A neighbor stopped by the other day, and we talked for a bit. He brought up a few things from the news that were bothering him, and he was worried about not knowing what to do if something bad happened. He talked about his brother’s farm a good distance away, but he didn’t know what kind of kit he should have on hand to help him get there. He didn’t know whether to stay or go, what specific gear he needed and how to afford it since he was on a fixed income.
Having lived with a survival mindset for 25 years, it’s easy to forget how much time and money it takes to put a quality bug-out bag together. A high-quality knife alone easily runs $200 to $400. The same goes for a pack. After our talk, I thought about how tough it would be for someone on a fixed income to put together a quality bug-out bag for a reasonable price— say, around $500. Sure, it’s easy to go cheap and slap a bunch of inferior products together, but that’s not worth the effort.
So, how do you put a quality kit together for that price? What would you include for both short-term and long-term survival should things really go sideways? These questions are what prompted the research and planning to create a quality $500 bug-out bag for you.
We made this a level playing field and put the kit together with only purchased items (except clothes) because we don’t know what you might have in your own home. To make it fair, only large-scale retail stores or online resources were used so you are sure to have access to the same items. Bear in mind that there will be some items you might not think are the best available, and that’s because they’re not. To put a $500 bug-out bag together, we have to make compromises to increase its versatility and lower individual item costs at the same time. In essence, we’re looking for the best value for the money to make a bag that is robust and comprehensive, while still easily used by most people.
So, let’s take a look at the $500 bug-out bag we put together, and hopefully it motivates you to build your own.
|1 MAXPEDITION CONDOR II PACK||$123.77|
|1 SURVIVAL FILTER||$29.99|
|2 KIND ENERGY BARS||$2.37|
|1 BECKER BK5 KNIFE||$61.68|
|1 SPORTSMAN CHAINSAW||$21.95|
|1 MORAKNIV COMPANION KNIFE (Back-up)||$16.35|
|1 PACKAGE OF 100 FEET PARACORD||$6.43|
|1 PR. MECHANIX WORK GLOVES||$15.99|
|1 NALGENE 96 OZ. WATER CARRIER||$10.95|
|1 LIGHT MY FIRE MINI FIRE STEEL||$8.95|
|1 BOX UCO STORMPROOF MATCHES||$3.99|
|2 BIC LIGHTERS||$2.00|
|1 JAR PETROLEUM JELLY||$1.97|
|1 PKG. COTTON BALLS||$2.58|
|1 PACK EMERGENCY CANDLES||$2.98|
|1 ROTHCO G.I. OD CASUALTY BLANKET (Tarp)||$19.25|
|1 NDUR SURVIVAL BLANKET||$6.75|
|3 CONTRACTOR BAGS||$2.75|
|1 U.S. MILITARY SPEEDHOOK KIT||$12.99|
|1 SILVA POLARIS FIELD COMPASS||$15.90|
|1 ROLL DUCT TAPE 10 YDS.||$3.37|
|1 KLEEN KANTEEN WATER BOTTLE||$22.16|
|1 OLICAMP SPACE SAVER MUG||$14.79|
|1 BEST & BRIGHTEST HEADLAMP (lifetime warranty)||$14.95|
|1 PACK (50 Ct.) OF 8-INCH 50-POUND TEST ZIP-TIES||$2.98|
|1 ROLL (55 feet ) BRASS WIRE||$3.49|
|1 DOZEN MEDIUM SNARES||$15.50|
|3 CARABINER CLIP HOOKS||$2.22|
|1 BEST GLIDE BASIC FISHING KIT||$11.95|
|1 QUIK CLOT CLOTTING SPONGE (50 GRM.)||$20.00|
|1 6-INCH ISRAELI BANDAGE||$6.69|
|2 PAIR TACTICAL DEFENDER NITRILE GLOVES||$1.20|
|1 60CC IRRIGATION SYRINGE||$.56|
|1 PACKAGE APLICARE POVIDINE IODINE||$2.36|
|2 PACKAGES ¼”X4” STERI STRIPS||$2.38|
|3 PACKAGES BENZOIN APPLICATORS||$1.22|
|1 LIP BALM STICK||$.97|
|1 P-51 CAN OPENER||$.62|
|10 ZIP-LOC SLIDER BAGS (sorting/waterproofing gear)||$1.86|
|1 PLAIN COTTON BANDANA||$.99|
|1 EXTRA PAIR OF SOCKS (You’ve got these)|
|1 EXTRA PAIR OF UNDERWEAR (You’ve got this, too).|
- A do-it-all knife, the Becker BK5 Camp Magnum is an outstanding value at $61.85 for camp chores, chopping and clearing light vegetation, and for defensive work as well.
- The Kleen Kanteen holds 40 ounces (more than most standard bottles) and can be set in a fire to boil and purify water. The Olicamp Space Saver is a backup for this function or to use separately from the bottle
- A water bottle pouch would be nice, but for around $35 to $40 we can put that money to better
use. Instead, we chose a carabi-neer clip hook that runs 74 cents.
- Mora Knives fixed blades are absolutely one of the best values when it comes to bushcraft knives. They have great edge geometry and are inexpensive enough to have along as a backup or for full-time use.
- The Foundation for our kit is the Maxpedition Condor II. Considering quality, capacity and price, it’s one of the best packs in the category. Please note that color can make a difference in price. This gray model was $20 cheaper than the same pack in different colors.
- Though we pinched pennies on this project, at the very least, one should include the minimum items for a trauma kit to deal with a life-threatening wound. Smaller items can probably be scavenged from your drawers and closets.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the Winter 2015 print issue of Tread Magazine.