The Backpacker’s Holiday Gift Guide: Under $100

The holiday season is upon us. And what better way to gear up for your thru-hike than to ask people to give you things? Just kidding… sort of. We polled recent thru-hikers on the gear they couldn’t live without on the trail, and came up with the following items you should probably put on your list right now.

These items will most likely be universally approved by upcoming thru-hikers, and will be used and abused for thousands of miles.

Here are the most useful gifts between $40-100 for upcoming thru-hikers, or anyone planning a long-distance trek in the near future.

Katadyn BeFree
MSRP: $39.95

katadyn befree

For years, the Sawyer Squeeze has been the hands down water filtration option of choice for thru-hikers.  There may be a changing of the guard in store.  The Katadyn BeFree is not only slightly lighter than the Squeeze, but also showcases a far superior flow rate, which can save hours over the course of a thru-hike.  The BeFree isn’t without fault, as the filter is more prone to clogging and the attached HydraPak bag can puncture, but with enough care, Katadyn’s new offering is our go-to water treatment recommendation for thru-hikers.  Pro-tip: Pay the few extra bucks for the 1L bag to save even more time.

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Compression Dry Sack – 10L
MSRP: $39.95

Protect your down items at all costs… that’s one of the first things you’ll learn about living in the woods, and hopefully not the hard way. Compression sacks are perfect for this, and worth every penny. Compress your sleeping bag and down jacket into one of these sacks, roll the top, and with a few pulls on the compression straps, you’ll save space in your pack while keeping the down items safe and dry. Check the different size options to make sure you’ve got the best one for your specific items. –Editors

Black Diamond Spot
MSRP: $39.95

black diamond spot

Description: Three hundred lumens at 3.25 ounces and $40.  This is the point hikers will be sold on the Black Diamond Spot.  A headlamp will become a crucial part of anyone’s gear, especially into the later part of the season, when daylight seems impossibly short-lived.  Throw in a few additional features, including a red night vision mode to not disturb your campmates, dimming and strobing capabilities, and a ridiculous battery life of 25 hours at its strongest setting (180 hours at its weakest), and you’ve described the perfect headlamp for a long-distance trek. –Editors

MSR Pocket Rocket
MSRP: $45

This stove is easy to use, boils water incredibly fast, and gives you the option to simmer your food if you want to cook slower. Weighing in at less than three ounces and with an average boil time of 3.5 minutes, this is a go-to for thru-hikers on every trail. –Editors

Anker PowerCore 1000
MSRP $50, often on sale

A thru-hiker’s smartphone is often their music player, GPS, camera, and Kindle. This means it’s hard to keep charged between town stops, which is why they’ll want this gadget—one of the lightest battery packs out there. This little guy will charge and iPhone over three times, and hold over two full charges for Androids. It’s affordable, reliable, and durable, and will ensure the hiker gets from town to town without their phone croaking. –Editors

Patagonia Bandito Shirt
MSRP: $53.00

Thru-hikers smell bad.  This is the most basic fact of backpacking. Fortunately, our stench eventually becomes (relatively) undetectable amongst our peers.  Unfortunately, our swamp-like qualities are still widely apparent to the outside world.  The Patagonia Bandito Shirt, treated with Polygiene permanent odor control, does a surprisingly good job of masking our upper body awfulness to those who aren’t continually inundated by B.O.  This makes our presence better received during hitches and in town.  With its thin weave and ring-snap buttons, this shirt is perfect for warm weather backpacking. –Editors

GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist Cookset
MSRP: $54.95

This super convenient set comes with two insulated mugs, two bowls, two lids, and a 1.4-liter pot with a strainer lid. All items nest into the pot, and fit a standard-sized fuel canister as well. Lightweight, convenient, and easy to clean. The only downside are the less-than-durable sporks. Best to go with one of these Sea to Summit Sporks. Shopping for a solo hiker? The Pinnacle Soloist is a great one-person cookset. -Editors

REI Co-op Essential Rain Jacket
MSRP: $69.95

Waterproof, breathable, with an adjustable hood and cuffs. You won’t find a better rain jacket for a better price. Read our full review here and find the women’s fit here.

Smartwool PhD Lightweight 1/4 Zip
MSRP: $95

Want to give a hiker something that will see daily wear for six months? This base layer is a longtime go-to for thru-hikers to wear on the move, at camp, and in town. It’s lightweight, warm, durable, and has a classic fit that doesn’t bunch and rub. Smartwool’s durable merino wicks sweat and stays shockingly neutral in the smell department during the long haul. -Editors

Montbell Tachyon Wind Pants
MSRP: $99


The Montbell Tachyon Wind Pants are so light (at 1.9 oz), they basically carry themselves. Once the seasonal threat of cold rain has passed, these are my goto extra lower layer.  Whether it be a chilly morning or windy mountain summit, they do an amazingly effective job at trapping body heat and shielding you from the outside conditions. –Editors

Vargo Bot 700
MSRP: $99

Description: This thing is your culinary Swiss-Army Knife.  In addition to being a lightweight pot (at only 4.8 ounces), what separates the Vargo Bot is its watertight screw-top lid, meaning you can also cold soak meals for those times you choose to go stoveless.  If your trekking takes you to areas where water is less than reliable, the Bot will also function as an additional 700ml of water storage. –Editors


Many thanks to the above thru-hikers, as well as additional input from Keckeley H, Anna Z, Alex W, and Megan M for their input. 

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