Easy gift guide for backpackers

Buying a gift for a backpacker doesn't have to be difficult, but it might not turn out that well if you aren't familiar with the sport and what type of backpacking they engage in. For instance, if you get a sleeping bag that's only good to 20F, and the recipient wants to climb Mount Everest, that's not going to work out too well.

If you're very familiar with their interests and their current gear, then getting something like a tent, a sleeping bag, a pair of boots, clothing, or a backpack might work out. However, all of those are mostly personal items that someone might prefer to buy on their own, and that goes double for the boots, the clothing, and the backpack. The labyrinth of zippers and pockets in one bag might seem OK to you but end up being a hindrance to the recipient out on the trail.

It might be better to stick to items that involve less of a personal choice:

* See the items on our Hiking Gifts page; most of those apply to backpackers as well.

* If they dream of climbing Half Dome, spending a few days in the Rockies, hiking the Appalachian Trail, or otherwise keep talking about going to a specific area, get a good guidebook for that area. Do a search for their dream destination in our Outdoors Store.

* Stoves and cooking gear. This area is a little sketchy because there are different stoves for different types of backpacking and some people might want the lightest cooking gear possible. If they aren't going somewhere where it gets very cold, a canister stove like the MSR Pocket Rocket (link) might be a good choice. The MSR Alpine Classic Cookset (link) weighs about one and a half pounds.

* Dehydrated food. While this is a personal choice due to differing tastes, this is also a safe choice because at the least anything they don't want to take with them can be added to their emergency home larder. If stored correctly, dehydrated food will last for a long time. Consider the six pack from AlpineAire (link) or the four pack from Mountain House (link).

* Water filtration: Obviously, you don't want the recipient to get sick miles from the trailhead. For a higher-end gift, consider the Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter (link). For something less expensive, consider one of the MSR filters like (link) or (link). And, for something a bit on the adventurous side, try a SteriPEN: a device that uses ultraviolet light to kill harmful viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms (link). Since the latter is an electronic device, get them some iodine water purification tablets as a backup (link).

* Headlamp: Try one of the Petzl LED lights: (link).

* A GPS unit might be a good choice for some people, but others might not be interested considering that both the unit itself and the batteries are (relatively speaking) heavy. If the GPS is going to be relied on, at least a couple sets of backup batteries would need to be carried along, and some might consider that just too much weight. However, in certain cases that might be a good choice. It can also be used in geocaching and other sports. For a starter GPS, consider the Garmin eTrex line (link).

* They probably already have it, but if not get them a copy of Freedom of the Hills (link). It contains tips and techniques for a wide range of outdoors activities. Another recommended book is the SAS Survival Handbook (link).

September 3, 2009 – 7:59pm