Shopping for the avid tent-sleeper on your list doesn’t need to be complicated with this list of the best backpacking gifts of the season. Take the guesswork out of shopping this year with expert gear advice from a pro.
Seriously, I professionally review gear for Backpacker Magazine. Yup, it’s a total dream gig, but that aside, it also means I’m a complete gear nerd.
I’m lucky enough to be able to test and try every piece of gear on this list. Each of these backpacking gifts went through rigorous testing that matches the same criteria I use for reviewing gear for magazines.
As an avid backpacker, I’m well-versed in what is and isn’t useful as a backpacking gift. So use this backpacking gift guide as your personal shopping list.
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For the 2020 holiday season, I’m doing something extra-special. 10% of all affiliate sales are being donated to these grassroots organizations: Big City Mountaineers, Venture Out Project, and First Nations.
The process is simple:
Make a kick-ass backpacking gift purchase. I’ll donate to outdoor orgs that make the world a better place.
About This Guide to The Best Backpacking Gifts
This backpacking gift guide is designed to help anyone choose the perfect, mega-cool backpacking gift for the adventurer on their list. Here’s what you’ll find:
- How to choose the perfect gift for backpackers
- The best backpacking gifts
- Gifts for backpackers organized by spending budget
- Additional gift guides for every type of outdoor adventurer
How to Choose Gifts for Backpackers
If you don’t backpack, camp or hike, choosing the perfect gift for the backcountry camping lover on your list might seem a little daunting. Don’t fret, there are a few simple things to keep in mind when looking for backpacking gifts.
First, simple is best. You’re looking for a handy tool that serves multiple functions, but isn’t too complicated. You’re tired when you backpack so you don’t want a stove with a 6-part setup. Think quick and easy.
Next, consider weight. Most backpackers fret over ounces, so try to aim for a lightweight item that packs down easily.
Lastly, consider durability. Backpacking is a rugged sport and the best backpacking gifts can take a beating. Read reviews when purchasing gifts and note any durability issues.
The Best Backpacking Gifts
Alright, so now it’s time to dive into the best backpacking gifts for this season. From beginner backpackers to expert thru-hikers there is an array of awesome gifts that any backpacker would love.
Budget-Friendly Backpacking Gifts Under $50
The little things that backpackers can’t live without.
1. Sea to Summit X-Mug
An awesome camping mug for any beverage, from coffee to campfire cocktails, the Sea to Summit X-Mug is especially handy for backpackers. It collapses flat and takes up almost no space in a pack.
The ridges on the mug also can be used as a measuring cup and they are labeled for easy reading. Not to mention, it’s super easy to pour from this mug into another vessel, like a pot or a thermos.
2. Ruffwear Quencher Dog Bowl
While backpacking with a dog, you’ll need something the quench their thirst. The Ruffwear Quencher Dog Bowl is the perfect packable way to provide water for your canine companion.
When your dog is ready to drink, just fill up the fabric bowl, then empty it out and collapse it to fit in your pack when they’re done. If you want to bring dog food along as well, there is a cinch-top version of the bowl to keep the kibble contained.
3. Petzl Tikkina Headlamp
The Petzl Tikkina Headlamp is a great headlamp at a great value. The Tikkina is easy to use, with just three levels (low, medium, high) to cycle through (so you don’t accidentally end up blinding your tentmate with an unexpected strobe). The 250 lumens provide plenty of light for most backpacking tasks.
4. Smartwool Trekking Socks
While socks might not seem like the most exciting gift, no one appreciates a good pair of socks more than a backpacker. Smartwool Trekking Heavy Crew Socks are designed for a long hike on the trail, with extra cushioning for support and thick insulation for comfort.
5. Sawyer Mini Water Filter
A water filter is an essential piece of backpacking equipment. The Sawyer Mini Water Filter is one of the smallest and most lightweight filters you can find. It makes it easy to stay hydrated by drinking straight from a stream or filling a water bottle to continue on the trail. Perfect for anyone from thru-hikers to beginners
6. Freshette Pee Funnel
This one is for the squatting backpackers in your life! The Freshette Pee Funnel makes it easy for people who squat to take care of business when nature calls without having to pull down their pants and pop a squat.
This pee funnel features a wide opening and an extension tube. While figuring out how to use a pee funnel can involve some trial and error, the Freshette has a lower learning curve than some others.
7. AeroPress Go Travel Coffee Press
The camp coffee connoisseur will adore the AeroPress Go Travel Coffee Press. This coffee maker allows you to quickly brew an excellent cup of coffee in the backcountry thanks to the simple plunger-like design.
The whole system includes the plunger, a mug, paper filters, a travel case for the filters, a spoon, and a stirrer. Everything packs down into the mug, so it takes up only a tiny amount of space in a pack.
Pssst…combine this with a Sea to Summit X-Mug for the ultimate backpacking gift!
8. Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol
Every backpacker needs a comfy place to rest their head at night. The Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol provides that in a lightweight package.
The egg-carton grid pattern traps heat underneath for extra insulation while the shiny surface on top reflects heat back to your body for a warmer night’s sleep. When it’s time to break down camp, the Z Lite Sol pad folds up accordion-style to easily strap on to a pack.
Bonus: I actually use my Z Lite for a doggy sleeping pad. It weighs nothing and my 13-year-old dog appreciates the extra cushion.
9. Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Shirt
Made of recycled polyester with UPF 50+ sun protection, this shirt wicks away moisture to keep you cool and comfortable on the trail, so even if you wear it for several days in a row, you won’t feel gross and smelly.
The Capilene Cool shirt comes in short-sleeve, long-sleeve, and hoody versions to round out a backpacker wardrobe.
10. Gregory 3D Hydro 2L Reservoir
Every backpacker needs a water bladder to keep hydrated during hikes, and the Gregory 3D Hydro 2L Reservoir stands out. The 3D design keeps the sides of the reservoir from touching. This makes it dry faster and prevents bacteria growth, and the wide opening and handle make it extra easy to fill.
11. Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow
A pillow is often considered a luxury for a backpacker, which is what makes it a perfect backpacking gift! The Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow is curved to provide excellent head and neck support. Plus, the soft outer layer is super cozy against the skin.
Since it’s inflatable, it packs down small, and it can be inflated with just a couple of breaths when you’re exhausted at the end of a long day of hiking. Bonus points for also being an excellent travel and camping pillow.
Backpacking Gifts Under $100
Camping upgrades that will be much appreciated. These amazing gifts for backpackers certainly say you care.
12. MSR Ceramic Solo Pot
Camp chefs will love the MSR Ceramic Solo Pot for cooking in the backcountry. This lightweight 1.3-liter pot is made of ceramic, which prevents food from sticking but is better for the environment and health than traditional non-stick coatings. The lid includes a handy strainer and the handle folds up to fit compactly in a backpack.
13. REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack
An extremely well-designed day pack, the REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack is a great addition to any backpacker’s arsenal. It’s comfortable to wear when carrying small loads, and it can easily be stuffed in a larger pack and then pulled out for day hikes. Also, a friendly price point makes it one of the best budget-friendly hiking bags on the market.
With a couple of zippered pockets, stretchy mesh pockets on the sides, plus several exterior loops, you can easily organize all your gear. And it comes in lots of fun colors and prints to suit every style!
14. Primus Firestick
This super cool stove collapses down to a tiny cylinder you can fit in your pocket. The Primus Firestick is perfect for backpackers looking to save space but still be able to cook on the trail.
The stove is simple to set up when you’re ready to cook, and has an igniter button for easy lighting. It’s also designed to shield the flame from wind, so you can boil water no matter the weather.
The Firestick supports a variety of small camping pots. The included wool storage pouch can also be used as a potholder to protect your hands.
15. OR Optimist Sun Hoodie
Sun hoodies are a hot backpacking gear item this season (pun intended). Backpackers hiking in the heat of the sun definitely need some protection. The Outdoor Research Optimist Sun Hoodie provides a UPF 30 shield. Also, the stretchy fabric allows for full freedom of movement.
Not to mention, the material is breathable and wicks away sweat, keeping you cool in even the hottest desert environment.
Backpacking Gifts Under $150
A lineup of special splurges that make backpacking better.
16. Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
Trekking poles are invaluable for long hikes with lots of elevation gain. The Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles handle steep uphills and tough descents with ease.
These poles have natural cork grips that absorb sweat. Not to mention, they are angled in the most ergonomic position, so you won’t get wrist fatigue. Plus, the lever flip locks make it a snap to adjust the pole length on the fly.
Related: Do I Really Need Trekking Poles?
17. Big Agnes Mica Basin Camp Chair
Okay, so carrying a chair sounds like a luxury, but hear me out. I tried carrying a backpacking chair once and was instantly hooked. No more back pain!
Nothing beats the moment of taking your pack off and finally sitting down after an epic day of hiking. The Big Agnes Mica Basin Camp Chair is the ideal place to rest your tired body.
Because the Mica Basin chair only weighs 2 lbs, it’s worth the weight for backpacking and can also be used for car camping or even in your backyard. While it sits low to the ground, it’s designed with a wide seat in order to be comfortable and stable.
Backpacking Gifts Over $150
Crucial pieces of trusty gear that will get used for years. These backpacking gifts may cost more, but they are built to last.
18. Osprey Renn 65 Pack
You can’t go backpacking without a pack, and the Osprey Renn 65 Pack is an all-around awesome backpack at an excellent value.
The Osprey Renn 65 is designed specifically for women with the shoulder straps and hip belt specially contoured for a better fit. The customizable suspension system easily adjusts to your torso length.
What sets this pack apart is its weight distribution. Instead of going up, it puts the weight around your body. This makes this pack ideal for people with shorter torsos, allowing the weight to sit properly on your hips.
Lots of thoughtful features, including a zippered sleeping bag compartment, sleeping pad straps, and an integrated rain cover, make it easy to pack your gear and stay organized on the trail.
19. Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Pad
With the Big Agnes Insulated Q-Core Deluxe Sleeping Pad, you can give the gift of a good night’s sleep. Let’s be honest, that’s especially hard to come by in the backcountry.
This pad provides 3.5 inches of baffled insulation, protecting you from the cold ground, and the outer chambers are actually 4.25 in thick, to cocoon your body in the center of the pad.
The top of the pad is quilted and covered in a soft-touch fabric, while the bottom is constructed from nylon ripstop for durability. Also, the valve allows for micro-adjustments of the inflation level, giving you fully customized comfort.
20. Therm-a-Rest Vela Double Quilt
Are you looking for a sound night’s sleep without the confines of a bag? Therm-a-Rest Vela Double Quilt will provide plenty of toasty warmth down to 21 degrees.
Quilt sleeping is a hands-down game-changers. Seriously. You can move about freely and the Vela is designed for two. This means plenty of snuggles throughout the night.
The hydrophobic down constructions can repel water or even snow. So you stay toasty at night. Not to mention, it weighs only 2 pounds, 3 oz, which is far less weight than 2 individual bags.
21. Garmin inReach Mini
For an extra measure of safety in the backcountry, your favorite backpacker needs a Garmin inReach. This two-way satellite communicator fits a lot of features into a truly tiny package for traveling anywhere.
The inReach allows you to transmit an SOS in case of emergency (and text with rescuers – which speeds up the process quite a bit). It also offers two-way texting capabilities and location sharing to receive important updates and ease the minds of friends and family.
The device always provides access to detailed weather forecasts so you can be prepared for whatever’s ahead on your adventure. Keep in mind, you’ll need to pay for a subscription.
22. Sea to Summit Altitude Women’s Down Sleeping Bag
The Sea to Summit Altitude Women’s Down Sleeping Bag is an extremely versatile three-season sleeping bag that’s lightweight enough for backpacking.
When it’s extra cold out, the draft collar and tube seal out the frigid air, but when the weather is warmer, the specialized zipper system allows air circulation. The bag can even be completely unzipped to act as a comforter.
The shape of the Altitude sleeping bag is designed for a woman’s body, with tapered shoulders and wider hips. There is even extra insulation in the foot box to keep your toes toasty.
The ability to partially zip both sides makes this bag a great option for sleepers who want to feel like they have more room.
23. Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent
What backpacker wouldn’t love the ultimate gift of a brand new ultralight tent? The Copper Spur HV UL2 is a spacious tent with tons of features to make a fantastic base camp in the backcountry. It has two doors and two vestibules, which can be converted to awnings that provide shelter from sun or rain.
The tent is super quick to set up, and the door zippers provide easy access without a struggle. With lots of pockets and even a bin inside, you’ll have plenty of interior storage for all of your gear.
This incredible lineup of gifts for backpackers caters to every budget. With options ranging from an amazing collapsable mug to a brand new ultralight tent, these backpacking gifts are sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.
Additional Gift Guides
Looking for the perfect outdoor gift? Find it with these carefully curated gift guides: