Saturday, December 05, 2015

Holiday Preparedness Stocking Stuffers


CDC Infographic




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, but if should ever find yourself truly in need of a flare gun, you’ll find that jewelry, neckties, and gift certificates make exceptionally poor substitutes.


This practice led me to giving `preparedness’ gifts to friends and family over the years, and since 2007 (see Hickory Farms Will Hate Me For This) I’ve promoted this idea each year 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 to friends and family during the holidays.  


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 September (see #NatlPrep - The Gift Of Preparedness).  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 holidays approaching, 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. 


I also buy a  few magnesium fire starters each year (at $4 each) which will end up as stocking stuffers.


Something as simple, and as utilitarian, as a multifunction `Swiss’ army knife or a `Multi-tool’ makes a great preparedness gifts.

swiss knife



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. 

NOAA Radio

Often forgotten, but safety goggles, a box of vinyl or nitrile gloves, or a box of facemasks (or N95 masks) should be in everyone’s emergency kit as well.




While I can’t predict what the new year will bring to you and your loved ones, it’s pretty good bet that there are going to be plenty of people across this country who will wish they had most – if not all – of these items on hand before the next disaster strikes.


Because, during any emergency, the advantage always goes to those who were prepared.


wmsn said...

Mike, I thought you might like to know that one of your holiday preparedness gift columns saved a family's home and possibly their lives. When you get to be my age, most of your friends have everything they need, so they are hard to buy for. I read your column and decided to give a gift of a fire extinguisher. If my friends' had one already, another one would still be useful. It turned out that they didn't have one at all. Their house has a combination gun room/workroom upstairs and my friend's husband unwisely decided to use a torch to make a repair there and caught something on fire. He reflexively threw it in the wastebasket. Instant bigger fire! The room was filled with gunpowder and guns. He yelled to his wife to bring the fire extinguisher and she ran upstairs with it. They were able to bring the fire under control. I got a call thanking me for saving them from disaster. Now I'm thanking you for your gift suggestion. You are not just a voice crying in the wilderness. People listen. My friend went straight out and bought two fire extinguishers. I wouldn't wonder if she didn't buy fire extinguishers for presents this Christmas. THANKS, MIKE!!! Beverly Williamson (bgw in MT)

Michael Coston said...


Thanks for sharing. It's a terrific story!