Gifts for hikers

Here are some gift ideas for the hiker or backpacker in your life.

In order to avoid disappointment, you need to get something that isn't too personal, unless you know them really well. That doesn't just include items that need to be sized, but items that reflect personal preferences, such as how many pockets a pack has. Bear in mind that there are different types of hikers and backpackers. Some might try to go as light as possible, some might have more experience than others, some might prefer to hike all day and others just take short trips, etc.


As long as you know their clothing sizes and have an idea of what they already have, this might be a good choice. Whatever you get, make sure that it doesn't contain cotton. When that material gets wet it actually cools you down, which could lead to hypothermia. The only situations in which that's appropriate are for very hot hikes which will never turn cooler, such as the Grand Canyon or other desert areas. If you must buy any sort of raingear, don't get something that isn't Gore-Tex or a close equivalent. That type of treated fabric is designed to repel water from the outside while allowing moisture to escape from the inside. Untreated fabrics or plastic materials are generally speaking not appropriate types of rain gear for the outdoors.

Boots and Packs

Boots, of course, should be tried on by the recipient, even if you already know their shoe size. Although it's possibly less obvious, the same is true of daypacks and their bigger cousins backpacks. And, unless you're very familiar with their particular needs, only they know how many pockets and various other features they want.

Snowshoes, skis, snowboards

The last two are ones that the recipient will probably want to pick out themselves. With snowshoes, there isn't that wide a selection available, so that might be an acceptable choice. However, that's only if they live in or frequently travel to a snowy area. For many people who would only infrequently use them, renting snowshoes might be a better option. Also, a heavy person using a smaller pair will probably just sink into the snow.


If they backpack or camp out, freeze-dried foods might be a good choice, albeit a bit on the mundane side. Perhaps you could put together a gift basket of a sort consisting of a variety of such foods together with Trek bars and other snacks. While freeze-dried food isn't exactly a gourmet treat, it generally doesn't matter to those who are camped out. And, unused items can be kept for an emergency. AlpineAire has a variety pack with six items (link) and Mountain House has a four pack (link).

Trekking poles

You're almost always going to want to get two of these instead of just a single staff. If someone already has a pair and they use them, this probably isn't a good choice since unless someone loses them there isn't really much need for a second set. The benefit from poles - at least according to me - is not for balance so much as aerobic benefits, turning hiking into something similar to cross-country skiing. Of course, sometimes you might need them for balance, but that should be avoided in order to build up the natural variety of that skill. Leki poles are one of the top brands, and they're available in both moderate (Leki Trail Antishock Trekking Poles) and higher-priced (Thermolite Antishock Trekking Poles) models.

Amazon also has another brand-name, Komperdell, which are a little less expensive. Some of these are also sold under the REI brand name. They also have some more generic products. And, if the recipient is going to be hiking in the snow, "snowflake" baskets are a must.

Multitools and swiss army knives

Cutting shoelaces, building an emergency shelter, fending off wild animal attacks, the list of uses to which such tools can be put is endless. It needs to have a knife blade as well as a saw and perhaps scissors. They probably already have one, but a spare is always useful. Backpackers will probably prefer one that's as light as possible. Consider one of the Leatherman Skeletools; this one only weighs a few ounces and includes a knife.

Telescope or binoculars

These can be useful for route-finding, checking out conditions up ahead, and wildlife viewing. Most binoculars are heavy, and backpackers especially are not going to want to weigh down their pack with a pair. However, small pen telescopes are available that are quite light.


If they don't already have one, a GPS might be a good choice. This can also be used with the sport of geocaching or orientiering. In the first, a general description of the location of a box or similar is given, and players use their GPS to locate the hidden item. In the second, players must follow a route described using coordinates or natural features. GPSs can also be used to note routes, to save waypoints along the current route so it can be backtracked if necessary, for determining elevation, and other uses, such as finding "confluences". They are a bit heavy however. And, if you get one regular batteries are probably not the best choice. Instead, get a battery recharger and several batteries.

Maps and guides

Guide books to areas they frequent - or want to go - could be quite useful.

Lessons and trips

While no one needs walking lessons, survival training could prove very useful. And, those who are interested in rock climbing might enjoy the present of a lesson in the sport.

Fun stuff

You don't have to get them a gift for the trail. It could be something like a fun T-shirt from CafePress.

For more, see our gift guide for backpackers and our Amazon store.


United States
November 24, 2006 – 1:44pm