The Gift of Gear: A How-to Guide

With the holidays upon us many people planning a long-distance hike in the coming months are getting their gear lists together and starting to decide on the items they really think they’ll need.  If you’ve got a hiker in your life and are looking to get them the gift of gear, here’s a holiday buying guide to help them get the things they’ll really need.

Don’t Guess, Ask

The most important thing you can do for your hiker is ask exactly what it is they’re looking for.  Just like buying a car, knowing the make, model, and size are important.  A sleeping bag may just be another sleeping bag to you, but to a hiker who will be carrying all their belongings on their back for the next five months, the 6 pound behemoth from the second-hand gear shop isn’t going to cut it.  For example, if you know your hiker is looking for a base layer, ask them specifically which brand, model, and size they’re looking for.  Chances are they’ve done the research and know exactly what they want.

Skip Novelty

Novelty items might make great stocking stuffers and would be a great thing to have in the “real world” but chances are that heavy insulated flask isn’t going to make the cut on the distance hike.  The same thing goes for stainless steel water bottles and complicated and heavy multitools.  While they all make great gifts and would be appreciated by people who enjoy the outdoors, for a long-distance hike they won’t be practical. 

Some items that would make great stocking stuffers that would make it to the hike would be carabiners, a titanium spork, travel-sized Dr. Bronner’s soap, merino wool socks, a small tactical knife, or even simple things like chapstick, a paracord bracelet, ear plugs for sleeping in shelters, disposable lighters, or duct tape (the more colorful the better!)  While it seems weird to you, hikers would love these tiny things!

The Swiss Army Knife for Thru-Hiker Hygiene

Gift Cards

If your hiker isn’t really into sharing all that kind of information or you’re looking to surprise them, buying them a gift card to a local outfitter or even to a big box outfitter like EMS or REI would still be a great gift.  While gift card giving is a major holiday faux pas for some people, it is a really great option for hikers so they can pick out their own gear.  If they’re more into cottage industry gear (ULA packs, Tarptents, etc.), contacting the companies directly and asking to put money toward a large piece of gear is also an option.  Of course, the gift of cash with instructions on how to spend it is always appreciated (and yes, I received both of these prior to my thru hike!):

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I hope gift buying for your favorite hiker has become a little easier now.  Although the holidays are about giving and not so much about the receiving, it’s also nice to know that what you’re giving is going to be used and loved.  What are some of your favorite hiking-related gifts? I’d love to talk with you about it in the comments or over on my Facebook page!

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