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Compass, Swiss Army knife, multi-tool, flashlight, headlamp, walkie-talkies, batteries, landjaeger (might not want to put that in the stocking though!), belt bag (my son carries one as he has allergies - it's where he puts his EpiPen), backpack, flask, canteen, rope, watch, cord Rosary (if you're Catholic - they are virtually indestructible), utensil kit, whistle with lanyard, notebook/sketchbook (something durable like a Moleskine), fire-starting kit (3-4 cotton balls soaked in vaseline) for bad weather, decks of cards, a copy of the Jungle Book or Kim.
I think "Tunnel in the Sky" is my favorite of them all, though, and would appeal to most scouts. It holds up remarkably well.
In an overpopulated future earth, the key to alleviating population pressure is a Stargate that allows earth to push colonists through to new worlds across the universe. The colonies are pretty much on their own afterwards until they can develop an economy that allows them to export goods back to earth, so the old-school skills of wilderness survival (i.e., the kinds of things scouts do...) are in high demand again, and you can major in Survival skills in college. The heroes of the book are taking AP classes in Survival as seniors in high school, and have elected to take the college-level graduation exam: the students are pushed through a stargate onto an undeveloped planet, and have to survive with only what they bring with them for up to two weeks before the recall signal.
Then something goes horribly wrong - the recall signal never comes, and the groups of teens from different schools have to recreate a society.
The lessons of survival - from individual to group to society - were examined by Heinlein because of his distaste for the novel "Lord of the Flies," which had just come out. Heinlein, who could be very pessimistic, did have a higher view of humanity than in Golding's book.
This is a great book for young men, or even old men. Find a copy and read it, if you never have. And buy a copy for your son.
(One of the early chapters discusses the young hero's decisions about what equipment he should take with him - you can wind up in ANY environment, after all - and I realized while reading it that Heinlein created the concept of the hydration bladder / Camelbak pack back in the 1950s...)(This message has been edited by AZMike)
- headlamp or flashlight
- tent light
- first aid kit
- hydration bladder or water bottle(s)
- fanny/lumbar pack
- TrekTek tee shirts
- hiking pole (especially the plain ones he can stain and carve and personalize himself)
On the higher end,
- sleeping bag
- hiking boots
Be careful on the last four. The tent you buy now may not be well designed for the activities he gets into later (backpacking tents are usually not good for winter camping and vice-versa); same goes for sleeping bags. It's easy to outgrow backpacks and hiking boots -- lots of my Scouts find the backpack they bought at 11 is too short and outside adjustments a few years later and of course boots may not last that long.