Great survival gear for $20 or less

A Scout is prepared — and thrifty. Here are seven survival gear items for $20 or less.

SOL Bivvy

Emergency Bivvy: Cut in the shape of a sleeping bag and made of a silvery, heat-reflective polyethylene, the Survive Outdoors Longer Emergency Bivvy can be a lifesaver if you’re caught without a tent. It’s lightweight, compact, waterproof and windproof. $17,

Ptec Light

Light: Handheld flashlights used to be the norm. Now headlamps are the preferred means to illuminate the night. A basic model like the Princeton Tec Byte costs just $19.95 but gives adequate brightness via LED bulbs and a lightweight body that sits nearly unnoticed on the forehead, weighing in at only 2.3 ounces.

Morkaniv Knife

Knife: A fixed blade can cut firewood, help build a shelter and perform a hundred other mandatory tasks in the woods. I have long relied on the simple Mora Morakniv Classic 2/0 knife, made in Sweden with quality carbon steel and a wood handle. Sheath not shown. $15,

Potable Aqua Water Purification

Water Purification: Filters and battery-enabled products are popular. But I like the simple solution of Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Tablets to purify water scooped from a lake or stream. The chemical tabs dissolve in water and neutralize the common viruses, bacteria and cysts that can make you sick. The only downside? The tablets require a four-hour treatment time — but this can be easily managed with overnight water treatment. $12.95 per 20-tablet pack,

Silva Polaris Compass

Compass: A basic liquid-filled compass like the Silva Polaris is a requisite tool for keeping on route. The needle always points north, and (so long as you can read a map) the magnetic function is all you need to stay “on the map” in the wilds. $15.99,

Trocken Brennstoff Fire Starters

Fire Starters: The Esbit Solid Fuel Tablets are tiny and highly flammable. I keep these little “fire bricks” in my pack just in case, and a few times when dry leaves or kindling have been scarce, the soft blue flame coming from an Esbit tablet has saved the day. $6.95 per pack,

Bic Lighter

Fire: Matches are fine. But I keep a Bic lighter in my kit, and it has never let me down. Flick the spark wheel and a flame is guaranteed. For 99 cents at a gas station, a Bic lighter is a no-brainer for anyone in need of flame and warmth outside. (I also keep a few waterproof matches in my kit, too — just in case.)

All prices are MSRP.

Stephen Regenold is the founder of .


  1. I would agree that all of these items are back country essentials although I would seriously consider a different knife. If you insist on a non-folding blade, it should at least have a finger guard. Wet or dry, it would be too easy to run a finger down that blade.

  2. Good gear there Being thrifty is always good. However in some areas, like knives, I wouldn’t be as frugal. I have two knives. one is a K-Bar sheath knife with an 8 in. blade. Very suitable for buttoning wood as well as other uses. It has a great hilt and the handle is usable for bounding in stakes or nails. My other knife is a K-Bar folder. Has a 4 in. blade on it that I carry daily When buying a knife, you need one that is safe to use, durable and reliable. If it don’t fit those 3 categories walk away from it. Or at least invest in a first-aid kit.

  3. The list is great, but with one obvious flaw. Most BSA camps do not allow fixed blade knives, besides those used in kitchens (like paring knives and such). And many Troops follow this policy, only allowing knives which fold into their handles. While sheathed blades are not prohibited by the BSA, it’s a fairly good guess that most Scouts don;t carry fixed blades…

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head. People who don’t know knives or scouting are making policies against bsa guidelines. People like a few parents I’ve dealt with are afraid of knives so their children shouldn’t have them.

      • You make a good point as well Daniel. It seems the people making camp and troop policies that prohibit fixed blade knives, across the board, are indeed people who don’t know much about knives. I am happy that the National BSA policy allows fixed blades as the are inherently safer than folders as long as there is proper instruction. I agree that a Mora knife with a finger guard, which is absent from every BSA-approved folding knives I have ever seen, might be a good choice for a beginning scout. A properly-used fixed blade knife is, in many instances, a much better choice than a folding knife.

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