Around this time each year, millions of us share the same struggle; what should we buy for our family and friends this year for Christmas? It is a tradition as old as the holiday itself. While generations before us gave mostly handmade gifts, and many still do today, the majority struggle with picking out the perfect gift. We tend to believe that we know our spouses, children, parents, and friends quite well, though that knowledge never seems to help when it comes to gift-giving. As it turns out, you can breathe a sigh of relief this year. We here at KnifeUp have done the work for you! Throughout the year, we test and review countless pieces of gear for those who choose to play outdoors.
From camping and hunting to hiking and tactical gear, we have organized our favorite gear into groups that are friendly for any budget. The gear we recommend comes from our own personal experiences, or from those of trusted friends or colleagues, so you can be sure that what we have included in our list is quality gear that won’t let you down when you need it the most! Our list this year is broken down by price, and there is a good selection in each bracket.
$25 and under
The Lifestraw is something everyone should keep in their home or car at all times. It allows you to have filtered water anytime you find a source of water. Simply place the bottom of the straw in your water source and drink normally.
The Lifestraw’s 0.2 micron filter removes bacteria and parasites and microplastics that can cause severe illness or even death and will filter 1000 gallons of water. At 1.62 ounces, the Lifestraw is perfect for any backpacking or hiking adventure. Keep one in the car, boat, camper, and in any bugout bag or other emergency kit and you’ll have the piece of mind knowing that you can have safe drinking water anytime and any place you find a water source.
Gerber Freeman Guide
Who says you can’t get a quality outdoor knife for less than $25? The Gerber Freeman Guide is a drop point fixed blade hunting knife made with 5Cr15MoV stainless steel. The 4-inch full tang blade features jimping on the spine and a modest finger guard behind the small choil. The handle is comprised of Tac-Hide scales with finger grooves to provide a comfortable, secure grip. Coming in at .13 inches in thickness and 8-⅜ inches in overall length, the Freeman Guide is robust enough to take whatever you can throw at it. It comes equipped with a nylon sheath with belt loops and a lanyard hole on the pommel. From batoning wood for a campfire to dressing large game, The Gerber Freeman Guide is a welcome stocking stuffer for your favorite outdoorsman!
Smith & Wesson Tactical Defense Pen
Tactical items are a hot item right now, and one of the most popular items in that category is a good tactical pen. Based on the martial arts weapon called a Kubotan, the Smith & Wesson Tactical Defense Pen can be employed in a defensive manner to strike an attacker in sensitive locations on the body such as the eyes, neck/throat, nose, ribs, and groin, among others. The pen can also be used, obviously, as a writing instrument. Most are roughly the same dimensions, roughly 6 inches long and ½ inches in diameter and use Fisher Space Pen refills. The Smith & Wesson Tactical Pen is made of aluminum with a knurled grip near the tip. The cap is removable and rests securely on the non-writing end. It also features a pocket clip to secure the pen to your pocket.
Princeton Tec Fuel Headlamp
Whether you’re doing a little night hiking, changing a tire on the side of the road, or checking your circuit breakers after a power outage, a quality headlamp is an important item to keep around the house. The Princeton Tec Fuel can tackle all of those tasks and many more. Princeton Tec is known for their high-quality headlamps and are used by cave explorers all around the world. The Fuel comes in several colors and features four modes: flash, high flood, medium flood, and low flood. The output on high is 70 lumens for 74 hours. With its wide, comfortable headband and feather lights 78 gram weight, you’ll barely notice you have it on.
The PowerCore Lite boasts 2.5 full charges for both the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones via the latest USB-C high-speed technology. The unit is 5-½” x 3” x ½” and weighs a scant 7.7 ounces. It comes with a micro USB for charging the charger itself. It does not come with a USB-C to lightning, nor a USB-C to USB-C. This charger can fill to capacity in 5.5 hours. There is a lot to love about the Anker PowerCore Lite. The performance and capacity are unmatched at this price point.
Whether you’re taking a day hike with a stop for lunch, or you’re looking for a larger sized “get home” bag, or carrying your textbooks to class, the Army Assault 2-Day backpack from HBAG will carry the gear that you need while looking good in the process. Made from 900D nylon and high density ripstop, the Army Assault is made to take a beating and continue performing for years and years.
The main bag has a 30-liter capacity, and the snap in hood gives another 8 liters. There are 2 large exterior pockets, an interior padded laptop sleeve, and accommodations for a hydration reservoir. The Air Direct back panel is highly cushioned, yet channels air to keep you cool while you’re on the go. The detachable top features bungee cord gear storage, and there is MOLLE webbing on each side of the exterior. Overall, this is a really great deal at $25.
$25 to $50
The Lifestraw is something everyone should keep in their home or car at all times. It allows you to have filtered water anytime you find a source of water. Simply place the bottom of the straw in your water source and drink normally.
In 1992, the Naval Special Warfare Development Group held a contest to design a tactical fighting and survival knife that was to become the standard issue knife for the SEAL teams. That knife, the SOG SEAL 2000, is still in use today by the US Navy’s most elite operators. SOG used that knife as the inspiration for the SEAL Pup, a shorter version with a 4.75” partially serrated clip point blade. These two knives are the most popular knives SOG produces, and the SEAL Pup is one of the best selling tactical knives ever created. Utilizing AUS-8 steel that is hardened to 57-58 Rockwell hardness, the same steel used in the larger SEAL 2000, the SEAL Pup is well-equipped to handle virtually any task one could encounter in the field. The balance, grip, and feel are excellent, with no hot spots, even when chopping. The blade is powder-coated for reduced glare and corrosion resistance. There are several options with the SEAL Pup. You can choose between a coated blade and a non-coated. There are two different scabbard options, one being hard plastic, while the other is a nylon sheath with a pocket that fits a small sharpener perfectly. You can bet that anyone on your Christmas list who enjoys collecting knives or other survival and outdoor equipment would appreciate getting this one as a gift!
JETBeam BR10 GT Flashlight –
Coming in at just under 1000 lumens, the JETBeam BR10 GT is an impressive flashlight. Whether mounted on a bike, a firearm or simply held, the intense beam cuts through 230 meters of darkness with just a single 18650 battery. JETBeam has employed a LUMINUS SST40 N4 BC LED with a lifespan of 50,000 hours. There are 4 lighting modes: Low (100 lumens at 14 hours), Medium (290 lumens at 5.5 hours), and High (960 lumens at 2 hours.) An LED indicator on the switch lets you know the status of the battery with green showing a full charge, blue indicating a half charge, and red indicates a low battery. The machined aircraft aluminum body has a military-grade HAIII hard-anodized finish and is IP6 rated, making the torch water and dust resistant. The BR10 GT comes with a 18650 battery, micro SD charging cable, and a spare o-ring.
The EVERLIT 250pc IFAK is an item no home or vehicle should be without. Packed inside a military-grade MOLLE pouch is a survival kit and Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) that is simply bursting with items that will get you through minor medical emergencies when access to medical care isn’t readily available.
The first aid components make up the majority of the 250 pieces. Here you’ll find bandages, sterile gauze, sting pads, burn dressings, antiseptic wipes, medical gloves, scissors, tape, tweezers, and many more items. The survival items include a tactical flashlight, flint and striker, emergency blanket and poncho, paracord bracelet, tactical knife, and more. When disaster strikes and you have only minutes to grab what’s important, this kit can go with you in your car or on your belt, ensuring that you have access to the four necessities for survival, fire, food, water, and shelter. You can also customize your pouch to hold additional items with the MOLLE attachment system.
One of the most important aspects of emergency preparedness is the philosophy that each item you bring should have more than one use. This keeps your kits smaller, while still providing the necessary functions to get you through your disaster. The Kaito KA500 Emergency Radio is just such a piece of equipment.
Truly versatile, it’s powered by internal rechargeable batteries, standard AA batteries, a dynamo hand crank, solar panel, and through a micro USB port. The KA500 also has a USB-A port and works as a portable power bank for recharging your cell phone, laptop, or any other USB device. The radio itself features AM, FM, 7 pre-programmed NOAA weather channels, 2-band shortwave, 24/7 weather forecasts, and the Public Emergency Alert System. Kaito has also included a reading lamp, flashlight, and red LED S.O.S. lamp, all housed in rugged, water-resistant ABS plastic. This is a great emergency radio that is well thought out and incorporates a wide variety of components that are vital to staying informed and safe when it really counts.
The Mardingtop 35 liter Tactical Backpack is a rugged, 600D polyester, military-style rucksack perfect for cruising down the highway on a motorcycle or day hiking in your local state park. This bag features high-quality YKK zippers, a hydration pocket that will accommodate a bladder of up to 2.5 liters, MOLLE webbing to attach smaller items, and a strap with a buckle on the bottom to cinch gear such as a sleeping pad or bedroll.
One thing that sets this bag apart from the competition is the waist straps. Typically seen on backpacks costing twice as much, these waist straps are sewn in, yet can be tucked in behind the padding, turning it into a more traditional rucksack. The Mardingtop features two compression straps, two bottom gear straps, a sternum strap, and all straps include keepers that keep them from dangling all around the pack. There is a small pocket at the top of the pack, one main pocket on the front, two large pockets on the sides, and the main compartment zips at the top. This really is a feature-rich backpack that has a variety of uses, is exceptionally well made, and comes in 9 colors!
Designed in Bend, Oregon, Hydroflask has become the gold standard for vacuum insulated bottles. This is a direct result of just how well-made these bottles and tumblers actually are. All Hydroflask products feature their proprietary TempShield technology.
This allows their bottles to use a thinner bottom seal, the result of which makes Hydroflask the lightest vacuum bottles available without sacrificing durability. The thin wall design allows the bottles to remain slimmer, allowing them to fit into a wide variety of cup holders, and guarantees no condensation or heat transfer. All bottles are made with high grade 18-8 stainless steel that preserves taste. Each is powder coated in one of 14 different colors. There are 7 different styles of bottles, with a myriad of lids to create the perfect bottle or tumbler for your needs.
$50 – $100
Spring and fall bring perfect weather for outdoor activities. Once the temperature begins to warm, those who love the outdoors can’t wait to escape the throws of winter and head out to do their favorite activities. The same is true with fall when the dog days of summer turn into crisp fall days. Camping, hiking, and gathering with friends and family around the fire to roast hot dogs and marshmallows becomes the preferred pastime.
There are days, however, when the air is cold and the wind blows steady. Those occasions call for a warm blanket to fend off the chill in the air. Nothing fits the bill better than a real down blanket. Goose down is a natural insulator that cannot be matched by any man-made product. This insulation doesn’t come cheap, however. Down blankets can be upwards of several hundred dollars.
That is why the Get Out Gear Down Camping blanket is such an anomaly. A 650 fill down blanket for less than $100 is an absolute steal. The 20D ripstop nylon shell is soft as silk, and the 100% natural goose down is perfect for keeping warm both inside a tent and outside at the football game. The blanket is a generous 77”x50” when fully fluffed, yet packs down into the included stuff sack to a mere 5”x12”. If combined with a compression stuff sack, those dimensions could be reduced even further. Backpackers will love the light weight, as the entire package weighs only 1.1 pounds. The Get Out Gear Down Blanket can help fight off the chill in just about every situation, and comes in three colors to choose from.
The tent that you choose to pack for a camping trip is arguably the biggest factor in your having a good camping experience or a bad one. Leaky seams, condensation, ripped or torn window mesh can all ruin an otherwise fun trip.
The Sundome 3-Person, 3-season tent has the rugged quality you’ve come to expect from Coleman, a company that has been making tents for almost 60 years. With fully taped seams, covered zippers, and a bathtub floor with corner welds, Coleman’s WeatherTec system will keep you dry even in the wettest conditions. The Sundome has been tested in 35mph winds and stayed strong, thanks to snag-free pole sleeves, the patented ring and pin system, and Insta-Clip suspension. The tent is a classic dome shape with an awning and rainfly.
There is a ground vent and two windows, along with a mesh top, all of which keep air flow inside the tent and reduces condensation. For those who can’t leave the electronics at home, there is a small flap in the corner of the tent where an electrical cord can be run into the tent without having to send it through the door by zipping it in. The footprint is 7 x 7ft with a 4ft 4in center height and weighs 8 pounds with tent, rainfly, stakes, poles, and carrying bag. It can be setup in less than 10 minutes. We still recommend a ground tarp to keep the bottom of the tent away from anything that could penetrate the floor. This is an excellent tent for the price and KnifeUp is currently doing a long-term test of the Sundome 2-person tent. We will have the results of the test before the camping season begins next Spring.
Rarely does product come along that garners almost universal praise. The Morakniv (known colloquially as Mora) Garberg Carbon Black has done just that. Many believe the Garberg is the bushcraft knife upon which all others are measured.e.
More than just a great knife to carry into the woods with you, it is also one of the best survival knives on the market today. Mora has been making knives since 1891. This Swedish company has long been a favored maker of knives used by tradesman of many disciplines. Producing very high-quality knives at affordable prices has been a hallmark for Mora. The Garberg is no exception. For the first time, Mora offered a full-tang, high carbon steel blade. This allows the use of a ferro rod for fire starting. The 3.2mm spine of the Garberg is ground at a very sharp 90 degrees.
The tang is also ground at 90 degrees, which saves the back of your blade for other delicate tasks such as producing fine shavings for fire tinder. The handle is made of a rubberized polyamid handle that provides a comfortable, secure grip that produces no hot spots, even after hours of continuous use. The 4.3-inch carbon steel blade has Mora’s standard Scandinavian grind, which is a type of saber grind, but with no micro bevel. The Garberg carbon is easy to sharpen in the field and takes a stone very well. The knife comes shaving sharp from the factory. There are three choices for sheaths, a leather sheath with a fold over flap that snaps closed, a plastic sheath, and their exclusive Multi-Mount sheath that can be used to mount the knife on a belt, on a vehicle, on a wall, on a backpack, or anywhere else you need to keep it close by. The Garberg has been nothing short of revolutionary in the world of bushcraft/survival knives. Having a knife this good at a price this affordable has truly changed the game.
$100 – $200
Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars have the same premium features of other, far more expensive brands. The lenses are fully multi-coated on all exterior surfaces to increase light transmission, provide high definition viewing, and contain anti-reflective properties. This is important when hunting where the glint from binoculars or a rifle scope can spook game.
The high definition lenses also provide phase correction to enhance resolution and contrast. The eye cups are fully positional and provide outstanding comfort, even when wearing glasses. The optics are waterproof and provide protection from dust, debris, and moisture. The Diamondback HD comes in 4 sizes to fit your individual needs, 10×32, 10×42, 8×50, and 8×42. All Vortex Diamondback HD binoculars come with a carrying case with strap, a neck strap, tethered objective lens covers, and rain guard eyepiece covers.
LEATHERMAN – Charge Plus TTi Titanium Multitool –
Leatherman popularized the pliers-based multi-tool in 1983 with the introduction of the first Leatherman Multi-tool. 36 years and dozens of models later, the Leatherman Charge TTi takes its place as the crown jewel. Featuring 19 tools, including needlenose pliers with premium replaceable wire cutters, a 2.9” locking S30V stainless steel knife blade, serrated knife blade, saw, scissors, and a 1⁄4” bit driver. All of the tools are able to be opened with one hand, a feature unique to Leatherman products. The TTi also has titanium handles for increased strength and durability, and at 8.89 ounces, a big reduction in weight. The closed length is 4-inches. The knives, saw, and file are all accessible while the tool is closed. The Leatherman Charge Plus TTi comes with a nylon sheath, a quick-release lanyard ring, and a replaceable pocket clip. Made in Portland, Oregon, the Charge comes from the factory with a 25-year warranty so you can feel confident your Leatherman will last a lifetime.
Mountain Safety Research, or MSR, is known throughout the outdoor community for providing rock-solid products designed to be durable, lightweight, and perform in any condition. Long a favorite of rock climbers and mountaineers, MSR stoves have been on virtually every climbing peak in the world. With the influx of new companies providing all in one container compressed gas stoves, it was only a matter of time before MSR got into the game as well.
The result of that time and research is the Windburner personal stove system. Made with an eye on soloists, minimalists, and quick-boil meals,
The Windburner comes with a radiant burner that is adjustable from simmer to boil, a pressure regulator for consistent performance, a 1.0 liter hard-anodized aluminum pot with an integrated heat exchanger and insulated cozy with handle, a 0.5 liter bowl, a BPA free drinking/straining lid, and still leaves room for a fuel canister. The entire system when nested is 4.5” x 7.1” and weighs only 15.3 ounces. The Windburner can boil 1 liter of water in 2.25 minutes, and each canister will provide 95 minutes of total burn time. This allows you to boil 18 liters of water with one fuel canister! The Windburner comes in two colors, black and MSR red. For larger groups, the Windburner Duo is also available and includes a 1.8-liter cooking pot, perfect for two people. There are several personal nesting stove systems on the market, but there is only one MSR Windburner.
$200 and Up
Therm-A-Rest has been making the world’s best sleeping pads since 1972. Their patented valve-controlled, self-inflating, open-cell foam design changed camping and backpacking forever. An instant success, very soon after their introduction, Therm-A-Rest sleeping pads became a “must-have” item. The NeoAir X-Therm is no exception. As the most popular insulated sleeping pad on the “Big Three” trails in the United States, (the Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail, and The Continental Divide Trail), their consistent durability, weight savings, insulating property, and unmatched customer service has kept them at the forefront of the competition. Therm-A-Rest’s patent-pending ThermaCapture technology traps radiant heat while Triangular Core Matrix construction creates an R-value of 6.9 and minimizes heat loss while keeping the pad at a scant 15 ounces. The new Winglock Valve system is an upgrade over the older valve and maximizes airflow during inflation and deflation and acts as a one-way valve during inflation. A pump sack, stuff sack, and repair kit are included.
Osprey has raised the bar for full-function, ultralight backpacks with the Atmos AG. It is marketed as the “…best fitting, most ventilated and comfortable pack ever made for traditional backpacking trips up to a week or more in duration.” Translation: you will barely know you’re wearing it! The Atmos AG 65 sports a 65-liter capacity as the name suggests.
It is constructed of four different types of high-grade nylon material: 100D x 630D Nylon Dobby for the main fabric, 210D High Tenacity Nylon for the accents, and 420HD Nylon Packcloth for the bottom. The Anti-Gravity suspension lifts the pack gently off of your back, making it seem like your pack weighs less than it actually does. The floating top lid is removable and the FlapJacket keeps the top of the pack waterproof even when the top lid has been removed. Trekking pole attachments hold your poles securely when not in use. The harness and hip belt are easily adjusted for the perfect fit. If you prefer a hydration bladder over carrying bottles, the Atmos 65 supports a 3-liter bottle in the internal sleeve.
Benchmade Auto Stryker 9101BK Knife –
Benchmade has long since set itself apart from the all too crowded field of tactical EDC knives. The Auto Stryker is no exception. This all-black workhorse has been an extremely popular knife since its debut in 2005. Benchmade updated the knife in 2011, enlarging and strengthening the locking button, and creating an open backspacer design with a stronger spring force and easy maintenance. The Auto Stryker is automatic, so be sure to read up on your states knife laws here on KnifeUp. The 9101BK has a 3.6” tanto blade made from 154CM stainless steel that has a black Cerakote Gen II finish. There is jimping along the reduced spine, and a small choil just behind the cutting edge. The blade is 0.124” thick and extremely strong with a Rockwell hardness of 58-61. The 4.7” long handle is 0.5” thick, bringing the knife an overall length of 8.3”. The handle is made from black anodized 6061 T6 Aluminum with grooves along its length to facilitate grip. The handle features a reversible, multiple positionable pocket clip. The Benchmade Auto Stryker 9101BK is a gift that would be a welcome gift for anyone who truly appreciates a quality knife that they can carry with them daily.