The Altoids Tin and its Many Uses

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest  by Patton

In another article I recently wrote for this forum, I mentioned using an Altoids mint tin used as a mini-Faraday container to place a small Mylar bag covered thumb drive to protect the data from EMP (electromagnetic pulse).

Altoids mints come in a variety of sizes depending on where you live, But lets take a look at some other uses for the standard size Altoid tin and what it can be used for.

These little gems are a great way to hold valuable items, and all one has to do to get some great ideas is to Google “Uses For Altoids Tins” and you will be surprised what you find.

I won’t elaborate on everything that you will find, such as building a mini-web server (yes, it was actually done), but rather some more simple and practical uses for them for the prepper. Depending on your skill level, there is a lot that can be done with them.

If you look at an Altoids tin, it is sturdy and can be easily sealed with wax , duct tape or even a couple of rubber bands. It is compact and doesn’t weigh a lot. It’s size is conducive to holding many small items. The most common use of an Altoids tin by preppers is making one it into a survival kit. What you decide to put into it is up to you and is, in the long run, a heckuva lot cheaper than what store-bought pocket survival kits cost.

How about using it as a small container for ammunition? A mini ammo can! How many rounds of 22LR can you fit into one? Or 9mm? BB’s? Or even a few rounds of .223? Take four or five of these filled with your favorite ammo, put a rubber band around it and then seal them into a zip-lock plastic bag for extra moisture protection and place it into a buried hidden cache, or better yet, in your pocket when concealed or open carrying rather than an extra magazine in your pocket. Kind of obvious.

A fishing kit comes to mind. You can but some balsa wood and cut it to lengths and use some Crazy Glue to make individual dividers to place small hooks, corks, weights, flies and small lengths of fishing line. Beats putting it all into your Altoids survival kit.

For those of you who “roll your own” it makes a great way to carry your fixings….whatever those may be. It even holds regular cigarettes and matches without bending or breaking them.

Use it to carry small food items like mini-Tabasco bottles (that you get with MRE’s), tea bags, instant coffee, sugar ketchup and mustard packets, gum, matches and let’s not forget Bouillon Cubes and a bit of aluminum foil. Again, better than being placed all into one survival kit. The possibilities of what you can place in them suitable to your tastes are endless.

A pocket first-aid kit with some alcohol wipes, band-aids, small gauze pads, a length of adhesive tape re-rolled around a small piece of pencil or flat tongue depressor, a tweezers (for splinters), and some over the counter single dose packets of medications such as Tylenol, anti-diarrheals, Sudafed or other meds.

For the ladies, you can place small cosmetics items, lip balm and /or jewelry into them, for keeping up your appearance when bugging out. Or make a sewing kit out of it with those spools of thread, buttons and small scissors that can be had at any Dollar Store.

For hiding or carrying your stash of precious metals or coins, they make great containers.

The possibilities and uses of the standard size Altoids can are endless. Here are a few sample websites with some ideas and “How-To’s”:

Any kind of metal container that you find with a metal lid should always be kept. They are the best way to store anything from dry food items such as rice or pastas, ammo, and other items to protect them as long as they are kept cool and dry. Altoids cans are no exception. They are versatile little containers that will serve you well in an emergency or everyday situation. So start saving them and putting them to good use.

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Altoid cans are certainly useful (I used to use one as my EDC carry option) but I later switched to using an GSI Lexan N-case because it’s waterproof and slips easily into cargo pants. You can usually get them on Amazon for less than $10.

  2. Earth Girl says:

    Some good ideas, especially saving all metal containers with metal lids. I have one caution though: don’t buy poor quality thread for your preps or even for regular use. Thread degrades, both on the spool and in mending, and you don’t want your work to be wasted. I learned this from my mother, who said to never invest your sewing time using inferior products.

    • Earth Girl,
      A good multi-use item is dental floss. It’s small and tough and you can carry a lot in s small package. It’s strong enough to lash together small limbs when building a shelter and works extremely well for sewing thread as long as you don’t mind white.

      • charlie (NC) says:

        If you want something a bit tougher try upholstery thread.
        It comes in multiple colors and is the toughest stuff for it’s size I’ve ever seen. Wouldn’t be much for you ladies to do fine needle work but for repairs and emergencies it’s hard to beat.

      • JeffintheWest says:

        Don’t get the minty kind though! You might find yourself in a situation where minty fresh is not the answer! 🙂 Reminds me of a DI in the Army who was teaching us improvised weapons and suggested putting a bar of soap in a sock to use as a sap on someone. “However,” he admonished us, “don’t use a dirty sock if you are sneaking up on someone with a weapon! He’ll smell your sock and turn around and there you’ll be with your dirty sock, and there he’ll be with his automatic rifle….”

    • *nod* That is one reason I have quilting thread. I don’t remember how many years I’ve had the spool, but I haven’t been careful with its storage and it still stands up to bead-weaving, so it should be good for mending.

  3. The Altoid can would make a great project box to hold the 3- 9-volt batteries for a colloidal silver generator as well. If you are all interested, I can post an article with instructions to make a homemade colloidal silver generator for less than $30.

    • SaratogaPrepper says:

      Very interested!

      • OK, sent directions complete with pictures to M.D. Thanks SaratogaPrepper for providing the inspiration to actually get busy and make my generator, and thanks to Patton for the idea of a nice neat place to put my new generator. I’ll have a quart of colloidal silver soon!

        • SaratogaPrepper says:

          I get kinda stoked when I play with electricity. Occupational hazard. It’s been a month now, so I’m kinda in withdrawl.

        • MtWoman (N Texas) says:

          Michele…where do you get the C Silver? A QT???? How much IS that?? The medicinal C Silver here is expensive!

      • I think it would be a great addition to having the means to continue providing first aid treatments even after other medical supplies dwindle. Infection control will remain an issue once the antibiotic ointments, hydrogen peroxide and alcohol stores disappear.

      • Me too.

    • OOOOyah, Michele! Gofer it, please.

    • JeffintheWest says:

      I’d be very interested!

  4. SrvivlSally says:

    I really liked your last article and this one is the icing on the cake! You got my brain ticking…when everything is used up in it when in a survival situation, making mini-knives/cutters, strips for securing things, dangerous rings for defense, light reflection for rescue, ornaments for trade/barter, a place to hold a small starter fire, a seed sprouter…I better stop for now. Thinking about the tin reminds me of the days when Bandaids came in metal boxes and my folks would use them to store all kinds of things in. I am wondering what my local stores carry that is plastic and just big enough to drop the Altoid tin into for overall waterproof protection and still be the right size for a pocket or small bob. Hmmm…thanks, Patton.

    • Check the cough drop aisle. I have a plastic sucrets container back from when they stopped using metal, and I’m unaware of current packaging. The candy aisle of a drugstore is probably a better bet. Are kids still playing Yugio? I imagine card deck containers are pretty rugged. Other than that, they make waterproof cases that look a little smaller than cigarette packets.

      If you had asked ten years ago, I would have said to look at a waterproof one-use camera. I imagine those things were reclaimable rather than needing to be cut/smashed open.

    • SaratogaPrepper says:

      Metal Band-Aid boxes! That brings back memories. I used to save coins in those, mostly Mercury dimes. I’ll have to check those ancient boxes in my attic from my childhood to see if perhaps…..
      As for something toward the waterproofing the Altoid tin, if it is something you just want to store and not open til needed maybe vacuum sealing it in a small bag?

  5. Altoid cans are great, cheap, and available almost everywhere. I prefer old military decontamination boxes that are almost indestructible, waterproof, and relatively inexpensive. They are slightly larger than an altoids can and come with a web belt loop which also has a metal snap that attaches it to almost anything. I have used them for years as first aid and survival containers. They stood up to the Alaska wilderness, water, and me falling on them many times.

  6. riverrider says:

    way cool! i had one the other day n thought, it could be useful but for what? now i know.

  7. Single Dad says:

    I have a plastic took box that I use for my first aid kit, the Altoid tins work great for organizing the 6-7 different types of Band-Aids. placed on their sides I label the tins with the size of the Band-Aid and a small drawing of the type, I.E. Medium Knuckle or small standard. I also put my sutures into a tin. No muss no fuss all organized and easy to get to and organized!!!

    I say all hail the Altioid’s tin!!!

    • “…all hail the Altioid’s tin!!!…”
      LOL, love the sentiment, but not sure I’d go THAT far! 😉 <wink

  8. The small round mints plastic container ($1 with mints! at any food sales counter) with two lids one small and one large are a perfect carry for .22LR rounds in your bug out bag, or .380 or even 9mm if you prefer…as the over all lid does not come off these it is not so good for items you need to pick and choose from.

  9. Good article to get folks thinking, after all: crisis response starts with your EDC items.

    One point I’d like to make, though. Carrying extra ammo in an altoids can is ok, but not for rapid reloading of magazines. It is not a plausible replacement for a spare magazine for this reason and two others:

    First,in the case of weapon malfunction, one of the first things you do after “tap, rack, fire” fails is to replace the magazine. With no spare magazine, a simple bent mag lip or broken mag spring can take you out of the fight.

    Second, NOISE. Even if you line the interior with something, you’ll have metal cartridges rattling around in a metal container.

    Now I need to dig out my old altoids cans and rearrange my daypack. Thanks for the ideas!

    • Col. S. Gray (Ret) says:

      Great point about the NOISE elt2jv! I was just preparing to comment on that when I saw your post.

      A tried and true method of testing your NOISEsec is to don your gear…run around…jump up and down etc. Identify things that go clangy-bangy-bonk(messkit slapping against anything will give a wonderful “tingy-bonk”).

      Once you identify these problem areas, secure them BUT keep in mind when securing them to assess whether or not it is an item that may need to be accessed quickly. If so, single wraps of black electrical or medical tape work great and can be easily torn in two if the situation arises.

      Once again, great point. Metallic and manmade noises overall can carry a great distance and VERY noticeable!! So, grab that gear and go run in place..!


  10. MtWoman (N Texas) says:

    Well…I KNEW I should have saved all those Altoids tins!!!! I use about 1 a month…I would have a lot of them by now. Ah well…will start now.

    The first thing I’ll do is a sewing kit in one…really need that. Also would be a great thing for extra keys and a fire-starting kit (already mentioned?).

    I’ll for SURE be saving them now, and asking my friends to as well.

    Now if I could just find a use for those round cardboard containers that Laughing Cow cheese wedges come in!!

    • Single Dad says:

      Big wide candle molds. for the laughing cow containers.

    • Life as a hoarder can sometimes be great. I’m actually surprised that I couldn’t lay hands on a normal-sized altoids tin, but I did find my sucrets tin.

      All I can think about for the cheese containers is ways to set them on fire. Fill them with wax and lint or more cardboard, but leave a cavity for the 9v + steel wool starter or a number of matches.

      Or maybe use cheese containers for a very small disposable lunchbox.

      • SickSkilz says:

        Haha, I guess I am not the only one who sees a small container and wants to blow it up. The laughing cow containers look like a good mold for homemade Tannerite targets.

  11. Maybe it’s me, but I cannot find Altoids metal tins ANYWHERE in my local stores. They all seem to be plastic now, and it seems silly to buy ’em over the net. Anybody else have that problem?

    • Check the candy aisles, Jody. Usually on the top shelf with the rest of the spendy minty wonders.

    • My son is plant manager for the company that produces the tins and as far as I know they are still manufacturing them by the semi-load.

    • I haven’t noticed. I stopped looking at altoids when they started embossing the tins.

      Heck, I can’t remember why I bought hubby the Fisherman’s friend in paper packets…. maybe it was price and I had a good mint tin to give him, or maybe I couldn’t find that in a tin either.

      I did recently buy some organic candy in a non-embossed box… Newman’s Own. That seems silly as well unless you’re after the candy.

    • Jody, do you have access to a Costco? Mine offers Altoids by the case (of six or eight tins) in the snacks/nuts section.

  12. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    My fire kits are in mine with charcloth. The tin gives me the ability to make more charcloth once I get the first fire going.
    Good Article!

    • Matt in Oklahoma,
      That’s the biggest thing I use them for. I have one with a small nail hole in the top that I use to manufacture charcloth (generally from old denim). Some clean un-burnt ones to hold the charcloth, and another to hold the flint and striker. Add a fire piston, a strike force, some dryer lint, shredded poplar and a little fat wood, and you can pretty much start a fire anywhere, anytime, in nearly any condition.

      • SickSkilz says:

        Thx, OhioPrepper,

        I ha to google what charcloth was first, but this seems like a great idea…assuming the altoids can can last being used more than once or 2 times for this purpose.

        As for cotton balls, I tend to be able to get a fire going with a cotton ball with no problem anyway, so dont need to char them myself.

        • Matt in Oklahoma says:

          @SickSkilz couple of things on this. The can, mine has made around 23 batches of charcloth so far and still going strong. I actuallly leave mine on the grill and make it when I cook and then place the charcloth in my packs. The can I pack in is just for emergencies.
          Rather than cotten balls, this method is great when just out and about or if you were bugging because any cotton cloth even an old oil rag layin on the side of the road can be made into a fire starter.
          The charcloth is very controlable and just has a small ember so it’s easy to move to your tinder bundle without burning you hand. It also catches easily with a magnifying glass.
          Please try this stuff, it’s awesome

        • SickSkilz,
          I’ve made lots of charcloth with a single can. Usually fill it with denim (or other cotton cloth), set it on the kitchen gas burner, and light the smoke that comes out of the hole. When the smoke stops, turn off the burner and let it cool. You can now throw a spark from your flint striker or use the fire piston to get a piece glowing and you’re off and running.
          I don’t char the cotton balls. Use them either dry for tinder, or with some petroleum jelly for extra fire starting material, especially with damp wood or wet conditions.

  13. They also make a great way to make and store char material for fire starting. Just fill it with old cut up squares of cotten material such as jeans or old undies and throw it into a fire or bbq until it stops smoking. all the paint will burn off but the tin holds up very well. Been using them for that purpose for year and then just throw a fire steel in the tin with it an put it with the rest of your kit. I have one for each set of kit, hunting, b.o.b, camping, ect.

  14. Great article, many good ideas.

    If storing a thumb drive from EMP, is the assumption that data could be used in the future if the person were to travel out of the EMP area?

    • Actually, EMP doesn’t persist, so the device could be used on any computer with a USB port that still functions, regardless of the area.

      • Northof NYC says:

        …but, if an EMP were to occurr, that would, as far as I understand, render all non protected or non “hardened” electronics (in the EMP’s blast radius) totally useless. So I think the op’s question is legit. Yes, the EMP does not persist, it’s a split second occurrence, and the damage is immediate and already done.
        That’s how it was explained to me – am I wrong ?
        Just curious, thanks.

        • Patton**** says:

          Your keyword “non-protected” is the point.

          Northof NYC,

          The point is that a laptop or other electronic item(s) would be “Protected” (versus “non-protected” as you state) from EMP wave with the use of a home built Faraday cage. In the case of a thumb drive, placed into a small mylar bag which is then placed into a light cordboard lined Altoids Can. The cardboard acts as insulation to prevent contact of any items inside of it with the metal of the can, A larger example is a light cardboard lined galvanized metal garbage into which you place electronic devices (radio, laptops) that are each placed into mylar bags that are sealed with duct tape (or heat sealed).

        • Northof NYC,
          No, you are correct. My point was the statement, “if the person were to travel out of the EMP area”. You don’t have to travel anywhere, just have a still working device to read the drive, as in a laptop that was stored in a protective container.

  15. I have a couple Altoids tins, bought just to have the containers since I prefer TicTacs. They reside in my tool box holding driver bits for my electric drill and some smaller, most used, drill bits. Though practical as they are, I’ve found the hinge doesn’t hold up well. Still, a rubber hair band keeps the lid on. I think Altoid tins are the modern equivalent to the old 35mm film canister that I still have a good supply of.
    For the small containers in my GHB, I’m using small fishing tackle boxes by Plano (tough as nails) and larger pill bottles.

  16. For the sewing kit, try a prescription pill bottle instead of a tin for convenience, weight, and waterproofing. A flexible magnet against the side will hold pins and needles, and bobbins of thread will fit in the center.

  17. Digital_Angel_316 says:

    Good article, good comments! One might be able to also print and stick important survival information on a card and place it inside the lid, either ID, medical and Contact info or checklist of survival priorities and etc. I also tend to go with the Plano containers, but the altoids tins are great multi-purpose containers. has some altoid-like tins with variations:

    Some have a rubber seal with indents (removable top vs. hinged), also:

    This is a great little belt pouch for carrying a Pocket Tin Survival Kit. It will hold our silver hinged tin, our Small Survival Kit Tin, as well as an Altoids tin. It has a substantial belt loop on the back which will take a belt up to 2.5″. Made from durable Polypro webbing, it measures 2/5″ wide x 1.5″ deep x 3.75″ high. Black only.
    21007 – Pocket Tin Belt Pouch – $7.95
    Now what – ya have to carry two?? lol – girls get the sewing kit.

    4-3/8″L x 3-1/4″W x 1-1/16″D
    This is the perfect tin for that survival kit that just has to be a little larger than the Altoids tin size. Outside dimensions are 4-3/8″ long x 3-1/4″ wide x 1-1/16″ deep, and inside dimensions are 4-1/4″ long x 3-1/8″ wide x 1″ deep. It has a rubber seal in the lid and indents clack allow the lid to “click” into place. We include a 1 oz Silica Gel Desiccant with each tin to help you keep your survival items free from moisture. You will find many uses for this tin!
    21009 – Survival Kit Tin – Large – $4.95

    There are also some youtube reviews of various uses of altoids tins. Prep on!

  18. Tobacco tins are slightly bigger , and sometimes a top loader is preferable . The Prince Albert ones are a good size . But yeah , all tins are useful .

  19. BTW, keep your eyes open. I was going through my hoarde, surprised at what I found and what I must have left behind at some point, but there are plenty of sources for metal tins.

    I don’t know if this was a hallucination, but I think there was a nostalgia tin of crayons offered sometime in the last decade, and it might be a yearly thing. Many art supplies still come in metal tins and go on clearance. (I’m sure an art student might thank you for being able to buy the contents of the tin for a % of what you paid for the full tin.)

    Then there are always cookies and imports.

    Now to find a use for that old metal travel watercolor set. The tubes had turned into cakes, and I can’t remember what I did with them, but I’m sure the smaller and more delicate parts of the BOB could fit in the box.

    Actually, I would be surprised if I couldn’t find instructions on how to turn a sardine can into a Geo-caching box.

  20. "Big Jim" says:

    I used several of the mini-M&M’s plastic tubes they come in of
    different color’s . Red=fire…Yellow=fish…etc.. But the cap will
    break the hinge with frequent use . Been thinking on converting
    to the Altoid route , time will tell ! Good article Patton !

    BTW: I did enjoy those tasty little chocolates though !!!

  21. Mike Undercofler says:

    Moderator will probably cut this post, but the Altoid tins make an exceptional base (actually two per tin) for a Claymore style IED.

    I leave the rest to your own imagination, research, and trial and error to figure out.

  22. Great article, with a gist to all that ANYTHING can be saved and used in a crisis, just use your head. True recycling at its finest.

    …aaaaaand Altoid tins can hold Altoids, too!!!

  23. By the way, just saw plastic boxes, EXACTLY like the box my Kimber .22 conversion came in, at Cabelas, selling for big bucks as a “storage” box. Don’t throw those pistol cases away. either…

  24. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Well, being a flashlight junkie, I used one Altoids tin to conceal a flashlight. Why? I don’t know, just thought it would be cool I guess. Anyhow, I took the standard Altoids tin, drilled a 1/4″ hole in the short side on the base piece, took a rat tail needle file and smoothed off the rough spots and enlarged the hole slightly, then glued a pushbutton keychain flashlight (with the pushbutton on the top of the light, not the butt) on the inside bottom portion of the tin. Now when the tin is closed, all I have to do is push down on the top of the tin to turn the flashlight on and off. I keep a few Altoid mints or gum inside the tin so it sounds like it’s still the real deal and in case somebody sees it and asks for a mint. If somebody from DHS wants to bust people for having keychain flashlights – I’ll offer him a mint from my Altoids tin. 😉

    Took another Altoids tin and lined it with pieces of felt. Then I put some of my slingshot ammo in it. It won’t rattle until I’ve used some of the ammo/marbles, then they tend to clank inside the can.

    My BOB first aid kit is contained in a plastic pill bottle. It’s water-tight, holds a lot more stuff than an Altoids tin, and it’s transparent.

  25. fyi .. Just now receving email alert for this post.

  26. MtWoman (N Central Texas) says:

    Yes. Notices of posts to the blog have been taking 2-3 days to show in my email. And comment notices are taking up to a day, though I know that may be because MD is busy. But the post notices should be automatic, correct?

    • MtWoman (N Central Texas),

      “the post notices should be automatic”

      That is correct… but like you said the posts may not show up until the next day…

  27. Great post! We’ve been saving a few and now better get our stuff together. Hubby has already done one.

  28. mindyinds says:

    Another great keep-alert article, as in making use of what you have at hand; reminds me of the phrase “Yankee know-how.” I have an altoids tin full of petroleum jelly-soaked cotton balls for tinder. And thanks, Kelekona, for the positive note on being a “hoarder.” I take lots of flak from my family about the little things I save that have the possibility of being useful later. (‘course, I guess you can take that too far!)

  29. Wyomarine says:

    During hunting season I roll up a Boresnake in an Altoids tin. Spray it down with RemOil and close the lid. Wrap a heavy rubber band around and you’re set.

  30. a bit bigger–but what about empty peanut butter (plastic) jars ? I’ve been using these for kits for a while now.

  31. I wonder what the explosive potential of an Altoids tin full of C-4 would be ?

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