Christmas is nearly on us again, and for most of us one of the big tasks is finding appropriate gifts for all the important people in our lives. If one of those people is in the military, you might want to get them a new piece of gear, but what should you get? A well-chosen practical gift can be very welcome, and will remind them of you every time they use it, but it’s too easy to buy something that will end up collecting dust in a kitbag. Here are some tips to help avoid that.
The first one is the most obvious. If the person the gift is meant for is talking about a new item they’d like to have, that gives you a big hint. It might even be meant as one! In this case you know it’s something they want, so you’re pretty much guaranteed a success there.
If a service member is talking about something, it’s probably a new product that’s been released and quickly became popular. This happens a lot in the field of tactical and field gear. Leatherman tools, Maglites, insulated mugs and many other items have hit the market and rapidly become ubiquitous in the military community. Sometimes it’s commercial gear, sometimes it’s an issue item from an ally. In the late 1980s, the must-have item in the British Army was a Norwegian army shirt, which was much warmer than its UK equivalent in the field. In the 1990s it was a US camp cot. The US military tends to be ahead of the curve in issuing new equipment, and in most cases what the troops get is at least as good as our allies have, but the procurement system still takes time. That’s why privately purchased items are so popular.
If you get the chance, visit or call a military or outdoor store and ask the staff what’s selling well. The chances are they’ll be able to tell you this season’s must-have items, and have a choice of best-sellers at different price points. If the store’s busy, you can even just loiter creatively and watch what people are buying.
So what are some popular choices? Pocket accessories are always a good option for small gifts. Flashlights, folding knives and similar items are essential tools and are also areas where issue gear lags behind the market. Most troops opt for a compact LED flashlight instead of a bulky GI model, for example, and there’s a great range available.
For larger gifts, it can be harder to choose. Major items like rucksacks are pretty well covered by the military and there are specialist requirements that make a lot of commercial gear unsuitable. Electronics like GPS handsets often don’t include military features. There are some safer bets though. How about a good watch? Military life can be hard on watches and a high quality, robust one is always a nice gift. Casio’s G-Shock range and the outstanding models from Suunto are popular choices in the military, and can also be used every day.
Of course there’s nothing that says your gift has to be on a military theme, but a carefully chosen piece of gear will get a lot of use and earn plenty of appreciation from the receiver. That’s usually a sign that you got it right.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.