The “It’s Only a Dollar” Kit

Cheap kits have been done before and will be done again. That being said, a trip to the local “Everything’s a $1” type store was done to put Level 1 of the financial side of planning into practice. It is important to remember that being prepared does not require a lot of money if you are willing to put in time in exchange. This might simply be the only level of kit you can afford at the moment. If so, then it is much better than empty pockets in an emergency. Some of the items bought will be used as is, but a few will be re-purposed into something more useful.
The idea behind this plan is to imagine if you were stranded without any gear during an emergency and wanted to spend as little of the cash on hand as possible to build a kit. The remaining cash may have to last you a while, but the kit will also need to be enough to help you out. It is a fine line with an unknown future.

A Bag to Hold it All

In this scenario, the original plan to get the bag last was changed due to the limited selection of bags large enough to hold a kit. This bag can be used on both shoulders or as a sling bag by using the strings as one strap. It will do in a pinch and is not bad for $1.

Water Container

This bottle was chosen due to its volume, the fact it has a handle, and that it has a “snack container” on bottom that could double as a cup.

This aluminum spray bottle was an option if the spray top was removed and replaced with a 2 liter bottle cap. This would have allowed water to be boiled directly in it. It was not chosen because of its very small size and the fact that attaching a strap would be more difficult.

A metal bowl was added to allow boiling of water and possible meal preparation. It fits in the bag with other items nestled in it.


This kit is light on food purposefully. It would be easy to stock up on food for a few more bucks at the store, but there are lots of variables based on how far you need to travel, the exact emergency, and personal preference.  In this real instance, storage is the worry. These cans were only a $1 for both.  They would be easy to ration out and do not require heating or water. The cans are also pop-top so they do not need a can opener and the can could be reused for other things.

A 2 pack of spoons was picked up since utensils are necessary when you may not have the ability to clean you hands well. The spoons can always be boiled to disinfect them. Hygiene can be a major concern in a bad situation.


This 4 by 6 tarp is enough along with some cordage to make a usable shelter. It will not be the Ritz, but it can keep you dry and help you stay warm.  It is also light and fits well into the bag.

This cotton twine is 420 foot so that leaves you plenty to use for shelter construction and anything else you may need. It could also be used as fire tinder if you frayed out a piece.

A section of the twine was used to braid a lanyard for the drink bottle above.


Fire is very important for warmth, boiling water, cooking food, and morale. This pack of lighters should last a very long time. Disposable lighters are always good choice. Even if you have more ways to make fire, why go the hard route until you need to?

Paired with the lighters we have cotton balls and petroleum jelly (not pictured but bought). This combination makes great fire starters. The cotton balls could also be used to clean wounds or as part of a charcoal filter setup. The petroleum jelly can be used as chap stick or to cover abrasions.


In addition to the cotton balls and petroleum jelly above,  a box of band-aids and a tube of triple antibiotic ointment were picked up. The ointment could be used in the place of the petroleum jelly for fire starting. Due to the small amount in the tube, it was reserved for medical only. This the barest bones of a first aid kit, but is a beginning.


Unless you can build torches, a light is needed if you plan to travel at night. This flashlight and a pack of batteries fit the bill and should last a while since the batteries contain enough for over 2 sets for the flashlight.


A two pack of bandannas give you a head covering, dust mask, large particle filter, or anything else you can thing of. One could also be fashioned into a pad to use with the water bottle lanyard. That would keep the lanyard from causing issues on your shoulder after you fill the bottle.

Gloves are not just for warmth. In an emergency, you may end up dealing with debris or broken glass. Gloves help to protect you from injury. Injury is the last thing needed in a situation where you have no medical assistance and limited hygiene.


A knife is a necessity. This was a medium, sized one. The larger butcher knives and serrated steak knives were passed over in favor of a plain edge. This will be easier to sharpen in less than ideal conditions. The plastic handle is not perfect, but is slightly textured to allow for a good grip surface.

Why is a cell phone case included? There was a plan for it. Keep reading.

The cell phone case had a slit cut in the top of the pouch flap. That hole was reinforced with duct tape. The foam that came in the pouch was left in there for rigidity. Then the entire case was tightly wrapped with twine. This protects the thin plastic case and could be used for cordage.

The clip on the back was left outside the wrap to allow it to be attached to your belt. Now you have a sheath that is much sturdier than a piece of cardboard. In addition, the top of the pouch was left so the knife handle can be pushed partially in. This keeps the knife snug.


Duct tape was included for general use. It was used on the knife sheath. It can be used to repair your bag, hold cotton balls on larger wounds, cutproof the palm of your gloves, or tape the bottom of your pant legs closed to prevent ticks from getting in.

Trash bags can be converted to a poncho, used to carry water, make into a shelter or ground cover, or hung to create a screen to conceal you. This is a pack of 7 so it gives you some options.



The above list totaled $20 before tax. It is a good basic kit. There are other items that could be added, but space in the bag was a concern and a limit had to be set somewhere. For most anyone, $20 is a reasonable amount to begin with.

Using the $1 store is just one example of using time instead of money. You could also visit thrift shops or garage sales. Both of these places can be great both for complete items or parts that you can use to assemble something useful. If you are shrewd, you might even be able to buy items to resell. The profit from that could be used to buy other items you cannot get from these sales. It all comes down to how hard you want to work to enact your plan to be prepared.

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