15 Essential Thru-Hiker (Or Any Hiker) Items for $25 or Less

The holiday season is quickly approaching once again.  Your Aunt Annie, cousin Corey, and colleague Colleen all want to get you the perfect gift for your upcoming backpacking trek, however, they don’t know where to start.  When gifting you a handheld chainsaw or space blanket, their intentions are good, but the practicality of their gifts are not.

Below, you’ll find an awesome assortment of gear perfect for the long distance backpacker in your life.  Best of all, each of these items go for $25 or less. All of the gear listed has proven itself on trail for many hikers, so you know it is money well spent.

1. Darn Tough socks


Image courtesy of Darn Tough Socks


Darn Tough socks fall under essentials for a reason. Apart from being incredibly durable and comfortable, they have an amazing warranty policy that is especially favorable for the thru-hiking life.

2. Buff  Headband

Image courtesy of Buff Headwear


You can’t go wrong with a super funky headband! Having a headband/bandana/other all in one makes this one of those items you can use just about everyday on a trail.

3. MSR Blizzard Tent Stakes


Image courtesy of MSR

Image courtesy of MSR

Great for winter camping or sandy conditions, these tent stakes are lightweight (.8 oz) and durable. They’re also big enough to double as a trowel!

4. Sea To Summit Ultra-Sil Drysack


Image Courtesy of REI

Super light and waterproof stuffsacks from Sea to Summit are widely used for keeping important items dry and secure.

5. Trekking Pole Carbide Tip Replacements

pole tips

Eventually, trekking pole tips will wear -down . A brand new pair would be a nice thing to have on hand or sent ahead. Have them ready to be mailed out when needed! If your friend uses poles, find out which kind and purchase the replacement tips accordingly.

6. Platypus Hoser

Image courtesy of REI

Image courtesy of REI

They need water, right? Any sort of bladder and hose system works well for many people. Platypus also sells water bottle-sized bladders, great for some additional water capacity.

7. Dr. Bronners Organic Soap

Image courtesy of Dr. Bronners

Image courtesy of Dr. Bronners

Some hikers carry soap with them. If your friend likes to stay fresh out in the wild, this might be an option for a gift. Dr. Bronners is made with environmentally friendly ingredients, too!

8. Dirty Girl Gaiters

Image courtesy of Dirty Girl Gaiters

Image courtesy of Dirty Girl Gaiters

Gaiters are, again, a bit of a personal preference, so be sure they use them/would like to use them. There  are all sorts of imaginative designs to choose from, and they keep debris out of shoes extremely well. I had a pair for my entire AT thru-hike and loved them, as well as many others.

9.  Gold Bond

Image courtesy of Gold Bond

Image courtesy of Gold Bond

Be sure to buy travel sized! Putting Gold Bond on your feet after hours of hiking is a small thing that can bring happiness and health daily.

10. Electrolyte Supplements


During the summer months, when hikers are sweating bullets, replacing electrolytes is essential.  Plus, it’s nice to drink something with flavor on trail.

11. Leukotoape

Chances are, your hiker friend will develop a hot spot or two. Maybe a lot more. Not everyone has problems with blisters, but having a serious issue with them can suck. A lot. Having a way to keep hot spots in check is great, and nothing outperforms Leukotape.

12. Polycryo Groundcloth

Image courtesy of Gossamer Gear

Image courtesy of Gossamer Gear

A tent footprint or groundcloth for tarp campers is a common item seen on the trail. Gossamer Gear offers a great option for keeping your tent separated from  harsh terrain.

13. Small Nail Trimmers

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

An absolutely essential item is a pair of nail trimmers. Keeping toenails in check is important to prevent ingrown toenails and discomfort while hiking. To avoid any weird “look at my injury!” posts on social media, buy these for your friend.

14. Food!

Find out what sorts of food your pal likes to eat on trail, and gift them an assortment of hiking food! Some hike without a stove, so make sure you know enough to make an informed food choice.  Probars are good.

15. Trash Compactor Bags and/or Ziplock Bags

trash compactor bags

I would be ecstatic if someone offered me brand new ziplock bags. Over time, they get cloudy and thin, so brand new ziplocks are a treat! Trash compactor bags are perfect as pack liners, but they tend to get a little funky after a while, so a new one is always welcome. If  your friend uses maildrops, they can have ziplocks and a trash bag packed into their parcels. When they get their resupply, they get brand new bags, too! Score!

Ideally, after reading this you’ve found something that you can surprise your friend/family/significant other/(yourself) with for twenty five bucks or less. I also hope that by browsing some of these items, you can avoid the awful uncertainty of purchasing something you aren’t sure they’ll use or need!

Thank you to the The Trek team for input on many of the items listed above.

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Comments 4

  • Julieann Hartley : Nov 11th

    These are PERFECT, and exactly what I always needed. I suggest also adding “Light load” towels. They were a lifesaver and I could never get enough of them.

    • zrdavis : Nov 12th

      Yes! Good addition!

  • Murph : Jan 20th

    Heard good things about Handiwipes Heavy Duty… don’t last as long but weight/performance ratio is suppose to be awesome.


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