Survival Keychain Options.
Can what we put on our keychain, help with an emergency wilderness survival situation?
Obviously the keychain and our pockets are limited on size with what we can realistically carry. So is it worth attaching some survival items to the keyring, or is it just a novelty token that has no real value? The survival keychain can have value, however, we have to consider what is practical and useful for the restrictions we have.
Some useful items for the keyring in an emergency, might help us in some way with the vital elements of survival. Such as shelter, water, fire, food, signal, navigation and first aid.
As shelter items, like a tarp, or water containers are large and heavy items, they would be impractical on a key ring. But some items on the keychain can help indirectly with shelter or water. An example could be, a lighter to help start a fire to boil and purify water. Or a cutting tool on the keyring to help build a structure, like cutting cordage.
So let’s look at a few keyring survival kits and options that could potentially help us in an emergency wilderness situation.
Above image. – Ferrocerium rod, Walker Swiss Army pocket knife, micro torch and compass.
Above pic. – Cordage, pocket knife, whistle and micro LED torch.
Above picture – Compass, pocket knife and ferro rod.
Pocket knife and multi tools.
Pocket knives are useful and can help with cutting chores. Obviously the small knife on your survival keychain won’t be as solid as a fixed blade knife, but is handy for smaller jobs.
A multi tool or Leatherman tool such as the Leatherman Squirt can have many uses in their own right and a valuable addition to the keyring. The drawback for some models is, their weight and bulk and their price.
The Swiss Army Knife (SAK.) is another handy tool. A model, like the SAK Walker pocket knife has a saw that can help in creating notches for animal traps, as well as ideal for cutting notches in a hearth board for the fire bow drill.
Above image. – Bic mini lighter and Byrd Cara Cara 2 pocket knife. (Closed length 4.875” 12.38 cm. The pocket knife is starting to get a bit big when attached with keys, but useful.)
Other cutting devices that might attach to the keychain could be a micro survival blade or mini saw. Granted you are not going to chop down a tree with it, but it is handy for cutting cordage, etc.
Check your country and state rules and regulations for carrying knives.
For the fire-lighting element for the key chain, there are several options like lighters, ferro rods and matches, etc.
A Zippo lighter, mini lighter or modified Bic lighter might be a valuable tool for the keyring. Wrap it with bright tape so it is easy to see if you lose it. The tape can also hold some cordage for a loop to connect to the keyring. A Gorilla tape or similar can also be used for a flame extender. The tape could hold underneath some Fire Strip Roll, or jute twine for tinder.
A rubber band around the ignition gas button of the lighter, will stop it pressing down in your pocket and releasing the butane gas. The rubber band can also be used for a flame extender.
An Exotac fire sleeve might be too large for most, but an option for some people, as this helps hold and keep the lighter waterproof.
The ferrocerium rod (Ferro rod.) has a lot of options for the keyring, as it has a wide variety of sizes and types.
A very small ferro rod can be finicky, hard to use and have minimal sparks for fire-lighting. On the other hand a big 6” long x ½” diameter ferro rod, might be too big for the key ring. So a happy medium size might be best for your keyring and pocket size.
(Make sure you practise with the ferrocerium rod, as it has a learning curve with different types of tinder.)
Matches in a small match safe or capsule, or even a magnesium fire starter bar can hang off the keychain.
While your mobile phone has a torch, you might want to save the battery life if you are in an emergency situation. So a micro torch, or small penlight can just help shed some light about.
Or the light can be used for signalling. (See phone case survival kit options for more info on how the mobile phone case can also supplement a survival kit.)
Most paracord keychain lanyards aren’t really long enough to get any substantial length of cordage. The exception is, if you use a smaller diameter cordage like Nano cord, hootchie cord, or bank-line.
Another idea is to use Survival paracord, 550 FireCord, jute twine, etc., which can help as tinder for fire-lighting.
Bank-line, or even fishing line, might be able to be wrapped around the pen torch or items. Or in the above photo the cordage is hanked with some tape to hold it and attached to the keyring.
Alternatively a hank of cordage in your pocket, will give you more length and might be a better option, rather than attached to your key ring.
While natural navigation is a good skill to have, some methods might take time, or not be unavailable in some situation. Such as the sun shadow stick, it might be cloudy and no shadows are cast for it to work. (For another navigation method, see my article on – How to use a watch as a compass.) So a compass might be extra option to attach to the keychain.
While you are not going to have a large base plate compass on the keyring, a button or small compass can be a valuable asset.
(Above image. – The Silva Ranger SL attached to the keychain, might be getting a bit large for some people, but might work for others. A pocket knife and ferro rod are also attached to the keyring.)
A button compass may not accurately navigate multiple legs across the backwoods. However, it is a good tool to confirm the cardinal points and work with your natural navigation skills and give you confidence.
Before you attach the compass to the key ring, check the cardinal directions (North, south, east, west.) are accurate. Avoid the cheap nasty compasses, a brand name maybe a better option.
It might pay to double check that the keys, keyring, knife, torch, etc. or anything metal doesn’t upset the accuracy of the compass. You might have to take the compass off the keyring when using it, so no metal or items will effect it. (Or have it on a slightly longer lanyard.)
A whistle is another valuable tool for a wilderness emergency situation and can be put on a survival keychain easily.
A lot of the cheap whistles are just not loud enough, however, test them if you can. (I have a couple of cheap whistles that are loud, but most are a quieter than a mouse’s squeak.) The better brands of whistle, such as a Fox40 whistle or so, may list a decibel reading and are generally louder.
Keyring capsule might hold some dry tinder or fire-starting material. Other items it could hold are medication, or even some water purification tablets.
The better keychain capsules will have a good seal and be waterproof.
Because of the bulky size, it would have to be weighed up against its practical use, compared to say a fire-lighting tool of the same size.
Rubber bands and Ranger bands.
Above picture – Lanyard, StrikeFire ferrocerium rod, Bic lighter, micro torch and cordage, with Ranger band.
Wrap the keychain items with Ranger bands or rubber bands, this helps to keep items from rattling about and it keeps them tidy. (The rubber can be used as fire extender as well.)
A small sharpening whetstone, or pocket knife sharpener, could go on the keychain.
Other possibilities are a squashed roll of narrow cargo tape and even small water transportation bags could be attached to the keyring.
A temperature gauge is handy to keep you mindful of the hot or cold conditions.
A Readyman Wilderness survival card, or a survival card like a Grim Bob Hansler, could go in your wallet, mobile phone case, or even hang it off your keychain.
A flint and steel striker could hang off the keyring. (Although might be too big and maybe not a tool for an immediate emergency, but can be a sustainable method of fire-lighting.) Some flint and steel strikers such as the Pathfinder Multi Fire Tool, or ESEE Firesteel Flint Striker can double as a ferro rod striker and bearing block for a fire bow drill.
Other considerations for the survival keychain.
What size keychain suits you? Have you got big pockets and are willing to have a fair few items that might be bulky and might be uncomfortable in your pocket? Or do you want it as small as possible?
You might decide to have a larger pocket knife separate from your key ring. So the key chain may not have a blade on it. Perhaps you have a larger ferro rod or fire-lighter in your pocket at all times, so your survival key chain doesn’t have a fire starting element on it.
Obviously because of the size constraints, the shelter element is lacking on the keyring. So a quality space thermal blanket in your pocket might be a start. (Not a cheap $1 space blanket. That will rip in two seconds.)
Do you really need a mini crowbar, screwdriver set and the kitchen sink on the keychain, especially in a wilderness survival kit?
Some items might be useful, but you might use them only once in a blue moon, so maybe they are not a very practical to include on your keychain.
Overdoing it, with too many items.
A lot of survival keychains have too many gadgets. Some are close to being a novelty item and have little or no real value. But ultimately it is up to the individual, as we have different skills, preferences and live in different environments.
I love the army can openers, but if your keyring is getting full, do you really need to put the Army P51 can opener on it? Would a knife be able to open the can in emergency? Could you fashion a quick stick spoon in the woods.
Even if you have room on the keyring, putting too many items on the keyring can make it a spikey heavy ball. This might mean you don’t want to carry it around and leave it at home.
Secure the keyring on a lanyard when out in woods to give you peace of mind.
A small carabiner, or clips like the Night-Eze can be attached with some paracord or Nano cord to your belt. (Don’t attach it to your belt loop as this can rip off without knowing it. Looping around the actual belt is more secure.)
The drawbacks of the survival keychain.
As discussed, the survival keyring is limited on what it can carry, so the kit should be part of a layered bushcraft and survival kit, not a be all end all, kit by itself.
Above image – Water bottle pouch, Cups canteen, water bottle, SOL space blanket, survival keychain (With micro torch, yellow Bic lighter, Swiss Army Knife, compass, cordage and compass.) Mora Garberg knife with sheath, sail needle and nail taped to back of sheath.
The keychain could supplement other survival and camping items. Such as a solid fixed blade knife on your belt. A water bottle, stainless steel container, fire-lighting items, cordage and a few more items in your pouch, appropriate clothing, a tarp and waterproof jacket in your backpack. Include these tools when in the woods and you have a good solid base for a bushcraft and survival kit.
Summary – Survival keychain options.
While the survival keychain won’t cover every tool or situation, a few basic items on your keyring could be a lifesaver.
While 101 survival items in your day pack might be useful, there is no point if you haven’t got the day pack with you. The benefit of your survival keychain is that you will have this in your pocket the majority of the time, this might even be part of your EDC (Everyday carry items.) kit or mindset.
Overall the keychain is incomplete with what it can hold, but a few select items might be valuable in a real emergency situation and supplement your bushcraft and survival skills.