5 Survival Items You’ll Be Sorry You Bought

If there is one thing that goes hand-in-hand with prepping, it is buying the right gear. And trust me, if you’re like most preppers there will be plenty of gear that you simply must have. Or at least think you must have.

And if you are like me (and a lot of other people) you probably have a tub, drawer or bag of poorly chosen or otherwise “misfit” pieces of gear that you regret buying. Everybody has one, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, though you might regret the wasted time and money you spend acquiring them.

Some of the items that end up in your collection of crappy gear might have resulted from a visit from the Good Idea Fairy, where the item simply could not measure up in use to the idea you had in mind.

Some of these items are just bad ideas, and cannot do the things they set out to do. Some of them are inefficient or not grounded in reality, placing style over substance or banking on a fringe set of circumstances that are highly unlikely to occur.

No matter what you are doing, where you live and what you are preparing for the time will come when you buy something you sorely regret.

I have prepared a short list today of common pieces of survival gear that are almost always a universally bad fit for most preppers. Save yourself time, money, and grief by avoiding these items like the plague.

1. Pre-Packed Bug Our Bags

It doesn’t matter if you are a brand-new prepper or a seasoned survivor. You have at least heard about the concept of the bug-out bag, and more than likely have one to call your very own.

The bug-out bag is a central tenet in prepping, serving as a sort of survival “parachute”, a ready-packed, convenient cache of gear that can allow you to sustain life, and do the work you need to do when the time comes to evacuate.

When the situation turns grim, you don’t want to be dashing out the door with family in tow and nothing but the shirt on your back. You’ll need supplies, gear, provisions; all the things necessary to sustain you. That is where the BOB comes in.

Though BOBs often feature a core checklist of supplies that you should expect to find in pretty much any such pack worth the name, the rest of the items included are very much a personal choice, dictated largely by a formula that takes into account the anticipated disaster, the terrain and climate, the owner’s skills or lack thereof in various disciplines and other intangible factors, like dependents, survival plan, mode of travel and more.

What I’m trying to say is that the packing list for a BOB should always be chosen with care beyond the absolute bare necessities.

This is why you should not get any one of the many pre-packed, ready to go and so-called complete BOBs that you can buy from various vendors.

It never fails that the generic contents of these bags contain nothing but the core essentials in great abundance, if that. Some of them look like the contents of a shopping cart after a wild, blind raid on a Bass Pro Shop.

Almost invariably the bags themselves are of very poor quality, something you can ill-afford when carrying a backpack that is heavily loaded. A blown stitch or a busted strap could see you and your vital gear flapping in the wind when you can least afford it.

They might seem like an okay value if you have no idea where to start and you want to have a surplus of those basics, but even then it never fails that the gear you get is either of the cheapest, crappiest quality that overseas slave labor factories can provide or included at marked-up prices of a ridiculous degree

It will be cheaper for you to assemble the contents of your own BOB off the shelf. With very, very few exceptions these ready-made bug-out bags have no redeeming qualities. Avoid them!

2. “Survival” Bunkers

Having your very own survival bunker is seen as something of a crown jewel or bucket list prep for a great many preppers. The appeal is undeniable: what could be better than a subterranean, fortified and well-stocked bunker that you and yours could retreat to when things get really nasty?

No matter what kind of disaster you are facing, the thinking goes, and no matter where you live being able to retreat inside a hardened bunker before closing the door and throwing the locks ranks pretty high on both convenience and efficiency ratings. Truly, what could be better than that?

The answer: almost anything. Fixed-site fortifications are where most people make a last stand, and then die. There are simply too many variables to account for to recommend a bunker for the highly-variable business of survival.

The installation of a bunker is going to be very difficult and technically challenging to do yourself, and relying upon contractors means that your bunker will be anything but secret. It is just as likely to be a red pin on someone else’s planning room map.

Enterprising providers have responded to these concerns by marketing survival bunker kits, not entirely dissimilar to tornado shelter modules that people in the midwest are likely familiar with.

Though they make the installation of a survival bunker easier for the DIY-savvy prepper, they do nothing to alleviate the many practical shortcomings of a bunker, namely that they are extremely vulnerable to attack once discovered and usually very difficult to escape from when compromised.

Naturally, expensive design and manufacturing processes mandate a high sticker price for these bunker modules and that means you are going to have to shell out big-time for the privilege of owning a prep that will likely wind up being little more than a novelty installation to show off to your buddies.

That money would have been much better spent on other gear, staples and training. Perhaps the only people that should seriously consider an underground shelter are the aforementioned folks living in tornado prone areas and other places that experience destructive wind events.

A properly installed, small tornado-specific shelter is an ideal prep for a very particular kind of disaster, but also one that is only going to be occupied for a very short time.

3. Thermal Goggles / Optics

We live in a time of unparalleled technological wonders. Truly, mankind has created some modern miracles, and the set dressing of science fiction novels and movies from just a couple of decades ago are now entirely real and available over-the-counter.

Some of the coolest and most practical pieces of technology available to the average person are enhanced imaging optics and scopes. Probably the most coveted, and the most misunderstood, is thermal vision.

Without delving too deeply into the physics and science behind its operation, thermal vision devices allow the user to read the heat of an object on the eyepiece, or on a screen as a contrasting color distinctly apart from its background.

Every redblood who ever saw the Predator movies has lusted for this technology ever since, and now it is a reality- if you’ve got the coin.

The imagined advantages that thermal vision offers will dance through the minds of anyone considering it: What price is too great to pay for such an advantage, as it would mean that intruders and trespassers have nowhere to hide, and your quarry, if you are looking for dinner, will not be able to evade you.

But as it turns out thermal vision is not the stuff of magic, despite a dedicated campaign of propaganda touting its near omnipotence that has been pushed non-stop by the military-industrial complex.

Lots of things can foil thermal vision, and even a heavy rain, dense foliage or something as simple as a thick blanket can completely hide the thermal signature of a target from the sensor.

Additionally, these devices are power hungry, large and comparatively fragile making them a highly niche item at best for weapons, and just several pounds more gear to carry in scope or binoculars form. And did I mention they are fantastically expensive? Like closing in on “nice, used car” expensive.

I would recommend almost everyone pass on thermal goggles unless you have a highly specific use for them. If you need enhanced vision modes, consider getting a good pair of night-vision goggles or a night-vision scope instead, and spend the rest of the money on training to learn how to maximize it, as well as minimize its shortcomings.

4. Stylized Knives

There is hardly a more essential item for a prepper than a good, trusty knife, from the do-everything folding pocket knife of the EDC oriented prepper to the sturdy, stout bushcrafter knife that will accompany the outdoorsman into the wild unknown.

The knife is one of Mankind’s oldest and most valuable tools, and any prepper worth the title will prioritize the selection and care of their personal blade.

You don’t need me to tell you that there are literally countless varieties of knives out on the market today, from the sublime to the crazy, from the inexpensive to the fantastically pricey.

You don’t have to be a blade aficionado to get a reliable, working knife that can do what you ask it to do, but you should exercise some care in judgment that you do not get taken by slick advertising and sexy looks. Some knives are the epitome of “all flash and no dash”.

Most of the best knives look like exactly what they are; no-nonsense tools, and though they might have the fingerprints of their maker or designer on it they are usually subtle and reserved. The blades are not fantastically sculpted.

The handles do not look like props from an action or fantasy movie. They do not have additional spikes, multiple fixed blades or comically oversized Conan the Barbarian handguards. They just look like knives that are intended to do work.

No matter how cool, how fun, how slick, and how much you think a steamed or fantasy knife “fits your personality” resist the call. Nearly without exception they are all garbage. Leave the fantasy stuff for playtime or your next LARP’ing adventure, and go with proven performers for serious business.

5. Multi-Function “Tools”

This next one is probably my most hated and altogether too common for those preppers who lack experience in actually using tools in outdoor settings.

To be clear, I’m not referring to proper multi-tools, or multi-pliers if you prefer, those ingeniously handy and highly-useful pocket tools that combine a Swiss Army knife with a sturdy set of pliers. No, these unholy abominations are the stuff that B-Team advertising reels are made of.

I am referring to the telescopic folding shovel that contains a saw, a compass, a fire starter, a 3-edged, sharpened spade, a tripod mount, a reflective survival mirror, fishing kit, phone recharger, etc.

I have seen before, no joke, a carpenter’s hammer that also splits in half to be used as a set of slip joint pliers and within those pliers are contained a variety of folding screwdriver bits, knife blades and files. I have seen some axes that are very similar.

As a novelty item for a child who doesn’t know any better, these items might have merit. But for literally any other purpose they only range in functionality from “completely inadequate” to “dangerously defective”.

Often made from pot metal with non-existent quality control, these items are uncomfortable and can rarely perform even their primary function. What good are a multitude of secondary and tertiary functions if a tool cannot even do the thing it was nominally designed to do in the first place?

These things are so insidious because, as preppers, we should always be keen to how we can save weight, save space and get more mileage from our gear. Any item that can do the work of two separate items is a significant weight savings, and that means you should be interested in it.

However, you can take any good concept too far, and turning a simple hand tool into a complicated, fragile and inefficient multifunction monstrosity is the crux absolute of that proverb.

If you hate money that bad, I suggest you burn it instead; that way you’ll at least get some warmth and light out of it!

Conclusion

You’ll have lots of gear to buy during your life as a prepper, and unfortunately not all of it will turn out to be good gear that can do what you need it to do.

Even among useful types of gear, not all of it is created equal, and the categories included on this list are among the biggest wastes of money that you will encounter in your travels. If you do nothing else but avoid these items like the plague, you’ll be ahead of the game and keep a little more money in your pocket.

survival items to avoid Pinterest

12 thoughts on “5 Survival Items You’ll Be Sorry You Bought”

  1. I found the best way to evaluate a device or tool is to make it part of your EDC – Every Day Carry – for a month. If you didnt use it in that month, then it isnt all that useful. And you can relegate it to that collection bucket of useless things in your dresser drawer or workshop.

    1. Put all that crap in a fancy bug out bag when you bug out and drop it as soon as you can. Anyone on your tail will waste time going through all that junk maybe adding a few minutes to you escape time!!

  2. Every tradie that worked on your bunker knows where it is, what it probably contains, and how to snuff out the air and water supply.
    EX Friends, neighbours and their mates will all know, and when the wife and kids are starving, will be only too happy to kill you and yours!

  3. I spent 35 years “perfecting” my bug out bag, then in 2015 it was stolen. I had changed it over to a get home bag as I was commuting almost 75 miles a day to work. I needed a bag quickly. I researched and bought an Echo Sigma pre packed bag. Yes, I did it just like my old bag, I modified, tossed, added, swapped, etc. But, all in all it was 75% of what I had before and I felt more secure. One piece of advice – whether you buy or build, keep an inventory of contents for insurance purposes – I know I lost a lot of money on my insurance claim because I didn’t have a full inventory

  4. While I agree with the comments about bunkers, which in the article are described as a slightly modified definition of the classic military bunker, I believe that what many preppers want and do need, is a prepper friendly shelter that incorporates some of the aspects of bunker.

    Not the hole in the ground with only one entry/exit, no way to see outside, and the other aspects that make them unsuitable for preppers. However, structures can be constructed, for about the same cost, and often for less, that have the protection features of an underground bunker, without the negatives.

    These shelters can be underground, partially underground, or above ground. Above ground, they can be earth-bermed or constructed with materials that make them capable of withstanding nearly the same type of attacks that underground construction can.

    I do agree that there are times when leaving is still better than staying, if measures are included in the design and construction of the shelter, it can be retaken fairly easily and without much risk. The shelter does need to be constructed so as to prevent significant damage by vandals, squatters, or other occupants if you did have to leave. And, again, this is not difficult or particularly expensive.

    So, bunkers no, but protective shelters yes.

    Just my opinion.

    Jerry D Young

  5. You have not used any of these have you. You forgot that having prepacked Bob is easy to give to the gang that wants it. Night vision traded for plane tickets saved my life. A multi tool helps to make tools from other disassembled parts. Stylized knife trade well for fuel. Survival bunkers that have minimal supplies in them will draw out the looters. So you failed to see the potential of things.

    1. ??? Junk tools are junk tools. Buy the best you can afford, or wait til you can buy something quality. Why would you give a BOB to the gang. Family first, family always, family only. I can only imagine how much fuel I can get for a Rambo survival knife, maybe enough to charge my zippo. As far as for night vision, its a fancy that can be done without, there are ways around it, most quality night vision cost as much as first class round trip from US to Africa. You can have your bunker, I’ll wave as I walk by.

  6. Thank you. Another excellent article. I was good for 4 of the 5 items but I missed thermals in the service but not in my nocturnal pig hunts. The are a gamechanger but only until servicing is needed. a cave is a grave…. a spider hole is the closest I would ever get to a bunker. Thanks again. Stay safe.

  7. Great article!
    RE: Thermal Night Vision
    I’ve worked with truck mounted thermal imaging systems in the Southwest border area for a number of years, and you are absolutely correct; rain, fog and foliage will easily defeat its purpose. I’ve watched smuggling groups literally disappear when they reach a thicket of mesquite trees. Top of the line FLIR Thermal/Visible systems start at around $85,000 and you won’t be humping one in your backpack.

  8. Thanks for the great article. I responded because of the spade point. While I do not care for items that have 500 things in one or are too complex, a lightweight capability to move dirt quickly is very important in a woodsy SHTF scenario. For one, in order to access some of your caches, you would have to leave them above ground rather than putting them underground. That can be very problematic in a situation such as placing in a tree that becomes toppled due to a disaster.

    While you can dig with a stirdy stick, it is rarely designed to move dirt fast. Also, many places do not have rocks that are well designed for digging. In the mountains, you may be fortunate enough to find some if it is not frozen in place. In the desert, your selection may or may not be available for miles. If it is not, I do not want to be lugging a rock from a mile away, especially one the size needed.

    So in essence, I like a simple lightweight foldable spade, even if the handle breaks.

    1. Greg Davenport

      I don’t think the aim was at the old Army Entrenching Tool. I believe the aim was at the “Ultimate Survival Kit” type shovels.

      The first is great as a shovel and hoe for making a garden in your set location in a EOTWAWKI. Although a heavy useless tool walking from your car to the closest gas station. The other might make for a walking stick if you can’t find one on the ground along the way.

      Of course on the long term, you can craft as you need because you will have to craft a garden rake anyway.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *