5 Cheap, Essential Survival Items

survival kit

When you’re out in the wilderness, the most important thing of all is staying safe. Hopefully, on all of your backpacking and camping trips, you come well-prepared and equipped to take on all possible elements you may encounter.

However, even the most experienced mountaineers in the world can run into problems at times, and if they do, then odds are pretty damn high that you will make a mistake or two at some point.

If things start going wrong in the backcountry, the situation can get very dangerous and out of hand very quickly. That is why every serious outdoorsman needs to put together a survival kit – items that you have on hand should anything go wrong.

If you’re into ultralight backpacking, then you need to keep this kit small, making sure to pack only those items that are necessary to save your life if you’re in a situation where your survival is in doubt.

Odds are that you will not need all of the things you pack in your survival kit, but should you find yourself in a life and death struggle, you will be incredibly glad you took the time to pack it. It’s much like riding a bike – you probably only need a helmet a handful of times, but when you have a particularly bad crash, you’ll be happy you were wearing one.

As some of these are items that you will use sparingly, if ever, you don’t want to spend too much money on the items you can get for cheap.

Here are five essential survival items that will cost you very little, and will pay off in an enormous way if you ever find yourself struggling to survive in the backcountry.

Gerber Gator Machete – $24.95

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A machete is one of the most versatile, useful items you can possibly have with you in a demanding survival situation. Gerber’s Gator Machete improves upon all the benefits of a traditional machete and takes it a step further, providing you with a serrated, sawed edge which will take care of whatever the blade’s sharp cutting edge cannot.

If you’re in a life or death struggle, you will need to do things like chopping firewood, building a shelter, hunting, and fending off wildlife – all things that a machete will help you handle with relative ease.

The Gerber Gator Machete weighs just over one pound and is 18 inches in length, making it an easy item to bring along on your next backpacking or camping trip. If anything happens to go wrong, a machete is one item you’ll be very glad to have.

You can buy the Gerber Gator Machete here.

MSR Aquatabs – $12.95


If you’re going on a backpacking trip, chances are that you’re bringing plenty of water with you. But if you become lost and your supply runs out, you face a harrowing predicament – either deal with the perils of dehydration, or take a chance and drink unfiltered water. Unfortunately, either option can lead to serious health consequences, and in many cases, death.

This is why any experienced outdoorsman should be prepared with water purification tablets. These tablets, the MSR Aquatabs, are one of the best products on the market, as they will make nearly any water drinkable and safe in just 30 minutes.

These tablets come in packs of 30, with each tablet able to treat one liter of water in just 30 minutes. They could very well be the difference between life and death in a dire situation in the outdoors, and all for just $12.95.

You can buy MSR Aquatabs here.

Adventure Medical Heatsheets Emergency Blanket – $4.95


For just under $5, you should absolutely have an emergency space blanket in case you should ever need one. The Heatsheets Emergency Blanket from Adventure Medical is the industry leader and comes highly recommended.

If you find yourself in a survival situation, hypothermia is one of the issues that will quickly become a serious concern in many regions of the world. Instead of lugging around a sleeping bag at all times, why not just have a space blanket in your pack when you leave camp, just in case?

Emergency blankets such as this one reflect over 90% of your body heat back to you, conserving valuable heat in even the most extreme conditions. The Heatsheets blankets are also fully wind and waterproof, giving you extra protection in the elements.

These blankets only weight 2.5 ounces and pack down into a size that takes up virtually no space, so you’re not sacrificing much by bringing one along. And if you happen to get stuck out in the cold, one of these blankets may save your life.

You can buy the Heatsheets Emergency Blanket here.

ACR WW-3 Survival Whistle – $2.75

ACR WW-3 Survival Whistle

There is literally no valid reason why you should not own a ACR WW-3 Survival Whistle. It is tiny. It is cheap. And it is a piece of equipment that could easily mean the difference between being rescued from a hopeless situation or dying in the wilderness.

The ACR WW-3 Survival Whistle is the loudest whistle you have ever heard, and its sound can travel loud and clear through canyons, over rivers, and into the ears of passersby that can mean your only hope for survival. This whistle is used by NASA and the US Navy, so it is definitely good enough for you to use as a $2.75 insurance measure.

If you happen to sustain an injury and need urgent help, or get lost and need to be found, this whistle will be much more effective in getting assistance than screaming until your throat hurts.

For just $2.75, there is no excuse for not buying a ACR WW-3 Survival Whistle here.

Coghlan’s Signal Mirror – $8.93

Coghlan's Signal Mirror

Another cheap and small survival essential that you really have no business not owning is a signal mirror. Coghlan’s Signal Mirror is one of the most trusted mirrors on the market, and it is another easy bit of insurance that could pay dividends if you happen to need it.

Coghlan’s Signal Mirror measures just 2 inches by 3 inches, and weighs only 2 ounces, making it easy to slip into any survival kit or backpack. This mirror is designed with high-quality glass and built to reflect as much sunlight as possible.

Hopefully you’ll never need to signal an aircraft for a rescue, but on the off chance that you someday do, you’ll be very glad you packed a signal mirror.

There’s no reason not to have this lightweight lifesaver, so go buy Coghlan’s Signal Mirror here.

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This list is by no means exhaustive, and if you’re preparing a survival kit, you will need more than just these five items. However, the items mentioned above will give you a great start, and for a very low price.

You can never be too prepared, and you should expect the unexpected in the outdoors. If you are not ready for any situation, you can get into a lot of trouble if things start to go wrong.

So, pack a few of these items, and if you never use them, that’s great. But if the day comes when you need any of these survival items, you will be very glad to have them.

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