Have you ever bought a piece of survival gear online only to be disappointed when it arrived? It’s really frustrating, right?
One of the big problems I had when I was just starting out was telling good gear from the hype and more importantly how to tell a good website from a dishonest seller.
In this article, I am going to share some real life examples with you of how I learned to find quality survival gear online including:
- Understanding your options when finding gear to meet YOUR survival needs
- Identifying points of quality to look for with ANY survival gear
- Identifying red flags when shopping for survival gear online
My Early Experiences Buying Survival Gear Online
Buying any type of survival gear is a constant challenge online. On one side you have the infinite variety of choice available. You can find ANYTHING you need online. On the other you have the near impossibility of judging the quality and practicality of an item without first getting your hands on it.
For me, it resulted in multiple times where I bought something that looked good and had positive reviews only to have it to arrive and not make the cut. This may have been due to its quality, design, weight, or simply not delivering on promised features. Either way I now had an item that was used or opened and could usually not be returned. I had just wasted both my time and money researching and buying something that I could not use.
Typically a prepper has to blindly make the choice between buying low cost “bargain” gear of unknown quality or spending lots of money on “top end” equipment. Both choices involve taking a risk.
I am going to help you minimize this risk by showing you what to look for when buying survival gear online.
Rule #1: Know Your Options
Most survival gear can be divided into groups, it may be heavy vs light, expensive vs cheap, or do-it-yourself vs done for you. Knowing the general path you want to take is something you should learn when researching the gear you are buying.
Having an understanding of the major options will let you know if a price is fair or too good to be true. It will also help determine what options or features are worth paying for and which can be left out. Be sure to look at both Pros and Cons of each option available to make your decision easier. For example, when I was looking for a good premade bug out bag, I learned that there are 2 major paths to take:
Premade Bug Out Bag Option 1: The Basic Bag
The first option I looked into was buying a basic bag with the main essentials in it. This is frequently a cheaper option as there is less gear included in the bag. However, buying a basic premade BOB can add on some extra leg work once you have gotten it to round out and tailor the loadout to meet your specific needs.
This is a bonus to some people and can be a great option if they already have highly specific gear. It can also be a time saving approach for someone who has good survival knowledge and is comfortable choosing the additional gear that they need.
Basic Premade Bug Out Bags Typically Include:
- Basic 1st aid kit
- Water/Water bottle
- Fire Starter
- Emergency Blanket
- Small Knife
Pros of the Basic Premade Bug Out Bag Approach
- You are able to add to this basic set of items to tailor the bag you your specific needs
- Basic Premade Bug Out Bags typically contain the bare essentials of a survival kit which can be a pain to find and buy individually
- Buying basic items in a kit usually means they will be cheaper than buying everything individually
- The small basic items should come in quantities that are in the ball park of what you need for a 72 hour kit, instead of buying a pack of 100 bandaids when all you want is 5 for your bug out bag (BOB).
- Saves time instead of having to source lots of small, fiddly items
- These bags tend to cost less than more complete options
Cons of the Basic Premade Bug Out Bag Approach
- Need to spend time and additional money completing and tailoring the kit
- The bags that come with these kits are typically not extremely durable
- You may still end up paying for items that you do not want or need
Premade Bug Out Bag Option 2: The Complete Bag
The other option was to choose a bag that included everything I needed to survive. This option is best for someone who either does not have the knowledge or time to build their own bag. If you find the right bag you can meet all your survival needs in one, fell swoop. These bags are typically larger, heavier, and more expensive than the more basic bags. They also usually contain far more gear and a larger, better made backpack.
There are some companies, such as Ready To Go Survival that provide the option to build your own custom bug out bag which they will then pack and send directly to you. This differs from many other companies that will just send you their standard kits that they have pre-chosen according to their own expertise and opinions. This custom BOB option is a great way to get all the gear you need from one place at a good price and is a third option to consider.
Pros of the Complete Premade Bug Out Bag Approach
- All the hard work is done for you
- Buying all the included survival gear as a set is usually cheaper than buying everything individually yourself
- Grab and go solution
- Less experienced preppers get to have an expert choose their gear for them
Cons of the Complete Premade Bug Out Bag Approach
- Usually more expensive than basic option
- May end up with gear that does not apply to your local environment
- Less opportunity to tailor the bag’s contents to your needs without spending more money
- Heavier and larger than basic option
Weighing the options
If you are able to weigh the options of your gear you will be far more likely to end up buying something that actually meets your survival needs. When I was just starting out I failed to do this and ended up with a couple cheap premade BOBs that were nearly useless and caused me lots of frustration.
Consider this as an investment of your time that will pay off when you end up getting the right gear the first time. This is far better than having to buy several types in order to find the one that suits you best. Carefully consider what survival problems you want to address BEFORE you buy your gear and you save yourself time, money, and grief.
Rule #2: Know what quality looks like for your gear
When looking for any gear educate yourself as to what THE BEST of that item look like. If cost isn’t your primary factor you can of course just go and pick out that one. But, if you are looking for a deal you will want to know what both a great item and seller looks like.
With this knowledge, you will be able to quickly tell if a great deal you come across is worth investigating or a potential problem. Being able to identify quality gear and sellers will save you time, money, and headaches. Here is what I look for when researching any survival gear or online store.
Indicators of Quality
They Have Their Phone Number Listed On Their Web Site
If someone has invested the time and money in setting up a phone number for their business it generally means:
- They take their business seriously and are not a fly-by-night operation
- They care about customer service enough to allow people to talk to a live human being
- They are confident enough in the quality of their gear that they do not expect lots and lots of angry people to call them up complaining
- 70% of Americans look for product reviews before buying ANY product online
- Allowing customers to give feedback that is viewable by the general public is a good way to build (hopefully) positive buzz around your products
- It also means that they have confidence in the quality of those products and believe that others will want to share their positive opinions with others
- A website with poor quality goods will want to hide peoples’ angry reactions to from future customers and will generally not have the option to review their products
- A site that is sourcing quality gear will want you to know by advertising the recognizable name brands that they stock.
- This allows for comparison shopping for potential buyers which means that the site owner believes that they truly offer the best deal out there
- Displaying the brand names of their survival gear also shows confidence that even AFTER comparison shopping you will want to buy from them as they provide best price/service
- While everyone loves a deal the truth of the matter is that if you want quality survival gear that will perform to the level you need you are going to have to pay more than bottom dollar
- A site that sells true quality gear WILL NOT have the lowest prices in the world. Quality gear costs more to make because better materials are used to build it. This is true for anything from a tomahawk to a backpack.
- Most quality manufacturers enforce a Minimum Pricing Policy to encourage sellers to compete on factors other than price such as service and shipping. The result is that most name brand gear will sell at a similar price on most sites.
- Expect to get when you pay for when buying survival gear online
Rule #3: Know What Bad Web Stores Look Like
Now you know what positive signs to look out for when buying survival gear online. But what about the warning signs you are on a potentially bad site? Here is what I have learned to beware of:
Too cheap to believe
- Again, while there are some deals out there generally when buying survival gear you get what you pay for
- When I was buying premade bug out bags I found that if it looked too cheap to be true the kit was usually full of flimsy junk that would break if I actually needed to use it
- A price that is too good to be true can also be indicator of a knockoff product
Low res pictures
- Having low resolution photos can be used to hide poor workmanship
- This shows they do not care about their customers and just want to make a quick buck
- Quality sites will have large, high res images to let you check out the details of what you are buying
Trying to trick you with numbers of items included
- Poor quality sellers will inflate what they are sending you with large numbers of items
- For example, poor quality first aid kits do this by counting every band aid and wipe inside as a separate item where most reasonable people would count the first aid kit itself as 1 item.
- A “100 piece Bug Out Bag” may sound impressive but they are frequently trying to inflate what they are selling by confusing their customers
- Focus on quality, not quantity
These 3 rules will help you when buying any survival gear online. Remember to figure out what options are important to you first to save yourself time, money, and frustration. Then look for the positive signs I mentioned in Rule #2 to find the right site to buy from. Lastly, if you end up on a site with any of the warning signs that I mentioned in Rule #3, keep on moving! Buying survival gear online doesn’t have to be a trial, once you have it figured out you will have the best gear possible to make your survival kit unstoppable!
Do you have a nightmare story about buying survival gear online? What did you learn from it? What is your favorite place to buy gear from? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!