Turning a Tackle Box into a Survival Kit: DIY Approach

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By Bryan Lynch •  7 min read

I am a thrifty consumer and one of my favorite times of the year for shopping is summer because summertime means garage sales! 

By putting in a little or sometimes a lot of my time, I have found some real treasures over the years and a fishing tackle box is an item I have come across a lot. 

They are usually an overlooked item because they are often a bit unsightly. With old fishing lines, used hooks, and spoiled bait leave the container in a smelly, gross condition. In part, this is probably why it is being sold. The seller would rather try to get a few bucks for it before tossing it in the trash can.

While I have found a few great items hidden in a tackle box, this article will be focused on the box itself. They may seem dirty at first, but for a few bucks and some elbow grease, you can turn it into a useful survival kit. Or you can just buy a new one. 

Why Use a Tackle Box?

A tackle box is not the greatest container in the world to use for a survival kit, but I do think they are some good features, as well as a few not so good features.



Since tackle boxes are used in and around water sources, many of them are waterproof and some even float. This is a great feature to have to keep important items protected and dry.


Most tackle boxes are split up into two sections, a lower tub and a few collapsible trays on top. The tub can be used for larger items while the trays offer small compartments for items to be easily separated and organized. 

Tray Dividers

Between compartments on the trays, there is a small divider. These help to keep lures and hooks separated and prevent them from becoming a tangled mess. Sometimes these dividers are removable and can allow you to better customize the layout.


Tackle boxes are lightweight, compact, and often have a carrying handle on top. This makes them easy to move from one place to another. 


Tackle boxes, like the one featured in this article, look just like, well, a fishing tackle box. Unless someone is specifically looking to get their hands on fishing supplies, most people would not bother messing with it. 


Tackle boxes come in all shapes and sizes which gives you the ability to customize them to your needs and wants.


Many tackle boxes come with the means of attaching a small padlock onto the front. This provides a little extra security in a situation where a person cannot simply carry the kit away. 



A secondhand tackle box is going to be dirty. Even if it was kept in good condition, it will most likely still have an odor to it and be a bit grimy. This means you will have to devote some time to scrubbing, washing, and disinfecting it. 


If you are willing to spend a decent amount of money, there are all sorts of sturdy tackle boxes out there. But common tackle boxes, especially those found at garage sales are not the most durable. They are usually made from plastic and can crack under normal circumstances. Generally, they will not hold up to a lot of abuse.


Not all tackle boxes are lockable, and most are easily broken into or can be carried away with ease. When possible, always keep your tackle box kit in a secure location.

Getting Started

The first thing you are going to want to do with a secondhand tackle box is to dump any contents out. I suggest doing this on a level, flat surface like a workbench or a tabletop.

Some fishing tackle can be extremely small and difficult to see, like hooks, and you do not want those causing any problems after falling to the ground. Go ahead and set the tackle off to the side or throw it into a trash receptacle if you do not plan on keeping it. 

Next, it is time to clean the box. Even if it looks clean it is a good idea to give it a quick wash. You do not know what has been in there that could affect the gear you intend on putting inside. It is better to be safe than sorry. 

Dawn dish soap, a sponge, and some hot water are great at clearing away old grime and odors. If your tackle box is exceptionally dirty, I suggest allowing it to soak in a tub of hot soapy water for at least an hour. This will help to loosen most stubborn grime and it should scrub off easier. 

Another trick to help remove stuck-on gunk is to use a light abrasive, like salt or baking powder, with a sponge and hot water. 

Any further cleaning or the use of disinfectants is completely up to you. 

The Survival Kit 

Now that everything is nice and clean it is time to pack the tackle box with some of the essentials a general-purpose survival kit should have. 

Be sure to take the time to customize the kit by including personal items and any additional items that may be helpful to your specific region.

The items I included:

Other Kits

The nice thing about a tackle box is that it can be used for other types of kits as well. The high level of organization and individualized compartments make it well suited for a first aid kit.

I have used a tackle for this type of kit in the past and I like it much more than any kit I have ever bought at a store. For some reason, I have a difficult time keeping my first aid kits organized but have not had that problem with a tackle box medical kit. 

Here is a look inside the same type of tackle box but instead with first aid supplies. 

The supplies in this medical kit include:

Wrap Up 

Tackle boxes can be great containers to use as a survival kit primarily because they are waterproof and offer an excellent way of organizing gear.

Because they are somewhat compact, they can easily be stored in a vehicle or on a shelf at home. They are also lightweight, not including the contents of the kit, and have a comfortable carrying handle so that the tackle box can be grabbed at a moment’s notice. 

So, the next time you are out shopping, and you see a used or new tackle box, look beyond what it is supposed to be used for and see the potential of what it could be used for.

I hope you enjoyed this little project and if you have ever made a survival kit out of a tackle box, be sure to sound off in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!

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.