If you don’t have much cash to spare, this guide to low cost survival and prepping gear will buff up your stockpile for much less than you ever thought.
Does this sound like you?
I want to be more prepared, but unfortunately prepping isn’t free or usually all that cheap. After the bills are paid I just can’t put much money into prepping.
How about this, is this you?
I know that there are big advantages to stockpile food, water and survival gear but dropping $$$ on a backpack or an uber-do-everything flashlight just isn’t something I can afford.
If that sounds like you, then this article is for you.
Prepping On A Budget
We talked about how preparing on a budget is possible in our last post, so I won’t rehash all of that here.
With so many inexpensive alternatives it’s hard to make the case that you should always buy the more expensive gear, especially when you don’t have much cash to spare and the cheaper gear will work fine.
There are caveats of course, which we touched on in that post and will expand on next, but when you can’t afford an expensive piece of gear wouldn’t you be better off buying the cheaper alternative if the price is low enough, at least until you can get something better?
Unless we’re talking about climbing gear or some other gear where immediate injury could occur if it failed, a cheap piece of gear is always better than no gear at all.
Gear You Should, And Shouldn’t, Buy Cheaply
While most survival and prepping gear can be bought cheaply there are some caveats.
One good rule of thumb is that if gear is half the price or more of it’s expensive counterparts, stop and see if the build quality is still there. Sometimes though the price is so low it’s worth taking a chance to see it for yourself, such as a $17 tactical backpack that would otherwise cost you upwards of $150 for the same features.
Small, simple to make survival gear can nearly always be bought cheaply. Things such as ferro rods, survival bracelets, whistles, etc. Chances are the expensive version is made in the exact same factory by the exact same people anyway, with the only real difference being the logo and the marketing.
Items that are under $25 are usually the best bang for your buck, and lucky for us this covers 80-90% of all low cost survival gear. It’s hard to go wrong in this price range as long as you do your research, read reviews, and avoid the few listed below.
Some items will need a little extra investigating but otherwise are ok to buy cheaply.
- The stitching on tents and backpacks should be inspected for strength
- Tents should be as lightweight as possible
- Sleeping bags should have enough padding and be sewn in a way that holds the fill where it is
- Make sure any lighting you buy works on the type of batteries you think it does, many run on 18650 rechargeable batteries instead of AA nowadays, they’re NOT interchangeable!
- The strap length on backpacks should be looked at because sometimes they’re a little shorter than we like
- Read the reviews on ferro rods, cheap ones can break easier if misused or sometimes they wear out a little faster but that’s usually not a big deal
- Water filters should be certified and have some specs on what they do and do not filter, otherwise don’t buy them
- Check the reviews on compasses, some use weak magnets that float a lot and are not very accurate
These items should usually be avoided altogether:
credit-card sized survival items, cheap all-in-one survival tins, survival keychain fobs, and gimmicky items (think a wristwatch walkie-talkie).
Good Brands Only
These items should only be bought from a known and trusted brand:
Knives, paracord, climbing equipment, body armor plates, pocket ropesaws, hatchets.
Where To Find Low Cost Gear
For years our readers have bought the low cost gear we suggest and they’ve been very happy with our recommendations.
One company we recommend is GearBest, a company that carries a large selection of low cost survival and prepping gear, some of which is less than $1.
GearBest is rated a 9.59 out of 10 with over 7,625 ratings on Reseller Ratings and carries a large and diverse list of survival and prepping gear, and a lot more too.
If you’re looking to buff up your survival gear stockpile for cheap, or you’re just looking for some affordable birthday gifts and stocking stuffers for your survivalist, you can easily find hundreds of low cost survival items at GearBest.
GearBest actually has a summer sale going on at the time of this writing and many of their survival and camping items are marked down.
Check out their official app on the Play Store by scanning or clicking this QR code.
Below is some survival and prepping gear from GearBest that can be bought for much less than their expensive counterparts.
We’ve been able to partner with them to bring you some exclusive savings that can only be found here in this post, use the coupon code given when you checkout to save on that item (only one coupon can be used at a time).
The humble backpack is a good place to start. You can easily spend upwards of $200 on a tactical or hiking backpack.
There is a lively debate as to whether tactical styled backpacks or hiking backpacks are best. We’re going to stay out of that in this article, but know that everyone has their preference and the field seems split 50/50 the last time we polled our readers.
No matter if you’re a fan of the tactical style or the hiking style, a good backpack has padded straps, breathable mesh to keep you cool, chest and/or waist straps, good stitching, and enough pockets and room inside to give you easy access to your gear.
Some also prefer a frame built into hiking packs, but I find it adds too much bulk for me. The plus side is a frame helps carry and balance the load.
If you want to buy a decent quality tactical bag that’s as low cost as possible check out the Oxford 3P Tactical (coupon: 6HWMY). At just $17 you really can’t beat it! If you’re looking for something bigger and with more molle bags, grab a 60L Tactical Combo (coupon: 10HWMY) and you’ll never run out of places to store gear.
For those who prefer to use a hiking style backpack, you can’t go wrong with the Olympus III (coupon: 13HWMY), which at $40 rivals the quality and features of other similar backpacks in the $200 range.
Your sleeping gear can be a mixture of many items, but generally a well rounded kit would be a lightweight double-layered backpacker’s tent (coupon: 15HWMY), a sleeping bag (coupon: 9HWMY) that’s right for your temperature and season, and a lightweight hammock with a bug net (coupon: 8HWMY) for when the ground is wet and because it’s more comfortable and easier to setup.
Personally I prefer a good hammock with a bug net if the weather is warm enough. You’ll sleep like a baby! Hammocks are also faster and easier to put up than a tent and nothing beats rocking to sleep on a warm summer night while watching the stars.
In cooler weather, or if it is raining or snowing, you’ll need better shelter. I prefer a tent and a sleeping bag at this point.
Some like to use a tarp alone for shelter (coupon: 12HWMY) because it is less to carry (in reality the weight difference compared to a quality backpackers tent is less than 1lb), but it means you’ll have to make a bed from branches and leaves, and still sleep with the mosquitoes and spiders every night.
A good backpacker’s tent and the proper sleeping bag does the job much better, and you could even include a blanket if the weight or bulk isn’t a big deal to you.
The proper sleeping bag should be used for the season and expected temps. A light weight bag like the one above is fine in warmer weather, but you’ll need something more insulated in winter months.
Flashlights & Lanterns
A well built flashlight in this day and age should be LED, accept nothing less. It should also be waterproof, be made of lightweight aircraft aluminum, and have multiple settings (high/med/low/strobe/sos is very popular).
The actual lumens (Lm for short) can vary, but the more the better. Anything above 1,000 is bright, and 2,000 really cuts through the darkness. In comparison the bulb lighting up your room right now is probably about 600 lumens.
The light should zoom from a small area for when you’re focusing or working on something to a large area for when you’re walking, and the buttons should be easy to use. Ideally it should run on 18650 batteries, which are by far the best rechargeable battery on the market and powers most hand tools, laptops, and even all Tesla cars and their PowerWall (yep, they’re that good).
A good example is this 1600Lm 5-mode zoomable flashlight (coupon: HW15MY) with a CREE XML T6 LED bulb. It has all the features you need and is a fraction of the cost of other less worthy flashlights. It runs on an 18650 battery so you can be assured it will last for weeks with a good charge.
If you like your flashlights small then look no further than this 960Lm marvel that’s just a little over 2.5″ long (coupon: HW14MY)! Not only is it great for clipping on a hat, but it’s also waterproof and super rugged. It features 7 different modes (high/mid/low/ultra low/sos/strobe/location beacon). The magnetic cap is also handy for when you need both hands free.
If you would rather stick to good ‘ol AA batteries and want a cheap but rugged flashlight that gets the job done, check out the 600Lm zoomable CREE XPE (code: GBLED2016). At just $2 and change it’s hard to argue with, and the coupon will save even more. It sure beats anything you’ll ever get in the stores for that price!
Lanterns are another good option. LED versions try to mimic the old kerosene and propane lanterns, spreading their light all around. They’re great for a tent, room, or table. Look for a collapsible LED lantern (coupon: 2HWMY) with many bulbs all around, reflectors to spread the light out even more, and a well thought out handle.
Mess Kits & Portable Stoves
A simple camping mess kits consisting of two small universal pots (coupon: HW13MY) is about all you need for cooking and drinking and is lightweight enough that you’ll hardly notice it. Look for deep sides, foldable handles, and a kit that stacks into itself. A non-stick coating is always a plus.
Avoid large, overly fancy kits with many parts because most of the stuff is unnecessary unless you’re feeding a group and they add equally unnecessary weight.
Portable stoves come in two kinds: fueled and non-fueled.
The fueled type uses dome-shaped canisters that screw onto the stove. Some are stand-alone stoves that run a hose to the canister, such as this one from AOTU (coupon: 18HWMY). For the extra size you get more stability and more adjustable parts.
Others, like this ultra-light titanium stove that only weighs 25g (coupon: 19HWMY) are tiny in comparison and screw directly on to the canister, using it as a base. The supposed downside is it isn’t always as stable, but in reality it’s usually not an issue.
Check out the video below for a demo of that stove.
Another type of fueled camp stove is the alcohol stove. They are very portable and use just a small amount of cheap fuel that can be found about anywhere. This alcohol stove from Alocs (coupon: 20HWMY) weighs only about 4oz, has an adjustable flame regulator, and is o-ring sealed so you don’t have to empty the unused fuel after every use.
Non-fueled stoves are essentially portable metal frames that you feed sticks into. They give you a solid cooking surface and channel the flames upward while protecting it from the wind, somewhat mimicking a rocket stove.
An example is this portable camp stove by Free Soldier (coupon: 16HWMY) that breaks down into flat plates and this small cylindrical stove from Rover Camel (coupon: 17HWMY) that can also use alcohol as a fuel source.
Unless you plan to eat with your fingers you’ll want a basic set of folding camp tableware (coupon: HW6MY) which consists of a fork, spoon, and a knife too.
If you’ll be somewhere that has water you may be able to catch some fish. While you can always try to bushcraft some hooks and string, it’s always wise to prepare yourself with the gear you need beforehand and once they are gone you can bushcraft what you need.
You can DIY a simple survival fishing kit from Wal-Mart or you can buy one of the kits already on the market, such as a “survival fishing grenade” (coupon: HW11MY).
Either way, I suggest getting a very good waterproof mini-storage case (coupon: HW2MY) with lots of dividers that will stay shut. Otherwise you’re going to have hooks and weights everywhere after a while.
Another option that REALLY gives you the fishing (and hence the food) advantage is a foldable backpack rod and reel combo (coupon: HW1MY). They are lightweight and fold up for easy storage.
EDC Self Defense
Less than lethal self defense tools, such as the very popular tactical pen (coupon: HW3MY) are one of the best low cost finds. Many of the most expensive pens are made by the same few companies and they also make cheaper tactical pens that have the same features and quality. It’s a real case of throwing money away on fancy marketing and brand names if there ever was one.
Features to look for are an actual working pen (this can also help for legal reasons), a knurled and ridged body for grip, and a nasty serrated end for defense. A hardened point for breaking windows and glass in case you find yourself trapped somewhere or a built in whistle are good additional features but not all that common.
First Aid Kits
While I recommend getting a thorough first aid kit that can handle just about anything thrown at it, I also think having a couple of smaller backup first aid kits (coupon: HW10MY) not in your main bag that are preferably carried by someone else, or just placed around the house, are important.
Since most parts inside of a kit are extremely inexpensive you can easily find smaller kits for $5 or so. Try buying a couple of packs of band-aids for that price though!
These basic kits should take care of scrapes, strains, sprains, minor cuts, etc. Throw in a suture kit and you actually have a nice beginner first aid kit.
While you can get fancy and spend some money on flint and steel or a fire piston, low cost fire starters, particularly ferro rods, flood the market so you’re probably well versed in them. The problem is many times a ferro rod will break if you don’t use it right.
Many think you must strike the rod and rub down it, or at least that’s how they end up using it after a few strikes. Ferro rods are delicate and will break easily if misused. You should be careful to gently place the steel on the ferro rod and quickly pull down instead of getting into a repetition of hitting the rod with the steel as it comes down on the initial part of the downstroke.
When looking for a ferro rod remember that there’s nothing fancy about them. A good one should work, simple as that. Cheaper ones may wear out faster but in general spending $2 vs $10 for 15-20% less life is still a great deal. Just buy two and you’ll get many more sparks with less money spent.
Ferro rods in waterproof holders (coupon: HW9MY) are helpful, especially if they can hold some tinder such as char cloth. Better still if they have some additional use like a whistle or glass breaker along with it.
I don’t think the one-handed plunger ferro rods (where the rod is on a spring and pushes into the handle to make sparks) are all that easy to use and I avoid them. You have to thrust your hand into the tinder bundle which can knock it around or mess it up if you’re not careful.
Portable Knife Sharpeners
While I wouldn’t advise buying an unknown brand knife, you can find some excellent deals on knife sharpeners. In fact the EXACT best seller on amazon can be bough for more than 25% cheaper, the only thing missing is the logo.
Look for coarse and fine options in a good portable knife sharpener (coupon: HW7MY), as well as a mini-hone or diamond rod for the finishing touches and for sharpening serrated blades.
You can also go for a whetstone if you’re bugging in, but they can be a bit to carry if you’re bugging out and will get chipped and broken eventually if not handled properly. Plus if you use oil it will soak into the stone and get on your other stuff unless you keep it wrapped (and your bag will still stink!).
These portable water holders are the kind worn on the back like a backpack with a tube that runs to the mouth. Not only are they great for long runs and bike rides, but they’ll keep you from stopping for a drink when you’re hiking through some desolate city post-SHTF….or just a hike up the hills too.
You want the ability to put them in a backpack or wear them under one so a slim and long design is desirable. One that holds about 3L (coupon: HW4MY) is best, not too little so you run out and not too much so the filled weight is too heavy. Get one that is insulated to keep the water from getting hot from your body heat and the sun.
Look for one with an insulated drinking tube, a hard to find feature that will keep your water much cooler. Otherwise your first sip will usually be hot.
This is a no-brainer, definitely buy these cheap unless you’re looking for a specialty whistle like the worlds loudest or an underwater whistle. A whistle should be brightly colored and easy to find in case it’s dropped, it should have some sort of lanyard, and it should be LOUD!
Here’s a good example whistle (coupon: HW5MY) that’s only $1 and change. As a bonus, you can hear in the user review videos at the bottom of that page how loud it is compared to other well known survival whistles.
The reason to bring a whistle is simple. If you’re lost you’re main objective is to be found above all else, and nothing will signal “here I am!” louder than three sharp whistle shrills. It’s louder than you can yell and yelling for long periods will dry your throat out or make you hoarse. You can blow a whistle as long as you’re breathing.
Binoculars & Night Vision Gear
Buying binoculars may not be on everyone’s list, but the advantage they give you shouldn’t be overlooked so I include them here. Look for a waterproof pair, preferably with coated glass that improve the clarity and resists scratching and fogging, and get the biggest zoom in the smallest package.
The pouch they come in doesn’t have to be anything fancy, a simple nylon pouch will protect them just fine. Lens caps are always a plus but many binoculars don’t come with them nowadays and even when they do they are lost quite often.
This pair of 12×25 binoculars (coupon: 7HWMY) are small and have everything you’re looking for, just ignore the night vision in the name, they’re not. If you do want some night vision on the cheap, look no further than this very nice 2×30 night vision monocular (!$20 off! coupon: 11HWMY) with its 6.4 degrees of angle view, which gives you a large rectangular field of view. It also comes with a rail mount that will attach to standard gun rail systems or helmet mount points.
This almost goes without saying. If there was ever something you should get cheap, it’s emergency blankets (coupon: HW12MY). They are all essentially identical, so buy based on price. The exception being the ones with multiple colored sides that are supposed to reflect even more body heat, like the one above.
Not only do they trap your own body heat, but they are great for reflecting fires on to you, lining the walls and roof of a survival shelter to hold the warmth, laying on the ground under your bed to reflect your heat back upwards, doubling over to use as a stretcher or to tie something, and for signaling.
The only down side is they make you look like a baked potato (scroll down), so remember to make loud noises when you see a bear so he won’t be tempted to butter you up and eat you.
Look for ones that are large enough to cover an adult and the thicker the better. Double side coatings or ones sewn into a cloth blanket are typically higher quailty.
Wearable Survival Gear
This is one item than can definitely be bought cheaply, usually under $2 for a survival bracelet (coupon: 1HWMY) which is actually several feet of paracord and some sort of clasp fashioned into a bracelet. Many of the clasps come with built in items like a whistle, compass, mini knife, or ferro rod and steel.
Paracord “survival fishing grenades” (coupon: HW11MY) are very popular. No, there’s nothing explosive about them, but they can still catch a lot of fish. They are a standard survival fishing kit wrapped in paracord and attached to a carabiner for hooking onto a belt loop.
Another nice piece of wearable gear is a bug net that covers your head and neck (coupon: 5HWMY). Not only will it keep you sane when the gnats are out, but it will also protect you from zika-carrying mosquitoes. It’s one of my favorite pieces of gear and for only $3 and change it’s a no-brainer, you’ll seriously regret passing it up when the bugs won’t leave you alone.
Tell us about the low cost survival gear you’ve bought in the comments below and let us know what your greatest affordable buys have been.
Was it great or did it not arrive looking and performing like you would’ve liked? Ever buy some low cost gear that worked perfectly? Is there anything that I missed that should be up here because of its high performance and low cost?
Let me know!
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