Gifting preps: What are your top picks for unprepared loved ones?

Hi Prepared Friends,

I’m trying to decide what I should gift to my dad and stepmother this Christmas to enhance their preparedness. My dad likes camping and backpacking, so they have that sort of gear, but just for one. They also have one of those pre-packed 72-hour kits that is largely full of garbage (which I bought them a couple of Christmases back in the interest of getting the bases covered quickly and within my budget). They live five miles from the San Andreas Fault in a household that also includes three medium-sized dogs, and they commuted to work in their own cars pre-pandemic. I can spend about $120.

I was going to focus on water, get two Reliance Rhino-pak aquatainers, and then figure out what to do with the rest of my budget, but those now seem to be hard to find, and the 7-gallon aquatainers are far less portable, so now I’m not sure if I should keep the focus on water or start somewhere else.

If you were me, what would you prioritize? What have you prioritized in gifting preps to family members?


  • Comments (11)

    • 7

      Good morning PDXSarah,

      Question 1 is difficult. I would place priority on the immediate 1-10 minutes of the response to the San Andreas Fault going active to some degree. Rather than downstream recovery matters, my priority would be to give a hard hat with 100% wool sock hat for liner (and helmet light for each if in budget) and good quality work gloves for folks’ physical environment.

      Question 2 is easy to report on.  My 2 grandchildren have enroute some glossy picture guide books from Virginia Dept of Forestry.  Soon they will be learning about the trees with edible products, the giant hogweed and last year’s scare reports here in the mid-Atlantic.  

      • 6

        I love the idea of gifting grandkids books that teach them about the plants of the area and what is edible. I did a lot of ecosystem restoration work as a tween and I still remember a lot of the plants I learned then… fewer of those I learned to identify in college botany courses… fewer still of anything around me in the area where I moved last year. All this to say, I think it’s smart to train ’em young on plants when their brains are like sponges.

        As to my dad and stepmother, hardhats are a good idea— they aren’t in the prepacked kit. There are 2 pr pair of gloves in there, if memory serves, but they’re the same crappy kind that come in every prepackaged emergency kit— I can fit at least two of my actual fingers in all the glove fingers, and they’re incredibly stiff. Better gloves aren’t that expensive and would probably make a big difference in one’s ability to, like, actually move debris.

        I think your general principle of “get stuff for the immediate aftermath, not downstream recovery” is a good one, too, for a couple of reasons aside from the most obvious life safety rationale:

        1. Practically speaking, a lot of the downstream recovery stuff is much harder to farm out to someone else (especially if that person can’t come into your house because Covid). It would be so much harder for me to inventory my father’s home for insurance purposes and assemble documents with his and my stepmother’s insurance, financial, and medical information than it would be for them to do that themselves. Buying them helmets, gloves, and flashlights, on the hand? I can do that for them.
        2. I think that SF Bay Area counties are relatively well-prepared to mobilize for disaster relief, because the region has experienced major earthquakes literally since statehood, including one in the memory of anyone my age or older. Also, while the tech boom has caused a lot of problems here, especially around housing affordability and traffic, state and Bay Area local governments are wealthier than those in many other parts of the country and have resources to put toward disaster response planning. Of course we could have larger earthquakes than Loma Prieta (the 1906 earthquake released 10x the energy), and I don’t think we can count on relief within 72 hours anymore (as was the mantra when I was growing up), but PG&E restored power to my neighborhood in San Francisco within 12 hours of Loma Prieta, and we NEVER lost water/sanitation service, so we have experience moving fast to get the city back on its feet. By contrast, in Oregon we’re supposed to be ready to do without power, running water, or sanitation for MONTHS after a significant earthquake (which is likely to be M8-9).

        I digress a bit, but this is all helping me think through my dad’s preps without actually being in his physical presence, so thank you!

      • 7


        Above link encompasses much of earthquake info for prepper requirements.

        Note the overall common denominator aspects to other types of disasters.

        Health, both physical and mental, nutrition, our related subject matter threads, govern much.

        Someone relocating from the earthquake zones to Hurricane Alley would be prepared – and vice versa.

      • 5

        That looks like a great resource about earthquakes. I’ve always thought earthquakes were so interesting, so much power behind them.

    • 7

      That sure is great that you want to help your family out with their preps this Christmas. According to how interested they are into improving their preps and becoming more prepared, you can always give the gift of a Personal Preparedness Consultation. It seems like you are very knowledgeable about prepping and if they have a desire to improve, then say that you will sit down with them and assess their current standing, and make a plan with them on what they can do better to prep. If they don’t care too much about prepping though, then it may not be the best gift. They will probably hear you out because you are family, but then do nothing with it once you leave.

      I strongly believe that water and food should be everyone’s first prep. Not very often are we needing to start a fire with a ferro rod or pull our a gas mask, but pretty much in every disaster, we will still need food and water. 

      We are launching our Water Course later this month, and if you preorder you can save 50% and get it for $24. This could be included with the water containers that you give them. The course teaches how to store, treat, find, and conserve water, and is laid out in a way that even people who have never prepped a day in their life can feel comfortable and get started.

      Can I recommend a different water container? Right now, Walmart seems to have a great deal on the Scepter 5 gallon water container. It is usually $65-$75 but I see it on Walmart right now for $38. This is the upgrade pick from our Best emergency water storage container article, and the toughest and most durable one that we tested. Living in earthquake country, you want the most durable container you can get, because you don’t want  to puncture your only water supply. Those 7 gallon Aquatainers are very cheap and wouldn’t hold up too well if things fell on them. A secondary option if they have limited space is the Lego brick style water containers called WaterBricks. They are quite durable too, take up very little space, and are 3.5 gallon so they are lighter per container.

      You can also throw in a water filter in with their water course and water container, then they will be really set! I saw another forum user post a deal on the Hydroblu Versa. Which was the best water filter from our water filter article.

      Another idea would be a Utility Shut off Tool. One of the biggest dangers about earthquakes is the fire after. Earthquakes will bend, cut, and expose gas and electrical lines, so fires are common after an earthquake. Having a cheap utility shut off tool out by your gas meter can allow you to go out and turn it off until your house and electrical and gas lines can be inspected and declared safe. This will probably take a very long time though, the gas company will be going to hundreds if not thousands of other houses and inspecting them, so expect to not have utilities for days-weeks. But better than having an explosion or burnt up house.

      • 6

        I love the term “Personal Preparedness Consultation”— while I hadn’t called it that, that was my original plan for their gift this Christmas. But I was really counting on being able to go to their house, bust open the cheapo kit, yardsale my dad’s camping gear on the garage floor, see if he has gas for the camping stove and all the parts for the water filter, and dig into the junk drawers. Since I’m not bubbling with them, this just isn’t the year for that. (I am bubbling with my mom, so I’ve been working on her consultation since we arrived in California a couple of weeks ago.)

        My dad and stepmother are actually not super interested in prepping, but they also resist dropping hints or outright telling me what they want for Christmas. I think that’s out of charity to me, since they’re Boomers with corporate jobs and I’m a Millennial whose employers have always counted the emotional rewards of public service as part of compensation package. :/ Whatever their reasoning, I instituted a policy a few years ago that if they (1) don’t get prepared themselves and (2) don’t tell me what they actually want for Christmas and birthdays, they get preps, and nobody has complained yet.

        I appreciate the water container reccos— I had forgotten that the 7-gallon Reliance was actually the “cheap pick”. It was actually the first water storage container I bought, back in 2012, before I started buying Rhinos and then, most recently, a 55-gallon refurbished drum (with a pump!) from a local company that delivers them for free to your home if you live nearby. I think 2 Scepters are just the ticket— and maybe next year I’ll add a filter to that, when I can check and see what my dad has already and how well it’s working.

        Food is a little harder because I think the best way to really build up one’s stores is to buy extra of what you actually use. We have Datrex packs and (relatively long-shelf-life) energy bars in our BOBs and get home bags, and some #10 cans of dehydrated food from Augason Farms and Mountain House in the pantry, but the largest proportion of our stored calories is from stuff we eat regularly, like rice and lentils, of which we’ve just bought extras. It’s harder to enforce that approach on people who aren’t committed to maintaining it, but it’s hard to get enough calories stored with just the multi-decade-shelf-life stuff. This is making me wonder if I should just buy them one of those 2-person, 72-hour emergency dehydrated food kits stored in a large bucket. That’s the kind of thing they need— something self-contained that they can stick in a corner of the house and forget about. (I’ll choose the optimal corner of the house next Christmas!)

        And I love the utility shut-off tool suggestion. What do you (or anyone else) think of the versions advertised as “non-sparking”? I don’t know if that’s actually “a thing” or just a gimmick. When we lived in California, we had a seismic gas shutoff valve, which cost us $340, was worth that in peace of mind it gave me (even though $340 is real money in my budget), and can sometimes get you a discount on your CEA insurance premium to boot— my mom got a discount for hers; we didn’t for ours (and of course, my dad doesn’t have one at all). I didn’t buy a gas shutoff-specific tool because I figured that the odds that our regular tools would be inaccessible, the valve would fail, and the gas line would leak are small. It actually shocks me that gas distribution systems weather seismic shaking as well as they do. One of my earliest memories was seeing an enormous plume of black smoke in the sky from gas line fires in the Marina after Loma Prieta, but there were very few gas fires in SF that day, and I don’t think any leaks were found in my neighborhood at all. Now I live in Cascadia, where we’re at risk for much larger earthquakes and our infrastructure was mostly not built for that threat, so I’m a huge evangelist for seismic valves. Seems like most people haven’t even heard of them!

      • 6

        The Amazon listing for that shut-off tool you linked says it is made of aluminum, which is a non-sparking material. I think you just might want to stay away from a steel wrench, as it technically could probably spark if you hit it against another steel surface, although just turning the valve probably will not create a spark. 

        From the gas utility meters that I remember, they are coated in a weather resistant paint, so you shouldn’t have steel on steel contact anyway. 

        If you only have a steel tool, maybe just a coat of spray paint would protect it enough to prevent any sparks

    • 7

      UPDATE: In case anyone was curious, I ended up buying a 4-person, 72-hour freeze-dried food bucket (so, six days’ worth of food for two people) and two Scepter water containers.

      BEST OF ALL… yesterday my dad called me to say he’d gotten the packages, and we ended up having a really good conversation about prepping! He told me that he had already filled the water containers and placed them and outside the house in a secure area, adjacent to a big Action Packer-type container in which he keeps select disaster-relevant camping gear and the 72-hour kit I bought him two years ago! So then I asked him if this Action Packer included a wrench, or if he had an automatic gas shutoff valve, and he goes, “What’s that?” Now of course I’ve told him about the automatic gas shutoff valves approximately 200 times (I think he was even visiting us the morning ours was installed), but this is the first time he seemed interested, and he asked for the contact info for the guy we hired, which I sent him. I think we’re making progress! 

      Thank you so much, Bob and Gideon, for helping me think through this, and for the great ideas!

      • 4

        Wow! Thank you so much for the update. That makes me so happy that you had a wonderful conversation with your dad about prepping and he is making some progress on things with your help. 

        Im glad he had shown some interest in what you had to say. That really makes us feel valued and important when people are interested in what we have to say. 

        I admire you caring about your family so much to doing something for them that you know can keep them safe and can be a way you can care for them. 

        I gave my family some Hydroblu Versa water filters yesterday, and they all seemed interested and grateful for them, so that made me feel good. 

      • 6

        Great news re the folks getting prepared,  PNWSarah !

        When your dad asked for contact info, it means the journey has substantially started.

      • 5

        Gideon and Bob, thanks for sharing this triumph with me! I feel good about the fact that he took what I had to say seriously and the fact that he seems motivated to do more on his own. Both of those things are really great. 

        And Gideon, I’m so glad that you got to feel similar warm fuzzies by gifting Hydroblu Versa filters to your family! What a great present!