Survival Keychain Kit Design: Why and What To Include

Survival kits can come in all shapes and sizes and can contain a few items in them or have everything including the kitchen sink jammed within. 

One of the fun things ( I am easily entertained) about survival kits, is that you can make them, however, best suits you and your needs. While there are a few basic items that are in most kits, there is no one set design you must follow. In this guide, I will cover how to put together a survival keychain kit that can come in handy in emergency situations.

Pros and Cons of a Survival Keychain

keychain survival kit

I often think about the phrase, “less is more.” With large survival kits, it is easy to become overwhelmed financially trying to fill them and figuring out how to constantly haul them around. That is why in this article I am going to discuss how to make a keychain survival kit. 

Survival keychains have their pros and cons, and well, I’ll just go ahead and list them instead of droning on through a paragraph or two. 


  • Affordable 
  • Lightweight 
  • Compact
  • Easy to transport and gives the ability to always have a few basics on hand 
  • Discreet 
  • Customizable 


  • Some kits are one-time use kits. This is especially true of paracord kits where paracord is braided around the items ( I will talk a little more about this later on)
  • Given the size of the kit, the number of items available is extremely limited. This is the largest pitfall of these types of kits. But it is better to have some supplies than no supplies. 

Simplest Keychain Kit

If you are not concerned with having the kit contained in anything, there is one very simple keychain design. There are a lot of different gear options available that can be hooked directly onto a keyring. With this design, items are directly attached to the keyring and allowed to hang loosely.

survival keychain loose
Loose keychain

I like this design because it allows for immediate access to the items that I need and requires no container. Another perk is that I can carry larger variants of items that would otherwise need to be smaller or items that would not fit into the kit at all. Examples, instead of a small scalpel blade I can carry a Swiss Army Knife. Instead of a “toothpick” sized ferrocerium rod, I can carry a larger one that will be easier to handle and has less potential to break. 

The downside to this design is that items are “loose” and they can weigh down a keychain. I have carried items like this around before and it can become a bit cumbersome. The items can be jumbled around and can become hung up on clothing or other articles. 

Above is a picture of one such option. On the keychain in the picture is several feet of paracord, a JetScream whistle, K.E.R.T. (Keyring emergency rescue tool) by CRKT, Ferrocerium, and magnesium rod, flashlight, and pace count beads. 

Designing The Kit 

However, having items contained in a kit can be easier. There are two ways in which you can approach making any kit. The first is to figure out what items you want to go inside. The second is to decide what to put those items in, i.e. a container and how to carry it. 

You can approach the kit any way you want but since this is a keychain survival kit, size and weight are going to be the limiting factors. So, for fun, I am going to figure out the container first and then decide what is going to go in it. 

Container Options 

When it comes to finding a container, you are only limited by your imagination. I try to find containers that are hard, waterproof, and allow quick access to the items inside. I have made my own by recycling a medication bottle, made one out of PVC pipe, or a pill container that can be purchased through most survival supply stores. 

Below is a small pill container that I purchased a while back. It originally came with a rubber o-ring around the cap that helped to waterproof the container, but at some point, I tore it and haven’t gotten around to replacing it. It measures roughly two- and one-half inches tall by about one inch wide. 

Here is a list of items I was able to put inside.

pill container contents
Pill container contents
  • Emergency cash (a denomination larger than $1 would probably be more helpful)
  • Two, strike-anywhere matches 
  • Scalpel blade. Make sure that the blade is wrapped 
  • Ferrocerium rod 
  • Two clothespins
  • Large sewing needle 
  • 10ft black sewing thread wrapped around the needle 
  • Two fishing hooks 
  • 10ft fishing line wrapped around the hooks
  • 6ft Paracord yarns

This is just one configuration of items I have put in this container. Other options that fit inside include:

  • Water purification tablets
  • 30 feet of fishing line 
  • Pieces of fatwood
  • A few small bandages 

There is one item in this kit that I wanted to briefly discuss, and that item is the scalpel blade. I am not a big fan of adding these into small kits. I get it, it is a space saver and it is incredibly sharp. But in my opinion, without a handle, they are impractical and unsafe. I merely put it in the kit to show that it fits and it could be used as a last-ditch cutting tool.  

Paracord Survival Keychain Kits

Paracord Survival Kits
Cobra Weave

I have long been a fan of paracord and there have been a ton of amazing projects made from it over the years. Using it to make a keychain kit is beneficial because it acts like a kit to contain all the items and paracord itself is an extremely versatile survival item to have. 

One of the simplest paracord braids that I know is called the Cobra Weave. It is not hard to learn and several different projects can be made from this one braid. If you do not know how to make this braid there are many good videos online with step by step instructions. Here are some items that I choose to put into this paracord keychain kit. 

  • Small Swiss Army Knife
  • Sewing needle with ten foot of thread
  • 30 ft of fishing line 
  • 5 fishing hooks 
  • Ferrocerium rod 
  • Jute Twine (tinder)
  • Button compass 
  • Signal whistle 
  • A small sheet of aluminum foil

Which One Is The Best?

In the past, I have been asked which kit is the best option, and my reply is a combination of all of them. That is if you want to be as prepared as possible. 

My Suggestion: If you have space I would lean towards the following setup. A few items attached directly to the keychain such as a small flashlight, a larger ferrocerium rod, and a signal whistle. Then add on a pill container kit or a paracord survival keychain. If you do not carry a pocketknife then I would add in a small Swiss Army Knife. Good small models include the Classic, MiniChamp, and the Wenger.

Remember that the above article is intended to show you some ways in which to always carry gear with you. The kits can be personalized to suit your needs so what you carry is truly up to you.

Written by Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021. Read more of Bryan's articles.

4 thoughts on “Survival Keychain Kit Design: Why and What To Include”

  1. Working on the assumption that the kit will be carried in a pocket (probably pants pocket), then I don't like the loose kit because it will be a pain to carry, always tangling up, and individual items have a tendency to break loose. Excuse the nitpickyness of this but, in a kit of this size, I doubt that pacing beads or safety pins would be actually needed; a button compass would be more practical! The thing I dislike about paracord kits is that once you need it, you no longer have a container to carry the remaining gear in, and try to untie and/or retie the kit with cold. shaking hands, good luck! Neither of these kits give you anyway to carry water! I would suggest adding a twist tie baggie to the kit to address this if room permits! I prefer the hard-sided container kit as it protects its contents much better. I would add more matches (even book matches) and small birthday candles (wrapped individually) since the size of these kits doesn't allow for shelter material (to speak of), fire will be a higher priority! Finally, what about the small orange-colored whistle/match container/compass "kits" that available, just like the other small kits, they are better than nothing. If you're leaving your abode with only one of these kits (heaven forbid) then you'd better add in your luckiest rabbit's foot, but remember it didn't do the rabbit much good!

    • Roger,
      Thanks for the reply and the suggestions! Keychain kits are really supposed to be a small supplement to items you should already be carrying. By no means should someone set out on an adventure with these minimal items. They are also a back up of a few items for just in case situations. They can be a tricky way of carrying items primarily due to the limited space. The twist tie baggy is a good idea, I'm assuming that would be a way of collecting and transporting a small amount of water?
      Thanks for reading and for the input.

  2. Handy way to keep that sewing needle handy is inserting it into cut down coffee straw and wrap thread around the straw. Another tip: – insert firesteel end into sewing bobbin for wire or other cordage choice. Bobbin forms a handle to grab onto. When inserted into round container bobbin first, the rod forms a handle to pull out contents.

  3. First thing I would say is that you don't want a whole lot of weight swinging from your vehicle's ignition lock. It will wear the tumblers to the point that the lock may fail to turn at some point. I keep a Re-Q-Me tool, a Swiss Army Classic and a Streamlight Nano on the ring with my car key. On my separate house key ring, I have a Cold Steel Mini Recon, a ThruNight Ti3, a 3" X 0.25" ferro rod, and two Delrin battery lockers – one AAA with a spare battery for the Thrunite, and one AA with a mini first aid kit that includes one large and one medium BandAid brand Neosporin bandage, and one dose each of Tylenol, Imodium and Benadryl. Minimalist, but I use them all the time, except of course the Res-Q-Me tool and the pills!


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