Building a Sub-100-Dollar Camping Bug-Out Bag
Kevin Felts 10.21.19
Let’s take a few minutes to put together an overnight camping / bugout bag that costs less than $100. This topic has been covered ad nauseam, so why talk about it again? Rather than waiting until Christmas to put together a prepping-related gift, let’s start while we have plenty of time.
For the pack I decided to go with a military surplus 3-day assault pack. These are rugged and large enough for a warm weather overnight camping trip. Truth be known, I used to go camping with a Jansport book bag that is much smaller than the 3 day assault pack. The two packs I just ordered cost $39.90 each with free shipping.
The next question is water: do we go with two canteens or one? Depending on location and if there are water sources available, we may be able to get away with one canteen. If we wanted to go really cheap, get a one-liter water bottle from the corner store and use it. One canteen with a pouch can be found on eBay for $17.75 with free shipping. This does not include the canteen cup.
Total cost so far for pack, canteen and canteen pouch: $57.65
Before we go any further let’s recognize prices could be reduced by going with other options, such as a used bookbag at a thrift store and a one liter water bottle. If we went that route, we would probably be less than $20 in at this point.
Next on the list is a cook pot. We need something large to hold 16 to 24 ounces of water. If we wish to look for an example, the US GI canteen cup would be excellent for what we are wanting to achieve. There have been times when I used a steel canteen cup and a camp fire to heat water for noodles.
Here we have a number of choices such as garage sales, estate sales, thrift stores, used pots off eBay, or just a good ol’ canteen cup. Several years ago I went to an estate sale and everything in the kitchen was for sale; this is not uncommon.
For the sake of discussion, let’s go with a stainless steel canteen cup for $10.30 off eBay with free shipping. As mentioned previously we could probably shave a few dollars off this with a used pot of comparable size from a garage sale.
Cost for pack, one canteen, pouch and cup: $67.65
Water should be next. For this let’s consider the Sawyer Mini or the Survival Straw. For previous items on our list we can cut corners by picking used equipment, but when it comes to water filters let’s not cut any corners.
Some of the readers are going to say, “Kevin, for years I used a bandanna and water purification tablets.” Yea, and so have I. In the 1980s and 1990s I would use a bandanna to filter out heavy sediment going into the canteen, then water purification tables. But personal water filtration options have come a long way over the past few decades.
Amazon Prime has the Sawyer Mini listed for $19.95 with free shipping. For a filter that has a life expectancy of 100,000 gallons (depending on source water) it is very difficult to beat.
Something we may want to mention: The Sawyer Mini will fit onto the end of a one liter water bottle, such as Aquafina. If we wanted a reason to cut the canteen out, I feel the water bottle and filter combination may be a viable reason.
At this point we are up to $87.65.
Now we have a choice to make: Shelter or flashlight, or maybe both.
If we get on eBay and look for a AA battery flashlight we will find options that cost less than one dollar. Sometimes we get what we pay for, so let’s move that price up a little bit. With so many flashlight options on the market let’s just pick one. For this example I picked the Rayovac I2AA-B industrial flashlight With krypton bulb for $7.08 with free shipping.
Cost so far: 94.73
Let’s see if we can find a rain poncho for less than $5. The answer is yes. An eBay search for rain poncho brings back all kinds of results.
If we replaced the canteen with a water bottle we can shift some money to a blanket. Amazon has a wool blanket listed for $16.37 with Prime shipping.
This leaves us with:
- Military surplus 3 day assault pack
- Water bottle – reuse from another purchase
- Cook pot – garage sale / Goodwill
- Sawyer Mini
- Rayovac AA flashlight
- Rain poncho
- Wool blanket
The greatest cost is the military surplus pack, which is not set in stone. We could go with something less expensive and shift some of that money to something else.