When my wife and I lived aboard our sailboat in the 1980s and 1990s, we tended to give each other `practical’ gifts for birthdays, holidays, and special occasions (“Honey, here’s that flare gun you wanted. Happy Anniversary!”).
Now I know that may not sound very romantic, if you should ever find yourself truly in need of a flare gun, you’ll find that jewelry, flowers, gift certificates - or any other traditional anniversary gifts - make exceptionally poor substitutes.
This practice led me to giving `preparedness’ gifts to friends and family over the years, and since 2007 (see see Hickory Farms Will Hate Me For This), promoting this idea in my blog. Over the past decade I’ve given water filters, LED lanterns, NWS weather radios, MREs, batteries, first aid kits, and emergency stoves for gifts.
Most were under $20, and most were items that people need during an emergency, but rarely think to buy before a crisis starts.
Each fall, often during National Preparedness Month, I try to make the case for buying preparedness items for holiday gift giving, with my most recent appeal in October (see The Gift Of Preparedness – 2014 Edition). And in that blog you’ll find both low cost `stocking stuffers’ along with some bigger ticket items like solar panels and FRS and crank radios.
With just four shopping days left till Christmas, and most of our wallets running thin, I thought I’d run through my list of my top under $20 preparedness gift ideas. NOTE: Products mentioned here are to provide a general idea of the type of gift, and should not be viewed as an endorsement of one brand over another.
Batteries, and battery chargers make terrific preparedness gifts. Just about everyone uses AA or AAA batteries, and you can either buy a decent quantity of disposable batteries, or go `green’ with a handful of rechargeable batteries and a charger for under $20.
When the lights go out, nothing beats having a couple of good LED flashlights or lanterns. And each year they get brighter, and cheaper. Most run between $5 and $10, and that beats the heck out of cursing the darkness.
A couple of years ago I bought several water filtration systems, one to keep and a couple to give to prepping buddies. LifeStraw ® is now available in the United States and Canada; at just 2 ounces, this personal water filter will reportedly filter 1000 liters down to .2 microns. Not bad for around $20.
Emergency cook stoves can be had for under $20. A 1 burner propane camp stove costs about $12, add a couple of 1 pound propane cylinders (about $3 each) and you can cook for a family for a week.
Something as simple, and as utilitarian, as a multifunction `Swiss’ army knife or a `Multi-tool’ makes a great preparedness gifts.
For emergency electrical power, I found an 80 watt cigarette lighter inverter for my car. It can power a small laptop, and has a USB charger port as well. Under $20. A few of these will end up in the stockings of friends this year. .
And for under $10, you can pick up a cigarette lighter USB charger, that can top off your phone or mobile device.
Although you may have to look for a sale, I found this combination AM/FM Weather ALERT radio at a discount store for under $20 a few years ago. Every home and business should have an emergency alert radio.
While I can’t predict what 2015 will bring to you and your loved ones, it’s pretty good bet that between severe weather and other natural disasters, there are going to be plenty of people across this country who will wish they had most – if not all – of these items before the lights went out.
Because, during any emergency, the advantage always goes to those who were prepared.