Great Survival Gift Ideas for 2020
Give the hunter, angler, or camper in your life a gift that might just save their life
Survival situations are the type of thing anyone that enjoys the outdoors does their best to avoid, but sometimes, they happen, and when they do, being prepared with the best gear can prevent a bad situation from becoming worse. If you know someone that lives by the scout mantra of “be prepared,” here are a few gift ideas for items they might appreciate adding to their personal emergency kit.
More Gift Guides: The Ultimate Outdoorsman’s Gift Guide
Morakniv Garberg knife • Price: $80 Morakniv
Morakniv makes good survival and bushcraft blades at reasonable prices. They’ve been doing this since forever. But one complaint survival enthusiasts have about most Moras is that they don’t have a full-tang blade. Morakniv has since addressed this with the Garberg. Its full-tang carbon or stainless blade is molded into a strong plastic grip giving anyone license to beat the living crap out of it. Baton it, hack logs up, bang on it with rocks, or use it as a pry bar—it’s probably not going to break. It has all of the features somone would want in a bushcraft knife like a 90-degree spine to spark a ferro rod or shave tinder, a scandi grind that’s easy to sharpen, and a lanyard hole in the handle. While it’s larger than a Mora companion, the generous blade is handy for big tasks like cutting down wrist-thick trees. —Matthew Every
Somewear Global Hotspot
Somewear Global Hotspot • Price: $350 Somewear
I used to scoff at the idea of carrying technology with me as I traveled off-grid. “What point is getting away from it all if I’m always at the mercy of one more phone call or text?” I used to say. But as I grew older, saw firsthand the pain and struggles that come from backcountry injuries, and my own personal desire to stay in touch with my young and growing family, I changed my way of thinking, and I’ve never regretted it. One of the latest and greatest satellite communication devices is from Somewear. Anyone can pair this rechargeable unit with a smartphone and use the app to text back-and-forth to whoever they wish. What’s more, it’s possible to download location-specific weather reports, beam the device’s location to anyone on the home front, and send out an S.O.S. signal to emergency personnel should the worst of the worst happen. There is a small subscription fee for connecting to the network, but as a husband and father, this past hunting season, it was worth the peace-of-mind. —Ben Romans
5.11 Rapid 1AA Headlamp
5.11 Rapid 1AA Headlamp • Price: $50 5.11
Complicated is something nobody wants in a piece of survival gear. What I like most about this headlamp is that it’s simple, but still has practical features that set it apart from the competition. It runs on one AA battery as opposed to multiple AAAs. One button operates the floodlight, and another operates a spot beam at high, medium, and low settings. It’s made of metal so it’s tough. It’s also water-resistant. The lamp body pivots much more than other headlamps I’ve used, and it can be detached from the strap and used as an angled flashlight. —M.E.
Honey Stinger Performance Chews
Honey Stinger Performance Chews • Price: $30 Honey Stinger
High-energy lightweight food is essential for any survival kit. A package of these chews gives up 75 mg of caffeine. They taste great and are a good morale boost if things go south. They’re also perfect for when someone needs caffeine but wants to save the energy and fuel required for brewing tea and coffee. For the hunter, hiker, or survivalist in your life, these make a perfect stocking-stuffer. —M.E.
WorkSharp Pocket Knife Sharpener
WorkSharp Pocket Knife Sharpener • Price: $15 WorkSharp
Fine tasks like making feather sticks or carving trap toggles are next to impossible without a sharp blade. The pocket knife sharpener from Worksharp is lightweight enough to be carried on any adventure and very useful. The diamond edge will bring a blade back to life and the ceramic rod will hone it. It has built-in sharpening guides that work with most knife grinds (except for the scandi grind on the Garberg) to take the guesswork out of sharpening. One of these sharpeners rides with just about any knife I carry into the woods. —M.E.
LifeSaver Jerry Can
LifeSaver Jerry Can • Price: $300 Lifesaver
Hurricanes, floods, power failures, or living off-grid for extended periods of time will limit your access to clean water. The LifeSaver Jerry Can is a water-purifying workhorse for anybody based out of a vehicle, camping, or hunkering down at home. This hand-pressurized water system will push water through a 0.015-micron filter to remove viruses, bacteria, and cysts. And it does this at volume, cleaning either 10,000 or 20,000 liters of water with one filter. Best of all, it’s the size of a standard Jerry Can, a design that is proven to be both portable and storable. —M.E.
Biolite 750 • Price: $100 Biolite
I’ve been a fan of BioLite’s headlamps for a long time. They’re lightweight, super bright, hold a charge for as long as I’ve needed, and the headbands don’t slip—even when I’m sweating. So, when the company came out with a brighter, more versatile model loaded with different settings, I said, “OK, yeah, I’ll bite.” I’m glad I did. The new 750 is slightly heavier than the brand’s previous models, but the tradeoff is worth it. The eight different lighting modes are brighter than my former unit, the battery life is noticeably longer, and because it essentially uses the same headband as every other BioLite model, it stays perched on my glossy, bald head, even after soaking in my sweat. I used this lamp during my annual elk rendezvous, and it felt tailor-made for those long hikes back to camp in the dark. —B.R.
Uberleben Zunden Fire Starter
Uberleben Zunden Fire Starter • Price: $16 to $18 Uberleben
As if my two young boys weren’t already out of school more than they were in school throughout 2020, I decided to call them in for a sick day one Friday so they could enjoy a long weekend in elk camp—an annual trip I host for friends and family. It was their first foray to any sort of hunting camp replete with wall tents, more bacon than a person should eat, squirrel hunting, and friendly competitions like BB gun accuracy and primitive fire starting. They scraped and sparked the traditional block of magnesium I used when I was a kid, but I cheated with an Uberleben Zunden fire starter and it was just as effective as if I lighted a match. While they were busy whittling silver shavings, I was rapidly throwing sparks into tinder, and night after night, I took the crown as champion of fire starting. If someone you know travels off the grid or in a damp climate, this little tool is a great backup for those times when a lighter isn’t working or the matches got wet. —B.R.
Survival Frog Tesla Lighter
Survival Frog Tesla Lighters • Price: $15; Reg: $30 Survival Frog
Years ago, while fishing a river in early March, I took a full baptism in the drink. There was burnable wood all around, but my Bic lighter wouldn’t spark, and I had to return home early to avoid hypothermia. I learned a valuable lesson, and ever since, I always carry a windproof and waterproof lighter like Survival Frog’s Tesla. The greatest thing about the Tesla isn’t that the business end resides inside a waterproof housing, it’s that the lighter doesn’t need fuel—it produces dual electrical arcs that can light anything flammable. What’s more, it’s rechargeable and works up to 300 times on a single charge. If you’re looking for stocking stuffer ideas, look no further. —B.R.
Leatherman Charge+ G10
Leatherman Charge+ G10 • Price: $180 Leatherman
Leatherman is one of the most lauded knife and multitool companies around, and for good reason. Not only did the company essentially create the demand for multitools with their early iterations, they’ve continued to revamp the design and functionality of all their products. In 2019, the company created an exclusive tool sold only through Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. The Charge+ is a stainless-steel folding multitool that features Leatherman’s one-hand deployment design. However, unlike many other models, you can access the blades and tools while the unit is closed. Some of the tools include needlenose pliers, a wire stripper, spring-action scissors, can opener, saw blade, screwdrivers, and two knife blades. For firm handling, Leatherman added scales on the grip, which is colored bright orange to make it easy to spot should someone drop it in the woods or tall grass. —B.R.
Bivystick • Price: $350 Bivystick
Whether it’s a feature on a handheld GPS, or simply a location beacon someone can trigger in an emergency, the ability to communicate with the world via satellite from the backcountry has saved lives and given loved ones peace of mind knowing all is well before turning in for the night. However, composing messages on a device is an arduous task of sifting through alphabet letters to create words. That’s not the case with the Bivystick. Rather than scroll over characters on a small screen, the Bivystick provides a link between your smartphone and satellites. Connected via Bluetooth, someone can send and receive texts just like they would using cellular service, and because it also acts as a beacon and can relay its location every 10 minutes, people at home can track progress on a map. There’s even the ability to receive three- or seven-day weather forecasts based on the device’s location. Bivystick works with both iOS and Android phones and even features a charge port in case your phone battery needs a boost. —B.R.
BioLite 330 Headlamp
BioLite 330 Headlamp • Price: $50 BioLite
The best way to overcome a survival situation is to be prepared for anything, which when it comes to gear, sometimes means having backups for your backups. That’s why anytime I’m heading out for a serious trek, I bring at least two BioLite headlamps. Each rechargeable unit can illuminate the night for up to 40 hours on the low setting, the headband is a moisture-wicking fabric that doesn’t slide around on sweaty foreheads, and the LED bulbs put out 330 lumens of light. But the best part is the bands weigh next to nothing and you can fit several in just about any small pocket on a pack. I’ve had brighter flashlights and headlamps fail me (or one of my companions) on more than one occasion, so I always make sure I have a few charged lamps around. Moreover, at $50 or less each, a BioLite makes a great stocking stuffer or secret Santa mystery gift. —B.R.
Tiny Survival Card
Tiny Survival Card • Price: $20 Amazon
One of my favorite gifts I received as a child was a survival knife, replete with a hollow handle containing all sorts of supposed “survival” implements like waterproof matches, fishing line and hooks, and a wire saw. I was too young to know (or care) about the quality of the blade, the weak handle, or the fact the compass in the cap never worked. With it sheathed on my hip, I was Rambo and ready to take on any trouble a suburban green beret like myself could find. Now that I have kids, I want to foster their sense of adventure and imagination the same way my folks did, but sans the cheap Bowie-styled blade. If you’re in the same boat, a Tiny Survival Card is just what Colonel Trautman ordered. About the size of a credit card and made from stainless steel, one can easily slide it inside a Velcro Superman wallet, or into the side pocket of a pack. In a pinch, you can detach a host of tools and implements designed to improve your situation. There’s a makeshift knife, fishhooks, sewing needles, a broadhead, saw blades, and even a spare shirt button. It may seem like a novelty, but don’t be surprised how well it works when you need it. —B.R.
X-Plore Emergency Paracord Bracelets
X-Plore Emergency Paracord Bracelets • Price: $9 (set of 2) X-Plore Gear
Paracord is simply just one of those items anyone heading into the outdoors should have somewhere in their pack or on their person. Not only is it strong for its diameter (it’s also known as 550 cord because of its test strength), it’s easy to work with, great for tying knots, and lightweight—you can carry 100 yards mixed in with the rest of your gear and not even know it’s there. What’s more, people are still coming up with new uses for the material, like incorporating a flammable core so in a pinch, you can unravel the braid and have instant access to a fire starter. But likely some of the most creative ways to package paracord are the dozens of bracelets and chachkies you can attach to your arm or pack. Some include a compass, a knife, or a flint for starting fires. Undo the woven band and you have several yards of strong paracord at your disposal. The great thing is, most paracord trinkets are inexpensive and make great stocking stuffers, especially for kids with wild imaginations. —B.R.
Life Bivy Emergency Sleeping Bag
Life Bivy Emergency Sleeping Bag • Price: $20 Go Time Gear
While the phrase “be prepared” can mean several things to a lot of people, I interpret it as anticipating the worst situations and being ready, mentally and physically, to face anything. That’s why I like to throw one or more Life Bivy survival bags in my pack and roadside emergency kit. The sacks weigh next to nothing (4.1 ounces) but are made from an amazingly resilient material that keeps out rain, snow, and wind while reflecting back 90 percent of your body heat inside to keep you warm. The great thing about Life Bivy is you can also use the bag to create a shelter, it includes a survival whistle, and you can use the 550-lb paracord cinch straps to repair gear or start a fire. —B.R.
LifeStraw • Price: $20 LifeStraw
No survival gift guide would be complete without a nod to LifeStraw. Since its inception, The LifeStraw has been touted as one of the best ways to filter water should you find yourself in an emergency situation. While everyone hopes to never find themselves in such a position, this little tube weighs just two ounces, is 9-inches long, is made from BPA-free materials, and can filter out 99.9 percent of the waterborne parasites and bacteria that can cause illness. They’re so light and easy to store, I keep one in my pack and one in each of my kids’ packs, just in case. Truth be told, LifeStraws make great stocking stuffers. After testing theirs in the bathroom sinks (because mom said they couldn’t test it with toilet water), my boys can’t wait to use them in a real situation, though I pray they never have to. —B.R.
MSR TrailShot • Price: $50 MSR
If someone you know isn’t the type of person to drink filtered water straight from a source, or they simply prefer a more robust filtration system, the MSR TrailShot is a winner. This pocket-sized device also filters out 99.9 percent of the microscopic nastiness that turn stomachs inside out, and because it weighs a mere five ounces and packs down to the size of a baseball, it’s easy to fit in a pack. When it’s time to hydrate, simply drop the hose into a source and repeatedly squeeze the bubble-shaped handle to either pump H2O directly into your mouth or a refillable canteen. Don’t let the TrailShot’s small size fool you. It can pump one liter a minute and the filter does its job for up to 2,000 liters. —B.R.
Klymit Maxfield 2-person Tent
Klymit Maxfield 2-person Tent • Price: $275 Klymit
Next to a heat source and drinkable water, a reliable shelter is a paramount element to making it through just about any survival situation. In a pinch, you can build a temporary, improvised home using natural materials or possibly even man-made items you happen to find. But thanks to modern materials and some forward-thinking designers, pack tents are lightweight, easy to carry, and able to withstand all sorts of nasty elements. The Maxfield 2-person tent weighs just over four pounds and only takes a few minutes to set up. Aside from having a large sleeping area, the rainfly covers the entire tent all the way to the ground and stretches over the door to create a small vestibule for boots or backpacks. Inside there are storage pockets and openings for ventilation. All in all, it’s a great option for someone that wants to keep an emergency shelter in their truck, or a backup in a backpack should sleeping under the stars not be an option. —B.R.