2018 holiday gift guide for preppers

We’re obsessed with finding the leanest, most realistic ways for you to become better prepared. That usually means we stay practical and avoid the shiny, addictive gear porn so common in this market.

But the holidays are a time to have fun and release your inner gear nerd. It’s a great excuse to buy a cool toy or stocking stuffer that the rational prepper in your life might not normally get for themselves. Or to give a fun gift to your non-prepper friends as a way to secretly plant the seed in their mind 😉

Below are 24 of our favorite preparedness gifts for the 2018 holidays. They range from practical (even boring) stuff you might overlook to fun gear we think is cool and want to share with you — gear that we’d normally have a hard time justifying in our practical head-to-head reviews.

Stocking stuffers

Afghan Shemagh by Combat Flip Flops ($15)

This particular brand of shemagh is sourced and loomed in Kabul, Afghanistan — and for every one sold the maker donates enough money to fund a day’s secondary school for an Afghan woman.

If you’ve been around any “tactical” types, or people who’ve spent time in “the sandbox,” you’ve probably seen a shemagh around someone’s neck. This lightweight, versatile piece of neckwear (that you can wrap around your face/head in a variety of ways) is a millennia-old, incredibly effective mechanism for regulating body temperature in a range of environments and weather types. US soldiers picked it up and brought it back to the States, where it has been embraced for its aesthetic and functional qualities.

Pocket guide for beginners ($11)

You can’t (yet) take all of The Prepared with you in a convenient offline format, so until that happens, The Prepper’s Pocket Guide is on our list of the best books. We don’t agree with all of the advice given (although it won’t be harmful) and some of it overlaps with what you can find for free on The Prepared. But it’s a cheap, nonthreatening stocking stuffer that can nudge the totally-unprepared person in your life to start thinking about the basics.

Darn Tough Socks ($21) (Amazon)

Preppers are one of the few categories of giftees who actually like to get socks as gifts because they don’t want to skimp on anything that goes between their body and the ground (socks, shoes, bedding, etc.). Smartwool is a more widely-known brand, but we’ve lost count of how many of their socks we’ve worn through after only a moderate amount of use. Not so with Darn Tough socks — they’re the real deal and have a lifetime warranty to back it up.

Energizer Vision HD+ budget headlamp ($14)

The Energizer Vision HD+ was a top budget pick in our review of the best headlamps for emergencies. Endlessly handy (pun intended), these cheap gadgets will serve your loved ones well over 1,000 different scenarios around the home, car, camp, or trail. Bonus: No matter what happens in the world, the odds of being able to find replacement AAA batteries are fairly high, so this headlamp is a good prep for situations ranging from a temporary loss of power to something much worse.

Backyard Safari Expedition One ($14)

Great for kids ages 5-9. When thinking about gifts for children with some kind of relevance to prepping, we recommend focusing on their mind, not their gear. The Backyard Safari kit has a compass, magnifier, and Morse code feature that makes learning how to use a map and compass fun. Another highly-reviewed idea is the $15 Scientific Explorer My First Mind Blowing Science Kit.

The goal is to get kids active/outside while encouraging their curiosity and basic understanding of how the things around them work. That mindset leads to adults capable of problem solving and tangible skills (like electrical and mechanical) — the right seeds for a well-rounded prepper.

Hoyle Waterproof Playing Cards ($6)

When the power’s out, or you’re stuck somewhere on a bug-out with nothing to do, a deck of cards can provide endless hours of entertainment — no batteries required. These Hoyle waterproof cards were made for the outdoors, and are ultra-durable and can even be washed, making them perfect for a go bag or a camping trip. Unlike other plastic playing cards, these also come in a sturdy plastic container that will stand up to the elements.

Great for everyone (including non-preppers)

Lokko Lock Pick Beginners Kit ($40)

Who doesn’t want to learn lockpicking? Easy to get into and a useful skill for everyone. This quality lockpick set will get you started in the craft, and between it and YouTube you’ll be equipped to open most of the doors and containers in common use, guaranteeing you an endless supply of stimpaks, RadAway, ammunition, and assorted other power-ups and upgrades.

Lockpicking is also a fun hobby, with its own competitions, meetups, and subculture. So even if you’re not planning to walk the post apocalyptic Wasteland in search of the ultimate Power Armor set, it’s a great skill to acquire.

One year of ExpressVPN internet privacy service ($99)

Protect your finances, personal data, and internet privacy with a solid VPN — a sort of “private tunnel” to the internet that prevents governments, hackers, and internet service providers from snooping what you’re transmitting. This is particularly important for international travelers and people that use public WiFi access points in places like coffee shops and airports.

ExpressVPN is one of the highest-ranked VPN services, notable for great bandwidth speeds, 24/7 support, and a clear “no logging” privacy policy from a company based outside of U.S. court’s jurisdiction. Easy to use and works on any computer and most phones/tablets.

Maratac Peanut Lighter ($25)

The Bic lighter is the standard fire-starting tool against which all others are judged, but the Zippo does offer the advantage of being refillable and usable with a wide variety of field-expedient fuels. However, as everyone who has tried to use a Zippo outdoors can tell you, the famous metal lighter’s fatal flaw is that its fuel evaporates quickly.

The Maratac Peanut lighter uses the same flint, steel, and wick as the classic Zippo, but in a metal package that’s sealed with an O-ring and screws shut. We have one of these lighters and it seems to keep its fuel indefinitely. The Peanut comes in an array of sizes and materials, but if you really want to splurge get the Titanium XL. Nothing beats this lighter’s combination of weight, capacity, and fuel retention.

HydroBlu Versa review

HydroBlu Versa portable water filter kit ($24) (Amazon)

Hikers, campers, hunters, boaters, road warriors … everyone can value these tiny but amazing filters. They make perfect stocking stuffers and they’re a good “gateway drug” preparedness gift that can ease a friend or family member into the world of survival. The HydroBlu Versa kit won our recent review of the best portable water filters, a somewhat controversial choice that beat out the more commonly seen Sawyer Mini.

Cielo everyday carry keychain pill/medicine container ($21)

Whether someone needs constant access to important medication or just likes to keep an aspirin or two on hand, an ultra-durable pill container like the fashionable Cielo line is a must-buy. We’ve used various Cielo models for years and enjoy their combo of style and function. But even if you don’t depend on critical meds, there are tons of things you can store in these robust little tubes. We’ve seen preppers stuff Tinder Quik tabs for firestarting and other small moisture-sensitive items in them (depending on container size).

Far Cry 5 for PlayStation 4 or Xbox One ($41)

One of the biggest video games of 2018, Far Cry 5 really hams up the doomsday prepper stereotype as a core part of the story and gameplay. After a cult takes over a rural mountain town in Montana, you (playing as a rookie cop) search local prepper’s bunkers for supplies, team up with other citizens to fight back, and hunt, fish, and craft your way to survival.

Yeah, it’s campy doomer stuff of the type we typically avoid on The Prepared, but boy is it fun. Although we don’t understand why the “Doomsday Prepper Pack” skins feature bright orange camouflage — not very stealthy.

Knipex 7-inch Pliers Wrench ($46)

Even the most unhandy among us should have a core set of tools in their home that include the basics like flathead and Phillips screwdrivers, needle nose pliers, hammer, a socket set, and an allen wrench set.

Some form of a crescent wrench is another critical item. Channel locks can sub in for a crescent wrench and are adjustable to a variety of sizes. But the problem with using channel locks on anything but a pipe is that they’ll chew up whatever they’re gripping in their jaws. That’s where these high-quality, German-made Knipex pliers come in.

The Knipex Pliers Wrench has a number of qualities that make it superior to both channel locks and the classic adjustable crescent wrench. The flat jaws and lack of teeth won’t mar your work, while the 10-to-1 leverage ratio ensures that the work stays put despite the aforementioned lack of gripping teeth. Finally, there’s a ratcheting action that keeps the jaws closed around the work even when you release pressure on the handles. You pay a premium for the outstanding build quality, but the results (and the five-star Amazon ratings) speak for themselves.

40oz Klean Kanteen Water Bottle ($29)

There are countless water pouches and canteens on the market, but there are two main benefits of a more expensive stainless steel model (other than general durability). Although any well-prepared person should have forms of water filtering/purification on them, in a pinch you can boil water directly in these metal vessels. On the flip side, we carry one of these bottles in the woods as a thermos, and in situations where we want to cool the contents we wrap a wet cloth around it and allow evaporation to draw the heat from the bottle.

The Passage, by Justin Cronin ($13)

Novelist Justin Cronin’s award-winning Passage trilogy is a masterpiece of apocalyptic fiction, but what elevates it far above the standard doomer fair is its literary quality. Miraculously, Cronin has turned a story about a zombie-vampire apocalypse, complete with government agents and dark conspiracies and secret labs, into a deep, rewarding work of high art.

Fox has optioned the books for a TV series that will be premiering soon, but from what we’ve seen of the trailer and what we know of the books, it seems likely that the two will be only superficially connected. Most of what’s beautiful in the books isn’t the kind of thing you can translate onto the screen, and Fox has taken serious liberties with the source material. So even if you’re planning to catch the series, don’t miss the books.

Gifts for the prepper who seems to have everything

1970’s Chinese Army Ammo Storage Pouch ($11)

Every now and then we come across a gem on Amazon, and this pouch is one of our recent favorites. This little $11 leather pouch is absolutely perfect for holding firestarting materials, which is exactly what we use it for in the bush.

With a few dollars more and access to the right tools, you can replace the magnetic closure that comes with the pouch with a snap closure. Or, you can toss in a small, screw-back button stud that will work perfectly well to keep the pouch shut and requires no special tools to install. Finish it with some Obenauf’s LP and you’ve got an inexpensive, water-resistant, leather pouch that’ll take a beating and won’t occupy much precious belt space.

Hyperlite Flat Tarp ($355)

The lowly tarp is one of the least glamorous but most useful preps; it’s also a bulky pain to fold, stow, and transport. But if you’re a prepper who has everything, or if you’re really serious about optimizing your bug out shelter options for weight, the Hyperlite Flat Tarp is a spendy upgrade that can get you 8’x10′ worth of shelter in a tiny, half-pound package. You can use this tarp to improvise a featherweight, ultra-durable A-frame that can sub in for a tent in a pinch, making this an ideal item to store in a go bag.

Gorilla Carts Garden Dump Cart ($70)

Other than being useful around the home in daily life, a tough-but-portable wheeled cart can help remove debris after an emergency, make a supply run to a nearby store, move an injured person, or simply transport your gear when the roads are impassable. We dive deeper in the common sense prepper rules, but too many people make the mistake of packing bug out bags that are way too heavy and/or assuming they’ll be able to drive their car in an emergency. Earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, fires, civil unrest, traffic … all reasons a serious prepper may love this cart.

Karesuando Kniven Stuorra Aksu Big Axe Hatchet ($170)

The standard high-end buschraft axe recommendation is either a Hultafors Trekking Axe or a Gransfors Bruk Wildlife Hatchet, both of which are handmade, heirloom-quality choices. We love and recommend both of these tools, but this being a gift guide we like to go the extra mile and suggest something you may not have heard of: the Karesuando Kniven Stuorra Aksu Hatchet.

Like Hultafors, Hults Bruk, Gransfors Bruk, everything on Northmen.com, and generally the whole high-end axe scene, the Karesuando axes are handmade in Sweden. This brand’s work in particular has aesthetic touches, like a cap made of reindeer antler at the butt of the handle, that the other brands lack. At about $170 street, these axes are a bit cheaper than some of the other brands mentioned, which adds to the appeal. We have not yet handled a Karesuando, but the buzz online is stellar and they’re on our own holiday wish list.

Chiappa Firearms X-Caliber 12-gauge shotgun inserts ($38)

X-Caliber inserts are adapters that let you fire a wide array of rifle and pistol ammunition in a standard 12-gauge shotgun. You won’t win any long-range accuracy competitions, but that isn’t the point. Rather, the point is that you can buy one gun (a 12-gauge shotgun) and one or more portable inserts, then be able to use every major caliber you’re likely to encounter in the wild. These inserts are not a Plan A for getting through an emergency where you need firepower for hunting or self-defense, but they are one of the best Plan Bs for making use of any and all ammo that you’ve either stockpiled or that you come across. If you’re buying for someone else, you’ll want to either find out what pistol caliber they primarily use (e.g. 9mm, .40, .45) or buy a set that includes those three common sizes.

Anti-Surveillance Clothing ($460)

Even though the market is still young and not yet practical for most people, we’re excited about the work happening in the anti-surveillance / pro-privacy clothing space. One example that went viral: Originally designed for celebrities (like Paris Hilton, above) who wanted to discourage paparazzi by ruining their photos, ISHU clothing reflects camera flashes so brightly that it washes out the image. Another example is the upcoming anti-infrared clothing from Adam Harvey that blocks heat-seeking tech in drones and law enforcement.

Aftermarket leather sheath for the Fallkniven F1 knife ($40-120)

Our top pick for a prepper field knife is the celebrated Fallkniven F1, but if there’s one aspect of this knife that isn’t as widely loved as the stainless steel blade, it’s the Zytel sheath. This sheath lacks in style and, some say, durability, which is why an aftermarket leather sheath is a standard upgrade for this blade.

We own multiple F1 sheaths from JRE Industries, and while they’ve stopped listing knife models on their site, if you drop them an email and tell them you want an F1 sheath, they’ll hook you up. This knife is so popular there are many makers on Etsy who offer sheaths for it, and Google will turn up multiple leatherworkers who stock F1 sheaths.

Knipex Compact Bolt Cutters ($42)

Demolition and forced entry are two key activities for any kind of urban prepping. No, we’re not talking about raiding someone else’s stash, but about gaining appropriate access to supplies and resources in a scenario where electronic locks have stopped working or where the person with the keys is MIA. Circumstances may require you to make a hole in a structure, force open a door or window, or cut locks, and for that, you’ll want a compact, reliable bolt cutter.

The same company that makes the high-quality pliers wrench listed in this guide also makes a line of bolt cutters that are easy to carry yet punch way above their weight. Their 10-inch model offers a good compromise of cutting ability vs. portability, but you can also downsize to an 8-inch model or a 6-inch mini model for EDC.

Lundhags Makke outdoor pants ($190 depending on size/color) (Amazon)

We don’t typically obsess over “performance clothing” because you often get more bang for your prepping budget elsewhere (or most of the higher price goes to the fashion, not the function). That said, ’tis the season to splurge on stuff you might not otherwise consider, either for yourself or someone else. There are a few great options out there, but fellow outdoor reviewers have spoken highly about the European-made Lundhags Makke pants. They have a set of features (pockets, ventilation) and Schoeller Dry Skin reinforcements that make them exceptionally durable, versatile, and lightweight.

MSA Sordin Supreme Pro electronic ear protection with gel pads ($249)

For the firearm lovers in your life: Ear protection is usually mandatory when spending a day at the shooting range. While there’s plenty of cheap ‘earpro’ that gets the job done, they’re often uncomfortable and require constant removal in order to hear normal sounds and conversations. But a high-quality electronic set uses active microphones to shut off the sound when a loud boom cracks, while letting normal chit chat right through, similar to Bose noise cancelling headphones. We’ve used this highly-rated set for years — the upgraded gel pads are super comfy and worth it.

Panasonic Eneloop Pro AA Rechargeable 2550mAh Batteries ($60)`

These premium rechargeable batteries are well-loved by camera and flashlight geeks for their high capacity, extreme reusability (up to 500 recharges), and ability to hang on to 85% of their charge for a year in storage. This 12-pack is not cheap, but good batteries are a critical prep and you get what you pay for.


    • M. E.Contributor

      In light of the very long shipping delays due to supply chain problems, I’d love it if the holiday gift guide could be updated for 2021. In particular I’d love to give family members a “survival stocking” or “survival advent calendar” with up to 24 items that won’t break the bank.  For sure I’ll have a P38, light stick, various IFAK items etc in there but would love some other ideas. Last year I ordered all my holiday gifts in September and that paid off as most of the things I ordered were sold out by October. 

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      • Gideon ParkerStaff M. E.

        I’ll bring up the idea to the team, thanks for the feedback.

        In the mean time, a user created a forum post last December about prepping stocking stuffers that might give you some ideas.

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