BOB from the Dollar Store for $50

Rich M.
By Rich M. December 25, 2018 08:04

BOB from the Dollar Store for $50

Let’s face it, prepping can be expensive. That one problem has kept a lot of people from prepping through the years. It also makes things difficult for those of us who have decided to go ahead and prep, even though it is a strain on our finances. Even so, there are many things that we can do to stretch our prepping budget and get the most for our money.

One way to get the most for our money is to shop at places where we can get things cheap. Granted, those cheaper things probably aren’t as good quality as the high-dollar ones; but it’s better to have something than to have nothing because we’re waiting to have enough money to buy the expensive one. With the rise of dollar stores and the wide variety of merchandise they carry, chances are we can put a pretty good bug out bag together at the local dollar store, without spending a lot of money.

What Do We Need?

For our dollar store bug out bag to be effective, it’s going to have to cover all the major areas of our survival needs. So, let’s take a quick review of what those are. Our primary survival needs are:

  • Keeping warm – This includes shelter, insulation (clothing) and heat (fire)
  • Clean water – This has to include some means of transporting water, as well as a way of purifying it
  • Food – Probably the easiest of the three, but we’ll need some way of cooking it

Of course, to accomplish these things, we’re probably going to need a few other things as well, such as:

  • First aid – If we get injured, we’ll need to patch ourselves up
  • Tools – To be able to accomplish the three primary requirements, we’re probably going to need a few basic tools

I’m going to leave self-defense out of this, mostly due to the cost factor; besides, you really can’t do much about defense in a dollar store, except buy wasp spray. However, if you’re out in the woods, you can always use man’s oldest weapons, the stick and the rock. While they might not be ideal against someone with a gun, or even against a wolf’s teeth, they do qualify as weapons. A better one is a burning brand from your fire. That will scare off both men and animals when wielded properly.

The Bag Itself

All bug out bags have to start with something that holds and allows you to carry the gear and supplies you buy. Normally, we’d want to go for a nice backpack, but that may not be available from the dollar store. However, there are a few items which can be used for this:

  • Children’s school backpack
  • Barrel bag
  • Plastic bin

While none of those are perfect, they will do the job. So will the plastic bags that they pack your order in at the checkout. Ask nice, and they might even give you some extras. Even if you don’t need them to be the bug out bag itself, those bags can be useful to organize your supplies, inside your bug out bag.

Keeping Warm

This is our number one survival priority and the most complicated to accomplish. Basically, keeping warm consists of three separate areas: shelter, clothing and fire. Fortunately, we can come up with all three of them at the dollar store; although I will have to say that you probably already have clothing, without having to go buy it.

Shelter

BOB from the Dollar Store for $50 ShelterFew people bother with a tent in their bug out bag, as it is bulky and expensive. But you can make a respectable tent out of an inexpensive tarp. Fortunately, that’s also something you can buy cheap at your local dollar store. I use the inexpensive blue plastic tarps and have found them to be more than adequate.

To go along with the tarp, I’d recommend picking up some light rope and some duct tape. I found small rolls of duct tape in my local dollar store, which are ideal for a bug out bag or survival kit. While I couldn’t find paracord, I did find clothes line, which is a good approximation. As long as I don’t try to put any heavy weight on it, that should work fine for making a tent.

Related: 13 Shelters That You Can Build With A Military Poncho

Clothing

We’re not going to get into a full wardrobe here, but there are a couple of things I would like to recommend you pick up. The first is a hat. If there is any article of clothing which will help you keep warm, a hat is it. That’s because a fourth of your body’s blood supply goes to the head. So in cold weather, your head could be radiating a lot of heat. Putting a stocking cap on will help keep you warm all over.

The other important thing to look for here is a rain poncho. You should be able to find one in most dollar stores. They won’t be heavy-duty, but they will keep you dry. That’s important, as when most clothing gets wet it will drain your body heat faster than if you were naked.

Fire

BOB from the Dollar Store for $50 FireYour best and cheapest fire starter is a disposable butane lighter, available for a buck. With care, you should be able to start about 1,000 fires with the average disposable lighter. The only problem with them is that they don’t work well in the cold, so if you end up bugging out in winter keep it inside your clothing, where your body heat can keep it warm.

Some of the best homemade tinder around is cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, both of which you can buy at the dollar store. Work about a teaspoon of petroleum jelly into each cotton ball, ensuring that it is thoroughly soaked. Keep them in an airtight container. When you really need to get a fire going, like when it is raining, use one.

Clean Water

BOB from the Dollar Store for $50 waterHopefully you’ll be able to find water along the way as you are bugging out. But you’ll need something to carry it in. Grab yourself a large sports bottle in the kitchen section of the dollar store to use as a canteen.

The other thing you’re going to need is some means of purifying water. One of the best water purifiers there is just happens to be chlorine – or in other words, chlorine bleach. Eight drops will purify a gallon of water. Just make sure you buy the cheap stuff and not the scented or color safe kinds.

Related: 100-Year-Old Way to Filter Rainwater in a Barrel

Food

BOB from the Dollar Store for $50 FoodThere’s lots of food in your typical dollar store; but most of it is junk food. Nevertheless, I was able to find some great buys in the food department, which are ideal for a bug out bag:

  • Granola bars
  • Canned food in plastic containers (less weight)
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Spam, tuna and chicken in pouches
  • Ramen
  • Rice-a-Roni
  • Instant coffee

By the way, you’ll need to make sure you pick up some sort of small saucepan for cooking in. I’d also recommend some disposable cutlery, as well as a plastic bowl and cup.

First Aid

BOB from the Dollar Store for $50 First-AidThere are actually a fair amount of first-aid supplies in your average dollar store. You can get over-the-counter medicines, adhesive bandages and medical tape easily. They don’t have large bandages, but you can use sanitary napkins for that. They are sterile and designed to absorb a lot of blood.

Don’t forget that duct tape can also be used as medical tape. While not the most comfortable tape to take off, it does stick well, which is what you need.

You can also find a lot of personal hygiene products at the dollar store. While those may not be considered first-aid supplies by most people, keeping yourself clean is an important part of keeping yourself healthy. So grab a toothbrush, some toothpaste and a bar of soap, if nothing else.

Tools

You’re going to end up having to go rather light on the tools to keep in budget. Besides, the average dollar store doesn’t carry much in the way of tools. But there is one thing you have to have, and that’s a good knife. If nothing else, you can find a kitchen knife there. But you may be able to buy a multi-tool, which will include a knife.

So there you are. I didn’t actually add up the amount spent here, as a lot will depend on how much of each thing you buy, especially for the food. But the point is, it’s doable. This might not be your ideal bug out bag, but it will provide everything you need to survive. As time goes on, you can always add to this or even replace some items with better ones.

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Rich M.
By Rich M. December 25, 2018 08:04
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32 Comments

  1. Hoosier Homesteader December 25, 15:10

    Something, is always better than nothing, to be sure. That being said, I would urge those who need a knife to get a good one. I was at a gun show a few years back with my son-in-law and he purchased three knives out of a bucket for $5.00. He gave one to me, and I quickly found out it wasn’t worth the gunpowder to blow it up with. A good knife is a MORAKNIV. And, they don’t cost an arm and a leg.
    Regarding water, Walmart has portable water filters in their sporting goods dept. for under $20.

    Reply to this comment
  2. left coast chuck December 25, 16:13

    Here in the PDRK if you want a bag in a grocery store you have to buy it. No more free t-handle bags. Of course, at 10¢ each you can buy as many as you want.The sheeple voters bought the big grocers’ “save the planet” story and now they are not only saving tens of thousands of dollars a year, they are actually selling what used to be free. So much for getting free bags. Remember when we switched from paper bags to save the planet?

    With a little ingenuity, you can fashion a fairly decent spear from the 99¢ store kitchen knife. All you need is the duct tape and a branch from a tree that is an appropriate length and thickness. Use the knife to flatten one side of the stick and duct tape the knife to the end of the stick. Not quite the same a a 15 round Glock, but it will be effective. With another knife in your belt you will be reasonably armed.

    Don’t forget to pick up a can opener while you are there. Maybe two of them. Two is one, one is none.

    You can also pick up rubbing alcohol which can be used to start fires and clean wounds. If they have it, get 70% alcohol, not the 30%. You might check for hand sanitizer while you are there.

    If they have $1 multi-tools, get several because they will break easily and loose their edge but they will still be handy.

    In addition to a hat be sure to pick up a couple of pairs of gloves. And some kitchen rubber gloves too. If it is cold and rainy and you are stuck outdoors cheap cotton gloves inside a pair of kitchen rubber gloves will keep your hands much warmer so that you will be able to do fine tasks like lighting a fire when it is cold and miserable out. You fingers won’t be so stiff you can’t work the child safe cigarette lighter.

    Reply to this comment
    • TruthB Told December 29, 00:02

      If it gets that bad, I don’t want to survive. I’ve lived 71 yrs and had a full life. For those of you with a long road ahead…………..good luck!

      Reply to this comment
  3. Rhonda December 25, 16:32

    Re. the rain poncho–a large plastic garbage bag will also work. Cut a T-shaped slit in the center bottom (for your head), one at each corner for your arms. Sure, your arms will get wet, but still.

    Also with the plastic garbage bags and staying warm–they can help you when it’s cold. Cut one the same way, but put it on UNDER your other clothing, next to the skin. You can also use plastic grocery bags under your socks. Yes, the plastic goes next to the skin, not over clothing! That way, you create a warm micro-climate next to the skin, and the clothing over it insulates that warmth–but if you put the plastic over the clothing, the moisture your body produces wicks/evaporates through that clothing, hits the plastic on the outside, condenses, and in a short while your clothing is damp and cold–a potentially lethal combination in a survival situation.

    Reply to this comment
    • Jackie Puppet December 25, 23:21

      But the plastic next to skin will still keep your feet wet since there’s no evaporation.

      One time when attending a football playoff game in a blizzard, I had 2 pairs of regular, athletic, cotton socks on. I wore one pair as normal, put on the plastic bags & tied them outside the first pair, then put the 2nd pair over the bags. My feet were pretty toasty & dry compared to the rest of me.

      Reply to this comment
  4. rooster December 25, 16:37

    I don’t think that the TOP JOB bleach will work for purifying water!

    Reply to this comment
  5. TruthB Told December 25, 16:39

    Nail clippers, good pair of sissors, toothbrush, baking soda (many uses), anti itch cream, sun blocksmall can of shaving cream, disposable razors, travel mirror

    Reply to this comment
  6. Stormvet1st December 25, 16:40

    I agree some great bargains but beware sometimes the product is just smaller or even diluted like the bleach. Note there are places now where everything is a dollar, keep them in mind for certain items

    Reply to this comment
  7. fee December 25, 17:49

    This is genius! One more cheap thing! Rummage around in your junk drawers! Will probably find some other things you can use for cheap! Such as! Old prescription bottles to keep your vaseline cotton balls in!

    Reply to this comment
  8. miky December 25, 17:56

    tampons are good for 1st aid bag too. dual uses (besides as tampons) 1st aid plug up punture wounds, and as a fire starter

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck December 25, 18:38

      Please do not plug wounds with a tampon. That is a stopgap measure used by EMTs for deep puncture wounds. BUT they know that you are going to be in a fully staffed emergency room in short order where the tampon will be removed and the wound irrigated with an antibiotic solution.

      In an end of the world situation or any emergency where you are going to be days or never to an emergency room plugging up a penetrating wound with a tampon is going to trap any foreign material that has been introduced in the wound channel where it will fester and cause infection. A penetrating wound will at a minimum introduce bits of clothing into the wound channel. It will introduce any dirt or grime on your skin including any bacteria that might be on your skin. Those bacteria may be harmless on the outside of your skin, but once introduced into the interior of the body and trapped inside with a tampon a non-fatal wound could indeed turn fatal from infection.

      Kotex or gauze pads on the outside of the wound applied with pressure to the wound is the most you should do to stop bleeding from a puncture wound.

      Without advanced medical care, some wounds are just fatal. Either you will bleed to death or you will die a lingering death from infection. Not a nice choice. In an EOTW scenario, there are a lot of wounds that are easily survivable now that in years past were fatal and in a breakdown situation are once again going to be fatal.

      Modern ER techniques where the body is opened and surgically repaired by skilled ER surgeons will be a fond memory only. Even if an ER doctor happens to be on scene and comes to your aid, without all the apparatus available to him to stabilize you and assist him, your wound will be fatal. The fictional scene where the doc puts the patient on the kitchen table and orders up sheets and boiling water to save the wounded hero makes for good reading but is just that, fiction. If you survive his ministrations it will be because of your latent good health being able to overcome loss of blood, shock and infection. He may be able to keep you from bleeding to death, but from there on, it will be up to mother nature.

      Reply to this comment
      • Floppy1s December 25, 23:02

        In emergency situations, cayenne powder will help to slow/stop bleeding. Then use activated charcoal for the wound (and a lot more; brushing teeth, upset stomach, bites, etc.). Use activated charcoal by making a thin paste (preferably with distilled water, but at least clean water) and applying to the wound. Then cover with a suitable material. You will be amazed at how fast this works… I’ve seen it heal a gash on a horses neck with only two applications over a two week period in less than ideal conditions. There may be tattooing of the skin due to the charcoal, but you’ll be alive.

        Reply to this comment
  9. Rebecca December 25, 19:13

    Please don’t use the word sterile unless you are referring to actual sterile items. Sanitary napkins are very clean but they are NOT sterile. Great for wounds yes. But NOT sterile.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck December 26, 00:32

      Rebecca: That was my thought also but forgot to mention it. They are not the same as sterile gauze pads but they are cleaner than the handkerchief in my back pocket or the tail end of my shirt, both of which will work if there is absolutely positively nothing else — on the further consideration maybe you would be better off without my handkerchief on your deep penetrating wound.

      Reply to this comment
  10. Black Swan December 25, 20:52

    Buy an extra one of those cheap blue tarps to tie over your pile of firewood in rainy or snowy weather. I have used one on the firewood pile behind my garage, and it worked great until someone stole it.

    The drugstore section provides lots of ideas. I have added two dental-repair kits to my BOB, and talked a prepper friend into picking some up, too. They are no substitute for a dentist, but they can blunt the pain from the loss of a deep filling that exposes a nerve when it falls out.

    I also check over the seasonal discounted items at these stores, which are often marked down 75% or even more. A lot of the stuff is bric-a-brac that they’d have to pay me to cart away, but I often find something useful in those jumbled bins. This year sometime in the fall, I got vegetable seeds for 5 cents a pack, and yes by the time I need them, they will be at least a year out of date and won’t be high quality, but they sure will be better than nothing in many possible SHTF scenarios.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck December 26, 00:41

      Stored someplace where it is neither too hot nor too cold and is dark, your seeds should do adequately for a fairly long period. You may not get 100% germination, but as you say, better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

      A good container to use for storing stuff like that is a cheap styrofoam ice chest. It will be dark inside and it will moderate the temperature swings. Stored in the corner of a closet should avoid any extreme temperature swings.

      When I buy food on line and it comes in a styrofoam chest, I save the chest and the cardboard box it fits in. I use those chests to store emergency food supplies in, even stuff that may be in jars or cans because it moderates wide temperature swings.

      Reply to this comment
    • Wannabe December 26, 01:00

      To Black Swan, someone must have been hard up to steal a tarp from your wood pile. Sure feel sorry for them.

      Reply to this comment
  11. Triumphant1 December 26, 01:16

    Great article.

    A less messy (and just as available) fire starter option is to put a mothball inside a cotton ball. Works even in wet conditions.

    To the food portion of this kit, I would add sardines and kipper snacks that the dollar stores carry. These are not only a great source of protein and calories, but are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids.

    Just my two cents.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Buddy December 26, 03:42

    put a hatchet in the tool list; about $8 at Harbor Ft.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Wannabe December 26, 14:57

    Just remember, if we buy cheap we get cheap. A dollar for shampoo is just that. Does not clean well unless you use a lot of it and does not last long. A cheap bug out bag will rip easy and is certainly not water resustent let alone water proof. A love saving a buck but maybe a bug out bag and it’s contents is not the place to save. It could be a matter of life or death. A cheap tarp will rip easy a cheap knife can break. Just something to think about

    Reply to this comment
    • Claude Davis December 26, 19:18

      Those are valid comments; sure, we all know you get what you pay for, and dollar store stuff isn’t going to be the same quality as you’d get if you spent serious money. The thing is a lot of people CAN’T spend serious money, because they just don’t have it. If you’re short of cash you’re better with a dollar store multi-tool than nothing. Yes, if you get the chance to replace it with a Leatherman later you want to do that, but the dollar store tool is a good thing to have until you can afford a better one.

      Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck December 26, 20:33

      Wannabe: I agree with you 100% that if you want Cadillac, you have to pay for a Cadillac. If you pay for a yugo that’s what you get. On the other hand, sometimes you just have to buy a Yugo because that’s all you can afford.

      The local dollar store was selling 10 inch butcher knives for 50¢ each. Are they made from 1095 steel? Of course not. They are stainless and they are sharper than a sharp stick. In a pinch they can be made into spear blades. I made sheaths for them out of stapled cereal boxes and duct tape. Are the sheaths as good as a hand-tooled bullhide leather sheath? Not by a long shot. Are they serviceable? You betcha. So if somebody deserving shows up without anything to defend themselves with, even against a feral dog, at least they can be armed with either a sheath knife or a spear. Total cost to me was $5.00 for ten of them, plus the cost of the duct tape and staples which may have raised the cost to 51¢ each.

      Is a bug out bag from the dollar star better than no bug out bag at all? Well, that answers itself. For the cost of just a good quality bag alone, the dollar store shopper can supply him or herself with something that is better than nothing. Instant ramen is a terrible dietary product. If you haven’t eaten for three or more days, how delicious would a hot cup of instant ramen taste? I bought the ramen some time ago, but I think a case of ramen cost 10¢ a package bought in a 50 pack case. I hope I never have to use it, but should, unfortunately, that time ever come will I ever be happy to have that ramen. I am not relying on ramen as my stored food source, but a 50 pack of ramen weighs little compared to other foods and that is a consideration should I have to bug out with the bare minimum. Plus if you come to my door and are, in my opinion, somehow deserving, you might be very happy to get a gratis cup of hot ramen or maybe even exchange some labor for a cup of hot ramen with a slice of Spam in it.

      Reply to this comment
      • Triumphant1 December 26, 20:53

        LCC: I like the way you think.

        Reply to this comment
      • Crowbrother December 28, 23:25

        Ramen is good to have, I don’t care swho you are! I spent 17 years in Army Special Forces and Ramen was ALWAYS good to have in the ruck!
        I eat it to this day from time to time. Toss in fresh chopped peppers, some cut cooked chicken and a beaten raw egg and you have something to fill the gut.

        Reply to this comment
  14. stumper December 27, 07:57

    With the ramen, you can also add powdered eggs as you make them. You can either make the powered eggs yourself or you can buy them at the local store.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck December 28, 06:32

      Actually you can add a lot of things to ramen. Some canned peas and carrots. Canned corn, lots of different canned meats. I use canned soup as my soup base and go from there adding extra meat and retables. That’s part of my bug out/bug in plan for food. Extending canned soup. Yeah, I know, it has lots of sodium in it but as hard as I anticipate I will be working I will need the extra sodium to replace that lost through sweat. Canned soup give you lots of varieties and with added goodies, the menu is almost endless. Same with ramen but not to such a great extent. You can always add the ramen to chicken noodle soup to add more noodles to the soup.

      I don’t buy condensed soup because it needs water. I buy soup that is ready to go right out of the can. That also helps with my daily need for fluids.

      Reply to this comment
  15. Cheap Chick December 28, 23:39

    Thrift stores and yard sales have been gold mines for me. Yep, I do buy goods from the dollar stores; but I can get sturdy canvas backpacks with padded straps for $1-4 at the thrift store that will hold more, last longer, and be more comfortable than the $1 store trick.
    A small Bible!
    Add silk embroidery floss to first aid kit. It subs well for sutures. Dental floss will, too, but not as well.
    A great purchase at 99 cent store is the hand-cranked flashlight. No batteries needed!!
    And being a Cheap Chick, I look for free stuff: Hotel coffee packs, soap and shampoo. (Most will give you free toothbrush, razor, and shower cap, too.) Rubberbands for my hair. Free single samples in magazines and mail of shampoo, scent, baby formula, laundry soap etc. Crayons from a restaurant become instant candles.
    Something IMPORTANT to make for free at home: spice straws. Cut plastic straws into 3 sections. Heat fuse one end. Fill with season salt, steak rub, cinnamon sugar, etc. Heat seal other end. Label. These take no space, weigh nothing, and make bland/prepackaged food tasty.
    Include a few copies of cherished photos. You may never get back home to pick them up, and you may never see these loved ones again. PAPER photos, people. The batteries in your phone won’t last forever.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Yosemite January 10, 01:39

    Did anyone mention utensils to eat with? The old Military Issue P-38 can openers are the best if you can find them….

    I would add a couple of bags of hard candy such as butterscotch or whatever your favorite may be…….

    Good Hygiene is extremely important especially in such an environments. Study up on Field Hygiene if you do not know know anything about it

    Baby Wipes and or Toilet paper will make you and your bottom happier…..

    One can find folding shovels such as E-Tools Military Issue or knock offs of them or completely different camping ones. Digging “Cat-Holes” to “take care of your business” and bury it practice proper sanitation….

    Don’t forget items to relieve boredom….someone mentioned a small Bible used to get them FREE from the Gideons…….

    Deck of cards and or dice or travel games such as checkers chess Othello etc among other things also a notebook and pencils and cheap sharpener or sharpen with pocket knife or pens. They do not take u much space or weight….

    The notebooks can be used for different things from keeping a journal or leaving instructions or messages to loved ones/ friends to drawing maps or even making a game such as Battle Ship.etc. etc.

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