Pre-Deployment Gift Guide

By Guest Author Erin Gregor

Last holidays, our team here at The Submerged Life put together a great holiday gift guide! However, giving gifts to sailors about to go on patrol, deployment, or a longer underway poses some special challenges. They have limited time on land to use things like vouchers or spend time on their usual hobbies, and once they’re gone they don’t have a lot of space or time. And if you need a deployment packing list, click here.

Here are a few ideas that might make pre-deployment gift giving a little easier:

Fleet sheets

Run by a Navy veteran, these sheets are a great gift to make sure your sailor feels a little comfier during what can be limited sleep. They offer luxury, signature, and flannel options as well as mattress toppers and other accessories. Just make sure you check the size guide as submarine racks for some ranks, such as officers, are smaller than their surface ship counterparts. Word on the street is officers should get Fleet Sheets’ CPO-sized.

Cozy blankets

There are so many great options out there but my husband loves his sherpa blanket that looks a lot like this one. Many of the FRGs also do blanket fundraisers and, if they’re on a state-named boat, you can always get merchandise from the appropriate schools.

Light therapy or “happy” lamps

The Navy is undertaking research to figure out the impact of different light treatments in helping overcome some of the challenges of their underwater environment. In the meantime, having more happy lamps available feels like a good interim solution. I bought my husband this version that has white and yellow light and folds down to the size of a notebook. Our very thoughtful FRG also bought a few of this type for the crew that is about the size of a tennis ball.


Carhartt beanies came highly recommended directly from a submariner as the “best underway beanie ever”! Love your melon also has great beanies and 50% of net profits go to nonprofit organizations fighting pediatric cancer. This can also be a good opportunity for state-based merchandise if you’re on a state-named boat.

Warm under layers

These Uniqlo HeatTech long sleeve t-shirts for men and women are lightweight but warm and super soft. Perfect for sailors to layer under their brown t-shirts and poopy suits, and also handy to have on land if they make a port call anywhere north of Virginia.

Fun undies and socks

As one of the few things you can wear to show off some individuality, I would stock your sailor up with some fun undergarments. MeUndies and Happy Socks seem to have the Instagram marketing space cornered. Tommy John, Aerie (for female submariners), SmartWool, and Bombas also often have fun seasonal options. And then there’s favorite sports team and alma mater merchandise.


I was surprised a sailor suggested sunglasses because they don’t get a lot of… sun. However, many of them do line handling and assist with brief stops for personnel (BSPs). A few brands to consider are Ray-Bans, Oakley, and Maui Jim, but this might be one to involve your sailor in as they might have strong shape, fit, or color preferences.

Cold bridge attire

For officers, torpedo(wo)men, and lookouts that might spend time in the bridge in climates like Groton, recommendations include battery-powered socks, full face masks, and great gloves. REI is always a good starting point for this stuff. If your home port is Pearl Harbor, lucky you and this is probably irrelevant.

Comfy running shoes

Submariners spend a lot of time on their feet so having comfy shoes is key! Nike’s Wearallday shoes for men and women are simple, comfortable, and within all the rules. Allbirds are also incredibly comfortable! Probably best to involve your sailor in this decision to get their preferences and sizing right. Also good to get these a bit before an underway or deployment just in case they take a bit to break in.


Spare time can be hard to come by but sending your sailor away with a few books isn’t a bad idea. Some ambitious couples even do a mini-book club where they read the same book as their sailor and then email back and forth about it. In any case, a few books that might remind them of where they grew up or get their mind off the boat for a little bit are great gifts.

Photos and photo gifts

We’re now starting to get into calendar page/halfway box territory, but getting a few loose photos printed for them to stick in their rack and/or some fun photo gifts for them to look at when times get tough are a good idea. There are so many great and creative photo gift services like Shutterfly, Snapfish, and Mpix, along with simpler services through CVS, Walmart, and Google Photos.


Did you know that Spotify stops music access after 30 days without wifi or data? Our submariners do! Talk to your sailor about what is allowed on their boat but I know some partners have bought cheap and easy MP3 players from Amazon and spent hours uploading music from old CDs like it was 2005. They said the MP3 player did not last long so they invested in an iPod Touch (Apple still makes them, yes), to use for future underways and deployments. A cool part of this is that you can buy them new music throughout deployment so when they connect to the internet at a port call the new tunes are a nice surprise!


Your submariner might enjoy a journal or notebook to collect their thoughts and take notes. Moleskine offers notebooks of all sizes, from ruler notebooks to thin, and even pocket-sized. My husband and I have also become big fans of Ink + Volt’s planners and gratitude journals to try and keep us focused on our goals and happy times, even while we’re missing each other.

Please post with your favorite pre-deployment gifts to continue the list!

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