The 21 Best Gifts For Hikers & Backpackers (2017)

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are upon us and, if you’re like me, you’re probably scrambling to figure out what to get everyone on your list. If you have a hiker or outdoors lover on your holiday list this season, don’t worry! I’m about to help you find 30 great outdoor gift ideas that won’t break the bank.

Gifts for Beginner Hikers

Of all the firestarters, why this one? It’s a blank slate that’s just begging to be finished. Pair this gift with some creative paracord and let the recipient create their own lanyard!

Everyone loves having their gear made just the way they like it.

Here’s the paracord to go with your gift of a ferro rod for fire starting (above). Paracord is also recently popular as a “prepper” item for survival bracelets. It can be used for shelter building, zipper pulls, anything.

You’ll be amazed at how versatile this gift of paracord can be.

Nalgene bottles are for chumps. Unless you have one, then I apologize. But seriously a Platypus Softbottle weighs less than a Nalgene, can be collapsed and folded, and is available in fun colors!

When they’re not full, just roll the bottle up and store it in your pocket. It’s not bulky! Plus it can fit into backpack pockets that a hard-sided water bottle just never will.

When I was guiding trips on the Appalachian Trail I used this bowl for group meals. It’s relatively lightweight, flattens down to take up less space, and has a generous size when in use.

Overall this is probably my top pick for a backpacking bowl if your recipient needs backpacking kitchen items. Check it out!

With their unique twisted flange design and solid triangular cross-section, these stakes are effective and durable. I’ve found that their holding power is many times the nearest equivalent stake of the same length.

On top of that, the minis are short and stout enough that I never worry about bending them when setting them in the soil. Did I mention that they’re super lightweight? Change the way your outdoorsman sets up tents and tarps forever!

If you haven’t already jumped on the Darn Tough sock train, now’s the time to grab a ticket. I love these socks because they’re a blend of nylon and merino wool that’s effective and durable.

On top of that, Darn Tough offers a lifetime warranty with no questions asked. When your socks get torn, worn, or destroyed just mail them what’s left and you’ll get a free new pair in the mail.

What’s the best outdoor fire starter? A mini Bic, by far. They’re insanely lightweight and will light up the Esbit, alcohol, liquid fuel, or canister stove for weeks at a time.

Toss this pack of inexpensive stocking stuffers into your hiker’s goodies. There’s no way to go wrong with these universally handy hiking lighters.

Gifts for Intermediate Hikers

Chacos were a local favorite when I was guiding trips in the Asheville, NC area. Of course, I ended up with a pair of these awesome sandals and still love them.

To this day I’ve yet to find a more comfortable and enjoyable pair of outdoor sandals. I use them for summer evening cookouts, paddling trips, and around camp. I’ve even hiked in them before.

Need another idea to go with that paracord? How about a skeleton knife, just waiting for a custom wrapped paracord handle.

These knives are durable thanks to the single piece tang design. It’s also surprisingly affordable for a good knife from a reputable maker.

Don’t like the size, bulk, weight, and drawbacks of water filter pumps? Me either. That’s why I started using chemical water treatment years ago.

If the hiker on your list is still using an old-school water filter, toss some of these in the stocking. You might revolutionize their hike.

As of about 5 years ago the Sawyer Squeeze and Sawyer Mini moved in to take over the world of hiking water purification. They’re insanely lightweight, can process tons of water, and everyone loves them!

If I were using a cartridge water purification system, it would be the Sawyer Mini. That’s why it’s on my list. It’s small enough to fit in a stocking, too!

This one is sure to be a surprise to your outdoor lover. This simple, lightweight, and battery friendly GPS only has a couple functions. It acts as a compass and uni-directional GPS.

Mark a location and navigate back to it. The GPS can mark up to two locations. Good for marking where you left the trail, where your camp is at, or where you parked the ATV. Not a full-featured GPS.

I bought the first edition of this book the day it came out and read it on the trail while guiding a trip. It changed the way I see my gear. Andrew Skurka (author) takes a deep dive into analyzing gear and what to bring or leave behind.

If you have an outdoor gear nerd on your holiday list, this is the book for them! Even some of the gear recommendations in this list come from the first edition of this book.

Switching to lightweight Esbit stoves means learning how to make meals by only boiling water. Luckily it’s not hard. Save the hiker on your list a ton of money by teaching them how to make their own freezer bag meals.

No need to buy expensive dehydrated meals ever again with this updated book!

Gifts for Advanced Hikers

DynaGlide is a magical gift from aliens, made available to the public thanks to the government. That’s a lie. It is magically powerful, though.

I use this for hammock lines, tarp lines, and bear bagging. It splices great! On top of all that, it’s much lighter than even the next closest equivalent cordage. Get you some!

Therm-a-Rest really knocked it out of the park with this uber lightweight, comfortable sleeping pad. I’ve been using them since they came out, and mine is still working after hundreds of nights in the field.

It’s 2.5″ thick and can be easily adjusted. I sleep like a baby on mine and would never go back to a foam pad. Not suitable for winter temps.

Black Diamond really knocked it out of the park when they pioneered these three-piece hiking poles. They’re close to the lightest available hiking poles in their class and they work like a dream.

With a simple push of a button and pull of the handle, they lock together and are ready to go. Break them down into three pieces, connected by internal cable, and store them in your pack if not in use.

Think Swiss Army Knives are a gimmick? Think again. Multi-tools are bulky and heavy, containing tons of tools that never get used.

The Victorinox classic has a nail file and flat head, great for grooming or light prying. Scissors are good for cutting line or trimming fingernails (on long trips I use these). The knife is sharp and reliable, and just big enough.

Ultralight backpacking stoves come in many forms. I’ve tried most of them. Suffice it to say that this simple, lightweight stove is one of the best options available today for boiling water.

Use this stove with solid fuel Esbit tablets for an ultralight, simple, and effective backpacking rehydration system. Only suitable for boiling water.

If the hiker on your list is still using canister stoves or alcohol stoves, it’s time to try something new. Pair these with the folding stove above for an extreme weight reduction compared to liquid fuel or canister stoves.

The hiker on your list may love the new lightweight cook system so much, they’re likely to never change back!

If the hiker on your holiday shopping list needs a new shelter, consider a tarp instead of a tent. This tarp is lighter, more versatile, and better to pack inside a backpack than a traditional tent.

Tarps aren’t for everyone though, so be sure the hiker on your list is ready for a new type of backpacking challenge!


Buying hiking gifts isn’t always easy. The best hiking gift ideas have to be carefully chosen based on the level of your recipient’s skill and interest. Not everyone wants an ultralight tarp, but expert backpackers will appreciate the challenge and lighter weight.

If all else fails, it’s easy to get some good hiking gift ideas by simply visiting the local hiking store. Often there are cool new gadgets that might be perfect for that person on your list, just waiting to be found!

About the author

Casey Fiedler

Professional ski instructor and backpacking guide, Casey Fiedler went to school with CWC and NOLS for Outdoor Education and Leadership. Want to read more about what it takes to lead great adventure trips? Casey writes about outdoor education at

Nikki - November 30, 2017

What do you think about the filtration straws? I notice you didn’t include that here, but rather had other types of filtration. Is there a reason why you don’t use the straws?

    Casey Fiedler - December 18, 2017

    Filtration straws have their place. They will rapidly clog in the presence of sedimented water like most physical filters. If they work for you and your needs, by all means, add them to your gear. They tend to have short lifespans and can often be clumsy and impractical for use given most backpacking setups. I, personally, purify my water using Bleach these days after much research and tinkering with my gear and systems. It works for me, the locations I hike, and the way I like to hike. Over time you’ll figure out what works for you. I’d encourage you to try the filtration straws and see if you like them! That’s the only way to be sure if they’re right for you. Happy trails!

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