23 Items Under $5 That Can Save Your Life!

survival items

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 UNprepared 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 condition, 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. :-)


Please share your survival kit tips!

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  1. Stephanie F. Asbridge says

    Holy smokes! Has that Clean Print button always been there??? I never knew, and I just used it per a couple of comments. WOW! I love that printing option! I was able to print this list without the images and get the font smaller and remove space between wording, so instead of printing on 8 pages, I printed down to just less than 2, front and back of one piece of paper. This is an awesome feature on your website, Jillie! Thanks.

  2. Deborah Bates says

    If you’re fortunate enough to have a Dollar Tree near you, you can get most of these items there and save even more. Thanks for the great info Jillee!

  3. Sylvia Anderson says

    As usual, you’ve done it again Jillie. This was an especially good post with the ability to save someone in a variety of circumstances, and definitely a keeper. Your blog is my favorite, because it provides so many people with great advice, no matter their age, walks of life, occupation, hobbies, etc..

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for all you do to help all of us out here in Blogland, and for all you have accomplished during your life, so far.

  4. karen says

    Great list! I’m going to purchase what we don’t already have and guess what my camping friends are getting for Christmas?! Thanks!

  5. Carla says

    Bottled water. I prefer to drink tap water, but in an emergency situation it would be nice to have on hand. Also would be a good idea to keep a few dollars in your emergency kit. If you can, a solar charger for your cell phone or at least a spare battery.

    • Patricia says

      A solar charger is something I hadn’t thought of. I’m kind of narrowly focused on the idea of civil unrest as a reason to stockpile supplies in case we’re stuck at home for a period of time. In a case like that, cell phone service might go down. But other things can happen too. I’ll look into other things.

  6. Jannette LaRose says

    Thank you! I have lived in utah all my life and still don’t have a kit. But now i am inspired. Thank you!

  7. Amethyst Samia says

    You should ALREADY have a stockpile of insulin and pump supplies on hand for your son Jillee. Wherever he goes should have a supply on hand. I keep a large stockpile due to issues with placing orders, delivery, etc. it once took me 6 months to get an order of pump supplies delivered. Fortunately I was stocked.

    • Jana says

      I have trouble getting my pharmacy to even give me a three month supply of meds my doctor orders. I have often wondered how people manage to get an “emergency supply” when I have to argue just to get what we need. If I go back to the pharmacy earlier than three months, they refuse to fill the order……

      • Tayne says

        Your insurance will allow you to fill several days early. With a 1-month supply, you can usually fill 4-5 days early. With a 3-month supply, you should be able to fill 7-10 days early. This does not apply to controlled substances, of course which insulin is not. If you have a pharmacist that is not allowing you to fill until THE DAY, you have a jerk for a pharmacist. (I can say that because I am one…..a pharmacist, not a jerk.) There is always the chance of dropped/lost doses. Many insulins can be purchased over-the-counter in order to stock up. Especially, insulin-R for emergency purposes.

  8. jen says

    you should make a printable version of this list so i can take it shopping to get these items. thanks!!

      • Angie says

        Well that was rude! Didn’t your mom teach you if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?
        Jen, you could probably click the CleanPrint button at the bottom of the post (before the comment section) and that will hopefully work for you. :)

      • Anon says

        It was not rude, it appears to be just a neutral suggestion without ill-intent. It’s easy to print out a webpage and/or make it a pdf. Your reaction makes me sad. Maybe your taking offense so easily is a reflection that you are inclined to think that way or are used to being treated that way. Please think about how you read things. It can be a reflection of the hurt inside of you.

      • Jennifer says

        I’m sorry but I laughed so hard when I read “make it yourself” that I spilled my coke out of my mouth. I don’t know if it was meant to be rude or not, but Jillee goes through a lot of effort to put these little blogs together. Why should we expect her to make things in printable format, provide links, whatever. Didn’t she do enough to begin with? It seems people are never satisfied.