So you realize there’s likely to be trouble somewhere down the line and want to start putting together a bug out bag, but don’t have a lot of money to throw at it. Or you just want to camp out over night, but don’t have the bucks for a lot of fancy camping equipment. Fair enough. Let’s see what we can put together for a low cost yet usable camping kit. You don’t need to have the latest and most expensive gear in order to go camping for a few days. A small to medium sized backpack with a few key items is all you need in order to hit the woods (or the road in case of a bug-out) and survive in comfort.
One thing that will come in exceptionally handy using this kind of gear is experience. Don’t be afraid to get out there and experiment with your kit once you have it assembled.
DIY alcohol stoves are the way to go for the prepper on a budget and these lightweight, low tech stoves work great. Check here for instructions on how to build yours.
Another is the Altoids Alcohol stove. I don’t have any experience with this one, but it looks pretty easy to build.
Each of these stoves is supposed to be able to boil two cups of water within five to six minutes, which is pretty decent.
The other important piece to any of these stoves is the pot holder, so make sure you take the time to build a good one! The pot should be suspended about 1 to 2 inches or so above the flame. I use wire mesh curled up with the pot resting on top and it works beautifully.
The alcohol used in these stoves is denatured alcohol, which can be found at your local hardware store, Walmart, etc. I use HEET gas line antifreeze and have had good luck with it. (Don’t try to use regular antifreeze.) Use anywhere between 1.5 to 2 ounces to boil your water. Fuel can be stored in a small bottle and carried with you, but label it so you don’t accidentally take a swig after a long hike as this stuff will kill you.
Utensils, Pots and Pans
You’ll want a small pot that can hold at least two cups of water for boiling and you can probably get one at a lawn sale or Goodwill for well under $5. For utensils some people use sporks, but I use a plastic spoon and fork for my stuff. Don’t forget we’re doing this on a budget!
Also, everything should fit in the pan for storage thus saving space in your pack. Here’s a list of the things in my pack:
1. Lighter/matches/fire steel. The lighter can be picked up for about $1. A box of wooden matches for about the same and a fire steel goes for around $6 to $10 depending on where you pick it up and what kind you buy.
2. Cozy – a cozy is a container that I made from a powdered lemonade container. The body of the cozy is covered in duct tape to help seal in heat. If you can find someone who drinks this kind of lemonade ask them for the container when they’re done with it. If you don’t want to wait you can pick one of these lemonades up for about $3. Mine is ugly, but I’ve drank a lot of coffee and made a lot of soup in it! I’ll write a post at some point on how to make one.
3. Utensils – you can use plastic utensils, which will basically cost you nothing or you could even grab a spoon, fork and knife from your kitchen drawer if you’re so moved. Either way this shouldn’t cost you anything.
4. Multi Tool – Not an absolute necessity, but they do come in handy. Mine is an American Camper and if I remember correctly cost me under $10 at Wal-Mart. Yeah, yeah, you can go out and buy the latest and greatest for a $100 or more, but what’s the point if it’s mostly sitting in your pack? Get one that does what you need and call it good. This one has accessories I’ve never used and likely never will, but the pliers are worth their weight in gold.
Shelter and Bedding
The military poncho has many different uses and in my opinion no kit should be without one. It can take the place of a tent by making it into a shelter and when mixed with a poncho liner it can make a pretty decent sleeping bag. Oh yeah, when it rains it’s great for keeping you dry! This must-have can be picked up for about $25 dollars if you shop around.
For summertime you can get away with a poncho liner for a blanket/sleeping bag. Anybody who has been in the military can tell you that these are very nice to have if you’re going on patrol and don’t want to carry one of the heavy sleeping bags with you. These are light weight and they tie into your poncho to add extra warmth. You can pick this up for about $30 at your local Army Surplus store or online.
ALICE Pack – ALICE stands for All purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment. This is an external frame backpack that comes in olive drab and was used by the military from the Vietnam War until the late ‘90s. They can usually be picked up inexpensively at Army/Navy stores or online.
Ok, enough BS’ing around. Let’s get down to the list of gear and prices:
Stove – $1 for materials to make your own
Fuel – one container Heet for under $2
Pot – Pick one up at Goodwill for $5 or less
Utensils – 0$ You shouldn’t have to pay anything for these
Cup/Cozy – Under $3 to make one
Lighter/Matches – $1
Poncho Liner $25
or Sleeping Bag $34
Sleeping Mat – $13
Paracord – 100ft for $7
Water Purification Tablets – $6
Back Pack – $54.00
Water Bottle – another purchase at Goodwill. $1 Or just use a plastic water bottle you buy water in.
Flashlight – LED Flashlight for $9
Trash Bags (Various uses) – $1
Compass/Match Holder – $4 – It says here $7, but you can find them cheaper. This was the best picture.
Multi-Tool – $11.95
Survival Knife $21.59
Total: $185.59 if you use the poncho liner/poncho configuration and not the sleeping bag.
Total: $194.59 if you don’t get the poncho liner and buy the sleeping bag instead.
As you can see I lean towards military surplus gear and the reason for that is I know it works based on extensive experience with it while I was in the Corps. The ALICE pack may not be the most comfortable pack out there, but I know it’s reliable and easy to repair if something tears or breaks. These packs are rock solid in my book.
When you do head out you’ll want socks, underwear, toiletries, etc, which you should have in your house or apartment. Open up one of the trash bags and use it to line your pack to help keep everything dry in case it rains. Put everything inside the trash bag, tie it up and you have a waterproof pack that will keep your gear nice and dry.
Don’t forget to throw in some food! I like to carry some dehydrated soups you can pick up at the grocery store for about .25 cents apiece. You can also make your own MREs at home as well if that’s something that interests you.
I hope this helps any of you out there who’s just getting started and on a tight budget to get a BOB put together. Good luck!
*Note – prices may vary, but if you look around you can get some good deals. Don’t be afraid to shop around!