We don’t need some fancy gadgets to start hiking. A good backpack and boots should be enough… But this post is not about “must haves” and “hiking bare minimums” but rather the nice things that sweeten the rough trails and make our hikes easier, lighter or possibly even safer.
So here is my subjective list of cool hiking gadgets and gear that I would love to have with me on my next hike or recommend to others. I am pretty sure that many other hiking and camping enthusiasts would love to get one of those as a gift – for a birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah or Valentine’s Day. And don’t feel bad for getting yourself a gift – you deserve it! And who knows better what you want and need on a trail than you?
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If you would like to check the item out on the American Amazon page – click the image. For the UK – click the link in the post.
Hiking Gifts: A Feather-light sleeping mat
After a long day of hiking, it will be a pure pleasure to inflate this Therm-a-rest Neo Air and get the well-deserved rest! And did I mention it weighs only 340 g (12 oz.) for a 3-seasons mat? It’s absolutely amazing!
I upgraded to this lovely mat before summer vacations and I absolutely love it! Thanks to the tiny Mini Pump it fills with air in no time and is super comfortable!
Hiking Gifts: A Solar power bank
While we all love to hike to get away from the busy and loud world, it doesn’t mean we have to cut ourselves completely out from technology.There is nothing wrong hiking with no phone, camera or GPS unit… but how many of us do that? We love taking photos, letting our friends know we are all right or share the passion of hiking with the whole world. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to keep our electronic devices running. ) Anker Solar power bank is a nice hiking gadget providing juice for our devices – even when we are quite far from the closest socket!
Hiking Gifts: An Ultra-fast cooking system
I don’t think there is anyone out there, even among the ultra-light tag-cutters who goes hiking without a proper meal cooking solution. There are the minimalists with cat can stoves or maximalists who fill half their backpacks with a variety of cooking gear.
I’ve been using Esbit (US) solid fuel for its size for a while and then switched to the, also great, MSR Pocket Rocket. I really like the upgrade but for windy conditions and to speed up the cooking time I wouldn’t mind getting one of those turbo-stoves!
I would love to put my hands on one of those cooking systems which integrate stoves, wind covers, and cooking pots. They are extremely efficient, fast and don’t take that much space in your backpack. There are a few different options out there, the JetBoil & MSR seen to be both great choices.
Hiking Gifts: A Water filter
There is obviously nothing wrong with carrying huge water canister with you to ensure you are well hydrated on the trail. But if you know there are streams or other water sources on the way why not use a filter and save on the weight? The Sawyer mini-filter is tiny, weighs close to nothing and is perfect to resupply with water on the go. It might be too small if you have a whole family with you, but perfect for a solo traveler. I’ve been using Sawyer mini filtration system for a while and it’s been a real lifesaver!
Hiking Gifts: Great compact camera
I do have a DSLR camera which takes beautiful photos… but there is no way I will carry it with me on a hike! It’s huge and heavy and I wouldn’t want to stop and take off my backpack just to take a photo of a nice view.
For the past two years or so, I’ve been using Sony rx100M3 (in the British Amazon I found only the mark 4 one: Sony DSCRX100M4 ) camera and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s the ultimate compromise between quality and size. It fits into my backpack’s small belt pocket, it’s easy to use and it supports taking selfies. The image quality is superb and it’s been receiving constantly high notes on many reviews. It’s the best choice for a savvy hiker who loves photography! For my full review of this little gem, jump here.
Hiking Gifts: A Good and light headlamp
I hope there is no one out there who goes out hiking with no headlamp. No matter what is your destination or even if you plan on sleeping in hotels on your hikes – you must have a headlamp and a set of spare batteries. There might be a time when you find yourself behind schedule after sunset. If you plan on camping – it’s just a must. But there are a plethora of headlamps to choose from and the competition is great. You can choose a sturdy one if you think it may get some rough handling or a light one to cut even more on your load, like the one Petzl e+lite above.
Hiking Gifts: A Kindle eBook Reader
Kindle might seem like a silly thing to add to your backpack. But I’m a believer! I love to read in my tent as a routine before going to sleep. But Kindle is not just to have some bed –time stories at your fingertips.
Before my hike, I downloaded to my Kindle everything I could: trail guides, documents with trail descriptions and reports, a copy of my insurance, maps (although not high quality) and more. Books are heavy but it’s difficult to go without them.
Hiking Gifts: A Hiker GPS Watch
There is no problem with going hiking just with your map and a compass. But again – why not make the hike a bit easier or maybe even safer? I’ve been hiking without any kind of GPS devices or sports watches but I do dream about one now.
When I was hiking on the Trotternish Ridge last year the weather was dreadful. I got confused and misplaced myself in relation to the map because of thick white fog and no proper visual cues as to my position. I met a group of Austrian women hiking around and we decided to go down together. One of them had a hiker watch with altitude markers. It helped us figure out on which line we are. That could be a real lifesaver! This little hiking gizmo: Suunto Ambit3 above seems just perfect.
Hiking Gifts: Perfect coffee for the morning before hike
I am a big coffee fan and hiking is the time I have no choice but compromise. I generally use those instant Starbucks Via (US) pockets, which are pretty good and tasty. But what if I could drink a real espresso each morning? This insane hand-held Handpresso can be just the answer to our caffeine – bereft dreams!
Hiking Gifts: An Ultra-light day pack
For our long hikes, we need a bigger pack but there are moments when we wish we had something smaller. As a carry on during flights, to take with us to a long bus ride or even on the evening trek to the campsite’s pub. But how can we fit a day pack into our hopefully-light backpack? Don’t worry – there is an answer. This Sea to Summit ultra-sil daypack is ultra-light and packs so small you start thinking there must be magic involved!
Hiking Gifts: A tiny but mighty step counter
This little gadget might seem not directly hiking-related, but it is. Fitbit One is a sweet little tool that counts your steps, stairs, and distances as well as sleep. We all know that the success of a hike starts much before we hit the trail – not just in logistic preparations but also by staying in shape. It is also nice to know what distance we completed during a hike. Not just for personal satisfaction but also to easily place ourselves on a map and count how much is still left. This can be a big factor in making such decisions as for where to stop for the night or if to push oneself further to a bothy or a camping site.
Hiking Gifts: Another way to have the perfect coffee in the morning
I already own an awesome, lightweight hiking mug by GSI, and I love it! (Just check it out below) I really like coffee made in the French press style coffee makers I and assume that this GSI Outdoors Javapress French Press would be a real winner – especially on those cold, misty mornings when you really don’t feel like leaving your warm sleeping bag… 🙂
Hiking Gifts: A pair (or a few) of awesome merino hiking socks
I know, I know what you’ll say, “Socks? Socks aren’t sexy!”But believe me – every hiker will go crazy for high-quality merino wool blend socks. And just look at them! Aren’t they cute? And awesome 🙂 Don’t worry – that kind of socks are perfect gift to show your hiking sweetheart that you really know what s/he needs 😉
I have multiple pairs from Bridgedale (like those to the left) and from SmartWool PhD – all great, high-quality gear (yes, gear!) for a variety of hiking needs. Choose according to the season you plan on hiking, the weight of your pack and the kind of footwear you would be wearing.
Hiking Gifts: A buff. Or two. Or three.
Yes, they are that good. No hiker will say “no” to another buff, believe me. There are so many to choose from – Merino wool or the original microfiber, with UV protection or insect repellent… and in colors matching every possible clothing combination. I have two and am already looking for some addition!
Hiking Gifts: Thermo Ball sweater-jacket
I generally don’t advise buying clothes as gifts, as it’s such a personal thing in terms of the right fit and comfort. But there are things that are easier to match and that are always useful. One – socks (as I already pointed out above), the other this universal and extremely practical insulated jacket. It’s very light and packs small, it can be stuffed anywhere in your backpack and is the perfect “just in case” layering item for every possible weather (also in summer!). North Face Thermo Ball Jackets come in multiple colors and styles – you will find something that matches yours or your beloved hiker’s tastes.
Hiking Gifts: Compression and Dry Sacks
That’s another one from the not so obvious gift material. But they are so darn useful! We need them in a variety of sizes and they tend to be a bit expensive when you try to buy multiple ones. Getting it as a gift would make my day!
I already have two compression sacks compression sacks and multiple dry sacks(even a tiny 1l which is perfect for my camera) – but wouldn’t mind another one. For documents, Kindle, socks for change or the dirty/wet ones, for clothes, sleeping bag or food – they are really useful and thanks to the bright colors can help in finding out what you need at the moment.
Hiking Gifts: Ultra-Light GSI Insulated Mug
That’s the one I have and absolutely love it. Unfortunately, mine isn’t in such a lovely color but is somewhat orangy-red. Which might be exactly what is the perfect color for you :)It’s made of hard plastic and dressed in foam insulation. So much better than light titanium mugs which might get you burn first and then get cold very fast. It’s so good, I use this GSI mug daily at work.
I recently got a new one, as the old one was getting all stained but still serves me well at work! The new one will be for hiking 🙂
Another piece of gear that might not strike as particularly sexy from the first look, but is just really useful. I don’t have any other utensil on me when I hike – just the spoon and knife. Don’t see the need for carrying a fork or spork. I’m not a fancy eater 😉
This Sea To Summit spoon is light and extra long – so if you eat from a bag or a taller mug/pot there is no issue of getting up to your elbows (well, wrists) in porridge.
Check out my other gear reviews and musings here.
So, what do you think? Do you like the list? What other items are on you hiking & camping wishlist?
Are you looking for budget Christmas gift ideas for hikers, campers, and travelers?