23 Items Under $5 That Can Save Your Life

survival items One Good Thing by Jillee

I grew up in sunny California, and even though I have now lived in Utah for nearly 20 years, I still get this unsettled feeling whenever winter starts to settle in. When I think of how COLD it gets and the things that could potentially go wrong while on the road, or even at home should the power go out, I am reminded of how woefully prepared I am for such emergencies.  

I recently came across this article on OutdoorLife.com about $2 items that can save your life and it was just the nudge I needed to at least get SOMETHING together for an emergency kit. Whether it’s a winter survival kit, or just a survival kit in general….you don’t have to spend a fortune to get started. When you think about it, sometimes the most valuable things in an emergency are also the cheapest things you can buy.

Here are some $5-or-less emergency prep items to get you started on your way to self-sufficiency.

survival items

iodine tincture

This can be used to disinfect wounds, gear and even drinking water! Just add 5-10 drops of 2% iodine to 1 quart of suspect drinking water. Use 5 drops if the water is warm and clear, use 10 drops of the water is ice cold or cloudy. Shake it up for a moment and wait one hour before drinking.

survival items

candle can

Seasoned wilderness travelers always carry an empty soup can and a supply of at least a dozen long-burning votive candles. Put the candle into the can, light it, and it will supply just enough heat to keep you from freezing to death in a closed vehicle after you’ve run out of gas.

survival items

small bottle of bleach

In an emergency, you can use tiny amounts of bleach to purify water. A small bottle of bleach can disinfect hundreds of gallons of drinking water. It can also be used to sterilize equipment and food preparation areas, as well as for general cleaning. For drinking water, add 2 to 4 drops of plain Clorox per quart of water (2 drops if clear, 4 drops if cold or muddy).

survival items

a lighter

A $1.39 lighter is worth its weight in gold, no matter how injured you are – if you have a working thumb and a lighter, you have fire. And at that low price, you can afford to stock up.

survival items

stick matches

Lighters should be carried as well for redundancy, but don’t forget about matches for a real emergency kit. A case of 10 or a dozen boxes of stick match will usually run you less than $2, and provide you with 300 or more matches.


survival items

fire starter

A mini fire log could be used in its entirety to start one fire in horrible conditions, or cut into pieces to start many fires under other conditions.

survival items

duct tape

Make emergency repairs on, tents, gear, bags, tarps, packs, sleeping bags, clothing, rain gear, etc.
It can also be used for wrapping sprained ankles in an emergency.


survival items

super glue

It is essentially liquid duct tape and can fix many things you’ll inevitably break that you won’t be able to easily purchase again.


survival items


There are literally dozens of uses for these versatile pieces of cloth. Bandage for a wound, fire starter (soak it in oil or Vaseline), trail marker (rip pieces to show where you’ve been), neck and head covering to prevent heatstroke or sunburn, sling for an injured arm, tourniquet for snake bites or wounds where you need to cut circulation.

survival items

box of bandages

If you can keep the dirt out of all your wounds, you can keep infections minimized. You can even use the bandages to “tape” things together in a pinch.

survival items

bread in a can

This rodent-proof, bug-proof, waterproof metal can of bread with a three-year shelf life might not be the most delicious carbs you’ll ever eat, but it only costs about $2.50 and packs 1,040 calories per loaf/can!


survival items

hand sanitizer

When you don’t have easy access to soap and water, you can fight infection by using an alcohol-based sanitizer to clean your hands before and after treating injuries. In addition to its normal use, hand sanitizer can also be used as a flame accelerant thanks to its high alcohol content.

survival items

sports tape

This first-aid box staple is great at keeping your dressings and bandages in place. It’s also strong and sticky enough to be used to hold things together, or to make improvised butterfly sutures.


survival items

pencil sharpener

Take a twig roughly the diameter of a pencil and use the sharpener to make shavings (or tinder) to get a fire started! Simple and SUPER cheap!


survival items

activated charcoal

If your digestive system is turned upside-down while stranded, without access to a store, pharmacy or medical facility, activated charcoal can be your best friend. Activated charcoal is used in hospitals worldwide for patients who ingest drugs or chemicals and has saved countless lives.

survival items

mini flashlights

Little lightweight LED flashlights are super long-lasting, surprisingly bright for their size, and frequently on sale. They’re a great value for the money and you can stash them in all the different places you might need them.

survival items

a compass

If you know how to use a compass, it is an invaluable tool. It is a good idea for everyone to learn at least the basics of using a compass, and to have a good idea of basic directional orientation.


survival items

a mirror

A signaling mirror is great for signaling at long distances or to passing ships or aircraft. It can also be used for checking wounds, rashes, etc in places you would not otherwise be able to see.

survival items

survival blanket

A reflective emergency blanket could be the best $2 you ever spend if you’re lost in the wild. It will help keep you warm (if reflects body heat back to you,) and it’s also great for signaling, as it will reflect a lot of sunlight. This can also be used to waterproof your shelter, and to collect rainwater.

survival items

loud whistle

When you are lost, injured or stranded, your ability to signal for help is the number one factor in being rescued. Carrying a rescue whistle on your person is an inexpensive and easy way to identify yourself as being in need of rescue. While you’re waiting to be rescued, make lots of noise.

survival items

heavy cord or light rope

Use it for shelter, whether for tying frame pieces together, or for stringing up a tarp between trees. Also use it for splints, traps, etc.

 survival items

dental floss

Aside from dental hygiene, it is incredibly strong and can be used to sew buttons or any material. It is sterile so you can stitch a wound. You can tie down a tent or tarp as long as you don’t wrap it over a sharp edge. You can even fish with it.

survival items

drop cloth

Plastic drop cloths can be used for sealing windows and doors when there is concern of pandemics, and they also have a myriad of camping uses. You can make a hole in it and use it as a Poncho, it also makes a good tent to sleep under. Avoid the very thin plastic drop cloths, they should be at least a couple mils thickness.

survival items

Of course these are just a few of the myriad of supplies that might be necessary should you find yourself in a true emergency, but at least it’s a START! Which is much more than I had going on previously!  Now I just need to work on stockpiling insulin and pump supplies for my son. THEN I will REALLY feel prepared. 🙂


5 thoughts on “23 Items Under $5 That Can Save Your Life

  1. A small sandwich bag of lent from your dryer will can be used for starting fires also. Make sure that the bag is a zip-lock bag so the lent will stay dry. It can be compressed so it wont take up any room and as we all know it is highly flammable. Plus it’s free.

    1. Damn good tip REDHORSE. Was just thinking along those lines, vacuum cleaner bag refuse, another good source.

  2. I have been saving a lot of non-electric tools and bringing them up to our cabin every year and pencil sharpeners is one of them. It never occurred to me to put one in my bug out bag for a fire starter. I do keep a magnesium strikers everywhere. I must have 20 of them scattered all over the place, that and Bic lighters. But, I do like the pencil sharpener idea.

    I read somewhere about taking that dryer lint and mixing with wax and making fire starter bars that you just cut a piece off and light it. I thought about making some but, our dryer lint is so full of dog hair that I decided not too. hehe

  3. These are some great ideas but consider Hydrogen Peroxide along with Bleach A great disinfectant and it won’t bleach your guts out and it is cheap.

  4. Duct tape can be shredded into thin slices to make a birds nest. This will burn hot and long.

    Matches are ridiculous. A ferro rod is better than matches and a magnesium stick multiplied by each other.

    Fat wood from pine trees roots and trunk are cheep(free). They will work better than fire logs and not waste as much weight. Feather them in windy/wet conditions.

    Hand sanitizer must be a joke. Alcohol wipes are damn near free. single serve and small.

    Some plants inner bark will suck out splinters and other things(bullet fragments) from the skin but tweezers are missing from this list. Id much rather have them than a bulky bottle of bleach.

    As for water purification…sand and charcoal filter if needed and BOIL it. about five min of fire and a qt of water is boiled to safety. Obviously if its polluted with radiation or ag chems move on.

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