The Thru-Hiker Gift Guide: Under $150
The holidays are wonderful. They’re also a consistently stressful time for many people—even more so this year amid a global pandemic. That’s why we created this handy thru-hiker gift guide: so you can find the perfect present for the hiker in your life (even if you know nothing about hiking yourself). Help your loved one gear up for their next big adventure at any budget.
ZPacks Bear Bagging Kit | $50
- Weight: 3.4 oz.
- Includes: Food bag, rock sack, and cord
This popular bear bagging kit includes everything you need to execute a proper bear bag and protect your food from critters big and small.
- Weight: 2.8 oz.
- Max Brightness: 450 lumens
We love this headlamp so much that we named it one of the year’s ten best headlamps for thru-hiking. Our favorite features include strong battery life, a searing 450 lumen light output at the highest setting, and flexible charging options (three AAA batteries or a USB-rechargeable Core battery from Petzl both work).
- Weight: 14 oz.
- Added Warmth: Up to 25 degrees F
A sleeping bag liner is a great way to add warmth to your sleep system without having to shell out for a brand new bag. We’re not sure we quite believe the claimed warmth bonus of up to 25˚F, but the difference is noticeable. As a bonus, the liner will protect your sleeping bag from body oils and thru-hiker odors so that it stays cleaner longer.
Kahtoola MICROspikes | $70
- Weight: 11 oz.
- Material: 12 stainless steel spikes with elastomer harness
These minimalist traction devices pack up small, don’t weigh much, and are compatible with just about any hiking shoe (unlike crampons, which tend to eat trail runners for breakfast). They’re perfect for improving traction in moderately snowy/icy conditions. Every four-season hiker should own a pair.
Smartwool Base Layers | $85-$115
- Material: 100% merino wool
Who wouldn’t want to receive a set of super-soft, 100% merino wool base layers? Hikers need base layers for camp wear and as a next-to-skin active layer in the colder months. Smartwool’s 250-weight garments are thicker and better suited for winter use, while 150-weight layers are thin, lightweight, and perfect for warmer weather. Smartwool also has a line of merino-blend Intraknit base layers for active-wear.
Ursack Major Bear Bag | $90
- Weight: 7.6 oz.
- Volume: 10.7 L
This tough-as-nails bag weighs a fraction of a bear canister. This tough-as-nails bag weighs a fraction of a bear canister, and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee lists it as a bear-resistant product. (Note that not all parks/areas recognize an Ursack as an adequate substitute for a bear canister, though). It’s the best of both worlds: no need to haul a heavy, bulky, uncomfortable bear canister around, and no need to brain yourself with a poorly thrown rock bag while trying to execute a bear hang. You’ll sleep soundly knowing you’re keeping both your food and the local wildlife safe.
- Weight: 1.8 oz.
- Material: 7-denier ripstop nylon
Ultralight wind pants make a perfect gift for a thru-hiker. Many people don’t want to spend the extra money on a wind shell and opt instead to use their rain gear for wind protection, but a dedicated set of wind pants is a beautiful thing. And since many thru-hikers opt to forego rain pants altogether, an ultralight set of wind pants is a perfect compromise. They weigh a fraction of what rain pants would weigh, pack down to roughly the size of a large walnut, and still add an impressive amount of warmth to your layering system. Want to round this gift out? Check out the matching 2.5-ounce wind parka.
Vargo Bot | $100
- Weight: 5.2 oz.
- Capacity: 1 L
This ultralight titanium bottle-pot hybrid works as a cooking pot, a wide-mouthed water bottle, or a container for cold soaking food. It even has a heat resistant O-ring to prevent leakage. Thru-hikers love the ultralight multifunctionality of this item.
- Weight: 9 oz.
- Fill: 4 oz. of 800+ fill goose down
For the hiker who runs cold, down booties are a priceless luxury. Pretty much everything Feathered Friends makes is of premium quality. These slippers, which have a removable Pertex liner for added water and abrasion resistance, are no exception. They’re so comfy you might catch the giftee wearing them around the house.
- Weight: 4.9 oz.
- Removes: Bacteria, protozoa, viruses
The Steripen stands out from other water purifiers and filters because 1) it works even in freezing temperatures, and 2) it removes viruses (most products only get bacteria and protozoa). At less than five ounces, it’s competitive in the weight department, too. It takes about a minute and a half to purify one liter of water and should be able to treat 50 liters between charges.
- Weight: 21 oz. (Pair)
- Heel-toe drop: 0 mm
Hikers go through shoes like overexcited puppies go through chew toys. Gifting someone technical footwear can be a bit risky since everyone’s feet and preferences are different. Still, if you know your hiker’s preferred size and style, a fresh set of kicks is a thoughtful gift that’s virtually guaranteed to go over well. Not sure what type of shoe to get? If you’re shooting in the dark, aim for Altra’s iconic Lone Peak trail runners. Their zero-drop, minimalist design and wide toebox have helped make these shoes insanely popular on America’s long trails. They’ve dominated the thru-hiking market for years.
- Weight: 18.8 oz.
- Materials: Aluminum shaft, foam grip
Black Diamond trekking poles are a common sight on the trail, and with good reason. They’re sturdy, reliable, and comfortable to use. This pair features shock absorbers in the handles for maximum comfort and impact protection.
- Weight: 5 oz.
- Satellite Network: Globalstar
If your loved one is gearing up for a long hike, give them (and yourself) the gift of peace of mind. This minimalist satellite messenger is perfect for thru-hikers, who typically value the ability to communicate with friends and family with or without cell service but don’t necessarily need additional bells and whistles. The SPOT allows users to send pre-programmed messages to a list of contacts and has an SOS button for emergencies.
Featured image: Graphic design by Sophie Gerry.
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