The Thru-Hiker Gift Guide: Under $300

I t’s that time of year again. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the thru-hiker in your life, never fear: we’re here to help. From the hiker just starting out to the one who already seems to own everything, there’s something fun and helpful in this guide for every type of thru-hiker.

This is some of our favorite gear from $150-$300, which includes some seriously awesome stuff. Top-tier tents, insulated jackets, sleeping pads, backpacks, and synthetic quilts fall into this range. Get excited!

Help your loved one gear up for their next big adventure at any budget:

Appalachian Gear Company All-Paca Fleece Hoodie (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $165
  • Weight: 10-14 oz (depending on size)
  • Material: 100% alpaca wool

“It functions great as a mid layer in the cold weather and as a lightweight camp hoodie at the end of the day in warmer weather. It was so soft I often cuddled with it at night! It comes in a variety of great colors, too,” claims Trek Blogger Trishadee Newman.

Altra Olympus 5 Trail Runners (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $170
  • Stack height: 33mm
  • Drop: 0mm

Move over Lone Peaks, Altra’s cushiest trail shoe is rapidly gaining traction among the thru-hiking community. Preserving the wide toebox and zero-drop platform that has made Altra a long-trail favorite, the Olympus rides high on cushy midsole that reduces foot fatigue. The Vibram outsole is also noticeably grippier than Altra’s other rubber.

“Yep, Altra’s Olympus 4 is cushier, longer lasting, and grippier than the brand’s other trail shoes. And not just marginally. Put through the wringer over 700 miles of varied AT tread, it became clear to me that the thru-hiking community was not wrong. These shoes are ready for an extended, pack-on adventure.  I came into this review skeptical of an overrated, overpriced fad, but finished totally onboard with what this shoe offers over my trusty Lone Peak’s.” — Owen Eigenbrot

Read our review of the Olympus 4 here.

Ibex Indie Hoodie (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $170
  • Material: 100% merino wool

“Merino wool just might be the best fabric for a thru-hiker since it’s breathable, thermoregulating, contains natural UV protection, is lightweight, and quick drying, but many of us gravitate to the fabric because it does not hold odor! The Ibex hoodie fits beautifully loose on the torso, long on the arms, and snugly over the head, protecting your skin from the sun and scratchy brush,” says Trek writer Alison Young. Read our review of the Indie Hoodie.

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $170
  • 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.

Read our review of the Helium Rain Jacket here.

REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Jacket (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $180
  • Weight: 10.9 oz women’s | 12.7 oz men’s

The Xerodry is the top high-performance REI rain jacket. It’s eminently functional with sleek waterproof zippers and breathable Gore-Tex without blowing up the scale.

Read our review of the REI XeroDry GTX Jacket here.

Outdoor Research Aspire GORE-TEX Pants (Women’s)

  • MSRP: $180
  • Weight: 10 oz

“I think they’re a good blend of lightweight and durability for rain pants. I use my rain pants as a pillow as well, so I like that they stuff into their own back pocket to give me a “pillow” with a more stable volume to it.” — Katie Jackson

Gossamer Gear LT5 Trekking Poles

thru-hiker gift

  • MSRP: $195
  • Weight: 10 oz
  • Materials: Carbon fiber shaft, EVA foam grip

These unique, three-piece trekking poles feature carbon shafts and cork-like EVA foam grips. Because they collapse in two different places, they pack up very small. They’re also dramatically lighter than most trekking poles, even other carbon fiber offerings.

“These poles are so light and comfortable to use. They are an extension of my body at this point,” claims Trek writer Madeline Newel. “I take them on every backpacking trip, including off-trail travel and on snow, so I have really put them through the ringer. When I finally broke the tip this summer (after a few years of heavy use!) it was very easy to order just the part I needed to extend their lifespan.”

READ NEXT — Gossamer Gear LT5 Trekking Pole Review

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles

  • MSRP: $199
  • Weight: 17 oz
  • Materials: Carbon fiber shaft, cork grip

A good pair of trekking poles makes all the difference. Black Diamond is known for making great poles. This pair features robust, ultralight carbon fiber shafts and comfy, moisture-managing cork grips.

ZOLEO Satellite Communicator

  • MSRP: $200
  • Weight: 5.3 oz

“I thoroughly enjoyed getting to use this device. It’s straightforward to use and knowing that it should always be in satellite range is particularly comforting. Honestly, this is truly a fantastic new spin on satellite communicators that I think will really take off soon (even more than it already has). Even though you do really need a phone to get the most out of it, it’s still pretty handy doing just enough without if needed. The ZOLEO  is an exciting option for anybody searching for an affordable satellite communicator that prioritizes streamlined two-way communication.” — Carl Stanfield

Read our review of the ZOLEO here.

Enlightened Equipment Torrid Insulated Jacket (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $200
  • Weight: 8.3 oz women’s | 8.9 oz men’s
  • Insulation: ClimaShield APEX synthetic

This iconic insulated jacket is synthetic — you can sweat in it or wear it in the rain, and it will be no worse for wear, unlike a down puffy—but it’s every bit as warm, ultralight, and packable as its best goose down counterparts. YES PLEASE.

Read our review of the Torrid Jacket here.

READ NEXT — Best Synthetic Jackets for Thru-Hiking

Mountain Laurel Designs Spirit Quilt

  • MSRP: $215-$245
  • Temp rating: 28°, 38°, 48°F
  • Weight: 11-26 oz
  • Insulation: Climashield APEX synthetic

MLD has been making synthetic quilts for as long as anyone and their Spirit is a classic. Combining continuous sheet Climashield APEX synthetic insulation with high-quality fabrics and an efficient design, MLD has reduced the quilt to nearly its most basic functional form. That means lower weight and smaller stuffing. And we say “nearly” because users of the Spirit have the choice to close or open the footbox depending on conditions. This quilt is available with three temperature ratings to match most three-season conditions.

Despite being heavier and bulkier than down, synthetic insulation has the huge advantage of retaining its insulating properties when wet, so if you’re going somewhere wet (hello, AT!), then you can rest easy knowing that you can count on your sleep system to keep you warm no matter what.

Read our review of the Spirit 38° here.

Enlightened Equipment Enigma APEX Synthetic Quilt

  • MSRP: $220-$250
  • Temp rating: 20°, 30°, 40°, 50°F
  • Weight: 9.5-37 oz
  • Insulation: Climashield APEX synthetic

Here’s another high-quality ultralight synthetic quilt. Enlightened Equipment makes some of our favorite quilts, and with endlessly customizable colors and options there’s bound to be a perfect fit for every hiker. High-performance down options are too expensive for this list, but their synthetic offerings are amazingly affordable, and the Enigma is our favorite for the simplicity and warmth of the closed footbox. There isn’t a single zipper to weigh you down or get snagged. If you do like an opening footbox, then check out the Revelation or Convert.

Read our review of the EE Enigma APEX Quilt here.

Patagonia Nano Puff Insulated Jacket (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $239
  • Weight: 10 oz women’s | 11.9 oz men’s
  • Insulation: PrimaLoft Gold Eco synthetic

The Nano Puff hits the sweet spot of style, function, and versatility so that you can wear it on the trail or in town. The epitome of lightweight warmth in a sleek package.

Hennessy Ultralite Asym Zip Hammock

  • MSRP: $240
  • Weight: 31 oz
  • Materials: Silnylon rainfly, nylon taffeta + polyester no-see-um mesh body

This classic thru-hiking hammock weighs about the same as a freestanding ultralight tent and functions the same, but without drawbacks like clunky tent poles or the need for a large, flat tent pad to set up.

Osprey Eja/Exos 48 Pack (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $240
  • Weight: 43 oz women’s | 44 oz men’s
  • Capacity: 48L

The Osprey Exos/Eja is consistently among the most popular backpacks among thru-hikers. It’s lightweight and streamlined compared to most Osprey backpacks but still features the company’s characteristically comfy and breathable trampoline suspension. The brain is removable, so you can make this pack even lighter if you want. A 58L version is also available for both the Exos and Eja, for anyone who may want more carrying capacity.

READ NEXT — The Best Backpacks for Thru-Hiking

Granite Gear Crown3 60 (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $240
  • Weight: 38 oz
  • Capacity: 60 liters

The Crown3 is an update of the all-time classic Crown2. Like its predecessor, it’s a minimalist pack that weighs barely over two pounds. The design is rugged and straightforward, without many bells and whistles to add weight and complexity to your setup. The brain is removable, so you can make this pack even lighter if you want.

Durson Gear X-Mid 1 Ultralight Tent

  • MSRP: $240
  • Weight: 31 oz
  • Material: Silpoly

Not only is this perennial favorite one of the best and most popular tents currently available, but it is also supremely affordable. Frequently featured in Best of roundups, Durston’s thoughtful design keeps setup easy, even though this is a double-wall, trekking poles shelter. In fact, we here at The Trek love the X-Mid 1 so much that we awarded it our Best All-Around Tent ranking in 2023. Careful now, no tent is perfect, so don’t expect this to carry your pack for you, but we are consistently surprised that such a great tent is so cheap. And if you’re looking for something larger, the X-Mid 2 benefits from the same design — it’s just bigger.

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm NXT Inflatable Sleeping Pad

  • MSRP: $240-$270
  • Weight: 16-20 oz
  • R-value: 7.3

The XTherm manages to keep the weight on par with most other backpacking inflatables while being the warmest, most insulating four-season sleeping pad on the market. The newest update not only boosted the warmth even higher, but also increased the comfort-giving thickness and drastically reduced the crinkly noise factor that was a major downside of previous iterations. And if you don’t need such a high R-value, then the NeoAir XLite NXT is a lightweight version suitable for three-season use.

READ NEXT — Best Sleeping Pads for Thru-Hiking

Mountain Laural Designs Burn 38L

  • MSRP: $245
  • Weight: 16.5 oz
  • Load Range: 20-25 lb

“Loved the versatility. Very comfortable for being so light. Water-resistant material held up well,” says Trek writer and man of few words Joseph Gonzalez of this frameless UL pack.

Durston Gear Kakwa 40 Backpack

  • MSRP: $250
  • Weight: 27 ounces
  • Material: Ultra200

The Kakwa is not only one of the lightest framed backpacks available, but it also boasts best-in-class weight carrying capacity. Woven Ultra200 keeps weight low and durability high, and a cleverly designed hollow aluminum frame allows the Kakwa to heft up to 45 pounds. This little workhorse is ready for any adventure, from breezing up the AT to scraping through slot canyons on the Hayduke. For bigger loads, the Kakwa is also available in a 55L version.

Read our review of the Kakwa 40 here.

Gossamer Gear The One Tent

  • MSRP: $255
  • Weight: 18 oz
  • Material: Silnylon

Ultralight yet still shockingly affordable, The One is the darling of the thru-hiking community. Thanks to its lightweight, spacious, durable design, it’s one of the best backpacking tents on the market. Need more room? Upgrade to The Two.

READ NEXT — The Best Thru-Hiking Tents

Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo Tent

  • MSRP: $260
  • Weight: 26 oz
  • Material: Silnylon

The Lunar Solo is pitched with a single trekking pole and provides 26 square feet of floor space (plus a vestibule). This iconic, ultralight thru-hiking tent is designed with breathability in mind, with mesh ringing the bathtub and a vent at the peak of the canopy.

Read our review of the Lunar Solo here.

Katabatic Gear Tarn Down Jacket (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $269
  • Weight: 8.6 oz women’s | 9.3 oz men’s
  • Insulation: 850 fill-power goose down

“No one does down quilts better than Katabatic, and they’ve brought this same level of attention and obsession to their new lineup of down jackets. This is a premium down jacket perfectly suited for three-season backpacking, priced well below other top-of-the-line competitors.” — Zach

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Pants (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $275
  • Weight: 9.5 oz
  • Insulation: 800 fill-power goose down

Not only will these pants keep anybody warm, but they look fantastic too. Okay, that might be a stretch, but you can’t argue with what the Ghost Whisperer Pants are designed for, which is to provide nuclear-level warmth in a low-weight, stashable package.

“As someone who gets cold easily, down pants are the perfect combination of lightweight, packable, and insulating. While too expensive to ever be able to justify buying them for myself, these would make the perfect holiday gift!” — Katie Jackson

ULA Circuit Backpack

  • MSRP: $279
  • Weight: 37 oz
  • Capacity: 40L internal, 28L external

The ULA Circuit has been one of the highest-rated packs among the thru-hiking community for years now, and for good reason. While it might not be the lightest pack on the list, it makes up for this in comfort, carrying capacity, and durability. ULA has a reputation for high-quality, highly functional backpacks, and the Circuit hits the sweet spot for most thru-hikers when it comes to balancing weight and capacity. And if you want to shave a few ounces, an Ultra version of the Circuit is also available.

“This pack is the most comfortable piece of gear I own. It holds everything I need it to — a full 68 liters — and makes it feel like nothing on my back.” — Abby Evans

Read our review of the ULA Circuit here.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa

  • MSRP: $285
  • Weight: 30 oz
  • Capacity: 60L

The Mariposa comes with a removable internal frame and a foam sit pad that can double as back support if you choose to use it frameless. It’s loaded with thoughtful, clever features that only an innovative cottage company like Gossamer Gear could devise, all designed to make this pack lighter and easier to use.

Arc’teryx Atom Insulated Hoodie (Women’s | Men’s)

  • MSRP: $300
  • 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.

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 12/1/20. It was updated on 11/22/23 by Owen Eigenbrot.

Featured image: Graphic design by Chris Helm (@chris.helm).

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