Great Gift Ideas for Backpackers and Hikers
Choosing Presents for the Outdoors Lover
Every year, backpackers awake on Christmas morning to find shiny packages full of ill-fitting Western-cut shirts, celebrity holiday CDs, and decorative soaps. Though we all appreciate the thoughtfulness of the gesture, let's be honest: the Salvation Army can only use so many ill-fitting, Western-cut shirts.
Also, to be honest, it's kind of a drag when we don't find the lightweight accoutrements we drool over throughout the year but are too cheap or too proud to buy for ourselves.
Of course, can you blame our loved ones? It took us years to appreciate the raw beauty of titanium, the pure coziness of primaloft, and the difference a few ounces can make. Hopefully this guide will help our families and friends make wise choices for holidays, birthdays, Mother's and Father's Day.
Give the Gift of Dry Feet With a Boot Dryer
Now the boot dryer isn't something the backpacker uses in the field, but like a home cooked meal they are nice to come home to. Yes, between sweat, snow, and creek water the backpacker's boots eventually get wet.
Boot dryers dry out boots, hats, gloves, and stuff sacks quickly and safely. The nice thing about boot dryers is that all campers, backpackers, and hikers can use one, even if they already have one. Sure, there is probably a limit to the number of boot dryers a person can have, but I have three and would like another one (hint, hint).
Though you can always stuff boots with newspaper to enhance drying, a forced warm air dryer like the Maxxdry XL will dry soaked boots overnight. This gets your favorite hiker out on the trail for adventure more quickly as trips to the trailhead in wet boots rarely occur.
The MaxxDry boot dryer dries footwear silently and effectively, which preserves the lifespan of your boots. That creek crossing that soaked your hiking boots will only be a memory after the MaxxDry dries out boots by the next morning.
A Knife Makes a Great Present
I have a lot of knives, way more than most people but when people ask what I want, I tell them, "just get me a knife." Backpackers and hikers can always use a knife. From slicing cheese for a trail lunch to carving a spindle for a bow drill in a survival situation, knives are quite handy in the wilderness. When buying a knife for a backpacker, look for something that is lightweight, multipurpose, and of course, it must have the cool factor.
My top pick for backpacking knives is the Morakniv Eldris. I've been toting this neck knife around with me on my hikes for the last year and it is a solid performer. It is an outstanding option for a hiker that wants the security of a fixed blade without being weighed down or looking like Rambo. If you are looking for a really neat idea, pair up a knife with a first-aid kit and a copy of Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
The Eldris from Morakniv has been a fantastic trail companion from slicing tomatoes for supper to making fuzz sticks for fire starting. It is lightweight and can be worn around your neck or attached to your pack so it is always handy.
Celebrate With Eating Gear
In backpacking circles, especially on the trail, most conversations revolve around food. We are always pondering the best preparation for our freeze-dried meals and salivating over what goodies are at the convenience store by the trailhead.
I would stay away from cookware, unless you know EXACTLY what they want. However, we can always use collapsible bowls, lightweight utensils, spice containers, and the like. Those are the things I tend to break, lose, or lend to someone never to return. Remember, a hiker can never have too many sporks.
One particularly useful gift idea would be some sort of coffee making apparatus for use in the outdoors. My choice would be the coffee drip from Ultimate Survival Technologies. It is super lightweight, easy to use, inexpensive and makes fantastic camp coffee.
Everyone loves camp coffee and the UST coffee drip is a great piece of inexpensive, yet useful gear. Just add a cone filter, a teaspoon of coffee grounds and pour water over the top to quickly produce your cup of java.
Though backpackers venture into the wild to test their mettle against the elements and measure their accomplishments in physicality, sometimes it's hard to leave the 21st century behind. For better or worse, lightweight portable electronics are popular amongst many tech-savvy backpackers. Some backcountry electronics like GPS units and satellite messengers have important navigation and safety features.
However, more and more solar chargers for portable electronics are flooding the market and are much more prevalent on the trail. I know, I swapped the book I used to carry for audiobooks that I can listen to at night on my phone. Of course, I also use my phone for a camera, an occasional navigation device and for communication. With all that usage, a hiker appreciates the ability recharge their phone on the go.
I personally use a solar recharging and battery system from Goal Zero that transfers, by magic I assume, the sun's energy into my smartphone. I use the Nomad 7 panel to harness the energy into a series of Switch 10 batteries. Even of I am on the trail for a few days, I can depend on reliable renewable energy. As a plus, it is very handy in an emergency too.
Solar chargers and power banks are hot commodities for tech savvy backpackers. I use the Nomad 7 because I can hang it off my backpack and collect the sun's energy as I hike. At night I connect the battery to my phone to recharge it from a day of taking pictures and video.
Give the Gift of Survival Gear
Backpackers love gadgets, especially survival gadgets. There is a great deal of bravado in claiming you can survive in the wilderness only by using one or two simple gadgets
There are two ways you can go. Either buy a complete kit or buy a part of a kit. If you are looking for what items a backpacker usually carries check out "The 10 Essentials."
You may want to even have a survival gift theme by wrapping each item in a survival kit separately and then packaging them together. If you wrap each match by itself, you have far more patience than I. The great thing about giving a piece of survival gear for a gift is that the little gadget may just end up saving the life of the person you are giving it to.
Every Hiker Wears Socks
Though socks are thought of as a generic gift (most people wear them, right), for the backpacker they are one of the best gifts a person can get. However, if you give them cotton socks with frolicking penguins on them, the thank you will be more perfunctory than joyous.
Look for a sock specifically made for backpacking and hiking; you will have to visit a specialty outdoor retailer to pick these up. Generally these trekking socks are sold singularly and will cost more than the six-pack of tube socks you buy at the local retail giant.
Though some hiking socks, Thorlo for example, make very good synthetic socks there is a merino wool revolution underway. Merino wool is a non-itch super comfy wool that has the moisture management of synthetic plus great thermo-regulation properties (keep you cooler in summer and warmer in winter). Reputable merino wool brands that I recommend include Smartwool, Darn Tough, and Wigwam.
Camping Books Make the Perfect Gift
It seems like most backpackers are readers - it surely helps to know what trail you are on, how it got there, and where it goes. There are numerous guide books for every little trail in the country available, often with nice topographic maps.
Remember that when buying guide books, to buy the latest additions. For example, using a pre- Hurricane Irene guide in the Adirondack High Peaks may get you into trouble as the landscape changed after the big storm.
Besides guide books telling the backpacker where they are at, there are books to teach, and books to inspire. I've never hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, but I have several books on it and find adventure at every turn of the page.
My book choice is Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, in which he explores the Appalachian Trail in a true comedy of errors. Though the book is hilarious in parts, it is also inspiring and a great spark to one's wanderlust.
Though Bill Bryson may not be the model backpacker we aspire to be, his writing style is fabulous and his journey on the Appalachian Trail is memorable and hilarious. Backpacking has its moments when it's hard to see the fun but Bryson reminds us to hike our own hike.
Give a Sasquatch Gift
Whether there really is a huge hairy beast (besides your tent mate) roaming the woods or not, most hikers love Sasquatch. Though the thought of Big Foot peering over you while you sleep in your hammock may give you the willies, most of us think that he is a benign forest creature.
Now you could just visit your local barber for some hair clippings and pass them off as rare Sasquatch fur for your Big Foot fan but there are other options as well. There are a myriad of books, documentaries and decor items that you can easily find. However, I would suggest a highly functional Sasquatch multitool. This tool a long from UST has the familiar silhouette of Big Foot but comes equipped with eight handy functions. I generally let my tool a long dangle on my backpack to let any beasts watching me know that I am a friend.
One of my favorite multi functional Big Foot items. This Tool A Long looks awesome dangling on the pack and is quite functional. I've fixed snowshoes with the screwdrivers and cracked the cap off a few bottles of pop.