Top 5 Christmas Gifts Every Prepper Should Have

Let’s face it, being pragmatic about Christmas isn’t any fun. However, if times are tight, it might be a good idea to approach gift giving in this frame of mind. Not many folks like getting socks or underwear for Christmas…but almost everyone that does CAN use them….so is it wrong to give a gift that is useful?

NOT a fun approach to  Christmas...
NOT a fun approach to
Christmas…

 

 

Now that I’ve sucked a bit of life out of a fun holiday, let me tell you about items that I have in my life that my family could re-wrap and re-give to me…and I’d be tickled to open them as “new” gifts – they are THAT much of a useful item in my life. Most of the items on my list do not get used every day, but when I need them, they are absolutely the right tool for the job. Having the proper tool makes most tasks far easier, and each of these do just that.

I am listing these in the order I received mine.

1. A Vacuum Sealer

vacsealer
FoodSaver V3460

I actually have two of them now, one is the FoodSaver V3460, an automatic sealer that saves me quite a bit of time and effort over my other one, a manually operated FoodSaver V485. The manually operated unit requires me to hold down the sealing mechanism until it starts to seal. The automatic one simply requires me to insert the bag, it takes over from there, allowing me to walk away and continue with the next bag.

Yes, the time saving is less than 30 seconds per package, but when I’m vac-sealing 50 pounds of rice in 1 pound packages, it DOES save me some time… Both units have an accesory port for sealing jars – something I do a LOT

The other nice thing it the FoodSaver V3460 also has over the FoodSaver V485, is a marinating program use in conjunction with a vacuum canister. I have used it to marinate meat, and it vastly speeds up the process from hours to minutes.

Yes, I have the canisters, the jar lid sealers, and LOTS of bags.  I purchase the bags from DC Sales Enterprises. They offer a decent selection of high quality products, and we buy their vac bags by the hundreds, since they offer the best value for money spent.

 

2. Dehydrator

My first dehydrator was one made from a box fan, two paper air filters, and several sheets of plastic canvas, (the kind used for needlepoint). I already had everything except for the sheets of plastic canvas, so my out of pocket expenses were minimal, a good thing at the time, as I was Church mouse poor. This design was one of Alton Brown’s creations, and was very functional, though cumbersome and awkward.  I used it to dehydrate all manner of things, and realized that I would eventually have to upgrade to a more streamlined dehydrator.

Eventually I picked up a Nesco dehydrator. This one had a small fan, but no thermostat. Since there was no way to control the temperature, it wasn’t recommended for making jerky. Bummer.

I upgraded not long after to the Nesco FD-60 with a thermostat, allowing me to read temps of 155+. Jerky requires 165 to be considered “cooked” and safe, but I found that by blocking some of the vents, temps creep up to the 165-170 range within an hour or so, once the jerky is “dry” and almost done.

But with this dehydrator being round, all my jerky-gun jerky was curved, annoying me. And with the jerky temp shortcut bothering me (being a caveman at heart, I am a slob about most things, food prep is NOT one of them), I realized I would be upgrading eventually.

excaliburSo I decided to bite the bullet, save my pennies, and eventually ended up with my baby, the Excalibur 9 Tray Deluxe Dehydrator. I’ve written about it several time, and use it almost constantly. Mine has been used so much that I’ve burnt out a motor and later a thermostat, both replaced under their fantastic warranty. With 9 SQUARE trays (straight jerky!)  totaling 15 square feet of space.

my excalibur
My Excalibur with every other shelf removed for drying larger items

My Excalibur Dehydrator has a permanent place in our store room, always plugged in and ready to run. I’ve since added the Non-Stick Dehydrator Sheets for making fruit leather (rollups), and for other foods that start out very wet. And as a bonus, if you remove the trays, the Excalibur Dehydrator can be used to incubate your own yogurt. I’ve used powdered milk that was reaching the end of its shelf life to make a mighty tasty yogurt, better than any store-bought yogurt. We try to waste nothing in this house :)

I SO love my Excalibur Dehydrator.

 

3. Water Filter System 

 In our prepper and survivalist circles, there is an axiom, “Two is One, and One is None”. In simple terms, if you have a single point of failure, it WILL fail. Part of prepping is preventing single points of failure.

Within the “Rules of Three”, there is the fact that you will die without water after three days. This make water a rather important part of prepping. Add in the fact that each person requires about a gallon per day, more if participating in strenuous activities. With four family members, a dog, a few dozen quail, and a couple dozen rabbits, there is a rather large daily water requirement for our household.

Hurricane Jeanne
Hurricane Jeanne – Yet another direct hit on FloridaHillbilly!

We’ve been through three hurricanes that made direct hits on our property in the last 6 years, plus countless grazings and near-misses. Since up until the first hurricane hit us in `06, our sole means of having water was our pump and well, I decided to shore up our water backups. We now have city water installed. And as a backup, we have four 55 gallon rain barrels.

In addition, there are two 1/2 acre ponds less than 300 yards from our house. But Florida water teems with life that goes unchecked by annual frosts. No telling what is living in that water… Whatever it is, I do NOT want to have to drink it.

Enter the Berkey Travel water filter and the Berkey Sport bottles. The Berkey company offers a line of water filters that:

  • Eliminates or Reduces up to 99.9% of:
  • Unpleasant taste and odors, cloudiness, silt, sediment and chlorine
  • Toxic chemicals: Trihalomethanes, VOCs, detergents, pesticides, etc
  • Harmful microscopic pathogens: Cryptosporidium, Giardia, E-coli >99.99999% and other pathogenic bacteria
  • Heavy metals: Aluminum, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper, Lead, and Mercury
Travel Berkey
Travel Berkey

In short, it is the best I could find. The Berkey Travel is good for filtering 1.5 gallons of water per hour, with the filters having a lifetime of roughly 6000 gallons of water before needing replaced. This will provide my family of 4 enough water to last about 2 years at two gallons of water per person, or 4 years of “just getting by”. Replacement filters have an indefinite shelf life, and only take a couple of minutes to install.

For grab-and-go situations, the Berkey Sport bottles are a perfect fit. Each bottle is good for 110 gallons of pre-filtered or relatively clear water, like I have

Berkley sport bottle
Berkley sport bottle

in my rain barrels. The production is about half of that is used in very dirty water. This gives you a 2-3 month supply of filtered water.  I have one of these for each family member. They also have replacement filters available. At around $20 each, why would you NOT have one? What I like most about the Berkey Sport bottles is that they not only filter the water, but also carry it. In a bad situation, a water vessel can make all the difference in living or dieing….

I carry a Berkey Sport bottle in my every day carry pack, with the bottle also filled with other “just-in-case” items. It not only can carry water, it also carries my survival kit…..just in case :)

 

4. Pressure Canner

Stocking food is a part of what we did growing up in the hills of West Virginia. We weren’t preppers or survivalists, we simply knew that if you have an overabundance today, its a smart idea to preserve it in some way so that you will still have some for the leaner times. One of the more common ways for us to preserve food was canning.

For high acid and/or high sugar foods like jams, jellies, and pickles, water batch canning was all you needed. However, for low acid foods, like meats, green beans, and low-sugar fruits, a pressure canner is required in order to preserve the food safely.

Since getting back into the self-reliant lifestyle that I’m trying to live now, I’ve wanted to incorporate canning EVERYTHING, including meat of all types. I’ve done just that, putting up rabbit, chicken, pork, and beef. The quality of the end product is about as good as it could possibly be, with the key factor being the meat I started with. Nothing else, other than salt, is added to the jar. So if I have a decent cut of meat, I’ll end up with a very tender, tasty, and healthy end product…all with a shelf stable life of years.

And while a decent pressure canner can cost $200 or more, it is a lifetime purchase, particularly in the case of the All American 921 canner I opted for. With a metal-to-metal seal, there is nothing to wear out, other than possibly the pressure gauge, and then, only have decades of use.

My canning gear in storage with the All American 921 on the right
My canning gear in storage with the All American 921 on the right

The All American 921 canner is probably THE pressure canner all others are compared to. It holds 19 pint jars or 7 quart jars without issue. It is built like an industrial piece of equipment, with a milled aluminum body and lid. Weighing in at around 20 pounds when empty, it is a BEAST to move once it is filled and ready to process.Another (possible) downfall is it is not recommended for use on a glass top stove. I do it (have done it for years), with the understanding that I may break my stove top. If you try it, remember I warned you!

I’ve canned meat in mine many times, and the only problem with the end product is that I went through 19 pints of corned beef in about a month – TOO tasty!

 

5. Kindle

What? A Kindle as a prepper item? In a word, Yes.

Some of my my Kindles
Some of my my Kindles
(That’s a hacked screensaver on the bottom right of me holding a nice snook)

 

I am a Kindle FREAK. I have three of my own, and everyone else in the house has one of their own. My teenager doesn’t use hers much, I’ll admit, but my youngest reads hers often, and my wife won’t leave home without hers.

(The Kindle Keyboard, my preferred model, is no longer available new, so check Craigslist or eBay for used models. Go here for a writeup I did on the Kindle Keyboard.)

 

 

 

What does a Kindle (or ANY portable eReader for that matter) offer for a prepper?

  • Entertainment. Reading is FUN
  • Education. Reading can be a learning experience.
  • Connectivity. I can use my Kindle Keyboard 3G to connect to the web in a pinch via the integrated 3G service. For free (50mb per month limit). Its not fast, and doesn’t support Flash or video, but DOES offer an alternative method of getting information when other options fail.
  • References. This is the reason I have multiple Kindles. I have two of them set as backup repositories for reference material – Military manuals, how-to books, survival literature, and of course The Walking Dead graphic novels. All stashed away, just in case.

 

I also like the Kindle 3 over other eReaders because of its long battery life, and ease of charging. With my solar powered backup system, my car, my battery jump box, or any wall outlet, I can recharge my Kindle. Once fully charged, I get over a month of standby, or several weeks of reading before needing recharged. I like low-maintenance and high output.

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So that’s it, my list of things I already own that I would be happy to have re-wrapped under the tree for Christmas. Each of the items improves my life for the present as well as the future. Each saves me money as well, when used with a little forethought.

The vac sealer, dehydrator, and pressure canner allow me to take foods on sale and save them long term.

The water purifier allows me to filter water instead of buying bottled water in the event our local water becomes contaminated (more than it already is).

And Kindle books cost less than hard copies, and you can usually find FREE kindle books all the time.

 

 I hope you all have a Merry Christmas. No matter what your belief is, the season is NOT about material goods. Spend time with family or friends you love. Memories have a great shelf life, and are a far better thing to have than a Cabbage Patch Doll. Just sayin’

Peace,
db

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