The backpacking world is full of gear you don’t need. It’s pushed on you by the big box companies as “Essential backpacking gear” and featured in “Top 10 new backpacking things you need” lists on popular websites. I feel as if this mentality is directly opposed to the ideas inherent to backpacking and thru hiking. What makes backpacking so great is that you have exactly what you need and nothing more. You are strictly limited to what you can carry on your back, and the less you carry the better. Sure you may swap gear out or upgrade to the latest and lightest piece of gear, but there’s no need to acquire unnecessary pieces of gear or gadgetry. I feel as if this minimalistic approach to possession is important in all aspects of life, and it is with this in mind that I have created this gift guide. Everything on this list is either a well tested and loved piece of gear that I’ve used, or a unique idea, book, or piece of art that I think justifies the space it takes up in your life. I’ve tried to include several price points and concepts in the list depending on who you are getting a gift for.

 

 

Before I begin the list, I’m going to include an excerpt from my previous gift guide, as I feel it still holds true.

The ultimate gift:

I’m going to be honest here, and I feel like many fellow hikers may be able to relate to this sentiment. I am tired of acquiring things. Long gone are the days where gifts for the sake of gifts entertain me. I have what I need and seldom want for more. I treasure experiences and family time over objects. Given that many backpackers share these ideals, I’d like to suggest a different gift that you can give. Instead of giving an object, try taking your friend/loved one on a hike or backpacking trip. Nothing beats getting out into the wilderness to spend time with a friend or family

Alright, alright, on to the list…

Backpacker and Thru Hiker Gift Guide 2017


Incredible Value:


BRS Titanium Stove ~$15


This Stove has become my go to stove. It is incredibly light, cheap, and compact. Very seldom do you find gear that hits that rare trifecta of  function, ultralight weight, and decent price like this does. Check out my review of the stove here and decide for yourself. (http://amzn.to/2Bk8o59)


Perfect for AT Hikers:


Between the Blazes Hand Crafted Katahdin Sign ~$60 (Currently on sale for $45!!!)


What better way to remember your time on the AT than with a miniature version of the sign that sits atop the end of the trail? This tiny Katahdin sign is skillfully handmade by Nate “Viking” Harrington (AT 2015). It is made of real wood and looks exactly like the sign you’ll find sitting at the end of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. The sign also doubles as a photo holder for your Katahdin summit pic. Viking donates $1 from every sign sold to the ATC to help preserve the Appalachian Trail, so you can feel good in knowing that you’re also helping to support the trail with your purchase. Mine currently sits atop my desk as a daily reminder that I should probably be out thru hiking. (https://betweentheblazes.com)


Everybody Poops:


Tentlab Deuce of Spades Ultralight Trowel ~$20


It is very hard to dig an appropriately sized, leave no trace cat-hole with just your tent stakes. I used to claim that I could dig LNT cat-holes with my stakes, but the truth is they probably could have been a little better. I used to shun trowels as unnecessary weight, however I’ve had a change of heart. As traffic on our backcountry trails increases yearly, we need to assure that waste doesn’t become an issue. The best way to do that is to dig proper LNT cat-holes. The best way to dig proper cat-holes is with a trowel. Luckily, the Tentlab has come up with this super light (0.6 oz) aluminum trowel that is a no-brainer. Assure that your friends and loved ones leave no trace on trail by buying them the one thing they might not think to buy: a super light poop hole digger. (http://amzn.to/2A3Aunb)


Light-headed:


Black Rock Gear Lightweight Down Beanie ~$70


I just got a chance to check out Black Rock Gear’s down beanie this year and I can’t believe I didn’t try one earlier. It’s super lightweight at around 0.95 oz (27 g) and boy is it warm and comfortable. I love the fact that the beanie is so compressible. It very easily stashes in a jacket pocket, hip-belt pocket, or at the bottom of your pack. This is also a perfect solution for cold-headed quilt users. It is now my go-to beanie for backpacking trips. (https://www.blackrockgear.com/hats)


Navigation Nerds:


Gaia GPS Annual Membership ~$10


Personal GPS units are a thing of the past now that our phones have such advanced GPS capabilities. Gaia GPS is the number one app choice for phone navigation and for good reason. Simply put, Gaia is all you need for GPS navigation in the backcountry (I always recommend paper maps too, however.) I use Gaia for offline topo maps, backcountry navigation, route planning, trail finding, GPS tracking/documenting, and even speed and altitude tracking (as seen in this picture during a flight over the Smoky Mountains.) Getting a $10 yearly membership to Gaia for a friend will give them access to more advanced maps and satellite photos, map printing capability, and more. A premium $30 yearly membership will allow them access to NatGeo maps, hunting maps, advanced European maps, and other fancy abilities. (https://www.gaiagps.com/user/gift/)


Good Reads:


Loner’s “Painted Blazes” and Carrot Quinn’s “Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart” ~$15


I enjoy trail tales that paint honest pictures of thru hiking, warts and all. Too often, thru hiking books overlook the grit and grime of thru hiking for more of a  “walking on rainbows” aesthetic. Being a thru hiker myself, I prefer the former as it is much more relatable to my experiences on trail. Tales that make me feel like I’m on trail are the ones that capture my attention and curiosity. These two books do exactly that and I’d recommend them for anyone that enjoys tales of thru hiking, backpacking, or adventure. (Painted Blazes – http://amzn.to/2iMeOmg) (Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart – http://amzn.to/2zmfbKl)


Support The Trails:


ATC, PCTA, CDTC Membership ~$30


Give someone a chance to be a part of their favorite long trail association and community, with the added benefit of supporting the trails we all use and love. Most of these memberships come with magazines, gatherings, and other great benefits. Check out the following links for more info (Many of the smaller trails also have memberships available): Appalachian Trail ConservancyPacific Crest Trail AssociationContinental Divide Trail Coalition


Give ’em a Squeeze:


Sawyer Squeeze Filter ~$35


This filter always makes the list. It’s reliable, lightweight, and affordable. In my opinion, this is the best water filter on the market and has yet to be topped. That said, it does wear out eventually and it can break if left out to freeze on a cold night, so it’s one of the few items that you might want to have a replacement at home for. I go through about one Sawyer Squeeze per thru hike. (http://amzn.to/2zkJVvg)


Spike the Punch:


Kahtoola Micro Spikes ~$55


Microspikes are one of those things that you don’t need often but when you do, you really need them. Not everyone traverses snow and ice fields, but for those hikers about to hit the PCT or CDT (or for frequent mountaineers), having a pair of micro spikes at home to send out when the conditions get rough can be a life saver (literally.) There are many forms of traction out there, but these are the most durable, lightest, and most functional. I love mine when I need them. (http://amzn.to/2iPlwYs)


Keep Them Warm:


UGQ Outdoor Bandit Topquilt

~$159.95-$399.95


I’ll admit, this is perhaps the newest piece of gear I own and therefore I haven’t had time (yet) to put it through serious, thru-hike worthy testing. But… based off my initial impressions of the quilt, I think UGQ Outdoor is set to become a major contender in the quilt market. If you haven’t heard of them yet UGQ is a small cottage company hand making gear out of Jackson, Michigan. The build quality on this quilt is top notch and the materials are all there. High quality down, super-light 10 denier shell fabrics, and smart design make this a sweet way to sleep warm in the backcountry. The kicker: the price points on UGQ quilts are better than any others, including Enlightened (even more so because they are on sale right now.) I’ll be releasing a video on this quilt soon. (https://ugqoutdoor.com/top-quilts/bandit/)



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