Visiting a flea market is a great way to spend an afternoon with your family. However, flea markets are also an excellent place to pick up various prepper and survival items.
Some of the Best Prepper and Survival Items at Flea Markets Are:
- Military Surplus
- Sporting Goods
- Cooking Equipment and Kitchenware
- Household Items
In this article, I’ll cover specific items from each category that you may want to look for. I’ll also go over other tips to help you get the most from the money you spend.
One of my favorite prepper and survival-related items to look for at flea markets is military surplus. You can find miscellaneous items like cots and mosquito nets, and occasionally, MREs.
The flea market that I visit in Canton, Texas almost always has a wide assortment of ammo cans. They range from small 30-caliber cans all the way to larger 40mm ones. In addition to storing ammunition, they also do a good job serving as toolboxes or containers for various kits.
You may also be able to find different kinds of packs or load-bearing equipment. Most of what I have seen has been older Alice-style gear, however, you may be able to find MOLLE-compatible bags, pouches, and vests if you look hard enough.
Flea markets also tend to have military surplus clothing, such as BDU pants and jackets. Larger flea markets may even have vendors who sell boots and cold-weather coats.
One of my favorite military surplus flea market finds has been a 5-gallon military water container. These usually cost somewhere between $40 and $50 dollars when new. I was able to pick up one in good shape for around $20. The same vendor was selling military gas cans as well.
Related: Best Prepper Guns
Sporting goods are another example of prepper and survival gear you can find at flea markets. Different types of bags and duffles are easy to find, and you may even be able to find more specialized equipment.
For example, I’ve been able to find hunting gear like waders and duck decoys. I’ve also seen various kinds of animal traps and even a deer feeder. In Texas, vendors even sell firearms, ammunition, and shooting targets.
You may also be able to pick up different kinds of fishing equipment. I’ve seen many fishing poles, reels, and lures, along with other items like minnow buckets.
Flea markets are also good places to pick up general camping equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, lanterns, and oil lamps.
Related: Emergency Lighting Solutions for Preppers
Tools are another item that preppers should keep an eye out for at flea markets. One of my favorite things about buying tools at flea markets is that you can find older, higher-quality, tools for a very good price.
Many of the tools that you find may have a thin layer of rust on them. These tools can be cleaned up as good as new with a little work. However, do your best to avoid tools that are starting to pit from rust. These may have lost their original strength and be more trouble than they’re worth.
You should be able to find a good selection of mechanic tools such as ratchets, sockets, and wrenches. Since they’re often sold individually, you stand a good chance of being able to find a replacement if you have lost a tool from a set you already have.
Since flea markets are a good place to find antiques, you also stand a good chance of finding older manual-style tools. Examples of these include braces and bits, egg-beater drills, and hand saws. Having these will allow you to get work done even if the power goes out.
You may also be able to find some blacksmithing tools as well. I’ve seen several anvils over the years along with post vises and other tools that could help you outfit your shop. The flea market that I visit even has blacksmiths that you can watch create tools in person.
Flea markets may also be a good place to pick up other tool-related items like chains, come-alongs, gas cans, and jacks. You should also be able to find protective equipment like gloves.
A Word About Power Tools
You can find power tools at flea markets, however, you should be careful when purchasing them. In my experience, I’ve seen everything from brand-new in-box tools all the way to power tools that may not even work.
Before you purchase a power tool at a flea market, test it to make sure that it works. This can be difficult with corded power tools, however bringing one of your own batteries will allow you to test cordless tools before buying them.
Chainsaws, generators, and other types of outdoor power equipment should be treated with the same caution. If the seller isn’t willing to start it for you, walk away. Manual garden tools such as axes and shovels are much safer bets at a flea market.
Related: Power Tools Every Prepper Should Have
One prepper and survival item that you should be able to find at flea markets is knives. I don’t think that I can recall visiting a flea market that didn’t have at least some. However, there are some things that you need to know about shopping for knives at flea markets.
The most important thing to remember when shopping for knives from small vendors is that a lot of what is being sold is cheap counterfeit junk. Most of the stuff that I see is designed to make the user look like a ninja or Viking. Since knives such as these are designed to look “cool”, they usually consist of inferior materials that won’t hold up to hard use.
Also, sellers that have high-quality knives likely know what they have. Because of this, you shouldn’t expect to get too good of a deal from them. You will likely pay very close to MSRP for any knife from manufacturers such as Benchmade or Spyderco. In some cases, you may spend more if the product is a special edition blade or is no longer in production.
Cooking Equipment and Kitchenware
Another survival-related item that preppers should look for at flea markets is cooking equipment and kitchenware. You should be able to find at least some ways to cook off-grid along with smaller things you can use to stock a survival retreat such as plates, bowls, and silverware.
Some good off-grid cooking tools to look for include various kinds of camp stoves and even full-size wood-burning stoves. I saw a wood-burning stove during my last visit to Canton that could probably heat a small home.
Cast-iron cookware is another item to look for the next time you are at a flea market. If taken care of properly, it can last for generations. A lot of what you find will have some rust on it but can likely be restored.
You may also be able to find manual kitchen equipment such as meat grinders and grain mills. Like manual tools, these would be good to have since they would work even in a grid-down situation. However, it’s also a good idea to check for some more modern kitchen equipment as well.
If you look hard enough, you may be able to find food-preservation tools like Food-Saver vacuum sealers and pressure canners. For water filters, I’ve even seen Berkeys for sale.
Related: What Every Prepper Needs to Know About Cast-Iron Cookware
Preppers should also check their local flea market for different kinds of household items. They’re a good place to pick up candles and oil lamps as well as basins that you can use for washing or any number of tasks.
You may even be able to find vintage items like washboards or weaver’s wheels. Smaller items like sewing needles and thread are good things to pick up as well.
Not all clothing that you can find is military surplus or camouflage. You should also be able to find regular clothes such as jeans and shirts along with different kinds of hats and shoes. Cheaper used clothing would be good to keep in survival kits, your bug-out bag, or in your car for emergencies.
Other Things to Look for
There are some prepper and survival-related items at flea markets that are hard to fit within a larger category. An example of this is precious metals. I’ve seen many vendors selling silver coins, however, make sure you know what to look for to reduce your chances of being scammed.
Flea markets also tend to have a large assortment of books. Most of them tend to be tacky romance novels, however, you may still be able to find something useful. If you have kids, you should be able to find plenty of books for them.
You should also be able to find food items, the most useful of which is local honey. Honey is one of the best survival foods out there and eating local honey can even help you if you have allergies. Flea markets also have other foods that you can take home like popcorn and salsa along with carnival-style food like corn dogs and street tacos you can enjoy while you’re there.
Flea markets also have a ton of other items that aren’t related to preparedness or survival. Things like general antiques or even toys can provide enjoyment to family members that are with you that don’t share your interests.