The Thru-Hiker Gift Guide: Over $300
Are you looking to wow the thru-hiker in your life with a platinum-level backpacking gear gift this holiday season? We’re here to help. Each of these high-end backpacking gear morsels is sure to be a winner with your loved one. Because sometimes you have to either go big or go home.
This is our gift guide for items over $300, but help your loved one gear up for their next big adventure at any budget:
- The Thru-Hiker Gift Guide: Under $50
- The Thru-Hiker Gift Guide: Under $150
- The Thru-Hiker Gift Guide: Under $300
- MSRP: $270-$630
- Weight: 9-34 oz
- Temp rating: 0-50°F
- Insulation: 850 or 950 fill-power goose down
Enlightened Equipment is just about synonymous with quality, ultralight thru-hiking quilts, and the Enigma is no exception. The Enigma is very similar to EE’s beloved Revelation quilt, except it has a fully sewn footbox (as opposed to the Revelation’s drawstring style) to maximize warmth. Like most EE products, it’s fully customizable: you choose the temperature rating, dimensions, fabric, fill power, and other features so you get the exact product you want. Like most bespoke products, it takes a while to get your quilt after ordering, so put your order in a month or two ahead of time (stock quilts ship faster). And like all EE quilts, the Enigma is available with synthetic insulation.
READ NEXT — Gear Wars: Quilts Vs. Sleeping Bag
- MSRP: $320
- Weight: 23.5 oz
- Material: Silnylon
This coveted ultralight tent weighs only a pound and a half. But its palatial interior dimensions will have you questioning how the laws of physics could allow such a thing to be real. Silnylon construction helps Gossamer Gear keep The Two ridiculously affordable despite being one of the most capable shelters out there.
“I highly recommend this tent for any hiker who’s looking to start shaving their base weight, without breaking the bank.” — Katie Kommer
READ NEXT — How to Choose a Tent for Thru-Hiking
- MSRP: $329
- Weight: 7.4 oz women’s | 8.3 oz men’s
“The Patagonia Storm10 Rain Jacket is a featherweight, weatherproof jacket that doesn’t skimp on the bells and whistles. I loved this jacket because it still maintained its impressive ultralight status, while also offering a sleek design complete with an adjustable hood, backpack-compatible pockets, and adjustable cuffs. Plus, it even stuffs down to the size of a 21-ounce Hydro Flask, which I found mighty impressive.” — Ariella Nardizzi
- MSRP: $350
- 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.
READ NEXT — Which GPS Watch is Best for Thru-Hiking?
- MSRP: $360
- Weight: 7.8 oz women’s | 8.8 oz men’s
- Insulation: 800 fill-power goose down
Not only does it have a dope name, but the Ghost Whisperer stands out as one of the lightest puffy jackets on the market. The hooded version is only a few tenths of an ounce heavier than its hoodless counterpart. We think the significant added warmth of the hood justifies that nominal increase in weight. For thru-hikers who value weight savings, this puffy is the gold standard.
- MSRP: $369
- Weight: 30.1 oz
- Volume:40L main pocket, 9L external (55L version available)
Hyperlight Mountain Gear has been one of the most popular backpack manufacturers among thru-hikers for several years now. Their über-popular Southwest line of backpacks has stood the test of time, and has proven time and again that HMG gear is ready for anything. The brand’s newest backpack, the Unbound builds on that solid foundation, making real improvements on a classic.
“HMG did a great job with the Unbound 40. It is easily my favorite of their backpack offerings, mostly because of the improved side pockets. However, almost all the other differences between this pack and their others (Junction, Southwest, and Windrider) are improvements in my book as well. While all the tweaks are relatively minor, they make a noticeable difference every day when in the backcountry. HMG sought to build a pack for thru-hikers, and they succeeded.” — Owen Eigenbrot
- MSRP: $390
- Weight: 4 lb. 3 oz. – 4 lb. 12 oz.
- Max Load: 220-280 lb.
Snowshoes for thru-hikers? You betcha. Granted, only a select few are diehard enough to attempt a full-on thru-hike in the snowy depths of winter. But even if your thru-hiker can’t use these bad boys on their long trail of choice, chances are they’ll want to keep the magic going after they get home. These rugged backcountry snowshoes are light, grippy, and featured enough for steep, variable terrain, even in the deepest snow. Perfect for four-season adventures.
Want to learn more? We wrote a review of the Lightning Ascents for your reading pleasure.
- MSRP: $399
- Weight: 21 oz
- Volume: 47L main pocket, 13L outer pockets
Zpacks replaced the old gridstop Arc Haul with the more durable, slightly lighter Arc Haul Ultra in 2022. Ultralight stays provide stable weight transfer from shoulders to hips, while the Lycra back panel keeps the pack suspended off your back for airflow — much needed during hot or humid hikes. The pack doesn’t have hip belt pockets (boo!) but can be customized with optional add-ons like a hip belt pouch or fanny pack. Zpacks’ suspension system continues to impress. The Arc Haul Ultra carries weight extremely well for something so light: 40 pounds of carrying capacity in a scant 22-ounce package is hard to argue with.
- MSRP: $400
- Weight: 34 oz
- Material: Silnylon
There’s a reason Big Agnes is one of the most prominent names in the backpacking tent market: their shelters are lightweight, durable, and designed down to the last detail. The Tiger Wall builds on Big Anes’ popular Fly Creek model with a crosspiece that adds ample headroom while keeping the tent’s weight well in hand. Thru-hikers love this tent after a long day on the trail. It’s reliable, simple to set up, and luxuriously comfortable.
- MSRP: $400
- Weight: 10.2 oz women’s | 11.8 oz men’s
- Insulation: 850 fill-power goose down
Arc’teryx is far from the cheapest name in backpacking apparel. But the price tag is justifiable when you consider the premium materials, meticulous design, and well-executed construction of each garment. For instance, this jacket features a generous helping of premium 850-fill down with synthetic insulation incorporated in moisture-prone areas (armpits, cuffs, hood, etc.).
- MSRP: $400
- Weight: 3.5 oz.
The InReach Mini graces many a thru-hiker shoulder strap — peace of mind in a compact, 3.5-ounce package. We love that Garmin uses the reliable Iridium satellite network to grant hikers full connectivity even when they’re miles away from the faintest cell signal. Unlike some other GPS beacons, the InReach enables two-way text communication so you can stay in touch with your loved ones. It also has handy features like weather forecasting and, of course, advanced navigation.
“It might be on the expensive side for a gift, but can you really put a price tag on the peace of mind you have knowing a loved one is safe? Gives you the ability to contact home or search and rescue wherever you might need to.” — Moose Juice
- MSRP: $360-$465
- Weight: 21-26 oz
- Insulation: 850 or 900 fill-power down
If you’re looking for a quilt that can almost do it all, Katabatic Gear’s Flex 22 is a great choice for everything that three-season backpacking can throw at you. With a focus on high-quality construction and fabrics, Katabatic quilts are some of the most durable and comfortable ultralight quilts on the market, and their temperature ratings are consistently rated as conservative. Not to mention, the pad attachment system is one of the best in the biz.
“I think Katabatic makes some of the best quilts on the market. Their Flex series is a great option for those looking to extend a single quilt across a large range of conditions. The thoughtful design and effective pad system are worth the extra cost over some of the cheaper competitors, in my opinion.” — GPS
- MSRP: $430
- Weight: 35 oz
- Material: Silnylon
The Hornet has a versatile footprint and can fit into tighter spaces than some of the broader pitches. This is technically a semi-freestanding tent (like the Tiger Wall) as opposed to having all corners of the tent set up with poles. You’ll have to stake out the footbox for a full pitch. The design is overall similar to the BA Tiger Wall, but the Hornet uses special proprietary fabrics and shaves a couple of ounces thanks to its cut-out fly design. The Hornet was updated in 2023 with Nemo’s proprietary Osmo fabric, a ripstop nylon and polyester composite that’s purported to be more water-resistant and less likely to sag when wet.
- MSRP: $529
- Weight: 38 oz
- Insulation: 800 fill-power goose down
Trek Writer Colleen Goldhorn says, “I thought I was destined to always be cold when winter camping. This bag has opened up so many doors in terms of having a comfortable night’s sleep in cold, snowy conditions and has given me the confidence to extend my camping and backpacking season into the snowier months. I can’t say enough good things about this bag – it’s incredibly warm and filled with Nikwax hydrophobic down.” Read her review of the Therm-a-Rest Parsec.
- MSRP: $599
- Weight: 13.9 oz
- Material: DCF
The Plex Solo is one of the lightest, fully enclosed tents you’ll find anywhere. It certainly isn’t cheap, but the fancy DCF material is hard to beat for stormworthiness and reducing weight. The small footprint also helps this thing nestle into tight spots, and the single-pole construction makes it one of the easiest trekking pole shelters to pitch alone.
“After sleeping in this tent for roughly 100 nights during my NOBO thru-hike of the AT, I can confirm that it is awesome and durable. It was easy to pitch in small places, kept me protected through some horrendous downpours, and was overall a joy to use. A mouse nibbled a hole through the bug mesh, but other than that, the Plex Solo has performed flawlessly and has many nights left in the tank.” — Owen Eigenbrot
- MSRP: $629
- Weight: 27 oz
- Temp rating: 20°F
- Insulation: 950+ fill-power goose down
You may have noticed that this sleeping bag is on the higher end of the price spectrum for… anything? Hear us out. Feathered Friends is one of the top names in sleeping bags and down products generally. Their name is virtually synonymous with excellent quality. This right here is the Ferrari of sleeping bags. Insulated with 16.7 ounces of some of the highest quality down money can buy, the Swallow earns consistent rave reviews for its lightweight, plushy warmth and thoughtful design features.
- MSRP: $650
- Battery life: Up to 57 hours in GPS mode
Garmin’s GPS watches come equipped with fitness features like heart rate monitoring, as well as navigation features like topo maps, GPS tracking, altimeter, barometer, and compass. Not only is the base model extremely capable, but there are many different variations, which feature a mishmash of upgrades including larger displays, longer battery life, solar recharging, and more durable screens:
- Garmin fenix 7
- Garmin fenix 7 Solar
- Garmin fenix 7 Sapphire Solar
- Garmin fenix 7 Pro Sapphire Solar
- Garmin fenix 7s
- Garmin fenix 7X Pro Sapphire Solar
- MSRP: $669
- Weight: 19 oz
- Material: DCF
You could say the Duplex is the quintessential UL thru-hiking tent. This single-walled trekking pole shelter is about as light as it gets and spacious enough to accommodate a couple or one very luxurious thru-hiker. Cutting-edge Dyneema fabric is durable, ultralight, and waterproof. Zpacks now also offers a Duplex with zippered doors as well.
Trek Writer Rachel Shoemaker says, “I was really hesitant pre-trip (PCT) with whether I should fork out the cash for the Duplex. What really appealed to me, though, was the guarantee that I’d never have to worry about its performance in the rain (DCF is legit) and how incredibly roomy (and light) it is. As it turns out, I don’t regret going with the Duplex one bit—it held up SO well on the PCT, and I’m hoping to continue using it for many trips to come.”
Disclosure: Many of the products reviewed on this site, including some of the above, were provided for free for the purpose of review. This list was originally published on 12/7/20. It was updated on 11/24/21 by Kelly Floro, and then again on 11/23/23 by Owen Eigenbrot.
Featured image: Graphic design by Chris Helm.
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