It isn’t easy to buy gifts for hikers and backpackers in 2023. I get it.
We’re a gear-hungry bunch who spend far too much of our free time searching for products that’ll take our trail game to the next level. Buying something for an avid hiker that’s unique and worthwhile can get overwhelming because we don’t just want good gear; we want the best gear.
But don’t stress. I’m a trail-chasing, mountain climbing, ultralight backpacking gear junkie, and I’m here to help.
This hiking gift guide — updated for 2023 — is split into easy-to-navigate sections, each with a unique category. The gear, clothing, gadgets, and other gifts on this list will be suitable for all budgets, with price tags ringing in anywhere between $5 and $700.
So stay tuned, and I’ll help you find the perfect present for that hiking and backpacking fanatic you want to impress.
Merino Hiking Socks: Darn Tough Crew
I’ve never worn hiking socks as comfortable as my Darn Toughs, and I can’t imagine I ever will. Made from a durable Merino wool blend, they fit perfectly, breathe well, and easily wick away moisture. They’re covered by an unconditional lifetime warranty, which means if they ever wear out, Darn Tough will replace them for free.
Lightweight Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze
Water purification is essential in the backcountry, so the Sawyer Squeeze is a perfect gift for any hiker or backpacker looking to filter water on their trip. The Squeeze weighs just over two ounces, is extremely packable, and is rated to filter over 100,000 gallons of water. It’s a staple of the backpacking community.
National Parks Pass: America the Beautiful
National Park hopping in the US can get expensive quickly, costing $25 to $35 per visit. An annual parks pass will ease the pain of these hefty entry fees and pays for itself after only three visits. This is a can’t-go-wrong gift for any hiker or outdoor lover who wants to explore America’s national parks in 2023.
USB-Rechargeable Headlamp: Nitecore NU25
The Nitecore NU25 headlamp is one of my favorite items on my ultralight backpacking gear list. It weighs practically nothing, puts out strong light (400 lumens), has loads of practical settings, and is USB rechargeable. It’s an absolute model of efficiency and would make an excellent gift for any hiker who craves rock-solid gear.
Ultralight Backpacking Tent: Zpacks Duplex
The Zpacks Duplex is among the most widely owned ultralight tents by backpackers and has won awards for its lightweight and packable prowess. The recognition is well-deserved, as I can attest to from years spent camping in my trusty Triplex, a slightly roomier version of the Duplex.
Trekking Poles: Cascade Mountain Tech
Trekking poles are knee-savers on long journeys and are great at preventing harmful slips and falls, making them great gifts for any hiker or backpacker. This particular set is made from carbon fiber, which is highly durable and significantly lighter than the aluminum used in traditional trekking poles.
Hiking Shorts: Patagonia Nine Trails
After wearing these shorts for every step of my 486-mile trek of the Colorado Trail, I can’t imagine hiking in anything else. These shorts are made from soft, breathable, water-resistant fabric and offer second-to-none comfort on the trail. They also sport built-in liners and fully zippered pockets for maximum convenience.
Multifunctional Headwear: KUIU Ultra Merino 145
Once you go hiking, backpacking, or trail running with some Merino wool headwear, you’ll wonder why you ever hit the trail without it. This breathable, stylish, and UV-blocking piece of headwear has loads of uses; it works as a beanie, bandana, neck gaiter, face mask, balaclava, headband, and more.
Ditty Bag: UltraLite Sacks DCF
Backpackers need lightweight and convenient storage for their toiletries, electronics, and other small gear. This DCF ditty bag offers a full-length zipper, is entirely waterproof, and will stash away at the top of a backpack for easy access. Sure, it’s just a ditty bag, but it’s the best damn ditty bag I’ve ever owned.
Minimalist Trail Sandals: Luna OSO Flaco
These Luna minimalist hiking sandals are wonderful for day hiking, weekend backpacking trips, trail running, and lightweight travel adventures. They are zero drop, meaning they will strengthen feet, improve alignment, and help prevent future injury. I wear mine nearly every day during the summer.
Thru-hikers and trail-bagging backpackers put their bodies through hell and must self-manage injuries on the trail. At the end of a grueling day, hikers can roll on this lightweight ball to massage tight muscles, soothe sore ligaments, break up inflammation, and prepare for the miles ahead.
Titanium Flask: Zpacks
Sometimes, you need a nip of your favorite booze to keep you warm after a long day of backpacking. This handy titanium flask — complete with mini funnel — holds a hefty eight ounces of adult beverage and would make a unique gift for the hiker or backpacker looking to take the edge off at the end of the day.
Goose Down Booties: Zpacks
For backpackers whose feet run cold, down booties can be the difference between freezing their toes off and getting a great night of rest. They’ll make a cozy backpacking gift for finicky sleepers like me who need all the help they can get to fall (and stay) asleep. (These boots are delicate and shouldn’t be worn outside the tent.)
Camping Chair: Helinox Chair Zero
I’m too much of an ultralight snob to bring my Chair Zero backpacking, but I sure wouldn’t blame anyone who did. (I use mine during van life.) That said, the Chair Zero is comfortable, weighs just over a pound, and is a unique gift that would elevate any hiker’s comfort in the backcountry to the highest level.
Therapeutic Foam Roller: TriggerPoint GRID
Muscles take a beating when hiking and backpacking, and taking care of them between adventures is essential. A quality foam roller — not too hard, not too soft — allows users to self-massage when their body is aching and needing some TLC. For on-trail relief, turn to the Rawlogy cork ball I mentioned earlier.
Much like an emergency blanket, a canister of bear spray is a gift you give with the hopes the hiker will never need to use it. The best way to protect against an aggressive bear in the backcountry is to temporarily blind it with a potent burst of Capsaicinoids. This will do the trick.
Weatherproof Journal: Rite in the Rain
With 64 waterproof pages, this little notebook is perfect for jotting down thoughts, observations, and important notes while hiking in wet and dirty conditions. Its pages can also get hikers out of a bind in the backcountry by acting as fuel for an emergency fire or by leaving SOS notes if they get lost or injured.
Waterproof Pen: Fisher Space Pen
A reliable waterproof pen would make a great stocking stuffer for hikers who journal or obsessively take notes like me. Water, cold temperatures, and writing in zero-gravity conditions don’t phase the Fisher Space Pen, as it’s bound to put ink onto paper under virtually any circumstances.
Two-Way Radios: Rocky Talkie
Backpackers, hunters, and guides who regularly keep their distance from their hiking partners will find these long-range walkie-talkies very useful. They operate on 22 separate channels and have a massive range of up to 16 miles. They’re necessary for long-distance communication in the wilderness when cell service is non-existent.
GPS Beacon/Messenger: Garmin InReach Mini 2
Exploring the backcountry can go sideways quickly, making the InReach Mini 2 a must-have for hikers who explore lesser-traveled trails. With it, you can send messages through its Iridium satellite network, call search and rescue, and share your GPS location with your friends, family, and followers.
GPS Watch: Garmin Instinct 2
The Garmin Instinct 2 smartwatch would be a foolproof gift for avid, stat-obsessed hikers. It displays a live step count, heart rate, and elevation, and it also tracks hikes via GPS and stores its coordinates for later access. I use mine to track and map my day hikes and backpacking trips.
10-Watt Solar Panel: Goal Zero Nomad
Fully-charged devices keep hikers prepared to navigate the backcountry safely and stay in contact with family and friends, day after day. This compact solar panel will harness the sun’s natural energy and replenish the batteries of phones, headlamps, and power banks without needing a wall charger.
Lightweight Power Bank: Nitecore NB 10000 Gen II
Wandering trails is meant to help us escape our gadgets, but there’s no denying that technology is a big part of the hiking community. The lightest 10,000 mAh fast-charging PD power bank on the market will keep those precious tech items — phones, camera batteries, headlamps, beacons — powered up and ready for action.
Rugged Action Camera: GoPro HERO11 Black
If you know someone who hikes and backpacks with reckless abandon and beats up their gear, the HERO11 might make the perfect gift for them. Weighing a ridiculously light 4.4 ounces, this compact, waterproof adventure camera films in full 4K Ultra HD, takes crisp photos, and is more or less indestructible.
Ultralight Backpack: Gossamer Gear Mariposa
The Gossamer Gear Mariposa is a great place to start for backpackers looking to ditch their heavy packs and lighten up their load. It boasts an impressive weight-to-volume ratio — it weighs only 30 ounces but carries 60 liters of gear — and it’s one of the most comfortable, full-featured, and well-made backpacks of 2023.
Top-Rated Sleeping Bag: Feathered Friends Flicker
For many backpackers and thru-hikers worldwide, the Flicker quilt is the gold standard of ultralight sleeping bags. Its hoodless and zipperless design sheds unnecessary ounces and allows users to tighten or loosen their bag to their sleeping pad, which gives them complete control over the temperature inside.
Sleeping Pad: Therm-a-Rest XTherm
Do you know a hardcore backpacker who wants to camp out year-round, no matter how cold it gets? With a lofty r-value of 7.2, the heavily-insulated NeoAir XTherm is built for sleeping in especially chilly conditions and would be a welcome gift for any hiker or backpacker who likes to brave all four seasons.
Pillow Case/Stuff Sack: Zpacks
Getting restful sleep is no easy task when backpacking. This lightweight stuff sack/pillowcase has become an essential of my setup and, when stuffed with my down jacket, is more comfortable than any inflatable pillow I’ve ever tried. It leads to better sleep and holds my clothing when I’m hiking. That, my friends, is a game-changer.
Freeze-Dried Meal Assortment: Mountain House
Any overnight hiker will tell you that having too much backpacking food at the ready is impossible. Help your favorite hiking junkie stock up on delicious trail sustenance with this massive box of Mountain House meals with 12 two-serving meal pouches (or about four days’ worth of on-trail calories).
Compact Backpacking Stove: MSR PocketRocket 2
While the BRS-3000T backpacking stove I mentioned earlier weighs two ounces less, the PocketRocket 2 is more powerful and reliable. This stove is a staple in the backpacking community and would make a thoughtful purchase for someone needing a rock-solid stove to help elevate their cooking game.
Titanium Mug: TOAKS 375ml
Hot coffee, tea, cocoa, you name it — they’re all huge morale boosters on long hiking trips. This titanium mug would be an excellent present for anyone needing a solid, lightweight vessel for their pre- and post-hike refreshments. Looking for a larger volume pot? Check out the 750ml version.
Titanium Spork: Sea to Summit
Made from half an ounce of titanium, this spork is popular with backpackers long and far. It’s the only dining utensil you’ll ever need in the backcountry and would make a great stocking stuffer for those who love a nice hot meal from their tent. It has a long handle for those hard-to-reach morsels.
Hiking Shoes: Salomon X Ultra 4
Salomon makes a great shoe, and the X Ultra 4 exemplifies its commitment to producing well-engineered footwear for men and women worldwide. The soles are lightweight but sturdy, and the shoe is quite comfortable after the short break-in period —Waterproof Version: X Ultra 4 GTX.
900-Fill Down Jacket: Arc’teryx Cerium LT
Every backpacker needs a warm, lightweight puffy in their arsenal, and the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoody is as good as they get. Stuffed generously with 900-fill down, the Cerium LT packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle and will keep hikers warm as temperatures dip below freezing.
Dreamy Hiking Top: Montbell Cool Hoodie
Designed to be worn during exercise in the dead of the summer, the Montbell Cool Hoodie is as soft, breathable, and lightweight as it gets. Made from durable Wickron COOL Fabric, this hoodie wicks away moisture, fights odor, and blocks the sun’s harmful UV rays in the most comfortable way possible.
Windbreaker: Zpacks Ventum Shell
Joe Valesko, the owner of Zpacks, boasts that the Ventum Shell is one of the most valuable pieces of clothing to have on your gear list, and I agree. Made from exceptionally light Ventum ripstop nylon, this 1.7-ounce shell stops morale-killing gusts of wind, traps your body heat, and neutralizes the wind chill.
Ultralight Rain Jacket: OR Helium II
Ultralight hikers and backpackers swear by the 6.4-ounce Helium II rain jacket. Why? Because it weighs less than most of its competitors, packs down into the palm of your hand, breathes exceptionally well, and sheds rain easily. What else could you ask for in a rain jacket?
Lightweight Down Pants: Montbell
Montbell’s Light Down Pants were engineered to provide an extra layer of warmth when thermal leggings aren’t cutting it. Designed to be worn during winter hiking, chilly nights around camp, or as part of a cold-weather sleeping system, these 800-fill pants are made to keep hikers cozy and comfortable.
Versatile Hiking Pants: prAna Stretch Zion
Not only are the Strech Zions (the women’s equivalent are the Halles) a staple of the hiking and backpacking community, but they’re also a favorite among travelers. As the name suggests, these pants stretch and flex with your movement and, as a result, are about as comfortable as it gets on the trail.
Mesh Back Hat: Zpacks Classic Trucker
Mesh-back hiking hats offer excellent breathability and sun protection on the trail. Zpacks, known for its top-notch ultralight backpacking products, makes a stylish snapback hat. From thru-hiking to city life, this versatile cap can be worn anywhere and looks good on both men and women alike.
Hiking Vest for Dogs: Mountainsmith K-9
A well-fitted dog backpack allows pups to carry their food and supplies comfortably during day hikes and backpacking trips. My old yellow lab used this bag when hiking with me along the Colorado Trail, and it fit him like a dream. Tip: Stash food and supplies in waterproof bags before putting them in the saddlebag.
Hands-Free Dog Leash: Tuff Mutt
Holding onto a leash for hours can get annoying, which is why many hikers let their dogs run free. Unrestrained dogs can harm the environment, so a hands-free leash (that connects to a harness around the owner’s waist) would be great for any hiker with a dog.
LED Light Up Collar: Illumiseen
Dogs tend to let their nose lead the way and guide them toward all of nature’s alluring and mysterious smells. Their curiosity is usually harmless but can often lead them out of sight from their owners. A light-up collar will help owners keep track of their dogs in the dark and locate them if they wander off.
Collapsible Dog Bowl: Ruffwear
Have you ever tried to get a dog to drink from a water bottle? I have, on countless occasions, and it never goes smoothly. A lightweight, collapsible dog bowl like this would be a unique gift for hikers with dogs and will prevent sloppy, awkward attempts to quench a dog’s thirst on the trail.
Odor-Proof Waste Storage: Dog Doo Tube
Nobody wants to lug around dog poo on their hike, and leaving waste pouches on the trail is littering and inconsiderate to everyone that passes by. The solution? Dog Doo Tube. This handy container snaps shut and clips to a leash or backpack to keep poo bags out of sight (and smell) until you reach a trash can.
Mini Pocket Knife: Victorinox Swiss Army
This micro Swiss Army Knife is a staple inside the bags of many ultralight hikers and backpackers. Weighing in at an uber-light .75 ounces, this minimalist multitool sports a knife, scissors, nail file, tweezers, and a toothpick. No, it won’t fend off any bears or mountain lions; that’s what bear spray is for.
Backpacking Trowel: TheTentLab Deuce
Leave No Trace principles are essential in the hiking and backpacking community, so properly burying human waste (poop, not trash) is necessary in the backcountry. This durable yet lightweight aluminum trowel will allow hikers to dig catholes quickly and dispose of their waste correctly.
Four-Function Whistle: Coghlan’s
For such a low price, this four-function whistle is a no-brainer stocking stuffer for any hiker or backpacker. Coghlan’s 4 in 1 tool acts as a compass, rescue whistle, thermometer, and magnifying glass and weighs only an ounce. This nifty gadget can clip onto backpacks and keychains and can save hikers in more ways than one.
Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found
You’ve probably heard of Wild, Cheryl Strayed’s memoir about her incredible 1,100-mile trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. Why? Because Wild is a #1 New York Times Best Seller and was adapted into a wildly successful screenplay. It’s a true page-turner and will leave readers eager to embark on an impulsive thru-hike of their own.
Gear Repair Tape: GEAR AID Tenacious Tape
Tearing a beloved piece of gear is heartbreaking for hikers and backpackers, and that’s why Tenacious Tape exists. Made from washable waterproof fabric, this heavy-duty tape will cling to any synthetic material and patch up all the rips, gashes, and tears you can throw at it.
Heavy-Duty Sunscreen: Blue Lizard SPF 30+
Sun protection is one of the ten essentials of hiking, so a sunscreen that stands up to the high-intensity pace of the trail will be a welcome present for any hiker. Blue Lizard sunscreen lasts nearly all day, uses healthy ingredients, and is always effective (even when you’re pouring sweat).
Mylar Emergency Blanket: Premium Life
Emergency blankets are a worst-case scenario type of purchase but could be a life-saving investment if things go awry in the backcountry. Made from ultra-thin mylar, these lightweight blankets will reflect body heat, block wind, and repel rain when hikers are at the mercy of the elements.
Down Detergent: Nikwax Down Wash Direct
Hiking gear made with down — puffy jackets, sleeping bags, insulated pants, etc. — gets dirty quickly, and few hikers know how to wash it properly. Nikwax Down Wash Direct is designed to clean delicate down gear and also offers a waterproofing detergent that helps down retain its insulation properties when wet.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Brimming with humor, A Walk in the Woods gives readers a candid glimpse into everyday life on the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. Written by Bill Bryson in 1998, this autobiographical account chronicles a haphazard thru-hike attempt of the AT by 40-something Bryson and his comically underprepared friend, Katz.
Polarized Sunglasses: Knockaround Fast Lanes
If you know a hiker who breaks or loses their sunglasses frequently (like me), these are the shades for them. They’re lightweight, durable, and feel like a high-end pair of sunglasses on your face. Their approachable price tag makes the sting of losing or breaking them hurt way less in the end.
Blister Prevention Cream: HikeGoo
Blisters can quickly make a hiker’s life painful, so stopping them before they start is vital to a comfortable experience. HikeGoo lessens friction between feet and socks and would make a perfect present for hikers and backpackers who aim to keep their feet in tip-top shape on the trail.
Precision Compass: SUUNTO M-3 NH
Though trail navigation is widely available on smartphones, it can fail when you least expect it. A high-precision compass like the SUUNTO M-3 NH and an up-to-date topographic map will ensure that hikers and backpackers can find their way, even if their digital maps aren’t working correctly.
Healthy Insect Repellent: Sawyer Picaridin Lotion
Mosquitos, gnats, flies, and ticks are not only incredibly annoying but can also transmit devastating diseases. This DEET-free Picaridin-based lotion is healthy, easy to apply, and will last up to 14 hours. There’s no harm if it comes in contact with clothing or gear, as it dries quickly and won’t damage synthetics.
Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home
Heather Anderson, better known by her trail name ‘Anish,’ has piled up over 40,000 hiking miles since 2003. Her memoir, Thirst, focuses on her record-breaking thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, which she completed in just over 60 days. Simply inspiring, Thirst is a must-read for hikers, backpackers, and outdoor lovers alike.
That’s it. No more ranting about hiking and backpacking gifts. I promise.
Hopefully, my near endless gear musings helped you find a unique product or two that will elevate your loved one’s game as they head out to wander the trails.
The unique list I just gave you — 59 of 2023’s best gift ideas for hikers and backpackers, to be exact — is a result of my passion for hiking, backpacking, and exploring the great outdoors. All of the products on this list come highly recommended by an experienced backcountry explorer and are bound to satisfy like-minded adventurers.
But if you’ve looked through this guide and still don’t know which gift to buy, leave a comment below and tell me a little about who you’re shopping for. I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.
Until then, I’ll be hiking trails, sleeping under the stars, and backpacking out the rest of 2023 in search of a few priceless gifts of my own.
- Essential Backpacking Gear: The Items I Can’t Hike Without
- Best Ultralight Tents for Backpackers & Thru-Hikers
- What to Bring on a Day Hike: 10 Essentials + Checklist
- 8.2 lb Ultralight Backpacking Gear List for 2024
- Budget Backpacking Gear: Affordable 10 lb Ultralight Kit
- Backpacking Food: Meal Plan Tips & Ideas for Your Next Hike
Last Updated on September 29, 2023