Sometimes a little can go a long way…
I remember as a teenager reading an article in SURVIVE Magazine where the author was going on an overnight trip on a houseboat with some friends. He wanted to bring a few supplies “just in case”.
He managed to put a small kit in his suitcase – along with an Armalite AR-180, which had a folding stock. I was impressed with the article way back then.
When you visit an external link on this page and then make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Read my full advertising disclosure here.
Anyways – certain circumstances may demand that carrying a full-sized backpack kit is just not realistic. I decided to put together a small kit in a MTM Survivor Dry Box.
The MTM Survivor Dry Box measures inside 8.2 x 5.0 x 4.4-Inch. This is not a large box.
There is a built in compass and signaling mirror. Honestly – the compass is terrible. It does not work all that great – but it is better than nothing.
The box closes very securely with 3 separate latches. Once closed – it is very water resistant as it has a built in o-ring seal. There are also attachment points for a shoulder sling or to attach a rope. This thing is made rugged.
Above the contents of the kit are laid out. They are as follows:
Emergency blankets are ounce for ounce one of the very best survival items you can pack.
Capable of keeping you plenty warm and all but the most demanding conditions, these things weigh almost nothing and take up very little space in the box. Also super handy for improving shelters or using as a fire reflector.
Every survival kit needs a first aid kit as a component.
This first aid kit is pretty rudimentary, and contains the bare essentials for treating minor injuries. However, with a few choice additions it can serve as a good boo-boo kit for a more thoughtfully chosen trauma kit.
At the very least, it will keep minor injuries from getting infected and turning into big problems when you are worried about other things.
A zipper bag might at first seem like a strange inclusion and a first aid kit, but seasoned outdoorsman and survivalists know.
This heavy duty, sealable plastic bag is just the ticket for waterproofing gear or sensitive items, or even holding an emergency stash of water. I have done the same thing with large gallon freezer bags in my personal assembled survival kits for years
Fire Starting Kit
The fire starting kit contains waterproof storm matches and a small ferro rod with striker, although it is so small I have serious doubts about its efficacy and anything but perfect conditions.
Nonetheless, combined with a little tinder that you can include yourself or source from the environment you should be able to get a fire going easily enough using either of these.
Cyalume Snap Lights
Any of my longtime readers know that I’m a huge fan of these snap lights for signaling, marking personnel or campsites, trails or completely safe, close, area lighting.
These things are just about as safe and non-reactive as you can get, and you can always use them inside your tent with zero fears that they will start a fire or some other accident.
Don’t forget you can hook these up to a length of cordage and spin them over your head like a helicopter at night to easily signal aircraft.
Water Purification Tablets
Water purification tablets are a good go to option for making found water supplies far safer to drink.
Although I greatly prefer a high efficiency emergency water filter like the Sawyer mini for the purpose, you always have cause for a backup solution, and in that case I do prefer tablets.
The ones I tested definitely seem to work, but the taste was positively vile, so be prepared for that.
Insect repellent is another one of those forehead-slapping survival kit inclusions that people remember only when it is way too late.
Sure, you probably won’t get truly injured or die from mosquito and other fly bites, but why take the chance? In deep country, the sheer numbers of these insects will drive you absolutely crazy, so anything you can induce to improve your morale is worthwhile.
Paracord. You know it, you love it, and this kit has it.
There’s more than enough here to rig up an improvised shelter, improvise a spear or other tool, or use it in conjunction with the snap light above in order to create a signaling apparatus. I think there were about 30 or 40 ft in a small bundle.
You know me, I always want more, just in case but this is something you can easily supplement with room left over.
The compass, as mentioned above, is built into the box itself and I am not crazy about that.
This makes utilizing the compass cumbersome, and also introduces the possibility that you can get a false reading if you have a metal component inside the box when you use it.
A nice gesture, but very poor execution, and I don’t think the compass is particularly accurate though it is probably fine for rough direction finding based on my comparison.
The included knife is incredibly cheap, but probably adequate for creating kindling, fashioning a simple shelter or rigging up into a spear for last-ditch self-defense from a dangerous critter or person alike.
The good news is most Preppers I know always have a knife on them no matter what, so you can consider this your backup knife instead!
Zip ties are another survival kit super inclusion that so many people completely overlook or underestimate.
Zip ties work wonderfully, particularly in wooded environments, for rigging up shelter, creating rain catchers, windbreaks, signals and so much more.
They also work well for securely lashing improvised tools together or hanging gear from other gear in a pinch. The kit includes a small bundle of a medium sized zip ties that are adequate for most tasks.
Maglite LED Flashlight with extra batteries
Probably second only to the knife in importance is the humble flashlight.
Humans don’t do well in the dark, and if you haven’t spent much time out in the deep parts of the world or much time living in the aftermath of a proper blackout, you are likely unacquainted with just how dark the world can be.
This Maglite LED flashlight is no longer state of the art by any stretch of the imagination, but it is efficient, easy to use and damn reliable.
As always, you have to have extra batteries if you want to be able to go the distance. Don’t forget to rotate them periodically, or by those long life lithium replacements if you don’t want to worry about it.
This mini LED light, or firefly, is a good backup option that you can use at night without completely wrecking your night vision or letting the world know that you are there if the circumstances dictate.
It is small and easy enough to carry that you could attach it to zipper pulls on your clothing or some other lanyard or you’ll always have it with you.
Glass cleaner packets for eye glasses
These lens wipes definitely seem like an odd inclusion, but I guess you could consider them thoughtful for those of us who depend upon prescription eyewear or who just want to keep our protective lenses clean and transparent.
I plan on repurposing them for polishing the survival mirror or other metal surfaces for signaling.
Not much to talk about with these, these are bog standard calorie bars and survival crackers designed to give you cheap, ready energy in a pinch.
You won’t be taking on the world after dining on these, but you will be alive and your stomach should stop grumbling, which is nearly as important.
There is room for a couple more items. I plan to add a small fishing kit as well as a cable saw. A couple comments about some of the contents. The zip-loc bag can be used for many things – including holding water.
So all in all it seems like a pretty good if basic survival kit, with much of the fundamental gear you might need any survival situation covered.
You have shelter gear, food, water, signaling, navigation and more all on hand in one basic kit. However, as I always like to say any piece of gear, no matter what it is, it’s just a starting point.
As a prepper, you can and should modify or customize your gear and such a way that it is better able to serve you.
This, I think, is where the MTM survivor dry box really shines.
This is a pretty dagonne good core for a better survival kit. Not that I have any major gripes with most of the equipment, aside from the chintzy compass.
Nonetheless, you can add whatever is going to serve you best in the anticipated environment and situation you will find yourself in.
The Importance of Protecting Your Gear
This might sound a little strange, but probably my most favorite part of the MTM dry box survival kit is the dry box itself.
Anything that I depend on, or anything that must really be kept intact for mission success, I only trust to hard cases. This is one of the few survival kits that comes in an appropriately sized, adaptable hard case.
Now, soft cases might be fine you are thinking, and as much of the time they are.
However, we’re soft cases fall well short is in the asset protection category. Anytime you, your gear, your bag or your vehicle take a hard knock things are going to get jostled around. They could get jostled around pretty damn hard.
Particularly in the case of something like a motor vehicle accident it is far from out of the question that your gear could be destroyed on impact, or just damaged if you are lucky.
If this is stuff you are depending onto save your bacon in a survival situation gets destroyed or irrevocably scattered, you’re going to be in an even worse situation. Hard cases help prevent that unhappy occurrence.
Naturally, I think it is a great thing that this kit comes in such a durable, weather resistant case.
Sure, if you are keeping it in a bag or other pack you’ll have to work a little bit harder to pack other items around it, and a certain amount of volume and weight budget will be dedicated towards the greater mass and bulk of the hard case itself, but this is a small price to pay for insurance.
I can’t tell you how many times I have checked a bug out bag, go bag or some other piece of readiness luggage that I have assembled only to find an unhappy surprise.
After performing an item by item inventory only to find that many of these small and comparatively delicate things in a survival kit had been mashed into oblivion from years of scrunching around in a soft bag.
Although it will not completely eliminate the issue, you won’t have to worry about it nearly as much when carrying your survival kit in a hard case. Don’t skimp out!
Superior Environmental Protection
Another great thing about the dry box configuration of this kit is that it provides the components within dramatically improved protection from moisture and air compared to any soft case.
It seems like the two horsemen of the degradation apocalypse are exactly that, air and moisture, and if you can keep both of them off and away from your gear you can rest assured that it will last a lot longer.
Thanks to that heavy duty seal around the closure of the dry box, you can depend on water staying out of the interior and I’ll bet on it keeping the majority of air out of it in the bargain.
Now, this isn’t just a matter of keeping your gear clean, dry and tidy. No, this is about making sure your stuff works when you need it.
Many items, particularly food and medical supplies but also things like water purification tablets or other chemicals and even batteries will be adversely affected by the presence of air and moisture, despite whatever sealed packaging they might be in.
For that reason, a multi-layered defense is vital.
I actually set up my kit for just such an occasion by tossing in and oxygen absorber and a pack of desiccant.
This ensures that any condensation or other moisture that manages to creep in will be quickly gobbled up along with air.
I feel like these cheap additions combined with the inherent protectiveness of the case are giving my gear the longest possible shelf life and the best defense.
Do you work or travel a lot in deep, remote country? You might consider some Penn flares, a tarp, trap kit and other such equipment that can make living and sustaining in such an environment much easier
If you live in the Deep South or any swampy area you might consider a couple rolls of contractor bags for waterproofing along with a generous portion of mosquito netting to keep the little blood sucking biters off of you.
If you live in the desert would be well advised to include eye protection, headgear and an extra emergency blanket for shelter creation, particularly shade.
In short, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this kit has absolutely everything you need to survive.
It has a lot of things that will be extremely helpful in a survival situation, but you always want to be better equipped, especially if you can better equip yourself inside the same footprint when it comes to a container or other luggage.
Similarly, definitely don’t believe that you don’t know what you will need. Only you can understand the full context of what you are likely to be facing, and when in doubt you should trust your instincts!
A Hard-Case Kit for Life’s Hard Knocks
For a basic, fundamental survival kit, there is a lot to like about the MTM survivor dry box survival kit.
It serves a wonderfully if you just want to cover the basics, or use it as the core inclusion of a more comprehensive kit better suited to your environment and your circumstances.
The best part about it is that the sealed, heavy duty case will protect the contents from impact, weather, water and more, making sure they are ready to protect you when you need them.