Survival gear from WalMart
Everyone I communicate with is concerned with the costs of survival gear. Me too, for that topic. So, looking for good stuff among the Chinese made junk at WalMart for those of us on tight budgets is a skill we should all develop.
While on a scouting mission to WalMart for ammo (sold out of the good stuff I always look for, as usual) with a birthday gift card that needed to be used up, I fell back to plan B since there was no useful ammo for me to grab. A side note on that comment: Being able to manufacture your own ammo is priceless. Plan B of course is to look for useful survival gear in the following top four categories: Fire, Water, Shelter, Food. I scored on the Fire and Water items and will present them here. WalMart did have a thin selection of ‘backpacking gear’ (better than noting gear quality) and some Mountain House dehydrated backpacking food items.
My WalMart store was pretty thin in the better lines of fire making equipment, with just a couple cheesy fire steel products, and a small selection of ‘weather proof’ matches. However they did have Ultimate Technologies ‘Wet Fire’ fire starting product. The price was typical retail for this stuff, at about one dollar per piece of individually wrapped fire starters.
If you have the budget to buy these in quantity, good for you. Personally, I save the exotic materials like this for the most dire conditions where it’s down to I MUST get a fire going in abysmal weather, where my standard fire making skills and normal tools and materials aren’t up to the job. This product will then save the day, as it really will light while floating in a puddle. As part of my every day carry items, I have a pack of weatherproof matches wrapped in Saran wrap and a single Wetfire in it’s wrapper in a pocket of every jacket, coat, ‘hoodie’ and sweater I own. You never know when you’ll need such things, and safe beats sorry every time. My warmest winter coat also contains a couple of energy bars and a very good brand of firesteel.
You don’t need to use up an entire cube, most of the time. Unless you need a fire built in a swamp after it’s rained for 4 days.
Next item of great use found on this trip to WalMart is a Sawyer Mini-filter, for just under $2o US. First, let’s get a bit of a stretch, in my opinion, out of the way. On the package, Sawyer claims this little filter can do 100,000 gallons of water. I suspect the ‘fine print’ of that claim must be from filtering tap water. But to be generous, let’s say that it could filter 10,000 gallons of typical ‘found water’ in the wild. To me that’s pretty impressive for this price.
This comes in a 4 piece kit, consisting of the filter, a straw, a squeeze bag and a reverse flushing syringe. This reverse flushing syringe is key to the life of this kind of filter. This is used, with CLEAN WATER, to flush out the accumulation of sludge that is trapped by the filtering system allowing more water to be filtered. You just put the syringe against the mouthpiece end and press firmly. Away goes a bunch of sludge the filter has trapped in the filter, allowing more filtering as you need it
This is quite versatile for your survival situations, or for mere backpacking in the boonies. Your options: Drink straight from the creek or clear puddle with the straw attached to the filter. If you have a spare soft drink bottle, fill it in the creek or puddle, just screw it right to the top, drink your creek water out of the bottle for a portable water supply.
The squeeze bag supplied with the kit can be used instead of the soft drink bottle and is handy for force filtering of creek water to fill up CLEAN containers you may have, to stockpile some water as you travel. Just don’t squeeze it excessively, you may burst the bag.
If you happen to have a hydration bladder / pack you can install your Sawyer filter in the line from the bladder to your mouthpiece.
The back flushing idea would work here as well. It’s nice to have that filter added to your hydration bag, saving you a bunch of time in filling your bag by the rather slow squeeze bag method described above. You could rig up a gravity fed setup if you have a base camp where you had time to let gravity do the work for you. Get creative and re-purpose 2 liter beverage bottles by cutting away the bumpy bottoms of the bottle, suspend with some paracord or wire, screw your Sawyer to the cap end and fill with found water. The filtered water is then collected in CLEAN bottles or your hydration bag. If your found water is full of trash and debris, muddy or whatever, pre-filtering the muck out will help the life of your critical little filter. Use a spare sock, bandanna, tee shirt or other similar material to at least get the really big stuff out of the water. Or for a long term base camp, a made from scratch pre-filtering station.
So, there you are. You don’t have to visit the high priced sporting goods store for ALL your gear. There are lots of online places to shop that have pretty decent prices, as well.