2015 Holiday Gift Guide for Backpackers 1

Looking for gifts ideas for the outdoor explorer on your list? Here are a few suggestions.


Photo Taken By Helgi Halldórsson from Reykjavík, Iceland

  1. Gift cards: Hikers/backpackers tend to be particular about the gear they carry, so you can’t go wrong with purchasing a gift card to a local outdoor retailer. Not sure where they shop? Popular online retailers for gear include REI.com, Sierratradingpost.com, and campmor.com.
  2. Go Pro mounts: Many backpackers like to take video with their GoPro camera.  A chest mount is unintrusive and will capture the hike from a first person perspective while leaving your hands free.  This gopro mount can be worn underneath your backpack. We do not recommend selfie sticks as they can become a distraction, especially in treacherous areas.
  3. Trekking poles: Do you know someone that suffers from bad knees or is a bit clumsy on the trail? Trekking poles help to stabilize and absorb shock. If you have weak knees, hips or ankles, look for poles with an internal spring for shock absorption. Black Diamond and Leki are the major brands for trekking poles.
  4. Charging system for electronics: For short trips, all you need is a portable USB external battery that you can charge up at home before your trip. Solar energy is a great option for charging multiple electronic devices during longer trips. Look for foldable panels with at least one usb port with the highest amperage to meet the power requirements of your device. Some panels include an integrated battery, which may be useful for storing power when there is sunlight and charging devices when resting at night or waiting out a rainstorm. Keep in mind that the battery will add more weight, and many are poor quality; however, this technology is getting better each day. For more information on how to choose the right solar charger, see this article by Outdoor Gear Lab.
  5. Socks and Hats: There are two items that backpackers wear out or need to replace often; so go ahead and purchase. Both are necessary for staying comfortable in the outdoors and a back-up is always beneficial.
    • Socks – Look for wool or blended wool/polyester socks for wicking. Darn Tough makes excellent durable socks.
    • Hats – Consider fleece or wool hats for the colder months and a packable 360-degree brim sun hat for the warm months. Buffwear makes a tubular liner that cyclists also like to wear under their helmet. The buff is nice because it has multiple uses. It protects the head, absorb sweat in the heat and insulates the face when it gets cold. The buff also provides UV protection, which is useful for protecting bald heads when boating.
  6. Maps and Guide Books: Backpackers tend to research wilderness trails online for free and purchase a map for the wilderness areas as needed. Although digital maps are common now, a paperback guide or physical map is fun to flip through for inspiration. Also, many hikers still prefer fold-up maps for navigation. You can order topographical wilderness maps from multiple sources. Make sure you get maps that are printed on plastic laminated paper, which is waterproof and tear resistant. Good sources for maps  –
    • USFS – hiking trails produced by the US Forest Service (USFS). We have been extremely impressed with the accuracy of these maps when hiking throughout the forests in the state of North Carolina.  Find USFS maps.
    • Trails Illustrated – hiking trails produced by National Geographic Maps covers many of the US national parks and forest areas. We find the forest maps produced by the US Forest Service (USFS) to be more accurate for hiking in the US national forest. In cases where USFS maps do not exist or are extremely outdated, Trails Illustrated is a suitable alternative. Find Trails Illustrated maps
    • Tom Harrison Maps – topographic maps for hiking areas in the state of California.  Find Tom Harrison Maps.
    • Mytopo where you can order stock maps or create custom maps using desired size and scale.
  7. Trail Food: Of course we have to mention trail food! Everyone needs to eat and who doesn’t want delicious, easy-to-prepare backpacking food? We carry a wide range of one-pot dried meals and trail snacks. We specialize in producing trail food using whole food, organic, and vegetarian ingredients for a healthier you and planet. Meals and gift certificates can be found at Outdoor Herbivore.
  8. Backpacking Stove & Cookware: Canister backpacking stoves are popular because they boil water fast, take up little space, and are light weight. There are a few downsides such as fuel canister waste, no simmer capability, and finicky performance in cold weather. Despite the cons, canister stoves, such as the MSR PocketRocket, is one of the most popular stoves among thru-hikers. While this stove has a cheaper cost, you must keep purchasing new canisters because they can’t be refilled once empty. This adds significant operating expense over time. The folks at Outdoor Herbivore prefer refillable multi-fuel stoves with an adjustable flame. The MSR DragonFly Backpacking Stove is a solid performer and is versatile because it can burn several types of liquid fuels (kerosene, white gas, jet fuel, diesel, and unleaded automotive gas). See our backpacking stove comparisons for more information.
    • For cookware, we highly recommend the GSI halulite series, a nesting set that comes with everything you need for cooking. We’ve owned the dualite set for several years and it has held up wonderfully over hundreds of uses.  
  9. Annual Pass to Forests and Parks: The inter-agency pass America the Beautiful Annual Pass provides entry to more than 2,000 recreation areas for exploration. Areas include those managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, and the National Park Service.

  10. Rechargeable Batteries: Not the most exciting gift, but AAA, AA, and lithium ion batteries are always needed for various outdoor gadgets. For rechargeable batteries, we like the Eneloop charger system.  Any rechargeable batteries will do, but we have found that Amazon Basics batteries seem to last the longest.
  11. Plant Trees: This year was a bad year for forest fires on the U.S. west coast. What can you do to help? Give your loved ones the gift of trees to help restore National Forests damaged by wildfire, insects and disease. For every $1 you give, the National Forest Foundation will plant a tree.

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One comment on “2015 Holiday Gift Guide for Backpackers

  1. Reply Haley Nov 8,2016 12:22 AM

    Good list! Gift cards, Go Pros, and park passes are all great ideas.

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