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Gear talk: Altoids EDC tins- are they still a thing?

A few years back, Altoids Survival Tins were all the rage. A bit of fun for the survivalist and Every Day Carry. Three Points of the Compass was more interested in the ‘Urban Altoids’ concept. A small tin of potentially useful items in an urban environment- commuting, the office, the just-in-case, the showing off as to preparedness…

An Urban Altoids Tin
An Urban Altoids EDC Tin

An Urban Every Day Carry

Flicking around YouTube a few years back I came across the concept of an Urban Altoids on TheUrbanPrepper‘s channel. His third incarnation looked not only a bit of fun but I could also see that it may be a helpful gathering together of some items I was already carrying with me on a daily basis while commuting in to work in London, plus adding a few extra items. While I am less enamoured by his latest version, I had already taken on board his entreaty to ‘make the contents your own, and tweak to personal circumstance’. My little tin’s contents have altered over the years as I periodically refined it to suit my needs better, and up until I went into furlough as a result of the 2020 Covid pandemic, I was still accessing the contents a few times a week. Not only that, it gets thrown into weekend bags and is even taken on overseas holidays. It is frequently dipped into. So while the Altoid Tin concept may be a bit old hat and a bit of a joke these days. Three Points of the Compass still finds the little accumulation of gear shown here of use. But note- this NEVER goes on hikes with me.

Re-purposed mints tin
Re-purposed mints tin
Small rare-earth magents are scattered around the sides to hold metal items in place and prevent rattling in the back of an urban rucksack
Small rare-earth magents are scattered around the sides to hold metal items in place and prevent rattling in the back of an urban rucksack

The tin itself is an Altoids tin that originally held mints. Contents are in layers. Opening the tin reveals a small rectangle of microfibre cloth as top layer. This is for cleaning lenses and is opposite a threaded needle taped to the lid. The cloth also lessens rattling of contents while being carried.

Micro-fibre cloth88mm x 68mm
NeedleNo. 7 embroidery / crewel  needle
Thread60mm black Gütermann extra-strong polyester
Needle and thread and microfibre cleaning cloth
Needle and thread and microfibre cleaning cloth- the first layer in my Urban Every Day Carry

The needle and thread is for errant buttons. This is around 600mm, doubled to make a 300mm length threaded onto and wound around a quality needle.

Second layer
Second layer removed

The ‘meat and bones’ of the contents comes in the second layer. First there is a terrific little 1/4″ drive ratchet. This quality tool also has a 1/4″ insert in the handle to be used as a screwdriver extension. Both bit holders are magnetic. This is complimented by a magnetised extension. Tweezers are the black version of the Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers without keychain hanger. No doubt the most useful and used tool is the Leatherman Style PS I keep in the kit. I have changed this out to the Leatherman Style CS at times. Especially if taking this kit on holiday as that tool comes with larger scissors and a knife blade. If abroad I wouldn’t then be carrying my keys, which hold a small Victorinox Classic. So most times on an urban commute, the kit will include the Style PS which has pliers and I will rely on a small knife and scissors carried outside the tin. The short little charge lead is used probably more than it should be. The length is ideal to plug into a laptop and keep a phone charged up on the desk. This lead has had its keychain hanger removed to make it fit in the tin better. The final item in the top layer is an SD card adapter with 128GB Micro SD card. This has frequently been useful as an extra data storage unit or for slotting in to my phone or camera as films and photos fill up an existing card. I used to include a small thin Flash Drive with removable Micro SD but that has wandered off somewhere for now.

Leatherman Style PS
Leatherman Style PS keychain multi-tool comes with needlenose pliers with wire-cutter, scissors, nailfile with flat screwdriver tip, tweezers and bottle opener
Micro SD card with SD adapter
Micro SD card with SD adapter
The Leatherman Style CS is occasionally swapped out with the Style PS. This then puts a pair of scissors and a small knife blade into the kit
The Leatherman Style CS is occasionally swapped out with the Style PS. This then puts a pair of scissors and a small knife blade into the kit
Ratchet1/4″ drive Topeak Ratchet Rocket Lite Tool  
Extension1/4″ drive, 58mm long, Wiha
TweezersUncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers (also a pair in the Leatherman)
Multi-toolLeatherman Style PS- sometimes changed out to a different Style tool
Shortie charge leadUSB / Micro USB
SD card adapterSanDisk
Micro SDKingston Micro SD- 10
Urban Altoids tin with first, second and third layers removed
Urban Altoids tin with second and third layers removed

The third layer in my little tin relies very much on three much smaller tins with slide lids which help keep things in some form of order. Before we come to them however-

My tiny pair of eye-wateringly expensive nail clippers are frequently used and are ideal for weekends away as that is when a nail decides it is going to be noticed. This has a small nail file on it too. Beside this in the image is a four metre hank of tough thin 300lb breaking strain cordage. I have often used this as a short drying line and once used it to secure an unlockable door handle in a slightly downclass and dodgy hotel once. The plastic wrapped twist-tie is just that and the galvanised nail holds around 450mm of 48mm wide duct tape.

Nail clipper, short length of 300lb braided fishing line, twist-tie and gaffer tape wrapped around a single nail
Nail clipper, short length of 300lb braided fishing line, twist-tie and duct tape wrapped around a single nail
'Bit Set' tin and contents
‘Bit Set’ tin and contents

I include six bits in one of my little tins. The 1/4″ drive bits are used with the ratchet tool and its extension piece if necessary. Bits are two sizes of flat and four different Phillips. Also tucked into here are two little plastic ‘thingies’ that slide onto the green cordage which can be wound back on to these as a quick and reliable fastening. These plastic fasteners especially suit using with this particularly slippery cord. A small number of rare earth magnets are scattered around the inside of the tin to stop things rattling about.

Two bits inserted ionto mini-ratchet tool
Two bits inserted into mini-ratchet tool. Bits are Phillips # 0, 1, 2 and 3. Flat tips have 4.5mm and 6mm wide heads.
Lots of 'possibles' in the Office / Fire tin
Lots of ‘possibles’ in the Office / Fire tin

The second tin is labelled up as Office/Fire. Working round the image of the contents, starting with office related items are- a single craft blade in paper sleeve. This is the only sharp blade contained in the kit, unless I have swapped out to the Leatherman Style CS. I have two mini adapters to fix to my shortie charge cable, one is from Micro USB to Lightning, the second from Micro USB to USB C. Also a single paperclip, another nail, SIM card ejector, safety pin and tiny USB LED light.

Moving onto the Fire stuff. I have a short piece of ‘strike’ card, two storm matches (cut down a little in length) and a single firelighter. Only one of the matches has ever had to be pulled into use from this kit. Fire starting could possibly be excluded from an urban kit but who knows? That BBQ isn’t going to light itself…

There is a little medication carried in my Urban Altoids. Three Points of the Compass is of [ahem] a certain age, so four Aspirin are carried in case of heart. Ibuprofen as an anti-inflamatory. Imodium because when you need it, you need it, and anti-allergy for stings etc. These tablets get changed out periodically as efficacy drops with age.

Medication carried in Urban Altoids tin
Nail clippersZwilling J.A. Henckels Pour Homme ultra slim clippers
Cordage4m 300lb breaking strain braided fishing line
Twist tie
Duct tape wound around nail48mm x 450mm tape around 1″ galvanised nail
‘Bit set’ tinPhillips # 0, 1, 2, 3, Wiha
 Flat 4.4mm, 6mm, Wiha
 2 x plastic cord grips
‘Office / Fire’ tin‘craft’ blade
 Micro USB / Lightning adapter
 Micro USB / USB C adapter
 Paperclip
 1″ galvanised nail
 SIM card ejector
 Safety pin
 Luffy USB LED light
 Short length of match ‘strike’ card, nail file
 2 x Titan Stormproof matches
 1 x Tinder-Quik firelighter
Medication tin4 x Aspirin
 6 x Ibuprofen
 2 x Imodium Plus (halved)
 5 x Piriton (anti-allergy)

We then come to the final layer of goodies tucked into the bottom of the tin. None of these get used much but there isn’t much that would replace any of them. The first item demonstrates how much these kits should be personalised to the individual. I don’t think there are many that would include emergency cuff-links! However I have forgotten to take a pair once when changing into dress shirt and suit for an evening function, and lost a single link on another occasion. I was relieved to have an emergency cuff-link with me on at least one of those occasions.

Three Points of the Compass with HRH The Princess Royal. An hour prior to this funtion, I lost a cufflink. Urban Altoids dug me out of a sartorial hole on that occasion
Three Points of the Compass with HRH The Princess Royal. An hour prior to this function, I lost a cuff-link. My Urban Altoids dug me out of a sartorial hole on that occasion

I include a little mirror, a single sterile tough fabric plaster and some postage stamps. Stamps are Non-Value Indicator so retain a First Class value regardless of price increases. I carry a little cash for emergency use only- a sterling twenty-pound note and ten euros. There are two toothpicks- a disposable TePe and a titanium pick. Also a pen taken from a Victorinox SwissCard. Plus a small ferrocerium rod and two tiny, limited life ‘lights’.

All layers removed from Urban Altoids kit
All layers removed from Urban Altoids kit
A small number of useful items can be tucked away into the edges of my urban carry tin
A small number of useful items can be tucked away into the bottom of my urban carry tin. The metal mirror is protected from scratches within a small baggie

The two lights I include have little red LEDs in the end. In the dark, you can just about see across a room. You couldn’t walk the streets with these, not by a long shot. The low intensity 3v 20mAh lights were made for night time lure fishing but I have used one for loo visits at night in unfamiliar surroundings. Also when scrambling around under and behind a desk looking for electrical connectors when I was able to tape one to a fingertip, there being no room for anything else.

Probably the smallest lights in the world
Probably the smallest lights in the world
CufflinksFold-out emergency cuff-links– Touch of Ginger
MirrorMetal ‘Dog tag’ style, rubber surround removed, in baggie
Plaster1 x tough fabric. Sterile. 75mm x 22mm
Postage stamps3 x 1st Class NVI
Cash£20 note, €10 note
Toothpicks1 x TePe EasyPick , 1 x titanium
PenBlue ink. From Victorinox Swiss Card
Ferrocerium rodFirefly Tortoise Gear, 50mm (large size)
Lights2 x J-Ray R327 with red LED, 25mm X 3mm

There are quite a few contents to my little Altoids tin. I have never weighed it as that is irrelevant. As said, it never goes on a hike with me, that is not its purpose. It is an Urban Every Day Carry. Such pieces of kit are fun to put together and can and have proven to be of immense help at times. It is all a bit of a squeeze to fit contents in and one configuation of tetris will manage it. But I have taken the contents out and repacked so many times over the years that it is a simple task.

My Urban EDC
My Urban EDC

18 replies »

  1. I remember you showing me this tin and its contents once. Better than the mixture of items carried in a lady’s handbag. Love the idea of emergency cufflinks.

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  2. Love Urban Prepper and your good self.
    I have an EDC item for you from someone’s recent YouTube video. Annoyed with myself that I cannot remember who’s.
    A torch, he carried an OLight however I found a much cheaper version on Amazon. Basically he carries a small right angled torch and I have to say it is a brilliant idea. It gives you a torch which is useful however it is the angle head bit and clip that rocks because like he suggested you just clip it to your shirt or a pocket and go hands free. He carried it slipped into his trouser pocket by the clip and I have mine clipped into my left cargo pocket.
    Brilliant idea and really useful piece of kit. Do not know how I got by without it. I know what a lot of people will be thinking, I have a torch on my phone however it the angle head and clip that makes this work so well.

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    • Sounds a little like the Olight H1R Nova that I have. Lovely light though I find it a bit of overkill for much of the year. I wrote a little on it here

      Liked by 1 person

      • Think that the one. As someone who struggled to part with the cash for a Maglite, do not think one of them got a chance and then carrying it with a chance of losing it.

        I brought one of these:

        It has the added benefit of taking an AA battery.

        Quick question what brand is that 2mm fishing line?

        Finally have you seen the bobbin trick people are using? Basically any thread or thin cord you want to put in one of those kits wind it on a plastic bobbin. If you own a sewing machine it will do it for you.

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      • Many of the ‘brand’ lights are pretty expensive, and the manufacturers do a grand job of convincing us to ‘upgrade’ to the latest all-singing all-dancing version.Even if not really required. I do agree that technology advances, particularly within LED capability and the built in user-interface in torches. Best to establish exactly what it is that you want- lumens, run time, interface, weatherproofing, battery type and connector type etc, then see what fits the bill. Which is why I took a step down in pure capability and moved from the terrific Olight to the still excellent Nitecore NU25 for most of my hiking.
        The fishing line in my little Altoids kit (a length also carried in my ditty bag when backpacking), is 1mm PE braided “Super Power Spider” 300lb line. I bought a 100m spool of it for not a great amount and it will last me years.
        I have used plastic bobbins in my ‘expedition sewing kit’ (separate blog) but one of these would not fit in my little tin the way I have it configured

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  3. Torches are a perfect example of all outdoor kit and maybe all kit. The people who make them do not use them. It is that simple. What I want from a torch is a light to see. At the moment my 2 favourite torches are both cheap, the angle head already mentioned and a Coast To Coast headlight. The only reason I really like the Coast headlight is for some reason they have worked out the simple fact of a separate on button for the red led. Both torches still feature the three or four button turn off on the white led.
    The torch I love is a LED configured maglite however it has no place in my world and that just makes me sad.
    The Nitecore NU25 looks really interesting, separate red light button so the designer uses the kit and the only down side is the rechargeable business.
    Think I am wrong about this go into an outdoor store and look at daypacks and count how many have 1 water bottle pocket and do not get me started on the ones that look like hiking rucksacks however have flat backs.

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    • The rate of change in electronics development is phenominal. I am steadily bringing all my ‘stuff’ together in my preferred format- rechargeable items, via USB-C, purely for simplicity and to reduce the number of cables and connectors I carry. When the NU25 eventually comes out in USB-C format, I’ll move to that. I still have a bunch of Maglites knocking around, almost all are pre-LED though! They really were ground-changing in their time, but left behind today I think. I’ll be looking at them in a retrospective blog in the coming months. As regards handheld lights, the best I have come across for backpacking purposes is the RovyVon Aurora A5x Red. There is a link to that on my Gear page or here

      Liked by 1 person

      • RovyVon Aurora A5x Red looks interesting.
        An interesting post might be the argument for and against rechargeable vs battery. I like the fact that I can swap new batteries into my torch and headlight then carry spare batteries. It might be my old school roots showing. I do carry a power bank however it is for my phone.
        I am considering getting an outdoor only phone so I can load it with only outdoor stuff and maybe buy a cheap one with a removable battery. Currently I think I could do 5 days-ish with my phone so need to do something.
        Looking forward to the USB-C and retrospective post. On the Bushcraft UK forum recently we were showing and remembering the Survival Aids catalogues. Many an hour was spent looking at a lot of brands that no longer exist.

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      • I do agree that the ability to swap out between rechargeable or changeable battery is a handy facility. I have used the Black Diamond ReVolt headtorch in the past that enables you to do just that, but found that moving to the far lighter NU25 was a simpler affair for me, while also reducing my dependence on one-time use batteries. I touched on the ReVolt in an old, mostly out of date, post here

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      • I think my question is what advantage does going rechargeable have?
        My current set up is 2 torches with 8 AAA batteries (my Trend takes an AA however I am adapting it to AAA), which I can replace in most shops leaving my power pack to recharge my phone 3 times between recharge. 2 cables and a plug for the power bank.
        I think you might be converting me to Nitecore as the NU35 (USB-C plus can take 3xAAA) is lighter than my Coast even the newer rechargeable version.
        Might have found an EDC torch for you, Nitecore Thumb (bigger than the tube) looks like it got all of the advantages of the Trend and the O-Light plue red led. Might want to wait until they offer it in USB-C though.

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      • The biggest advantage of AA batteries is that you can buy them just about anywhere. That convenience is SO attractive. but… my phone’s battery life is easily sufficient for a day away from home. Longer than that and I am carrying a power bank. If I have a power bank then I have the facility to charge any electronic device I have- camera, headtorch, small ‘hand’ light and so on. Hence my moving toward this set up, ideally with everything USB-C which cuts down on cables and connectors. All I want to do is integrate and simplify my kit as much as possible, while keeping it as light as possible for hiking, while also reducing my dependence on one-time use batteries which are pretty horrible things when disposed.
        Despite the Nitecore NU35 accepting both batteries and being rechargeable, I will not be switching from my NU25 as the NU35 is far too large and far too heavy at 80g while my NU25, following my headband conversion, is just 35g in total (light is just 28g) and provides all the capability I require

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      • Your argument is annoyingly compelling and the Thumb even in Micro-USB looks interesting.
        I am going to weight everything however first thing on the scales is going to be my headlamp because I was surprised how heavy some of them were. NU35 was surprisingly heavy however the rechargeable version of what I have now was 20 grams heavier.
        I do agree the NU25 seems to be a star and will give some serous thought to getting one or waiting for the USB-C version.

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      • Please, do make your own call on what you use. What suits my wants and needs may not be your preference. I won’t be getting a Nitecore Thumb any time soon as it is huge! I doubt we shall see a USB-C NU25 any time soon as it doesn’t actually achieve much beyond quicker data transfer or quicker charging, both of which are not required. I think I will be using my little 1g adapter for a good while longer.
        A set of digital scales does frequently reveal the pretenders. Manufacturers specs as regard weights are too often a nonsense

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  4. To be honest your advice is perfect as it is very hard to find a British hiker with lightweight advice. There is a lot of lightweight advice however it tends to be US based which like the use of Smart Water 1 litre bottles has issues here some times.
    I am going to follow the recharge route however for a start my Anker 10,000 needs a micro so got to carry one. Second, the thumb instead of the tube. I am going to live with my headlamp for a bit until I know what power etc I need. I have never hiked at night with a headlamp however this will be on the cards at some point.
    I think you will have to wait until the stock runs out for a USB-C version of anything you are waiting on unless from a large company like Amazon.

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