Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers – Expensive Gifts

This gear is smarter, lighter and more thoroughly tested than your typical buyer’s guide. Enjoy our picks of the best light and practical gear in our 2018 Smart Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers.

  • There’s cool gear from smaller manufacturer and cottage gear you may not know about—gear that’s innovative and lighter—near and dear to our lightweight/practical philosophy.
  • And yes, there’s some light gear from mainstream companies.
  • Finally, there are more offerings of gear that we particularly love like down jackets and cameras (including a bunch of smartphone accessories for backpacking).

Price Categories — Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers

Inexpensive $3 – $30

Mid-range $31 – $100

Expensive $100 – $250

Big Ticket $250+


Expensive Gifts $100 – $250

These are more serious purchases. But with the higher price tag come a bunch of essential (and great) pieces of gear. Many of these pieces are in our go-to kits for all four seasons!

 Exos 48

Osprey Exos 48 Backpack – $190 at REI

For those looking to pick up a lightweight pack from a familiar brand, the Osprey Exos is a good choice. It’s not the lightest, but rides fairly comfortably, and comes from a familiar brand. Weighing in at 2.5 lbs, it holds up to 48 liters, and has a back panel designed to keep your back cool and dry. Not a bad pack for those less concerned with counting grams than with getting REI’s return policy!

 Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers - Expensive

ULA Ohm 2.0 Backpack – $210

This venerable pack is a favorite among thru-hikers. ULA makes comfortable, lightweight packs that wear exceptionally comfortably even when loaded up. Filled up, this 2 lb pack holds about 60 liters, but trims down well. The pack is burly, and fits a bear canister. It’s a great all-round pack, for those unafraid of buying from cottage manufacturers. ULA also has great options for all sizes of hikers, including different shoulder strap styles, which may be better for female hikers.


Patagonia R1 Hoodie – $160 at REI

Think of it as “fur for humans.” This is the warmest, comfiest baselayer I know. It breathes well, stretches comfortably, and has a long cut to keep your heat trapped in. The arms are long with thumb holes to keep heat from leaving through the common wrist gap, and the hood fits well, and zips up with a full mouth cover, trapping all your heat inside, and piping warm air from your core to your head. Of course, it comes in Men’s and Women’s versions. While warm enough for winter, it works in one of the broadest ranges of temperatures of any baselayer!

Smartwool Midweight Base Layers – $100

The Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Zip-T is a personal favorite

  • The original antimicrobial, non-stench fabric.
  • It keeps you warm when its wet.
  • Super fine Merino wool is soft and comfortable against the skin and doesn’t itch.
  • Doesn’t feel as clammy as synthetics

Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers - Expensive

Montbell Ex Light Down Anorak – $220

At only 6 oz, this about as light as WARM gets!  The Ex Light Down Anorak is 2 oz lighter than the highly regarded and more expensive Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer.  It achieves this low weight in part by not using a full zipper. But you get a hood, and a kangaroo pouch pocket! These great pockets let you really keep your hands warm by putting them in the same space against your abdomen. Truly lightweight warmth, this is a perfect puffy layer to bring on high alpine adventures like the South Sierra High Route, or Wind River High Route. The only downside is that there doesn’t seem to be a Women’s version yet.


Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket – $230 at REI

This is a great warm layer for backpacking or any outdoor activity, really. It’s light, and uses 800-fill-power traceable down. It comes in Men’s and Women’s, as well as hooded versions, for a little more money. Of course, there are adorable kids versions as well! Patagonia’s quality, warranty, and customer service  are legendary, ensuring you’ll keep this jacket for a long, long time.


Hammock Gear Burrow 20°F Quilt – $250

At 1/2 the price of a 20°F down sleeping bag. This down quilt is one of the best values out there. It’s warmer than any sleeping bags at the same weight, and way cheaper! It works well with hammock and ground sleep systems equally, and since it’s a quilt, it lets you adjust your temperature more easily when things get warm. And at 18 oz, it’s lighter even than Western Mountaineering’s 30°F SummerLite sleeping bag.


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite – $160 at REI

Warmer, lighter and better than the “Men’s” version! And the perfect pad to go with your ultralight sleeping bag or quilt.

Therm-a-Rest introduced lightweight inflatable pads to the backpacking world, and their NeoAir line continues to set the gold standard. This is the Women’s version of the XLite, but it’s the right size for most backpackers MEN and women! At 66 inches long, taller backpackers can save weight and use ultralight techniques like using their pack to insulate their feet. At 12 oz and with an R-value of 3.9, this pad will be a go-to piece of any backpacker’s sleeping kit.


Feathered Friends Helios Down Pants – $240

These pants are the real deal. Made with Feathered Friends’ legendary high quality down, these pants offer 4.4 oz of fluffy down, and weigh in at 13 oz. These pants are great for backpacking, but are meant for even more serious high mountain endeavors and offer full-length zips so you can put them on and off over crampons… or, if you’re just too lazy to take off your boots.


Western Mountaineering Flash Pants – $250

These are probably the lightest insulated pants on the market. Weighing only 6.5 oz, these are packed with 850-fill down and are built with Western Mountaineering’s standard-setting quality. Don’t get cold, and cranky in camp. Put on your Flash Pants and hang out – enjoy the outdoors, deep into the fourth season.

 OR Helium II

Outdoor Research Helium II Jacket – $160 at REI

This is one of the lightest fully waterproof breathable jackets on the market. It uses a 2.5 layer design that packs into its own pocket and weighs only 5.5 oz. It comes in both Men’s and Women’s fits in a variety of colors. This jacket sparked a revolution in lightweight, waterproof jackets, and it’s still a great choice.

OR Helium Rain Pants

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants – $119 at REI

These are the matching rain pants to the lightweight rain jacket above. They are waterproof and breathable, have an adjustable elastic waistband, and zippered legs to help fit over shoes. At 5.4 oz, these are some of the lightest waterproof pants on the market, perfect for keeping you warm and dry through a deluge, or in that dangerous shoulder-season hypothermia weather!


TOAKS 900 ml Ti Pot & Sidewinder Ti-Tri Stove System – $120

Undoubtedly, this Trail Designs system is the best lightweight backpacking stove system out there. It can be used with alcohol, Esbit tabs, or even a twiggy fire. The heat is conducted up through the Caldera Cone to the pot, making it stable, wind-resistant, and efficient. This kit includes the pot, stove, windscreen and a number of different ways to set up for burning different fuels. The whole kit packs up to fit in the pot! Unrivaled in lightness and simplicity, this is the way to go, unless you’re in a place with fire bans… then you may need a canister stove setup like the Jetboil Zip Stove System, or the Olicamp Kinetic with a TOAKS 900 ml Ti Pot.


Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles – $170 at REI

These are the standard-bearers of adjustable trekking poles. They are fairly light, and their flicklock extension mechanisms are easily adjustable and repairable in the field. The poles are comfortable and incredibly durable (my pair lasted 8 years of heavy 4-season use before I finally broke a tip!). The poles are strong and their adjustability key for using in different conditions and for pitching tarp shelters in different locations and configurations.


Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy – $175

This is the yardstick for ultralight bivvies. It has a waterproof base, and a nice bug net window for your face, so you can gaze at the stars. It’s perfect for keeping wind and bugs off your face, or for skipping the pitch altogether when the weather is nice! For those wanting to go lighter still, there’s a Cuben fiber bottom option which brings the weight down below 5 oz (~7.5 oz for the SilNylon bottom).


Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp Duo (SilNylon) – $170

The two-person version of MLD’s Grace Tarp is a great lightweight shelter. It’s a lightly tapered tarp made to be set up with trekking poles. It can be pitched high in fine weather, or lower to the ground in windy or rainy conditions. At 13 oz, its nearly 9×9 ft size will keep all of your stuff dry and sheltered. There is a cuben fiber (Dyneema composite fabric) version which weighs in at just 7.5 oz, but it also costs $290.  Keep it simple and light with this functional, basic, lightweight shelter.

Be sure to check out the other Price Categories Guides as well

Price Categories — Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers

Inexpensive $3 – $30

Mid-range $31 – $100

Expensive $100 – $250

Big Ticket $250+



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By | 2017-11-22T01:02:36+00:00 September 1st, 2016|Gear List|0 Comments

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