Survival Kit In A Can

Coghlan’s Survival Kit-in-a-Can is a quirky product. It is a fun gift, a tin of trinkets and outdoors doodads that pour forth out of a type of vessel most often associated with sardines. Inside, there are “38 essential items for warmth, shelter, and energy in life-threatening situations.”

Indeed, in the tight space of the can you find a tiny compass, fire starters, utility wire, waterproof matches, fishing line, hooks, a needle, duct tape, a signal mirror, a whistle, and other items to help keep you safe in a worst-case wilderness scenario. Strangely, there’s also chewing gum and a single piece of hard candy.

Coghlan\'s-Survival Kit in a Can small photo.jpg

The company ( touts the $13 tin of goodies as a serious tool for surviving in the wilderness in a worst case scenario. Just one problem: I peeled open a test tin last night, took out one of the most important items in there — the emergency whistle — and tested it out.

The result? Product failure.

While the whistle emitted a squeak, it did not register any shrill alert beyond a few decibels. It misfired, piffling almost no noise, and, theoretically, leaving a hapless hiker with two broken legs still stranded in the Sequoia Wilderness overnight and without rescue.

That’s a worst case scenario. But it could happen. My advice: if Coghlan’s is going to market the Survival Kit-in-a-Can as a true survival product — which it does — the company should look into better components. It’s irresponsible to skim with cheap products when customers plan to use them ostensibly in scenarios of life or death.

—Stephen Regenold writes the weekly Gear Junkie Scoop for and

Posted by Lisa - 02/28/2009 09:41 PM

This looks like it could easily be a great item for any outdoor trip with minor improvements, the one thing that caught my eye is that it appears to be a one-time use item.

Posted by HikingStick - 01/04/2010 09:55 AM

Yes, it is designed to be opened and used. Far better would be a water-tight, resealable container. I’ve used film canisters for basic pocket survival kits, but have come to like the plastic case that came with a deck of plastic playing cards. A small candy or mint tin, with items that need to stay dry stored in mini zip-seal parts bags, can work well, too.

I typically keep a firesteel and a small knife on my person at all times when in backcountry areas. I keep many more items in a small fanny pack. I love cargo pants and shirts that let me tuck little items in multiple places.

One quick tip is to replace your hiking boot laces with paracord. That way, you’ll always have some line with you. It may not be an impressive length, but the interior cords can be tied together.

Posted by John Connor - 04/19/2012 11:08 AM

No surprise there… did you really expect a serious piece of gear with the name ‘Coghlan’s’ on it?!? That name is synonymous with cheap China-made junk destined for field failure.

If you want to get serious about wilderness survival kits, review one of the ‘M40’ kits.

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