Last Updated on June 14, 2021
It’s hard to buy gifts for hikers and backpackers in 2021. I get it.
We’re a gear-hungry bunch who spends an obscene amount of time searching for products that’ll take our trail game to the next level. Choosing a present for a hiker that’s both unique and worthwhile can get overwhelming because we don’t just want good gear; we want the best gear.
But don’t stress out just yet. I’m a trail chasing, mountain climbing, ultralight backpacking gear junkie, and I’m here to help.
This hiking gift guide — updated for 2021 — is split up into 15 easy-to-navigate sections, each with its own category. The gear, clothing, food, and other gifts on this list will be suitable for any budget, with price tags ranging anywhere between $5 and $700.
So stay tuned, and I’ll help you find the perfect present for that beloved hiking or backpacking fanatic in your life. If you have questions about anything on this list, leave me a comment, and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible with my best gear nerd answers.
GIFTS FOR HIKERS: 2021 GUIDE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Noel’s Top Picks
2. Best Hiking Gifts Under $25
3. Best Unique Hiking Gifts
4. Gifts for Backpackers
5. Backcountry Cuisine & Cooking Gear
6. Techy Hiking Gear
7. Hiking Clothes for Him & Her
8. Outerwear for Cold Weather
9. Outerwear for Rainy Weather
10. Health & Wellness Hiking Supplies
11. Backcountry Survival Gear
12. Gifts for Hikers with Dogs
13. Gifts for Trail Runners
14. Luxury Hiking Gear
15. Books About Hiking & Backpacking
16. Best Hiking & Backpacking Brands
17. What to Look for in a Hiking Gift
18. Final Thoughts
19. Hiking & Backpacking Resources
Merino Wool Hiking Socks: Darn Tough Crew
I’ve never worn 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 wick away moisture with ease. They’re covered by an unconditional lifetime warranty, which means if they ever wear out, Darn Tough will replace them for free.
Minimalist Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze
Water purification is essential in the backcountry, so the Sawyer Squeeze is a perfect present for any 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 U.S. can get expensive quickly, costing $25 to $35 per visit. An annual parks pass will certainly 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 2021.
Top-Rated Backpack: Gossamer Gear Mariposa
In terms of comfort, features, and durability, the 60-liter Mariposa backpack is second-to-none. It’s such a well-designed piece of gear, in fact, that OutdoorGearLab, rated it the #1 overall ultralight backpack. This is no small feat, considering it beat out brands like Zpacks, Osprey, and Hyperlite Mountain Gear.
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 incredibly strong light (360 lumens), has loads of useful settings, and is USB rechargeable – meaning no messing around with AAA batteries ever again. It’s an absolute model of efficiency.
Ultralight Backpacking Tent: Zpacks Duplex
The Zpacks Duplex is among the most widely owned tents by ultralight backpackers, and wins awards for its lightweight and packable prowess. The recognition is well-deserved too, as I can attest to from years spent camping in my trusty Triplex, a slightly roomier version of the Duplex.
Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles: Cascade Mountain Tech
Trekking poles are knee-savers on long journeys and are great at preventing harmful slips and falls, which is why they’d make a great gift for any hiker or backpacker. This particular set is made from carbon fiber, which is extremely durable and significantly lighter than the aluminum used in traditional trekking poles.
Hiking Shorts with Zippers: 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. Made from soft, breathable, water-resistant fabric, these shorts offer second-to-none comfort on the trail. They also sport built-in liners and fully zippered pockets for maximum convenience.
GPS Beacon/Messenger: Garmin InReach Mini
Exploring the backcountry can go sideways in a hurry, which makes the InReach Mini 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.
Multifunctional Headwear: Buff Original
Once you go hiking, backpacking, or trail running with a Buff, you’ll wonder why you ever hit the trail without one. 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.
Indestructible Camera Clip: Peak Design Capture V3
For hikers and backpackers who love photography, cell phone cameras don’t cut it. The aluminum alloy Capture V3 clip allows user to bring their cameras along by snapping them securely onto their backpack strap or belt. Far less obtrusive than a strap, the Capture V3 is the outdoor photographers clip of choice.
Gear Bag for Backpacking: Ultralitesacks 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 completely 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 damn ditty best bag I’ve ever owned.
Budget Athletic T-Shirts: 32 Degrees Cool Crew
At $6 a pop, these 32 Degrees Cool Crew t-shirts are comfortable, breathable, and perform very well both on the trail and off. They’re a no-brainer present if you’re shopping on a budget, and they would make a great addition to anyone’s hiking, backpacking, or athletic wardrobe.
Packable Day Pack: 4Monster 24-Liter
For minimalist travelers and backpackers who seek out day hikes along their adventures, the 4Monster 24-liter day pack is a no-brainer. Weighing in at around four ounces, this highly water-resistant backpack is made of durable 30D nylon and packs into your main bag down to the size of a soda can.
Mini Pocket Knife: Victorinox Swiss Army Classic
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.
Crazy Light Backpacking Stove: BRS-3000T
In the world of backpacking stoves, the BRS-3000T is as compact and minimalist as they come. It weighs in at a ridiculous .9 ounces, folds up to the size of a lighter, and cranks out an impressive flame. It’d be a unique gift for hikers looking to shave significant weight off of their 2021 backpacking gear list.
Four Function Whistle: Coghlan’s
For such a low price, this four function whistle is a no-brainer budget buy 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.
Budget Down Jacket: 32 Degrees
Okay, I lied. This jacket isn’t under $25, but it’s really close. That said, 32 Degrees makes the best budget ultralight down jackets on the market. Made with 650-fill responsibly sourced down and water-repellent outer fabric, this jacket packs down small and will keep hikers warm and toasty as temperatures approach freezing.
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.
Let’s face it, you don’t need to carry a big blade on your hiking and backpacking trips (unless, of course, you need to saw your arm off in Bluejohn Canyon). That said, this tiny minimalist knife with a razor-sharp edge will come in handy for less exciting tasks like cutting paracord, slicing through summer sausage, and trimming gear.
Ultra-Portable Tripod: Pedco Ultrapod
The Pedco Ultrapod is made for hikers and travelers who love photography but don’t want to lug around a bulky tripod. It helps stabilize zoomed-in photos, levels the camera on uneven terrain, can attach to objects with its velcro strap, and comes in at a super-compact four ounces.
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 which helps down retain its insulation properties when wet.
Budget Hiking Hoodie: 32 Degrees
When you’re hiking in hot and sunny conditions and shade is minimal, a lightweight and breathable hoodie is the ideal top to neutralize the elements. This crazy-affordable long sleeve pullover offers full skin coverage while wicking away moisture and promoting airflow to help keep hikers cool and dry.
Instant Espresso: Cafe Bustelo Single Serve
A 72-pack of instant espresso shots will be a welcome present for any hiker or backpacker who can’t start their day without a jolt of caffeine. These handy Cafe Bustelo pouches are not only incredibly affordable (16 cents each) but they’re rich, delicious, powerful, and convenient.
Polarized Sunglasses: Merry’s Vintage
If you know a hiker who breaks or loses their sunglasses frequently (like me), these are the shades for them. They’re sturdy and solid — made of aluminum — and feel like a high-end pair of sunglasses on your face. Their tiny price tag makes the sting of losing or breaking them hurt way less.
Minimalist Eyewear Retainer: Chums 3mm
Unsecured sunglasses have a habit of getting lost, damaged, and broken during hikes, which can be a real morale killer on the trail. These Chums 3mm eyewear retainers will protect hikers’ beloved sunglasses, make them easy to hang around the neck, and barely cost a thing.
Miniature Towels: Lightload Microfiber
For thru-hikers and backpackers, towels are a luxury that usually aren’t worth their weight. That’s why many turn to the half-ounce Lightload Microfiber towels. These tiny cloths are great for a quick dry off, wiping up tent condensation, and even work as emergency fire-starters.
Blister-Preventing Toe Socks: Injinji Trail Mini-Crew
At first glance, toe socks might look a little… unique, but when you consider the benefits, Injinis would make a perfect present for hikers and trail runners alike. By keeping the toes separate, these socks help prevent blisters, manage moisture, and enhance breathability on the trail.
Packable Wash Bag: Scrubba MINI
Clothes get dirty while backpacking, and cleaning them responsibly can be tricky. Equipped with a built-in washboard, the Scrubba Wash Bag allows hikers to wash their clothing while keeping a safe distance from lakes, creeks, and rivers. (Always wash clothing in the backcountry with biodegradable soap.)
Featherlight Camp Shoes: Mayfly Ultralight
Feet take a beating on the trail, so it’s only fair to pamper them at the end of a long day. Weighing 1.8 oz, these ultralight camp shoes allow backpackers to shed their soggy boots and air out their feet once they get to camp. They’re backed by a lifetime guarantee, too, so send them in for a new pair if they ever wear out.
DIY Dehydrator: Cosori
Prepackaged dehydrated backpacking meals are convenient but can get very expensive. These pouches can cost up to $15 a pop, which is why many backpackers dehydrate their own meals. A top-notch dehydrator like the Cosori allows backpackers to preserve their own home-cooked meals for future use on the trail.
USB-Rechargeable Arc Lighter: Tesla Coil
Though I bring BIC Minis on my adventures, a far more powerful and weatherproof option would be the Tesla Coil lighter. This rechargeable device creates a strong electric arc when its button is pressed, requires no fuel, and is completely windproof. Welcome to the future, hikers and backpackers.
Portable Espresso Maker: Wacaco Nanospresso
Behold! The biggest luxury in my backpacking arsenal. With the Nanospresso, all I need to create fresh espresso while hiking is boiling water and a Nespresso Capsule. No, you won’t see this on my ultralight backpacking gear list, but it’s fun to have for special occasions, car camping, and van life.
Portable Female Urination Device: GoGirl
Peeing outdoors is far more inconvenient for women than it is for men, but it doesn’t have to be. A portable device like the GoGirl will help level the playing field for women who hike. Made of soft-textured and easy-to-clean silicone, the GoGirl allows women to do their backcountry business without the usual hassle.
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 get ready for the miles ahead.
Ultralight Titanium Flask: Zpacks
Sometimes, you need to pack a nip of your favorite booze to keep you warm after a long day of backpacking. This handy titanium flask — complete with mini funnel — is the lightweight backpacker’s vessel of choice and will hold a hefty eight ounces of your favorite adult beverage.
Couples Hiking Ornament: Wulf Creek Designs
This ornament won’t come in handy on the trail, but it will make a great addition to any hiking couple’s Christmas tree. For a couple of extra bucks, you can also add personalized text to the bottom of the ornament, as well. Couples who hike together stay together, after all.
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.)
Wood-Burning Backpacking Stove: Toaks
If you know a backpacker who likes to cook but doesn’t want to carry containers of fuel, a wood-burning backpacking stove might be a great fit. It will require hikers to expend a little extra effort scavenging for kindling, but it’ll also reward the backcountry purists who don’t want to fuss with clunky isopropanol canisters.
Therapeutic Foam Roller: TriggerPoint GRID
Muscles take a beating when hiking and backpacking, and it’s essential to take care of them between adventures. A quality foam roller — not too hard, not too soft — allows users to self-massage when their body is aching and in need of some TLC. For on-trail relief, turn to the Rawlogy cork ball I mentioned earlier.
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 S.O.S notes if they get lost or injured.
Waterproof Space Pen: Fisher
A reliable waterproof pen is a must-have piece of gear 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, either, as it’s bound to put ink onto paper under virtually any circumstances.
Minimalist Trail Sandals: Luna OSO Flaco
While thru-hiking in these sandals may be a little extreme for some, they’re great for day hiking, weekend backpacking trips, trail running, and minimalist travel adventures. They are zero drop, which means they will strengthen feet, improve alignment, and help prevent future injury.
Ultralight Backpack: Osprey Exos 58
For backpackers looking to ditch their heavy packs and lighten up their load, the Exos 58 is a great place to start. Not only does it boast an impressive weight to volume ratio — it weighs only 42 ounces but carries 58 liters of gear — it’s one of the most comfortable, full-featured, and well-made backpacks on the market.
Four-Season Tent: MSR Hubba Hubba NX
The Hubba Hubba NX is one of the sturdiest and most compact four-season tents on the market, which is why you’ll see it frequently used on hiking trails on all ends of the earth. This lightweight and reliable tent would be ideal for hikers who often stay the night in windy, cold, and unforgiving conditions.
Ultralight Quilt: Enlightened Equipment Revelation
For many backpackers and thru-hikers worldwide, the Revelation 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 full control over the temperature inside.
Ultra-Warm 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 present for any hiker who likes to brave all four seasons.
Unbreakable Tent Stakes: MSR Groundhog
Life’s too short to go backpacking with flimsy tent stakes, so step up your camping game and grab a set of the MSR Groundhogs. Made from 7000-series aluminum, these stakes are both rugged and lightweight and will stay anchored in the ground no matter how hard the wind blows.
Stuffable Pillow Case: Therm-a-Rest Trekker
Getting restful sleep is no easy task when camping and backpacking. This lightweight pillowcase has become an essential of my setup and, when stuffed with my down jacket, is far more comfortable than any inflatable pillow I’ve ever tried. It leads to better sleep on the trail and that, my friends, is a game-changer.
Ultralight Packing Cubes: Osprey
Organization is key in the hiking and backpacking world, so packing cubes would be a great way to introduce some order to a backpacker’s messy gear kit. Osprey’s three cube set will help keep gear, food, and supplies where they should be, while weighing in at an unoticable two ounces.
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 be a great gift for someone in need of a rock-solid stove to help elevate their cooking game.
Group Cooking System: MSR Windburner
Those who want to cook backcountry feasts for family, friends, and new trail buddies will need the right gear, and this powerhouse of a stove is up to the task. The 9,000 BTU Windburner Group Stove isn’t fazed by nasty weather or wind, and can prepare food for up to six people with a 4.5 liter pot add-on.
Titanium Backpacking Mug: Toaks 375ml
Hot coffee, tea, cocoa, you name it – they’re all huge morale boosters on long hiking trips. This titanium mug would make a great present for anyone in need of a solid, lightweight vessel for all of their pre and post-hike refreshments. Looking for a larger volume pot? Check out the 750ml version.
Ultralight Titanium Spork: Toaks
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 is durable enough to stand up to the harsh rigors of multi-day hikes into the wilderness. Want a little more reach? Check out the Toaks Long Handle Spork.
Freeze-Dried Meal Assortment: Mountain House
Any avid backpacker will tell you that it’s impossible to have too many dehydrated meals at the ready. Help your favorite hiking junkie stock up on delicious trail sustenance with this huge box of Mountain House meals, which has 12 two-serving meal pouches, or about four days worth of on-trail calories.
Freeze-Dried Vegetable Assortment: Harmony House
Some backcountry chefs prefer a bit more freedom than a predictable meal pouch end of the day. This assortment of dehydrated vegetables — 32 different types! — gives hikers and backpackers the option to add ingredients to meal pouches or to prepare healthy, delicious, and fully-customized meals.
No-Cook Backpacking Meals: Greenbelly
Backpacking food doesn’t need to be cooked in order to taste delicious. That’s why my go-to breakfast for multi-day hikes is the Greenbelly bar. These nutritious meals are convenient, made from healthy ingredients, and are nearly 700 calories a bar, the perfect combination for backcountry nourishment.
Lightweight Food Storage Bag: Ultralightsacks DCF
On multi-day hiking and backpacking trips, it’s important to keep your food safe from rodents, bears, and other animals that are attracted to its smell. I recommend the zippered Ultralitesacks bag, which can hold up to a week of food and can be safely hung in tree, out of reach from curious creatures.
Rock-Solid Bear Canister: BearVault BV500
When hiking or backpacking in bear country, you might need more than just a bag to prevent curious visitors from nosing around your campsite. A BearVault will completely hide the smell of your food, and keep bears (among other critters) away from your stash so you can sleep safely and worry-free.
Sturdy GPS Watch: Garmin Instinct
For stat-obsessed hikers, the Garmin Instinct smartwatch is a must-have. Not only does it display your live step count, heart rate, and elevation, but it also tracks your hike via GPS and stores its coordinates for later access. I use my Instinct to track, map, and display my day hikes and backpacking trips on this website.
10-Watt USB Solar Panel: Renogy E-Flex
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 the need for a wall-charger.
Fast-Charging Power Bank: Anker PowerCore Slim PD
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. A reliable, fast-charging PD power bank will keep those precious tech items — phones, camera batteries, headlamps, beacons — powered up and ready for action.
Bluetooth Headphones + Charging Case: TOZO T6
Blaring music is a big no-no on the trail, so buy these Bluetooth headphones for any hikers who can’t seem to keep their tunes to themselves. They’re waterproof, have touch controls, pump out quality sound, and can play your favorite hiking songs for over six hours on a single charge.
Lightweight Micro 4/3 Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M10
Smartphone photos of a jaw-dropping adventure never do the hike justice, but the OM-D E-M10 captures images that will. This is the exact camera I bring along on my hiking and backpacking adventures to snap professional-quality photos for this website. Lenses I use: Zoom | Portrait.
Rugged Action Camera: GoPro Hero9 Black
If you know someone who hikes with reckless abandon and beats up their gear, the Hero8 might be perfect 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.
Walkie-Talkies: Motorola T100TP Talkabout
Backpackers, hunters, and guides who regularly keep 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 a must for long-distance communication in the wilderness when cell service is non-existent.
Rugged Hiking Shoes: Salomon X Ultra 3
Salomon makes a great shoe, and the X Ultra 3 exemplifies their commitment to producing well-engineered footwear for men and women worldwide. The soles are lightweight but sturdy and the shoe is extremely comfortable after the break-in period. Waterproof Version: X Ultra 3 GTX.
Dream 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.
Merino Wool T-Shirt: Montbell Plus Light
The Montbell Merino Wool Plus Light T is as functional as they come. Made from a Merino/polyester blend, this do-it-all t-shirt is highly odor-resistant, moisture-wicking, and fits like a dream. It can be worn comfortably in the backcountry, while traveling, or for a casual night out on the town.
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 a favorite among travelers as well. 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.
Moisture-Wicking Underwear: ExOfficio Give ‘n’ Go
Underwear doesn’t get much more breathable, lightweight, or comfortable than the Give ‘n’ Gos, and that’s why they’re a staple of the hiking and backpacking community. These dream undies — available in boxer briefs for men and bikini briefs for women — stay fresh for days on end and wick moisture away with ease.
Mesh Back Hat: Zpacks Classic Trucker
Mesh back trucker hats offer great breathability and sun protection on the trail. Zpacks, known for its top-notch ultralight backpacking products, makes a particularly 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.
Burly Hiking Boots: Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
Do you know a four-season hiker who loves to tackle snow and ice? Look no further than the Quest 4D 3 GTX boots. They’re burly, comfortable, durable, completely waterproof, and will tear up and down trails in any of the four seasons. They offer great support as well and are perfect for hikers who are prone to rolling their ankles.
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.
Lightweight Down Pants: Montbell
Montbell’s Light Down Pants were engineered to provide an extra layer of warmth when thermal leggings just 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 here to keep hikers cozy and comfortable.
Feather-Light Windbreaker: Zpacks Ventum Shell
Joe Valesko, the owner of Zpacks, boasts that the Ventum Shell is one of the most useful pieces of clothing to have on your gear list, and I agree. Made from insanely light Ventum ripstop nylon, this 1.7-ounce shell stops morale-killing gusts of wind, traps your body heat, and neutralizes the wind chill in the process.
Thermal Top: Patagonia Capilene Midweight
Chilly hiking trips should call for a reliable base layer, and the Capilene zip-neck thermal top will keep you warm and well-ventilated in the backcountry. This eco-friendly top is made from 100% recycled materials, offers 50+ UPF sun protection, and breathes like a dream.
Thermal Bottoms: Patagonia Capilene Midweight
Packing a warm, insulating pair of long underwear is a must for any cold-weather backpacking trip. The Patagonia Capilene Midweight bottoms are widely used in the hiking and backpacking community and would be a fitting present for anyone looking to add a soft and cozy layer of warmth to their 2021 gear list.
Lightweight Beanie: Carhartt Acrylic Knit
Hikers that enjoy exploring cold climates will find this Carhartt knit beanie extremely useful. It’s 100% acrylic, which means it doesn’t soak up perspiration and holds warmth exceptionally well. It’s packable, stylish, and will keep its hikers warm as temperatures dive. It’s great as everyday winter wear as well.
Four-Season Gloves: Sealskinz
All-season gloves are a must for cold-weather hikers and backpackers, and the Sealskinz offer great protection when temperatures plunge. They’re 100% waterproof and windproof and can be worn comfortably in the rain, snow, and in bitterly cold climates.
Pro-Quality Snow Shoes: Atlas Montane
Much of the world’s best mountain and high alpine hiking is only accessible during the summer unless, of course, you own a trusty set of snowshoes. The V-frame, spring-loaded suspension Atlas Montanes are built to get hikers out on the trail, even when there’s snow and ice as far as the eye can see.
Ice-Gripping Crampons: Cimkiz
Hikers who tackle snow-packed and/or icy trails, where snowshoes would be overkill, should always have a pair of crampons at the ready. They fit snugly around hiking boots and sport durable stainless steel spikes that dig into ice and stabilize hikers on slick surfaces, drastically reducing the risk of slips and falls.
-20° Sleeping Bag: The North Face Inferno
Here’s a present for only the most extreme four-season hiking and backpacking junkies. The Inferno is the sleeping bag for those who crave the coldest and most uninviting excursions available. Backpacking Alaska in the winter or tackling the Great Himilaya Trail? Look no further than the Inferno -20° bag.
Ultralight Rain Jacket: O.R. 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 with ease. What else could you ask for in a rain jacket?
Ultralight Rain Pants: O.R. Helium
Sometimes, a rain jacket just isn’t enough protection from the elements. These Outdoor Research Helium rain pants are reliable, lightweight, and pair with a rain jacket to give hikers and backpackers full-body protection in climates where precipitation is the norm.
Water-Blocking Gaiters: Outdoor Research
Know a hiker that loves to explore wet and humid climates? Get them a set of gaiters to pair with their waterproof hiking shoes. These extremely durable 420D Nylon coverings will block moisture from seeping in the top of a hiker’s footwear, keeping their feet dry and comfortable throughout the hike.
Ultralight Rain Mitts: Zpacks Vertice
Hiking with cold and soaking wet hands is unpleasant, uncomfortable, and can get unsafe if exposure lasts long enough. These waterproof mitts, built to slide on over lightweight gloves and liners, will shed water at will, and would make a great layer of protection for hikers who explore especially wet and chilly climates.
Ultralight Hiking Umbrella: Zpacks Lotus
Hiking with umbrellas has become more and more popular in recent years, and for good reason. They offer great UV protection in exposed, sunny landscapes and are great at shedding long and drawn-out precipitation when rain jackets have the tendency to wet out.
Dr. Bronner’s is the perfect soap for hikers and backpackers who aim to stay clean on the trail. It’s biodegradable, can be used safely in the backcountry, and should be used at least 100 feet away from water sources. It’s potent and portable and will help keep hikers fresh in a world of dirt and grime.
Ultralight Body-Sized Towel: PackTowl Microfiber
Weighing in at 3.4 ounces, the PackTowl Ultralight body towel can pack down into the palm of your hand. Because of its extreme portability, it has become a fixture in the hiking and backpacking community and would make a great present for anyone looking for a convenient way to dry off on the trail.
Sleep-Saving Earplugs: Howard Leight
Sleeping comfortably in the backcountry doesn’t always come easy, thanks to the countless noises that fill the night. A good set of earplugs will deafen these distracting sounds and create a quiet atmosphere that’ll allow backpackers and campers to rest easy until the sun rises.
Blister Prevention Cream: HikeGoo
Blisters can make a hiker’s life painful in a hurry, so stopping them before they start is key 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.
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).
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. No harm if it comes in contact with clothing or gear, either, as it dries quickly and won’t damage synthetics.
Ultralight 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 a must in the backcountry. This durable, yet lightweight aluminum trowel will allow hikers to dig catholes quickly and dispose of their waste the right way.
Pocket First Aid Kit: Lifeline 30-Piece
Safety is paramount when exploring trails, so a portable first aid kit should be an essential part of any hiker or backpacker’s gear list. The minimalist medical kit is stocked with bandages, antiseptic towels, and an emergency whistle, with extra room for personal add-ons and toiletries.
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.
All-in-One Multitool: Leatherman Wingman
For some hikers, a 14-in-1 multitool is a bit overkill; for others, it’s an essential part of their packing list. The Wingman is perfect for hiking bush crafters, hunters, and fishermen who need a reliable tool to stay prepared for any situation. Me? I’m good with my Nite Ize Doohickey or my micro scissors.
Much like an emergency blanket, a canister of bear spray is a gift you give with the hopes the recipient will never need to use it. That said, the best way to protect against an aggressive bear in the backcountry is to temporarily blind it with a strong burst of Capsaicinoids. This will do the trick.
GPS Maps Subscription: Gaia Annual Plan
Gaia GPS offers an incredible collection of hiking trails and topo maps and is an excellent resource for researching and navigating trails. A premium subscription — 20% off through this link — allows users to access maps offline and explore the backcountry with ease and peace of mind.
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, coupled with an up-t0-date topographic map, will ensure that hikers and backpackers can find their way, even if their digital maps aren’t working properly.
Hiking Vest for Dogs: Pettom Saddlebag
A well-fitted saddlebag allows dogs to comfortably carry their food and supplies 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 be harmful to the environment, though, which is why 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 towards all of the alluring and mysterious smells nature has to offer. Their curiosity is usually harmless but can often lead them astray, 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 one would make the perfect vessel for water or food and will prevent sloppy, awkward attempts to quench a dog’s thirst on the trail.
Odor-Proof Waste Storage: PooVault
Nobody wants to lug around dog poo on their hike. I get it. But leaving waste pouches on the trail is littering and inconsiderate to every hiker that passes by. The solution? PooVault. 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.
Ultralight Hydration Vest: CamelBak Ultra Pro
For quick hikes and trail runs, a daypack can be a bit overkill. When all you need is water storage and minimal space for snacks and gear, a hydration vest will carry it all efficiently. The Ultra Pro would be perfect for trail runners and minimalist day hikers who value comfort and simplicity.
Breathable Running Hat: Vuori Athletics
Cotton-based hats can get hot, sweaty, and intolerable during trail runs, which is why I recommend a synthetic cap for anyone getting their cardio in on the trail. The Vuori Athletics hat is lightweight, wicks away moisture, offers solid sun protection, and is the perfect lid for trail runners and high-intensity hikers.
Running Sunglasses: Under Armour Ignitor
Trail runners need sunglasses that will stay on their face for every twist and turn of the trail, no matter what. Shades like the Under Armour Ignitors, designed specifically for runners, will hug a trail runner’s face, offer wide-range peripheral vision, and will never slip off, come loose, or become a distraction.
Minimalist Trail Running Shoe: Xero Prio
Xero makes some of the best minimalist hiking, backpacking, and trail running shoes on the market, and the Prio is their most popular model. Weighing in at a scant 7.6 ounces per shoe, the zero drop Prios offer full foot protection with a minimalist barefoot feel that connects runners with the trail.
Cooler Backpack: Yeti Hopper BackFlip 24
Anyone hitting the trail with this cooler-pack is likely to make fellow hikers jealous. Why? Because inside awaits delicious and refreshing possibilities. Thought not essential to hiking in any way, the Backflip 24 will keep 20 12-ounce cans ice cold for days on end. It’s a beer-drinking, mountain crushing, day hiker’s delight.
Two-Person Hammock: ENO DoubleNest
Not only is a lightweight and packable hammock great for some rest and relaxation while hiking, but it’s useful for any other number of occasions. Road trips, van life, car camping, traveling, swaying aimlessly in the breeze — it’ll be a great present for relaxed hikers who are never in a rush.
Compact Binoculars: Nikon Trailblazer
A solid pair of binoculars would make a luxurious asset to any hiker’s gear list but would be especially useful for those who love tracking and viewing wildlife. Weighing in at less than a pound, these Nikons give hikers detailed glimpses of nature without being much of a burden to hike with.
Camping & Backpacking 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 comfortable, weighs just over a pound and would elevate any hiker’s comfort in the backcountry to the highest level.
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 A.T. by 40-something Bryson and his comically underprepared friend, Katz.
Free Outside: A Trek Against Time and Distance
In 2016, Jeff Garmire fled the hustle and bustle of a career in finance to set off on an utterly life-changing adventure. Over that calendar year, Jeff traversed America’s 8,000-mile Triple Crown of Hiking — the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail — and emerged as an entirely new person.
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.
North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail
Scott Jurek is a legend in the ultrarunning community and his memoir, North, shows readers exactly why. Centered around his 2015 record-breaking run of the Appalachian Trail, North, gives the world a deep dive into Jurek’s stunning and transformative 46-day thru-run of one of the most brutal long trails in America.
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.
There you have it, 100+ of my very best gift recommendations for hikers and backpackers. Hopefully, you found a thing or two that will be a perfect fit with its recipient.
But if you haven’t found anything that’s calling your name yet, that’s okay too.
Check out some of the brands below, which are among the most popular and widely respected in the hiking and backpacking community. There’s plenty of wonderful hiking gear, clothing, food, and books out there that didn’t make this list, and you can find them below.
- 32 Degrees – Incredibly affordable hiking and backpacking clothing
- Darn Tough – Best hiking and backpacking socks in the industry
- Enlightened Equipment – Award-winning ultralight sleeping bags and quilts
- Garage Grown Gear – Conglomeration of the best hiking and backpacking cottage brands
- GearTrade – Marketplace to buy and sell used gear, often at big discounts
- Good To-Go – Delicious and healthy freeze-dried backpacking meals
- Hammock Gear – Lightweight, affordable quilts for backpackers and hammock campers
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear – High-end gear that’s incredibly durable and lightweight
- Montbell – Well-engineered and innovative gear made with extreme attention to detail
- Mountain Laurel Designs – Legendary ultralight backpacking shelters, packs, and more
- Osprey – Full-featured backpacks and more for hikers and backpackers
- Patagonia – World-renowned, ethically-produced outdoor gear and clothing
- Salomon – Reliable, durable, and comfortable shoes for hiking and trail running
- Therm-a-Rest – Industry’s best sleeping pads for camping and backpacking
- Zpacks – Innovative ultralight gear; arguably lightest and most well-designed in the industry
Buying gifts is hard, and if you don’t know a lot about outdoor gear, let me give you some helpful pointers that might nudge you in the right direction. To make the process easier on yourself, keep the following considerations in mind.
Search for Gifts That are Lightweight
Every ounce matters when you’re exploring trails in the backcountry. Heavy backpacks filled with bulky gear will weigh the hiker down, put unnecessary strain on their body, and increase their likelihood of injury.
Nobody wants that.
So, focus on searching for lightweight gifts that’ll give hikers and backpackers a spring in their step as they traverse down the trail. Take it from me, the guy who has carried a heavy backpack one too many times in their hiking career.
Search for Gifts That are Durable
Lightweight gear is great and all, but if not built to last, it’s not worth buying.
Search for durable gear that’ll stand up to the abuse of the hiking trail and won’t let your loved one down in the backcountry. Focus on brands and products that are known for using quality materials and thoughtful design. The key here is to find gifts that land directly in the sweet spot between lightweight and durable.
When shopping, also keep your eye on the company’s warranty policy, as this might come in handy if your gift eventually wears out or has a defect.
Scour Through Reviews
So, how are you to know if the gift you have your eye on is lightweight, durable, or even worth buying at all?
By reading lots and lots of reviews, of course.
Searching product review sections on sites like Amazon and REI.com is bound to uncover troves of useful information about a given product that might not be available elsewhere. Reviews often give a personal glimpse at what it’s like to own and use a product.
Good reviews will go in-depth to answer questions about the specific features of a product. How does its fabric feel against your skin? How light does it feel on your back? How durable is it as the miles pile up? How useful is it in the backcountry?
Detailed, honest reviews will expose a product for what it is, for better or worse.
Know Your Hiker
Gift-giving is tricky in that it’s your responsibility to decipher between which items the recipient will love and which items be of absolutely no use to them. Being a mind-reader is never easy.
So, be proactive and do everything you can to find out what type of hiker you’re shopping for.
Do they prefer backpacking, day hiking, or trail running? Do they hike with their dog? Do they tend to buy traditional backpacking gear or modern gear? Are they a techy person or more old fashioned? What hiking gear do they already own? What unique gift could add value to their life outdoors?
Figuring out the exact type of hiker you’re shopping for is the hard part. (Many of us hikers are quite particular.) But, if you do some proper investigating and ask yourself some of the important questions above, the perfect gift just might present itself, and you can rest easy with a job well done.
That’s it. No more ranting about hiking gifts. I promise.
Hopefully, my endless gear musings helped you find a unique gift or two that will elevate your loved one’s hiking and backpacking game.
The list I just gave you — over 100 of 2021’s best gift ideas for hikers and backpackers — is a result of my passion for hiking, backpacking, and exploring the great outdoors. Just know that all 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 what gift to buy, leave a comment below and tell me a little about who you’re shopping for. I’ll do my very best to point you in the right direction.
Until then, I’ll be out hiking trails, sleeping under the stars, and living out the rest of 2021 in search of a few priceless gifts of my own.
- Essential Backpacking Gear: The Items I Can’t Hike Without
- What to Bring on a Day Hike: 10 Essentials + Checklist
- My 8.8 lb Ultralight Backpacking Gear List
- Budget Backpacking Gear: Affordable 10 lb Ultralight Kit
- Backpacking Food: Meal Plan Tips & Ideas for Your Next Hike
- Get Paid to Hike: 10 Jobs to Make Money on the Trail
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What are some of your best hiking and backpacking gift ideas for 2021? What’s the most unique hiking gift you’ve ever received? Do you own anything on this list? Let me know by leaving some feedback in the comments below!