2019 Smart and Light Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers
Hikers and backpackers can be very tricky to shop for and many hold their gear to the highest possible standard. That’s why we’ve hand picked a selection of the lightest, smartest, and most innovative pieces of hiking gear that even the most trail-savvy adventurer would be stoked to receive. Here you’ll find recommended products of all types, from brands of all sizes, in a wide array of prices. The perfect gift idea for hikers awaits you. Happy shopping!
Price Categories — Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers
Mid-Range Gifts $40 – $100
These are our favorite mid-priced gear choices. Any of these would find a happy home in a lightweight backpacker’s pack!
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!
Jetboil Zip Stove System
$80 at REI
The $80 Jetboil Zip stove is the value stove in the most popular line of backpacking stoves (the top-of the line model is $135). But the Jetboil Zip still has all that great JetBoil functionality. It’s an all-in-one stove, heat exchanger, pot combination. Jetboil Zip stove is a great option if you want hot water quickly in camp – it’ll get your morning coffee boiling in just . That’s 3-4 times faster than an alcohol stove system. And there’s even a French Press option for the stove so you can have the perfect cup of java in the morning.
Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
$39 at Amazon
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!
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
$38 to $50 at REI
This is the headlamp you want for an emergency. It’s what we carry on our climbing trips or if we know there’s a possibility we’ll need to hike at night. One of Black Diamond’s brightest lights it puts out a brilliant 350 lumen beam that lights up to 250 feet ahead of you! And that it lasts up to 22 hours at that intensity. But in camp it’s mild mannered with low beam that lasts 160 hours. Weighing in at 3.9 oz with batteries, it’s one of the lightest hight intensity and long lasting headlamps out there.
MSR Pocket Rocket 2
$45 at REI
And upgrade to a classic and one of the popular backpacking stoves of all time. 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. This would be a great match for TOAKS Titanium 900ml D115mm Pot as a super light (6.6 ounce!) 1 to 2 person cooking system.
TOAKS Titanium 900ml D115mm Pot
$45 at REI
Our favorite pot is the incredible light 900 ml TOAKS Titanium pot! And TOAKS pots cost less than the competition, so it’s great the REI is now carrying the TOAKS Titanium 900ml D115mm Pot. This is the perfect size to boil water for 2 cups of coffee in the morning. Titanium is incredibly light and nearly indestructible. And unlike aluminum is is completely non-reactive. And the pot will fit standard 220 gram fuel canisters. 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.
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!
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 models. 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,” currently on sale for $150 a competitor to the far more expensive Patagonia down jackets.
Patagonia Houdini Wind Jacket
$99 at REI
This is a game-changing piece of gear; a lot of our hiking friends take it on every trip. 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?
$35 to $70 for a good quality 8.8 oz rain jacket says it it all. It’s 30% lighter than more expensive competitors rain jackets. The Co-op Essential Rain Jacket’s “essential features but nothing more” keeps the weight low, and REI’s buying power keeps the value high. While low in weight the jacket has room to layer. The Co-op Jacket has a modestly sized, 3-piece hood with dual hood adjusts (works best with a ball-cap under it), two zippered hand pockets, a drawcord hem and internal elastic cuffs allow a seal at waist and wrists. Like top-end competitor’s jackets it has 2.5-layer waterproof breathable laminate Bluesign Approved Nylon with DWR finish.
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 (NOTE: These pants are seasonably stocked at REI)
$100 at REI –1/2 priced at $50
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 North Face Men’s TKA 100 Glacier Quarter Zip
$49 to $55+ 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, especially if you want one from The North Face.
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 (8oz), 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.
Ursack Major Bear Bag
$95 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.
Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System
$70 at REI
Get the grip and safety you need on ice and hard-packed snow. MICROspikes are great way to extend you winter hiking range with trail runners or lightweight boots. These weight far less than crampons and can be easily stored in a pack pocket to pull out when needed. Made of hard stainless steel these are lighter, sharper and for more durable than most lightweight winter traction devices.
Suunto M-3D Compass
$44 at REI
Our pick for a backcountry compass. This is a simple, and durable compass with all the essential features including declination adjustment (which isn’t on most compasses). 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.
JOBY GripTight ONE GP Stand, Smartphone Tripod
$40 – Accommodates most smartphones from large to small.
Your selfies never looked so good! This bundle gives you a the popular lightweight flexible GorillaPod tripod and a GripTight smartphone tripod grip. They are perfect for maximizing the utility of your smartphone camera. Holding your camera steady in low light to get sharp pictures. Our pair it with a Bluetooth remote to get those perfect shots from afar, including selfies of your entire body in a great outdoor setting.
Peak Designs Capture Camera Clip V3
This clip has transformed the way we 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 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(video of me using the clip).
2018 is forecast to be the worst year for tick/Lyme disease. But don’t let fear of Lyme or Zika keep you off the trail! These shirts repel both ticks and mosquitoes that can transmit the diseases.
The Men’s Poros Plaid 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 other options so you can choose colors and weights that fit your particular style.
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.
The Men’s Sandfly Pants come with the BugsAway coating, and are available in two lengths, 30″ and 32″. The Women’s version is the Vianna which comes in a range of sizes. Both are made from moisture-wicking, lightweight nylon which additionally provides UPF 30 solar protection.
Combine the following 3 items for a light, inexpensive and superbly functional kit for in-the-field video.
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!
Don’t run your videos. The sound quality sucks on almost all built-in microphones on cameras and cell phones. Problem is solved with this lightweight, but high quality shotgun microphone. And it comes packaged all you need — a deadcat windscreen, a a mount that can fit into camera shoes (or the JOBY GripTight POV kit) and an extension audio cord. It ads significant quality to backcountry video, with either a smartphone or a standalone camera. This compact and lightweight (1.5 oz) microphone requires no batteries. 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.
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!
Borah Gear Ultralight Bivy
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.
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!
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.
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..
Be sure to check out the other Price Categories Guides as well…
Price Categories — Gift Guide for Hikers and Backpackers
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