10 Survival Items to Get from the Goodwill Store

For preppers, there is always something that we need. Many of these must-have items are critical pieces of gear; things that will help get us through a bad situation or a long-term period where we must become completely self-sufficient.

clothing in thrift store

Even if you aren’t out buying the latest and greatest in high-tech gear the costs can really add up, and quite a few preppers, out of necessity or preference, try to save as much money as they can when purchasing gear.

The internet is great for saving a few bucks on big purchases, but it gets harder when you try to buy from brick and mortar merchants.

All of your big-box camping, sport and outdoor stores will have everything you need and then some, but they will charge a hefty premium for the privilege of shopping there.

One outlet you have probably overlooked is the Goodwill store, a common fixture in cities around America.

Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to find all kinds of useful survival gear in good shape at your local Goodwill, and the selection changes all the time incentivizing you to make regular visits to see what you might be missing out on.

In this article we will share with you 10 crucial pieces of survival gear that you can likely pick up for a song at your friendly, neighborhood Goodwill store.

1. Clothing

Everyone knows that Goodwill stores carry a ton of clothing, but you might have taken for granted the fact that among that clothing could be some good quality outdoor gear.

Everything from waders and cargo pants to polar-rated parkas and heavy duty sweaters.

Buying these items brand new from leading manufacturers can set you back several hundred or even several thousand dollars depending on what you need, but you can get items of comparable quality for pennies on the dollar at Goodwill.

Keep in mind that if you live in a place with a year-round mono climate you might need to travel to a Goodwill in another state to reliably come up with certain pieces: You probably aren’t going to find too many cold weather items at a Goodwill in Phoenix, for instance and don’t count on finding hot weather wear in Anchorage!

With a little patience and a little bit of luck you can find an entire survival wardrobe, just your size.

2. Boots

Just like clothing, Goodwill often has an excellent selection of footwear, particularly boots and all kinds of styles, materials and sizes. You might be looking for some waterproof boots and come across an excellent pair of duck hunters.

If you want an all-purpose boot for the trail or bugging out there will likely be a pair of technical hikers with your name on it. Well, they might actually have someone else’s name on the tag, but you catch my drift!

Like any other article of apparel you might buy make sure you try them on and give them a test spin before you take them home because you probably cannot take them back and you’ll want to detect any obvious defect before plopping down your hard-earned dollars.

Also, if you find more traditional boots with a replaceable sole, don’t be afraid to pick up an old and battered pair that is just a little worn down; you can take them to a cobbler for an easy and inexpensive sole replacement, and then they’ll be as good as new!

3. Rain Gear

Rain gear is a perennial and popular item at many Goodwill stores.

Lots of folks- not just campers, hikers and preppers- purchase ponchos, rain slickers, windbreakers, umbrellas and the like anticipating they’ll get good and worthy service out of them in rainy weather. Turns out they almost never use them!

Most folks stay home when it is pouring outside, plans or no plans! But this lack of foresight or dedication can be your gain.

Generally speaking, most rain gear found in your average Goodwill is in great shape, barely used, and ready to put into service.

As with all used gear take the time to inspect it, especially because there is a better than average chance it has been exposed to water before.

Goodwill usually doesn’t put out anything that is in a terrible state of repair but mold, mildew and fungus infestations in clothing can cause problems and prove extremely difficult to get rid of. Other than that, the worst thing you’ll usually be putting up with is a slight musty smell.

Rain gear is an especially good category to cruise your local Goodwill for because much in the way of high-end stuff is very expensive purchased new!

4. Tools

Any of our readers in the audience who are craftsmen, handymen or hobbyists are probably already well aware of the plethora of tool bargains that can be found at the average Goodwill store.

You can find all kinds of tools, from common home repair toolbox items to more specialized mechanic’s tools. You would be surprised what people just give away, and that means Goodwill oftentimes comes up with some surprisingly nice stuff.

a toolbox

Even if you aren’t the DIY type it is in your best interest to have on hand a variety of tools for repair, improvisation and rebuilding in the aftermath of a major disaster.

You might even find some shockingly nice heirloom tools: axes, hammers, blacksmithing tools, gardening tools and the like.

I was once fortunate enough to find an extremely nice double bit felling axe that only needed a little bit of rust removal, a fresh coat of paint and some lacquer to be brought back up to like-new service.

Such a tool today, of equivalent quality, would cost you no less than several hundred dollars. If your tool chest is a little scrawny or even non-existent, start regularly trolling your Goodwill store and see what you find.

5. Manual Appliances

Plenty of preppers have food enough on hand to wait out the Apocalypse but they often have a “blind spot” in that they overlook the notion that their kitchen might be completely out of commission when it is time to get their survival chef-ing on.

When you have basic staples to prepare or just want to combine what ingredients you have into more filling and satisfying fare you are going to need a fair bit of kitchen gadgetry to do the job properly.

It is unfortunate that your usual array of electrical devices will almost certainly be down for the count due to a lack of power!

Just like the hand tools mentioned above this is one area where Goodwill will often have a surprisingly large collection.

Manual kitchen appliances of the like that your grandparents and great-grandparents used on the regular will often fill out several shelves in the average Goodwill store. Everything from manual beaters to mortars and pesos can be had for pennies.

You can even pick up a variety of hand cranked grain or meat grinders, cutting boards, rolling pins and the like. So long as you can still supply a little muscle your post-SHTF kitchen can keep on cooking although you’ll have to provide the recipes yourself.

6. Canning Gear

Canning is a skill that every prepper worth the name should know, and back before prepping became en vogue again this was not considered a survival skill; it was just considered a life skill!

Most people have a friend or family member who is already into canning, and chances are you have seen them as busy as a bee working in their kitchen to preserve the hard-won fruits (and vegetables) of their own grow operation or the bounty given to them by a family member who gardens.

10 year old pressure canner
a 10 year old pressure canner

Only canning allows you to greatly extend the shelf life of fresh fruits and veggies as well as meats and other dishes you create with no refrigeration required.

But canning requires a fair bit of gear to pull off successfully, and if you go out and buy an entirely new canning setup, tools, jars, lids and all, you’ll be dropping a fair bit of cash.

You will routinely see canning gear that is gently used or even like new at virtually every Goodwill store across the land.

Even if you’re only picking up one or two items per visit you will soon amass a large stockpile of implements and be ready to stock your pantry through fall, winter and beyond.

Make sure you ask an employee if they have any canning gear because sometimes it is not stored where you would expect it.

7. Containers

There’s one item that every single prepper, everywhere, will universally need it is containers.

Big containers, small containers. Metal, plastic and glass containers. Containers of all sorts for all purposes! Preppers need containers for storing provisions by type and also for stashing seasonal clothing.

They need containers for burying survival caches, for sorting reloading equipment and for concealing and protecting sensitive documents and other items. It is no exaggeration to say that the average prepper is crazy for containers.

Unfortunately, high-quality containers are expensive with even long-running standbys like Rubbermaid and Pyrex fetching pretty prices in big-box department stores. So long as you don’t mind some mismatched styles you can save a small fortune on a major haul of containers.

Pro Tip: if the containers are sitting out loose don’t lose hope if they seem like they are missing a lid or have a mismatched one. Try the lids from the neighboring containers to make sure some other enterprising customer hasn’t already mixed them up.

8. Tents and Sleeping Bags

Tents and sleeping bags are shelter items greatly beloved by all preppers, and useful in a variety of situations, even ones where you aren’t leaving your home.

Though they have obvious utility anytime you are out in the field or bugging out these also come in handy when you are staying in your home during periods of bad weather without benefit of power or heating.

The ability to create a smaller microclimate inside your home makes the most of your body heat and any other heat source, allowing you to stay toasty and comfortable without laboring to wastefully heat a large volume of air.

You will regularly see tents and sleeping bags in good repair turn up at Goodwills since many consumers buy these after a visit from the “Good Idea Fairy” only to give up on ever using them or regretting the purchase after a single use, discovering that the great outdoors or even mass market camping is not all it is cracked up to be!

The only thing I would caution you on is taking care to ensure that all parts of a tent’s frame, if it has one, are intact and accounted for, as you’ll have a hell of a time coming up with that one missing piece otherwise.

9. Backpacks

Chances are good you’ll find all kinds of backpacks at your local Goodwill, from classic JanSport backpacks to higher-end hiking packs and even some legacy, bespoke leather luggage if you are lucky.

Good thing, too, since backpacks are second only to containers when it comes to gear or goods perennially sought by preppers.

Backpacks form the basis of the ever-beloved BOB to more specialized load haulers like the go-bag, INCH bag and EDC bag.

black bug out bag backpack
a black bug out bag backpack

No matter what kind of bag you are looking for you can probably find it, and I personally have found everything from high-end Osprey framed adventure bags to military surplus ALICE and MOLLE rucksacks in good repair and free of rips.

Don’t be dissuaded if all you find are some JanSports near the school supplies, keep looking and even ask the employees if you don’t see what you are searching for as they may very well have some stashed in overflow.

10. Wool Blankets

One chronically overlooked and super useful item you will be lucky to find at any Goodwill is an old fashioned wool blanket. These could be hospital surplus, army surplus or just an old family heirloom that kids and grandkids don’t care to keep from grandma’s possessions.

Wherever it came from, you should snap up wool blankets whenever you can because wool is a survival fabric par excellence.

Nothing keeps you as warm as wool, and it can do it without making you too hot. Wool even keeps you warm when it is soaking wet, a quality that scarce few man-made materials can claim.

But if you haven’t checked the price on genuine wool blankets lately you are probably in for a shock: new, American-made wool from legacy looms will cost you several hundred dollars without any embellishment.

Hard to believe considering people used to throw these things away for being so scratchy! If we could only recover them… Anyway, Goodwill is a great option for getting lucky on locating these awesome blankets.


Goodwill is a favorite store of people who are on a budget or hipsters searching for their next vintage find, they could also become one of your favorite stops for survival gear if you know what you are looking for and where to look for it.

Don’t count out Goodwill if you are on a budget or unable to find the gear you need for the right price, as many gently used but well loved legacy gear can be found in these stores!

goodwill store survival items Pinterest image

3 thoughts on “10 Survival Items to Get from the Goodwill Store”

  1. “the worst thing you’ll usually be putting up with is a slight musty smell.”

    No, the worst is you can get scabies from used clothing, bedding, blankets.
    Put these, before washing, in the dryer on high for an hour, or in the freezer – it’s either 2 or 4 weeks, I don’t remember. Then wash and dry.
    I was living with someone that this happened to. Everyone in the house had to be treated. It was very unpleasant.

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