Acquiring survival and prepping gear can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing part is easy to figure out; if there is an emergency, you will have what it takes to purify water, stay warm, cook food, render first aid and ward off the bad guys. The curse part? You may end up with a closet full of stuff with nary a clue as to how it works or even if it will work when the time comes.
In all fairness, I say this from my own personal experience and might be judging the rest of you unfairly. But I think not.
My Radio Failed When I Needed It!
Let me share an example of what happened to me quite recently. The Kaito Voyager crank radio I purchased a couple of years back was well tested. It sat next to my desk and every once in awhile I would crank it up and dial in some weather and whatever else I could catch over the airwaves. I would also use it to charge my cell phone. Ultimately, though, I needed the desk space so I packed it away in one of my bug-out-bags.
When internet and cell phone service was lost for an extended period in November, I pulled out my Kaito thinking that I would get some news. It was deader than dead. Fresh batteries did not bring it to life, the crank would not charge it, and the ac adapter did nothing at all. Now I do not mean to disparage the Kaito Voyager(well maybe just a little). Instead, I am browbeating myself for not using my emergency radio on a regular basis.
Which gets me to the point of this article:
- Purchase your gear wisely
- Make it a point to use what you buy
- Evaluate the risks in your area and cover those needs first.
For example, if your area is prone to frequent power outages, you are going to need emergency lighting, a propane stove, and possibly a small generator. And then, once you acquire those things (whatever they might be) use them. Learn how they work and periodically test them to insure they remain functional. A single test is not enough – after all will you still remember how they work six months or a year from now?
This is not a perspective that is unique; it is one that is shared by every Prepper who has ever been required to use their preps in an emergency as well as a whole lot of others that were smarter than I was when I first got started.
To help you understand the importance buying what you really need and not some useless junk, my friend Rob Hanus is back with his thoughts on both buying gear wisely and also using what you buy.
There’s an adage that you’ll hear in the preparedness community: “Buy Once, Cry Once.” There are several ways one can interpret this, but they all pretty much mean the same thing, and that is to buy the best you can afford at the time you purchase. Another way to say this is, “Don’t be cheap with your preps!”
It doesn’t mean that you should go into debt or use it as an excuse to buy that Remington 300 H&H Magnum rifle, when all you really need is a .22LR rifle. It can be a challenge to buy quality items when you’re on a budget, but it’s important that you don’t buy something cheap and think that it’s better than nothing.
In fact, usually the “better than nothing” stuff is really worse than having nothing. Storing poor quality items can lead to a false sense of security, and finding this out at the point when you need rely on these things is not the best way to learn. At least when you have nothing, you know that it’s a shortcoming and will compensate for it.
The equipment you buy needs to be rugged and capable of withstanding hard, daily use. If you’re afraid to use it now or tend to “baby” it, you really should ask yourself why you have it.
Here’s an example from my past.
When I was in my 20s, I bought this really cool survival knife. It was a copy of a Buckmaster Survival Knife. I couldn’t afford the real Buckmaster, so I got a copy instead – only mine was cooler because it was black instead of silver. It had these spikes that screwed into the hilt and a hollow handle with a small survival kit inside. The blade was a Bowie style, but the secondary edge was serrated and the spine had these deep cuts.
While I carried this knife with me everywhere, I couldn’t bring myself to actually use it. I didn’t want to scuff up the finish or dull it. I babied it, simply because I was “saving” it for when I needed it. Yes, that sounds strange, but hey, I was in my 20s.
My first clue that this knife was garbage should have been when I couldn’t put a sharp edge on it. The second clue should have been when the wire saw broke within 10 seconds of using it. I was pretty thick-headed and ignorant back then (did I mention I was in my 20s?).
After about 4 or 5 years of carrying this knife around and thinking that this was the “go to” survival knife I was going to be able to rely on to get me through any survival situation, I finally decided to test it. I can’t tell you why I finally had that thought, but I decided to try doing a simply task of chopping some wood.
No words can describe how I felt when the knife failed me after only hitting the wood three times. The blade, that was bolted into the hollow handle, came loose and twisted freely. The knife was junk and if I had been in a survival situation and needed a good, rugged, reliable knife, I would have been S.O.L.
However, that lesson was one that would stay with me for the rest of my life, as I decided right then and there that I would never have another junk knife, no matter what the cost.
Though it took a few years to save up for it, the next knife I bought was a Cold Steel Trailmaster. I have, literally, abused that knife to see what it can do and it has yet to fail me. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I can trust that knife in a survival situation. That’s the same confidence I want with every piece of gear I have.
The lesson here is if you’re afraid to use, and in some cases abuse, something in everyday life, it’s not going to withstand the harshness of a survival situation. You need to test your preps and gear.
I use this principle on everything I buy today. I might not buy the most expensive or the best, but I get the best for what fits in my budget. If an item fails, I determine why it failed and look to replace it with something that won’t fail like that again. Learn what makes an item good and buy the best grade that you can afford.
And then test everything. If you didn’t test it, it doesn’t work.
About Rob: Rob Hanus frequently posts original podcasts on his website at the Preparedness Podcast. He also is the author of an eBook, the Preparedness Capability Checklist which can be purchased from links on his website. His podcasts are informative and his Prepper News Watch is the best. You can bet that his book is good as well.
The Final Word
When it comes to gear, the guiding principal for every Prepper should be to buy the best you can afford and then to use it as part of your daily life. That does not mean you should shun $3 flashlights and $5 knives. It simply means that after assessing your needs, you determine what is best for your budget and you situation and make an educated purchase decision.
Become friends with your stuff. Learn to use it and enjoy its benefits now. You will thank yourself later.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Just released! My new eBook, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage will provide you with everything you need to create an affordable food storage plan, including what to buy and how to store it. Nothing scary and nothing overwhelming – you really can do this! Now available at Amazon.
Bargain Bin: The Backdoor Survival article on DIY cleaning turned out to be hugely popular all around the web. In case you missed it, here is a link to the article Prepper Checklist: DIY Cleaning Supplies and to some of the products that I use to make my own cleaners.
Maximal Power FC999 Universal Battery Charger: This nicely built charger will charge charge AA, AAA, C, D, N, 9V, Ni-MH, Ni-CD, and Alkaline batteries. It has an LED display so that when you first put a battery in the charging bay, you know whether it is viable for charging or simply bad and ready to go back to the recycle box. See How to Recharge Alkaline Batteries.
Blocklite Mini Compact Size Ultra Bright 9V LED Flashlight: One of my readers (James) claims that these work great. There is a similar flashlight called the Pak-Lite (which is more expensive) but it does not have a high-low switch like this one. Less than $10.
Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds Liquid Cleanser: I know that Dr. Bronner’s Magic Castile soaps have a cult-like following but I prefer the Sal Suds. I call my DIY cleaner “Sudsy Sal”.
NOW Solutions Glycerin Vegetable, 16-Fluid Ounces: You will need this for your Dirt Cheap Soft Soap. I paid almost as much for only 4 ounces locally. This is a great price and 16 ounces will last forever.
NOW Foods Peppermint Oil: I favor peppermint essential oil (okay, I like lavender too) so this is what I get. But there are many types of essential oils to choose from. Take your pick. One thing you will find is that a little goes a long way. Note: I use inexpensive EOs in my cleaning supplies and reserve the higher quality Spark Naturals Essential Oils for therapeutic and healing use.
Microfiber “Magic” Rags: No list of cleaning supplies would be complete without these wonderful microfiber cloths. They will last you for years and will allow you to replace paper towels forever. Truly. I color code using green for glass and windows and the other colors for everything else. I love these.
The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.
Every family should have at least one Tote-able Toilet. I have priced purchasing the bucket and toilet seat lid separately and found that it was more economical to pick up this kit. I have filled my portable potty with sanitation supplies plus, of course, plenty of TP.
I also recommend the Mobile Washer. This is hand operated washing machine. Like a plunger, it uses a technique of pushing and pulling the water through clothes to clean them well without wearing them out. It uses a minimum of water and less soap due to the agitation motion. Use in a bucket (5-gallon suggested), sink or tub. The best part is the price – only $14.95.
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Spotlight: After a ton of research, I am now using essential oils from Spark Naturals for wellness purposes. There are a lot reasons one of which is there commitment to both quality and value.
My recommendation is the Health and Wellness kit which includes all of my favorites or, if you are just getting started, the Essential 4 Pack which includes Lavender, Lemon, Melaleuca (Tea Tree) and Peppermint. Be sure to use the discount code “BACKDOORSURVIVAL” to receive a 10% discount.