12 essential survival items under $12

12 essential survival items under 12 dollars

Prepping can sometimes cost a lot of money and a lot of you really like when I post about gear (even though you really should be spending your time and money on skills more than stuff).

Because my EDC kit (every day carry) – the cheap way article was so popular, I thought maybe you’d appreciate a quick article about some inexpensive things you can get under $10 that are worth more than $10 – and that you could actually find useful. This is an entirely different idea from the 9 freakin’ awesome ideas for your bug out bag article that I wrote previously, which was intended to get you to think outside the box about what you carry.

I’d consider every one of these things as something that you should really consider having in your kit. Of course, “essential” really depends on your particular situation but since these things are so cheap and so really useful, I’m declaring them essential, so there.

These aren’t in any particular order. All links should open in a new window so you don’t lose your place (unless I missed one). Most of these will be well under $12. In fact, they’re all under $10 but I thought the title was catchier as 12 essential survival items under $12 instead of 12 essential survival items under $10.

Now, granted – there isn’t anything here that holds water, or filters water, or does a lot of essential things you need to be able to do in a survival situation but I didn’t find anything for those solutions that were under $12 and were a really good deal. I’m sure they’re out there somewhere though. This isn’t ALL the essential survival gear under $12, just a dozen of them.

1. Neck Gaiter (Gator)

If you’ve ever had one of these, or have read some of my previous articles about what gear I have, you know how awesome these things are. I always keep one of these in my pocket when I’m downrange and in my go bag and on my Desert Warrior Harley. Not only are they great if a sandstorm kicks up (I live in Phoenix, AZ so they’re good for that at home too), they’re freaking awesome if it gets chilly.

It’s amazing how just putting this on and tucking it in the top of  your shirt makes you feel like you just put on a jacket. It’s like a gentle, short-haired yeti giving you a throat massage.

You can also wear it around your ears on the top of your head too, which is really nice if you’re sleeping in a cold-weather environment in a sleeping bag.

Don’t believe me? Watch this cool little video on neck gaiters:

You can get them here:

Gi Plus Polypro Neck Gaiter Sand


2. The SAS Survival Guide

To really understand survival and develop survival skills, you need to get out there and practice. Learning from an experienced instructor is the best way but just figuring things out on your own will actually get you pretty far if you have something to go on. This particular book is the best one I’ve seen so far (here‘s a typical review of it) but you really should learn from a variety of sources. What you run into in the wild may not be what you read in a book but if you do enough learning and enough practicing, you’ll start to understand the fundamentals behind certain things and you can adapt easier.

If you aren’t a survival expert, get this book. If I carried an actual text book in my bag, this would be the one I’d carry.

You can get them here:

SAS Survival Guide 2E (Collins Gem): For any climate, for any situation


3. Cree LED flashlight

Obviously I had to mention this little thing. I like this one so much, I did a review of it. They’re under $5 (including shipping), damn near indestructible, and REALLY bright. I’ve already placed 3 orders for these myself and I’ll definitely be buying more. I keep one in each vehicle, one in my Harley, one in my go bag, one in my bug out bag, and have a couple around the house. They’re kind of addicting. I know a LOT of people who’ve bought a dozen of these and put one in every vehicle and gave one to every member of their family.

They take a single AA battery and can run off rechargeables so they fit into my unlimited bug out bag power system I came up with. They’re about 4″ long and really inexpensive so they’re one of the best things for stocking stuffers for people even if they’re not a prepper or camper.

Here’s a quick video review of it:

You can get them here:

Mini Cree Led Flashlight Torch Adjustable Focus Light Lamp


4. Ferro spark fire starter with magnesium – a real one

My primary fire starting method is a cheap mini bic lighter but you always need at least a backup fire starting method in case the first one doesn’t work – and – sometimes conditions just aren’t good enough for just a plain flame to catch your tinder.


Do not buy a generic ferro/magnesium firestarter. I realize that there are cheaper ones (by a couple bucks) and MUCH more popular ones out there. The nice thing about this one is it has the magnesium bar right with it that you can shave off to help start a fire with whatever method you’re using. You CAN’T do that with the Chinese knock-off because their magnesium sucks. This one is still under $10. Get a Doan fire starter.

Luckily I found a guy who did a video on this so I didn’t have to do one myself or take a crap ton of photos. This is why you don’t buy a Chinese knock-off version:

You can get them here:

Genuine Issue Magnesium Survival Firestarter


5. Mylar blankets

Contrary to popular belief, these aren’t great as a survival blanket. They tear way too easily so they might work for a night, but not much more. They’ll do in a pinch but the more expensive, thicker ones are much better but they’re not under $10.

These, however, are much less expensive and take up much less space. You can pack several of them pretty much anywhere.

They’re great for reflecting body heat or campfire heat down to your body in a shelter and can be used as a kind of mini tarp for laying things out that you don’t want dirty. Here are 50 ways you can use them.

You can get them here:

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets


6. Clotrimazole

I can hear some of you saying, “What the heck?” This stuff ALWAYS goes in my toiletries kit when I travel downrange or just around the country, and I keep a tube in my go bag and my bug out bag.

Why? Because one time I was in Central America and my nether region got so chaffed that I literally couldn’t walk. I was down for the count. I might as well had been shot. A local pharmacy gave me a tube of this stuff and I was back to normal in just a few hours.

It’s also great for foot rot in case you find yourself walking a lot in wet or rainy conditions (which is, I guess, why it was invented in the first place). Sometimes just drying out your feet doesn’t help (although giving your feet a smoke bath can help somewhat).

This is essentially the same as Lotrimin but less expensive and definitely works.

You can get them here:

Clotrimazole Anti-Fungal Cream


7. 100 feet of 550 cord

One of the most useful items you can have in your camping or bug out gear. I could write sonnets about how to use 550 cord in a survival situation but I won’t because I hate sonnets. And I can’t write them.

You can get them here:

Paracord Planet Type III 7 Strand 550 Paracord


8. Mini Bic lighter

Well, I couldn’t leave these off the list after mentioning them above. Not only are these super cheap and work in almost all cases, these particular ones are the mini size so they fit in your pocket or pretty much anywhere. They’re just like the bigger Bics but they’re smaller. That’s why they’re called mini Bic lighers.

A cheap lighter is my #1 choice for starting a fire.

You can get them here:

Mini Bic Lighters


9. Piano wire

This is some super great stuff for setting traps, building shelters and other things around camp, and lots of other uses. You could also buy snare traps already made-up but it’s more expensive and you can’t use them for much else. You can even make a weapon out of this stuff called a garrote, which is a horrible way to die, I’d imagine. Luckily, I don’t have any experience there. Otherwise I’d be dead and it would be pretty freaky reading this from a dead guy.

You can get them here:

High Carbon Steel Piano Wire, #2B (Smooth) Finish


10. S.O.S. Emergency food rations bar

This is what I carry in my go bag and my bug out bag. For under $10, you get Coast-Guard-approved rations that fit 3600 calories in a tight little space. You can get cheaper ones like Mainstay but they’re not as good as these. In an emergency situation, this could easily get you through your 72 hours (you’ll still be a little hungry but you could still operate). Or, you could eat them while you’re sitting on the floor of the flight terminal in Iraq because you’re tired of the crappy shelf stables while you wait for your flight to Balad. Just sayin’.

Here’s a quick video on the S.O.S food rations bar:

You can get them here:

S.O.S. Rations Emergency 3600 Calorie Food Bar


11. Quality emergency mirror

A signal mirror is one of those essential communication things that you should always have in your survival kit. You can use it to signal your comrades or for rescue, or you could use them to shave if you’re not a real man.

The problem is that most of them are junk. Get a glass one and get a quality one because the other ones won’t hold up. The ones with the hole in the middle are easier to aim.

Here’s an old Army training video on how to use a signal mirror:


The one I’ve listed below is a good choice.

You can get them here:

Vector 1 Signal Mirror


12. Safety whistle

This is another essential signaling device. Very useful in the dark or fog. This particular one (The Storm Safety Whistle) is the loudest one I know (and the one I carry) but still under $10. Do NOT blow this in your car while your loved one is sleeping.

You can get them here:

Storm All-Weather Safety Whistle

So there ya’ have it. Every single one of these items would be very useful in a survival situation as a part of your kit or as a gift for someone else, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get them – even the quality ones I mentioned.

Any other suggestions of essential survival gear under $12 $10?