Holiday Gift Guide: What to Buy for the Hiker and Backpacker in Your Life

T-shirt from The Wanderful Soul

It’s that time again – the holidays! I know people have differing opinions on and experiences of this time of year, but personally, I just love it. My parents are country folk with old-fashioned family values, and as a result, gave us (my brothers and I) a pretty magical childhood, complete with a long list of holiday traditions. Each Christmas season (because that is what we celebrate in my family), we’d drive across the border into Pennsylvania to cut down a tree from a local tree farm (which was really just a purposefully planted forest because it was so rural), we’d decorate it together while blasting Christmas music and sipping eggnog, we’d fashion a red and green chain made out of colored paper to count down the days until Christmas, removing one link each day, we’d decorate cookies, we’d drive around to look at all the houses with Christmas lights, we’d go sledding and build snowforts…. (This was Western New York, after all, where it’s not unheard of to get three feet of snow in 24 hours!). How could I not love this time of year after all that (thanks, Mom and Dad!)?

I know that not everyone has had this same experiences, and that there are a lot of stressors for a lot of people during the holidays. One of these, of course, is not knowing what to buy your loved ones for Christmas. Well, let me be of some assistance! I can’t tell you what to buy for everyone on your list, but what I can do is give you some great ideas on what to get the hiker and backpacker in your life! I even polled my thru-hiker friends to get some additional ideas for you, and I think we came up with a pretty damn good list of gifts!

Without further ado, here is what you should buy the hiker and backpacker in your life (via the links below). Happy shopping, and happy holidays!

Stocking Stuffers:

Indomie: the most delicious backpacking dinner.
  • Nuun tablets. You can add these tablets to your water for some flavor (like strawberry lemonade, citrus orange, watermelon, and cherry limeade) in addition to electrolytes and vitamins (much needed on any long hiking or backpacking trip). They also have a caffeinated version, and personally, I always appreciate an afternoon energy burst to get me up the last climbs of the day.
  • Camp coffees. I am a HUGE coffee person, and I know many of my friends out on trail were as well. I’d usually get the cheap Starbucks brand instant coffees on the Appalachian Trail, but as a result of having way too many, I can no longer stomach those. I love Kuju brand, which are individually-wrapped pour overs that you make by attaching to your camp mug and pouring hot water over the coffee grounds. This is real coffee, not instant, which is an amazing treat for any backpacker!
  • Indomie. Okay, so I know many people probably haven’t heard of Indomie, but it’s high time you did! Indomie is a brand of Indonesian instant noodles, and they are INCREDIBLE! Think ramen, except instead of having one flavor packet, they have five. My entire tramily is obsessed with them, and we’ve been spreading the gospel (successfully) since the AT. I ate these on the AT from the Smokies onward, and never got even a little sick of them. They’re still my favorite dinner to bring out on backpacking trips. I like the Hot & Spicy and Original Flavor the best.
  • Backpacker meals. Backpackers love these fancy freeze dried meals, but because they’re much pricier than say, ramen or Knorr sides, we’re often hesitant to buy them. Therefore, they make a great gift! Some popular brands are Backpacker’s Pantry and Mountain House.
  • Portable battery charger. My brother gave me an Anker brand external battery charger years ago for use when traveling, and I have now gone through a couple of these amazing little devices. They’re so handy for so many situations, and that includes hiking and backpacking. They allow you to charge your phone without an electric outlet so are perfect for charging your phone while out in the wilderness.

Hiking and Backpacking Gear

"Be Kind to Everything" t-shirt is from The Wanderful Soul.
Consider a Kula cloth or trekking poles for the hiker in your life.
  • Microspikes. If you like to hike in the winter, these babies are a GAME CHANGER. My first weekend living in Boulder, which was during the month of January, I took myself on a popular, local hike called Royal Arch. It was positively lovely, except for the fact that the trail was covered in ice! I stopped to chat with a nice, older couple who had only recently moved to Colorado from Maryland, and they pointed to their feet, asking if I had microspikes. When I shook my head no, they quickly encouraged me to get some, raving about how much of a game changer they were. I left the trail, immediately driving to REI to get a pair. That nice couple could not have been more right; these things are incredible! They allow me to walk on completely iced over trails with absolutely no problem, and I feel completely safe hiking with them all winter long. I love them so much that I bought pairs for my dad and brothers as well. If the hiker in your life enjoys winter hiking (or wants to get into it) but does not yet own a pair, this is the gift for them. I have Kahtoola brand, and I’ve watched friends with other brands not do quite as well on ice, so I highly recommend those.
  • Trekking poles. I was hesitant to start using trekking poles at first – why would I need these? But I brought a pair along on the AT, and I’ve never gone back. They help keep me upright, they take the strain off my knees, they help me along when my legs are screaming…. Many lightweight backpacker tents also require these in place of tent poles, and I like to use them as a base to take photos as well! I now use them for any and all hikes, not just when I backpack. I have a pair from Black Diamond, and I am obsessed.
  • Camp stove. Unless you want to be exclusively eating cold-soaked foods while out in nature (which I do not recommend), you’re going to need a camp stove. I have and love an MSR Pocket Rocket, which is teeny, lightweight, and simple to use.
  • Titanium dishes. Titanium is super lightweight (weight really matters in backpacking!), which makes it an ideal material for camp dishes such as a mug, spork, and cooking pot.
  • Headlamp. These lights are so handy, for night hiking, wandering around camp, or just hanging out in your tent. I have a Black Diamond one and am super happy with it.
  • Kula cloth. Packing out a ton of toilet paper is heavy, takes up space, and is annoying to dispose of. For the female hikers in your life, I really recommend a technical pee cloth from Kula, which are artistic, antimicrobial, and handy.
  • Inflatable pillow. A pillow is a luxury item that I would not want to do without, especially when trying to sleep through frigid cold, sweltering heat, things that go boom in the night, sore muscles, etc. Thermarest is a popular brand of inflatable camp pillow.
  • Camp cookbook. You get sick of backpacker food really quickly. For some new ideas, consider getting the backpacker in your life the Easy Camp Cookbook, which has recipes for both car camping and backpacking, and includes vegetarian and vegan options.
  • Water filter. I am obsessed with my water filter, the Sawyer Squeeze. It’s ridiculously easy to use and gets the job done. I have drank out of some pretty questionable water sources while using this little filter and have not gotten sick from it, so it must work well! (This is also definitely the most popular brand among long-distance backpackers).

Hiking Clothes and Accessories

Like my t-shirt? Check out The Wanderful Soul, a woman-owned bohemian outdoor apparel shop.
  • Fashionable hiking (and yoga, running, and general workout) clothes. This is really just for fun. When you look better, you feel better, and I personally enjoy working out more when I feel better! I love Fabletics brand attire, which is affordable and fashionable, and they have options for both women and men.
  • Buff. These are just so handy – to be used as a headband, scarf, facemask, sweat rag, you name it.
  • Socks. Gotta take care of your feet when they’re carrying you miles and miles each day. I personally love Darn Tough brand – they’re extremely comfortable, keep your feet warm and dry, and they come with a lifetime warranty.
  • Underwear. You may think it’s not fun to get underwear as a gift, but if so, you’ve probably never owned a pair of Ex Officios. These are lightweight, quick-drying, moisture-wicking, anti-odor, and super comfortable!
  • Nature-inspired t-shirts and more. Looking for some cute, casual clothes for the hiker in your life? The Wanderful Soul just gets it. This is a female-owned company that designs bohemian and travel-inspired outdoor apparel (think, “be kind to everything” and “I left my heart in the park”) and always gives back to historical and environmental conservation organizations. Bonus: between November 27 and December 4, The Wanderful Soul will donate 50% of proceeds from every item purchased to the Friends of the Earth Organization.
  • Sunglasses. Gotta protect your eyes! I really like Proof eyewear for sunglasses – they’re lightweight, made partially of wood (which just looks cool), and the company is big on giving back.

I hope this was helpful! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions at all about gear and gifts. If you enjoyed this post, please follow me on Instagram and subscribe to my e-mail list!

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*This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something using these links, I may receive a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you, and I would never recommend a product or service that I don’t use myself and love!

Published by Audrey

Hi! My name is Audrey, otherwise known as Glowstick on trail. I've always been into hiking, adventuring, and the outdoors, but these things took a backseat as I worked on my career in public relations for several years in Washington, D.C. In 2018, I decided that I was discontent with city life. Instead of working on my career, I needed to work on my happiness. So, I reprioritized. I quit my (amazing) job at World Wildlife Fund, thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, and relocated to beautiful Boulder, Colorado, where I work in climate communications and climb mountains every chance that I get.

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