We're always hearing requests for budget-oriented gear guides — this has led us to implement our “Best Value” awards in the magazine, and feature more affordable items in our buyer's guides. However, there's obviously a fine line between getting a good deal on a much-needed item, and wasting money on something that'll break the first time you use it. Much like expensive doesn't always mean excellent, cheap doesn't always mean good value.

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Beggars can't be choosers, but this $5 survival kit is a whole lot better than nothing.

But, if you want to throw caution to the wind and save money at all costs, just how little can you spend on a basic survival kit? YouTube channel Corporal's Corner set out to answer this question. With $5 in hand, Corporal Kelly strolled into his local dollar store, and selected a 5-item survival kit. This kit is based on one school of thought for essential survival gear, known as “the 5 C's”:

  • Cutting – A knife, machete, ax, or other blade
  • Combustion – A fire-starter, such as a ferrocerium rod or lighter
  • Cover – A waterproof tarp or rain fly that serves as the basis for your shelter
  • Cordage – 550 paracord in a perfect world, but twine or string will do in a pinch
  • Container – A vessel for water, ideally one which is heat-resistant and can be used to cook and boil

Cpl. Kelly demonstrates his 5-item/$5 survival kit in the video below:

First of all, that knife — yikes. It's obviously trying very hard to be a Spyderco Delica, with a chunk of plastic shoved into the round thumb hole to skirt trademark infringement. And the side-to-side flex is horrifying. But it'll cut the jute twine, so that's something.

The dollar store knife bears a sliiiiight resemblance to a Spyderco. You may have to squint to see it.

The dollar store knife bears a sliiiiight resemblance to a Spyderco. You may have to squint to see it.

Speaking of cordage, the jute is a solid choice. It can be braided into rope, as Cpl. Kelly shows, or can be shredded and used as tinder. It also provides a way to suspend the shelter, which is a humble PVC shower curtain. That may sound ghetto, but it's designed to repel water, so while it's not the most durable item, it'll keep you dry.

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With a ridgeline and two guylines tied to weights along the base, the tarp can be secured into a small lean-to shelter. As for the water container, Kelly has some good points about that as well. The metal spray bottle container can be useful for boiling water, but it's too small to carry a substantial amount of water. Alternatively, a larger plastic vessel and a few drops from a $1 bottle of unscented bleach can provide an alternate method of water purification, but you won't be able to use it for cooking or boiling. That's a trade-off you'll have to consider.

So, while $5 isn't the optimal budget for a survival kit, Cpl. Kelly shows that it can provide the 5 basics you need to get by. What items, if any, would you change in this kit? Add a comment below.


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