Survival essentials: 10 Items to buy at garage sales
05/26/2021 / By Zoey Sky / Comments
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Survival essentials: 10 Items to buy at garage sales

Being a prepper means investing in skills and tools that will help you survive when SHTF. But this lifestyle can be difficult for some people, especially those who are on a tight budget.

To save money on your preps, look for deals on tools and camping gear at garage sales. (h/t to

Garage sales are a prepper treasure trove because if you look hard enough, you can buy gently used items like cookware, tents, and backpacks at a cheaper price.

Sturdy bags and backpacks

Preppers need bags for different kits, and you can save a lot of money if you look for bags and backpacks at garage sales.

You’ll need backpacks for bug-out bags and pouches for an everyday carry kit (EDC kit) or first aid kits. Having sturdy bags helps you stay organized for different SHTF scenarios.

When buying bags, check each item thoroughly to see if the bag has any rips or missing stitches.


When looking for cookware at garage sales, search for lightweight, portable items that you can include in a field or bug-out cutlery kit. Check cookware for damages and try to haggle politely if you want something that’s not too perfect.

Items like cast iron pans or earthenware may be in demand among other shoppers, so wake up early if you want to have the first pick.


Hand tools are essential for a homestead, especially if you plan on starting prepper projects on your property.

When visiting garage sales, look for must-have tools like:

  • Hammers
  • Pliers
  • Ratchets
  • Saws
  • Screwdrivers
  • Shovels
  • Sockets
  • Vise grips
  • Wrenches

Garage sales hosted by older folks will usually have a great selection of these hand tools because they can no longer use them. Look for vintage axes, hammers, sledgehammers and other tools made 60, 70, or 80 ago because these items were made to last.

If you stumble upon an heirloom grade tool, they’ll be good as new with some restoration.


Lanterns are great for bugging out or for camping, so look for these items at the next garage sale in your area. Classic camping lanterns hold up well against battery-powered flashlights and headlamps.

Liquid-fueled lanterns are versatile and provide plenty of light. You can dial down to save fuel or provide as much light as you need.

Try to buy kerosene-fueled lanterns since kerosene is a versatile, stable and useful survival fuel.

Fishing gear

Fishing gear is another must-have for your stockpile, especially if you plan on fishing so you can feed yourself and your survival group. Alternatively, fishing gear is a worthy investment if you love camping.

Almost all garage sales will have items like fishing poles, lures, reels, tackle boxes and other items that you might need for your stockpile.


Before SHTF, it’s important to learn how to fish and hunt for small or large game. With some practice, you can use a bow for both hunting and self-defense. (Related: Prepping basics: A 10-item checklist for beginner preppers.)

You might also stumble upon bows or crossbows and arrows at garage sales after hunting season.


It might seem scary to buy clothing or blankets at garage sales, but you’ll be fine as long as you choose items that are still in good condition and don’t smell too funky. The best deals include old-fashioned wool blankets that will keep you warm when SHTF, even if it’s soaking wet.

Search for wool or mostly wool blend blankets. Before you pay for your items, check them for stains or any tears and holes.

If you find blankets that are serviceable but with a funny smell, deodorize them using baking soda or vinegar.

  • Sprinkle baking soda over the item and let sit for several hours before washing. If you’re washing clothes turn them inside-out, lay them on a towel on the floor, then sprinkle some baking soda on both sides. Baking soda is best for more sturdy fabrics like cotton and polyester, but do a patch test for other fabrics.
  • You can also use clear, distilled vinegar to deodorize blankets or clothing. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle of your laundry. Alternatively, you can replace detergent with vinegar and wash as you normally would at any water temperature. Vinegar will remove odors, freshen clothes and naturally soften them without leaving any residue.

Cold weather gear and clothing

Look for coats, parkas and sweaters at local garage sales. You might even snag military surplus items like military coats or jackets.

Garage sales are also great for specialized winter gear like hats, overalls, or mittens. If you want an item that’s a little funny-smelling, try to negotiate politely.

Always wash blankets and clothing before wearing them.


If you look hard enough, you can also snag serviceable boots at garage sales. Look for old-school, heavy-duty work or field boots that can be resoled.

Y0u can also stumble upon cowboy boots or pair of hiking boots. Even if boots look a little thin on tread, you’re good to go if it has a sole that can be replaced.


Sometimes, non-preppers will have a camping phase and go all-out on gear and tents. But after realizing how much work goes into camping or spending time outdoors, they will easily grow out of this phase.

Too bad for them, but lucky for you. If you find tents at a garage sale, ask the seller if all of the necessary parts are included in the frame of the tent.

Always search every nook and cranny of garage sales for deals on winter gear, cookware, or tools.

Visit for tips on how to save money on survival and prepping gear for your stockpile.

Sources include:

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