags. Take food out of its shelf packaging before leaving home.
Use a cook stove for preparing hot food or drink- do not expect to cook over an open fire.
Carry out all uneaten food.

Easy food suggestions:
Breakfast bars
Granola bars
Tea/Coffee/Hot Chocolate
Box Juice Drinks

Crackers and cheese
Peanut butter and Jelly
Pita bread
Trail mix
Granola bars
Box juice drinks
Candy -chocolate

Instant soup
Minute Rice
Stove-top stuffing
Canned chicken
Raman Noodles
Soup mixtures in cups
Canned stews

Keep it simple–food should be light and packable. Take out of store bought containers at home. Use Ziplock Freezer bags. Remember that there is limited good water for clean-up and you probably don’t want to spend the whole trip cooking and cleaning up. Stay hydrated and do eat for energy during the day and warmth at night.


How to Pack a Backpack

Below are the top ten tips to help you learn how to pack a backpack the right way. Take my word for it, packing correctly can make all the difference in the world.

  1. Whether you have a Down Sleeping Bag or a Synthetic Sleeping Bag, it should go into a stuff sack lined with a garbage bag (To keep it dry) or a waterproof stuff sack. It should then go into the bottom of your backpack since it is one of the last items you will need during the day.
  2. Heavy and dense items, such as food, should be kept in the middle of the pack and as close to your back as possible. This helps maintain good balance.
  3. Items that you may need in a hurry should be at the top of your pack. For example, first aid kits and rain gear should always be handy.
  4. Other items that will be frequently used should also go near the top of your pack. For example: map, compass, snacks, sunscreen, a warm layer, camera, iodine tablets, etc.
  5. Keep your food above the fuel bottles in case there is a leak. (Trust me, you don’t want to eat fuel-soaked food)
  6. Break down larger items into smaller parts. For example, pack the tent body, the fly, and the poles all separately rather than in one large sack. This will let you use up more of the “dead” space in your pack, which leads us to the next tip.
  7. Stuff the tent body and tent fly into the empty spaces that are left in between other items in your pack. The best way to do this is to simply start with one corner of the fly or tent and start cramming it into the bottom of the pack where there is a lot of empty space.
  8. Leave no dead space. Fill containers such as cook pots, bowls, and mugs with food or spare clothing. For protection and to save room it is a good idea to pack your stove into your cook pot if it will fit.
  9. For internal packs, try to keep everything inside the pack. You will have a more balanced pack. Things are less likely to come up missing, and it just looks better.
  10. Tighten your pack’s compression straps to make the load more balanced and compact.

Just follow the tips above to learn how to pack a backpack the right way, and your next camping or backpacking trip will go a lot smoother.


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