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The prepping items that we regret buying and why

Remember the nifty prepping gadget or shiny “gotta have it” object begging to be added to our prep items. Like crows, we swooped in and snatched it up and carried it off, only to discover it was garbage.

It wasn’t well made and broke after we used it 3 times. It didn’t do all the wonderful things it was supposed to do. It was a pain in the neck to use and more aggrevation that it was worth.

That regrettable prep item purchase was recycled, thrown out, buried in the backyard or gifted to an unsuspecting relative.

So come on now, ‘fess up. We’ve all done it. What was the worst prep related item that you ever purchased and why?

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  • Comments (39)

    • 4

      The worst prep-related item(s) I purchased were a couple of land navigation instruments. They are expensive and require quality, all weather packs for protection. This makes some somewhat, relatively speaking, heavy.

      I deem them useless. Driving or walking anywhere from here today is routine. During an initial hint of a situation where I must leave here, there will be a few routes closed. During an emergency from the Atlantic seaboard going inland/westward, the area will be saturated with evacuees and routes will be restricted to what the authorities allow.

      In practical terms, there will be few, if any, evacuees walking anywhere in safety if away from the security umbrella of the various orgs of responders.

      Water route even more restricted and enforced.

      The money spent on these instruments could have been better spent on quality field clothing and PPE.

      • 1

        Bob, Thank you for relating this info.

        We can all learn from what didn’t work as much as from what was or has been successful.

        Excellent point about expensive items that require special treatment. Sometimes, the fuss of carrying such gear just isn’t worth it and until you mentioned that, I hadn’t considered it.

        I’ve bumped my PPE gear to include two types of face shields after observing how the covid variant(s) became more tranmissible from the throat instead of the lung. I wanted an extra layer of protection over and above the protection that N-95s or surgical masks could provide.

        One of the shields has a better fit around face and is chemical rated. I also got replacement shields for both types.

        That decision was also due to the incredible stupidity of people during covid who would rather believe internet nonsense than physicians and researchers who tried to warn them. They were far too subtle.

        This would have been my warning:  “This is a virus. This is how it spreads. This is what you can do. If you don’t do what we are telling you, then you can die, or kill someone else. If you survive, you may be left with physical damage so debilitating, you will have plent of time to wonder for the rest of your life why you were so stupid in the first place.”

        I would have to say one of my worst prep items was some really garbage latex gloves. I check for thickness now. These gloves were like tissue.

    • 5

      When I was getting into prepping I didn’t have much guidance. Mostly what I saw on the Discovery channel with shows like Man vs. Wild and Survivorman. Most of the prepping websites out there were disorganized and conflicting. So all of that along with a small budget brought me to buy some things that don’t offer the best use. 

      One example is that the shelter that I put in my first BOB (which was actually a 50 cal ammo can) was one of those cheap tube tents. This thing probably wouldn’t last a night in real life and would offer very minimal protection.

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      Another thing that I kind of regret is that I bought a Ka-bar knife.

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      I thought that since it was good for the US marines at one time, it should be a good survival knife right? This thing is really big, unwieldy, and just not really practical. It’s not the best survival knife for me. 

      That’s why I hang out here on The Prepared. This is a great place to help prevent you from buying products and wasting your time on things that don’t matter and that are plain stupid.

      • 3

        Robert, It’s best to find out it wasn’t a great buy before you actually need to use it. The tent looks like something kids could have fun playing with/in.

        At least you bought one. I had plastic and rope strung between two trees on motorcycle trips, and then bought a leaking 2 person tent that was useless.

        Knives are a very personal choice because of how comfortable it feels in your particular hand. Also, the tasks you plan to accomplish with it are part of the criteria for choice.

        Quality is important, but then so is maintenance and caring for prep items. People can have inexpensive items that last forever and others pay a fortune for something and ruin it soon because they don’t properly care for what they have.

        It’s good learn why we made certain choice when a “bad buy” has happened. Sometimes it’s information, sometimes we are in a rush. It’s like grocery shopping on an empty stomach.

        Thanks for sharing your items, Robert.

      • 4

        Also, Robert, forgot to add. I love army/navy surplus stores. I could shop there all day every day. Those ammo cans are great containers.

      • 4

        Love the army surplus. Though, I wonder how much of it really is surplus and not just some cheap imitation civilian version. Also wonder what the army surplus store would look like say a year or two after WW3. Would it get a overwhelming amount of super cheap stuff that actually is surplus? Hope we never find out though.

      • 2

        Paulino, The stores I went to were the real deal, although some of them have shut down. There are still a few stores around with the real stuff.

        If we had WW3, I’m thinking we wouldn’t have much left over, other than a few items that could set of a geiger counter and glow in the dark.

        I hope we never find out either. Don’t think we will, though – Globally we all depend upon each other now, so that keeps everyone on their best behaviour.

      • 4

        Paulino, I’m familiar-intimately familiar.  I was a soldier in Vietnam and a NATO contractor in the former Yugoslavia. The young US soldiers told me they buy much of their clothing and some field gear from the catalogs such as “Brigade Quartermaster”s, “5-11”,..

        I retired from the overseas oil industry, off shore and onshore and we could get the best (within reason; no fur coats) stuff we wanted. Some of the members of my veterans orgs … both those on active duty and veterans attend … ask me for sources for warm socks, gloves, all the et cetra. 

        One of my veterans organizations owns/operates thrift stores. You can see the military stuff donated for sale. It’s donated because it has little value. 

        A closing “misc”; The US Army started a campaign to teach new soldiers about proper dressing for the field environments.  The theme was “Cotton kills” to highlight that cotton like that of a T-shirt keeps one wet with sweat and this can be dangerous.  The Cotton kills theme started about the time the Army modified their famous “cushion sole” 100% wool sock to 50% wool and 50% cotton.

      • 2

        I agree that wool is superior to cotton. Wish it was as cheap as cotton though. Do you know of any tricks to finding good deals on wool clothing? I’ve been meaning to go to my local thrift shop and check all the tags for wool clothing on the cheap.

        How was being a soldier in Vietnam? What kind of prepping skills did you learn from that?

      • 3

        Paulino, Consider planning for dedicating much time into visiting your area thrift stores. It will be worth it.

        I hated being in Vietnam.  I learned everything about preparedness there, from survival to later in life about health care.

        The true cost comparison is not wool versus cotton but rather wool versus the cost of medical supplies.

        The national vet org, Disabled American Veterans (“DAV”) operates thrift stores throughout much of the fruited plain. Those getting out of the service, frequently enough, donate military clothing to the DAV store since our store profits go to hospitalized veterans. Some of the military clothing, like the Army sweater with collar, are made of the itchy wool, forgot name of this wool, but several washings minimize this.  Don’t even know if this sweater is still issued anymore.  Regardless, do check for some wool stuff.  Even half wool, half other fabric is better than the alternative.

      • 2

        I’ve had some luck on Ebay if you know some brands that you want to trend it’s easier to know they won’t itch. 

      • 2

        Stanfield brand wool has been around for years and is a good washable wool. I know people who work outdoors in the cold and they swear by it.

      • 5

        Bob, Your mention of the veterans and active duty asking your for sources of warm socks, gloves, etc reminded me of someone I was told about by a local from Vancouver.

        In the ’60’s in Vancouver there was a WW1 veteran who frequented the area around Main Street. Back then there were no dumpsters, but metal garbage cans. He used to eat out of the garbage cans.

        He was still wearing his great coat and uniform, which he would have paid for when he enlisted.

        He had rags wrapped around his hands and feet. His army boots were long gone and whatever gloves he owned.

        He got off the boat in that great coat and uniform and lived out his life on the street. He deserved better than that.

        How does one donate to provide warm gloves and socks, etc?

      • 4

        Ubique, Contact the Manitoba area’s vet organization(s) and perhaps any community outreach program of area Canadian Forces. A focus will surely start. 

        That WWI vet in Vancouver is a classic example of our overall situation. The rags for boots and gloves just might show up again in the non-prepper communities.

        “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. …” Not too much is new under the sun.

         

      • 2

        Bob, Thank you for the info. I will look into provincial and National for donation info.

        People used to line their boots with newspapers. I remember a clip of a man who stopped and gave the shoes off is feet to a man who had no shoes. It was one of the kindest things I have ever seen.

        “My father said there were two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.”

        Marlo Thomas

      • 4

        I go with ubique, knives are a personal choice. I just bought a Ka-Bar companion BK22 and never had a knife like that before. You can see it on the left. 

        On the right you see an item i regret. It is a MilTec knife which was never really sharp or useful. I spent 20 euros for it. Even if this is only a tenth of the Ka-Bar, it’s blown money. Lessons learned: buy cheap, buy twice 🙂

        This Ka-Bar knife is very sharp and with the fulltang and thick blade, i think it won’t let you down if you need a good blade. 

        When do i really need a knife like that? Even if I am often on my land, most work can also be done by an axe or cheaper knife. 

        On the other hand, having is mostly better than needing. I have to admit that this is also a factor

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      • 4

        Stormlord,

        The Ka-Bar knife looks sturdy and very well made. I would put my money on that one also.

        Sometimes a not great buy is how we learn valuable lessons. I chock it up to part of prepping (but hopefully I won’t make mistakes a big part of prepping lol).

      • 4

        I’ve had a few of those ‘lessons’ and have bought a mediocre product and later upgraded. I usually keep the mediocre product for a car get home bag and keep the nicer item in my every day carry or bug out bag. I’ve also given some of my older items to new preppers who may be on a tighter budget to help them out.

        Worst case scenario, it can be a beater or test item where you can really put it through it’s paces to try and learn better about what you can and can’t do with it. For example, try practicing sharpening on a smooth river rock with your trash knife there instead of mucking up your nice new Ka-bar.

      • 2

        With you there, Dragoon!  Until I found this site and got a lot more serious about BOB and GHB kits, I had a procession of gear that started as backpacking items that I had upgraded but didn’t want to part with otherwise it was money down the drain.  So I put it aside with the prep gear.  

      • 2

        Dragoon – Good ideas re what to do with less than satisfactory purchases.

        Like the idea of using it as a beater or test item. Good on you for helping new preppers, btw.

    • 3

      Years back,  prior to message boards, when I wanted to have some food in storage I purchased some MREs.  Seemed like a logical item to me.  Problem was, they don’t have a very long shelf life and after 4-5 years I threw them out.

      But we learn from others & our mistakes.  I went away from pre prepared foods with short shelf lives to staples stored in mylar bags/oxygen absorbers inside sealed plastic pails.  These will last 25+ years and are much cheaper.

      • 3

        Redneck,  I almost went the MRE route also because I thought it would work better for my storage at the time.

        Storing what we eat and eating what we store is a much better solution.

        I used sealed plastic pails also, but not with mylar bags – only the oxy absorbers. At the time, I was trying to keep cost down and had read about people only using pails and oxy absorbers.

        One of the biggest course corrections I had to make on  food storage actually came about as a result of this forum. I believe you raised the point on another thread about canned proteins, Spam and other types.

        Because of that, I realized I had way too much canned tuna and surely we would get food fatigue very rapidly. So, I have been changing up the variety of canned proteins. I am also including freeze-dried proteins now.

        So, thank you for that. I wouldn’t have caught that as quickly, if at all.

      • 2

        I hope you learned your lesson on Mylar bags.  When it comes to food storage, they are the most important part.  They are specially formulated as a barrier to air & moisture.  A plastic pail is not a barrier, except to rodents and insects.  An oxygen absorber inside a pail accomplishes little.  Put it inside a sealed Mylar bag, and the contents stay oxygen free.  Air can’t get in & the air inside the Mylar is very low in oxygen.

      • 3

        Hi Redneck, Okay, I need to run this past you in more detail.

        I use food grade pails with special seals and store large flaked oats and brown and white rice in them, and the oxy absober.

        I label all my pails with dates and have used brown rice in a 10 gal pail that was over 8 years old. It was completely dry and fresh. This is the same for all my other dry preps. 

        My flour is in it’s original packaging and in a sealed food grade drum with other items like sugar (all in baggies in case of leaks)

        Nothing has ever been off, or rancid, which is the big issue with oily rice like brown rice, nuts and whole wheat flour.

        Because it works so well for me, I have never switched over to mylar bags inside the pails. I wonder if I am getting these results because a) my basement is very cool/cold and b) I run a dehumidifier all the time so my house is dry and c) I am very careful to go/in out of my pails to fill working supply and ensure very clean and dry conditions while I so and that air is “burped out of pail before resealing.

        I am conflicted because dry good storage hasn’t been a problem for me. Should I change over to the mylar despite these results? Thanks in advance.

      • 4

        Yes, you are getting better results because of your location (the far north), your cool basement & dry air.  Cool & dry extends the shelf life of everything.  Most people live in areas with longer hotter summers and more humidity.  In that case, the Mylar keeps the food dry.  The plastic pail won’t.  I help my stores oy having them in a well insulated room with a dedicated wall AC unit to keep it cool year round.  Otherwise it would be in the 90s for several months.

      • 3

        Hi Redneck,

        I have decided to go with mylar bags and a proper sealing unit.

        This ties into the future of prepping thread in how I am approaching my plans. There are a lot of moving parts right now and many variables I must consider.

        Because of your reply above, I realized I was relying far too much on how I can control the climate inside my home with the dehumidifer. I live near a lake and it does get humid here in the summer.

        So I am taking steps to shore up that weakness in my current preps. First. the mylar bags and proper sealing of them inside my pails.

        Then I am adding an old school dessicant system that doesn’t rely upon electricity but works very well to take out humidity. I need a back up in case my dehumidifer fails.

        I was unable to locate the item I had seen before, but here is a link that includes information on how to DIY a dehumidifier How to dehumidify your home

        The one I saw before was a long hanging bag containing some sort of dessicant that you hung in the room and it would drip into a bucket, which would be emptied.

        The rock salt bucket system looks good. I noticed that other searches said that calcium chloride and activated charcoal is also used to dehumidify.

        The hanging bag ones have a range for how long they will last, some 30 days, other bags longer and seem to be pricey if you have to put up more than one bag. I also noted that one person liked his product but couldn’t get refills for it. So I am leaning toward the rock salt, or the calcium chloride or activated charcoal and bucket idea.

        I am also buying a back up dehumidifier to have ready (and a back up sump pump for good measure – when floods and heavy rains happen, you can’t find one for your life here). My plumbed in natural gas generator isn’t in the budget yet, so I want to these options in place for now.

        Thank very much for helping me work through this issue and see a big weak spot in my food storage environmental conditions. The mylar bags will go a long way to keep everything safe if any type of dehumidification setup fails.

      • 3

        You are welcome.  I don’t even bother with dehumidifiers down here.  Just too much humidity here.  In many of my Mylar bags, I add desiccants in with the oxygen absorbers.

    • 3

      No specific item springs to mind, BUT buying stuff not made locally (UK) has often proven disastrous as spares and repairs have not been easily available it at all.  Stuff from China, Tiawan, America, Europe etc  that was good quality and affordable but turned into expensive errors when they needed repair. Radios, GPS, LED flashlights, air rifles etc etc all imported and all unable to repair. So try and buy gear made in your own country.

      • 4

        Bill, Good point about repairability and buying local.

        Most items I can think of will require repair or parts at some point. It would be a nightmare to find out parts or repair is not possible because of where the item was sourced. Any warranty would be meaningless under those conditions.

        Thanks for the heads up on that one. I will remember to consider future repair/parts issues next time I buy prep items.

    • 4

      I regret buying the Hoss Wheel Hoe. I thought it would be a great tool for weeding and tilling, but it’s pretty flimsy and struggles with my clay soil. Plus, it takes up a ton of space in my shop. I’m transitioning to raised beds, and I might see if it’ll work for weeding between them, but I’ll probably try to sell it.

      • 3

        I can see why you bought it, from the pictures it looks like a neat tool, but I also can see it being flimsy now that you say that. Sell it soon! Gardening season is just around the corner

      • 2

        Josh, It certainly looks like it could be a challenge to use it well.

        Your experience helps me to remember storage space when selecting items. Also for gardening equipment, I must remember to consider my local soil.

        It reminded me to read the entire description of an item very carefully – what is the description of metal thickness or gauge.

        Thank you for sharing that info, Josh.

    • 3

      I’ve wasted a lot of money over the years

      I bought some “trade goods” at one point, cheap disposable lighters that would have led to some unhappy customers, LOL

      Rodents in the buckets.
      Generally mice, etc won’t get in stuff that is sealed up and odorless. But when we had the farm mice were bad, even with a herd of cats. I had several bad experiences with them gnawing through plastic buckets. Once in some short term flour storage, once in some saved seed, once through both bucket and 5gal mylar bag! I never use big bags so to limit damage, and use mostly small to medium size steel garbage cans rather than plastic buckets. They aren’t very portable or stackable but with vertical dividers and 1 gal mylar/O2 they are good for long term storage. I’ve been flipping houses lately so do have some buckets at the moment so I got a cat, my wife thinks it was for her.  ;^)

      I suppose I could chalk a portion of my hand tools up to prepping, Braces & bits to hand planes and chisels to vintage handsaws… naw, that’s just a hobby.

      • 1

        I watch like a hawk for any rodent infestation in the house. So far, so good, but vigiliance is important. 

        I have my buckets/preps arranged so that I can easily check them for any signs of rodents droppings.

        The shed had signs of mice and that was fixed by spraying foam insulation around the gaps in base of the metal shed. They haven’t been back since.

        On our farm, our dogs was the mouser. Dad gave up on cats as mouse control.

        Hey, those hand tools are prepping – think of how long some of them have lasted compare to what is produced today.

        I practically lived inside my Dad’s tool shed on the farm. It was an old wood building with a dirt floor and it was packed with tools and different types of fasteners. He had all these old tin cans full of stuff. It was my pirate treasure.

        We saved bent nails and one of the first things I learned to do as a child was how to straighten a nail by rolling it and gently tapping. It taught me how to hit the object not my fingers.

        It also kept me from playing with his hammer and extracting nails from key positions in our dairy barn. It was a loose rail too far.

      • 2

        Regarding the mice getting in the buckets, was it from the lids that are thinner plastic? 

        The area of Florida I live has an especially large African rat population and I frequently have problems being near a river and local restaurants. I had an extra annoying rat that made me put my extra food in buckets and put the buckets on those cheap plastic grey shelves with not much room above the lid, but I know how rats can get anywhere. Anyhow this rats surprisingly didn’t get into it and ultimately it was my Rat Terrier that finally killed it.

        Everyone’s rodent problem is different, I’m just curious how yours went.

    • 3

      Pre-Made First Aid Kit(s).  I think I’ve purchased ever more expensive versions as I’ve prepped over the years.  I usually augmented them a bit, but until I found this site, I had not really examined them critically (or frankly known any better – thanks TP).  Now that I’ve revamped my prep planning and supplies/kits, I can clearly see how much money and even worse, false security, I had invested in these.  

      • 2

        Really good point on the pre-made first aid kits.

        It can be a lot of “fluff ‘n stuff” in those kits. I learned to purchase items separately from medical/safety supply companies.

        It’s such an important item to have on hand and I’m glad to know better know.

        Thank you for bringing this up as I think that it will help others new to prepping.

    • 3

      Cold steel ‘Bushman’ knife. I had just started prepping, and I thought how versatile it was that the knife had a hollow handle and could be made into a spear. Previously, I’d only used cooking knives.

      As I gradually learned a bit more about ‘woodsy’ skills, and practiced a little (I’m still not very good), I found that the Bushman knife was wildly impractical; too heavy, weighted weirdly, hard to store (I made a sheath, it kept cutting it’s way out of it because of the curve). Now I keep a couple of Mora knives around instead; they have rubberized grip and don’t slide out of your hands, the shape of the handle keeps your hand from sliding up over the blade, they are light and well-balanced, easy to sharpen, and come with a great, lightweight, durable, well-fitted plastic sheath. 

      The other one that comes to mind was also a knife. I had read how great the British hacking knife (used in construction) was because it has a soft spine and can be safety used to baton, wood, also hefty enough to serve as a sort of a hatchet. Well, I practiced with it, removing invasive vines and brush, and I almost cut my thumb off! Admittedly, I was chopping too close to my other hand, but with a chopper that small, I had to do so in order to get any force. After that scare, walking home blood dripping from the gash in my thumbnail, I later tested the other thing it was ‘great’ at and found that the spine was so soft it deformed if you used it to baton wood. I recycled that POS and bought a few folding saws until I found one that fit my hands nicely (Bahco Laplander). Not totally satisfied with that one, but even if you’re exhausted and getting sloppy, it’s hard to hurt yourself more than a minor cut. And, with a 7″ blade, if you’re patient enough and have the grip strength, you can cut though 6.5″ branches!

      • 2

        Sun Yeti, Great info on your experience with knives and why you went from the Bushman to the Mora knives. I also have to have decent grip or to me it’s useless.

        Also appreciate your journey from British hacking knife to a Bahco Laplander folding saw. 

        It is a good example of the right gear for the right job and how to make good choices based on how and what your learned along the way.

        Thank you for sharing your experience.