Monday, June 20, 2011

Bang for the Buck

I’m a day late. Generally, I try to post every Sunday, but had a small emergency that delayed me. Anyways, here goes.

I’m a regular reader of many survival or preparedness related blogs. And on these blogs, you’ll often find equipment reviews. Heck, I do a few myself. What annoys me is that with all of these reviews, the reader is often being told that this knife, this rifle, that water filter or the newest bit of load bearing equipment is, if not touted as THE way to go, then at least ‘one of the very best’ out there. And that can lead to gear envy.

Yup, the dreaded gear envy. Sadly, no one is reviewing your old Puma-Tec knife and singing its praises. No reviewer is talking about your old Remington 870 Wingmaster and extolling it as the best thing since sliced bread. And so it goes, on and on in every category of gear you can imagine. The marketplace has or is going to come up with something better than what you have, and aren’t you a schmuck for not having it?.

If you’re smart, you’ll realize that your old 870 will do the job, and getting a 12 gauge with a military styled stock in black or camo will not make you a better shot. Having the latest in ‘combat’ knives will not make you a more deadly knife fighter. ( In fact, two things about that: 1. If there is somebody in arm’s reach trying to hurt you, you’ve already screwed up royally. 2. To quote a novel and recent TV program: “Stick them with the pointy end”. But I digress….)

In reality, newer fancier gear will not significantly improve your survivability. There is something called the 80/20 principle that runs something like this: 80% of your result is achieved with the first 20% of inputs. The remaining 80 % of input will increase your result an additional 20%. An interesting business principle, but how does that apply to us?

What it means is that a good, serviceable knife will do the job. The extra ‘oomf’ you get from a bigger fancier knife will cost you a lot of bucks for marginal improvement. The same goes for firearms, water filters, binoculars and almost every piece of equipment I can think of.

The only place I don’t see that being the case is with food and water. There, another week’s worth of supplies is just that. It a definite one to one, where the value received is exactly the same per unit of input regardless of the amount of input.

So think about it the next time you are trying to decide between more storage food and a new rifle, or more water and a shiny Rambo knife: Decide where the best value for your dollar is. Make sure you’re putting out 20% for an 80% result, and not the other way around.


  1. Add to that, when it hits the fan, food will become currency. And those with food will be able to trade for fancy binoculars to their hearts content.

  2. I am a firm believer in having the right gear/tool/supply for the job - I just don't want to pay top dollar for it.

    Used, rescued, or last year's gear fills many of the necessary slots for me, as well as personally making some of my own gear, food supplies, etc.

    Thriftiness is a survival skill, a critical one really.

    Today's homework assignment: Build something for your survival gear. It can be as simple as you want, right down to some cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly for fire starting, or as complicated as a solar desalination kit so you can get drinking water from the ocean (and any other water source when you get right down to it!), but make something!

    The confidence you gain from the simple act of making something with your own hands and then seeing it work as intended can be a huge boost to both your self-esteem and your survival chances.

  3. Totally agree. building your skills and ability to improvise is far better than endless aquisition of bigger and better stuff.