If you’re shopping for one of those people who seem to spend all of their spare time off camping or backpacking somewhere, you might feel apprehensive about what kind of gift they’d really love this year. Maybe you peeked into their stash of outdoor gear in that closet, basement, or garage and really got nervous (especially if it’s a jumbled mess of mysterious dirt-caked artifacts). We’ve put together this list to give you some ideas to get the right things under the tree before they take off into the woods again. If all else fails, you can always get a Gift Card and let them pick out exactly what they were hoping for. Our new email Gift Cards are especially handy if your favorite camper is living far away, and conveniently allow you to cut out shipping time and cost! By the way, ship-to-store or any orders over $49 havefree shipping!
1. Backcountry cooking
Backpacking stoves can completely change the way we cook out in the backcountry. They come in a variety of sizes and fuel types, and are often allowed in areas where traditional campfires are prohibited. There’s no looking around for firewood at the end of a long day hiking, either, since you can just fire them up and usually have boiling water in about 3 minutes. Choose from lightweight stoves like the popular models from MSR, or cooking systems like Jetboil that include extras like cooking cups, pots, and pans.
2. Dehydrated & freeze-dried food
Dehydrated and freeze-dried meals are just the thing at the end of a long day on the trail. They’re lightweight and compact, so you don’t have to pack a bunch of groceries on your back that you’ll just have to cook once you set up camp, then there’s dishes to do before bed and you have to pack everything back out with you. With these meals, you just add hot water, wait a few minutes, and dig in. Most of them have a shelf life of 2 to 30+ years, so there’s no worry about them going bad before they get eaten. Available options include breakfast, entrees for lunch or dinner, and even delicious desserts! We even sell them in bulk food kits for variety, rainy days, or emergency supplies. It might seem like a weird gift item, but trust us; backpackers can’t get enough of them!
3. Socks (seriously!)
The kids might moan and groan over opening a present just to find socks, but a backpacker is apt to jump for joy before trying them on and charging around the house showing them off to anyone they can find. Socks are serious business in the outdoor world, and many hikers feel that they’re the foundation that will make or break a trip. Good socks will cost more than the 12-pack of cotton tube socks you may be used to buying, but they’re well worth the money. There’s a wide variety ofspecialized hiking socks available, including top brands like Smartwool, Fox River, Farm to Feet, and Wigwam. Shopping for a lady who loves being on the trail? Never fear, we offer the same great brands in women’s sizes, too!
4. Hiking boots & shoes
While you’re at it, why not consider some new hiking boots or shoes? This may well be the gear that gets the worst beating every year out in the backcountry. Just as essential as socks, the right footwear for the journey will ensure the kind of comfort and performance they’re looking for. Available in men’s or women’s sizes, check out fan favorites like Merrell, Keen, and Danner.
Did they already get themselves new footwear when you weren’t looking? Help them eliminate odors, contaminants like viruses and mold, and extend the life of materials with a new boot dryer. They may not know how much they need one!
5. Backpacks & child carriers
Die-hard backpackers love having several packs to choose from, depending on the kind of trip they’re planning. We carry everything from multiday large packs for extended trips to simple daypacks for that afternoon jaunt. Keep water readily available with a hydration pack, or go elite with a technical daypack. Again, if you’re shopping for a lady, there are a lot of choices that are specifically engineered for women like Kelty, Gregory, Granite Gear, Camelbak, and Mountainsmith.
Did the backpacker have a new addition to the family this year? Sometimes a baby can seem to hold us back from enjoying the outdoors, but these days there are plenty of backcountry child carriers available to let them get out there again with the whole family in comfort and style. Plus, they can introduce little ones to nature and start a new family activity tradition!
6. Sleeping bags
There are a number of different sleeping bags out there, and picking the right one for a backpacker can be difficult if you’re not sure what to look for. Overall pack weight is always an issue in backpacking, and most enthusiasts therefore prefer a mummy bag, as they’re usually much lighter and more compressible than a traditional rectangle bag. The prices can vary a lot, too, ranging from Outdoor Life all the way up to Marmot and Western Mountaineering. The best way to go is to pick something in the temperature range you’re looking for (ultralight summer camping to -30 °F extreme winter camping), and then pick something in your price range. From there, many models are offered in either standard or women’s, some with different dimensions for height as well.
Pro tip for mummy bags: when the option’s available, pick a left-zip for right-handed hikers and a right-zip for left-handed hikers. Why? In the snug confines of a mummy bag, it’s much easier to reach across your chest and operate the zipper than it is to try and “chicken-wing” your arm up under your ear to find the zipper (particularly when trying to answer that late-night call of nature).
7. A new tent
Just like the people who use them, tents come in all shapes and sizes. Backpacking tents are specifically designed to be lightweight to cut down on pack weight and volume. Ideally, the backpacker in your life would have a 1-person tent for solo trips (like this Alps Lynx), a 2-person for tandem trips (like this Kelty Gunnison), and a 3-person for group trips (like this Slumberjack Nightfall). Do they like late fall and winter camping? Check out the offerings from Alps, Slumberjack, and Eureka for top-of-the-line 4-season tents.
Hammock camping is really taking off with backpackers, as they’re lightweight and fast to set up or take down. There are also tons of different accessories to customize your hammock system to your particular adventure based on season, terrain, and comfort. Pick a starter model like the Grand Trunk Ultralight, go with a full system like the ENO JungleLink, or get the versatility of the Blue Ridge Camping Hammock that has backup ground tent functionality for those spots without any trees.
9. A good multi-tool
Knives and tools are essential out in the backcountry, if only to keep handy in case of emergency. Multi-tools are especially useful, since they can cover a variety of situations that might come up, and Leatherman is probably the most well-known quality brand. For a classic pocket knife that has stood the test of time, get them aVictorinox Swiss Army Knife and watch their eyes light up with joy. (Tip: for a backpacker, the top choices in a Swiss Army Knife would be the Camper, the Explorer, or the big daddy SwissChamp that can tackle anything.)
10. GPS & navigation
If you like them enough to shop for them, you’d probably like to see that backpacker find their way home again. That’s where GPS and navigation gear comes in.
A handheld GPS will let them track their progress with breadcrumbs, set waypoints (like home, basecamp, where they parked, super sweet spots, etc.), find new places to explore, and get back to where they belong if they find themselves “a little turned around” (nobody admits they got “lost”). Upgrade and enhance the features with GPS mapping software to provide more detail and aid in preplanning trips.
Looking for something sleeker and a little more stylish? Get them a GPS watch that will help them navigate while cutting a little weight from their gear. Don’t be surprised if they wear it every day, and not just when they’re heading out on an adventure.
Communicating out of cell tower range can be helpful, along with giving folks back home a little peace of mind if that intrepid explorer seems to be running late getting home. Check out our satellite communication devices and GPS locators that can be used to text or email, depending on which model you select. Most also include an S.O.S. feature that will call in the cavalry of Search and Rescue if an emergency arises.
Even with a GPS, it’s always nice to have the old-school reliable backup of a map and compass. Top compass brands include Suunto and Brunton, with models to fit any need and budget.
11. Backpack coolers
Everybody gets thirsty at the end of a long day hiking the trail. Water is essential, of course, but why not make it a mountaintop party? The Mountainsmith High Country Cooler Tube holds six 12oz. cans, can be strapped to your pack or carried with the adjustable shoulder sling, and also comes in Dark Camo or Ice Gray!
Have enough people coming along to share the load? Take a look at these large capacity backpack coolers like the Marine and Realtree Gizmo from Igloo,Mountainsmith Frostbite, Arctic Zone Guide Series, Canyon Cooler Quest, ORCA Pod in Max 5 or RealTree Combo, or the Yeti Hopper Backflip 24. Of course, they’re all great for the beach, picnics, tailgating, and any other place you might want to bring a cooler!