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Ahh, it’s that magical time of the year when the world gets ready to be a little less ugly to each other. Christmas and Hanukkah are around the corner, bellies will still be full from Thanksgiving, and it’s time to start shopping.

If you’ve got a U.S. military veteran in your life and you’re feeling a little stumped on what gifts to get them, then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve done the legwork for you and gathered the best gifts for veterans worth shopping for this year. What makes me an authority?

Well, I’m a veteran myself, so that helps. I interact with a pretty diverse group of veterans almost daily, and I’m also one of the gear review dudes at Task & Purpose. Also, I give good gifts. I’m not exaggerating. It’s something I’m naturally good at. I think this makes me pretty dang qualified to help you find the best gifts for your veteran.

Getting equipped 

If there is a group of people who can appreciate good gear, it’s people who’ve fielded bad gear. Trust me. It’s a military tradition that you’ll have to use bad gear, so the experience is universal. Obviously, once you reach the First Civ Div, things get a little less intense, so I’ve picked a few options that are dang near-universal.

I believe that you should always spend good money on the things that separate you from the ground. This means tires, mattresses, and shoes. The Danner Tachyon aren’t exactly cheap boots, but they’re Danners. That means something to someone who has worn boots for a living.

The Danner Tachyon boots are medium-weight and designed for everyday wear. They provide decent support and are solid for running and sprinting, and can easily be tuned in for a heavy hike. The eight-inch ankle will give you plenty of support, and the eyelets will drain water and keep things cool. Plus, they even come in a multitude of colors that makes it easy to mesh with various clothing options.

Fancy can be great, but sometimes basic is better. What I mean is that a simple, well-proven design that’s been tested works better than some new fancy awesomeness. The Benchmade Griptilian is what happens when you design a knife that excels in the basics of being a knife. Every little thing is refined and perfected.

Benchmade makes a few different models of the Griptilian with steels, handle designs, and blade styles. I prefer the S30V model, with the light nylon handle and the plain drop-point blade. It’s super simple but extremely robust, gets and stays sharp, and handles like a dream for everyday carry.
(Travis Pike)

The 5.11 Tactical Rush series of backpacks have been around since 2007 and remained largely unchanged until 2021. The new Rush 2.0 packs took the Rush series to the next level with a padded laptop compartment, a revised admin panel, an updated interior design, a bigger eyewear compartment, and a hidden hook-and-loop concealment pocket.

The Rush 24 2.0 is the medium-sized pack that is the just-right porridge from Goldilocks. It’s not too small for serious outdoor use and not too big for everyday carry. The Rush 24 2.0 is extremely comfortable with hefty padded straps, integral rear pads, and plenty of support built to carry a load. The amount of pockets and internal organization makes it easy to keep your goods well organized and easy to access.

A little flashlight can be a real godsend in your pocket. Finding the right EDC-sized light is often a compromise between size and power. A lot of power means it’s a pocket-filling nightmare; too little of a light is an underpowered beam. The Streamlight Wedge found a way to pack plenty of light in a relatively compact package. The magic is the flat, wide shape that keeps the light compact without sacrificing power or battery life.

The Wedge’s standard beam is 300 lumens, which is perfect for everyday use. Should you need some extra power, push the go switch up a notch, and it switches to the THRO mode for 35 seconds. The THRO mode gives you 1,000 lumens of light for a short burst of power. The rechargeable design makes it easy to keep it primed and ready for daily use.

Other recommendations from our team of active-duty and veteran gear reviewers here at Task & Purpose:

Keeping sharp 

Vets get lots of unique skills and a unique mindset from their very unusual former job. This training can often slip away, and as such, it’s important to keep sharp. Lots of vets might find themselves losing practice with these skills, and a little encouragement can go a long way.

Vertx is well-known for making some very awesome range bags and kits designed for long-term use. I’ve always loved their stuff, and when the Vertx COF Range Bag came out, I knew I needed to grab one. Like most Vertx products, the COF is ultra well-made and looks amazing. It looks less like a range bag and more like a carry-on. This sleek little bag is not so little and is a rather capable range bag.

The big fella is perfect for packing gear for rifles, shotguns, or handguns. It’s a bit big, and it’s chock full of organizational capabilities. The Vertx COF is a buy-once-cry-once affair and will last for years and years of use and abuse. It doesn’t look tactical, so it blends in well and doesn’t attract attention off the range.

Ammo is expensive and often hard to find, especially this year. The Mantis Blackbeard offers you a battery-powered, trigger-resetting capability that takes your dry fire to a new level. This kit drops into your existing AR-15 and allows you to get tons and tons of practice in without sending a single round of 5.56 downrange.

It’s an outstanding piece of gear that will pay for itself in about a week of practicing 15 minutes per day. The Mantis Blackbeard is pure electromechanical wizardry that lets you pull the trigger 10 times in a single second. The Blackbeard allows for safe practice at home and will keep you trained up and skilled with your rifle.

Mindset isn’t something you can easily replicate outside of the military. What can help you keep sharp is reading the true stories of the soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen involved in conflict. We Were One tracks 3/1 as they stormed Fallujah and fought for their lives. It’s a brilliant look into the Marine Corps, the Iraq war, and tells a story that starts and ends on the ground. It’s exciting, educational, and at times heartbreaking. We Were One puts you in the shoes of a Marine grunt, and I can say as a Marine grunt, it’s a damn accurate look into that world. It’s a must-read; even the Marine Corps Commandant agreed and placed it on his annual reading list.

Other recommendations from our team of active-duty and veteran gear reviewers here at Task & Purpose:

Shedding pounds 

Four out of every five veterans are overweight. I get it — you get out, and 5:30 a.m. PT time just ain’t happening no more. With that in mind, working out should be a priority, and equipment can help and inspire your veteran to get after it.

BOB stands for Body Opponent Bag, and it’s a punching bag made from a soft rubber material that replicates a bad guy’s body. It’s a standing punching bag that doesn’t require you to drill a bolt into the rook and secure it. Just fill it with sand (or water) and start hitting it. The fact it looks like a real person makes it easy to visualize your enemy, and you work the bag.

The BOB inspires you to use footwork, and you can perfectly visualize the angles where your opponent is vulnerable. Plus, when it comes to cardio, does it get any more fun than punching something? Seriously, to hell with running, punch some stuff. The BOB gives you a soft rubber bad guy, and let’s go ham on it.

A new sport or hobby can also make exercise seem like so much more fun. Kayaking, for example, got me on the water and inspired me to adventure on the water. I didn’t know a thing about kayaking, so an affordable, inflatable kayak struck me as a great idea. Plus, I don’t need a trailer to haul it.

The K-1 Kayak is a single-person inflatable kayak that’s perfect for newbies. It has a rock-solid construction and is easy to assemble, air up, and hit the water without much issue. The K-1 Kayak is perfect for flat water and makes it easy to learn how to paddle your boat and even fish from. Plus, it’s affordable!

Sandbags have become my new favorite means to work out. They are compact, simple, and easy to use and create a challenging workout. The sand is constantly shifting as you work out, and it creates a crazy amount of challenge. The 5.11 Tactical PTR sandbags come in both 50- and 100-pound weights.

Inside the main big bag are two mini bags shaped almost like a kettlebell for some additional workouts. This makes these bags more like a kit and simple for doing a wide variety of exercises. You can get jacked with a set of sandbags, and you don’t need an entirely separate room to store them. Toss ’em in a closet when you’re done, and that’s it.

Other recommendations from our team of active-duty and veteran gear reviewers here at Task & Purpose:

The gun stuff 

Well, duh. Vets tend to like guns. They also tend to know how to use them. These products are on my own personal list. This is what I would want from Santa.

I know that lasers aren’t in style these days, and a laser on a shotgun seems silly, but believe me, it’s a ton of fun — especially on the Shockwave-style pistol grip on 12-gauge firearms. These bright, visible lasers make it easy to aim and shoot without issue and are a ton of fun. Fun guns are the best, and a laser on these things works wonders.

The Crimson Trace Laser Saddle is all about the fun factor. My friends and I have this game where we use shotguns to throw a Duramax five-inch ball target into a goal in as few shots as possible, and I want to cheat.

In a more serious light, and I meant that pun, only cowards don’t intend their puns; let’s talk about the best weapon light on the market. The Rein from Cloud Defensive is an extremely powerful light that blends lumens and candela to create an extremely powerful light source with an unbeatable range.

The Rein WML packs a serious punch and allows you to see extremely far into the night. You will own the light, and you’ll need to pair your rifle with a magnified optic to make the most out of the Rein. This WML is unbeatable and sets the current standards that everyone needs to catch up to.

A must-have piece of gear at the range is hearing protection. The AXIL Trackr Bluetooth headset is a fantastic, high-end choice that any shooter will appreciate. The AXIL Trackr headphones are extremely comfortable and perfect for general range use, classes, and more. Heck, I love them so much, I wear them when I mow the yard.

These headphones come with mics to amplify most noise, but also instantly block noises higher than a certain threshold. This allows you to hear instructions, have conversations, but remain safe from the sound of gunfire. The Bluetooth headset allows you to talk on the phone, listen to Wu-Tang clan, or wire into some radio systems for range comms.

Other recommendations from our team of active-duty and veteran gear reviewers here at Task & Purpose:

The easy stuff

Everything above seems a little specialized. Obviously, everyone has their hobbies and my own bias might be evident. Let’s close with some basic lifestyle goodies anyone could love. Like everything on the list, I either have or enjoy this stuff, or want it under my tree.

The comfort of freedom can finally be felt with the DD-214 blanket. Admittedly, this is a bit of a gag gift, but it’s plenty fun. If you have a vet in your life, they’ll instantly get it. These blankets come in various sizes, but I don’t think anyone makes their bed with one, so keep it small.

If you are looking for a tasty, affordable bourbon, then Basil Hayden’s is a great way to go. I’m not a hard liquor guy, but recently a new friend introduced me to Basil Hayden’s. I had several glasses with him and never felt a burn or the gagging sensation I’d associate with cheap liquors. While it’s not the cheapest, it’s a great sipper and perfect for bourbon drinkers.

I might not be a liquor guy, but I am a beer guy. I love a good craft brew, but not everyone does, so it can be hard to buy beer if you don’t know the flavors of your beer head. So, instead, the Sam Adams Sweater Weather variety pack offers a little something for everyone. They have a wide variety of flavors, and none of it will be offensive to any particular taste. Nothing crazy here, but you get four solid beers that anyone will appreciate.

Trade Coffee curates coffee for the caffeine drinker in your life. They have over 450 coffees on-hand and it’s a membership service. The membership is the gift and the giftee can do a short quiz and begin receiving coffee curated for their specific tastes. It allows them to try a new coffee monthly. My wife got me this years ago and I continue to keep trying new coffees every month and love it.

Got a health-conscious eater? Great, it doesn’t mean you can’t get them a good little snack. I love the Quest protein chips. These bags offer 120 calories and 20 grams of protein with honestly awesome flavors and a crispy crunch. I prefer the loaded taco, but there are plenty of choices. Get a 12-pack of these and you’ll be a gym nut’s hero.

Other recommendations from our team of active-duty and veteran gear reviewers here at Task & Purpose:

Gifted 

I wrote this guide with two guiding principles. This would be stuff I own or stuff I want. It’s a mix of both, and no manufacturer on this list has ever sent me a dime. It’s the gear I want, gear I use, and it’s the stuff the veteran in your life will love. Since this is a community, what ideas do you have? Comment below if you have any additions to this gift guide! 

Travis Pike is a former Marine machine gunner who served with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines for five years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He plays in the great outdoors of Northwest Florida and enjoys good beer, sharp knives, and long walks in the woods.

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