With Christmas fast approaching you may be wondering what to get your favorite backpacker. If they already backpack, chances are they have all the necessary equipment. So, in this article I will focus on gear upgrades and extra goodies that can make their time in the backcountry that much better.
I am sure they already have a sleeping bag but if it is synthetic, switching to a down bag will mean more space in their pack and make it lighter to carry. The Ageismax is a good budget choice if you don’t have much to spend. The M2 will keep them warm down to freezing temps while the M3 will be even toastier. The M2 is available on Amazon now with prime shipping, however, the M3 is still only available through AliExpress. If money is no object, Big Agnes and Kelty both make very high quality bags.
Lightweight sleeping bags are typically made of nylon fabric which, as you might imagine, is not the most breathable next to your skin. Thankfully, they make sleeping bag liners that can give a backpacker a much better sleep experience. Liners also add a little bit of warmth for those extra chilly nights. In the summer they can be used alone without the bag for that slight nighttime chill. For a budget option, microfiber is great, but if you really want to spoil them buy a silk liner. Here’s some great picks:
Most backpackers will make due with a pillow made out of extra clothes or jackets. However, with the super lightweight and inflatable pillows available they can be even more comfortable.
Being able to cuddle together on cold nights in the woods can make a backpacking trip that much nicer. If a couple in your life has non-splicing bags, upgrade them to a double bag or two bags that can be spliced together. If you do get them a double bag, be sure it’s down. Synthetic double bags typically weigh eight or more pounds and no one wants to lug that in their pack. There are also double size sleeping pads, and double liners.
If your backpacker likes pre-made freeze- dried meals Mountain House consistently gets top votes for taste. They are pricey, so stocking up for them will take that expense out of their trips. Buy a bucket with preselected meal combinations or make your own basket of goodies.
If you have a backcountry foodie on your gift list buy them the essentials to make their own meals from the recipes on this site. With recipes from Chicken and Dumplings, to Gumbo, and even Apple Cobbler, there are plenty of things to choose from. Get them the supplies they need or their own dehydrator, and they will be eating great no matter how far out they’ve hiked.
A warm drink on a cold night next to a campfire can be a highlight of a backpacker’s night. A little luxury in this area will go a long way.
Most backpackers start off with simple aluminum or stainless steel cookware because it is sturdy and reasonably priced. However, the best material for backpacking cookware is titanium since it is light, conducts heat well, imparts no metal taste to food, and is durable. If they have aluminum or stainless steel cookware and tableware consider upgrading them to titanium.
A person can backpack in regular clothing or athletic wear but specialized hiking clothes make for a more comfortable trip. Wool, silk, and specialized fleeces can keep a backpacker warm in the coldest of weather. Hiking pants with extra pockets and zip off legs are much appreciated conveniences. Clothes pre-treated with permethrin will keep them safe from ticks. Moisture wicking clothes, and wide brim hats make summer hikes more pleasant.
From packable hats to neoprene gloves that stay warm when wet, certain outwear items can really make a difference. Nothing can freeze your hands to the bone like refilling water bottles or scrubbing pots in freezing weather. Having neoprene gloves for these tasks means my hands stay toasty. In the winter a wool hat helps lock in heat. In the summer, even hiking in forested areas, a hiker can get quite a bit of sun exposure so a great hat is an essential. Also, the glare of the sun can have you squinting all day but polarized sunglasses eliminate that and let you enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.
While not necessary to go hiking, trekking poles make hiking in steep or uneven terrain much easier on your joints. They are also handy for propping up rainflys, and making impromptu shelters when combined with tarps.
Tarps and Tent Footprints:
We try not to get caught hiking in the rain but weather forecasts are not always the most accurate. A lightweight backpacking tarp means you can make a separate shelter for cooking and eating under and not have to do everything from a tiny backpacking tent. Tent footprints mean sharp sticks or rocks don’t ruin a backpacker’s more expensive tent. They also add a layer of water resistance to the bottom and give a clean place to take off boots before getting in the tent.
Most backpacker’s start off either packing in water or using water sanitizing tablets. A great water filter makes clean water without a chemical aftertaste, possible. Sawyer makes excellent water filters at excellent prices and it’s what we personally use. Katadyn also makes excellent water filter at a slightly higher price point.
Hammocks make wonderful places to relax and they take just a couple minutes to put up. We will often take a break from hiking and eat a snack in ours. Headlamps are not necessary but they sure make doing anything in the dark much easier. A hiking GPS means your backpacker will always know exactly where they are. Carabiners make great stocking stuffers and they are infinitely useful. Get them ones rated for climbing and they will live up to even the hardest tasks.
Give them the gift of free admission to their states parks or to national parks with an annual pass. The America the Beautiful Pass gives the pass holder and guests in the same car free admission to National Park Service Parks, U.S. Forest Service Areas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Areas, Bureau of Land Management Areas, Bureau of Reclamation Areas, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Land. They cost $80 per year and can be purchased here. Most states also offer an annual pass that gives free admission and/or reduced usage rates.