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While the holidays are an exciting and joyous time, it can also be a stressful time. Gift giving can be a lot harder than it sounds, especially when you start looking for gifts for that third cousin who decided to show up for Christmas this year or the coworker you don’t know very well. If you’re shopping for someone who loves to travel and, more specifically, loves getting up close and personal with nature, then we’ve got you covered. Here are the 29 best gifts for travelers who love the outdoors – and if that traveler is you, don’t forget to subtly drop this in your loved one’s inbox.
1. Carry on backpack
A light and sturdy carry on backpack is an essential in every travel adventurer’s toolkit. Having tested more travel and backpacking backpacks than I can count, my top three favorites right now are the Cotopaxi Allpa 42L, Deuter Aircontact 45L, and the Kosan Travel Pack System.
2. Lightweight backpacking tent
A heavy duty, large tent would be great if you didn’t have to carry it on your back and set it up/tear it down every day. The perfect backpacking tent is light (~3lbs or less) and is easy to set up and tear down. Big Agnes offers a couple of options I love, specifically the Tiger Wall and Copper Spur. The Tiger Wall 2-person tent weighs only 2lbs 3oz, and the Copper Spur 2-person tent weighs 2lbs 12oz. Carrying a tent on your back all of a sudden sounds much less intimidating.
3. Lightweight sleeping bag
A lightweight sleeping bag is just as important, if not more important, than a lightweight tent. While it’s possible to finesse your way into someone else’s tent, it’s pretty difficult to share sleeping bags. That’s why every traveler who loves the outdoors needs a quality, lightweight sleeping bag. Lightweight sleeping bags are usually around 2lbs or less.
I have to turn again to Big Agnes for this because they make some quality sleeping bags, and they have a huge collection. They have sleeping bags with built in sleeping pad holders, leg cinches to reduce the amount of empty space inside the sleeping bag, and length customizations. Most women’s sleeping bags are designed to fit people up to 5’10”, but for someone who’s 5’2″, that means a ton of extra space that adds unnecessary weight and room for cold air to come in. Most Big Agnes sleeping bags come in petite, regular, and long, so you can find the perfect fit for you or your lucky gift recipient.
4. Self inflating sleeping pad
While it’s entirely possible to camp without a sleeping pad, a sleeping pad can greatly enhance the camping experience. A lightweight sleeping pad should weigh 2lbs or less, and you’ll save your favorite backpacker a lot of trouble every night by getting them a self-inflating one. I love this sleeping pad by NEMO because it’s insulated and designed to mold to your body so that you don’t end up slipping off your mat every night. It stays under your body even when camping on sloped surfaces. Another excellent (and lighter) option is the Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Insulated sleeping pad, which weighs in at only 1lb 11oz and packs up to the size of my Nalgene water bottle.
When you’re fully exposed and vulnerable to the elements for a long period of time, you’ll want to make sure you have a good windbreaker to keep you warm. My favorite is the Cotopaxi Teca Full Zip, which weighs only 4.5oz, packs into itself, and comes in a variety of vibrant colors that will make you stand out on the trail.
6. Rain jacket
A rain jacket is another indispensable piece to any backpacker’s inventory. The worst feeling is being completely drenched from a rainstorm and having to hike the rest of the day in cold, soaking clothes. I love Patagonia’s Torrentshell Jacket, which is extremely lightweight and waterproof, yet breathable. It also comes in a variety of colors for men, women, and children.
7. Waterproof hiking pants
In addition to a rain jacket, I always carry a pair of waterproof hiking pants in my day pack that I can pull on over my leggings in case it starts to downpour during a hike. I love these pants from REI, which are waterproof and windproof. They’re also very warm and easy to throw on over your leggings without taking your boots off.
8. Lightweight hiking boots
By far my two favorite hiking boots are the Salomon Quest and the Scarpa Zodiac Plus. The Salomon Quest is the bulkier of the two but offers excellent ankle support for those with weak ankles. My Salomon Quest boots have gotten me to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro and through a weeklong trek in Peru, and they’re still in great shape. The Scarpa, on the other hand, are some of the most lightweight hiking shoes I’ve found. They fit my feet like a glove, are not bulky at all, and still provide enough support for anyone who doesn’t require a lot of extra ankle support.
9. Moisture wicking hiking socks
For backpackers, there’s no such thing as too many pairs of hiking socks because there’s nothing more uncomfortable than being stuck with a pair of wet socks all day. I’m a big fan of Smartwool and Darn Tough when it comes to moisture wicking hiking socks and would recommend any of their products.
10. Moisture wicking base layers
Smartwool not only pulls through for moisture wicking socks, but they also make high quality moisture wicking base layers. My only complaint with Smartwool base layers is that the fabric can sometimes feel a little too wool-y to the point where it’s a little itchy to wear. If you have a bigger budget, I would highly recommend Arc’teryx’ base layers. I invested in a top and bottom set nearly 10 years ago, and they are still my favorite base layers to this day.
Before I started backpacking, I never considered how important a headlamp would be, but it is actually one of the most important tools to have out on the trail. I always keep my Petzl Tikka headlamp on me at all times, in case I need to hike into the night, or if the clouds roll in and it suddenly gets dark outside. The Petzl has a strong battery life, so you don’t need to worry about constantly changing out the batteries.
If you know an outdoor travel lover who enjoys exploring unknown trails and discovering hidden gems in nature, you’ll want to make sure they have a compass with them on all of their adventures. While most people have a Compass app on their phones nowadays, most people don’t have infinite battery life on their phones or even keep their phone on all the time while on long backpacking trips. This mini compass easily attaches to backpacks and zippers and operates on solar power, so you never have to worry about the battery running out.
13. Swiss army knife
Need to cut yourself free from something? Carve a path through tall prairie grass? Gut a fish for dinner? You never know when you’re going to need a Swiss army knife out in the wild, but it’s likely you will. That’s why it’s the perfect gift for travelers who love the outdoors.
14. Camping stove system
A good camping stove system is difficult to come by when you plan to do a lot of international travel. Fuel canisters are not allowed in your carry on bags, and it can be difficult (and expensive) to buy fuel upon arrival in your backpacking destination. That’s why I love the Kelly Kettle by Sagan Life. It boils water faster than most camping stoves, and it uses natural resources like twigs and leaves rather than fuel, so it’s more eco-friendly. My only gripe with it is that it is heavier and bulkier than some other camping stoves, but the space and money you save from not having to buy fuel – not to mention the environment that you’re saving – makes the Kelly Kettle worth it for me.
15. Camping coffee press
If you know a travel adventurer who cannot live without coffee, then they’ll be ecstatic receive a camping coffee press for the holidays. The Jetboil Flash Java Kit is one of the most legit camping coffee makers out there. It can boil two cups of water in under two minutes and mix with freshly ground coffee beans to give you the perfect cup of coffee.
16. Backpacking food
I love Mountain House’s camping meal packets. They are so simple to make and tasty as well. Most meal packets only require you to add hot water. You can find everything from chicken and mashed potatoes to beef stroganoff to spicy Southwest breakfast hash – there is something for everyone. For the outdoor lover in your life who likes practical gifts, there is nothing more practical than a box of Mountain House meal packets.
17. Foldable bowls
Camping isn’t a sophisticated activity, but you don’t necessarily want to live like a complete caveman either. Collapsible mugs, bowls, and containers help backpackers live in the wilderness without sacrificing basic habits of civilized people. Sea to Summit has an excellent line of collapsible mugs, bowls, plates, kettles, and pots that give backpackers the luxury of using cookware on their camping trips without giving up too much space in their backpacks.
Balaclavas and buffs have so many uses other than just warmth. They can also block wind, keep bugs away from your face, double as a headband, and offer UV protection – which can be extremely harsh in the mountains. Every backpacker should have at least one balaclava or buff in their adventure travel arsenal.
19. Microfiber towel
It’s hard to say no to a shower on the rare occasion that you actually stumble across one while on the trail — even if that shower happens to look like a lake or a river. Rather than carrying around a bulky towel and stuffing that wet towel back in your backpack, use a microfiber towel that is quick drying and eliminates odors more effectively than a traditional cotton towel. I love this mini towel because it packs up really small and easily clips onto your backpack, but for those who need a larger towel, this one should suffice.
20. First aid kit
Every travel adventurer should have a first aid kit on them at all times. Even while backpacking in a group, it’s best to have a first aid kit on you at all times rather than relying on others in the group to have supplies on hand in case of an emergency. I love “The Solo” first aid kit from MyMedic because it has just about everything you could possibly need in a small, well-organized pouch that you can clip onto the outside of your backpack.
21. Sports watch
Sports watches can feel bulky and unattractive, but not the Nokia Withings Steel HR Smartwatch. It has all the functionalities of a regular sports watch, like a heart rate monitor, steps tracker, and even a sleep tracker, but it looks sleek and clean. It’s the perfect gift for the outdoor lover who likes to monitor their activity.
22. Solar charger
There are only so many portable chargers you can bring before your entire backpack is filled with portable chargers on a multi-week backpacking trip. Goal Zero offers several different types of solar chargers of varying sizes that fit every backpacker’s needs. I saw multiple guides on Mt. Kilimanjaro using these, so you know they’re sturdy and effective!
23. Water bottle
I first started using Nalgene water bottles back in the late 90s and have gone through quite a few water bottle phases over the years but have always landed back on Nalgenes. Their most attractive feature is that they are, quite simply, indestructible. I’ve dropped them on concrete and sharp rock edges from multiple stories up, attempted to run them over with a car, scraped them in dense forestry, and have never managed to create even a tiny leak.
Some backpackers swear by water bottles with built in water filtration systems. If that’s you – or your outdoorsy traveler friend – I would recommend the Journey Water Purification Bottle by Sagan Life. Each filter can filter up to 250 gallons of contaminated water, which makes it a very economical water bottle, and like the Nalgene, it’s very difficult to damage or break the bottle or filtration system.
24. Water filtration system
As an alternative to using a water bottle with a built in filtration system, you can use a straw purifier to fill up your Nalgene or other traditional water bottle. I have to go back to Sagan Life again for this one – their straw purifier comes with a hand pump that makes certain tasks, like washing fruit, extremely easy.
25. Insulated mug
Insulated mugs aren’t just for travelers who love the outdoors, but they do come in particularly handy on a long backpacking trip. There really is no insulated mug that offers better insulation than the Yeti Rambler, so use the holidays – the one time each year when splurging is encouraged – to splurge on this insulated mug.
26. Insulated neoprene sleeve
An alternative to paying the high price tag for a Yeti is to get an insulated neoprene sleeve for your Nalgene. Not only will it keep your water cold throughout the day, it’ll also prevent “sweating” if you like to load up your water bottle with ice at the start of your hikes.
Want something a little less serious and more fun? Get this sleeping bag bottle sleeve for when you crack open a cold one on the more relaxed trails.
27. Camera clip
GoPros aren’t the only adventure cameras out there – you can easily turn your DSLR into an adventure camera with a camera clip that securely mounts your DSLR onto your backpack. With the camera clip, you can keep your DSLR handy for any surprise shots that pop up along the way without worrying about banging it up against rocks or branches. This is the perfect gift for the outdoor-loving traveler who loves to capture all the beautiful moments on a trip.
28. Point-and-shoot camera
For those who want to capture all the beautiful moments on a trip but don’t want to sacrifice too much backpack space for camera equipment, a point-and-shoot camera is perfect. I love Canon’s Powershot Camera – it is small, sleek, and produces beautiful images. It is the perfect backpacking companion.
Even the most adventurous outdoor lovers still enjoy relaxing once in a while. What better way to relax in the wilderness than in a hammock? Madera is hands down my favorite company that makes hammocks. Not only do they specialize in hammocks, but they also plant two trees in sub-Saharan Africa for every hammock purchased in order to promote and educate locals on sustainable farming.
What are you excited to gift (or get) this holiday season?
Looking for more ideas? Check out our past holiday gift guides:
- 2018 Holiday Gift Guide: Useful Travel Gifts for the Minimalist Traveler
- 2017 Holiday Gift Guide: 25 Best Travel Gifts for Every Budget
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