The REI Thru-Hiker Holiday Gift Guide
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If you’re perusing this site, chances are someone on your holiday list is thru-hiking, or you yourself are hitting a trail within the next year. This is your one-stop shop for the most useful items to buy a thru-hiker available at REI, in a variety of categories. Whether you’re looking for a big-ticket item or a few smaller pieces of gear, anything on this list will be gratefully appreciated and stashed in the pack.
And if you’re not already, consider becoming an REI member with your purchase for a one-time $30 fee. You’ll receive 10% back on eligible purchases and have access to exclusive deals and coupons throughout the year. And yes, it’s a lifetime membership with zero renewal fees. Once you’re in, you’re in.
Additionally, if you’re an REI member (and you really should be), you can take 20% off any one full-price piece of gear at REI AND an extra 20% off one outlet item from now through November 20th. Use the code GEARUP23 at checkout.
So here’s a list of our favorite gear for thru-hiking that’s available at REI. All this is great stuff, but there’s really too much to list here. This is a great starting point if you looking for gifts, but don’t be afraid to dig deeper. There’s something for every hiker. Even the dreaded “socks from grandma” will be a hit with the thru-hiker in your family.
- Heel-toe drop: 0mm
- Stack height: 25mm
Ranked as the most popular shoe (once again) in The Trek’s 2022 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey, Altra Lone Peak’s continue to prove themselves on the longest trails. While footwear fit is intensely personal, these shoes do something right for a lot of hikers. Chalk it up to the wide footbox and zero-drop platform if you want to, but it’s tough to stay at the top in this competitive category. For years now, minor tweaks have lightened this shoe and contributed to its continued dominance while the core features remain the same. If you’re trail-runner curious, it’s worth trying on some Altra’s.
- Waterproof: Nope. Waterproof (women’s | men’s) and Gore-Tex versions available (women’s | men’s)
- Ankle coverage: Yes, low-cut versions available (women’s | men’s)
If you haven’t switched, or refuse to switch, to trail runners then the Merrell Moabs are a great lightweight boot that have proven year after year to handle the rigors of trail. With more foot protection and durability than lightweight trail runners, it’s not unheard of for Moabs to go 1,000+ miles per pair. Yet for a boot, they are remarkably lightweight and strike a winning balance between comfort, durability, and price. Considering their longevity, these boots are a deal.
- Weight: 2lbs 5oz
Unless you’re dead set on a trekking pole shelter, then you’ve probably already considered the Tiger Wall from Big Agnes. Its smart pole structure and double-wall construction make it easy to set up on a variety of surfaces and provide nice liveability features, all while remaining remarkably lightweight. If you don’t want to dive into DCF or mess with balancing trekking poles and guy line tension, it really is hard to beat this classic UL tent. And if you’re a solo hiker who wants to go even lighter, the Tiger Wall is available in a 1-person version as well.
READ NEXT — How to Choose a Tent for Thru-Hiking
- R-value: 4.5
- Weight: 13-17oz
One of thru-hiking’s favorite sleeping pads has been redesigned to address some persistent issues of past models. Most excitingly, the NeoAir XLite now does not crinkle like a noisy bag of chips when you move around. This is great for everybody, and this inflatable pad is still one of the lightest, warmest, and most comfortable pads on the market. What was great last year is even better today.
- R-value: 2
- Weight: 14.5oz
Afraid of dropping a bunch of cash on a glorified pool floatie? We understand. While inflatable pads are comfortable, lightweight, and pack small, they are rendered useless after developing a puncture. Repairs are sometimes possible and permanent, but foam pads are ridiculously durable and reliable. The NEMO Switchback is the best of them, providing more comfort than the competition. No one ever described it as plushy, but it will go the distance without drama. Plus, it makes a great sitpad for snack breaks and stretching sessions.
READ NEXT — Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol vs. NEMO Switchback
- Materials: Robic nylon
- Weight: 2lbs 12oz women’s | 2lbs 13oz men’s
With an impressive set of customizable features, the REI Flash 55 is a dark horse in the thru-hiking world. Keep all the bells and whistles for lots of organization, or ditch them for simplicity. Not only is it the perfect size to handle most gear lists and long food hauls, but it also nicely balances weight with comfort and features. No, this isn’t the lightest pack around, but it sure is comfortable and doesn’t get the credit that it deserves.
- Material: Dyneema composite
- Weight: 2lbs 3oz
The HMG Southwest is a classic ultralight pack that has proven to be a durable workhorse despite its gossamer weight. Dyneema Composite construction and a simple design lighten the load without sacrificing the essentials, and it can still haul up to 40 pounds. No matter where you’re going, this pack will help you get there, whether it’s a rugged 10-mile scramble, or a 2,600-mile summer on the PCT. The 55-liter version will be a good choice for most backpackers, but a 40-liter version is available for those with paired-down gear lists. A 70-liter hauler is also an option.
- Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Pack (Read our review of the Mountainsmith Zerk here)
- Granite Gear Crown3 60 Pack (Women’s | Men’s)
- Arc’teryx Aerios 45 Pack (Women’s | Men’s) (Read our review of the Arc’teryx Aerios 45 here)
READ NEXT — How to Choose a Backpack for Thru-Hiking
- Weight: 3.5oz
With two-way satellite messaging, waypoint tracking, local weather forecasts, and SOS capabilities (among other features), the aptly named inReach Mini 2 packs a lot of peace of mind into a sub-four-ounce package.
- Battery life: 45hrs of full GPS; 17 days regular use
The battery life of the Coros APEX 2 is what sets this GPS-enabled watch apart from the competition. If you’re looking for a device to track your workouts or thru-hike, then consider slapping this watch on your wrist. Somehow the full feature set, including GPS tracking, music, fitness metrics, offline maps, and industry-leading battery life all fits into a pleasingly sleek package.
- Includes: Stove, pot, lid, fuel stabilizer
- Weight: 7.1oz
While it might be possible to piece together a lighter-weight cook kit for your thru-hike, it’s hard to beat the all-included Stash Cooking System from Jetboil. The pot, stove, foldable stabilizer, and small fuel canister all nest together, helping to keep your entire kitchen small and stashable (ha!). Not to mention, the whole thing weighs only 7.1oz, not including fuel. If you’re starting from scratch, this efficient stove and pot combination is an awesome solution for getting your hot food and drinks game going.
- Best flavor: Pad Thai
For the thru-hiker that has everything, you can always bet that they’ll be hungry at some point in the future. Fancy freeze-dried backpacking meals are usually too expensive to eat extensively on a long thru-hike, but that doesn’t mean they’re not nice as a delicious treat once in a while. Backpacker Pantry has been making some of the yummiest meals for a long time now, so why not give the gift of joy in the form of a nutritious meal? After months of eating ramen and mashed potatoes, these are as good as gold.
- MSR PocketRocket Deluxe Stove
- GSI Outdoors Essential Long Spoon
- Jetboil Flash Java Kit Cooking System
- TOAKS Titanium 750ml Pot
- Material: Recycled polyester
- Sun protection: UPF 15-20
Here at The Trek, we love a good sun hoodie. They are the perfect garment no matter the activity, whether it’s crunching across the sun-scorched desert or scrambling through a cold cloud in the Whites. The OR Echo Hoodie is one of the breeziest available, perfectly suited to those hikes you’d prefer to do shirtless, except for the inevitable painful sunburn. Save the sunscreen and block those harmful rays the smart way.
- Weight: 3.4oz women’s | 3.7oz men’s
A wind jacket is one of those layers that you’ll never think you need, but that you always end up using anyway. On cool mornings or windy ridgelines, it will be invaluable when the only alternatives are shivering in your shirt or sweating it out in your puffy. The Houdini has been one of our favorite wind jackets for years now, and even though it weighs more than others, it is still so lightweight and packable that you’ll bring it with you on every trip.
- Insulation: Synthetic Coreloft (recycled polyester)
- Weight: 10.9 oz women’s | 13.1 oz men’s
Everything about the stuff that Arc-teryx makes feels high-quality. While it’s rarely the cheapest or lightest gear available, form and function are clearly the priority. The Atom is one of the best synthetic puffies out there, pairing quality and durable materials with meticulous design that is obvious when first putting it on. You’ll notice this in the fabrics as well as the fleece-lined pockets and excellent hood.
- Weight: 6.3 oz
The OR Helium has been one of the most popular rain jackets among thru-hikers for as long as anyone can remember. While it’s a little light on features like hand pockets and pit zips, it is consistently one of the lightest rain jackets available. For something that you hope to keep in your pack most of the time, reducing weight and bulk is usually a top priority. The Helium doesn’t disappoint.
- Darn Tough Hiking Socks
- Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoodie (Women’s | Men’s) (Read our review of the Patagonia Cool Daily Hoodie here)
- REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie (Women’s | Men’s)
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer/2 Down Hoodie (Women’s | Men’s)
- REI Co-op Minimalist GTX Mits
- Material: 7075 Aluminum
- Weight: 19.5 oz per pair
Trekking poles improve the backpacking experience in so many ways, from reducing leg fatigue and pitching ultralight shelters, to fighting off aggressive wildlife and dogs. While carbon fiber poles are usually the lightest option, aluminum poles are more durable over the long term, and the REI Traverse poles are a reliable option that should endure the most rugged thru-hike.
- Weight: 3.4 ounces
- Flow Rate: Up to 3L/min
In the world of squeeze-style water filters, the Quickdraw is easily one of the best. The thoughtful design increases compatibility, offers a faster flow rate (when new), and makes backflushing an easy chore. While using one filter for more than one person is a recipe for dehydration and tired hands, the Quickdraw is an awesome solution to keeping the nasty stuff out of your water. It hardly weighs anything, so bring it along.
Featured Image: Graphic design by Zack Goldman.
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