I was never a Boy Scout, but I like to think I live by the group’s mantra, “Be prepared.” Whether I’m packing for a simple afternoon on the water or an extended stay in some high basin, I make sure I’m ready for anything—including a survival situation. That means shouldering a little more weight, but when I need something, I’m glad it’s there. Here are 10 survival items that work well at basecamp, in the backcountry, or at home that also make great gifts this holiday season.
As a child, some of my favorite camping moments happened at the picnic table, late in the day, when we’d play games or tell stories under the glow of a hanging lantern. But these days, thanks to rechargeable batteries and the longevity of LED lights, there’s no need to fuss with fuel or fragile mantles. This light is lightweight, bright, and even has a USB port to charge phones and other small devices.—Price: $65
In many survival situations, making fire is paramount, though sometimes that’s easier said than done. Lighters are great, but sometimes they fail. The great thing about the firestarters from ECO is they’re not only compact and easy to ignite, but because the base is made of tinder, a single match will keep burning for up to 7 minutes while you add dry kindling and heavier fuel on top of it.—Price: $7.50
A few seasons ago, I started carrying a lightweight hammock in my pack whenever I elk hunted. It provided a perfect way to rest during the afternoon lull. Since then, I’ve tried different models, but I always come back to Kammok. With a carry weight of just 23 ounces, and a capacity of 500 pounds, it’s well suited for any sort of adventure, the occasional night in the backcountry, or a more comfortable way to wait for a friend at the trailhead. Kammok also makes great packable tethers and overhead canopies to keep out bugs and foul weather.—Price: $60
Years ago, I would’ve scoffed at the idea of sending texts or sharing map info while I’m out hunting of fishing. It wasn’t until I was deep in the Bob Marshall Wilderness that I realized how important it was to keep contact with family at home. With this unit, you can two-way text (subscription required), relay your location to a map at home, and trigger an SOS to emergency personnel, 24/7. If the notion of using technology in the woods rubs you the wrong way, remember you don’t have to turn it on until you really need it, and knowing that it can get you out of a bad situation makes it worth carrying.—Price: $450
Someone gave me a LifeStraw personal water filter as a stocking stuffer five years ago, and I’ve carried one in my hunting pack ever since. However, when I’m in camp, I prefer to have a small reservoir of potable H2O for drinking and cooking, but I hate spending so much time pumping it through a filter. Filled and suspended, this device lets gravity do the work.—Price: $55
Every ounce counts when you’re planning a multi-day trip into the backcountry. At just 2 pounds, 5 ounces, carrying the 2-person model is a breeze, and there’s plenty of room inside for laying out gear and a sleeping pad. That said, even if you’re not planning for a night in the woods, the size and weight of this tent makes it easy to carry into the field just in case, or to stash inside a vehicle for an emergency situation.—Price: $350
Maybe you can survive without coffee, but I can’t. Seriously, if there’s something better on a cold morning in the woods than a hot cup of coffee, I don’t know about it. For a while, I made my own cowboy-style, full of grit, and I tried a French press, but I’m not a fan. These days, I carry the instant variety in my pack. The packets are convenient, and the coffee tastes about as close to a fresh cup from a drive-thru window as you can get.—Price: $8
Ask one hundred different people their opinion about freeze-dried meals, and you’ll get one hundred different answers. Personally, I think they’re great, though I’ve always been alarmed at the sodium content. That’s why I’m a big fan of Omeals. The food isn’t freeze dried (so the sodium content is substantially lower), and you don’t need a stove or fuel to make them. Simply activate the included heating pack, add a little water, and it’s hot and ready to eat in as little as 5 minutes. If you’ve never tried packaged meals, or you’re curious how an Omeals recipe compares to your favorite freeze-dried offering, this 6-pack is an excellent option.—Price: $50
I own more pocket multi-tools than I care to count. I keep one in my truck, one in my home’s junk drawer, one in my pack, and another with my fishing gear. You just never know when you’ll need one, but you’re always thankful it’s closeby. The Suspension has become one of my favorites because of its durability and design. It’s a terrific stocking stuffer and most outdoorsmen would agree, you can never have too many multi-tools.—Price: $32
For more Holiday Gift Ideas, see our Holiday Gift Guide.
The latest book from noted survival expert and longtime Outdoor Life and Field & Stream contributor Tim MacWelch is loaded with simple tricks to get out of sticky situations. Among other tips, he explains how to use junk food to start a fire, use a bra as a respirator, signal for help with an acorn, and countless other hacks that will have you saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Available November 27, 2018.—Price: $29
The Total Knife Manual: 141 Essential Skills and Techniques
Field & Stream editor-at-large T. Edward Nickens explains how to use a knife in nearly every outdoors situation, including self-defense and survival circumstances. Weldon Owen
T. Edward Nickens has traveled, hunted, fished, camped, and experienced countless adventures over his years as Field & Stream’s editor-at-large, but he says one of his favorite topics is knives. In his latest compilation, Nickens examines the beauty of a finely made knife and its significance as a treasure passed down through generations. But the bulk of the book dives into knife blades, handles, and construction, and includes detailed instructions, color photographs, and illustrations detailing all the ways to use a blade in the outdoors.—Price: $29
When it comes to outdoors gifts, it’s hard to beat a knife, and when it comes to knives, it’s hard to beat a Benchmade. The Grizzly Ridge is a manual knife that easily fits in a pocket and is tailor-made for hunters in need of an easy-to-hold tool for skinning, quartering, or general use in camp. The drop-point utility blade is made from stainless steel, and it sticks in place with Benchmade’s patented AXIS lock, which you can easily engage and disengage with one hand. What’s more, Benchmade backs each Grizzly Ridge with its limited lifetime warranty, so if it ever needs repair or sharpening, it’s covered.—Price: $125