Practical and Inexpensive Gifts for Scouts
As a former Scoutmaster and former Cubmaster, I have always had a hard time finding inexpensive, practical gifts to give to my Scouts during the holiday season. Everything I have seen on the internet often involves items that are either too expensive, aren’t practical, or are purely junk. I firmly believe that any gift you are giving to a Scout should be well made, have an intended purpose, and will last them throughout their Scouting years and beyond.
With that being said here are some items that I feel are good gifts that Scouts can ask for on their own ‘wish list’, or gifts that could be given to the entire Troop or Pack.
Stainless Steel Sierra Cup
A Sierra cup is a great, multipurpose item that any Scout would be proud to have in their backpack. It can be used as a cup, a bowl, or a plate. It’s lightweight, durable, and will last a lifetime. You want to be careful when getting a Sierra cup; there are plenty of cheaply made ones out there. You want to make sure that the cup is made of a good quality stainless steel. This quality is essential since Scouts will be cooking in and handling liquids with their Sierra cup.
Coghlans makes a Jumbo Stainless Steel Sierra cup (#8555) that is quite good. This rugged, rust-resistant, stainless steel cup features a stay-cool rim, and holds up to 2 cups (500mL) of liquid. RedFlareKits.com has them for $7.78 each, but if you order 7 or more, the price drops to $5.19 per unit.
To go along with their Sierra Cup, a Scout also needs utensils. I prefer plastic over metal for a couple of reasons: weight and cleaning. Metal (even titanium) tends to weigh more than plastic, and metal will rust unless taken very good care of. So for young men, plastic is the more practical option. There are a lot of utensil options out there, and most are good, but may only last for a year or so. I have found that the plastic used in most utensils becomes very stiff and brittle in cold weather. I have had more than one plastic utensil snap in half while using it in the fall and winter months. Lexan is a special, very strong plastic that will not break under normal use and conditions. If you are going to invest in plastic eating utensils, make sure they are made of Lexan. Some brands like the Light My Fire sporks say they are made of ‘heat-resistant polycarbonate’, but they are not Lexan. They will break when the slightest stress is applied; especially in cold weather.
Permaware makes a single spork made of Lexan and used to be only $1.00 each at GearX.com, but they no longer sell them. There are some comparable alternatives out there. Even if your Scout loses their spork, replacing it won’t cost you very much. I purchased one of these for each Scout in my Troop and have not had a single problem.
If you choose to purchase a metal utensil instead of Lexan; I would go with titanium. It’s lighter and corrosion resistant. Snow Peak makes a good titanium spork. REI has them for $9.95. They also come in colored versions.
Every Scout needs a good water bottle (or two). The only product I can faithfully recommend is a Nalgene 32 oz. wide-mouth bottle. The great thing is that the popularity of these bottles has risen in the last 10 years and you can now find them most anywhere for under $10. Nalgene bottles made in the USA, are BPA-free, and are virtually indestructible. Nalgene bottles are made of a strong copolymer or HDPE. Either style is good. The wide-mouth opening is ideal for putting ice cubes in the bottle. The standard wide-mouth opening also fits most handheld water pumps sold for outdoor use.
A Scout should have a good compass in their pack. Silva, Suunto, and Brunton make quality compasses. I like baseplate compasses because they are the best for Orienteering. I find they are also the best compasses for most Scouting activities. The Silva Starter and Silva Explorer compass are my two of choice.
Amazon has the Silva Starter for $15.76 and the Silva Explorer for $22.49.
Amazon also has the Suunto A-30 for $19.95.
Every Scout should know how to start a fire without the use of matches. It is an essential skill for anyone who ventures out into nature. Flint and steel is the most common tool for starting a fire without matches. Flint and steel are lightweight, waterproof, and fairly easy to use with a bit of practice.
There are many good fire starters out there for around $20. I can’t justify spending that kind of money on a tool that won’t be used everyday. The product I like is a magnesium block with a built in flint rod from Doan Machinery & Equipment Company. Other similar fire starters use a cheap magnesium alloy that will not light even with direct flame. These cheap firestarters are made in China. The Doan product is made in Ohio, USA and the magnesium shavings created with a pocketknife will instantly light when hit with a spark from the flint rod.
The Doan fire starter can be found for under $10 at Amazon.
Other Useful and Practical Items
Some other useful items that any Scout can make good use of are:
- Medium and heavy weight socks for cold weather and hiking. Cabela’s Duramax brand is good.
- A small pocketknife. Case, Victorinox, and Schrade are quality brands.
- Rain gear with GoreTex. Nothing worse than getting wet.
- A fleece jacket. Microfiber fleece makes a good second layer underneath a wind breaker to keep your core warm on those cold weather campouts and hikes.
- Good waterproof boots with GoreTex. Merrell, Salomon, Cabela’s, and Vasque are good brands. I don’t mind paying a bit extra for quality boots. Keeping your feet warm, comfortable, and dry is most important when out on the trail.