Recommended Gear

Everyday Carry

Kershaw Cryo

A good everyday carry pocket knife needs to have a few attributes: it needs to be durable, affordable, ambidextrous (ideally, you should carry your knife on your non-dominant side), and easy to open quickly with one hand. The Kershaw Cryo checks all the boxes.

If the Cryo's 2.75" blade (ideal for municipalities and areas that regulate blade length) is a bit diminutive for your taste, you'll love the larger Kershaw Cryo II.

Leatherman Sidekick

While this comprehensive multitool - one of the more affordable of the dizzying variety of Leatherman options - may be more than you care to keep on your belt, it should definitely be in your car, backpack, purse, or commuter bag. In day-to-day use, you'll reach for the Sidekick to tighten screws, unbend wire, and accomplish a thousand other little chores, and in an emergency situation, it could literally be a lifesaver.

Coast HX5 Flashlight

With an almost bewildering array of flashlights on the market, it can be difficult to pick the "perfect" one. Fortunately, the Coast HX5 has several distinguishing characteristics that separate it from the pack. First, it uses only one, conventional AA battery (either alkaline or rechargeable).

Most flashlights use either AAA or (worse yet) some kind of non-standard battery. Being able to use everyday AA batteries is a huge advantage in both everyday and emergency use. Second, the HX5 is BRIGHT, packing as much shadow-blasting power as its larger and/or more expensive competitors. Third, it's small enough to fit easily and unobtrusively into a pocket, bag or glovebox. Fourth, it's affordable. Not dirt-cheap, but a great value for the quality, and not nearly as expensive as many of the "tactical" lights on the market.

Eneloop Rechargeable Batteries

A set of Eneloop AA batteries are the perfect companion to your Coast HX5. If you've ever been in an emergency and had to worry about your batteries dying, you understand the value of being able to recharge household batteries from a generator or automotive inverter.

The fact that most rechargeables don't provide power for as long as alkaline batteries, and lose their charge fairly quickly in storage can be frustrating. The Eneloop batteries address both these issues, by holding more power and discharging more slowly than other rechargeables. This means that the batteries last longer both in use, and waiting to be used, making them ideal for both regular and emergency use.

Canvas Backpack

Canvas is the best material for go-bags, because it's naturally tough and water-resistant. It also maintains a low-profile, unobtrusive look (the last thing you want is a bag that says, "Look at me! I have cool stuff inside!"

A simple, inexpensive bag like this one will do the job without breaking the bank. Don't expect it to last forever, but there's no reason it can't stand up to normal wear and tear.

Camping/Survival

USB Headlamp

Flashlights are quick and intuitive, but if you actually need to work on something in the dark - whether it's changing a tire on the roadside, or finding your way through the woods - nothing is more convenient than a headlamp.

In the past, headlamps have been notorious for being difficult to load with batteries (there were spring-loaded clips with flimsy plastic tabs that never seemed to twist into place properly), but the new generation of headlamps have solved that problem by using the same micro-USB charger as many other electronic products. This also makes them a great gift for kids: if they want to play flashlight tag and forget to turn the light off, it'll only be a quick recharge instead of a battery-swapping hassle.

USB Power Pack

With phones and headlamps using USB chargers, a portable power pack is a necessity. Avoid the short-lived dollar-store options, and spend a little more for something a lot better. This 25,000 mAh Power Bank has triple USB ports to charge three devices at the same time. The LED readout means you never have to wonder how much juice it has left.

Solar Charger

Want to take your self-sufficiency up a notch? Get a solar USB charger for your power bank. It won't be as fast as charging from an electrical outlet, but if you're stranded somewhere, on an extended hiking excursion, using a solar charger to top-up your power bank during the day, and then using the power bank to recharge your devices over night, can be a totally sustainable way to keep your electronic devices viable without AC power.

Camp Stove

Building a campfire is great fun, but there are times when you're wet, cold, in a hurry, and just want to heat up some water. For those times, a pocket-sized, gas-powered stove like this one is ideal.

Much less expensive that competing products, this collapsible stove is simple, durable and reliable. Bonus: it has a built-in ignition system, so you don't have to light it manually with a flame. One note: it uses Primus Power Gas fuel, but don't purchase the fuel canisters online - they're close to $20 to order, but available at your local Wal-Mart and most outdoor supply stores for $5 or less.

Sagan Journey Water Filter

There are a lot of portable water filters on the market. A LOT. This filter-in-a-bottle from Sagan is far and away the best I've found. Unlike hollow-fiber filter products (like LifeStraw) that produce water that still requires purification, the Sagan uses 400 layers of proprietary filtration element that remove an astounding 99.9999% of contaminants, including bacteria, viruses, lead and other heavy metals. This means you can drink directly from ponds, puddles, and any other source of water!

The Journey is a terrific value, because each filter is good for 250 gallons of clean water (substantially more than competitive products). This is THE water filter to get for your emergency kit.

Note: if you want just the filter without the bottle, an inline version is available as well.

Water Bottle

After having a brand-new, expensive Camelbank water bladder rupture in my backpack a few years ago, I switched to steel bottles and swore off using plastic bags to carry water. Unlike plastic bladders, steel is puncture-prone, does not give the water an unpleasant taste, and is easy to clean. There's a reason soldiers around the world have used metal canteens for generations: they just work!

An uninsulated bottle like this can double as a sleeping-bag warmer too; fill it up with water heated over a campfire, slip it into a sock (so that you don't burn yourself on the hot metal), and drop it to the bottom of your sleeping bag to keep your feet warm on cold nights!

Mess Kit

Don't waste money on ultra-flimsy aluminum or plastic mess kits. This copper-bottomed steel set is not expensive, and it's all you need for food prep on a camping trip or emergency situation of any duration.

Ka-Bar Tactical Spork

While you're at it, don't waste money on flimsy cutlery either. For less than $10, you can get one of these polymer Ka-Bar Tactical Spork sets, and you'll never find yourself without sturdy eating utensils.

First Aid Kit

Medical supplies deserve a whole list to themselves, but this is definitely a category in which something is better than nothing! This inexpensive kit is designed to be water-resistant and compact, which makes it a good fit for a personal go-bag.

Tourniquet

Uncontrolled bleeding is one of the most dangerous situations a person can find themselves in. Adding a quality tourniquet to your first aid kit is a way to ensure that you'll be able to provide meaningful help to somebody with serious bleeding from an arm or leg.

Note: It's a popular misconception that attaching a tourniquet will cause gangrene/loss of the limb. In fact, EMTs have found that no serious damage occurs until about six hours after tourniquet application. If you're dealing with a life-threatening loss of blood, a six hour window to get help is far preferable to the alternative.

Books

The Gift of Fear

"The Gift of Fear" is the original and still the best reference on predicting and avoiding violence. In clear, easy-to-follow language, Gavin de Becker describes the behaviors and "pre-incident indicators" that foreshadow violence at home, on the street, and in the workplace. The author's premise - that your autonomic nervous system will instinctively notice danger far before your analytical mind acknowledges it - can be life-changing. This book is a must-read for anyone who wonders about how to detect and avoid predatory criminals, unstable employees, stalkers, and domestic abusers.

Left of Bang

"Left of Bang" picks up where "The Gift of Fear" leaves off. Writing primarily for an audience of military and law-enforcement personnel, the authors break down into bite-sized chunks the information needed to help you make sense of the danger signals you might be observing, but not comprehending. While this book is intended for readers who are often in dangerous situations, its lessons on psychology and human nature are valuable for anyone.

The Genius of Flexibility

After years of back, neck, and knee pain, I decided to work on my flexibility. Not in the usual BS "stretching" way from gym class, but using science-based resistance stretching. I bought this book, because it was the only one I could find at the time. To my astonishment, literally all the pain went away in a matter of weeks. "The Genius of Flexibility" is worth every penny. Really.

Verbal Judo: The Gentle Art of Persuasion

It is almost always preferable to resolve a conflict verbally, rather than physically. It's even better to avoid the conflict altogether. Originally written for police officers and other professionals for whom achieving voluntary compliance can be a daily struggle, "Verbal Judo" is a treasure trove of practical advice on interpersonal communication.

Largely based on the author's own experiences and unique observations, the book contains insightful and systematic techniques on everything from how to convince an uncooperative suspect to make a good choice, to how to argue effectively with a spouse.

Note: For more detail on some of the techniques taught in the book, read my article on verbal de-escalation.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes - and Why

f you've ever wondered what you'd do in a sudden emergency, you need to read this. Written by an experienced journalist, this exhaustively-researched but highly engaging little book explores the surprising ways that normal people respond to dangerous situations, and gives practical suggestions on improving your own responses - and thereby improving your chances for survival.

Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (And Inspire) Marketing

Written for an audience of advertising professionals, this fascinating book is actually a terrific introduction to both the principles of neuroscience AND the way that consumer culture touches and influences every aspect of our lives. Reading it is a great way to learn more about how your brain works, as well as why you make many of the buying decisions you do.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business

We spend most of our days on autopilot, following routines we're barely even aware of. "The Power of Habit" provides a fascinating look at the way those routines are created and maintained, and - more importantly - how we can harness them to move us closer to our goals.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Forget everything you think you know about task management and productivity, and embrace GTD. David Allen's deceptively simple premise is that you are happiest and most productive when you can get everything out of your head and into a system you trust. I've been following the system for close to 15 years, and I went from being pathologically disorganized to often hearing that I am the most organized person other people have ever met.

The Man's Guide To Women

If you're a man, this is the instruction manual you've needed since you were 12 years old. If you're a woman, this is the book that will help you explain to the men in your life the things they don't understand. While most books on psychology are nothing more than the author's opinion, Dr. Gottman and his team present the findings of rigorously researched science.