Are you looking for a gift for a novice backpacker, someone inspired by Wild who wants to do the Pacific Crest Trail or an experienced thru-hiker? Regardless of their experience level, give them a meaningful gift whether you’re filling up their stocking or giving them something substantial. Keep a close eye on quality and the lightest weight possible so your gift will really be appreciated.
The big things, like a pack, sleeping bag and tent, can be expensive but these choices are so personal they shouldn’t be gifts anyway; the backpacker likely has a very specific set of criteria driving their preferences for these items. There are some new products the backpacker in your life might not be aware of, like antimicrobial shirts, or you may choose some smaller items that there can never be enough of, such as recurring items like freeze-dried meals.
The following is a list of twelve gifts that cost $25 or less that is almost guaranteed to be welcomed by any backpacker. If you’re a little more flush with cash a list of a few ideas for gifts under $100 is provided. Links will take you to REI, Amazon or the manufacturer website.
A dozen gifts for $25 and under
- Body Glide or Body Glide for Her $10. Blisters can be the bane of a backpacking trip. Body Glide’s natural balm can help prevent chafing and blisters on feet various body parts where skin rubs together.
- Spork $2-15. Plastic sporks are tried and true, with a spoon on one end and fork on the other, but a titanium one will last forever.
- MSR folding spoon $4. For the ultra-light hiker opt for the folding spoon that fits inside a cooking pot or other small spaces.
- Mountain House, Backpacker’s Pantry or Maryjane’s Organics freeze-dried meals. $7-9 each. An assortment of freeze-dried meals, which can last more than 10 years, are always welcome.
- Mosquito head net $7. These inexpensive wisps of mesh that weigh nothing and take up no room can easily be forgotten, but after a hiker’s first encounter with swarming insects it will never be left behind again.
- Platypus Soft Bottle $8.95 A hiker can always use more of these handy soft-sided bottles that collapse and roll up when empty, saving space as the trip goes on.
- Opsak $11-14. These odor-, vapor-, water-, humidity-, leak-proof bags are indispensable on the trail for storing food, keeping electronics dry or doing freezer-bag cooking or laundry. Thicker and sturdier than grocery-store zip-top bags they’ll last a lot longer.
- Big Shot water bottle $12. Who would have thought that simply adding a spout to the ubiquitous hard plastic water bottle could make such a difference in sip-ability?
- Tilley socks $15. Guaranteed to dry overnight and the superior moisture wicking means fewer blisters on the trail.
- Dirty Girl gaiters $20. These popular gaiters keep the dirt out of shoes and come in a dizzying array of patterns so even if the hiker in your life already has gaiters they can probably use more crazy colors.
- Maps and guidebooks to dream locations $10-20. Set some dreams in motion, such hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail, John Muir Trail, Pacific Crest Trail in California or further afield in Machu Picchu, Patagonia, the Tour of Mont Blanc or the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
- Cairn Subscription Box $25. One month’s box filled with quality products to surprise the backpacker can be gifted and if they like it they can sign up for a monthly subscription.
- Anti-stink Woolrich shirt with Agion $29. Agion has natural antimicrobial properties thanks to a silver ion finish for fabrics and it really works to reduce body odor, always a good thing in the backcountry.
- Keychain GPS $33 If you have a topo map all you need are GPS coordinates, not any of the fancy stuff most GPS devices come with, so why pay hundreds of dollars? We’ve tested this little, inexpensive device against the big boys and it’s consistent and reliable. Plus, it’s tiny and lightweight.
- Ultralight Uniqlo down jacket $70. Sure, you can spend hundreds of dollars on down jackets but these down jackets are warm, compress down to nothing and look stylish on the street, too. Men’s and women’s styles are available in vests, ultralight jackets and parkas.
- Ursack S29 Allwhite $70. Bear canisters are required in many wilderness areas and the Ursack, made of super-strong Spectra fabric can’t be beat for its ratio of strength to weight. Weighing in a just 7.3 oz it’s the lightest option out there. Unfortunately it’s not yet approved in Yosemite National Park but we have our fingers crossed that it will be soon.
- Adventurer SteriPEN $89. This small, futuristic-looking device uses ultraviolet light like a miniature light saber to neutralize microbes in under a minute just by waving it around in a bottle of water. Do the backpacker a favor and throw in an 8 pack of CR-123 batteries (verify that the model purchased uses this kind of battery).
- Jet Boil Stove System $99.95. Easiest-to-use stove out there, it boils water in a flash and just barely squeaks in under the $100 mark.
This ought to spark some ideas but if all else fails give an REI gift card, good in locations across the U.S. and on their website. That is definitely guaranteed to make the backpacker feel like a kid in a candy store.