We’re here to help you find the best gifts for backpackers in 2016. A lot of backpackers like to upgrade one major piece of equipment every year, which lets them replace old and heavy gear.
If your backpacker needs a new backpacking sleeping bag, choose a new down bag. If you remember your backpacker complaining about sleeping, it’s time for a cushy new air pad. And every backpacker can benefit from hydration systems — water bottles or water purifiers.
To help you find some of the best gifts ideas for backpackers, read on . . . and if you’re still looking by the time you get to number 10, check out 11 More Best Gifts for Backpackers — because we just couldn’t stop at 10. If you need a small backpacking gift, check out 10 Stocking Stuffers for Backpackers.
10 Best Gifts for Backpackers 2016
1. Ultralight Backpacking Sleeping Pad
The new lightweight inflatable sleeping pads are more like air mattresses than pads — amazing. The best might arguably be the Therm-a-Rest Neo Air Xtherm. It weighs just under one pound, is 2.5-inches thick, and 72-inches long . . . and it’s insulated to give you a whopping 5.7 R value, which helps on really cold nights and makes it one of the most versatile pads for the weight. If you need an option that is nearly as good at almost half the price, the best value is the Klymit Static V2 — it’s 3 inches wider than the Neo Air Xtherm and weighs just 17 ounces. At 2.5-inches thick, it’s plenty thick for all but the most sensitive princess sleepers.
(For more detail about the different kinds of sleeping pads, read “How to Choose an Ultralight Backpacking Sleeping Pad.”)
2. Backpacking Sleeping Bag
A good backpacking sleeping bag can make or break a trip. Down bags are the best — lighter and warmer than synthetics — but they cost more. One of the best gifts is the new entry-level Klymit KSB 20-degree down sleeping bag. It’s 2.75 pounds, uses water-resistant hydrophobic 650 fill power down and features stretched baffles that first appeared on much more expensive down bags. Two drool-worthy bags are the Western Mountaineering Alpinlite or the Marmot Ion, which weighs in at just 1.8 pounds. The best priced entry-level down bag is the Kelty Cosmic (but the Klymit KSB is usually close, too). A good synthetic option is The North Face Cat’s Meow. (For more detail and options, see also “How to Choose the Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag.”)
3. Backpacking Stove
There are a variety of backpacking stove systems, but you’re looking for one of the best gifts for backpackers, so odds are you want a fuel canister-based stove. These stove designs are simple, light, and backpackers can find the fuel canisters at any sporting goods store. We’re fans the Snow Peak Giga Power Stove with Auto Start. It lights easy, is small and durable, adjusts well, and is super versatile. Hard to go wrong here.
The Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System is also highly desirable — it boils water in just two minutes! It’s a great gift for a backpacker who already has a traditional stove and has hesitated to make the move to Jetboil because the other stoves still work. The JetBoil Flash is a great system, and most everyone appreciates it once they start using it.
4. Water Filter/Purification System
For North American backpacking — or places with generally clean water — you can’t beat the cost-effective Katadyn Hiker Microfilter. It’s fast and durable. Another option is an ultra-violet light system that kills bacteria and viruses. Get a SteriPen Adventurer Opti Personal Water Purifier. Alternately, the Camelbak All Clear Bottle Pre-Filter bottle will bring smiles, too.
5. Titanium Cooking Pot
Titanium is the wonder metal of backpacking. It’s super durable and super light. We like the TOAKS Titanium 1600ml Pot with Pan — or the TOAKS titanium 600ml Pot (because it’s big enough to boil water for meals but small enough to drink hot cocoa out of). As an add-on, you can’t go wrong with a TOAKS Titanium Long Handle Spoon for eating freeze-dried meals out of the bag — and it makes a great stocking stuffer, too.
6. Bear Can
While you can tie a bag of your food high in a tree with a rope while in bear country, it’s much easier to use a bear can. They protect your food from rodents, too, as well as keep your food dry. These three things make a bear can one of the best gifts for backpackers — even if you’re not backpacking in bear country. Oh, one more thing: Some areas require bear cans. Get the Bear Vault BV450 Solo Bear Resistant Food Canister. It’s awesome and will give your backpacker a new option for bear country.
7. First-Aid Kit
Every backpacker should have a light and basic first-aid kit, and sadly, many don’t. Tell your backpacker you care, so get one pronto. Because many backpackers forget first-aid kits or skimp on quality, a first-aid kit is also one of the best gifts for backpackers, and in 2016, you’ve got some really great options. We like the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight & Watertight .9 Kit. For even better protection, check out the REI Backpacker Extended First-Aid Kit. If you want to read more about first-aid kits for backpacking, check out “Best First-Aid Kit for Backpacking.”
8. Light Multi Tool
Weight is of the essence, so it’s important to choose a functional-but-light multitool. We’re big fans of the Leatherman Sidekick Multitool because it’s big enough to be useful but light to pack. Plus, we really like the saw blade for backcountry emergencies. The Leatherman Juice CS4 Multi Tool is another great option.
9. Backpacking Tent
Ah, tents. Every backpacker wants to try a new, lighter, roomier tent . . . but they tend to upgrade slowly due to the cost. For a super surprise, get a Big Agnes Copper Spur Tent in a 1, 2, 3, or 4 person size. What about a great entry-level tent? The REI Half Dome 2 Plus Tent boasts high-end features at a super price. If you need to learn more about great entry-level tents, check out 7 Best Backpacking Tents for the Money.
Here’s a gift that you’re backpacker probably does not already have — a hammock! The new hammocks are super light and offer an awesome way to kick back and enjoy the view after a long hike. Try the light and durable Eagles Nest Outfitters SingleNest Hammock. For a gift that many backpackers want but are hesitant to try, go with a hammock-tent combination. The Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock will set up as a 1-person tent on the ground when trees are scarce — check out our full review of the Blue Ridge here.
Of course, who can stop with just 10 great gifts for backpacking? We could not. If you’re still looking, check out our:
- 11 More Best Gifts for Backpackers
- 10 Stocking Stuffers for Backpackers
- 25 Gifts for Backpackers Who Have Everything
See also, Gear Guide: Best Lightweight Down Jackets.