Backpackers need high quality, reliable equipment in lightweight, small packages, which makes stocking stuffers for backpackers such cool gift ideas for backpacking fans. What about the quality and reliability issue? When your backpacker is 30 miles or more off the road in the backcountry, the little choices in quality gear start to matter. Here are some core, reliable backpacking gear gift ideas that most any backpacker will appreciate.
10 Stocking Stuffers for Backpackers
Backpackers need headlamps instead of flashlights: First, ever tried to cook on a tiny stove in the dark while holding a flashlight? Not fun. Second, a headlamp is better for late-night forays into the darkness for call-of-nature breaks. Third, digging for clothes in the dark of a tent when you have a headlamp is infinitely easier than holding a flashlight in your mouth. Fourth, if you have to hike out in the dark you’ll want a headlamp. Oh, and for risking your life 20 miles into the backcountry, avoid the cheap models you find in department stores. These are all excellent backpacking headlamp options:
- Petzl Tikkina Headlamp — not the brightest at 80 lumens, but the build quality and price is right
- Petzl Zipka Headlamp — self-adjusting retractable cord, ultra-compact, and 200 lumens!
- Black Diamond Storm Headlamp — waterproof, 250 lumens, plus red and green night vision
2. Long Titanium Spoon
Backpackers eat a lot of freeze-dried food served directly from the foil bags they are cooked in. The bags are tall, and for tall bags, you want a long spoon. Lightweight, is great, too, so go with titanium. (As stocking stuffers for backpackers go, it’s hard to go wrong with anything titanium.)
Here are three awesome titanium spoon options:
- Optimus Titanium Long Spoon — simply perfect
- Vargo Titanium Long-Handle Spoon — damn near perfect, too
- Optimus Titanium 3-Piece Cutlery Set (fork, knife, spoon) — not a “long” spoon but this titanium set is great for adventurous cooks
3. Multitool Knife
We like multitools that contain a rough-cut saw blade capable of sawing through saplings. The downside is that these versatile multitools often come with extra weight and cost. It’s a bit of a balance issue, but we error toward functionality that can handle backcountry emergencies, too.
We also like Gerber and SOG, but you can’t go wrong with Leatherman, so try any of these:
- Leatherman Wingman Multi-Tool — sweet price (no saw)
- Leatherman Sidekick Multi Tool — includes saw, two blades, best bang-for-buck
- Leatherman Juice CS4 Multi-Tool — packed with tools but is also compact
4. Survival Blanket
We always recommend a survival blanket to throw into anyone’s survival kit when heading out in the backcountry — even for backpackers. Why is this important? While backpackers usually take a tent and sleeping bag with them, they also usually leave those behind at base camp when they go out and about for day hikes. Some day hikes are miles away from base camp, and when the weather turns nasty and foggy, a survival blanket is there for you when you get lost or injured. Because backpackers forget about their day packs, lightweight survival blankets make great stocking stuffers for backpackers (good for hikers, too).
- Sol Survival Blanket — large enough for two people, just 3.2 ounces, great weight-to-value ratio!
5. Waterproof Matches
We always go into the backcountry with some waterproof matches in a sealable sandwich bag for extra moisture protection. These matches are a dirt-simple solution, but fancier fire starters make great stocking stuffers for most all outdoor-focused adventurers.
- UCO Stormproof Match Kit with Waterproof Case — case floats, keeps matches dry
- Light My Fire Original Swedish FireSteel Army 12,000 Strike Fire Starter — one of the best, old-school hot spark makers
- Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Series Fire Starter — waterproof tinder storage, plus whistle and SOS guide
6. Water Bottle or Water Bladder
No matter what hydration system you haul into the backcountry, having two systems is pretty smart in case one breaks. Even when the bulk of our water is in a water bladder-type reservoir, we like to include at least one hard-sided water bottle, usually a Nalgene one. Nalgene created a timeless design that’s been updated with a BPA-free material, and it’s hard to beat. However, stainless steel bottles can handle boiling to sterilize water in an emergency situation, so we like that just-in-case option.
- Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle — durable, must-have, doesn’t leak, will tolerate hot liquids
- Camelbak Eddy Bottle — bottle holds a straw with a bite valve, which can be converted with a Camelback Eddy Hands-Free Adapter
- Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Bottle with Stainless Loop Cap — stainless steel, so you could boil water in a survival situation
- CamelBak Antidote Reservoir — can’t-go-wrong water bladder awesomeness, fits all sorts of backpacks
7. Emergency Water Purification
In addition to having two water storage options, backpackers should carry a backup purification system for emergencies. If you go backpacking with buddies who also have gear, that might be enough as a backup. If you go backpacking alone, you should have a water purification/sterilization backup in case your main water filter breaks or gets swept away down some mountain creek. We like to slip a few water purification tablets into our first-aid/survival kits, but lightweight filter straw is super cool and lasts a long time.
- Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets with PA Plus — these include a tablet to remove the taste of iodine
- LifeStraw Personal Water Filter — a truly awesome product, not just for backpackers, but for people around the world
8. Air Pillow
Sleep is critical in the backcountry, and while you’re usually exhausted enough to sleep, quality sleep helps. Air pillows are a lightweight comfort that backpackers often fail to splurge on for themselves — so they make great stocking stuffers for backpackers.
- Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow Premium — 2.8 ounces and 5 inches thick
- Klymit Pillow X Inflatable Camp & Travel Pillow — high-quality, super light
9. Freeze-Dried Food
A staple for backpackers is freeze-dried food. It’s lightweight and cooks when you pour boiling water into sealable packages, making it easy to heat and easy to eat (hence the long spoon noted above). Mountain House is generally good and Backpacker’s Pantry is a bit better for spicing it up every now and then.
- Mountain House Pro-Pak Freeze-Dried Food Pouches — 1 serving, vacuum packed
- Mountain House Granola with Blueberries and Milk — surprisingly good cold
- Backpacker’s Pantry Kung Pao Chicken with Rice — like we said, a bit of spice can be nice on the trail
10. Compression Sacks
Compression sacks let you cram clothes or sleeping bags into very small spaces, pushing out the air. They are super handy for backpackers, and it’s hard to have enough of various sizes. Even if your backpacker already has a couple, having an alternate size or type is nice, especially as they gear up their friends to go with them. If your backpacker is heading out into rainy country, get a dry-sack type.
- ALPS Mountaineering Compression Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack — sweet quality-to-price ratio
- Granite Gear AirVent DryBloc Stuff Sack — ultralight, waterproof, can’t-go-wrong
- Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack — another excellent waterproof compression dry sack
All-in-all, we’ve highlighted solid and excellent gear that also makes great stocking stuffers for backpackers. While you can find cheaper alternatives — for example, a headlamp for $5 — it will usually weigh 2-3x more and will be more likely to run out of batteries at the wrong time. Worse, it might outright fail in an emergency situation. In our experience, slowly acquiring quality gear over time as a backpacker’s budget affords works out best in the long run — and we think the same goes for when you’re finding stocking stuffers for backpackers, too.
More Backpacking Gift Ideas:
Need help choosing a backpacking tent? Read 7 Best Backpacking Tents for the Money.
See also, Gear Guide: Best Lightweight Down Jackets.