10 Survival Items to Score at the Goodwill Store

There’s plenty of gear to buy when you are getting prepared for a survival situation. While it is bad to rely too much on gear and equipment, it is just as bad to depend on skill and improvisation alone.

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Having the right tools for the job is going to make any task easier, and this is certainly true for all the many survival tasks you’ll have to take care of in a post-disaster scenario.

There is just one problem: the mountain of gear that most of us need to acquire in order to consider ourselves even “reasonably” prepared can cost a small fortune if you are buying it new over-the-counter, and the price can run up even higher if you are purchasing from a name brand outdoor or camping outlet.

A savvy prepper will seek to save a few bucks on needed gear while still getting the quality level that will stand up to hard use. What to do, then?

As it turns out, Goodwill stores can be surprising repositories of survival gear if you know where to look, and know what you are looking for.

You might be surprised at what items these places stock and it definitely pays to swoop in periodically to see if they have a ripping good deal on those items missing from your checklist. Below you will find a list of 10 survival items you can score from your local Goodwill.

Shelter Gear

No matter what kind of situation you are anticipating and no matter where you live you’d be smart to have shelter gear among your preps.

Tents, sleeping bags, hammocks, bivys and the like are all incredibly useful whenever you’re outdoors and need to keep warm while keeping the weather off your back, but these items can also come in handy whenever you are forced to bug in.

As it turns out, most modern homes are completely dependent upon equally modern heating and cooling systems to remain habitable in bad weather, and a power outage is all it will take to make your home a miserable place to stay. Better to pitch a tent in the living room in order to stay warm!

Many Goodwills often have a surprisingly good stock of these items. The average person buying a tent or sleeping bag is not a purpose-driven individual.

They buy it for the pie-in-the-sky family camping trip that will never happen, or use it once and then never use it again, finally growing tired of watching it collect dust in a closet or in the garage.

One call to the local Goodwill and off it goes where it waits for a new owner. This is the perfect opportunity for you to pick up entirely serviceable tents and sleeping bags at discount prices. As with any used camping gear, ensure that tents have all of their frame components, and sleeping bags are free of internal and external tears.


Any Goodwill store will not lack for blankets but if you are patient and diligent in your forays to your local store you will eventually run into the crème de la crème of blankets for preppers: Traditional, real wool blankets!

Though derided by some people for being itchy and scratchy, wool is an amazing survival fabric that has a place in every prepper’s arsenal.

Nature has done what many man-made enterprises could not and produced a fabric that will keep you reasonably warm in almost any weather (but not too hot) and wool can even keep you warm when it is soaking wet. Remarkable capability for such a traditional item!

Don’t be lured in by the abundance of comforters, throw blankets, decorative prints and so forth. You’ll often see wool blankets crop up at Goodwill in plainer guise, usually as army or hospital surplus or even as a discarded family heirloom item, perhaps one handcrafted by someone’s ancestor.

It is sad to see such a princely item be relegated to a secondhand store, but that is reality, unfortunately. Luckily you have come along to give it a new lease on life and you should definitely snatch up any and all genuine wool blankets you find.

Rain Gear

Any prepper that is more than a hobbyist must be ready to take care of business even when the weather turns nasty, and that means you need rain gear to keep yourself and the rest of your preps dry.

Similar to the shelter gear discussed above, rain gear is another “light bulb moment” item that most people will use once and then forget about, if they use it at all. Slickers, anoraks, ponchos, umbrellas and more can all be found in abundance at most Goodwills.

These items are great prospects to pick up on a budget because purpose-made rainproof gear purchased from a dedicated camping store will set you back a mortgage payment, at least, for a complete set.

I have purchased rain gear from several Goodwill stores now and been more than happy with the quality and the specific brands I was able to acquire.

As with any used article of clothing, and in particular for clothing that is intended for wet weather, you must make sure that your particular garments are not suffering from any sort of musty or moldy affliction that will be hard to get rid of.

Outdoor Apparel

If there’s one thing that your average Goodwill store will carry in abundance it is clothing. You can spend your time searching for an amazing vintage t-shirt or sweater, or you could spend that time looking for some heavy-duty, weather rated outdoor apparel.

From pants to tops and even base layers, you might be surprised at the quality of goods that will turn up in your average neighborhood Goodwill store.

If you have ever cared to peruse the aisles at your local “big box” camping store you might need smelling salts if you stop to check the price tag on similar clothing these days!

Whether it is worth it or not is immaterial to the discussion, what is material is how much these clothes cost, as buying a decent set of outdoor gear for an adult shouldn’t cost as much as a car payment.

Keep in mind, though, that you are likely to find outdoor apparel suitable to your local environment at your local Goodwill, which means an abundance of hot weather gear in arid climates, and an abundance of cold weather gear in cold climates.


Most Goodwills have a great selection of footwear to go along with their clothing, and with a little luck yours might have a nice rack or two of boots you can choose from. If you’re looking for hunting boots, hiking boots or even traditional work boots Goodwill will probably have you covered.

But even if you aren’t a fan of boots there is likely to be a pair of quality sneakers or even some technical trail shoes it could make for a great set of bug-out footwear.

Try on your prospective boots or shoes before you take them home, as you might not be able to return them. As long as they feel and fit well for a couple of laps around the store, they will probably work just fine as they are likely to already be broken in.

Also, don’t forget that many more traditional boot styles are resoleable, and a cobbler can easily and cheaply bring them back up to near-factory specification, so don’t let worn out treads stop you from making a purchase on a quality pair of kicks.

Storage Aids

Chances are, if you are reading this article, you already have quite a head start on your survival stash. I am talking about rows of cans, crates of gear, and various preps mouse-holed everywhere you can find a few cubic feet.

I don’t think it is too much of a reach when I assert that every prepper always needs more in the way of organizational items, most especially containers of all sizes and all types along with shelving and racks.

Goodwill has you covered here also, and you will commonly find all sorts of containers big and small in their utility and kitchen sections. With a little luck they will still have their matching lids.

You might scoff at the idea of pecking through your local Goodwill in an effort to find plastic or glass containers, but the price of these humble items has risen right along with everything else, and you can spend a pretty penny on a set of matching containers for any purpose at other stores. Save some bucks for more important gear by nabbing your containers at Goodwill.

Manual Kitchen Gadgets

I love buying manual versions of traditionally electric kitchen gadgets. Part of me loves the quiet operation and the greater sense of connection to what I am doing compared to the powered versions, and the other part of me loves being completely independent of electricity.

Though many preppers are well prepared with a fully stocked pantry and additional food stores should things go south, they are probably not prepared to whip up a well-rounded menu without an operational kitchen! This is where manual kitchen tools can save the day.

At any average Goodwill you will find a selection of hand-powered beaters, coffee grinders, rolling pins, sifters and more, things that will get quite a workout in your post blackout kitchen.

Not for nothing, these are the self-same tools that your grandparents and great grandparents use on a daily basis, well before our electric kitchen revolution.

You will probably be pleasantly surprised at just how good a job these manual kitchen gadgets can do if you have never used them before. A link to the past and a useful prep, what could be better?

Hand Tools

Hand tools are always a valuable addition to your survival stash, even if you aren’t a handyman or particularly DIY-oriented person. Goodwill is a good spot (heh) to find such tools.

You’ll have pretty good luck finding everything from traditional hand tools like hammers, hatchets and axes to mechanic’s and even electrician’s tools. They come by many of these tools when family members turn over their deceased relatives’ estates to be dispensed with wholesale, and Goodwill turns a tidy profit on their tools.

Tools that can still be a bargain for you, in point of fact, especially in the case of older, nicer examples that they just don’t make anymore.

Even if these tools show a little rust and pitting chances are it won’t take much elbow grease and steel wool to bring them back to a near new shine and perfect functionality. If you are lucky you might even find some heirloom grade hand tools in the mix.

Canning Supplies

Canning is often thought of as the province of kindly grandmother’s and diehard gardeners but this is a skill that all preppers should endeavor to become at least passingly competent with as it represents one of the best possible ways to prolong the shelf life of fresh foods of all kinds.

Canning is not just for jams and jellies, either; you may can all sorts of fruits, vegetables and even meats and all kinds of ways, from pickling to salting.

But as anyone who has ever attempted canning will tell you you need a fair bit of gear to do the job well, and you’ll especially be going through tons of mason jars and their tops.

These humble jars are another item that gets surprisingly pricey when you purchase them new from a department store or specialized craft store, but you can save a bundle whenever you can nab these in bulk from a Goodwill store.

With a little practice and plenty of fresh produce, you will soon have a pantry jam-packed full of canned goods that will be the envy of the neighborhood.

Packs and Bags

Backpacks are another perennially popular item at Goodwill stores and chances are you will find no shortage and plenty of variety.

You’ll certainly find a small mountain of traditional school or commuter style backpacks but periodically you’ll also bump into high-end hiking packs, hunting backpacks, the odd assortment of army surplus and, every once in a blue moon, a bespoke piece of leather luggage with quite a few stories to tell, if only it could talk.

If you are anything like me and a whole lot of other preppers you’ll need more than a few bags in your life.

Bags are so important to preppers because they form the basis of our bug out bags, EDC bags and other specialized kits that haul life-saving supplies and various tools from place to place.

Don’t be discouraged if your local Goodwill store does not have a great selection of packs because this seems to be one item that they constantly resupply on. With a little diligence you will soon find a backpack that can suit your needs no matter what they are.


Goodwill is a great store for bargains, and also for finding quality gear at discount prices. Goodwill is beloved by people on a budget or those looking for a gem of a vintage find, but you don’t have to be a trendy dresser or penny-miser to benefit from the far reaching selection that the average Goodwill store will provide for you.

Make sure you check in on your local store the next time you want to save a few bucks on an acquisition for your survival checklist.

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1 thought on “10 Survival Items to Score at the Goodwill Store”

  1. I have found a good supply of medical equipment at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Knee,ankle,leg,wrist and back
    braces. Sometimes they have wheel chairs,walkers,canes and crutches.The prices are always low and usually there is one day a week for senior dis counts.

    We’ve also found adult and infant diapers.Everything is stored away for that just in case day.


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