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

thru-hiker gift

  • 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.

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp | $70

  •  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).

Sea to Summit Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner | $70

thru-hiker gift

  • 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

thru-hiker gift

  • 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

thru-hiker gift

  • 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.

Montbell Tachyon Wind Pants | $99thru-hiker gift

  • 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

thru-hiker gift

  • 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.

Feathered Friends Down Booties | $109

  • 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.

Katadyn Steripen Ultra UV Water Purifier | $110

thru-hiker gift

  • 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.

Altra Lone Peak 4.5 Trail Runner | $120

  • 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.

Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles | $150

  • 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.

SPOT Gen 4 Satellite Messenger | $150

thru-hiker gift

  • 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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Comments 4

  • Avatar
    Shannon : Dec 3rd

    Thanks for the informative article, I’m excited to check some of these products out! My only question is, would the Katadyn Steripen be sustainable on a thru-hike since it needs to be recharged? I’ve also read reviews that say it doesn’t last very long or filter particulate matter as well as a squeeze or pump filter. I’m in the market for a new water filter since my Lifestraw will be inadequate on a thru-hike. I really appreciate your thoughts on this as there are many options out there!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Kelly Floro : Dec 3rd

      The Sawyer Squeeze is definitely the lowest-maintenance and easiest to use water filter, but I do know thru-hikers who successfully used the Steripen throughout their thru-hikes. If you’re concerned about freezing temperatures and/or want the extra peace of mind of a treatment that eliminates waterborne viruses, it’s def the way to go.

      As long as you top up the charge in town whenever you’re charging the rest of your electronics, you should be fine. Carrying a battery bank as a backup would also be a good idea. One of our writers, Eloise, is a Triple Crowner, and she used and liked the Steripen for her Appalachian thru-hike: https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail/gear-suggestions-for-an-appalachian-trail-winter-thru-hike/

      Re: particulate matter, the Steripen Ultra doesn’t actually come with a sediment pre-filter (the Steripen Classic does have this feature though). With the Ultra you have to buy one separately or use a buff or a spare sock to remove particulate matter.

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Shannon : Dec 4th

        Thank you so much for your thoughtful and helpful response, I really appreciate it! A battery bank is an excellent idea and solution, I hadn’t even thought of that! So if one is encountering colder/freezing temperatures and less potable water, you’d recommend the Steripen Ultra over the Sawyer Squeeze? And given that the Steripen Classic has a sediment pre-filter, would you advise potentially considering that over the Steripen Ultra? Thanks again for your time and help with this!

        Reply
        • Avatar
          Meredith : Dec 17th

          The problem with the sawyer squeeze is related to the risk that the filter itself could freeze (so it’s the ambient air temps that should worry you, not the water temps). The sawyer squeeze filter is made up of hollow fibers that can rupture if they freeze, which could mean that pathogens are able to flow into the clean side of your filter instead of getting clean. People usually solve this problem by putting the sawyer filter in a baggie and keeping it close to their body at all times during cold temps (e.g. in an interior pocket of their jacket, or tucked inside their sleeping bag with them. If you’re expecting to see sub-freezing temps all the time, it may be better to get a different type of filter that is more reliable at those temps. That said, most folks seem to really prefer these filters for the majority of what they’re doing, and are willing to put up with the hassle of keeping it warm.

          Reply

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