50 Prepper Items To Shop For At The Thrift Store or Yard Sale

By Diane April 20, 2017 09:36

50 Prepper Items To Shop For At The Thrift Store or Yard Sale

Thrift stores, yard sales, and army surplus stores can be rich hunting grounds for preppers. Often, you can find items that are normally unattainable, such as out of print books and well-maintained hand tools at surprisingly cheap prices. Just be careful of overpaying for items considered collectibles or antique.

It is important to arm yourself with knowledge before purchasing items at yard sales and thrift stores. Not every item is a bargain: important parts may be missing, or prices may be too high for a used and abused item. Look for quality items that will give years of use. Fortunately, the internet makes research easy, even on the go.

Here are the top 50 items to look for at thrift stores and yard sales:

#1. Sleeping bags and blankets—Good quality sleeping bags are often sold at very low prices by people who took one camping trip and decided camping was not their sport. Look for high quality sleeping bags rated for the coldest temperatures. Check them over thoroughly and disinfect and launder them immediately upon bringing them home. Also look for wool blankets and thermal blankets.

#2. Cots and bed rolls—a stash of cots can make a big difference if you find yourself sleeping outside or if you have a sudden influx of relatives. Likewise, a nice cushion under the sleeping bag can make a big difference.

#3. africa tarpTarps and canvas are extremely useful for many prepping applications. Often these are stacked away to be used as moving blankets or they may be found with blankets and linens.

#4. Tents, extra stakes—check out tents thoroughly, looking for rips, tears, broken zippers, mold or missing pieces.

Related: 3 Quick Shelters (The Last One is Invisible!)

#5. Camp stoves and outdoor cooking equipment can be a great buy.

#6. Mess kits and canteens, but skip the foam insulated thermoses. The insulation breaks down over time and loses it effectiveness. Look for the old-fashioned vacuum thermos.

#7. Good quality knives, look for both kitchen knives and multi-purpose knives such as K-Bar, Cold Steel, Gerber and Swiss Army.

#8. sharpening stoneSharpening stones and steel to keep those knives in shape.

#9. A Multi-function tool. Again, look for a quality tool that will last.

#10. Canners, pressure cookers— Canners and pressure cookers are not necessarily the same thing. Water bath canners are relatively easy to find, look for the racks and accessories that go with it. Pressure Canners rarer, but available if you look hard enough or just get lucky. Expect to replace the seals and possibly the pressure gauge, so don’t overpay. Pressure cookers are smaller than canners and are for cooking, not canning.

#11. Cast iron cookware is heavy, but it holds up well for cooking on a grill or over a campfire. You can often find rusted cast iron Dutch ovens, pots and frying pans at thrift stores. Don’t let the rust scare you, it burns off easily. You will need to spend some time re-seasoning them. Here are 60 cast iron skillet recipes.

#12.canningjars Canning jars can be a super buy or overpriced. You need to know local prices and allow for purchasing new lids. Check each jar for chips and cracks

Related: 7 Deadly Canning Mistakes Even Smart People Make

#13. Tin cans, popcorn cans, and containers—popcorn tins and other metal containers can be a good buy, especially after Christmas. Large popcorn tins are rodent proof and good for storing food supplies.

#14. Hand tools and carpentry tools will be invaluable should the power go down. Make sure they have been well maintained and operate as expected. Look for hand drills and bits, wood planer, post hold diggers, axe, machete, mechanic tools, hammer, screwdrivers, etc.

#15. Gardening tools in good condition. You will need hoes, rakes, shovels and a wheelbarrow at a minimum. Also look for hand plows, scythe, and other handy gardening tools. Gardening tools will likely see hard use during a SHTF situation, so look for good quality and buy several whenever possible.

#16. Books on gardening, survival topics, cooking from scratch and preserving food. Books are usually cheap at thrift stores, so pick up some for entertainment purposes, also.

#17. Children’s books for entertainment and learning.

#18. Homeschooling supplies like discarded textbooks, even teacher’s manuals and resource kits find their way to thrift stores. These are usually found at the end of the school year when teachers and homeschool mother’s clean out their bookshelves. Look for the literature classics, workbooks, flash cards and teaching games, and text books at levels at and above your children’s current educational status.

#19. Picnic supplies and lightweight utensils, for camping and bugging out. Look for compact, stackable, and lightweight plates, cups, glasses and utensils.

Related: 30 Survival Items You Forgot to Buy

#20. Dehydrators​ often find their way to thrift store shelves, just be sure they are operating correctly.

#21. manual can oppenerHand operated food prep tools such as manual can openers, choppers, hand-cranked whips, peelers, graters…

#22. Extra clothing for bugging out and car kits, including heavy coats, rain coats, and hard wearing clothes. If you have children, stock up on clothing in growing sizes.

#23. Heavy duty boots in increasing sizes if you have children. Look for new and barely work pairs.

#24. A vacuum sealer is handy for putting food away, but an expensive item. You can usually find one at a thrift store at a reasonable price, but check the seals to make sure it will function without leaking.

#25. Shelves and storage units, just check that they are sturdy.

#26. Lanterns, oil lamps, and candles

hand cranked lantern#27. Flashlights, including the hand crank models.

#28. Solar lights, for the yard or patio. These often just need new storage batteries.

#29. Wheelchair, walkers, crutches and other medical equipment. If you have the space to stash these away, they could be important in an emergency.

#30. Ammo boxes are for more than just ammo. They are rodent proof and make good boxes for burying a stash.

Related: How And Where To Store Ammo

#31. sterling-silver-flatwareSterling silver flatware—Silver is a natural antibiotic and preferable for use in questionable sanitation situations. It can also be a good investment when the price is right.

#32. Silver and gold jewelry and coins sometimes find their way into estate sales and yard sales. Know your market here to avoid overpaying and don’t be fooled by plated items.

#33. Grain mill, meat grinder, coffee grinder and other specialty kitchen tools.

#34. Radios and emergency supplies of all kinds, especially hand cranked radios, weather radios, CB and ham radios.

#35. Fishing equipment such as rods and reels, lures, line, tackle boxes, bait buckets, nets in good condition, etc.

#36. First aid kits—check expiration dates on ointments and supplies. Also look for unopened boxes of gloves, ace bandages and other disposables.

Related: 11 Unusual and Uncommon First Aid Items

#37. Hunting supplies are often available at yard sales. Occasionally you will find firearms and ammo, but other supplies are much more readily available. Also look for binoculars, bows and arrows, slingshots, compasses and night vision gear.

#38. Camouflage gear in a variety too broad to imagine.

#39. Board games, unopened puzzles, and well-built toys– check for missing pieces. These can be valuable morale boosters in a grid-down situation.

#40.backpacks Hiking packs, frames and backpacks. Some manufacturers offer a lifetime guarantee. Look for quality packs capable of carrying heavy loads.

#41. Camelback packs are great for hydration when hiking or in any outdoor setting. Clean and sanitize before use.

#42. Gallon water bottles and larger water barrels such as rain barrels and water tanks.

#43. Gas cans in a wide variety of sizes.

#44. Sewing supplies — You should be able to pick up fabric, needles and thread, buttons, zippers, patches, pin cushions, measuring tapes, etc, for pennies on the dollar. Buy supplies for mending and even creating new articles. If you are lucky, you may even find an old treadle sewing machine.

#45. Baby supplies such as cloth diapers, blankets, clothing, bottles, and bottle sterilizing equipment (which will be necessary again when SHTF). Think ahead and stock these items, even if there are no babies in your group currently.

#46. Knitting needles, crochet hooks, and yarn.

#47. Sewing, knitting and crochet patterns and instructions.

#48. A good atlas and maps of your local area and state. These are getting harder to find with the advent of GPS, but could prove vital to your family.

#49. Propane tanks are often an excellent buy at yard sales and estate sales, but again, you need to know your local prices on these.

#50. Heavy duty grill or smoker for use with wood or charcoal. Also pick up extra grill grates for use over a campfire.

You may also like:

emp map blackoutHow To Buy and Store 260 Pounds of Food for just $83

This Bug Will Kill Most Americans During The Next Crisis  (Video)

How To Build A Dirt Cheap Sod House (Soddy)

10 of the Best Bartering Items if the Grid Goes Down

Please Spread The Word - Share This Post
By Diane April 20, 2017 09:36
Write a comment


  1. Fivegunner April 20, 13:56

    Thank you , your right on about what to look for.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Rich April 20, 14:10

    Good stuff, Thanks! Have you heard of or know of the books, printed series, “The Foxfire” series? I believe they were produced in the 70’s & 80’s. Thanks

    Reply to this comment
    • Wayne April 20, 15:41

      The series is still available in Amazon. Also occasionally in used book store

      Reply to this comment
    • Pappy April 20, 16:31

      My father bought these back in the day and stated one day we just may need the knowledge contained in them.
      My kids are now almost the age he was at the time and I repeat his warning to them.
      If you go online you can find them but be prepared for sticker shock!!

      Reply to this comment
    • barbarosa April 21, 18:41

      check backwoods home website
      they have foxfire books in their bookstore section

      Reply to this comment
    • Cork April 21, 21:28

      I still have mine…good reminder to go pull them out

      Reply to this comment
    • David March 15, 19:40

      You can pick them up for a song at Thriftbooks.com

      Reply to this comment
      • NOT TealGirl September 28, 15:09

        “tealgurl”? WTF are you even talking about? You lack the ability to even formulate a coherent, structured sentence and forget about grammar altogether yet want us to think you’re going to “joann fabric store” where you “threw” something through the front door? WTF? Are you thinking that somehow you’re helping someone with that gibberish? Put down the pipe “tealgirl”.

        Reply to this comment
  3. susan April 20, 16:07

    Great list! All my fishing & camp gear was found this way. So much can be so reasonable at sales. Still trying to learn to knit & crochet by books. But should have lots of candles & lamps to see when the lights go out.

    Reply to this comment
    • tealgirl September 27, 13:02

      if near a joann fabric store they have workshops and sometimes groups that will teach you im going to try a song pattern way of knitting pbs pinkalious and peteriffic had on to get started on learning in threw the front door around the back peep through the window out jumps jack

      Reply to this comment
    • GT January 11, 00:03

      She’s talking about an educational video she saw on PBS that teaches how to knit or crochet. Not really gibberish; just not explained fully.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Scallywag April 20, 20:40

    Well it looks like I’m all set. I have everything on the list and more.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Freeheel April 22, 04:01

    Great list. I would add nails/screws/bolts. I have picked up several buckets of them for $1-$2 for the whole lot. My boys sorted through them in an hour. Likewise pvc pipe/fittings. Everyone ends up with more than they need for that little project. Electrical extension cords/adapters/fittings. Chains/straps/binders. Older cookbooks with basic recipes like bread/biscuits/substitutions. Wool blankets.

    I now go to a couple of garage/estate sales once a month. Take the kids and play “what if the SHTF and we had to scavenge this place for supplies we needed”. Adds a little fun and makes them think.

    Reply to this comment
    • MKJ September 28, 15:31

      Not Tealgurl – punctuation is what is missing here.
      She’s going to go to Joann fabric store and take a class in knitting and to try using a song method that’s been used in the past that was demonstrated on some shows on PBS to learn and remember the way to do different knitting stitches.
      Talk-to-text results in some confusing to read text unless people remember to add punctuation.

      Reply to this comment
  6. Bass April 22, 04:40

    And how in the hell is anyone going to carry all that shit if they have to Bug Out???

    Reply to this comment
    • Wannabe April 26, 16:07

      The idea of bugging out is only a couple prepared bags full of survival essentials to stay alive in case you have to get out fast. This article is to have these things at home for bugging in because electricity is gone, no water in the tap, grocery stores and good old Walmart are non existent. The bug out items are collected and set aside just in case.

      Reply to this comment
    • David September 18, 14:52

      No doubt this list is for hunkering down in place.

      Reply to this comment
    • realist April 12, 05:20

      THAT is what I want to know…and the way we all live today how can anyone know what to really do when we have no idea what it would be like to have to do all of this?
      Too bad it was not carried forward and taught by our great grandparents who lived like that; no electrics sometimes, using a wood stove and chopping down trees to build a house….yeah like all millions of us will strike out for the boonies and be able to make it out there….some will but most will not. And what about women and kids with no men to help with the hard and heavy stuff…And many men would not have this e skills either. Sorry, but we don’t have many men that are outdoors men these days who would even help someone alone with kid that did not mean harm or bad intent. It is not realistic to try such if you know you’re not going to be able to do it. Best to those who can…..personally of all of this happens I hope we go in the first wave…..I will stay and fight as long as I have ammo and then …..bye. I know it will be every person for themselves and that is that…..

      Reply to this comment
      • Mkj January 18, 18:30

        Yeah, the “strong independent women” will realize too late that single women with young children are only “strong and independent” with vehicles, petroleum, electricity, child support, welfare, infrastructure, etc and most men aren’t going to be willing to chop wood and hunt for other men’s offspring.
        The women ignorant or selfish enough or with poor enough judgement, to pursue single motherhood before shtf, will find themselves winner of the Darwin award after shtf.

        Reply to this comment
    • Skyman April 28, 03:23

      Don’t worry Bass . . . most people who think they’d “bug out” will last about one night out in the ‘bugs’ and they’ll be headed for a FEMA camp or back home to “bug back in”.

      Reply to this comment
      • Smiley January 10, 22:15

        Thanks for the list, I have a lot of this already, my Xhusband is an x army Sargent and a preppier, he taught me a lot. People have thought I was crazy the last few yrs for saving this stuff but I knew the day was coming when we would need it. Listen people being negative and putting people down on here is no help. If you don’t want to help or have no positive advice, and or don’t believe in prepping or helping people then just don’t comment PLEASE.

        Reply to this comment
  7. Don April 22, 21:23

    I wish that you would consider making your list printable.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck May 28, 03:44

      Don: When I want to print out something that I read such as the list above, I copy it and paste it to a word processing program. I use Libre Office. I reformat it to a small type size if necessary. I edit verbiage that is superfluous. I eliminate unnecessary spacing, all to compact the article so as to print it on the least number of pages. For an editing example, under the heading “Maps” I would totally eliminate all the verbiage. It doesn’t really add anything to our base knowledge. We already know that if there is an EMP event the chances of our GPS working are as slim as our chances of winning Powerball. Besides, electronics will eventually die due to battery failure, even if we have the means to charge them. It may be three years down the road, it may be five, but one day, your battery operated device will be dead. Now what? Aha, the map that is eight years old is still chugging along.

      Reply to this comment
    • oldtroll April 28, 11:43

      Copy and paste the list in this article, and you will have a printable one.

      Reply to this comment
    • Smiley January 10, 22:17

      Take a picture of the list and save to a file. That’s what I did.

      Reply to this comment
    • RonnyJ October 21, 10:27

      Use Word cut and paste. I have most of these articles saved on my pc, going to print them out to make books to give my grandnieces and grandnephews – their parents already know it all! LOL!

      Reply to this comment
  8. Wannabe April 26, 16:11

    it is good to have a handy P-38 can opener, but consider getting the larger ones. Same design just larger. Much easier to use and hand does not tire nearly as fast. Plus, these can become dull and ineffective to open cans in time. So be sure to get a couple dozen.

    Reply to this comment
    • Bob August 29, 00:03

      Yes, the larger ones are called P-51’s used for #10 cans in the military and they are made of stainless steel as well! They are in fact much easier to use too!

      Reply to this comment
    • USMC Vet/Patriot December 21, 23:34

      In the Marine Corps we called them a John Wayne and I still have mine from the mid 70`s and it works just as good today as the day I got it on Paris Island.I keep one on my keychain and have used it in more situations than I can count or remember.

      Reply to this comment
  9. Lester April 27, 15:36

    Half way into this. Does this diet, is it in addition to what we eat every day. Are we to change what we eat to include the different food included in this diet. I just ate what was in the diet with nothing extra added to it, is this correct or not.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Hill farmer May 15, 16:01

    Farm sales and machinery auctions all the way. I have a shed full of kit.

    Reply to this comment
  11. left coast chuck June 4, 02:35

    If you are buying propane tanks, be aware that at least in the peepuls republik of Kallyforniya propane tanks have to be tested and certified periodically. That’s why Blue Rhino propane rental has become so popular in recent years because they can do testing in bulk which drops the price considerably. Popularity also has to do with convenient location rather than driving across town to the U-Haul dealer to get propane. So the tank you got the great deal on may turn out to not be such a great deal after all.

    Reply to this comment
    • Fizzlecat September 18, 13:56

      Also, the older tanks have a valve connector that we found out propane suppliers cannot use to refill your tank. The newer tanks have a different valve at the top. We ended up having to get another tank.

      Reply to this comment
    • David September 18, 15:14

      Still, if you get a good enough deal on an old tank (under $5, let’s say), you can swap it at a corner store for under $20. Much better than paying full price for a new tank and you’ll have the updated fittings for re-filling.

      Reply to this comment
      • David September 18, 15:17

        I’ve actually picked them up for free at the curb on the day before trash day. Some people will haul their burned-out gas grills to the curb with the tank still attached! Gotta love the scavenger mind-set.

        Reply to this comment
        • Dr. K March 15, 19:28

          Buy the old tanks, then take them to a blue rhino supplier and swap them out. Then Blue Rhino refits the old tanks and puts it back out on the shelf. They are fine doing this to keep the tanks safe

          Reply to this comment
        • oldtroll April 28, 11:52

          You can also check with your local city or county about
          “bulk trash pick-up days” . Then hop in the pick-up & go curb-side hunting.

          Reply to this comment
    • T March 22, 19:44

      Sure it is. If it’s out of date, take it to Blue Rhino dealer and exchange the tank. Now you should have an in date tank without having to pay the cost of a new tank plus propane.ive exchanged 2 out of date tanks this way and then just refill them at local farm store.;)

      Reply to this comment
  12. Deb September 8, 13:05

    Thank you for your list, i go to yard sales all the time and have everything on this list. Wasn’t sure why I did it but, I felt that these were necessary.

    Reply to this comment
  13. Porter October 23, 00:03

    Great werbsite you have right here, i do concur on some
    iteems while, but not all.

    Reply to this comment
  14. LOC October 23, 02:54

    Great website you have in this article, i do cokncur on some issies although, but not all.

    Reply to this comment
  15. Labienus November 11, 13:56

    My biggest things that I purchase are

    Wool or fleece blankets
    Thick or woolen socks
    Cast iron cookware

    Reply to this comment
  16. Gena February 19, 15:12

    Hard to find a hand grist mill, most will need a dremel tool job on them. Antique stores, old estate sales. Great for grinding corn and corn meal flour and more.

    Reply to this comment
  17. AFbrat2 April 12, 05:28

    There are still companies and places one can get old fashioned items; Lehman’s is one..yes expensive but if
    you cannot find something they will have it. Or Amish supplies.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Thrifting April 19, 11:13

    Just wish to say your article is as astonishing.
    The clarity in your post is simply cool and i could assume you’re an expert
    on this subject. Well with your permission let
    me to grab your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please keep up the gratifying work.

    Reply to this comment
  19. Rick April 27, 14:43

    For #50 I highly recommend “Oklahoma Joe” equipment. Solid? boilerplate type drum. A real SHTF stove/smoker.

    Reply to this comment
  20. Jim April 27, 16:37

    Get yourself to one of the Mother Earth News Fair’s. They have them in Texas, N.C., Vt., Ore., PA., and Kan. They have more than 150 workshops on just about everything form gardening to raising animals, wind/solar power, You name it. The Backwoods Home Magazine Bookstore has books on just about any homesteading or bugging in/out topic. Also check out 4 Patriots, for solar generators, stoves, water systems etc., as well as shtf food.

    Reply to this comment
  21. miky April 27, 19:34

    mine is a question, while i wouldnt mind building a soddy i live in the arizona dessert, no sod, how does one make adobe bricks? i have heard thats as good as a soddy

    Reply to this comment
  22. Sean May 14, 17:47

    Several months ago I got a multifuel camp stove for $5 at a thrift store.

    Reply to this comment
  23. the July 18, 03:49

    I pay a visit everyday a few sites and blogs to read articles
    or reviews, but this blog provides feature based writing.

    Reply to this comment
View comments

Write a comment


Follow Us