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Backpacking Holiday Gift Ideas

It’s that time of year again to start thinking about gifts for your holiday wish-list. I’ve found it best to tell relatives exactly what you want, so they don’t get you something stupid that you’re going to have to re-gift to someone else.

I’ve pulled together a list of items for you to consider that I know I would appreciate receiving.

  • One year online subscription to BackpackingLight.com ($24.99). I’ve been a member of this online magazine and community since 2007. If you are getting serious about going lightweight or ultralight backpacking, you will get there a lot faster by reading the articles and gear reviews posted on this sight. They are exceptionally well-written and researched, but you need to pay for access to them.
La Sportiva Crossover GTX Mountain Running Shoes
La Sportiva Crossover GTX Mountain Running Shoes
  • La Sportiva Crossover GTX Mountain Running Shoes and Titanium Screw-in Hobnail Kit. These are a pair of products I’ve just started reviewing for winter hiking use, but they are extremely cool and I already like them a lot. The Crossover GTX running shoe has a built in gaiter to keep snow from getting into your shoe and a Gore-tex lining to provide some warmth and prevent wet feet. While the Crossovers already have a very grippy sole, you can further improve their traction by screwing in removable titanium alloy spikes resembling automobile tire studs.
La Sportiva Hobnails
La Sportiva Hobnails
  • If you want to do any winter camping, you need to significantly boost the insulating value of the sleeping pad you’re using or bring two of them with you and stack them to protect yourself from the cold. Another option to carry an Exped 7 Downmat, which is an inflatable air mattress filled with goose down, that has an incredible R-value of 5.9. I’ve owned a Downmat for two years and know many other winter backpackers who swear by them.

Food to Go

  • Are you bored with your backpacking food menu? If so, check out Food-to-Go, the new backpacking cookbook written by Frank and Sue Wall, authors of the popular Australian Bushwalking site, Our Hiking Blog. It’s full of sample menus from hiking bloggers around the world and includes international recipes tailored for backpacking and trekking that are simple to make and certain to add a little spice to your boring food bag. Man and woman cannot live on Ramen Noodles alone!
  • I really like the wrap-around traction provided by MSR snowshoes. I find them much more effective than snowshoes based built on a tubular frame and think they were an great innovation. This season, I’ve upgraded to a new pair of MSR Lightning Axis snowshoes, that have an improved binding system called SpeedLock which makes it easier to put the snowshoes on and take them off when you’re wearing heavy gloves. If you’ve every struggled with your snowshoe bindings in bitter cold, or dislike the flapping plastic straps on your current snowshoes, you’ll appreciate this new binding system.
  • I recently wrote a review about Fire Steel fire starters  and think they’re a great present for anyone who needs to be able to light a fire even if it’s wet outside. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner, a scout, or a scoutmaster. This is a great present and learning how to use it in a variety of conditions with different types of tinder is a great avenue of exploration for young and older backpackers.

Ice Climbing

  • Winter is here and I’m planning to broaden my skills set by taking some more advanced mountaineering, ice climbing, and avalanche awareness classes taught by EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports). When you factor in all of the equipment needed to go mountaineering or ice-climbing, these courses, ranging from $150-$275 are not “that” expensive. EMS offers mountaineering, ice climbing, backcountry skiiing throughout New England and New York, so check them out if you want to try something a little different this year. Giving yourself or someone in your family a free class like this can be a great present, plus class participants get a 20% coupon off of all EMS full priced winter gear. That alone can pay for the price of an EMS course because winter gear is so expensive.

Heifer Water Buffalo

  • Giving gifts and receiving them is a wonderful thing, but this is the time of year when I make a point to give to charities that help people around the world who are less fortunate. I know it’s been a tough year for all of us, but we still have more than many people in the world. One of our favorite charities is Heifer.org which gives families in developing countries animals, insects, or plants that can make a difference in their lives by improving their nutrition, income or reduce their labor. We try to donate at least one water buffalo ($250) or the equivalent each year, but it doesn’t matter what charity you sponsor, just that you share a little of what you have with people in need.

If you have any others gifts that are on your wish list or that you’d recommend to give to a hiker/backpacker, please leave a comment.

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  1. Love the Caldera Cone system- I used it for 9 weeks on the AT in the "Spring" with a SnowPeak 700 with great success. It worked great in snow and single digit temperatures (I am relatively sure that 20 or more hikers I met have purchased them after seeing mine). I made cozies for both ends of the plastic case out of Reflectix- they provided insulation in the cold when rehydrating in one side of the "case", and also allowed me to drink Via or bullion from the other and keep it warm while waiting for my dinner!

    And…thanks for the reminder on the Heifer org- sometimes we forget the "reason for the season".

  2. That's a good idea. I really like reflectix too. I buy a big roll about every two years to make cozies. Just found last year's cozy in my winter pack!

  3. Philip,

    Do you have any sense of what the R-value is for a regular old insulated pad? I'm trying to get a sense of how much added value the goose down brings.

  4. Brian – this list should give you a good idea. http://sectionhiker.com/sleeping-pad-r-values/

    Are you sleeping cold in winter? I remember you had a z-lite strapped to the outside of your pack on our Hale-to-North Twin trip. The goose down makes a huge difference. Enormous. But you still should bring some kind of sit pad.

  5. Hey Philip,

    Great chart! No, I sleep just fine, but only because I use two pads. I found the idea of goose down in a pad intriguing, that's all, and I didn't have a sense if it made a difference or not. It certainly does appear to!

    I've tried using just a z-lite, and that's totally inadequate. Two work well. I bet this one works really really well!