> TEOTWAWKI Blog: $150 "Common Man" bug out kit



$150 "Common Man" bug out kit

Here's a take on a low-cost bug out bag...lightweight, no-nonsense, low cost and a heck of a lot better than the off-the-shelf kits in the same price range. There are some important capabilities that you're lacking, but some ingenuity and know-how can help make up for those.

Not so much for most of my readers--I'm sure you've got pretty solid kits already--but to demonstrate to newbies and those casually interested that a decent kit can be put together for not a ton of money.

For a more complete kit, still built with a budget in mind, check out the $40 a week series.

  • Two BIC lighters - $2
  • Three pack of road flares - $6.50 at Autozone or similar. The kit is light on warmth stuff, so we want to make sure you can start a fire in lousy weather!
  • A zip-loc of dryer lint or petroleum jelly cotton balls - free
  • Space All-Weather Blanket  - $15 on Amazon
  • Two or three contractor grade trash bags or drum liners - ~$4; can fill with debris for insulation and makeshift sleeping bag
  • Bungee, cheap tent stakes and 50 feet of 550 cord - around $12
4000 to 5000 calories of low prep, shelf stable food. A big bag of trail mix and some protein bars will get you there pretty quickly. ~$20.

  • Flashlight/Headlamp: A $20-$25 light. The Streamlight Propolymer 4AA is one example of a solid choice for the money - 67 lumens for 150+ hours. I haven't found a really cheap light that I've been impressed enough with to recommend. The cheapos I've tried (Costco, a couple from Amazon) have gone through various states of breaking within the first few days.
  • Additional batteries for the light - $4
  • Duct Tape - Steal some off that roll you've got kicking around the house: Free
  • Safety pins, heavy needle & thread: ~$3 if you don't have it lying around already
  • Hand sanitizer: $1
  • Baby Wipes: $1
  • 100% cotton Shemagh: $10
  • Work Gloves: $5 from the hardware store
  • Pocket AM/FM Radio: $9 on Amazon
Total (without pack): $149.50 to $155.50

For a pack, I would be really surprised if all this did not fit into a 5 gallon bucket, which you can get for $5 or so bucks at the hardware store. Alice frames are $25 on eBay, and then you bungee that bucket to the frame. The 5 gallon bucket gets you a big container and stores everything water tight. Or you could just get an old ALICE pack for $35-ish.

Most people have some kind of freebie duffle bag or old backpack laying around the house that could be made to work, too.

You could cut some corners on the above to squeeze the pack into the budget - drop the shemagh and replace with an old t-shirt or two, canteen cup for a #10 can, space blanket for a hardware store tarp, drop the road flares for some matches, paracord for hardware store line, go cheaper on the food, etc.

Pretty much a list off the top of my head - and certainly not perfect or without its holes. BUT, good starting place for those on a tight budget or putting together multiple kits. I'd look at adding a decent sleeping bag, compass, etc. down the road.


  1. That is a great kit you have there, has a lot of bases covered. In the 'Shelter' category, I would consider adding a shower curtain liner. A couple of dollars in cost but far more durable than the contractor bags or tube tent.

    The rest is gold - thank yo for writing it.

  2. Very Good! I think a lot of that stuff could be found in the average home. This would either trim the cost or free up some money to spend in other areas.

    This would probably fit into the generic type book bag most folks have lying around.

  3. Nice list. For a cheap light, about a month ago I picked up an Energizer "Tactical" single AA light for around $15. It says it's 50 lumen and seems plenty bright for what I need. It has spent most of this time riding around in my pocket and seems to be holding up well. I did take the clip off and reattach it near the base though.

  4. This unit is a little cheaper than a space blanket and is OD on one side for discreet use. At 3.99 and 2.9 OZ it's a sure winner. After seeing it used in the latest Bourne movie, I went on a quest to find one. I was very happy to see it was inexpensive and readily available.


    I'm a scoutmaster so I'm always looking to find inexpensive ways to get the kids prepared on the cheap. Working on a $100 kit for kids that I will be testing in April at a camp out. Thanks for the great Ideas!


    1. The blanket linked is OD on one side and has grommets for use as a shelter. I am also pretty sure it is what is used in the Bourne movie, it that matters. Check it out!

  5. If you're experienced in outdoor survival and want to challenge your skills here's something to try. Plan a 3 say camping trip to a prehistoric campground. Go to one of those "all items are a dollar" stores and spend twenty bucks plus tax on as complete a bug out bag as possible. Take nothing on the trip with you but the clothes you're wearing and the twenty bucks worth of one dollar items and have fun. Be sure to only do this if you are experienced, only do it someplace where it's relativly save, only use the stuff you bought/the clothes you wear and your skills, make sure people know where you are in case some thing happens. Be safe and have fun.

  6. They say everyone has to "start" someplace. This looks like an excellent place to start to me. Good work.

  7. A good place to start, but your next $150 should be spent on a cheap gun and ammo. What good does it do to have preps when someone that doesn't can just steal them from you?

    1. I'd get a sleeping bag and a couple other basics, and then a cheap pump action shotgun or a pistol.

      For newbies uncertain about guns, a big ol' can of bear spray is a fairly easy baby step, and they run all of $20-$30.

  8. Good stuff. I don't mean to be picky but $20 for a flashlight is too much in a "low cost" minimal kit. Harbor frieght has a decent small flashlight for under $5 and Walmart has good flashlights and headlamps for $5 to $7. I would go with a minmal sleeping bag over the garbage bags. I do understand the intent was to make a kit for fewer bucks but sleeping is too important to skimp on. Something like "Adventure Medical Kits Survive Outdoors Longer Escape Bivvy" would work. I have seen a similar bag at REI for about $20.

    1. I don't have any personal experience with a sub $20 flashlight that I would trust if I really, really needed a light. We have had the Costco lights, some of the other China-made lights, and they start breaking pretty quickly, and that's with basic around the house use. On the other hand, I have a Streamlight I bought back in 2004 for like $20 that is still in perfect condition and looks good as new. You WILL use a flashlight out of your kit in pretty much every conceivable emergency, so it's worthwhile to have one you can count on.

      Lots of the other stuff--shelter included--is stuff that you may not use.

      The kit outlined has contractor bags and a reusable space blanket, which will work in a pinch for shelter and warmth - pack the contractor bags with debris, light up a body-length fire and use the space blanket as a heat reflector. That AMK bivvy is not as good of an option as a the space blanket and contractor bags (they do the same thing essentially, and more), and for the $20, I'd grab a surplus wool blanket or USGI sleeping bag as a supplement. And still keep the contractor bags, 'cuz they are multipurpose.

  9. Personally, I would not worry about setting any arbitrary cost number to stay below. A solid kit you can rely on that costs $200 - 250 is far better than something on the cheap that you cannot. It does not matter how cheap something is if you can't rely on it when it counts the most. The bottom line is that this kit may be used in the worst of conditions so it has to stand up to that. It is a survival situation for a good reason most likely. If people cannot budget for their survival, they have their priorities out of whack. If it is a kit for a car camping trip to a populated state park close to home that is different from an emergency kit you and/or your family's lives may depend on. Common man does not mean cheap. Comman man to me means Leatherman Wave instead of Leatherman Charge TTI etc. Make sure you have your 10 C's. Dave Canterbury is spot on with that. Add necessary medications, gloves, small radio etc. A great back up light is a Pak-Lite Super. 1200 hours on low with a lithium battery. Good article and topic.

    God bless,


    1. Sure - the $150 amount used for this post is entirely arbitrary. I just wanted to run through a viable kit that one could build for that amount.

      Many non-survivalist types that I've spoken with have expressed some desire to get more prepared, but really don't have much interest spending much money in order to do so. I know, priorities, right? Well, I can't force someone to adjust their priorities, and I'd certainly rather see people moderately well prepared than give up entirely b/c it's out of their budget reach.

    2. I see quite a few Waves sold for 1/3 the new price at pawn shops, plenty of life left in them.

  10. Adding a little BFE Labs knife as a backup would be doable as well.


    The Mora is a great knife; no doubt. But the common complaint is the stiffness lacking.

    To address that, you can get a Schrade Sharpfinger for $20 on ebay or amazon. You get a substantially stiff blade. Keep in mind that you lose a little of the thin blade versatility. However, they mitigate that heavy spine by bringing the to to a talon point. It is a fantastic talon point, but would be problematic if you plan to skin game.

  12. I would add some items as a health care survivalist.
    A good portable water filter.
    5 lbs of unprocessed sea salt.
    1 package of aluminum free baking soda
    With these three things, it is possible to care for about 70 diseases or conditions.

    More importantly, properly hydrating the body will help maintain health. Drinking water alone will not hydrate the body properly. Dissolving a pinch of water in the mouth will help the body hold the water longer and get it inside and outside of the cells.

    This is called the Water Cures Protocol

  13. Great list. Lots of highlighted variance possible with existing items (see flashlight and shelter comments.) IMO, two large omissions:
    1) P38 or some other small can opener. Canned food will present itself at some point, and these are tiny and cheap.
    2) Sunscreen. A small amount may not seem that vital until it is too late. Always have a little bottle, which is also cheap.