Or, increase your collection of ugly ties, whatever…
Really, guys; how many ugly ties do you need to check the oil in your car? I know it’s deeply soul-satisfying—to me, anyway—to wipe my dipstick with a tie I wouldn’t wear to a dogfight, but I wish Great-Aunt Emma wouldn’t keep sending ’em every Christmas. And after you’ve got enough gaudy, useless “ski sweaters” to jam under the entire length of your drafty garage door through the winter, do ya really want your sister gifting you another one? Tell those surrogate Santas what you really want!
I’m gonna try to hit two birds with one stone in this column. First, if you’re like me, you’d rather not get a Deluxe Mug-Froster, a genuine NASCAR combination ash tray and incense burner, or anything which prompts a response like, “Uhh… Where the heck can I put this until it’s been around long enough for me to semi-guiltlessly send it to Goodwill?”
Second, lots of you have asked me for personal recommendations on emergency preparation gear. Why not ask for that stuff? Explain to Santa’s helpers that to you, these objects are toys, entertainment, and responsible planning as well. I’d be ’way more tickled with a $4.95 100-hour emergency candle than a $14.95 paisley tie, or an $11.95 can of Fired Up! emergency fuel and fire-starter than a $29.95 sweater with cute little dancing bears on it. Maybe they’ll get the hint.
Hundred-hour emergency candles, Nalgene bottles and First
Need XL water purifiers make unconventional but excellent gifts.
Clean Water, Hot Chow
In light, portable water purifiers, you can’t beat the hand-pumped First Need XL. It uses ultrafine micro straining to remove bacteria, viruses, giardia, parasitic cysts, algae, pesticides and other nastiness. It’s easy to operate and field-serviceable, using no chemicals or batteries, and sells for about $115. And here’s a great tip I picked up from a hardcore backpacker:
The First Need XL comes with a good pre-filter to remove solids, but to significantly prolong service life, especially when cleaning really muddy, foul water, here’s what you do: Buy competitor MSR’s Sweetwater SiltStopper pre-filter unit (about $20) and a 3-pack of replacement pre-filters (also about $20). Carefully cutting the tubing, install the MSR SiltStopper just above the First Need pre-filter. Now you’re set up for maximum potable water treatment for extended periods. Your emergency may not be over quickly, and you may not just be supplying yourself and your family. These products are available in many sporting goods stores and online.
Nalgene wide-mouth water bottles are emergency essentials, virtually bombproof, and cost under $10 each. If that seems too plain a gift for your givers, tell ’em to toss in some M&Ms—or waterproof matches—and you’ll be happy. Note: every family member needs two; one for “suspect” contents, one for purified water only.
Wanta heat up or boil that water for bathing, cleaning wounds, cooking, coffee? Check out JetBoil compact, lightweight cooking systems. They’re extremely efficient and fast to set up and use under challenging conditions. JetBoil systems use proprietary isobutane/propane 4-season fuel canisters, but their BTUs for the bucks are excellent. Sizes and materials vary with systems running from around $100 to $150. If that’s too rich for Santa’s elves, buy it yourself and hint that extra fuel canisters will fit in your stocking!
A great field or emergency cooking system which uses almost any fuel is the classic Kelly Kettle. This old design is back in vogue simply because it’s so efficient, and burns almost anything flammable: sticks, twigs, leaves, trash, pinecones, charcoal and more. Imagine a double-walled thermos with a chimney right up its center—that’s the principle. Your water goes inside that jacket, and the design traps virtually all the heat from its burner below, and multiplies the heat transfer surface. With its optional cook set and pot stand, you can even cook chow over the top of the kettle’s chimney while your water is coming to a boil.
One of the best things about this design is that once your fire is going and drafting well, you can feed it damp material and it still burns. If you must start with wet fuel, a little Fired Up! starter will get it going.
The Kelly Kettle comes in three sizes up to 1.6 liters, in aluminum or stainless steel, ranging in cost from about $55 to the complete large stainless steel Base Camp cooking setup for $110. My source for that and Fired Up! fuel/fire starter is BePrepared.com.
JetBoil and Kelly Kettle cook systems—Christmasy-lookin’, aren’t they?
You need good maps of your home and surrounding areas, sufficient to cover a “Get Outta Dodge” situation, and if you’re a city-dweller or suburbanite, you need ’em even more than “we who live in the Lost Lonelies.” That’s because structures and development obscure or hide so many features which can be critical to you, like flood control channels, railroad bridges and tunnels, utility accesses, etc. Ask for good physical and road/street maps and especially USGS topographic maps. After events like hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and fires, the landmarks you’ve oriented yourself to and routinely depend on may be gone. USGS topos run about $6 each.
Silva, Suunto and Brunton make serviceable flat-base map-ready compasses as low as $10 each. If you have a good compass, you need a backup; if you’ve got a backup, you need a spare—you get the idea. Why not for Christmas?
Squeeze-activated instant-cold and instant-heat packs are plentiful and relatively cheap. I say “relatively,” because in emergencies they’re solid gold. They come in brightly colored packages, so that’s Christmasy, right?
Mylar (metallized plastic) rescue blankets belong in your kit too, and they have a shiny side, so you could call ’em “festive.” Nylon 550 paracord is another necessity. It comes in over 100 colors and camo patterns, including neon and reflective. Even your munchkin who saves small change in a sock can surprise you with a hank of it on Christmas morning. Just make sure you’re surprised and delighted!
Heck, if I got nothing but a few of these things for Christmas I’d be wigglin’ like a puppy and makin’ a fool of myself. OK, all right, I’d be doin’ that anyway, but that’s beside the point! Merry Christmas to all! Connor OUT.