Care Package Recommendations?
April 19, 2009 5:01 PM   Subscribe

Help me find some other items to send in a care package to Iraq?

Having signed up at to send food items, toletries, etc., to a Marine unit in Iraq, I am having trouble coming up with a proper list.I know some basics, like send food in a separate box from toiletries. The list the unit is looking for is and specific enough for the females in the unit, and I've got the food figured out- but there's not much specific for the males (suggestions welcomed).

Can you recommend something else the whole unit would enjoy while in Iraq to help them through their remaining deployment - games - supplies they won't have from a PX- etc?

I've looked at all the prepackaged stuff you can send and would rather pick out, pack and ship myself, so specific suggestions are a lot more welcome than links to prepackaged gifts.

posted by nj_subgenius to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd think escapism would be welcome - books like science fiction, historical fiction from really remote eras, anything that doesn't evoke the here and now. Books can be passed around and enjoyed by the whole unit, too. DVDs of happy movies would be good too, assuming they have the means to watch them.
posted by Quietgal at 5:19 PM on April 19, 2009

My church sent a care package to a Marine who is one of our members. He told us what he wanted, and it was mainly good old American junk food (which remind them of home) and toiletries.

Stuff that melts is a bad idea. I seem to remember that Pringles were especially popular.
posted by 4ster at 5:29 PM on April 19, 2009

I sent a couple of new released dvd movies, microwave popcorn, and dental floss. Enclosed several cards with "movie ticket" printed on them.

At the dollar store I was able to find some "gag" items. Rock in broken windshield, fart machine, chirping crickets, water guns, etc. Anything to have "fun".

Men enjoy smelling nice too. Try getting splash on cologne, deodorant and soap in one line of fragrances.
posted by JujuB at 6:03 PM on April 19, 2009

My old DM was in the Middle East last year and we sent him a care package that included four or five mini water guns. Apparently those were a hit for a few days.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:34 PM on April 19, 2009

Is porn allowed? That's what I'd want if I were over there. Just sayin'..
posted by cj_ at 6:58 PM on April 19, 2009

When I was oveseas my sister sent me oatmeal cookies cushioned in popcorn. We shared both the cookies and the popcorn. I have no idea how things are now at the PX/BX but many years ago the socks provided by the military were junk so getting good socks from home could save you from blisters and other foot problems. Maybe a bunch of good quality socks?

Good books were a real pleasure; thought provoking; engaging and challenging books as well as the light weight stuff.
posted by X4ster at 6:58 PM on April 19, 2009

One of the coolest things I would have liked to get when I was there was something like The Traveling Terabyte Project. Hard drives are SOOO cheap now that you could send hours upon hours worth of material. I think they now have two versions going around to different places, one for entertainment (movies, tv, music) and one for education (lectures, documentaries, ebooks).

I've got a lot of material if you decide to go that way.
posted by bugsoup at 7:11 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

chew (skoal, kodiac). I've sent out a log's worth to my buddy in Afghanistan so far, he's lovin it and the PX is always running out.

porn is a no-no, but soft-core is ok.
posted by nyc_consultant at 7:26 PM on April 19, 2009

Stuff I liked getting: gum, hot cocoa mix, good coffee (!!!), protein bars, individually packaged baby wipes, nicer toiletries, high SPF sunblock, chapstick, frisbees, smuggled alcohol... Oh, and spices for food brightened up some MREs.

You probably have another couple of weeks before you really shouldn't send anything that can melt. And tobacco is always well-received by plenty of soldiers/Marines.

Good, non-crap books were wonderful. Available reading material was usually either bad sci-fi or bad harlequins, and well-written books were always a welcome sight. Also, CDs loaded up with good current music was appreciated. DVDs are usually cheaply and easily acquired there already, but not music.
posted by lullaby at 7:45 PM on April 19, 2009

Listerine bottle emptied out and refilled with vodka + food coloring. For real.
posted by meta_eli at 7:58 PM on April 19, 2009


Books and magazines are always welcome
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:07 PM on April 19, 2009

The guy I work beside said when he was deployed (marines in Iraq) he always asked for socks. He said socks would get so dirty and sweaty he would just throw them away and put on new ones. He said that was the only thing he ever requested. His family sent him tons of them and all the other guys would be jealous. I guess socks are a hot commodity out there.

Another thing the guys really liked was regular tv and regular radio recorded and burned onto disks. I guess that was something that reminded them of being stateside. Like the prime time tv shows.
posted by meeshell at 8:30 PM on April 19, 2009

When my brother was deployed to Iraq, he said that everybody always sends the same sorts of things in care packages: beef jerky, candy and tins of microwavable food. Stuff he really liked getting were healthy snacks and crossword puzzle books.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:41 PM on April 19, 2009

Socks - you can never get enough over there.

Also books. Anything that allows for some mild escapism will be welcome and most appreciated. Though I would advise avoiding religion and politics.

Along with what bugsoup posted, sending external hard drives, flash drives, or other recordable media with anything - music, movies, tv shows, etc - will get you nominated for person of the year.

Really good instant coffee will go over large. If you do send food items, non-perishable and non-melting are your best bets.
posted by doh ray mii at 8:59 PM on April 19, 2009

Best answer: We sponsored two soldiers during recent deployments and found these to go over well:

*Individually packaged baby wipes - we put at least two packs of those in every box
*Trial/sample sized seasonings - various hot sauces, soy, etc. If you've got a World Market in your area, that was a bounty
*Canned protein - I vowed I'd never send Spam, but tuna and chicken appear to come in a lot of flavors beyond just "plain." Also dried protein - jerky, I found various "real meat" ones at Costco that had a variety of flavors and weren't full of fillers.
*Trail mix without chocolate (melting) - Trader Joes had nice large bags that were affordable.
*The small single serve flavor packets for beverages - Kool Aid, Gatorade, Iced Teas, packaged instant coffee - didn't take up a lot of room. Make sure they don't need sugar added.
*Out and out junk food - ask them what their favorites are - we sent a lot of Cheese Nips and Pringles.
*Breakfast bars that are high in protein - I found that the Luna ones at Trader Joes came in a decent variety of almost dessert-esque flavors, and were healthy as well as high protein.

If there's a holiday coming up (like Mother's Day, Valentine's, etc) I included cards I bought for them to send home, and stamped them. Just make sure you send them with enough notice to get there, and then get back home. Even just general "I'm thinking of you and miss you" cards are good for them to send home. Stationary and Stamps period.

I picked up a 3 pack deck of cards and then found a book that was something like "101 card games" and sent that fairly early on. Most bookstores have entire sections on puzzle and game books, just be sure to include a pencil or a pen (just in case).

Socks, and food powder. Gold Bond or something similar. There's something called "Badger Balm" that is antibacterial, anti-fungal that soothes as well.
Also, if you can find out a t-shirt size (and appropriate color) those will be appreciated.

If you subscribe to any popular monthly magazines, those are good to send along too. We'd send on our Esquire on as soon as we'd finished with it, and throw in some Men's Health and Sports Illustrateds too. Also, if you're corresponding with them, find out a favorite local sports team. I tried to mail things fairly often, not just packages, and would print out the news about sports teams from the web (not knowing how regular their web access would be) and toss that in the mail every week.

If you've got a 1/2 Price Books - that's a good source for cheap but current DVDs. I made sure to label the ones I sent specifically to that soldier, out of concern that they'd make it to the right person.

And finally - the post office has flat rate shipping boxes that they'll let you take at no cost to you. I think it was between 10 and 12 dollars for us to ship up to 25 lbs to the soldiers. And make every single inch of the box count - pack with the comics or sports pages.
posted by librarianamy at 5:34 AM on April 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

My boyfriend was deployed to Afghanistan and loved getting these cinnamon brown sugar almonds. He also wanted Jolly Ranchers and Twizzlers -- the guys in his truck who didn't chew would go through those on missions. And he asked for iTunes gift cards, books and protein bars, plus DVDs of shows like Flight of the Conchords and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I also sent a lot of dried fruit (mostly cherries, blueberries, raisins and apricots) and homemade baked goods (mostly granola bars and scones). He said he liked getting things that were arguably healthy (i.e., things other than cookies or candy).
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 3:09 PM on April 20, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all. I was wondering about socks. Mostly will be scouring Costco and Family Dollar for the goods, but expect I'll also be getting some high-quality shaving goods and am going to send along Tupperware containers to go with the food or to hold the more crushable stuff in. Dried fruit and Clif bars are on the list too. As to the books, I'll look for a lower price store.
While you may be looking over this, up/down grades welcome:
- multi game set (chess, checkers, backgammon, cribbage)
- Fact or Crap
DVDs I can offer:
- My entire set of The Wire (four seasons)
- 12 Monkeys
- Superbad
- Little Miss Sunshine
- No Country for Old Men
- There Will Be Blood
- Wedding Crashers
- Monster's Ball
- American Gangster
Any of those look like a bad idea?
posted by nj_subgenius at 5:01 PM on April 20, 2009

Silly String. Swear to God. Two uses--one fun, one live-saving.

Fun: obvious.

Life-saving - Silly String will detect trip-wires without setting them off.
posted by tzikeh at 7:08 PM on April 21, 2009

Response by poster: The package is finally out. The Marines in Iraq were moved (I know not where) so we sent 15 flat rate packages to a Marines supply unit in Afghanistan yesterday. Thanks librarianamy for the caling cards :)
posted by nj_subgenius at 6:47 PM on September 15, 2009

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