The Dangers of “Better Than Nothing”

Posted on: June 2, 2014

It’s better than nothing is a phrase you see over and over in prepper forums. Whether the folks involved are talking about retailers, brand names, or just products in general, it’s better than nothing is what is often tossed out to validate a purchase of decidedly less than ideal gear.

The it’s better than nothing reasoning is a trap, nothing more.

Here’s why.

Falling into the better than nothing mindset leads to complacency and even laziness. This is how it often plays out. “Joe” buys a prepackaged bug out bag from one or another discount retailer. He spends about forty bucks on it and figures he got a pretty good deal. I mean, the kit has, among other things, a couple of emergency blankets, some matches, a flashlight, water bottle, a signal whistle, and a multi-tool. Joe thinks, “Well, that’s good enough for now, better than nothing.” He then tosses the kit into his trunk and doesn’t give much more thought to it.

About six months go by and Joe is headed home from a late night at work when his car breaks down. The battery for his cell phone is dead, of course, since he never remembers to charge it. No worries, he thinks, and pulls out his whiz-bang awesome survival kit. Taking out the crank flashlight, the handle snaps off the first time he turns it. Oh well, there should be enough moonlight to see under the hood and maybe diagnose the problem. Ah, that’s the culprit, a battery cable came loose! Sliding the multi-tool from the survival kit, Joe tries to tighten down the cable. Um, yeah, not so much. Seems the pivot hinge on the multi-tool is stuck. It won’t open fully, nor will it close up now. Since the kit is open and it is getting rather chilly, Joe pulls out the emergency blanket and shakes it open…whereupon it promptly tears along each of the major fold lines, leaving him with nothing more than thin strips of material.

The phrase better than nothing implies that the item provides at least minimal value in a situation. Anyone care to explain how, exactly, this $40 survival kit lent anything other than frustration?

Most of these better than nothing products, from budget multi-tools to inexpensive full blown kits, are a danger. Not because they may hurt you directly but because they lead you to believe they are good enough to rely upon in an emergency. Remember, we’re not talking about a $5 popcorn maker you picked up during a Black Friday doorbuster sale. These are products you are purchasing for the sole, or at least primary, purpose of keeping you safe and alive. Do you really want to entrust that responsibility to something that is shoddily made and untested?

Now, before I get accused of being an elitist snob when it comes to gear, I’m not saying you must go out and spend top dollar on brand name products. My regular readers here know I value a great deal and encourage you to shop around to get the best possible prices on anything you need to purchase. However, no matter how cheap it is, it isn’t a good deal if the item is faulty or outright doesn’t work as intended. Each and every piece of gear you buy should be fully tested before socking it away for future use. If it doesn’t work, return it and get something different. If it kinda/sorta works, that shouldn’t be seen as good enough.

Avoid the better than nothing rationale!

Look, more and more discount retailers are stocking alleged “prepping” supplies. Quite often, you get what you pay for. In far too many cases, the products sold are not well made and won’t last under normal, let alone rugged, use. They are being sold merely to capitalize on the popularity of prepping in today’s world.

About the only thing many of these cheap products will do is make you feel good about having purchased some new gear. And that good feeling will disappear the first time you try to actually use the items.

1 thought on “The Dangers of “Better Than Nothing”

  1. Great post, Jim! While it doesn’t hurt to save money, it certainly hurts to waste money. But the inexpensive stuff, but test it! Maybe get a couple as backups to the good stuff that you have to buy to replace the first cheap one. Quality is more important to survival.

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