Santa's Bugging Out: 11 Survival Gifts He Should Drop at Your House | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Don’t you love receiving a gift that you can really use? One that says the gifter must have really thought about you personally before buying it?

And don’t you just love it when you come upon that perfect gift for someone? One that will brighten their day?

I’ve picked out my 10 favorite gifts that I think most everyone should have on hand for camping, hiking, or just-in-case emergencies that can happen at any time.

Now don’t get me wrong, some people need more ties, and I’ll admit they can make a great tourniquet. And a part of a sweater can make as good a wound dressing as any other piece of soft material. And it’s true, you really can’t get enough underwear and socks. So, I’m not putting those gifts down. But sometimes, at least I, like to look for a more unique gift also.

As such, I submit for your consideration a few presents that will make your gift receiver think, wow, they really thought about this. Presents you may not have thought of but are easy to find. All are small and light enough to easily fit into a backpack or bug-out bag and not take up much room. And they’re assuming you already have the basics—several good coats, hats, boots, gloves, and a basic medical supply kit.

Here’s my list. While you’re at it, consider buying some of this for yourself.

1. Solar charger
Around $100.

Remember Hurricane Sandy and all those cell phones plugged into a charger someone placed outside their house? A solar charger is more expensive than my other suggestions, but so many people today depend on a cellphone as their lifeline. How else are you going to call 911 when the electricity’s down and your battery is dead?

2. Hand-crank radio

Say there’s a wildfire or a hurricane or a flood, the electricity’s off, and you’re low on extra batteries. How are you going to know when the problem is coming your way? When to evacuate? Or say there’s a terrorist attack that includes limited nukes, and you’re waiting it out inside your home or a shelter. A radio will be a must to get the latest info about when the radiation has dissipated enough to go outside.

3. Portable water filter that guarantees pores no bigger than (sometimes says “absolute”) 1 micron
Around $30–$50 for portable bottle type, $20 for straw-filter type that you can put straight into the water source without a bottle

Be careful of the wording. Some try to fool you. A 1 micron or smaller filter should be able to take care of all, not just some, of the parasite protozoa giardia and Cryptosporidium. The smaller the pore size, the more germs the filter will take out, but viruses like hepatitis are so small that I’d also use some chlorine or water purifier tablets, so maybe toss a few of those into your loved one’s stocking. They don’t always kill protozoa, but they do kill bacteria and viruses that the filter may not. (By the way, boiling the water for a few minutes kills them all. Read more about disinfecting water here.)

Yaktrax Walk, one of several Yaktrax designs.

Yaktrax Walk, one of several Yaktrax designs.

4. Snow chains for the feet

At least that’s what I call them. Pick your brand. I have Yaktrax and actually stuffed them in all the family stockings a few years back. Even if you don’t live in a snowy region, I’d suggest them in anywhere the temperature occasionally goes below freezing. You wouldn’t believe how many bad falls on the ice I would see when I lived in Mississippi. All it takes is one patch of ice. These traction devices can fit in your pocket and are easy to slip onto any non-high heel shoes you have on. (In the U.K., Yaktrax even sells a version for heels.) They’re made out of strips of strong rubber with a thick wire or other metal that wraps around or is inlaid in the part that goes on your soles.

5. SAM Splint

I recommend these in my supply list, which you can download. They’re strips of padded aluminum that are thin, light, and several inches wide. They can be cut to any size. When the splint is flat, it’s very flexible, but when crimped in the middle, it becomes very firm. I show a few ways to use them in my videos on sprains, breaks, and neck injuries. has even more how-to instruction.

SAM Splint, from "Santa's Bugging Out: 10 Survival Gifts He Should Drop at Your House" | The Survival Doctor6. Space blanket

First made by NASA to reflect heat off rockets, space blankets are made of very thin sheets of plastic coated with a fine layer of aluminum. They’re extremely light and pack small. When used with the aluminum siding loosely next to you, they can keep you warm by reflecting and trapping your body heat. If you’re stuck in the cold in a vehicle, you can wrap the windows with these blankets, or in the wilderness, you can make a tent to trap heat from a fire (but vent the smoke) or use the blanket as a tarp facing the fire to reflect the heat back to you. Note, though, space blankets have no insulation value at all and best are combined with a wool blanket or sleeping bag.

A blizzard blanket is a bulkier version of this that utilizes air pockets in-between layers of material for insulation. Read up or watch videos on using these products correctly.

More Gift Ideas

Another gift idea is to make what I call an “ultimate” emergency medical kit—or give a few starter or booster supplies for one. Find my recommendations here.

7. Headlamp

Have you ever tried to do something with one hand that requires both? That’s where these come in the most handy—freeing up both of your hands.

8. Israeli bandage

This makes a great pressure dressing or tourniquet. It’s easy to use, but you’ll need to someone show you how or watch a video.

8. Paracord bracelet

Most of you know about this weaved parachute cord because it has so many practical uses. For medial purposes it can do for a tourniquet or to wrap a dressing or splint to keep it in place. You can find paracord bracelets about anywhere, but these, which benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, are pretty neat because you’re also donating to such a great cause.GyverGear, from "Santa's Bugging Out: 10 Survival Gifts He Should Drop at Your House" | The Survival Doctor

9. GyverGear products

This company is new, but its products, the GyverTin and the GyverCan, look intriguing. I love items with multiple uses, and who better than a Navy Seal (who developed the products) to advise you on what’s most useful in the field? The small, metal tin and can contain basic, nonfood essentials the developer believes you’re most likely to need in a short-term survival situation.

10. Living Ready Pocket Manual: First Aid

Living Ready Pocket Manual: First AidYou didn’t think I was going to leave this out, did you? It’s my new book, and it teaches all about how to treat common injuries and illnesses with first aid, yes, but also what to do when you’re out in the middle of nowhere or can’t get medical help because of a disaster or whatever. And because it’s not even quite published yet (you’re getting in early), I’ve commissioned a gift certificate you can download and put under the tree after you buy the book in case the book doesn’t reach you by Christmas. Your giftee will get it hot off the presses.


What do you think? Have you tried any of these things? Can you think of other survival gift ideas?


Disclaimer: The only affiliate links in this post are general ones. I did not receive compensation from these manufacturers for mentioning their products. I also do not vouch for any of these products. This list is for information only, not personal recommendations.

Santa hat credit: Santa Claus Hat Clip Art from (by erics).