Harbor Freight Tools is one of the most popular tool stores in the country. They offer a huge selection and low prices. However, there are a few things that every prepper should know about Harbor Freight before they buy anything.
Almost everything at Harbor Freight is imported, with the exception of a few name brand items. I think that in the past, this was more of a detriment to Harbor Freight than it was today. A couple of decades ago, the average American could easily walk into a store and find numerous Made in USA tools. Since most of those companies have outsourced their production overseas, many people’s opinions have changed. Many feel that if they are going to buy Chinese steel anyway, they might as well get it at a good price. I think this and the downfall of Sears has helped Harbor Freight immensely.
I have a great appreciation for pro-grade tools and the people who manufacture them. However, I think in many instances Harbor Freight offers a lot of value, especially for preppers. Here are some rules that every prepper should follow when buying tools from Harbor Freight:
Their Tools are Great Starter Tools or Backups
If you are a young prepper, the tools at Harbor Freight could give you a lot of bang for your buck. I remember when I first moved out on my own and how I didn’t have many tools. Every time something came up, I had to run to the local big-box hardware store and pick up a tool. I could have saved a lot of money if I knew about Harbor Freight.
Harbor Freight tools are also excellent options for preppers to keep in backup tool kits in their vehicles. It doesn’t matter how many high-end mechanics tools you have in your garage when you need to make a repair by the side of the road when you are hours from home. Harbor Freight tools are inexpensive enough to keep in your vehicle until you need them, and they are plenty good enough to get the job done.
Harbor Freight’s Tools Make Good Loaners
If you have the reputation in your neighborhood of being the “tool guy”, then sooner or later someone will ask if they can borrow one of your tools. Although I try to be a nice guy, I am really stingy with my tools. It doesn’t help that I got a lot of them from my grandfathers.
If you have a lot of money invested in your tools or they have sentimental value, it may be worth keeping some spare tools on hand in case a family member, friend, or neighbor needs to borrow something. That way, you can be nice but not risk losing one of your “good” tools. Also, from a prepper standpoint, Harbor Freight tools may be good charity or bartering items in some circumstances.
Check the Reviews Before Buying
In addition to having stores spread out all over the United States, Harbor Freight also has a large website where you can browse and buy items. One of my favorite ways to use the Harbor Freight website is to read reviews for items I am considering buying.
Harbor Freight’s product quality varies considerably. I have bought some good stuff there, but some of their items aren’t good at all. When considering a purchase, especially a more expensive one, always check the reviews first. They will be a decent indicator of a product’s quality.
I look for two things when checking reviews, the rating and number of reviews. From my perspective, a good rating is at least 4 1/2 stars. I also like to see at least 300-500 reviews on an item. Having at least a 4 1/2 star average with 500 reviews should indicate that the item’s quality is pretty good. Following these rules should help a prepper make informed decisions when purchasing from Harbor Freight.
Always Bring Coupons
One of the best things about shopping at Harbor Freight is that you can always find coupons to use. You can receive their coupons by signing up for their emails, checking your junk mail, or by simply typing “current Harbor Freight coupons” into a search engine. Preppers should always be looking for ways to stretch their dollars, and Harbor Freight helps with that.
The most common coupon is the “20% off one item” coupon. These are available pretty much all the time. As of writing this, there isn’t a minimum amount that you must spend to get the discount. Occasionally, a “25% off one item” coupon will show up, but this usually happens during special events like holidays. These discount coupons can be used with most of their items, but there are exclusions for certain things. Big-ticket items, such as generators, and their premium brands, such as Hercules, are excluded. A full list of exclusions is printed on the bottom of each coupon.
Harbor Freight also offers free item coupons regularly. These coupons are almost always labeled “with any purchase”, so you can usually pick up a freebie no matter what you buy. The most common free item is their blue flashlight. They offer other free items, but they aren’t offered as frequently as the blue flashlights.
Here’s the bottom line: Whenever you shop at Harbor Freight, always bring two coupons, a 20-25% off coupon and one for a free item.
Understand Harbor Freight’s Warranties
One thing that people love about Harbor Freight Tools is their lifetime warranty. However, it is important for a prepper to know that this does not apply to everything that Harbor Freight sells. The lifetime warranty covers hand tools, such as hammers, sockets, and wrenches. If one of these fails, simply take it to Harbor Freight with your receipt and make a trade or get your money back.
For other items, the warranty is much less, usually 90 days. This is true for power tools, air compressors, air hoses, and jacks. This is a big deal, especially when you can buy power tools from other manufacturers in a similar price range that have a 3 to 5-year warranty.
Harbor Freight Is Great for Hard to Find or Oddball Tools
If you are in the middle of a job and find out you need a strange random tool that you have never heard of before to finish what you’re doing, Harbor Freight is the place to go. They have almost any tool that you can imagine.
One instance of this that I came across was that I could not find a brass mallet anywhere in my hometown. I wanted a larger brass mallet to use on gunsmithing work. This wouldn’t be a mallet I would use every time I work on a gun, but I thought it would come in handy. Sure enough, Harbor Freight had one. I walked out of there with a 2-pound brass mallet for around $25.00. I probably got a freebie also, although I can’t remember what it was.
Prepper Items at Harbor Freight
Harbor Freight’s massive selection ensures that it will have items that a prepper will find useful. The following items would be good for general preparedness and survival purposes.
Lighting: Harbor Freight offers numerous lighting solutions that any prepper should find useful. They carry everything from lanterns to flashlights and even a new rechargeable area work light.
Fire Starter: Harbor Freight’s fire starter is a magnesium bar and includes a tool to help produce shavings and sparks. This allows you to save your knife for other tasks.
Tarps: While a Harbor Freight tarp may not do well long-term if left outside, they can still provide a prepper with a lot of value. You can keep them in your bug out bag to use as a temporary shelter. They come in several different sizes and colors. They even have a tarp that will cover half of a basketball court.
Nitrile Gloves: Harbor Freight’s nitrile gloves do a good job gun cleaning, cleaning the house, and may other chores. *Note: They do not hold up well against Acetone.
Rope: You can find many different sizes and lengths of rope at Harbor Freight. They are perfect for setting-up shelters and securing loads.
Clear Poly Sheeting: This stuff is perfect if you need to cover up windows, doors, or air vents during a chemical or biological emergency.
Slingshot: This is one of the few name-brand items at Harbor Freight. It is made by Daisy.
Generators: I don’t have any personal experience with this, but almost every generator that Harbor Freight sells has excellent reviews.
Other Things to Buy at Harbor Freight
Tool Chests: Harbor Freight’s tool chests are well-made and serve in their intended roles well. They feel solid and have nice features, such as ball-bearing slides and latches.
Mechanics Tools: Most of Harbor Freight’s mechanic’s tools, especially those in their Pittsburg Pro lineup are pretty decent. They would go well in a prepper’s vehicle kit or an office emergency kit.
Ladders: Another group of items to look into at Harbor Freight is their ladders. Both their 6-foot step ladder and 17-foot multi-task ladders get really good reviews.
Jacks: Although many pros shy away from their tools, many mechanics use Harbor Freight Jacks in their shops. Their jacks are so similar to the ones produced by professional manufacturers that Snap-On sued them a couple of years ago for copyright infringement. (Snap-On lost.)
Personal Protective Equipment: Harbor Freight offers goggles, ear protection, face masks, knee pads, and other things to keep you safe while working.
Ratchet Straps and Elastic (Bungee) Cords: If you need to secure a load, Harbor Freight has what you need. Their ratchet straps and bungee cords are well-reviewed and reasonably priced.
Tent Stakes: These are virtually identical to the ones that you find in camping stores. They can also double as a large nail simply by sliding the plastic hook off the end.
Glue: Harbor Freight offers many types of glue. They even offer name-brand Gorilla Glue.
Tape: You can buy large quantities of duct, electrical, masking, plumbing and many other kinds of tape at Harbor Freight. It is all sticky and does what it is supposed to.
Zip Ties: I buy almost all of my zip ties at Harbor Freight. They offer them in several sizes and colors. The zip ties are cheap and running out of them gives me the perfect excuse to pick up yet another free blue flashlight.
Things to Not Buy at Harbor Freight
Survival Knife: Harbor Freight’s survival knife is the typical hollow handled “Rambo-style” gimmick that has been around for a while now. I bought a similar knife in high school, and their design prevents them from being able to handle real use. The rivet or screw holding the blade onto the handle comes loose easily.
Cheap Tape Measures: My problem with these isn’t necessarily that they aren’t accurate, it is they are hazardous. The metal tape is so thin that you can easily cut yourself while pulling the tape out or while retracting it.
Bench Vises: One item I have heard nothing but complaints about is their bench vises. I have seen numerous videos and articles where owners have discussed problems with them.
Power Tools: I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, some of their cheaper power tools really aren’t that good. On the other hand, some of their power tools, like those in their Bauer and Hercules lineup are pretty decent. My main concern is that you can buy tools, especially cordless ones, from a pro-grade manufacturer’s established and well-supported lineup for not too much more money than the Hercules, like this one from Dewalt.
Overall, I think that Harbor Freight has some good finds for preppers. While some of their items may not be the best-quality, others are more than good enough for most users’ needs. As long as you do your research and are smart about what you buy, Harbor Freight Tools can be a great place to shop, especially if you are a prepper.