Backpacking Gift Ideas for All Budgets: 33 Useful Things We Actually Want
Do you need gift ideas for a special backpacker in your life? If your friend or loved one enjoys hiking scenic trails and camping under the stars, you’re in luck! Backpacking can be a gear-intensive activity, and there are tons of items (in all budget ranges) that we backpackers would love to receive as gifts.
Here’s the thing though: we backpackers are usually trying to carry less stuff, not more. Stuff is heavy! And the stuff we do carry is often specific to our personal style, gear setup, and favorite trails. If you randomly choose a backpacking gift from a list that’s just promoting the latest gear, there’s a good chance it will languish unused in the garage. 🙁
This is why I’ve stayed away from some of the classics you’ll find on other backpacking gift lists – things like sleeping bags, stoves, tents, and even the backpack itself. These kinds of items are so personal and varied that your chances of getting it right are, I’m sorry to say, quite small. If you want to give a big-ticket item like this, gift some cash and encourage them to make their own choice.
My goal with this list is to offer gift ideas that a majority of backpackers will actually want and use. It’s tough to generalize, but as an avid hiker and gear nerd I’m pretty familiar with the range of styles and preferences out there. Though it still helps to know a bit about your backpacker – are they new or experienced, lightweight or traditional, fast or leisurely – I’ve done my best to offer the tried-and-true favorites most likely to be a hit.
Before we jump in, a few general tips on choosing gifts for backpackers:
If you feel comfortable, ask them what they need! They probably have a wishlist of coveted gear in their heads.
When buying a specific piece of gear, camping equipment, or clothing without knowing if it’s needed, make sure it’s returnable. Include a gift receipt so they can exchange it themselves, or make it very clear that you’ll help them return it and they can use the money to buy something else. None of us want your expensive gift to sit unused in the garage because it doesn’t suit our setup and we feel too shy or guilty to admit it.
Generally speaking, more experienced backpackers are harder to choose gifts for than new backpackers who are still building their gear collection. Those of us who’ve been doing this a long time already have what we need and love what we have. Best to ask us first, so we can tell you what cool new thing we want to try or what wore out and needs replacing.
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Affordable Gifts (Under $30)
These affordable gifts are exactly the type of thing backpackers love most: small and useful items that pack a ton of value for their price. Gift one, stuff a stocking with several, or pair with a more expensive item further down.
A spoon might seem like a boring gift, but this classic design is beloved by backpackers for its featherlight weight, long-enough-for-any-container handle, and mouth-friendly shape that’s somehow just right for scraping the last bite out of any kind of bowl.
Backpackers can never have enough of these handy tubular accessories. They’re headbands, sweat bands, dust masks, pillow cases, ear warmers, and so much more. Choose a fun pattern that suits your favorite hiker’s vibe.
Most backpackers already have a favorite water filter, but chlorine dioxide tablets make a great emergency backup or ultralight standalone. Nothing shows you care like a gift that says “I don’t want you to get explosive diarrhea.”
Every backpacker should have a few inches of this gear repair tape in their kit. I’ve used it on more items than I care to think of – rain clothing, inflatable sleeping pad, down sleeping bag – and it’s never failed me. The clear color is most versatile.
This popular collapsible mug packs down to nothing and works great as either a bowl or a cup. Go with the X-Mug model, not the smaller X-Cup – they’ll thank you when the hiker-sized appetite kicks in! Heads up though: if your backpacker goes solo with an ultralight pack, they might prefer to just eat out of their pot.
It might look like a torture device, but this compact massage ball can offer sweet relief for tight muscles after a long day on the trail. Backpackers can use it at home after a trip or even take it along as a luxury item.
Sooner or later, every backpacker will need to refresh the waterproofing on their rain gear. This combo pack of detergent and waterproofing treatment is perfect to use at the end of each hiking season to keep waterproof pants and jacket in top condition.
Hotspots and blisters can be a real problem for some backpackers, especially newer ones who haven’t found their favorite shoes yet. Help keep their feet happy with this popular lightweight anti-chafe balm.
Perfect for a newer backpacker who’s still figuring out the finer points of taking care of business in the woods. Help them keep the trails pristine and enjoy a smooth bathroom experience with this lightweight titanium potty trowel.
It’s hard to go wrong with wool socks in general, but try to consider your backpacker’s shoe preferences. Folks who hike in trail running shoes often prefer low-cut and lightly cushioned socks, while boot enthusiasts tend toward taller and more cushioned options.
Freeze dried meals are lightweight and convenient, but the cost can really add up. Surprise your backpacker with a selection of backpacking meals. Even if they already have their favorite, they’ll probably be happy to try something new.
The backpacking gifts in this range are quality pieces of gear that most backpackers would be thrilled to receive. Pair one with a couple smaller stocking stuffers from the section above for a fun backpacking-themed gift basket.
This little foldable pack is perfect for backpackers who like to take side trips or bag peaks along the way. They can stash their heavy pack and bring only the essentials while adding almost no weight to their overall setup. It’s also super handy for traveling.
Not all backpackers like camp shoes, but for those who do it’s hard to find a pair that’s both as light and durable as these. They’re a bit of a splurge, which is exactly why your favorite hiker will appreciate receiving them as a gift.
Not every backpacker will find this worth the weight, so check with them first! But for those who like to keep electronics charged in the backcountry and aren’t counting every ounce, this is a durable portable solar charger that actually works, even in semi-cloudy weather.
For the backpacker who enjoys food prep or has dietary restrictions, DIY dehydrated meals can save money and make menu planning easier. I’ve been using this one for years to dehydrate food in bulk for long trips.
These generous gifts will make a big impression and deliver big value when your favorite backpacker is out on the trail. Just make sure to check with the recipient first and/or be ready to help with a return. Experienced backpackers probably already have a version of these items that works well for them.
The gold standard of lightweight sleeping pads, the NeoAir XLite packs down impressively small for its comfort and warmth. If your backpacker doesn’t already have a sleeping pad they love, there’s a good chance they’ll be stoked about this one.
Clothes can be tricky (be prepared to return or exchange if it’s not the right fit), but many backpackers love merino wool for its stink-resistance and thermoregulation properties. Smartwool is a quality brand, and their lightweight t-shirts and half-zip long sleeve shirts are most versatile.
They might already have trekking poles, but if they don’t have these trekking poles they’ll surely appreciate the upgrade. These are top-of-the-line lightweight carbon poles that fold down small and are partially adjustable, ticking all the boxes an ideal trekking pole should tick. Make sure you choose the right length for their height.
This classic ultralight rain jacket is perfect for the backpacker who’s making an effort to cut weight from their pack. Known for its balance of practical features with minimalist size and weight, it’s a good choice for people who hike in mostly mild weather during spring, summer, or fall.
This generous gift will help keep your favorite backpacker safe on the trail – the perfect way to show you care! If they don’t already have a satellite messenger or if they’re using the simpler SPOT Gen 3, they’ll love the custom messaging feature in addition to the usual emergency capabilities. Though they will need to pay a recurring fee to use the service, there’s an option to freeze and restart as often as needed.
This popular ultralight down jacket is a high-end gift for someone who loves to hike fast and light in mostly moderate weather. It’s not the warmest, but it’s surprisingly warm for its weight and packs down tiny.
There are several good apps for finding and navigating hiking trails, but I find that AllTrails often has the most recent crowdsourced comments and updates thanks to its large user base. It’s free for basic features, and the small monthly fee unlocks offline maps and navigation – a key feature for backpacking.
Let them choose the gear they need most with a gift card to REI Co-op. REI carries a good variety of backpacking-specific gear as well as general outdoor gear and clothing. They’re also known for their excellent return policy, inclusive culture, and commitment to protecting the environment.
Donation to Their Favorite Trail Stewardship or Conservation Organization
Backpackers tend to be passionate about protecting the places and trails we love. Does your backpacker have a favorite region or long-distance trail? Make a donation to its stewardship organization in their name. For example, if they’ve hiked the Arizona Trail you could donate to the Arizona Trail Association, or the Colorado Trail Foundation for the Colorado Trail.
Surely by now you’ve found the perfect backpacking gift idea for your friend or loved one. If you’re still unsure, just ask them! They probably have their own wishlist of dream gear they’d be happy to tell you about.
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Hi there, I’m Alissa. I’ve had the pleasure of hiking the Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, and countless shorter amazing trails throughout the US and abroad. I love solitude, big views, and a good lightweight gear setup. Learn more or say hi.
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