Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers – Mid-Range 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+


Mid-Range Gifts $30 – $100

These are our favorite mid-priced gear choices. Any of these would find a happy home in a lightweight backpacker’s pack!



Black Diamond Iota Headlamp – $40  no batteries needed!

This is the newest edition to Black Diamond’s venerable line of headlamps. Weighing scarcely more than the Ion, this headlamp is also weather sealed, but produces a much brighter beam at 150 lumens and can be recharged in the field!

So put that new EasyAcc battery pack (below) to use, reduce battery waste, and see better!


EasyAcc Battery Pack 6000mAh – $20

This perfectly sized battery pack will take your phone from zero to hero… twice! It comes with a built-in USB cable to plug straight into your phone or other backcountry electronics. What’s more, this battery charges faster than most competition allowing a 2A input, and is one of the lighter options around, making it perfect for most backpackers for up to a week in the wild!


Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles – $43

Equal to the best but 1/3 the price!

At less than half the price of many comparable trekking poles, these carbon fiber trekking poles give up nothing in features and performance. They have cork handles and flick locks like the much more expensive Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles, but cost 1/3 as much! That’s bang for the buck!


SPOT Gen3 Satellite Personal Locator Beacon – $75 (50% off REI)

The best bargain on backcountry safety! The SPOT personal locator beacon is rugged, simple, and adds an important margin of safety for remote backcountry missions. At the press of a button, you can call for emergency help. There are also buttons to let loved ones know you are safe, or that you need a non-emergency pickup. Messages arrive at your contacts with a GPS location and a link to a map to see where you are. Link the device to your Facebook to show all your friends your enviable 5-star campsite each night. The SPOT doesn’t let you create and send messages in the backcountry like the Garmin inReach SE+ 2-Way Satellite Communicator but it also costs a lot less!


REI Flash Pack – $24-$40

These little day packs are great. They are light, hold just the right amount for a day (18 L), and don’t have too many bells and whistles. Simple, inexpensive, and good. This simple drawstring design has been with us for years, because it has proven itself to be perfect for just about any day-long mission.


Jetboil Zip Stove System – $80 at REI

The Jetboil Zip stove is an all-in-one stove, heat exchanger, pot combination. It’s a great option if you want hot water quickly in camp – it’ll get your morning coffee boiling in just two-and-a-half minutes. That’s 3-4 times faster than an alcohol stove system. Of course, it generally weighs more as well. But at 11.75 oz, it’s not too bad.

Jetboil MiniMo Cooking System – $135 at REI

For a bit more than the Zip, you get Jetboil’s new technologies: A proprietary regulator and enhanced regulator diaphragm for consistent performance down to 20°F. And their redesigned valve gives you better simmer control. We’re also fans of the wider pot. Easier to eat out of and clean.


Feathered Friends Down Booties – $99

These booties are the industry standard. With waterproof removable shells, you can take these with you as camp shoes, then remove the shells keeping the warm down socks on to keep  your toes warm all night! These are a toasty-toe delight that will help keep you comfortable deeper into the shoulder seasons and make winter camping much more manageable!


Hyperlite Mountain Gear Pods – $50 to $60

These sold out last year before the holiday sales! Use stackable Pods as a key organizational, space-saving and weatherproofing tool. Pods fit perfectly into HMG (and likely other) packs, leaving no volume unused, so you can replace your unwieldy, football-shaped food bags and heavier stuff sacks. Ultralight Pods also allow you to organize your gear more efficiently, and the clamshell design makes it easy to find food quickly. Made of 100% waterproof Dyneema® Composite Fabric (formerly Cuben Fiber) and with waterproof zippers, they help weatherproof your pack system..


Hyperlite Mountain Gear Stuffsacks – $74

Lightweight and durable, these are great accessories for organizing and waterproofing gear inside your backpack. This is HMG’s Set #2, which contains one each of the small, medium, and large stuffsacks in the durable Dynema composite 11-weight material. HMG makes a number of other options as well in different sizes and weights. Keep organized. Stay dry.


Suunto M-3D Compass – $44 at REI

This is a simple, and durable compass but with all the features you need. It doesn’t weigh much, but it could get you out of a pinch if you find yourself in a whiteout, or unsure of your bearings with a dead phone/GPS. A good compass is indispensable, and this one will last you a long time.


 REI Co-Op Down Jacket – $99

Every outdoorsperson needs a puffy jacket. Down offers the best weight-to-warmth ratio you can get, and a puffy jacket is essentially a mandatory piece of kit for both comfort and safety in the backcountry. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, REI still has you covered. Their Co-Op Down Jacket weighs in at only 10.2 oz, and has enough warmth for most 3-season purposes. It comes in Men’s, Women’s, and children’s cuts. If you have an extra $20 to spend, we recommend the hooded version, because, well, hoods are great.

Or consider the warmer, and more stylish “REI Co-op Magma 850 Down Jacket,” a competitor to the far more expensive Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoodie.


Patagonia Houdini Wind Jacket – $99 at REI

This is a game-changing piece of gear; it goes with me everywhere, always. With appropriate usage, it can be one of the most important pieces of clothing on a hike. It is light, packs into its own pocket, sheds wind and traps your body-heat inside. It’s light enough to wear on warm days to reduce sun exposure, but will help keep you warm while moving along cold, windy ridgetops. Men’s and Women’s versions offer the same featherweight construction, averaging about 4 oz. Why not take it with you everywhere?


REI Co-Op Rain Jacket – $35 to $70

This functional rain jacket is light, and a great bargain! Most of us end up tearing or wearing out a rain jacket after a few seasons anyway, so why spend the big bucks? This jacket comes in both Men’s and Women’s sizes (9.4 and 8 oz respectively), has zippered pockets and an adjustable hood making this 2.5-layer breathable waterproof jacket a great buy!


Marmot PreCip Jacket – $60 to $99 at REI

This is an inexpensive, lightweight waterproof, breathable jacket. It has pit zips to cool you off, handwarmer pockets to keep your hands toasty, and weighs in under a pound (13 oz Mens’s M, 11.4 oz Women’s M). There are Men’s, Women’s, and Children’s sizes.


Marmot PreCip Pants – $100 at REI

These full-zip (separable) rain pants are fairly inexpensive, fairly light (roughly 12 oz), and work well to keep you dry in downpours or keep you dry and warm in ugly shoulder-season hypothermia weather. The full zips make them easy to put on or take off without messing with your footwear, making them ideal for muddy or snowy conditions. The pants have Men’s and Women’s cuts in several lengths.


REI Minimalist eVent Mitts – $40

Waterproof mittens are shockingly useful. Though they provide only a thin layer between your digits and the environment, they keep off wind and rain, and keep fingers together, maximizing warmth. These are perfect for winter and shoulder season trips to stay comfortable in storms and wind.


Olicamp Kinetic Isobutane Stove – $40

At only 1.7 oz (48 g), this is much lighter than most isobutane stoves. With fire regulations stepping up in the ultra-dry west, you might need to abandon your favorite alcohol stove setup on routes like the South-Sierra High Route and carry an isobutane stove. This one gets the job done, and with a fully adjustable output, you can go from a simmer to a boil with ease. It’s also lighter than the popular MSR MicroRocket!


MSR MicroRocket Stove – $60 at REI

This little isobutane stove packs a punch. It can bring 1 L of water to a boil in 3.3 minutes, and weighs in at 2.6 oz (75 g). It’s compact, comes with its own little carrying case, and a piezo igniter. If you prefer a well-known brand name to the less-known Olicamp above, this is still a good, lightweight option.


TOAKS 900 ml Ti Pot – $45

This pot will fit enough water for two, is made of durable, lightweight titanium, and weighs in at only 3.6 oz. That and it can be had for $45. It’s definitely a good deal, and this pot will last you many meals and many miles. If you need a little more volume, the 1350 ml pot is another good buy, tipping the scales at 5.2 oz and featuring the same lightweight, durable titanium design.


Peak Designs Capture Camera Clip – $60

This clip has transformed the way I take pictures in the backcountry. It clips onto your backpack strap, so you can slide your camera into and out of the clip securely with just the press of a thumb. The Arca-Swiss mount is also useful for tripod mounting with a lightweight, inexpensive adapter. The Capture Clip is a necessary tool for those wanting to photograph their backcountry outings. Without it, your camera will likely be stowed away and you may miss the shot – with this gizmo, you’re ready at a moment’s notice.

Shoulderpod S1 Smartphone Tripod Mount, Grip – $35

This smartphone rig is small and lightweight and provides a great way to hold your phone while filming, or to mount your phone to a tripod. The S1 is adjustable to fit a wide range of smartphones. This is definitely a good buy if you are looking to make the best of smartphone photography and videography. Combine with the Rode VideoMic Me below for the best video performance.

Rode VideoMic Me Smartphone Microphone – $60

If you’ve ever recorded a video on your smartphone, you know that sound recording is usually the worst piece of the production. This little microphone can change that in a big way. Weighing just over 1 oz, this little microphone requires no batteries, and plugs right into a standard 3.5 mm audio jack*. It provides a huge boost to audio recording capabilities. Pair this with a Rode wind shield to help reduce wind crackling, and get the most out of recording video with your phone. *Note this is not compatible with iPhone 7. See Rode VideoMicro Microphone with Rycote Lyre Shock Mount below for a setup that works great with the iPhone 7.

 Combine the following 3 items for a light, inexpensive and superbly functional kit for in-the-field video

JOBY GripTight POV kit – $50

This smartphone camera grip is perhaps one of the best for shooting handheld video with a smartphone. It combines an adjustable vice grip to hold your phone with a comfortable, adjustable hand grip, as well as a bluetooth remote shutter, and a GoPro compatible mount, so you can mount your phone on any GoPro compatible tripod or clip. The grip features a cold shoe for attaching a microphone like the Rode VideoMicro below for high-quality audio. Combine that setup with the FiLMiC Pro – FiLMiC Inc app below to make a perfect in-the-field video recording and editing studio for your smartphone!

Rode VideoMicro Microphone with Rycote Lyre Shock Mount – $60

This is essentially the same as the Rode VideoMic Me microphone above, but with a mount that can fit into camera shoes and an extension audio cord. It can add significant quality to backcountry video, with either a smartphone or a standalone camera. Often, the built-in microphones on cameras and phones are nowhere near as good as the video capturing abilities. This compact and lightweight (1.5 oz) microphone requires no batteries, and can help bridge that gap. If you do significant video in the field, this is a required upgrade! If you have an iPhone 7 you’ll need a 3.5 mm audio jack to lightening adapter.


FiLMiC Pro – FiLMiC Inc – $20

This superb app is the best video app available for the iPhone. It supports full manual shooting modes (and auto or semi-auto), including typical studio video frame rates up to high speed (240 fps) frame rates! 2K, and 3K video modes are supported for phones that can handle it, on-screen histograms, post-processing, support for 35 mm lens adapters, and much more. This app has it all, and is constantly under development to ensure support for the newest features. If you shoot video on your iPhone, this is a must-have app!


JOBY GripTight GorillaPod Smartphone Tripod – $47

JOBY GripTight ONE GP Stand, Smartphone Tripod – $50
new version accommodates most smartphones from large to small.

This bundle gives you a the popular lightweight flexible GorillaPod tripod and a GripTight smartphone tripod grip. It’s perfect for maximizing the utility of your smartphone camera. Pair it with a Bluetooth remote to get those perfect shots from afar. There’s a version for smaller smartphones too.


National Park Pass – $80/year, access to all National Parks

This is just about the best deal you can get. If you visit National Parks, National Forests, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, or just love public lands, this is a great way to support the parks and save a few bucks! This pass covers entry to all of the National Parks, as well as parking and entry to many other public lands. Given that a day pass for one vehicle at Yellowstone can run upward of $30, it’s clear that this pass can pay for itself in a hurry!


ExOfficio’s BugsAway clothing at REI

BugsAway provides a bug repellent that can stay with clothes up to 70 washes. As the climate warms, tick and mosquito seasons extend and spread farther north, carrying disease. This means that more and more outdoorspeople are at risk for contracting Lyme, Zika, and other nasty, formerly tropical illnesses. The Permethrin coating provided in BugsAway clothing is a simple step you can take to help improve your resistance to these diseases.

Ex Officio Bugsaway Pants – $40-90

The Men’s Sandfly Pants come with the BugsAway coating, and are available in two lengths, 30″g and 32″. The Women’s version is the Damselfly which comes in a range of sizes. Both are made from moisture-wicking, lightweight nylon which additionally provides UPF 30 solar protection.

Ex Officio Bugsaway Shirts – $50-99 at REI

The Men’s Halo Check Shirt has kept me from sunburn in the high Sierra, and it has been nice in helping repel mosquitoes in the notoriously buggy Wind Rivers. It’s essentially none the worse for a year’s constant wear. The Women’s Lumen Hoodie is cool, wicking, and has a hood to help shield the intense sun, and keep bugs off your neck. Both shirts have ExOfficio’s Bugsaway shield, and have lightweight, wicking, quick-dry material. There are also several other shirt options, so you can choose colors and weights that fit your particular style.


White Sierra Alpha Beta Quarter Zip (100 wt) – $17 – $59 at Amazon

or TNF TKA 100 Glacier 1/4 Zip Pullover at Amazon

Possibly the best clothing layer ever. A 100 wt fleece shirt is my go to favorite mid-layer—goes on every trip! For more see my “Top Mistakes Using the Layering System – How to Stay Warmer and Drier.” Sadly it appears that 100 wt fleece shirts like this are a dying breed so it’s best to buy one now.

This is a lightweight, inexpensive fleece that blocks the wind reasonably well. With an appropriate layering scheme, this can replace the need for a wind jacket for me entirely!  I find that in cool weather (where a layering system is most useful) a fleece shirt is better. For almost the same weight of a windshirt, a light 100 weight fleece shirt has a greater temperature range for comfort — which means fewer clothing changes. And a thin fleece doesn’t trap moisture in the same way as windshirt.


Purple Rain Adventure Skirt/Kilt – $60

Freedom in the hills! These skirts and kilts are handmade in Oregon, and let you move freely along the trails, feeling cool and comfortable. They are particularly advantageous in warm, humid climates, where sweaty underwear can be a hygiene and comfort problem, especially on longer hikes. The skirts come in several colors, while men are stuck with a single color kilt.


Ursack Major Bear Bag – $90 at REI

This bag will keep bears out of your food. It weighs a fraction of a typical bear canister, and costs about the same. This is the largest, 15 L model which can easily fit 6+ days of food! There’s a smaller version too for shorter trips. It holds about 10.7 L, and costs $70. These are easily the best bear protection available, but make sure it’s a sanctioned solution where you go as sadly, not all parks have caught on yet.


Borah Gear Ultralight Bivy – $90

It’s nice to sleep beneath the stars on a clear night. This ultralight bivy will keep the bugs off while you stare at the stars instead of sleeping. It also cuts wind and is amply sized for even big sleeping bags and sleeping pads. The Argon version weighs in at about 5.5 oz and is water resistant, so a little dew or a few drops won’t be a problem.

REI Co-op Flash Insulated Air Sleeping Pad – $99 at REI

This is a reasonably good choice for a sleeping pad. It has a high R-value of 3.7 which will keep you well insulated for 3-season use, and it weighs just 15 oz. It’s not the lightest, but it isn’t too far off, and it is reasonably priced!


Outdoor Research Sun Runner Cap – $36

This hat is convertible between a lightweight running hat and a more serious expedition hat by allowing a neck shade to be attached to the hat. The neck shade can block sun and protect from bugs. It comes in light colors to better help deal with solar radiation, but other colors are available if you don’t like the bright white. It may not win a lot of style points, but this is one of the most functional hats I’ve ever put on my head.

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 | 2018-01-03T23:44:05+00:00 September 1st, 2016|Gear List|0 Comments

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