Emergency preparedness from a combat veteran

20 best camping/survival gift ideas for kids

20 best camping survival gift ideas for kidsWith Christmas right around the corner and all the craziness with Black Friday etc, you may be wondering just what the heck you could get little Billy or Souxie this year for Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus. If you’re reading my site, you probably understand the usefulness, and even need of the outdoors in your life, whether it’s for camping fun or for emergency preparedness (and hopefully for both). BTW, this post is originally posted

But what gifts would be both useful and enjoyed? I’m here to help. I’m cool like that.

Due to the repeated feedback I’ve gotten from pretty much every girl I’ve ever dated, I’ve come to the conclusion that my maturity level is perfectly suited to knowing what kids want. Remember – these are supposed to be gifts, not just things they need. Resist the parental urge to buy them just things like long underwear. Getting clothes for gifts sucks until you’re 30. Even then it still sucks if you’re me.

In addition to the super-fantastical ideas below, I’ve given you specific examples of most items that I think they’d enjoy, and I’ve sorted through the crap out there to find the best choices out there for kids in general – but you don’t have to get just what I suggest. Your kids may not be the right age for my examples (I didn’t want to make this a list of 132 items) or they might just not be in the cool group. My choices are cool.

Even though I didn’t make it a list of 132 things, if you still can’t find what you’re looking for, check out my post on 99 freakin’ awesome ideas for your bug out bag.

The top camping and survival gifts for kids

1. Flashlight

One of the best things you can get for a kid (or anyone) is a flashlight. They’re hella useful and can actually keep them safe. Walking around in the dark can not only get someone lost, they can get hurt. A flashlight is an absolute MUST when camping but is also something they’d use on a daily basis. The big problem is keeping them from running the batteries down. But which flashlights would be best?

The obvious choice here is the Adjustable Mini CREE light. I’ve bought a TON of these myself and will be buying more. They’re SUPER tough, EXTREMELY bright, and look very cool. Oh, and I forgot to mention – they’re less than $5. They also run on a single AA battery so they’re pretty easy to keep powered. I personally use rechargeables with a solar panel and AA charger to keep all my stuff going. If you’d like to see what I’m using, check out my article on what I carry in my 25 pound bug out bag. This is really the best all-around stocking-stuffer gift out there for pretty much everyone on Earth.

Not only the best flashlight deal out there, it even looks cool

Another choice that would be really popular with kids and extremely useful is a headlamp. I always take a headlamp when I’m deployed with the Army or when I’m just camping. Much better than drooling over my flashlight as I’m trying to do something. One of the best choices here is the Intellinotion CREE headlamp. It takes 3 AAA batteries but you can get really inexpensive adapters to put them into an AA charger.

2. Fishing Rod

For survival purposes, it may be better to teach kids how to use dental floss and a primitive fishing hook, but that may not suit your timeline or your kids patience. Get them a real pole and spend your time teaching them how to use it, and then focus on teaching them how to fabricate stuff out of nothing.

I’d suggest just getting them a small quality pole instead of some gaudy Hello Kitty thing (no offense if you personally have Hello Kitty survival gear). Toy fishing poles break really easily. Now if your kid’s too small to ACTUALLY fish, then by all means get them a toy one like the Small World Toys Sand and Water – Catch of the Day so they can sit next to you while you drown worms but otherwise, get them a real pole.

One of the best ones out there is called the Ugly Stick by Shakespeare. Even though it’s a very small pole, you might even want to get one for yourself. They’re really good poles for everyone, not just kids.

3. Slingshot

Yeah, yeah. I hear ya. Still – a slingshot is one of those gifts that you’d remember for the rest of your life, and will keep them busy for HOURS. The one I use in my personal bag is called a Trumark. The cool thing about it is that it holds the BBs inside the handle, which is one of those really handy things so you don’t forget where you put them. I purposely chose this one though because it’s quality, cheap, light, and can shoot small rocks for when you run out of ammo.

I use this one – kids will love it

4. Binoculars

Binoculars for kids isn’t really a great choice for purely survival reasons because you really need a good quality pair to be useful but OMG do kids love to have these when they’re in the woods. If you marry them up with a treasure hunt or kind of game, you can keep them busy for hours. If you can get them hooked on something like birdwatching – fuggetaboutit. I don’t have any really good suggestions for them because it all depends on how much you want to spend and how useful you really want them to be. Just read the reviews for a good pair.

5. Journal/pen

This isn’t just something to keep your kids busy – although it’s useful for that. Situational Awareness is an important survival skill. You can easily get them to play games to record what kind of plants they see, different birds, map the campground, and all sorts of things. Also, you can write in important safety information in the journal such as your contact information, the grid coordinates of your camp, etc that they could use if they need to even if they had to find someone to help use it.

6. Firestarter

This is one of those things that kids really like – especially if you can teach them how to use it to start the campfire for your camp. There’s just something that resonates with kids when you can hit something and sparks come out. It’s freaking awesome.

I think one of the best choices for kids would be the Gerber Bear Grylls Firestarter. It’s larger than a lot of them so it doesn’t require the dexterity to use that the smaller ones do. It also comes with a lanyard that keeps the two halves together so they don’t lose half of it. The lanyard has a cinch thing on it that contains a whistle too, which is an important piece of survival gear. Here’s a full on video review of it so you can see more about it:

7. Compass

A compass is another very important piece of survival gear, and something that kids like to have. Just don’t get all chintzy and get one of those tiny button compasses. They suck. Line up 10 of them and see how many directions they show if you want to see just how much they suck.

There are several good quality compasses out there you can get but you don’t have to go for the full-on military lensatic compass like the one they issued me unless your kid’s a military nut like my son was or he really wants to learn land navigation. The Suunto A-10 Field Compass is much cheaper and still a great choice. It’s harder to shoot an azimuth with though, so it all depends on what level of bushcraft you’re trying to get your kid to at the moment.

Military compass for serious campers

Great choice for kids


8. Whistle

A whistle is kind of a must-have survival item. If you can keep them from driving you nuts by whistling in the house with it, you need to get them one. The Storm Safety Whistle I use in my kit is a great choice for them because it’s stupid loud and the one I linked to has a lanyard with it so they can wear it around their neck.

9. Clip-on Light

Kids really love lights but this one is one you’ll probably really like. When you’re sitting around a campfire at night, it’s easy to lose your night vision as you’re captivated by the ancient spell of burning embers. That means that as your kids go playing around the camp area, unless they’re right in the fire light, you won’t be able to see them very easily. Clipping some sort of light to them will help you keep track of where they are without having to have bright lights on or around them to spoil the starlight when you finally lean back and enjoy the show. These LED clip-on lights are really handy for that and can also be very useful to clip onto important items such as backpacks or the entrance to your tent.

Clip these on your kids at night

10. Lantern

Flashlights are great for walking around but when you’re back in the tent, a lantern is much better. The problem is that most lanterns are bulky and heavy if they last a while due to the huge batteries etc for anything bright enough to be useful. I was lucky enough that MPOWERD sent me one to do a review of their inflatable solar Luci lantern, which pretty much solves all of that. They deflate to about the size of a CD, will float, and don’t need batteries.

Luci-Inflatable-Solar-LED-Lantern-by-MPOWERD tent

Awesome inflatable solar lantern

11. Watch

Not only do watches help you tell time and hopefully keep everyone on a schedule so they can be done with what they need to and be where you need them to be at the appropriate time (hopefully), then can be a useful survival item. Something like the Timex Expedition is very inexpensive, good quality, has an indiglo light so they can read it at night, and can be used to figure out North during the day. How do you do this, you might ask? It’s easier if I just show you a video:


12. Walkie-Talkie

Kids really like walkie-talkies. They’re also very useful to keep in touch if your camp area is a good distance away from your latrine area (which it should be) or if you have several tents or camp areas that your friends and family are using. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on them either.

If your kids are older, go ahead and just get a set of Baofeng UV-5R radios. They’re a bit complicated to figure out so your kids might need to help you with that but not only can they be used as Family Radio Service (FRS) or GMRS walkie-talkies, they can listen to and transmit on ham radio frequencies (if you’re licensed to transmit). Because it can reach those frequencies, you can even use them to listen to the NOAA weather channels. If you want something simpler but not quite as functional, get an FRS/GMRS set of radios like this Motorola MH230TPR set. They won’t do ham but they will hear NOAA weather.

Best choice – even does HAM frequencies

Easier to use and still has NOAA weather

13. Backpack

Obviously by now you know that kids love backpacks. Which one all depends on your kid and their individual tastes. I have a whole article on choosing your kids backpack that you can peruse at your leisure.

14. Tent

If your kids don’t have their own tent, you’re missing out. Not only is it really useful when you’re camping once they reach a certain age, it’s something that they can set up in the back yard or even in another room for super fun sleepovers or playtime. Just make sure you get a self-standing tent or you’ll constantly be fiddling with it.

This Wenzel Children’s Sprout Two-Person Dome Tent is 6’x5′ and will work well. It’s easy to set up and a really good deal for the money. You can’t go wrong with this gift. A tent is the ultimate fort.

Wetzel Children tent

Be the cool one and get them a tent


15. Knife

A knife is one of those cherished things that kids really love and moms really freak out about. They are one of the most important survival items you can have though.

The ultimate knife for a kid is the Swiss Army knife. They make LOTS of models but you don’t have to buy the Holy Grail of Swiss Army knives. Consider the Cadet Multi-tool Knife – inexpensive and will last for decades.

The Cadet model is a great choice and inexpensive

16. Paracord Bracelet

Another no-brainer here. There are a lot out there but not all will fit. The TruConquest Paracord Bracelet is adjustable and made well.

If you’re the slightest bit handy, you can make a paracord bracelet yourself. Here’s how:

17. Spork

Ok, I really don’t like sporks but kids REALLY like them. As such, they’d still make a good gift. Of course in this case, I mean the sporks that have the spoon and fork on the same end. Luckily, they make versions that have a fork on one end and a spoon on the other. The Light My Fire Titanium Spork is what I’d suggest because it’s pretty much indestructible but they do make plastic ones that are still well-made.

Get this type, not the normal spork

18. Their own personal camping dishes

Kids like to have their own stuff to eat off of. I personally use a couple of Fozzils Bowls in my setup because they weigh close to nothing and pack flat. For a kid’s gift though, I’d suggest the Fozzils Solo Pack because it has a cup, bowl, and dish.

They pack flat and weigh almost nothing

19. Handwarmer

The last thing you want is for your kids to freeze their fingers or be shivering at night. Hand warmers are great for cold days/nights and you don’t have to get the ones that take fuel. HotHands has a pack of 10, 40, or 80 that warm up by just opening them up and they last up to 10 hours long.

20. Outdoor-related book

Obviously, you’d like your kids to not be bored while you’re out camping and it would be nice if they could keep themselves busy by doing something quiet so you could relax. As a responsible adult, it would also be nice if you could help with their education of the world. A book is the perfect solution to that.

Which book you get will depend on the child, their age, and what you’d like them to learn. Here are a few suggestions:

The Kids Campfire Book: Official Book of Campfire Fun
Beginning Birdwatcher’s Book: With 48 Stickers (Dover Children’s Activity Books)
National Geographic Kids Bird Guide of North America: The Best Birding Book for Kids from National Geographic’s Bird Experts
SAS Survival Handbook, Revised Edition: For Any Climate, in Any Situation
Curious George Goes Camping

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