How To Survive On A Budget

afrankelSurvival, Survival Gear, Survival Gear Reviews10 Comments

It’s hard to say whether preppers spend more time and energy fussing over their BOB or their AR-15, but one thing is for sure; people LOVE to spend too much money on both. I for one have certainly been bitten by both bugs.

Someone recently asked me if it was possible to do a BOB for under $100. My first reaction was to say, “Of course!” After thinking about it for a few minutes though, I wasn’t so sure.

If you surf the different forums, you’re likely to conclude that Bug Out Bags require only the very best equipment, and a corresponding outlay of cash. While they certainly can be spendy, they don’t always have to be.

Let’s face it, we live in a world where we think we need everything all at once, and that it has to be the best. While the best may be best, if you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it. And even if you can afford it, maybe there is still an opportunity cost involved in spending that money now.

After doing some research, I’ve concluded that the simple answer is yes, it is possible. The more complicated answer however, is that it depends on some factors. A Bug Out Bag can be outfitted for one purpose, or many. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your bag for a specific event or is it being outfitted broadly?
  • Where are you going with it?
  • How long does the bag need to sustain you?
  • How many people are you trying to sustain?
  • What is your mobility?

Building a bag before answering these questions thoughtfully, is the second largest contributing factor to an over-priced BOB. If you have not answered them, you’ll likely try to add in the proverbial kitchen sink to account for every possible situation.

The bag you choose for your BOB can by itself easily put you over the $100 mark. This isn’t necessary though. By hitting a few army surplus stores, sporting good stores, Walmart, Costco, and even the Salvation Army, I’ve found a plethora of cheap bags for under $30 that would do just fine. Much like the gear in the bag, an expensive bag is nice, but not essential.

What you get when you pay up for a bag is typically the name, longevity, and whistles and bells. If cost is a concern, just get a decent bag with no frills that will hold up and contain all your stuff.

Likewise, having gear for every scenario is nice, but if you are on a budget, focus on the most essential items first. If you need the bag, it will more likely be to get you home, than out of town.

Also, you don’t need special clothes just for your BOB. Use an old pair of jeans, shirt, and enough socks and underwear for three days. You just took that $500 in special tactical clothing you didn’t need anyway out of the equation.

Even when you get down to things like a fire starter, an $8 firesteel is cool, but a $1.02 disposable lighter and Ziplock bag will work just fine. This theme continues on to even a shelter, if you choose to put one in. A $300 super compact tent is nice, but a $10 tarp and $10 worth of rope goes a long way towards creating a tarp shelter that will keep you dry. Just be sure you know how to use it.

My BOB has $700 worth of ESEE knives in it. Do I like them? Yes. Did I think I needed them when I built that BOB? Of course. Do I actually need them in my BOB? No. The fixed blade I have had since I was 10 years old would have done just fine. Expensive knives are cool, but Cody Lundin gets by in the wilderness just fine with a $13 Mora Knife – hippie locks sold separately.

Of course, the number one contributing factor to an over-priced BOB is the “cool looking gear” bug. Manufacturers are quite good at product presentation. They know most of us will reach for what looks cool long before we reach for what is inexpensive, well made, and just works. This is generally true in life, but it is painfully evident when it comes to survival and tactical gear.

Surviving in bad situations can easily boil down to learning to use the items that are around you everyday. This can also be a great way to reduce the cost of your BOB. Whether or not money is a concern, look for creative ways to turn the things around you into survival items. For example, a simple soda can be used to create four survival tools – look for an article soon.

Building a BOB on a budget is about prioritizing and focusing on the most likely needs. If your budget is $100, don’t sweat it. You can always upgrade tomorrow if the money and need arises.


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We Are All Survivalists
How To Build A Blackout Kit
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10 Comments on “How To Survive On A Budget”

  1. good stuff right there. I think an important point to note is that anything is better than nothing. If you only have $100 to put into your BOB, at least you’ll be better suited to dealing with a situation then if you didn’t have anything because you were waiting to save up for all the top gear.

    1. I was recently just planning on finally building my BOB and by the time I had my list done I would need a hitch to tow the darn thing behind my truck. Thanks god I read this, I think I easily eliminated 75% of crap I really didnt need.

      1. I would bet you could get something together for a 72 hour bag for less than $10, if not for free. Once you have that, then you can start shopping the surplus stores, garage sales, etc and upgrading the basics.

        Some ideas:

        Food – Free Samples Online; Grab condiments at your local fast food establishment; (Or you can splurge and get 3 days worth of emergency food & water for $13:
        Water – Filter (Bandanna, Spare T-Shirt, Clean Socks); Bleach (borrow some from a neighbor); Places give away water bottles in promotions; Free condoms can carry water too…
        Light – Candles; Flashlights – again given away in promotions or available at your local $1 store.
        Fire – An bic in a ziplock bag. Kitchen matches in an asprin container(in a ziplock bag).
        Cordage – Spare clothes line; paracord is fairly cheap.
        Emergency Entry – Rocks, Bricks (Generally you don’t need to pack these though.)
        Knife – A spare Kitchen knife would do. Don’t have a spare? You can usually pick these up cheap at salvation army/thrift store.
        Mess Kit – Pick up plastic silverware at a fast food establishment; A soda can doubles as a bowl/cooking pan.
        First Aid – Napkins and some tape (duct tape?) for bandages; Tampons/Pads; Cotton Balls; Throw in a few spare asprin/supplies from your home medicine cabinet (there’s free samples also..).
        Sanitation – Old T-shirt for a towel/washcloth; If you (or relatives) ever stayed at a hotel, you should have some small sized soap/shampoo; Napkins/Wet wipes (you’ve probably seen these as your local fast food establishment…)
        Shelter – A couple of garbage bags and newspaper/packing peanuts; cardboard box
        Bag – I’ve seen Army Recruiters giving away a basic backpack; Or you can pick them up for a couple of bucks at thrift stores.
        Clothes – Do you really wear everything that’s in your closet?

        Is it perfect? No. But it’s a start and could give a person 72 hours other less thoughtful people don’t have. (I don’t have to out run the bear, I just have to out run you…)

        Of course, the more skill you have, the less you need, the less you need to spend… If you have more time than money, then picking up a survival manual ( and practicing what’s in it would be better than shopping…

        1. Ditto on thinking through on the REASON for a BOB. I see a lot of lists for different things that, frankly, boggle the mind.

          Take EDC for example. I’ve seen folks who EDC two firearms with a spare magazine each, three or four knives, three flashlights, two firestarters, and a pocket survival kit. Oh, yeah, cellphone and wallet. Really? I don’t carry that while on duty as a patrol officer. I do carry a pen and pad of paper, because, you know, it’s actually useful. Also, I carry cash, because sometimes a store’s card reader is down or I’m in a hurry. I also carry important phone numbers written down in my wallet in case my phone dies for whatever reason. A spare car key (skeltonized) is my wallet in case I lock myself out. Basically, I prepare for what has happened to me or folks I run into rather things that won’t likely happen like the Zombie Apocalypse.

          I believe BOBs are broken into two main types. Civilized and Primitive.

          Civilized is more like what most folks do and that’s get out of the local area of disaster and stay in hotels, with friends or family, or other regular accommodations. You generally only need clothes and toiletries. I’d pack extra cash, copies of important papers, a real credit card (not debit as a lot of hotels and car rentals won’t take a debit card we found out recently), etc., but otherwise it’s more of a short vacation.

          Primitive is like camping. You’re on your own with no accommodations. I’d plan on car camping personally. Without a vehicle you’re not getting far. If you’re not getting out the localized area of disaster, then you might as well stay home. If you’re planning on car camping then things change from gear you have to carry to to gear you simply need to throw in the car. Many times folks already have these things on hand.

          My best advise on a BOB is to, well, actually bug out. Take a short vacation and get out there. It’s fun and you’ll learn what you’ll need for next time. Once you get things honed you’ll find the bugging out part is not that stressful. You’ll be able to concentrate on the disaster at hand, whether your loved ones and friends are safe, whether you have a house to come home to, etc.

  2. The simplest things are usually the most versatile and effective. I can’t wait to read about the soda can! Add some more field improvisations when you do it!!

  3. bag aka backpack
    sleeping bag
    tent or tarp / could use bivvi bag instead
    water bottle
    cooking pot
    sewing kit

    survival tin on your person at all times. Not in everyday life if you dont want but as soon as you pick up your bag.

    clothes – track suit bottoms dry faster than jeans. cotton kills.

    thats it but you can always pack optional extras –

    folding saw
    torch/head torch/light sticks
    sun glasses

    You dont need much to survive, you’d be surprised the mind and body can endure just about anything so long as its well fed. Problems creep in when you starve. Wet and hungry or wet and full up – whats easier?

    bag aka backpack – dont use the top lid pocket for knick knacks. alot are 5 litre in size. You’ll just end up thinking you need a bigger pack if you use it like a ladies purse.

    sleeping bag – at the moment im using two. Because my evacuation includes another person who isnt as strong so I use two small ones, they carry one small one and we share the other over the top. The combined warmth works well but thats in a tent. Bivvi throws up different issues. Small light weight sleeping bag requires under clothes, socks, feet in socks in dry bag plus wolly hat on etc to keep the temperature up. Or buy a bigger bag and open it. (some people like silk liners in their bag. I twist in them. Silk pajamas are better or some thicker baselayers to increase temp rating of bag, but thats added cost)

    bivvi bag – could prove more useful than a tent. Say your in built up areas. You kip in buildings, your sleeping bag is going to get dirty real quick and wind blowing through a building could chill and kill. A bivvi bag could prove more usefull than a tent. Plus if you move out into the woods you could build small shelter or crawl under stuff with your bivvi out of site.

    water bottle – I prefer stainless for many health reasons and you can melt any frozen contents in fire. A plastic bottle will do you but it will break down and poison you on repeated use , but your on a budget and its the end of the world so what does it matter.

    cooking pot – could use or pack a family size tin of beans of something similar. Pack it unopened. when you cook it over a fire you then use the empty tin as your future cookpot. get stainless with no internal plastic coating and you’ll be healthy. Some will argue the wet weight but you may need to carry your water to rehydrate food anyway so carry it with some corned beef and have a nice first meal. If its truly a disaster you’ll need it.

    knife – cheap mora is very good but you wont feel comfy killing anything vicious with it. damn badgers! It doesnt grip great for that sort of combat but is good for most other things.

    sewing kit – some needles and thread in your survival tin. You may need to mend clothes or like rambo… your skin.

    firesteel/matches/lighter – if not on your person should be in your tin

    socks – if you pack no other change of clothes pack some spare socks, and then some again. Wet feet will uck you up

    hat – you could use your socks if your feet are big, am i kidding? maybe 🙂 Take a warm hat because it will keep you warmer in your sleeping bag.

    food – some will argue you take dry food and rehydrate it. Thats ok if youve water. If you have to carry your own water to rehydrate food you may aswell carry wet food and use the tins or eat them cold. Self practice will show you the way.

    whistle – should be with you all the time anyway or in your tin. fox 40 micro whistle. put one on your keys. incase of earth quake or burial in building you can blow it. Prizes for best tune to make it onto SKy news. If you put it around your neck make sure the cord can snap. You dont want to hang yourself.

    survival tin in your pocket – build yourself or buy a BCB or other manufacture online.

    optional extras

    folding saw if you like – takes no room. most people buy barcho laplander which is dirt cheap. Used mine the other week when badgers stole our food. Not to kill the badgers but for fire wood. Works well.

    compass- full size or button one in tin or use other means, so long as your not going round in circles and sort of know your area do you really need the extra weight?

    torch/head torch/light sticks – you can get buy without light, our ancestors did and you’ll need your energy so try sleeping. or light a fire and sing camp songs to attract some other survivors…. at your peril?

    radio – maybe you need it maybe you dont. I put it here for that reason. Alot of mobile phones have radios so take it and some headphones. If your on the run remember to remove battery and sim whilst you move. Some phone radios dont work without sim.

    axe – good for shelter building if the end of the world draws out longer than expected. Say its the trial run for the end of the world, or the – we think its all over but it isnt quite yet.

    machete – see axe /see knife

    gloves – use a spare pair of socks. Walking socks are sold with liners these days. These can double as thin gloves under thicker gloves , that is if you take gloves. Other wise socks are gloves, cut a thumb hole

    sunglasses – we’ve survived without them but they are useful and especially if for tactical reasons you dont want others to see your eyes.

    And as were mentioning bags I dont like the term BOB. I ended up calling mine Eva as in Evacuation then as in Wall-e , EVA… and then that leads into WALL-E’s nature is to tidy everything up and respect and care for all life and that made my root into reality sit better. But hey thats just me and you gotta sleep with yourself so call it what ever makes you happy 🙂

    1. oops forgot a cooker of some sort. You dont always want a fire.

      hexamine is basic light and compact, an army one, or for lighter weight drop the H stand and use a tin foil windshield instead.

      optional –

      gas or petrol/multi fuel stove of your choice

  4. Good advice. Another way to think of it is, what do I need to get through the first three days of a survival situation? (I’m assuming primitive at this point, although a similar thought process would be useful for a civilized pack.)

    This is where the Sacred Order/Rule of 3s come into play. My goal is to make the transition from my civilized life to primitive/survival living as easy as possible.

    By three days in, if I have decent skills, I should have been able to provide for myself a decent shelter, a water supply, and the beginnings of a larder. So for those first three days, I want to have things in my pack that will make meeting those needs easier.

    Also, I’m thinking redundancy. I don’t want to have to go thirsty when my flaky water purifier breaks 3 hours into the first day. I don’t want to see my mylar blanket shelter get ripped to shreds by a strong gust of wind with no other recourse. I don’t want to have to spend hours collecting and spinning natural fibers into cordage just so I can get a shelter up and set some traps. Those are the needs I address in my BOB.

    1. Well interesting week here in the greater DC area: 1st an Earthquake; then Hurricane Irene! Both events have me cursing myself for not preparing better to include putting together my BoB!

  5. Pingback: Survival in a Soda Can: Part I - Neil Strauss

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