Harbor Freight Bug-Out Bag Supplies for $20 or Less

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Author of The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices

You’re new to the world of prepping and have finally concluded that you need to build a bug-out bag. Or maybe you’ve been prepping for a while but are trying to figure out how to build another bag on a budget.  You might be surprised at the Harbor Freight bug-out bag supplies you can get for twenty bucks or less.

Perhaps an EMP has just struck, and you have the foresight to rapidly transition your cash into tangibles before people realize the dollar bill no longer has any value. (If you’re new to building a bug-out bag check out this article and this one.)

In all of these cases, you’re walking into a Harbor Freight with nothing other than a $20 bill in your hand.

What Harbor Freight bug-out bag supplies can you get for $20 or less?

So what Harbor Freight bug-out bag supplies can you get with a $20 bill in hand?

Hatchet ($7.99)

A hatchet makes a great addition to a BOB if you think there’s a chance of spending a sizable amount of time out in the woods. These not only help you to gather firewood, can help with clearing a campground, and can be used to pound in tent stakes, but hatchets have something of a history of being used as a weapon as well.

Check out the history of the Boxer Rebellion if you don’t believe me.

Here you can get a small, fiberglass handle hatchet for all of $7.99

Camouflage tarp ($3.49)

Personally, I prefer hammock camping to other types, and for such, you need a tarp. If you’re bugging out you want to stay hidden, and the bright blue and gray tarps at Harbor Freight aren’t going to be the best deal for the job.

I picked up this camouflage tarp instead. It’s 4’x6’, meaning it’s a tad on the smaller side, but it fits within a BOB well – even if it’s just an assault bag size – and only cost around $4, which is hard to beat. Perchance you end up with a broken window in your car too, this makes a convenient means of covering it up until you can get a new pane of glass as well.

Maybe you laugh at that last application, but I’m telling you, keeping a tarp and some duct tape in your vehicle can save your bacon. Windows only break when it’s raining.

Flashlight ($4.99)

I picked up this inexpensive little flashlight which could easily fit into a pocket for all of $5. I’m a fan of ultralight backpacking, and though I’m by no means as extreme with it as some other guys I’ve seen, I’m always looking for new tricks and tips for lightening my load. A little flashlight like this can help you to do such.

It can easily nest in some little cranny within your BOB until it’s needed, isn’t going to break the bank, and can help you get the job done – such as with changing a flat tire at night – when you need it most.

50’ Paracord ($2.99)

This isn’t as strong as the “official” paracord you’ll find out there – I don’t think this is 550 paracord, I mean – but it’s cordage, and that was mainly what I was looking for here. For hanging a tarp, a 160 pound work load can most certainly get the job done.

Personally, I’ve yet to have any task while out backpacking that required anywhere near that amount of tensile strength. I totally understand the importance of overengineering, but I think for $2.99 this paracord will work perfect in a budget BOB.

The final cost

I walked out of that store having spent less than $20 ($19.46) on BOB gear and feeling as if I had covered my bases with some of the more foundational aspects of a bug-out bag pretty well. I have shelter, cordage, a hatchet, and light. Not bad for less than $20.

I considered tossing in a magnesium fire striker or a small knife, but my math was showing me there was a good chance I’d be a few a bit over $20, and I wanted to stay true to the challenge. If all you have is a $20 bill in your pocket, this is what you can get. And I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty good amount.

Final thoughts

The point of these types of challenges is to show you that prepping doesn’t have to be expensive. Prep to fit your budget. Even if all you have to spend for the moment is $20, don’t despair. You can get quite a good number of preps covered with $20, you just have to know where to look.

Harbor Freight is a great place to start despite the bad reputation it tends to have amongst tool snobs. Though there’s no denying this isn’t the thickest of tarps, the hatchet isn’t an Estwing, and the flashlight isn’t a Maglite, you don’t always have to shoot for the best of the best.

Again, use your budget to determine what you can get that falls within your means. Hopefully, this challenge has gotten you to think about your own prepping habits.

Try the challenge out and see what you think?

What would you get with $20 at Harbor Freight? Let us know in the comments below!

About Aden

Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com, TheFrugalite.com, PewPewTactical.comSurvivalBlog.comSHTFBlog.comApartmentPrepper.comHomesteadAndPrepper.com, and PrepperPress.com. Along with being a freelance writer, he also works part-time as a locksmith. Aden has an LLC for his micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

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Aden Tate

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  • There are some more items you over looked, like a Machete.
    18 in. Machete with Serrated Blade for $ 5.97
    It is a more multi purpose tool.
    It will do most things a hatchet will do. plus is a much better self defense tool (if you learn how to use it properly) and will also assist in carving up game,(like a meat cleaver), into smaller chunks.

    I would also consider adding in the: ONE STOP GARDENS, 8 In. Folding Pruning Saw at $ 6.99
    Hand sawing wood for constructing a shelter or other stuff has advantages over using a hatchet or other tools. I imagine it could also be used for processing big game.
    And one of these;
    RUGGED GEAR, 10 X 50 Wide Angle Binoculars, at $ 19.99
    It is better to see potential trouble ahead, rather than run into it unaware.

    If nothing else was available, this would be helpful: Magnesium Fire Starter, at $1.99

    Then there is this knife.
    GORDON’s 8 In. Survival/Hunting Knife for $9.99. This sharp hunting knife includes a survival kit conveniently stored in the handle (but it is not a full tang knife, so forget about battoning wood with it) But the survival items, stored in the handle, could be quite useful if that was all you had to work with.
    Or a folding knife, GORDON’s 3.4 in. Tactical Folding Knife for $14.99.
    Don’t forget to throw in some knife sharpeners also. they have many types to choose from.

    So if you were caught, without having a proper bug out bag or just needed to add some items to round it out, Harbor Freight would be a cheap, one stop, shopping place.

    • I have the hatchet and its pretty good for the price, same with the tarps. The pruning saw also, but that ,in my experience, wasnt that great and I threw it away.

      The $1.39 144 lumen worklight/flashlight works very well. I got those as free-bees at one time.

  • Great article.
    You forgot to mention if you sign up for their sale fliers via email, you could have had some coupons for a flashlight and a discount. The fire starter would have easily been in your budget.
    I might have switched the hatchet for the machete with a saw on the back side.
    Another discussion and debate.
    Stay Safe

  • Access Denied
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    Reference #18.2f645e68.1637077473.376f196

    Daisy – this is all I get from trying to access the Harbor Freight web page for the para cord…………….

  • The magnesium fire starter has a “bad rep” from “the experts” but not one of them followed the instructions! I have used it for many years and I followed the instructions and it works great.
    Ya got to read instructions…

    • Anyone can walk into the store and purchase. It isn’t Sam’s Club. But if you buy something small, and GET ON THE MAILING List, you will be happy to get frequent sales info and coupons for 10 to 20% off. Save your larger purchases till you get on the list! THey have frequent ads in the newspaper as well. ie. Sunday editions etc. Stay prepared!

  • I’d definitely go for a machete over a hatchet. It can be used in more ways.

    I’d also think of getting a Swiss Army knife. I’ve been in a number of situations that I’ve been glad I always have one in my bag. You never know when one of the uses may come in handy.

  • Concentrating on “prepping” is contrary to actual life. Statesmen are hiding in their “prepping” when they should be statesmen. You cannot run from this enemy any longer. The enmy has been among us since the dawn of mankind. Will you run and hide to antarctica? We ran across the atlantic ocean, guess what the enmy was among us and followed us. If statesmen do not arise we all perish

  • Please realize that the vast majority of what Harbor Freight sells comes from Red China. Support them if you must, but better to search for American made.

  • At the risk of committing sacrilege against Harbor Freight (from whom I’ve bought much over the years) there’s an optical gem they don’t carry. It is a 6-1/2″ by 9-1/2″ Fresnel lens, disguised under the name Magnifying Sheet under the “DOT” brand for one dollar … at the Dollar Tree. Any time there is sunlight that lens can stretch your fire making gear much farther.

    Another dirt cheap addition might be some blank CDs or DVDs which can make signal mirrors with the needed center aiming hole built in.


  • I may have several tool boxes full of Snap On, Williams, Wright and other “Tool Snob” tools, but I also have quite a few Harbor Freight tools as well. Especially what I call Sacrificial Tools, tools modified for a specific task, such as a box end wrench with the wall ground down to get into a really tight spot.

    But I agree with you Aden, there are some decent buys to be had at HF for preppers on a budget. A good number of my ammo cans came from HF, and they serve their purpose. They have both metal and plastic, for ammo, I prefer metal, but the plastic cans are good for other uses, such as a custom first aid kit. $16 for the .30 Cal, $18 for the .50 Cal box, this is cheaper than MILITARY surplus prices for used cans.

    There’s a lot of Prep Supplies to be found at Harbor Freight.

    Good article Aden.

  • The HF machete I purchased some years back was NOT a good deal – it broke within 15 minutes of use. The sheath in particular was flimsy. No thanks, at least for that product

    Instead of that, look for a South American Tramontina, Imcasa or Gavilan machete. About three times the cost but far better steel and will last you a long time.

  • Don’t forget thefurniture movers blanket … I don’t know the cost as I got mine a couple years ago … It makes a great under blanket for that hammock you mentioned … and it’s also camo!

    • Yes, that. Punch an hole in this blanket for your head as a cold weather poncho or something to wear in woods while on stand waiting for deer to show up.

  • Funny thing about Harbor Freight, not knocking them, just know hubby is ticked off from some stuff he bought from them last week that broke on first use and they told him there’s a 20% restocking fee if he returns it. I think it’s safe to buy some stuff from them, like the tarps, and the free flashlights we have like 20 of those. LOL And the hatchet and stuff. We’ve gotten some stuff from them that’s lasted forever but most not too good.

  • Something seems “off” on your text formatting.
    It kicks WAY to the right & can’t read. Daisy’s doesn’t do that.
    Even if I reduce page size, same issue.

  • prepper mental exercise I started when I traveled extensively – 1,000s miles from home – limited EDC in the pocket – rental car travel home >> creating an ersatz long-distance GHB from any chain retail store scrabble type inventory …

    eazy enough when talking about having a Cabelas or even a Wally World available – not so much when all you have is a partially looted Bed, Bath and Beyond to work with or the typical $1 Store – giving prior thought to what can be substituted for the legit will not only save time “shopping” but give you the best shot at choosing the best approach angle to the problem – Are grabbing shower curtains the best sub for tarps? Can you find a heavy meat cleaver to sub for a wood chopper? What can you find for water carriers?

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