Prepping is more about skills and mindset than equipment and supplies, but there is no arguing that having the right equipment and the right supplies will go a long way toward helping you survive any sort of crisis or disaster.
It is also true that many preppers naturally gravitate towards the “geardo” side of the spectrum, and are always looking for the one “right” tool to solve a problem- that may or may not occur!
There is nothing wrong with this, and you’ll seldom go wrong purchasing tried and true pieces of gear from high-quality manufacturers.
Some items will form the core of your preparations, and prove valuable in all kinds of scenarios. But there are very few of us who never get things wrong, and some purchases will fall decidedly on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Whether you’re dealing with an item that is an ingenious “solution looking for a problem” or something that winds up being an expensive toy you’ll never use in a live event there will always exist the potential for a purchase you’ll regret buying.
In this article I will share with you seven survival items that you will definitely regret buying.
1. Fantasy Knives
Every single prepper understands the value of a reliable, hard-use knife. Most of us have more than one, and will typically rely on a couple in order to stay prepared for all eventualities in all seasons.
A reliable survival or bushcrafting knife will allow us to construct shelter and process firewood along with all the other tasks that have to be handled in an outdoor survival situation, and a compact but capable pocket knife will handle the innumerable chores of day-to-day life as well as serving as a backup blade when we don’t have anything else.
We, preppers today, are definitely spoiled for choice as there are dozens of brands cranking out hundreds upon hundreds of different models of knives and all sizes, types, styles and formats.
It is a great time to be alive if you are a knife lover, and even better if you are looking for a quality knife since they can be found on virtually any budget.
But unfortunately, some knives are intended only as display pieces at worst, or novelties at best due to being designed in such a way as to appeal to the owner’s fantasies, desire for notoriety or even a pie-in-the-sky notion of what functionality actually is.
You know the kind I am talking about: flashy movie replicas, themed blades with a sci-fi or medieval flair, outrageous concept pieces that look more dangerous to the wielder than to any possible opponent or even multi-bladed nightmares that could not conceivably be used for any practical task.
If you enjoy blades like this, go crazy, and definitely feel free to add them to your collection or use them for an award-winning Halloween costume. Just do not rely on them for any sort of practical purpose beyond a hair-raising mail opening experience!
You definitely should not keep them on hand as a legitimate survival tool! Their functionality and durability will leave a lot to be desired.
2. Grappling Hook
The mystique and allure of the grappling hook is undeniably rooted in popular culture like comic books, movies and TV shows.
There is something appealing about the idea of hurling a grappling hook over a sturdy branch or the parapet of a wall and then scaling it as easy as you please, like something akin to a low-tech Spider-Man or ninja.
It is even plausible, if remotely so, that such a device could have legitimate survival value for hoisting, hauling and climbing.
Unfortunately, that theory is where the practicality will end for real grappling hooks most of the time. There are too many problems with these devices to make them useful for almost any prepper.
First, a grappling hook is a large, cumbersome and often heavy attachment that is not easy to carry or store and so-called folding grappling hooks often have issues with strength and security beyond traditional welded or forged ones.
When you can simply tie a rock, sturdy branch or some other weight to the end of a rope before casting it in order to haul a line, why would you waste space on a grappling hook?
Second, the typical proposed function of a grappling hook is far from certain or secure when it comes to climbing and hoisting.
Throwing your hook up to the target, and then tugging on it to make sure it is “secure” is not what I would call proper due diligence, and if you cannot visually inspect it up close you’ll have no way of knowing if the hook is truly secure, tentatively secure or only dangerously and tenuously snagged, ready to fail you at a moment’s notice.
I have seen it happen more than once that such an arrangement dumps an adventurous climber from quite a few feet up.
Lastly, utilizing a grappling hook is a great way to lose a section of rope and the hook entirely.
If your grappling hook gets snagged, and you do not feel confident climbing it or did not quite nail the target how will you pull the hook back down? If your rope is securely tied off you are now faced with cutting a length of it free in order to save the remainder.
Perhaps the only thing a grappling hook might have some genuine utility for is for lowering down to a load ready for hoisting before hauling it back up, and there are far simpler ways to do that with no additional hardware using knots alone.
Grappling hooks may have value in certain highly specific situations and for fictional heroes and villains alike, but they don’t for preppers.
3. Night Vision / Thermal Scopes
If I’m being honest, I hardly know a single “gun person” and very few preppers who have not, at one time or another, thirsted after a night vision or thermal optic for their favorite long gun.
There is something about the notion of stealthily targeting your quarry as easily in pitch blackness as in the daytime without them even knowing that they’re veil of concealment is pierced, invisibly, silently, that is just thrilling.
Maybe it hearkens back to that feeling we all had when playing hide and seek when we were observing someone from our hiding spot, someone who didn’t know we were there.
Whatever the case, while night, thermal and other augmented vision optics can provide incredible utility and capability in certain circumstances very rarely is the best choice to go with a dedicated thermal or night vision scope for a long gun.
While on the surface it seems like an unbeatable advantage (and it definitely can be) there are simply too many drawbacks and too many better options to make these worthwhile for most people.
First, neither night vision nor thermal vision optics are infallible, and both can be defeated by various weather conditions, intervening obstacles and human ingenuity. Second, both require a considerable amount of training to use effectively and safely.
Night vision in particular is infamous for reducing optical clarity and depth perception, making target identification challenging especially with older generation tubes. The majority of thermal vision optics are even worse in this regard.
Both systems add a considerable amount of weight to the host firearm, and are often extremely limited in performance compared to most traditional rifle scopes. They are utterly dependent upon batteries, which also means you’ll have to dedicate more charging time to keep them running or use them at all.
Additionally, while these devices have considerable utility for passive observation and detection, using them on a firearm that has the bore slaved more or less to the object being sighted on is a recipe for disaster when stress and uncertainty are high.
Lastly, you’re always going to pay through the nose for night vision of modern manufacture that is of reasonable quality, and you could very well purchase a nice used car for what thermal vision optics cost! Do you really want to invest so much and such a specialized piece of gear?
4. Off-the-Shelf BOBs
Unless you just started your prepping journey with this article, I have little doubt that you are familiar with the concept of the BOB, or bug-out bag.
The BOB has an almost religious importance to prepping, and is the one composite piece of gear that we will rely on to get us through thick and thin pretty much no matter what happens.
It serves as a mobile source of shelter and food, and as our armory, tool chest and medicine cabinet. If you knew trouble was coming but you didn’t know what, you’d never go wrong grabbing your BOB.
For new preppers or those who don’t have much experience or confidence when it comes to analyzing the problems they are likely to face before weighing them against their own capability, a pre-packed, ready-to-go and off-the-shelf BOB no doubt seems a highly appealing option, if an expensive one.
What could be better than making one purchase and getting all of the survival supplies and tools that a (dubiously) reliable expert says you’ll need for sure? Can’t you trust them? What is wrong with that?
I hate to rain on your parade, reader, but there is a lot wrong with it. While it is true that the overwhelming majority of BOBs packed by any person for any purpose or climate will feature a sort of core feature list consisting of universally useful supplies that is where the similarities often end.
The reason is that a BOB is a highly personal piece of gear: one that is packed by a young survivor living in the high desert of the American southwest will look very different from the one belonging to an elderly retiree living in an urban metropolis in New England.
The items that you place into your bug-out bag should be chosen only after serious consideration, reflection and deliberation. No matter how useful a piece of gear is, or how handy it might be in an unexpected situation, you must also constrain your choices against the ever-present weight limitations of both the pack and yourself.
The heavier your BOB gets the more tiring it will be to carry and the more grueling your journey will be. This will slow you down, wear you out and make you vulnerable to injury. Not to mention the pack could blow out and fail.
If this sounds like a tricky balancing act that’s because it is, and is a topic you’ll have to spend time researching and working on yourself in order to find the best balance.
To make things worse, the overwhelming majority of these pre-packed BOBs on the market consist of only the lowest quality tools and components that can be found in order to increase profits while maintaining an appetizing purchase price. Avoid them!
5. Underground Bunkers
The ultimate prep for many preppers, including your author here for a little while, has been the fully stocked, completely secure underground bunker.
It is not hard to see why: Your own personal shelter completely and safely ensconced beneath the ground or nestled in the very rock itself that you and your family can retreat into when a situation looks dire before closing the door, swinging the latch and waiting for the whole nasty business to blow over.
Surely there is nothing that can beat that when it comes to preparation, right? Actually, yes, yes there is.
While underground bunkers and other secure shelters do have merit in certain specific situations, namely when attempting to survive a powerful wind event like a tornado or a nuclear blast wave, they remain specialized structures for specialized purposes. As a general survival retreat, they are not ideal.
This is because any fixed defensive site or other seemingly impregnable structure is, much of the time, a place where defenders or evacuees retreat into and later die.
Anytime one of these structures is discovered (and it will be) because they are not as discrete or as easy to install secretly as you might believe various miscreants will target it for the vast bounty of survival supplies that they are convinced sit within.
As with all things and all problems it is far better to remain mobile, flexible and adaptable. Those are all descriptors that bunkers are not!
I am not saying you should not consider or install a bunker if it fits into a specific place in your survival plan, but make sure that the likeliest events support the installation.
Installing one as a hobby or because the idea of a bunker is the apple of your eye is simply going to be a massive undertaking and likely a waste of time and resources.
6. “Do-All” Tools
Having the one right tool for the job at hand counts for a lot, and that ethos is sort of the motivating reason for this article’s existence. But some tools try to be the right tool for every job, which is impossible.
The tools I am referring to are the ones that typically grace the last three or four pages of gun magazines, hunting magazines and other survival-proximal publications, along with every banner ad on every related website. I’m talking about the 35-in-1 contraptions that defy explanation.
Just so we are on the same sheet of music, I’m not referring to the multi-tools we all know and love, ones like the legendary Leatherman, the sturdy Gerber, and the iconic Swiss army knife.
No, the do-all tools are ones like the multifunction shovels that include a saw, a spike, a compass, a detachable full-sized knife, a survival mirror, and a shaving scuttle.
Or maybe it is a hatchet that includes a tripod, a set of pliers, a solar charger, sharpening stones, diamond hone, screwdriver, and oxygen tank wrench.
These are tools that were so obsessed with the notion of including various secondary, tertiary, quaternary and quinary functions, that the designers never stopped to consider whether or not it could do the primary job that the tool was ostensibly created to do!
I particularly despise these tools because they prey upon a want that all preppers typically have, which is the want to save space and save weight in their backpacks, or just in their supply rooms by utilizing gear that has more than one function.
Unfortunately these tools I have described go too far by trying to handle every function that the user can think of, and in doing so are often rendered borderline unusable and sometimes even dangerous.
With scarce few exceptions, these tools will prove to be a waste of your hard-earned money. Don’t fall for them!
7. Counterfeit Medical Gear
No matter where you are in your prepping journey obtaining first-aid skills and the attendant medical gear that will allow you to successfully intervene when you or another are injured is one of the foundational skills of personal readiness.
As I have mentioned above, plenty of preppers love buying gear, but it seems like very few like shelling out the big bucks for high quality, dependable first-aid products, and other medical kits.
This is a shame, not only because it lowers your overall state of radius and capability, but because the lack of enthusiasm in that market sector has given rise to a slate of knock-offs pouring into the country from China and elsewhere.
Everything from tourniquets to bandages, chest seals to airways, all examples from all kinds of quality, reputable manufacturers have been cloned for pennies on the dollar by slave labor, and forced onto an unsuspecting consumer market.
Though many of these items look identical, they never perform to the same level and are almost always dangerously deficient.
Some misguided preppers believe they can save money by purchasing these “just as good” false equivalents, convincing themselves that the low likelihood of use justifies that choice.
You should never give in to this fallacy, because it might mean watching a loved one die because your gear was not up to the task. Spend a little more, and get the genuine article.
If you are anything like most preppers you will accumulate a sizable collection of gear over your life. Much of it will be good, some of it will be middling, and a few items will be truly terrible, like the ones featured on this list.
You can give yourself a big boost in your prepping forays by avoiding the purchasing disasters we have shared with you today. Remember: friends don’t let friends buy terrible gear!