When I first got into prepping and survival, I felt the need to go out and buy as much gear and I could find. I think this is probably a normal reaction as you learn about the different ways to survive in different situations.
However, as soon as I started looking I realized that there were hundreds of choices varying greatly in quality and cost. My new hobby became researching these items to try to find the best value.
Of course this did not always work out. As these items started to arrive, I quickly noticed that some would not last. Others were just not as functional as I had hoped.
There have also been instances where a new version has hit the market or the price on a better quality version has dropped dramatically. In the end, most of the items you need can be purchased for less than $30 – more or less, as prices fluctuate almost daily.
In this article I will cover the items I have found most useful while shopping on a budget. All can be purchased through amazon.com or on most survival sites.
- Water Purification Tablets – These are basically iodine tablets that will purify water from most bacteria and microorganisms. The bottle is only a couple inches tall and hold enough tablets to purify 25L of water. Drop two tablets in a Liter of water, shake after 5 minutes, and let it sit for another 20 minutes.
- Water Bottle – This water bottle filters down to .1 microns and allows me to carry water with me as well. If has a paracord lanyard with a caribeener to attach it to my belt or pack, and it is incredibly easy to draw water through the filter. I can also keep fire starting materials or medical supplies inside when it is empty to keep them dry.
- Paracord Bracelet – These survival bracelets are woven with several feet of paracord, but also have a compass, fire-starter, and emergency whistle. I always keep one on me in the woods.
- SE FS374 All-Weather Emergency 2-IN-1 Fire Starter & Magnesium Fuel Bar (Everything you need to start a fire!) – This little bar that fits on my key ring is great for starting a fire. I rarely use the striker and normally use my knife, but the magnesium block is great to give you a good hold while striking. It is also shiny making it harder to lose.
- Fire Stick – This sticks are not tinder but instead are a windproof and waterproof type of kindling. It does require a flame to get it lit, but once lit it will keep a flame for at least 20 minutes in any conditions. In many cases they allow me to skip over small sticks and go straight to larger fuel.
- FireStarters Lighter Cubes– These waxy cubes make great tinder if your gear is wet and you cannot find dry tinder. You simply shave off a small pile of shavings and a spark will give you a good sized flame. If you need to keep it lit for several minutes, just cut off a small chunk and place it in your flame. This tinder is both waterproof and windproof.
- Zippo Lighter – This may seem like a conventional way to start a fire, but Zippos have some serious advantages. They are windproof, water resistant, and very tough to damage. The best feature is that they can be refilled with dozens of flammable liquids that you can find in most homes.
- Camping Stove – This is not a necessity, but is very nice to have. This small and lightweight camp stove is great if you have been hiking or working outside all day and just want a quick fire to cook food or boil water. It has a built-in ignition that is reliable and has a rack to set a pot or pan on top.
- Handheld Flashlight– A good tactical flashlight is an absolute must. This one is practically indestructible. It is super bright and has an adjustable beam that doubles as a strobe for self-defense.
- Waterproof LED Headlamp – If you have ever tried to light a fire or build a shelter after dark, you know that a headlamp is a must. I like one of my light sources to be rechargeable, and this head lamp is just as bright and durable as my flashlight.
- Survival Knife – A good knife does not have to break the bank. If I have another way to process wood, this is the knife I take. It is small enough for detailed work, but large enough to gut and skin a deer.
- Survival Chainsaw – This pocket saw has been sturdy and can cut wood up to 12 inches thick. Many of these saws are poorly built and break easily, so be selective on this tool.
- 550 Paracord – Cordage is essential in survival situations and 550 Paracord is your best option. It is strong enough to hold the weight of a full grown adult, but also has several inner strands that can be separated and used for securing lighter loads. I like hunter orange so I do not lose any smaller pieces, and like to replace my boot laces so I always have cordage with me.
- All-Weather Blanket – This has been one of my most useful purchases. It is a thick, tarp-style blanket with a reflective side and strong eyelets at the corners. It is great for a quick shelter or just to wrap up and stay warm through a cold night.
- Emergency Sleeping Bag – If you need a way to stay warm in an emergency that will not take up much space, this sleeping back is another good option. It will contain body heat better than even the best emergency blanket alone, but is still very small and inexpensive. Only $7.29
- Pencil Sharpener – A simple pencil is the most reliable way to write in a survival situation, but a manual pencil sharpener can be used for more. If you need dry tinder and it has been raining, sharpening sticks can allow you to use the shavings for fire. It also allows you to sharpen arrows or dart points for hunting.
- Pocket Fisherman Spin Casting Outfit – There are several types of fishing kits and collapsible poles on the market, but this one is by far the best I have found. It has dual rods allowing you to reel in fish up to about 5 lbs in weight. It also has a compartment for lures and hooks.
- Multifunction Sharpener – I am a big fan of a sharpening stone and a leather strop, but sometimes I just need a quick and easy way to sharpen my blade. This little sharpener fits on my keyring and does the trick. It has a course and fine sharpener along with a rod to sharpen the gut hook on my knife.
- Copper Wire– Copper wire is a great survival tool. It works much better for setting snare traps. It also can be easier work with as cordage if your hands are especially cold.
- Tactical Shemagh Scarf – A shemagh is simply a very large handkerchief and has dozens of survival uses. It makes a great bandage, can be used to help filter water, and great head wrap. It can protect from sun, wind, cold, and sand damage.
- Tactical Gloves – Until I started participating in survival challenges I did not realize how much abuse my hands and gloves would take. These tactical gloves are great for most weather and allow you the mobility for fine motor skills. They protect your hands and keep you from destroying your other gloves.
- Wool Socks – A good pair of dry wool socks are essential to keep your feet in good shape. They prevent blisters, keep your feet warm, and help avoid trench foot. They also dry out quickly.
- Multitool – Having a good multitool is often going to give you functions that you would not get out of your other basic tools However, you do not need to spend a great deal of money.
- Emergency Radio – In many emergencies our normal lines of communication will be shut down. Having an emergency radio with a hand crank is a good way to stay informed, and this one also has a built in flashlight.
- VIPERTEK VTS-880 – 35,000,000 V Mini Stun Gun – For all around self-defense for every member of your family, a stun gun is the best bet.
- Portable Water Filter – This straw offers the highest level of filtration of any on the market. It is small and comes with a solid warranty.
- Glow Sticks – Glow sticks are a great ambient light source for inside a shelter, tent, or even your home. They are easy to use and inexpensive.
- Emergency Food Tabs – Hunting and fishing is great for food, but you always want a backup plan. These tablets supply enough nutrition to replace meals for one week.
- Fish Gill Net – This type of gill net is designed to set up in one location and come back each day to collect your fish. The three layers will catch mostly smaller fish anywhere from four to ten inches long. The first day I used this net I caught a dozen fish and it takes up almost no space in your pack. You can also get shorter one layer nets that are better for setting up in multiple locations.
- Binoculars – Quality optics is a good idea for both hunting and security. Having the ability to spot game or intruders does not have to be expensive.
Not all of these will be appropriate for every person, but it gives you an idea of the type of items you can acquire without spending a great deal.
The next task is to look at your potential survival needs and prioritize which items to buy first. However, the most important part of this process is to become proficient with these items as you purchase them. Some are easier to use than others.
Never assume that these tools will be useful until you have tried them for yourself. By doing so you give yourself every opportunity to get life-saving value out of these purchases.