There comes a time every year when you have to buy something for that thru-hiker in your life. But, after they started thru-hiking, they threw away over half of their stuff! What are the best presents for hikers that they actually want?
As a thru-hiker myself, I’ve received many well-intentioned presents for hikers that I’ve never used. The problem is: thru-hiking gear is very specific and often expensive.
However, these 15 gifts for hikers are extremely thoughtful and helpful. These inexpensive presents for hikers will show them that you care about them.
Inexpensive Gifts for Hikers that They’ll ACTUALLY Appreciate
Hikers and thru-hikers alike can be VERY particular when it comes to their gear.
Some of these gifts for hikers are helpful because they can break and its nice to have a backup.
Other gifts might seem small but are some of the coolest gifts for hikers.
Sometimes, the most unique gifts for hikers add no weight to their pack what-so-ever.
This post contains some affiliate links. I have used every product mentioned and if you purchase one of these products I can make a small commission at no cost to you.
1. CNOC Water Bag
CNOC Water Bags are one of the items many thru-hikers use. They’re convenient, lightweight, and can be used a number of ways. First, you can use it as extra water capacity. Second, you can use it with a gravity filter. Who doesn’t like a multi-use item?
Both the 2-liter and 3-liter bags come in at $25 or less.
2. Deuce of Spades
Every thru-hiker can do a better job at burying their poop. A Deuce of Spades is an ultralight piece of gear coming in at less than 1-ounce!
They are incredibly useful for digging fast catholes. However, if you dig in a rocky area to hard, they can break. It’s a great item to have in general and to have a backup.
3. Big Anges Dirt Digger Tent Stakes
If you haven’t broken a tent stake yet, have you thru-hiked?
These Big Anges Dirt Digger tent stakes are solid, ultralight, and can take a beating with a rock. This makes them a great gift for hikers.
In some cases, you might even lighten your favorite hiker’s pack if their current stakes are heavier!
4. Goodr Sunglasses
These sunglasses have jumped in popularity amongst thru-hikers.
They’re a great present for hikers of any level because they are polarized with UV protection. Moreover, they’re lightweight!
Sunglasses tend to get very scratched up on thru-hikes. It’s helpful to have a backup pair to get sent to you if you need them.
5. Fuel Canister(s)
Many hikers are always looking for 4-ounce isobutane fuel canisters. While you are getting more bang for your buck with the 8-ounce canister, no one wants to carry one. In this case, it’s worth it to spend more money for less product.
You cannot send these through the mail, so don’t go crazy here.
This is a great present for hikers who go backpacking on the weekends a lot.
6. Titanium Spork (If they’re a New(er) Hiker)
This gift idea for hikers is aimed at new or newer hikers – not thru-hikers. Thru-hikers are very particular about their spoon choice.
If you have someone newer to hiking in your life, try getting them a titanium spork! It’s helpful to do a few probing questions for this one. Ask them if they often eat store-bought dehydrated meals. If so…get the long-handled titanium spork. If they do not, get the regular-sized spork.
Personally, I carry the regular sized one, but Karma likes the long handled one.
7. Electrolyte Packets
If you’re looking for a unique gift for hikers, try getting them some electrolyte packets. This is an especially great present if you know that the hiker does mail drops.
What you’re looking for: lightweight powdered electrolytes. Propel packets and Gatorade zero packets are a great start. Neither of these have aspartame and are ultralight.
Don’t get (unless specifically asked) full sugar Gatorade powder or Liquid IV. Both are much heavier.
8. New Lightning Charging Cord (Apple/Android)
Many thru-hikers save all their extra money to thru-hike again. Often, things like charging cords get neglected in the process.
A new lightning charging cord is almost always appreciated by hikers. Once you thru-hike with a charging cord…it’s never the same again.
Just make sure you know what type of phone they have!
9. Good Chocolate
If you’re looking for a unique gift for hikers, try good chocolate.
This is one of the best presents for hikers who are emphatic that they do not want stuff. Why? Because it’s edible, delicious, and then it’s gone!
Go a little out of your way here and try to get something extra tasty like Trader Joes Dark Chocolate Truffle Bar. TJ also has a milk chocolate variety as well.
10. Music! – Apple Store/Google Play/Spotify Gift Card
This is probably my favorite unique gift for hikers…the gift of music and podcasts!
Ask your hiker what they do for music on trail and they’ll often tell you which provider they use.
You can get gift cards for Apple, Spotify, and Google on Amazon, Best Buy, or Target.
This is another one of the best presents for hikers who really don’t want stuff! This helps them enjoy their experiences better.
11. Small Spice Containers
Most hikers need a little something to spice up their cheap meals. These spice containers only weigh 0.6 ounces. Every hiker sometimes wants extra salt and pepper or even some old bay!
12. UV Buff/Neck Gator
A lightweight UV Buff or neck gator is a helpful gift for hikers. Just like the sunglasses, things that protect hikers from UV rays are very important in the backcountry.
Buffs/neck gators are super versatile. Many hikers use them to protect their neck from the sun. Others use them to keep the hair out of their faces. You could also use it to keep your hat on in high wind.
13. Kula Cloth (For Women)
A Kula Cloth will revolutionize peeing for you (or the woman backpacker you want to give a present to).
They’re lightweight, anti-bacterial, extremely helpful, and have fun patterns. On their website you can also upload a custom photo if you choose.
A Kula Cloth is one of the best presents for women hikers there is!
14. Gift Card for an Ultralight Gear Company
If you know the thru-hiker or hiker well enough to know which ultralight gear companies they like, try a gift card for them.
This is a unique present for hikers to help them afford a more expensive piece of gear they want. Often an ultralight shelter or backpack is $$$$, so a gift makes it feel better.
These are also fantastic last minute gifts for hikers because they can be delivered digitally.
15. Cash is Still King/Visa Gift Card
While cash or a Visa gift card isn’t a unique gift for hikers, it’s one of the best presents for hikers.
Cash or a Visa gift card can help with ANY aspect of their upcoming hike. It could help with their transportation, gas, food, mail drops, snacks, motel stays, or gear items.
Cash is an extremely helpful gift for thru-hikers.
If you’re looking to spice it up, I recommend putting it in another box that has nothing to do with hiking. You could even put that box inside another box to confuse them. That way, you get to give them a treasure hunt in the process making the gift of cash more memorable.
What Gifts to AVOID for Hikers
As a thru-hiker, there are a few presents I’ve received that frustrated me. #2 actually infuriated me…
Here are three major items to avoid giving as presents to hikers and thru-hikers.
Every hiker like specific socks. I have not once received socks that I like to hike in. Not once.
If you buy socks as a gift for hikers, please know the very specific brand and model they want.
Otherwise, avoid, avoid, avoid!
2. Cliff Bars (Especially NOT the Costco Variety Pack)
If you’re getting a present for hikers, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCE buy them cliff bars. Especially NOT Peanut Butter Crunch, Chocolate Chip, or Chocolate Brownie.
Most thru-hikers have eaten entirely too many of these on their first thru-hike. Once you overeat these flavors you will have a gag reflex and literally not be able to eat them.
Just like socks, thru-hikers are very particular about their underwear.
Unless they ask for a specific type of underwear…don’t do it.
Final Thoughts about Presents for Thru-Hikers
Hopefully, this list gave you some good gift ideas for hikers.
As a thru-hiker, these are all awesome presents to receive. One of the coolest gifts for hikers is definitely the gift of music and podcasts.
Otherwise, these small gifts for hikers are thoughtful and useful for their next hike.
If you’re curious what thru-hikers actually carry…here is every item Karma and I carried on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).
Cheers and happy gift giving!