7 Holiday Gift Suggestions for the Survivalist

   11.14.14

Whether you call it bush craft, wood craft, or simply the art of wilderness survival, you’re going to need some gear to get you through your stay in the woods. Modern survival preparedness has undergone a huge change in the last several years, and that includes a big influx of people who have become more and more interested in what it means to be self reliant away from civilization. Some are preparing for realistic scenarios when disaster strikes and what it’ll take to survive the hectic days afterwards, while others have a more fanciful scenario in mind—I’m looking at you, zombie lovers. Many more, however, just enjoy a few days out in woods away from the bustle of modern life.

It takes a host of skills to live comfortably in the backcountry. After all, this isn’t luxury camping where you pay for your meals and sleep in tents that are probably closer to movable cabins than some pieces of tarp. That’s called “glamping.” This is called survival. And survival enthusiasts know that it takes the right gear along with the right skills to make your trip not only fun, but safe. But what should you buy for that person who has everything? This gift guide will give you a few hints.

DeLorme inReach Explorer – $375

This is probably the most high-tech item on this list, and that’s okay. If you spend any amount of time in the outdoors, you’ll understand that “high-tech” items don’t necessarily get along with rain, dirt, snow, and getting dropped into the nearest stream. The simpler something is, the more rugged it’s likely to be. That is why some gear, such as the ever important survival knife, has changed very little in the millennia since it was first invented.

But technology isn’t bad, and in this case, it will save your life. The DeLorme inReach satellite messenger does many things. Its smartphone interface lets you send and receive text messages, set waypoints, access topographic maps, and a host of other important features. It’s most important aspect however, is that it functions as an emergency button. The DeLorme’s SOS feature allows you to contact emergency services if anything befalls you in the wild. That said, the DeLorme also comes with a relatively hefty price tag for that peace of mind.

SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Water Purifier – $90

This portable water purification device uses UV light to kill germs and harmful microorganisms. In fact, SteriPEN touts that the method will kill about 99.9 percent of these tiny pests, such as the parasite giardia. With two CR123 batteries, the Adventurer Opti can purify up to 100 half-liter treatments and even doubles as an emergency flashlight!

The great outdoors can be a perilous place, but being properly prepared and knowledgeable makes any trip more enjoyable (and safe). Dave Canterbury's new book explains the basics of woodcraft.
The great outdoors can be a perilous place, but being properly prepared and knowledgeable makes any trip more enjoyable (and safe). Dave Canterbury’s new book explains the basics of woodcraft.

Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival – $17

This book by survival expert Dave Canterbury is for those looking to spend an extended length of time in backcountry. Dave previously said that it was not explicitly a survival guide, but a guide for those who want to learn the basic skills needed to spend a week or more in the woods with only the essentials.

“There is a big difference between self-reliance and woodcraft compared to survival. Survival is life or death situations, whereas woodcraft is asking yourself, ‘What can I do to make my stay in the woods better?’” Dave said.

For Dave, the book is a also a culmination of his lifelong fascination with living in the modern frontier. He dedicated Bushcraft 101 to the frontiersmen, woodsmen, and authors who came before him and through whom he learned so much.

“I am a student of woodcraft, a scholar in that area. I have just about every book there is about the subject, and being able to reference past authors to illustrate certain sections of the book, it empowers the book.”

Look for Bushcraft 101 in paperback in store or online at the Adams Media bookstore and other retailers.

Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX Boots – $170

The 2.0 in Vasque's Breeze GTX means it has been redesigned to be better, stronger, faster, and more photogenic.
The 2.0 in Vasque’s Breeze GTX means it has been redesigned to be better, stronger, faster, and more photogenic.

If you’re going to spend any amount of time in the wild, you’re going to need good shoes. Odds are, you’ll be aiming for a middle ground between durable and light. Having a super-strong pair of boots will make walking a chore—unless you’re knee deep in snow—and having a super-light pair of boots will mean nothing when they break. The Breeze 2.0 is a good compromise.

This product from Vasque is surprisingly flexible and softer than it looks. The lightness of the boot comes from what is arguably its best feature: the air mesh portions on either side of the shoe. They keep the wearer’s feet aerated and cool, or at least as cool as you’ll get wearing boots. This is probably not what you’re looking for if you’re planning on doing some really hardcore backpacking—if it feels like you’re carrying around a baby hippo in your pack, it’s probably too much. What is the Breeze good for? Light to medium hiking, exploring, and running away from zombies in a wooded area.

KA-BAR Combat Kukri – $113

The KA-BAR Combat Kukri.
The KA-BAR Combat Kukri.

Don’t let the word “combat” in KA-BAR’s latest kukri offering throw you off, this is a versatile knife that can be used for just about anything. In truth, I’ve been wanting to try my hand at a kukri-style knife ever since I had the chance to borrow a kukri—or khukuri if you want to be more accurate—made by the metalsmiths at Himalayan Imports.

The KA-BAR version is vastly more affordable.

One of the benefits of an American-made product is you know exactly what steel the KA-BAR kukri is made from. As much I loved the mirror sheen of the Himalayan Imports version, I had little more than an inkling what it was made of. Despite their good looks—and functionality—the Nepalese kukris are all mystery metal. The KA-BAR, on the other hand, is forged from 1095 Cro-Van. If you are familiar with this steel, you would probably nod your head at its middle-of-the-line price-to-effectiveness value. In the shape of a kukri, this metal is beastly.

The KA-BAR did not come out of the box memorably sharp, but a few licks on a sharpening stone was all it needed to become an oversized leg shaver. The kukri is a pleasure to sharpen. Some people may be anxious about sharpening curved blades such as the kukri, but I actually find it more intuitive than a straight knife. I tested the knife with both a flat (factory sharpened) and convex grind and I found the latter much more effective. Convex grinds are usually referred to as “axe” grinds because of its popularity with woodsmen, and it lends additional durability to the edge. Convex grinds are also ideal for chopping, which is the kukri’s raison d’être.

The kukri is a beast. Rarely have I had such clean cuts on just about everything I tested the knife on—meat, random shrubbery, dead wood, an old table I reduced to tinder. The KA-BAR also soaked up the abuse without the slightest complaint or hint of damage. I heartily approve.

For bushcraft purposes, there are few tools more efficient than a kukri. It’s practically a hatchet welded to a Bowie knife and somehow it still works.

Work Sharp Guided Field Sharpener – $30

If you bring a knife, you’re going to need to bring a knife sharpener—or alternatively, just more knives. The Work Sharp Field Sharpener is, in my opinion, one of the best. It works straight out of the box and with no setup, and the guided 20 degree plates make it a no-brainer to use as well. Despite being relatively small, the field sharpener comes with one coarse diamond plate, on fine diamond plate, one ceramic rod with three sharpening positions (coarse, fine, and fish hook), and a broadhead wrench to take everything apart.

Legacy Premium Dehydrated Foods – price varies

Affordable, GMO-free, less sodium, no artificial flavors, and with a host of entree options to choose from, Legacy Premium foods have a good reputation among backpackers, campers, and bush craft enthusiasts alike. In the company’s own words, thinking of freeze-dried and dehydrated meals “might not conjure up images of a gourmet feast,” but years of collaboration with chefs has created some surprisingly tasty offerings.

YouTube’s Equip 2 Endure explains why Legacy Premium makes the list for their favorite emergency/survival food choice:

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