Buyer Beware: The Real Cost of Survival, Prepping, Tactical, and Outdoors Equipment

Buyer Beware

Would you trust your life to a piece of survival gear that costs less than $8.00 to manufacture, but you paid over $70 to purchase? No, not many people would. But many do on a daily basis, and they simply do not realize it.

Authors Note: I wrote this article for two reasons. The first is simple, I am sick and tired of seeing companies price gauge people who purchase outdoor equipment, survivalist gear, prepper equipment, and tactical kit. Secondly, having been in many situations where my life has literally depended on my skills and equipment I was carrying at the time. In good conscience I cannot sit idly by, and watch people buy items of gear which will not add any value to them in a real life survival/SHTF situation.

Here is a question for you: do you honestly now the TRUE COST of all your survival, tactical, outdoors, and prepping kit and equipment? And, I do not mean how much you paid for it. I mean the actual cost a company incurred to manufacture/wholesale purchase, ship, and market each item of kit and equipment they sell to a consumer. The reality is, not many people do and to be honest, neither did I until the other day. Due to what I found out, I was actually shocked at how much of a markup some companies make on certain items, and how little they value their customers life. Think about it, you purchase kit and equipment to prepare and use for a SHTF/survival situation and companies know this. But, in all honesty, many of them do not care. All they worry about is their bottom line.

Here is an example for you: the other week I was approached by a company rep, who asked me to sell ‘the ultimate survival/tactical/camping shovel’. They offered me a 20% commission fee on each shovel I sold, and as an added bonus, I would not have to buy any in advance, nor would I have to hold stock. All I would have to do is take the orders and forward them onto the company along with their payment, and I would keep my commission. When I asked for a sample to field test, the rep then offered me a 50% commission fee, per shovel. I asked again for a sample to field test, I even said I would pay full market value of the item. The rep was getting a little uneasy at this point and made an excuse to leave the chat. Initially  I left it at that, for the time being. Then about an hour later, I was curious as to what the hell this ‘ultimate survival/tactical/camping shovel could actually do. So, I looked it up. I then realized that I had seen the gimmicky adds on my Facebook feed for the past week. You know the ones, where it shows this magnificent shovel cutting through steel and smashing through bricks.

Shovel Master
Left: Shovel Ordered by a Customer who purchased the shovel on the right of the photo. Right: shovel seen in 'Ultimate Survival, Tactical, Camping Shovel' Facebook Ad. You can see the visible difference.

This got me to thinking, if the company was willing to pay me 50% commission for not really doing much, what was their profit margin. I then began to look over the internet at various sites, to establish how much this shovel would cost to purchase from the manufacture. What I found, actually shocked me. And when I worked out the overall costs, I was even more shocked. With this, I posted on various social media groups I am apart of for prepping and survival to warn people about this scam. The responses were mixed. Some people were already aware of this shovel, others said they ordered it and the results they had obtained with the item did not live up to the video. Others said they were thinking about ordering it but had not made the purchase yet. One person was kind enough to share with me a photo of the shovel he had purchased, and his honest view of the item. Overall, it seemed that some people were aware from just watching the short video, that the item was a cheap tool. While others found out the hard way, by purchasing the item. The bottom line was, the item was nothing but junk. One of the most shocking facts in all of this, was that unscrupulous people were willing to profit off other peoples misfortune. This led me to look more closely at other items of kit and equipment, purchased by survivalists/peppers. 

'The Ultimate Survival, Tactical, Camping Shovel'

Naturally, the first item I am going to look at is the ‘Ultimate Survival, Tactical, Camping Shovel’. I found that there are many different variants of this item, but they were all roughly had the same wholesale price.

Country of Manufacture: China
Wholesale Price: $13.80 – $18.50 (dependent on items purchased)
Shipping Cost: $0.11 per item (sea freight 20 foot container) 
Import Tax: $2.07 – $2.78 (based on current US import tax rate of 15%)
Total Wholesale Price: $15.98 – $21.39 (based on wholesalers pricing)
Regular Retail Price (RRP): $49.99 – $79.99(based on avg. RRP)
Profit: $34.01 – $58.60 per item

Typically, Chinese distributors will purchase the shovel in China and then ship it to the US via sea freight. Once in the US, the distributor will house the items in warehouses paid for by the Chinese government. Then, US merchants will buy the items from the distributor. It will be the US companies that make the most profit out of this transaction, and not the Chinese companies. On average, the profit margin of each item by the US merchant is between 212.83% to 273.96%. Normally, a vendor would expect to gain a net profit margin of around 5% – 10%, dependent on volumes ordered.  

Overall, the item seems to have good reviews on Amazon and other vendor sites. But companies can actually pay for false and misleading reviews to increase sales. Most real customers who used the shovel found that many of the components was plastic, and the shovel broke in a short space of time, when being used as shown in the Facebook Ad. 

Folding Shovel 2
Survival Kit - Cheap

Survival Kits

Survival kits are one of the biggest sellers, in the survival/prepping/tactical market place, due to the popularity of having a multi-use kit in one container. Also, due to the wide spread use of the ‘survival kits’ by a number of Spec Ops units, this has also led to the popularity of the item. 

Country of Manufacture: China
Wholesale Price: $6.00 – $8.00 (dependent on items purchased)
Shipping Cost: $0.11 per item (sea freight 20 foot container) 
Import Tax: $0.90 – $1.20 (based on current US import tax rate of 15%)
Total Wholesale Price: $7.01 – $9.31 (based on wholesalers pricing)
Regular Retail Price (RRP): $33.99 (based on avg. RRP)
Profit: $26.98 – $24.68 per item

Again, as with the shovel, a Chinese distributors will purchase the survival kit in China and then ship it to the US. The kits can also be personalized with a company logo and tag line, and is typically sold by a US vendor. The profit margin of each item sold by the US merchant is between 265.09% to 384.88%. The survival kits also come in different configurations, but cost about the same as what you can see in the top survival kit photo. However, one survival kit that was found to be widely distributed in the US, had a total cost of $1.26 (including import tax and shipping), with an RRP of $29.90 which gave the vendor a profit margin of 2,273,02%. As previously described, a company can pay a third party service, to give them false reviews on Amazon and other sales platforms, even with a verified purchase. When these survival kits were field tested by the Texas Adventure and Survival School, it was found that many of the items broke within a few uses. It was also remarked that if someone truly had to depend on this survival kit, it would do more harm then good. 

The overall reality is, if you truly had to depend on either of the items listed above, your chances of survival would be dramatically reduced. The only determining factor, which may make a difference and greatly increase your chances of survival, would be your skills and knowledge base.

It is saddening to think, that US and Chinese companies are profiting off peoples misfortunes, and a will to survive, no matter what the cost. However, I would not recommend anyone putting their faith in the above items, as they are not only cheaply made, they are not even designed to be effective in their application. For instance, if you look at the survival kit to your right, which is approved for use by NATO forces, you will notice that it contains more specific survival items, such as water purification tablets and other items, then the one sold on Amazon and other sales platforms. And the funny thing is, the Combat Survival Kit to the right is cheaper then the one shown above. 

Survival Tin

Remember, just because something comes with an awesome video and a few five star reviews, it does not mean that the item will be fit-for-purpose. You can never put a value on a persons life, but sadly some companies do and will continue to do so. Make sure that before you purchase an item form Amazon or any other sales platform, that you do your homework. One day, your life may depend on the kit and equipment you carry, so make sure it is serviceable and up to meet your tasks. If you would like more information on Survival Kits, please contact us.

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