• Leon Pantenburg | Survival Common Sense


10 useful – but cheap – survival gift items for the holiday season

Moraine Lake in Central Oregon's Three Sisters Wilderness
600 400 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

Stuck for ideas of what to get a prepper/survivalist for the holidays? You don’t have to spend a lot of money to give a really good, thoughtful and useful gift.

by Leon Pantenburg

Christmas doesn’t have to break the bank. You’ve heard it here before: Good equipment doesn’t have to be expensive – it just has to work.

Here are some gift suggestions – I have used, and continue to use, all of these items. This is also a  good way to get the youngsters involved. Any Dad, or Mom, worthy of the title will cherish and use anything their child makes for them. If the gift ends up helping the parent survive an emergency, so much the better!

Do-It-Yourself gifts for under $1

Cotton balls and petroleum jelly firestarter: This combination is my go-to survival firestarter. Cotton balls cost about a penny each, and the petroleum jelly can be bought cheaply in large containers at any Walmart or Dollar General store. Use this no-mess method to make some firestarter, and then put it in a used prescription bottle. These make fantastic stocking-stuffers!

Charcloth: Charcloth is a material that will catch a spark and create an ember from any sparking source! Everything needed to make charcloth can all be salvaged or recycled. An Altoids tin or any can that can be sealed becomes the charring tin. One of the best charring materials is denim from old Wranglers or Levis. 100 percent cotton cloth works really well, and Monk’s cloth is one of the best. Everyone should carry charcloth.

Waxed firestarter: You can put an old cotton Terrycloth towel to use to make a really effective fire starter. Infuse the cotton by dipping it in melted wax from those old candles in the junk drawer. The firestarter is waterproof, lights easily and provides a flame for several minutes.

I cut pieces of the finished firestarter into credit card-sized pieces, put them in a small plastic bag, and carry them in my wallet.

Lanyard: The paracord needed to make this lanyard will cost less than a buck. All you have to supply is the knowledge, and this video teaches you the knots you need to know. What do you attach to a lanyard? Anything you want to keep!

Match boxes: Everybody has some sort of prescription, and the plastic containers can be very useful. Making match boxes is just one use. Get fresh strike-anywhere matches, and keep them in a plastic prescription bottle. Tip: Also include the abrasive stripe from the box AND face the abrasion next to the plastic!

55-gallon trash bag: These are available at Lowe’s, Home Depot or most box stores. Get the thicker 3 to 4 mil bags. You will use this bag a lot – I have been able to clean up several trash dumps in the Backcountry because I had a bag along. This is also the quickest item and technique for getting out of a rainstorm fast.

Jute rope or twine: You can generally buy this rope by the foot at Lowe’s, Tractor Supply or similar stores. I like to take six to 10 feet with me. You can always use rope or twine for something. Learn how to make cordage from natural materials, and you’ll appreciate having some along! I recommend jute because it makes great tinder for flint and steel firemaking. 

Under $5

Whistle: One of the best survival tools for kids is a whistle and the training to use it. Whistles range in price from under one dollar to fancy, expensive models. Always attach a whistle to the child, and make sure they understand when and where to use it.

BIC mini lighter: These sell for about a buck apiece. The BIC models are the most reliable I’ve found, and I carry multiples. Learn how to modify them for greatest efficiency in the video below.

Paracord is wonderful cordage and I use it with tarps to make shelters. Look around and you can find 50 feet for under $5.

Over $5 but still a bargain

Zippo lighter: There is no one firemaking tool that can be relied upon to always work. But a standard Zippo lighter, properly fueled with lighter fluid, may work when a butane lighter or matches fail. The Zippo can be operated with one hand. Zippos are available for about $11 at Walmart and other discount box stores. Learn about the best survival ignition systems.

Bushcraft Basics: I would be remiss to leave out this wonderful survival manual :). Blatant commercialism here, but I have condensed decades of woods rambling and backpacking knowledge into this volume! It could be priceless!



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