Best Military Care Packages
There are several online resources that discuss military care packages, but they always seem to miss the mark for what service members really want.
Take this article by Veterans United for example. The top items on their list are things like socks, toothpaste, sunscreen, sewing kits…
While these items are practical, I can’t remember ever sitting in Afghanistan thinking “man, I would kill for some more toothpaste from home right now.” The reality is that the military will ensure your deployed service member has access to necessities.
They will have packed a ton of socks and plenty of other practical items before deploying.
Your loved ones will let you know if they are running short on these necessities. If they aren’t specifically asking for socks or toothpaste, perhaps your money is better spent on things they actually want to receive.
Last week I decided to ask our large Facebook community of service members and veterans what they actually wanted in their care packages, and now I have compiled the results for you!
Military Care Packages
These are the actual results from the 55+ ideas generated in the Facebook groups. As you can see, we got about 80% of our responses from men and 20% from women, so this is a fairly accurate representation of what you would expect most veterans to say.
|idea||number of times mentioned||Men||Women|
|hot sauce (Tapatio)||3||3|
|Flash Drive for…movies||2||2|
|photos of family!||2||1||1|
|Spices to spice up food||1||1|
As you may have noticed, socks didn’t make the cut…nor did toothpaste.
The List of Best Military Care Packages – According to Veterans
Here are the top ten items for you to put in your military care packages:
The most common snack mentioned (by far) was beef jerky. Pistachios, Almonds, Chips, and Peanut Butter Captain Crunch were also mentioned.
Pre-workout was the most commonly mentioned supplement, but protein powder would also be welcome. Just be sure you order from GNC or Bodybuilding.com or at least verify that whatever supplement(s) you’re sending them don’t have any banned substances in them.
Tobacco – in all forms!
I understand why other websites don’t want to condone the use of tobacco products, but the reality is that veterans want them. I, for one, smoked almost the entire deployment, and haven’t really been a smoker since—other than the occasional cigar.
There were pretty much equal mentions of buying tobacco in chew (dip), and cigarette form, and even one mention of sending cigars, which I can certainly appreciate.
The reality is that even if the service member doesn’t use tobacco products, they will still be useful for bartering with other people!
The caveat here, is that you might not want to add tobacco products unless you know who the box is going to, haha.
Coffee is not a surprising answer at all, as the MRE instant coffee we receive is pretty terrible. Note that most of the asks were for local coffee, not Folgers, heh. One person asked for whole bean, but the majority still preferred pre-ground coffee.
I think this is a great idea!
There will inevitably be some downtime on deployment, and without your cellphone, books are a great way to pass the time. I read several books on deployment, and at the time I was not a reader at all.
I would add that I think it would be even more powerful if you sent them non-fiction books that have the potential to change their life for the better, as opposed to only sending fiction books.
The most common answer for homemade snacks was cookies (chocolate chip specifically), but beef jerky was also mentioned.
Just ensure that if you send cookies, you find a way to package them in a way that they aren’t completely dried out upon arrival. I believe my mother used to put a piece of bread in the Ziploc bag to help with this.
The types of games mentioned seemed to vary, but I think Sudoku, Crossword, and a deck of cards were the most popular.
My friend Aaron also mentioned slingshots, which I can attest to serving a dual purpose in Afghanistan: both passing the time, and keeping people from climbing on the trailer of your truck.
Tapatio was the most commonly mentioned hot sauce, although I also like Cholula!
A Flash Drive
On deployment, service members used to pass flash drives around in order to download movies from other people in their platoon. By the end of deployment, I had almost a terabyte of movies downloaded onto one of my external hard drives, and I had watched a substantial amount of them.
I actually still have that hard drive, although I generally prefer watching movies on my television now, instead of my laptop, haha.
Photos of Family and Letters
I’m actually surprised that these items are so far down the list. That being said, I loved receiving handwritten letters, and photos from loved ones.
I suppose the moral of the story is that you can’t go wrong with a photo and thoughtful letter, but they would prefer that you place them in a care package with all of the above crap in it.
Ideas for Military Care Packages
What you decide to put in a care package will vary based on how well you know the service member it is going to. Often, people send care packages to people they have never met—sometimes they don’t even know who it is going to—and this will obviously shift how personalized your box should be.
If I were to ship a care package to somebody I don’t know, and maybe not even know who the box is going to, this is what I would personally put in it as of today.
- Beef jerky
- A can of Pringles, or bag of Chex Mix
- My book (shameless plug), or another business/investing book
- Some drink flavor packets of some sort
- A small bottle of hot sauce
- And if I was feeling really generous, some pre-workout and/or some tobacco products, haha!
What Not To Send In Military Care Packages
- Don’t send Alcohol or drugs (these items are illegal for them to have)
- Don’t send firearms or ammunition (also illegal)
- Don’t send perishable foods
- Don’t send aerosols or pressurized products
- Don’t forget to diversify (unless requested, an entire box of just one item won’t be as well received as a box with multiple different items in it).
Bottom line is: if you wouldn’t be comfortable with your mom knowing you sent the gift, you should probably not send it.
Service members are pretty open-minded to most things though, so if it isn’t illegal, and you’re comfortable putting it in a box, by all means go for it!
TL;DR – Best Military Care Packages
When all else fails, just focus on sending things that you would like to receive. Try to put yourself in their shoes, and act accordingly.
Nobody is going to be upset about what you send them in a care package, so you really can’t mess this up. This article was simply written to help you level up your military care package game.
Now you are equipped to send the best care packages a service member will ever receive!