Shoestring Survival

Shoestring Survival & Budget Bushcraft


One of the biggest concerns new preppers have when beginning their quest to become better prepared, is cost. Quite a few people who prep, also live on a very tight budget, some are even struggling to make it from paycheck to paycheck, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Fortunately for them, there are several places where they can go to embark on the path to purchasing the prepper gear on a shoestring budget. Thrift stores, flea markets, military surplus stores, flea markets, and even online social media groups, are a handful of ideas that immediately come to mind when discussing bushcraft on a budget.

These places can be visited on a weekly basis to search for enormous savings on the gear that you will need. Every day, people visit these facilities to drop off items they no longer want or need. These items are then sold at a fraction of the cost they were originally bought for, and many of them can be reused, or repurposed by preppers. Here is a short list of prepper items you can search for and find at these stores.

Rain Gear: You may not think rain gear is an essential survival item, but if you’ve ever been caught out in the rain for an hour, you know just how valuable they can be, especially in a survival situation. Grab ponchos in bulk if affordably priced, as they do tend to become damaged through excessive use. They can also be used for shelters and other bushcraft concepts.

Winter Gear: This stuff is always available at secondhand stores, especially in the spring. Focus on effectiveness rather than aesthetics; nobody is going to care how good your snow pants and parka look, or even if they match. Grab gloves in bulk as these will experience the most wear and tear during daily activities. You might also consider grabbing a handful of hats for each member of the family.

Shoestring Survival

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Boots: These can be extremely expensive when purchased brand new; however, like many other things that find their way into secondhand stores, reliable boots can be found for pennies on the dollar. Military surplus stores will have several styles of boots for adult males and females, but you will need to look elsewhere to outfit the kids. Pick up a set of these boot laces and you’ll be a step ahead of the game.

Radios: You can normally find these for reasonable prices at any of the spots mentioned in the preamble to this post. For survival purposes, we recommend searching for radios at military surplus stores, as they are more likely to have the communications platforms you are looking for. If possible, focus on hand crank powered platforms.

Camp Cookware: Cast iron skillets are hard to come by at thrift stores, primarily because everyone likes them and when they are available, they are scooped up rather quickly. Military style mess kits are an easier option to find, they are more cost effective, and they weigh less, which comes into play if they are being carried in a bugout bag.

Manual Kitchen Equipment: You will need manually operated can openers, like the P-38, for all survival situations. For long term survival, you will also need things like manually operated grinders for processing wild game meat. You may also need a grain mill for processing wild edibles into flour, etc. Think of the things you use power utensils for in the kitchen right now, then look for manually operated options to purchase for prepping gear.

Candles: These are more for temporary disasters than for long term survival. That being said, you should always have a candle or two in your bugout bag just in case. When purchased in bulk, candles can be obtained at affordable rates. You may also want to look into DIY candle ideas to repurpose items you may already have.

Space Blankets: These are fairly inexpensive anywhere you find them. We recommend grabbing these in bulk as well, they are lightweight and designed to reflect body heat, or any heat for that matter, keeping you cozy and warm. They can be used as shelters, fire reflectors, warming blankets, and signaling devices.

Blankets: You will also want to find a few nice wool blankets, maybe even some flannel sheets. These will come in handy during the winter months, even for short term power outages, so grab several and store them with the rest of your gear.

Hand Tools: Hammers, wrenches, screwdrivers, bulk nails and screws, are just a few of the hand tools you are going to want to grab. Disasters often require extensive repair work to be completed and power is not always going to be available.

Conventional Camping Gear: Tents, tarps, tent stakes, paracord, hatchets, machetes, etc., is almost always available at discounted prices in secondhand stores. Conduct due diligence in this area and make sure that the items are in good working order, they are used and may be damaged.

Fishing Gear: You can normally find used fishing equipment at secondhand stores for relatively cheap. Again, you are going to want to ensure the items are in good working order. If there is fishing line still on the reel, remove it and replace it; old fishing line is often frail, especially if it has seen a fair bit of use.

Hunting Gear: Hunting related equipment is often very cost efficient at secondhand stores, even if it has seen little use. Used hunting gear tends to depreciate in value each year as new technologies carve out a niche in the industry, replacing the items of yesterday rather quickly.

Barrels & Buckets: These cylindrical containers are excellent for carrying water and storing it, which you will need to do in grid down, or long term survival situations. Used barrels and buckets should be food grade, and they must be cleaned and disinfected prior to use; you have no idea what was kept in them by the previous owner(s).

Knives: Prepping requires the use of knives for everyday tasks. You will need a variety of knives to accomplish the tasks that will arise. Used folding knives need to be functional so you can open them. Full tang knives should be inspected for any deformities or fractures along the steel. Look for a knife sharpener while you are at it, chances are the edge will need immediate attention before it can be put into safe use.

Flashlights: Look for hand crank powered options if possible. These will not require batteries to operate, and are often accompanied by additional useful accessories, such as a radio/flashlight combination. If you cannot find them, any cheap flashlight with rechargeable batteries and a small scale solar charger, will work.

Food Prep Products: If you really want to get involved with prepping, learn to grow and preserve your own food, just like grandma used to do. Canning jars and dehydrating equipment can be found at enormous discounts at secondhand stores. This stuff should be sterilized and disinfected prior to use. This will help you stockpile a surplus of food for long-term prepping.

Gardening Equipment: You’re not going to be very successful canning and dehydrating food if you aren’t growing it yourself. Grab hand tools that are specific for gardening, and maybe even a few backups; gardening equipment receives a lot of abuse, even when used properly, so they can break occasionally, which means you will need replacements.

Backpacks: These items can also be found at huge discounts. You will want to focus on a backpack that can be used as a bugout bag. This means it should be capable of comfortably carrying enough equipment to keep you alive for a 72-hour period.

Shop Rags: These can be purchased in bulk and used for a multitude of things during survival situations. You can never have too many, and they are lightweight enough to carry in bulk, so grab a few stacks.

Entertainment Equipment: Temporary power outages and long term survival situations often entail a fair amount of boredom; the things we are used to doing for entertainment are no longer available to us. Grab playing cards, books, board games and things of that nature to help pass the time.

Medical Equipment: Even if you are not currently injured, you may want to consider grabbing a few odd items like crutches, wheelchairs, and walkers. Injuries often accompany unexpected disasters; having this equipment available may help you get around with a sprain, strain, or bruised appendage.

Logging Equipment: Axes, hatchets, handsaws, and machetes are all things you will need in a long-term survival situation. You may need to build a shelter, harvest firewood, etc., and that will be easier to accomplish with the proper tools.

Sewing Equipment: Needles, thread, buttons, zippers, fabric, yarn, etc., will definitely come in very handy during a long-term disaster scenario. Clothing repair and replacement will need to be done frequently, especially if there are no conventional stores to shop at anymore.

These are just a handful of things that can be found at thrift and surplus stores. If you do a little research on the gear you will need to become better prepared before going on a shopping spree, you will more than likely find several other items at these places that were not mentioned here. Happy hunting!

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