Category: Survival Tins

My ‘Star Wars’ firelighting tin

I’ve got a series of firelighting kits at my disposal (including ‘teaching’ kits in several sizes) but my own personal kit is a thing of beauty, I’ve just jazzed it up with a brand new rod, and it’s ready for its close-up, Mr Lucas.

Star Wars firelighting tin
My personal firelighting kit in a Star Wars tin

If I can, I’ll light a fire with just a bit of cotton; so I have a stormtrooper-shaped tin packed with cotton make-up pads, half of which have the luxury of a wee smear of petroleum jelly.

I make my own amazing firelighters in all sorts of shapes and colours, and in my own personal kit they’re shaped like Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Brown is an aesthetic choice, but it is also ultimately the colour of all wax leftovers, and if you’ve ever mixed your Play-Doh, you’ll know what I mean. The orange versions are for cold and wet emergencies: packed inside the cotton ball inside the wax is a cluster of magnesium shavings designed to ensure a robust ignition no matter how bleak the conditions.

I prefer using a sharp piece of flint instead of the painted steel blade that typically comes with a ferrocerium rod ‘striker’ kit, and currently there are two in my tin.

The most fascinating thing about the brass lightsaber-shaped handle is this: if I take the rod and lanyard out and hammer the T-bar back into place, I can still use it to bleed my radiators.

May the Force be with you.

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DIY Sting Treatment Tin/Kit for Wasp, Bee and Nettle Stings

Basic molecular chemistry is the secret of this kit that anyone can make at home.

Acid breaks down a wasp’s venom into harmless chemicals. Base breaks down a bee’s venom and treats nettle stings in the same way.

I would go into detail, but it would risk you getting it backwards in a crisis.

Acid for wasps, because they’re ****s. That’s all you need to remember.

Base is for bees and nettles.

That’s pretty much the whole kit, as far as chemistry goes.

Sting Tins
Various tins and kit for treating wasp, bee and nettle stings

Tiny tweezers are there to draw stingers out, but this is for insect stings only.

You need JETS OF WATER ACROSS YOUR SKIN to draw nettle hairs/stingers out. Nettle leaves are covered in hundreds of tiny hollow silica needles (trichromes) full of a range of acids and neurotransmitters, one of which makes your skin feel like it’s on fire.

Assuming you have not been foolish enough to rub the stung area (with or without a dock leaf) like a doofus, you can immediately alleviate most of the pain and prevent further pain in your future simply by drawing those needles out. You know: instead of breaking them off so they’re stuck in your skin and leaking venom while being resistant to treatment‚Ķ like a doofus might do with a dock leaf.

If you aim a jet of water across the skin, the parts of the needles that are still poking out will be ‘caught’ by the water and drawn along with its momentum, dragging the embedded tips along with them.

This kit contains a ‘push pin’ with a sturdy top that allows you to poke a hole or holes into the plastic cap of a water/drink bottle to create these jets of fluid that will grip the needles and draw them out quickly, painlessly and very effectively.

Alternatively, you can immerse the effected limb(s) and sweep/draw them through the water quickly for the same effect.

Sprinkle liberally with bi-carb while the area is still damp: this will neutralise any remaining nettle venom.

(Similarly, you will need a small amount if water to activate/distribute the bi-carb when treating bee stings.)

Shampoo-top bottles are tremendous dispensers of bi-carb powder, and I have two of these plus a series of water bottles on stand-by for ‘wide games’ and other Scouting/outdoor activities that involve proximity to nettles. And to put it delicately‚Ķ nettles are everywhere that humans go farming or camping, because they love our waste. Nom nom nom.

I once saw near to a dozen young people pile out of the woods after a mass nettle encounter in the dark, and had them all treated and ready to face the woods again inside of 6 minutes.

My personal kit also contains added antihistamines and calamine lotion, but this would be for extreme encounters.

The big spray bottle is for the day one of us treads on a wasps nest. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve had enough close calls to want to be prepared.

As usual, eBay is the place to look for small vials and squeeze tubes for this purpose.

It is less friendly as a dispenser, but a small round tin of bi-carb tucked under your water bottle in its usual holder will make all the difference if it’s on hand at the right moment… and being on hand is what it’s all about with this kind of kit. You don’t normally plan on being stung.

There’s a special first aid bag that comes with us on every wide game, and it includes a large sting kit with water bottle included. Also, when I make tin versions of this, I make them small. A tin that is too big for your pocket and too heavy for your shorts is no good to anyone, and will probably be left behind on the day it matters.

The ‘Love Box’ tins pictured are by the good people at Durex, by the way. They designed a tin that was meant to fit comfortably in your pocket for much the same reason, and now those tins are still out there, keeping people safe.Thanks, Durex.

Survival Tins

Cuts & Grazes Tin

I work with my hands a lot, and often with sharp tools ranging from flint to chainsaws. I still have all of my fingers and toes, but I nick myself frequently, and typically it’s in a situation that makes life difficult for plasters. Like the first day of camp, or on a beach, or on the first day of camp on a beach.

These are examples of the kit I keep to hand for when I accidentally cut myself.

As I’ve noted earlier with Medicine Tins, I do like my kits to have a degree of personality to them, so the ‘John Bull Mend-A-Tear’ kit is my very favourite.

Cuts & Grazes Tins
My ‘John Bull Mend-A-Tear’ kit (top) and my Toolbox kit (bottom)

Blister Pads

Hand tools and handles can produce blisters if used rigorously for the first time. Work may also involve switching to infrequently-used or otherwise ill-fitting footwear ranging from stiff boots to wobbly wellies. I’m prepared for that.


Colour for safety reasons, patterns for child emergencies (e.g. a boo-boo on a finger).

Plasters are something you can buy very cheaply from supermarkets and stores with the word ‘pound’ or ‘dollar’ in their name, though your mileage will vary. I have sensitive skin and work to get on with, so plasters that are only good in theory are no good to me. I always road-test my plasters for compatibility, adhesion and longevity by wearing one for a day, or for as long as it will last. I also have big hands and by extension large fingers, so even a simple wraparound operation for me usually involves one small plaster and one large; plasters do not stick to the skin for long if at all; you need a good amount of coverage for the area where the plaster is sticking to itself. So I pack accordingly.

Benzalkonium chloride*

(*this alternative exists because of the mercury content in Merbromin)

For small cuts and minor grazes, I dress with an antiseptic solution only. No plaster.

Over the years I’ve found that Mercurochrome is the best option for treating and covering small wounds. It has protective and antibacterial properties long after application, keeping out all sorts of nasties wanting to get into your wound, and eradicating an impressive degree of bacterial nasties that are already in there. It also greatly reduces stinging in cuts where a lot of nerve endings are involved. This stuff is magnificent for sealing cuts in and around fingernails where plasters would suffer to hang on and keep atmosphere at bay. It’s also invaluable in environments like beaches where plasters are as useful as a chocolate teapot.

I’ve also noticed that small cuts treated this way seal and heal faster than plaster; I don’t recommend it as the sole treatment when infection has already set in, but I have applied this too late to an infected wound already swelling red and seen it settle down and heal normally within days.

Use of Mercurochrome is a personal choice I’ve made that I do not impose on others, that’s why the alternative is there if I am in the presence of someone who cuts themselves and they have no access to kit of their own.

(You would be surprised how many people go outside their homes giving NO thought to what they might do if they suddenly spring a leak.)

You should only apply these solutions once bleeding has stopped. Young people or those with deeper cuts should stop what they are doing, apply pressure to the wound, seek immediate first aid in the form of a decent cleansing and dressing, and then rest for a little bit while they think very carefully about not accidentally cutting themselves again.

I store and dispense/apply Mercurochrome from the same small bottle with a ‘dropper’ lid (easily obtainable from ebay). Because I only ever use it on small cuts, it’s more than enough to apply as a line of highly visible dye from the end of the dropper. I can gently coax more Mercurochrome out with the dropper bulb if necessary, or even pump my dropper empty back into the bottle if I only need a trace of Mercurochrome to dot a light graze or seal a single puncture.

Benzalkonium chloride is stored in a simple plastic 5ml vial with a screw top (also easily obtainable from ebay) and applied lightly with a cotton bud. Unlike Mercurochrome, it will elevate the sensitivity of your nerve endings upon application to a noticeable degree, resulting in a short-term stinging sensation. It will pass and you will cope. No-one’s ever died on me. I offered you the Mercurochrome and you said ‘no’. (etc.)

Antiseptic Hand Moisturiser

Vaseline Intensive Care and Neutrogena both produce a series of quality alternatives, and I do not recommend skimping on this option. A quality hand cream should only require a dab to provide soothing relief to an entire hand that has been lightly grazed, traumatised by ‘rope burn’, or repeatedly punctured by thorns, just to give a few examples. A 5ml vial will require cotton buds to scoop. 10ml squeeze tubes are also widely available, but too bulky for my tastes; use a small syringe to fill.


Mini eyebrow tweezers: tiny, but accurate and sturdy.

Cotton Buds / Cotton Pads

You can use textured/stitched cotton make-up removal pads to clean up messy wounds and stem bleeding, but I stock regular ones because I might need them to start a fire. Usually, if I ever need one of these to stem bleeding, I am leaking enough fluid for me to not have to worry about bits of cotton sticking to my skin. Given that my kits exist to apply an antiseptic seal and keep a wound out of trouble while a job is finished or proper first aid can be administered (if necessary), I’m pretty lax about sterility and just leave cotton components loose in my tins, keeping it fresh like hay.

Survival Tins

Medicine Tins

I make myself and others ‘Medicine Tins’ for personal use that contain small doses of over-the-counter medicines for travel or work, and here are two examples:

medicine tins
My ‘office’ medicine tin (top) and my ‘travel’ medicine tin (bottom)

If you’ve ever found yourself struck with a minor ailment at work, in traffic, or on public transport, you’ll know exactly what these tins are for. Think of it as an urban survival kit.

I like my tins to have a certain degree of style (which is why I’m especially proud of my ‘Inner Tube Repair Kit’, because that’s exactly what it is) but you can use any clean, shallow tin for this purpose. Shallow tins are superior to deep tins, because you won’t have time for rummaging when diarrhoea strikes.

There’s always one in my desk, one in my car, and one in my travel backpack. If I am ever going to be more than an hour from home, I will have enough of a dose for any minor ailment to get me home.

I not only make these for myself, I choose personal tins for people I care about and kit them out, too.

Typical contents include:

  • Plasters
  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Aspirin
  • Cetirizine Hydrochloride and Loratadine (for allergies)
  • Throat Lozenges
  • Antacid
  • Diarrhoea Relief
  • Buscopan
  • Gaviscon
  • Cold & Flu / Runny Nose (with and without paracetamol)

I realise plasters are not technically medicine, but they make great cushions to keep the medicine from getting too bashed about, and when you put one on a young person’s boo-boo on their finger, it works like magic, if not medicine.

My travel kit Aspirin is marked with a big red ‘A’ and always on the top layer in case of a suspected heart attack. It hasn’t happened yet, but I’m always ready, and the life I save might be my own.

Survival Tins