Every prepper knows that having the right survival gear can spell the difference between living to see another sunrise, and embracing oblivion during a SHTF situation.
Having the right tool for the job can help you turn big problems into minor inconveniences. Lacking the right tools and supplies may see a comparatively minor problem turn into a life-threatening one.
Most preppers are not made of money. That means you have to prioritize spending between necessities and mere wants. Everybody wants to have the nice gear, naturally, but if you can’t afford to buy top-shelf everything, do you know what you should spend more on?
Do you know what you can afford to save a few bucks on? One old piece of wisdom tells us that it is bad to pay too much for something, but it is worse to pay too little, since a cheap or ramshackle piece of gear will likely not even be able to do the thing we bought it to do!
In this article I’m going to discuss seven survival items that you shouldn’t cheap out on. When the stakes for failure include your own death if your gear fails, you can save a few nickels on something else.
What Do You Need From Your Gear?
It isn’t a trick question; do you actually know what you need from your survival gear? Search your own soul and answer honestly.
If you haven’t tested your gear, and I mean really tested it in a simulated disaster scenario, do you really know what it is capable of? If you don’t, how can you say that your gear is good enough to do the thing you bought it to do in the first place?
But we can skip all that for now. A better rhetorical question is one that asks “what can I absolutely not afford to fail?”
Specifically, what piece of gear, what article of clothing or what supplies have to work, no matter what. Once we know what those items are, we also get more of the picture as to what is not so crucial for success in survival.
If you are anything like me, if you only had the money you would buy the very best of everything for the rest of your life. You’d spare no expense. Nothing would be too good for you.
But, also if you are anything like me, chances are you have to operate within the constraints of your financial plan. As it turns out, you need to pour a lot of money on this prepping thing to get anywhere most of the time.
It is for this reason that we must prioritize our purchases according to how critical a piece of gear is to our overall success.
An essential item might be one that we use very literally all the time, like footwear, or it might be an item that is the only tool capable of getting us through a major emergency, something where failure to function or perform might mean an instant bad ending.
Quality Always Speaks
Preppers today labor under both a blessing and a curse. I’m referring to the internet, of course. The internet is a blessing because it can bring the sum total of the world’s commerce and marketplaces right to your desktop, even to your pocket.
You are no longer restricted to ordering from musty old catalogs or driving to the fringes of town to pick through military surplus stores in order to get the items you need.
But it is also a curse because wherever you find a thriving market in consumer goods you will find scoundrels selling fakes and imitations.
Counterfeit goods can kill you twice; the first way is your spending way too much on the inferior product.
The second way is that counterfeit goods almost never stack up to the superior products they cheaply imitate. And they are exponentially more likely to fail you when you can’t afford a failure.
One current scourge populating Amazon and other online marketplaces is the sale of counterfeit medical gear, particularly tourniquets, cheaply replicated in China, Taiwan and elsewhere.
Make no mistake, many of these counterfeit options looks shockingly close to the genuine article. But because they are made from inferior materials using inferior production practices, employing one is likely to cost someone their life if you need it for an intervention.
Other counterfeit goods abound, everything from camouflage jackets and trousers to backpacks. Sadly, an awful lot of things that preppers want and need seem to be unduly targeted by scammers for counterfeiting.
You’ll have to double your caution, and make sure you’re buying from a trustworthy seller before pulling the trigger on anything, especially on a high-dollar item.
Buy Quality for these 7 Essential Survival Items
All of the items on the list below are ones that I wager are far too important to risk failure on my trying to save a few bucks on them. I mean to say these are ones you should not buy cheap!
Getting a deal on them is one thing, buying an inferior brand is another. If you cannot afford a good item from a good maker in any of the following categories, the answer is to save for it, not compromise.
As you read over this list, start thinking through the possible ramifications of gear failure. I’ll bet that the more you think on this part, the more you’ll start to notice that a gear failure from any of the following categories would make a bad situation a whole, whole lot worse.
Bringing up guns is a lot like bringing up your favorite politician or your favorite car manufacturer; it is an easy way to start a fight. Nonetheless, and despite what legions of internet forum commentators might tell you about their favorite poverty plinker brand, all guns are not created equal. It’s a shock, I know.
The simple facts are that more expensive guns are, all things being equal, made from better materials, with better quality control, in better factories by better people. They were designed by better designers.
The sum total of all of those improvements that are paid for by higher sticker price results in a more durable and more reliable firearm that can withstand more abuse, more neglect, and do so longer without breaking or malfunctioning compared to inferior guns.
I’ll be honest with you; in the context of your average civilian self-defense encounter statistically almost any gun will do. You can expect the cheapest, rot-gut Saturday Night Special the fire the handful of rounds it will take to drive off an attacker.
It is much more important and no circumstances to know how to use the gun well and quickly than invest money you cannot afford into the latest wonder pistol.
But on the other hand, as preppers we aren’t just worried about common threats. We are worried about big, nasty, long-lasting threats that may stretch on for weeks, months or even years. That means our equipment must be up to the task.
You and I need guns that will laugh in the face of brutal conditions, and keep right on shooting when we pull the trigger. You will have neither the time nor the luxury of sourcing spare parts if something breaks and you don’t already have it on hand.
What you need is a gun that will go the distance when the SHTF. You don’t have to spend a king’s ransom on a rifle, pistol or shotgun to get a quality one, but you shouldn’t be sorting through the Bargain Bin, either.
Preppers certainly buy a lot of tools they expect to face the apocalypse with. Indeed, we buy tools with the expectation of having to rebuild from literally nothing, or get ourselves out of a jam.
This notion is correct, but some have a fatal flaw in their acquisitions process: they buy tools that are far too dodgy from cutthroat closeout specialists peddling inferior, Chinese-made garbage.
If you’re buying manual tools like axes, hatchets, hammers, pry bars and even specialized tools like folding shovels (or entrenching tools) you’ll never get a return on your investment by buying cheap.
Inferior metals, slapdash assembly and terrible heat treatment, if it exists, all mean that your tool is going to wear out geometrically faster than a higher-quality offering.
What good is an axe that chips and dulls with even light use? How about a prybar that bends and warps with the slightest load?
I can assure you that you will need only to suffer the agony of digging your vehicle out of a rut with only the spade of a cheap, broken folding shovel one time before you resign yourself to never making that mistake again.
You’re correct in assuming that manual tools like the ones listed above will go an awfully long way if you are facing a true society-collapsing event, but you are wrong in assuming that just because the tools are simple compared to power tools or more complex machines that you can be scrimpy and save a few bucks.
What you’re saving in up-front money will be made up for in relentless maintenance and repairs, everything from constant sharpening to the replacing of crappy broken handles.
Remember: “just as good” never is.
3. Packs and Bags
More than most other people, Preppers depend on a variety of bags and packs. Most important of all is the BOB or bug-out bag. This is often the nucleus around which all other preparations revolve.
It is your armory, your medicine chest, your home, your toolbox and your library when you are fleeing a particularly disastrous situation.
Considering how you really won’t need your BOB that often, unless you’re doing an awful lot of practice runs or hiking with it, it is tempting to look for slash-rate backpacks to fulfill the role. This is a terrible mistake!
The average bug-out bag carried by a prepper could weigh 25 lb, 50 lb or even more.
No matter what you have packed and how you packed it, that is going to place an awful lot of stress on the fabric of the pack itself and the stitching in particular.
These stresses will be added to from rough handling, being tossed, dragged and banged around and generally just being used hard in the course of being carried cross-country on foot.
With all this strain and stress, it is no surprise that inferior packs will begin to blowout right through the panels or they will start unraveling and popping stitching.
No matter how it starts to fail, this is disastrous if you are bugging out on foot. It won’t be any time before you unexpectedly feel your backpack dropped from your shoulders, or even worse, blow open and spill its contents all over the trail.
Whether you want a frameless or a framed pack, a classic rucksack or the latest in technical hiking packs, make sure you do your research and buy one that is known for durability, especially when heavily loaded.
In all kinds of disaster situations and other emergencies, the only things you can truly depend on to keep you mobile are your own two feet.
And you just know you aren’t going out for a pleasure hike or a trot around the lake, either!
I’ll go on and assume you’ve been practicing for a bug-out movement by foot, but if you haven’t, you need to move that to the top of your itinerary so you can see exactly what you’re dealing with.
Any kind of prolonged movement by foot when carrying a pack is going to be absolute hell on your feet, and correspondingly hell on your footwear.
Lesser or poorly made shoes and boots will start to break down and delaminate quickly, robbing you of much-needed traction and support. Inferior boots and shoes also lack the ergonomic refinements that can help prevent blisters, and generally make them easier on your feet than cheaper shoes.
Your footwear is also armor for your feet themselves; you’ll run into all kinds of hazards out in the world when moving around after a disaster, everything from twisted, jagged metal to broken glass and wood splinters.
You don’t want to skimp on quality footwear, no matter how expensive the initial price tag seems.
Aside from being able to resole nicer shoes and boots, keeping your feet shod in high-quality kicks means you are correspondingly less likely to wind up sitting on the side of the trail nursing a busted foot.
5. Medical Gear
I should not need to remind you that medical equipment is no place for you to cut corners or costs.
When you or someone else are grievously wounded and their very life hangs in the balance of your intervention, having gear that you can rely on, that is sterile, strong and effective is absolutely essential.
As alluded to above, this is unfortunately one of those sectors where knock-offs and counterfeits are the most common. You’ll need to be extra vigilant when buying from major online retailers if you don’t order company direct.
Consider the possible costs: bandages and gauze may not be sterile. The dosages of various medications may not be accurate. A tourniquet might snap when you go to crank it down.
Running around with a med bag full of gear that is not up to snuff will likely be the last rude awakening of your entire life if you have to call on it. You can save your money in a lot of other places; don’t try to save it by purchasing “just as good” medical gear.
6. Duct Tape
Duct tape is one of those things that all peppers have, and almost every prepper would never dream of going without. You can save your jokes and asides, duct tape really is one of the handiest items that any prepper can include in their survival kit.
Capable of conducting all kinds of repairs, improvising lashings and even field construction, there is seemingly nothing that duct tape cannot do.
But duct tape can only live up to the legendary reputation if you buy a good brand. Both the shear strength of the cloth backing and the aggressiveness of the adhesive contribute mightily the duct tape’s overall effectiveness.
Inferior duct tape tears far more easily and is nowhere near as sticky, especially in adverse conditions. This means that your repairs, creations or lashings will fail sooner.
If you were trying to stop up a leaky hole in a tent roof, keep a busted strap on your BOB going just a little while longer, or make a hasty spear from your bush knife and a sturdy branch, you cannot afford tape that is not up to snuff.
You, like me once upon a time, probably scoff at the nine and ten dollar rolls of “super” duct tape we see in the hardware aisle. After much experimentation, I came to my current opinion on the matter and will never go back to the cheaper tapes.
You can save the dollar store stuff for use around the house, but for packing in your BOB or your survival kit, spring for the heavy duty tape. You won’t regret it!
As much as we’d like to think we’ll be running around living a pastoral existence with absolutely no electronics after a society toppling event, chances are that is just not true. Your personal electronic devices play a bigger role than you might think during a disaster.
Two obvious inclusions that every prepper knows and loves are flashlights and headlamps. Obviously, those two crucial tools require batteries.
Another item is a smart device like your phone, or a handheld GPS. They require power, too, and if you want truly on-demand power on the go that means you’ll need batteries.
I’m continually appalled by how many people I see shelling out fortunes for top-shelf electronic gear of all kinds, things they are counting on and planning on taking them through the end of the world, come the apocalypse, who then turn right around and buy a half a pallet of the shoddiest, jankiest, cheapest Chinese batteries they can find on the internet.
It just doesn’t make any sense when you consider the following facts.
First, batteries don’t last forever. Even the most modern lithium cells slowly lose their charge over time just sitting on a shelf.
Several factors go into this equation, including the ambient temperature, but one thing we do know and is that, most germane to our conversation, higher-end batteries lose their charges slower compared to cheaper ones.
Also worth considering is the fact that lithium cells that aren’t made to the standard are somewhat notorious for short-circuiting and slagging the device they are installed in (or the pocket they are carried in).
Only batteries made with strict attention to quality control and proper manufacturing processes will reduce this dangerous occurrence.
No battery will last forever, but you will get more up time and have to deal with less rotation of your supplies if you just buy high-quality batteries from the big-name manufacturers you have heard advertised your entire life.
Cut-rate gear is rarely worth buying if you are buying the gear for any kind of serious purpose.
What money you save now will be squandered later when you have to buy a replacement, at best, or you won’t have to worry about it very long because you’ll be on a very fast train to a very bad place if your gear lets you down in the wrong circumstances.
Buying high-quality gear will only contribute to achieving a good outcome in any emergency or any survival situation. Conversely, defeat can be snatched from the jaws of victory if your cheap gear breaks down during an otherwise successful intervention.
You are right for wanting to save money as a prepper, but don’t let your thriftiness blind you to the demands of survival.