Survival, Prepping, & Homesteading Experts

5 Crucial Pieces Of Survival Gear You Should Never Buy Cheap And Why

Sometimes it’s okay to buy cheap survival gear, and sometimes you definitely shouldn’t. These five very important items should NEVER be bought cheap.

5 critical pieces of gear you should never buy cheap and why

We prep so that we can count on our gear to get us through any situation that life might throw at us.

Power outage, natural disaster, getting lost on a camping trip, or even full blown SHTF – you name it and you can prep for it.

Being able to build the knowledge, skills, and a quality kit that you can count on is essential when stuff starts flying at the fan.

As you can see by going to Ebay or Walmart, there is no shortage of cheap survival gear on the market.

Unfortunately some of that ultra-cheapo China gear can do more harm than good, and might even get you killed.

The Balance

No one is saying you NEED that $400 knife to make it either. Certainly not. Here at BeSurvival we’re all about being realistic. Like everything in life you have to find the balance.

At some point the right quality meets the right price, and that should be your goal when buying prepper gear.

Also, understand that it’s okay if you can’t afford the best gear right now. We’re all at different points in our prepper journey and sometimes cheap gear is better than no gear at all. So if second hand is all you can afford, then I understand. I was once there too. It’s how I started with prepping too.

However, know that if you err too far on the side of cheap on a few critical items you could be making a very big mistake!

There is a very good reason why quality costs more in some items. Usually it comes down to the manufacturing process and the quality control used.

Some cheap items made in mass quantities overseas is worthless. Here are a few of those items.


A good compass will always point north. A cheap compass will always point somewhere. A faulty compass can disorient you and take you far off course, causing you get get lost and end up in a life threatening situation.

A good compass is probably the most important item you can spend extra money on because unlike a cheap knife that won’t cut worth a darn, or a flashlight that won’t turn on half the time, a bad compass will pretend to operate… and point you off course.

A bad compass may be slightly off or almost completely backwards, and really anywhere in between and you might not ever know.

Pro Buying Tip: Stick with a well known and trusted brand – Silva, Suunto, or Brunton are good picks. The bigger and heavier the compass, the more likely its accuracy and durability. Read the reviews before buying.


Let me repeat it again for those of you who skimmed through the intro, you do not need a high-priced ultra custom blade. For example, Morakniv makes an amazing knife for $30 that will get you through anything a dozen times over. And there are even some cheap made-in-china knives that are well made with quality steel.

However, cutting corners with your knife budget is a bad idea if you buy based on price alone. You MUST do your research if you want to buy a cheap knife, a lot of research. You need to know about different steels and how they perform long term.

Cheap blades will always cut, once or twice… After that you’ll spend fruitless time trying to sharpen steel that wasn’t made to be sharpened and it will never hold a decent edge.

Where a cheapo knife becomes really dangerous is when you put it through the rigors of true survival. Cutting day in and out, downing small trees, splitting wood, etc.

The quality of the steel is everything. Its strength, the ability to hold an edge, and the ease at which it can be resharpened are critical. Cheap knives can bend or even snap in half, quite easily too, and they will chip and dull quickly. Once dull, a cheap knife might not ever take a worthy edge again.

Pro Buying Tip: For best results stick to Swedish, German, and USA made knives. Finland, Japan, and England also make high quality knives. Buy carbon steel or a modern stainless steel mix that is specifically made for high performance and low maintenance. Full tang is highly preferred. Don’t be afraid of the “Scandi” grind, a 27 degree grind that many survivalists find quite amazing in performance and ease of sharpening.


First off, don’t ever fall for the “WOW x,xxx LUMENS!!” trap. You commonly see this on as-seen-on-tv flashlights and on Ebay.

If you do the research you’ll find that most of those lights are not performing anything near those numbers. Most use a standard numbered CREE bulb that’s not rated for anything like that. It’s marketing hype mixed with fake tests and lies to swindle your money. Buyer beware!

Avoid cheap lights like the plague. Stumbling through the woods by starlight because your $3 flashlight broke is not only terrifying, but absolutely dangerous. You can find flashlights for a couple bucks at dollar stores that put out a few hundred lumens. Even when they are working this is not enough light. While they might blind you if you look right at them, they usually spread their light far too much and only put out a weak beam of a few feet. These lights are never waterproof and usually break after a hundred cycles on and off.

Pro Buying Tip: 1k to 2k lumens for a flashlight is useful and easy to find for a good price point. Beyond that you get into lies and marketing traps. Quality name brands include Surefire, Streamlight, and 4Sevens. Serious flashlights use rechargeable li-ion  vbatteries now and offer the ability to use AA and AAA batteries for emergencies.


If you want to start an argument between two preppers, just ask them which is better – a tactical or hiking backpack. The sad fact is that cheap comes in both flavors. Backpacks are one area where quality really does equal a good bit more money.

Cheap bags are made of cheap material and sewn as cheaply as possible to save money. The results are torn straps, busted hardware, ripped seams, and broken zippers. Not only that but they are hotter to wear, pinch and rub, and make you absolutely miserable.

Honestly, is carrying all of the gear that is supposed to save your life the a job for a cheapo pack or a repurposed book bag? Your one stray thorn or torn zipper away from disaster.

Pro Buying Tip: Ripstop material, double or triple stitching, high quality zippers, thick straps, breathable mesh on your back, and waterproof are what you need in a bag. Period. Accept nothing less. A padded waist belt is also high on the list, especially if your bag will weigh more than 20-30lbs. I like the Kelty Coyote 80 Backpack.


Who doesn’t want to stock up on a crate full of ammo for a couple hundred bucks or less? You might think twice if you knew that ammo is either 40 year old leftovers from some war, or mass produced a year ago under terrible quality standards in a third world country.

Even grabbing a box or two of shells of some obscure brand at Walmart for some obscenely low price can mean jamming, misfires, and more. Cheap ammo can be dangerous to both your life when you need it the most and to your firearm on the range.

Ammo is a simple equation, a few basic parts and you’re making ammo. Inexpensive ammo can only be made by 1.) cutting corners somewhere or 2.) by over billing it to a government and letting it sit on a shelf for a few decades until they have to get rid of it.

Cheap ammo uses cheap powder that may be impure or corrosive. The bullets are usually asymmetrical and many times the cases are out of tolerance which leads to jamming and poor magazine feed. Typically you’ll find the velocity varies a lot because the powder was not weighed properly and accuracy is quite literally hit or miss.

Another consideration for cheap ammo is the cases might not be reloadable.

If you like to take chance and you’re not too worried about the small chance of destroying your gun, some would say that cheap ammo is fine for practice. Just be sure you clean it thoroughly afterwards and leave no residue.

Pro Buying Tip: Stick with brand new and well known name brand ammo at every purchase. You do not have to buy the most expensive brand, nor do you have to get special boutique ammo, but know what your buying and get the best your budget will allow.

Final Thoughts

Simply put, you don’t have to spend a fortune to amass a worthy stockpile, but you cannot be a money miser spendthrift penny pincher on every single purchase and expect to have quality gear either.

It’s up to you, it’s your call where quality meets your bank account limits. Do your research, read reviews, check specs, and ask around. Many times aiming for somewhat less quantity but better quality is far worth it.

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Meet The Author

Sergeant Survival

Sergeant Survival

I spread the news of disaster preparedness and homesteading skills to the masses. My mission is to teach the keyboard commandos out there some real life skills.


Add a Comment
  1. I would add one more to your list …a GOOD dependable lighter..i.e a Zippo or if preferred a Bic

    1. I live in north Sweden. I would say a high quality sleeping bag is number 1 on my list.

  2. Another one for the list might be a water bladder. Good quality Camelbak comes to mind, but skimp on a quality bladder for a eBay cheap China one might mean you find yourself miles away from a water source with a busted or torn bladder.

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5 Crucial Pieces Of Survival Gear You Should Never Buy Cheap And Why

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