Here is a selection of must-have gifts for the Appalachian Trail Thru-hiker or Section Hiker in your family. It doesn’t matter if they hike the trail end-to-end all at once or in stages, they’ll appreciate these gifts and think of you when they use them every day.
We’ve listed a variety of gift ideas across a range of price points, from backpacking gear to luxury items that will help them enjoy their adventures. Chances are they’re busy saving for their next thru-hike or section hike, and we can pretty much guarantee that some of the items below are listed on their wish lists.
1. Nitecore NU25 UL
The Nitecore NU 25 UL
is a 400-lumen ultra-lightweight headlamp with three beam types (spotlight, floodlight, auxiliary red)
optimized for outdoor use. It has a built-in 650mAh rechargeable battery that can achieve a maximum runtime of 45 hours (6 lumens) with an integrated USB-C port that fast charges to full in only one and a half hours. A power indicator tells you when it’s time to charge while lockout mode prevents accidental activation. The ultralight band is highly reflective for enhanced visibility, including glow-in-the-dark bands for visibility without ambient light.
2. MSR PocketRocket 2
This reliable, lightweight backpacking stove is a classic for a reason. Weighing just a few ounces, the MSR Pocket Rocket 2
folds down to fit in the palm of your hand and can boil a liter of water in 3.5 minutes. It threads easily onto an isobutane fuel canister and is durable enough to last a 2,000-mile hike and beyond. We don’t recommend buying the fuel canister as a gift, however, because you can’t bring them onto planes, plus the canisters are easily available at most outfitters.
3. Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 Quilt
The Enlightened Equipment Revelation
is one of the most popular quilts on the Pacific Crest Trail and Appalachian Trail. This company was among the first to popularize backpacking quilts, and the Revelation is one of their most popular quilt models, coming with a zippered footbox. The stock 20-degree Revelation weighs 19.18 ounces, but can also be customized. The Revelation comes with elastics to strap to your sleeping bag and a draft collar to snap around your neck.
4. Zpacks Duplex Zip 2P Tent
The Zpacks Duplex Zip
is a 20.4 oz two-person trekking pole tent designed for three-season use that’s a popular choice with section hikers and thru-hikers. It’s very easy to set up and provides good weather protection. The two rainbow-style doors and side vestibules make it easy to share with another hiker, but the tent is lightweight enough that it can even be used by one person. Any hiker would love to get a Duplex Zip as a gift.
5. Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow
The Sea-to-Summit Aeros UL Inflatable Pillow
is a luxury item that weighs just a few ounces but has the potential to make nights at camp far more enjoyable. This pillow inflates in just a few breaths, will last an entire thru-hike, and has a two-way valve so you can adjust the inflation to your ideal level. If they need a pillow at home to sleep, they’ll need one on the trail too!
6. Katabatic Gear Alsek 22 Quilt
While some quilts feel like they aren’t wide enough to wrap around, the angled “wings” on the Katabatic Alsek 22
help keep the quilt secure around the hiker without a major weight penalty. The Katabatic Alsek weighs just 1 pound, 6 ounces with 900-fill down, and a durable Pertex Quantum Ripstop. It also has a longer sewn footbox than some other quilt models, which helps trap more heat. We also like the Katabatic Palisade 30
, but generally recommend something a bit warmer for a thru-hike, especially with the low weight of these quilts.
7. Sea-to-Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Pad
The Sea To Summit Ether Light XT Insulated Sleeping Pad
has extra thick 4″ air sprung cells that provide excellent comfort for side and back sleepers. ThermoLite synthetic insulation and a platinum liner reflect warmth back to minimize radiant heat loss. A flat valve makes it quick to inflate and deflate, and a combination stuff sack/air pump is included for ease of use. The Ether Light has an R-Value of 3.2, making it suitable for three-season use, while a size regular (72″ x 20″) weighs in at 15 oz. Multiple sizes are available. We won’t sleep on any other pad.
8. Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket
The Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket
is a purpose-built synthetic jacket made for hiking and backpacking. It is insulated with Climashield Apex, which is also used by Enlightened Equipment to insulate its synthetic quilts. The Torrid has two zippered handwarmer pockets, elastic wrist cuffs, and an adjustable hood opening to block side drafts. The construction is not sewn-thru to eliminate drafts through needle holes, which is a significant enhancement and departure from the norm for jackets in this class. Its raglan sleeves are designed to be used with a backpack and its ultralight nylon exterior fabric has a durable water-repellent finish to repel mist and light precipitation. A women’s model is also available
9. Zpacks Bear Bagging Kit
The Zpacks Bear Bagging Kit
is by far the most popular bear bag with backpackers. Weighing just 3.4 oz, the kit includes everything you need to hang a bear bag, including a waterproof roll-top dry bag, 50 ft of bear bag line, and a rock sack to throw over a tree branch. The bear bag is large enough to hold up to 5-6 days worth of food but is easily compressed for shorter trips.
10. UltraliteSacks UL Compression Sack
The problem with most of the nylon compression sacks you can buy is that they can be really heavy, weighing 4-6 ounces, each. But the Dyneema UL Compression Sacks
from UltraliteSacks are a real breakthrough in terms of weight reduction, weighing less than one-fourth of that. That’s an instant weight saving at a surprisingly affordable price. A size medium (6.8L) is the best size for ultralight backpacking quilts or warm-weather sleeping bags.
11. Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter
The Sawyer Squeeze
is the most popular water filter used by long-distance hikers, and the thru-hiker in your life could always use another one. It’s lightweight, has a fast flow rate, and is guaranteed for thousands of liters. Hikers also love that it can thread onto many standard water bottles, so you can drink straight from the filter. While there are several Sawyer options on the market, we recommend the original. It has a faster flow rate and a longer lifespan than the smaller models.
12. Hyperlight Mountain Gear Packing Pods
Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Packing Pods
(HMG) are ultralight kidney-shaped stuff sacks designed to use all of the space in a backpack and eliminate the voids that are leftover if you pack with conventional cylindrical-shaped stuff sacks. They’re made with an ultralight waterproof fabric called Dyneema DCF and have an attached top flap that lets you view their contents but zipper them closed for moisture protection.
13. TentLab Dirtsaw Deuce of Spades #2 Trowel
Proper Leave No Trace practice means digging a cathole at least six inches deep when doing your business in the woods. This task is less tiresome with the classic Dirtsaw Deuce of Spades #2 Backpacker’s Trowel
. Serrated “teeth” and a tough, aluminum build can dig into some seriously solid ground and through small roots. It also weighs just 0.6 ounces and tucks into an outside pocket on your pack.
14. Hammock Gear Wanderluxe Ultralight Hammock Kit
Hammock camping is very popular on the Appalachian Trail because it makes finding a campsite ridiculously easy: you just need two trees and there are millions of them from Georgia to Maine. Hammock camping is also very comfortable, warm, and convenient even when it rains because your entire setup is covered by a tarp that you can set up first to keep everything dry. The Hammock Gear Wanderluxe
is a complete hammock system that includes a hammock with mosquito netting, an ultralight tarp, and a suspension system. The company is very well known on the Appalachian Trail and has a great reputation. I use a hammock and tarp from them myself. Price:
15. Vargo BOT 700
The Vargo BOT
is one of the most durable and versatile options for cooking or cold-soaking food on the trail, this combination pot/bottle with a screw-on lid is a splurge, but will enhance any backcountry cooking setup. It has a 700ml capacity, a tight-fitting threaded lid, and can cook safely over backpacking stoves. It’s made entirely from titanium and weighs under five ounces. It’s simply ingenious!
16. Darn Tough Micro Crew Merino Wool Socks
Darn Tough’s Micro-Crew Wool Socks
are hands-down the most popular hiking socks used by hard-core hikers because they’re both comfortable and indestructible. Made with Merino Wool, they resist body odors and naturally move foot perspiration away from the feet to prevent blisters. They even come with a guarantee, that if you can wear them out, Darn Tough will replace them for free!
16. Hyperlite Mountain Flat Tarp
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Flat Tarp
is a flat tarp with 90-degree corners that can be set up in many different ways or “shapes” depending on weather conditions. It’s available in two sizes: an 8’6″ x 8’6″ model (8.85 oz) and one that’s 8′ x 10′ in size (9.74 oz) in white or spruce green Dyneema DCF. It comes with 16 perimeter tie-outs and 4 internal ones so you can lash it to the ground or nearby vegetation in many different ways. The tarp comes outfitted with line locks and the ridgeline is factory sealed. 10 guylines are included, but you have to attach them yourself.
18. Gossamer Gear LT5 Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
Ultralight and easily adjustable with a twist lock, Gossamer Gear’s LT5 carbon fiber trekking poles
have a three-piece carbon construction that can be adjusted from 23.5” when collapsed to 51” fully extended. The foam handle absorbs sweat, and the strap is padded and adjustable. The set weighs under 10 ounces, which is feathery light, making them a joy to use.
19. Garmin inReach Mini 2 Satellite Messenger
The Garmin inReach Mini 2
is a pocket-sized satellite messenger that can send an SOS message to Search and Rescue in an emergency when you’re out of cell phone range. It can also send email messages and text messages to friends and family, whenever you want to update them or share your GPS coordinates. It has an easy-to-use push-button interface but can also pair with a smartphone via Bluetooth to display GPS maps and navigational information. Weighing just 3.5 oz, it’s small enough to tuck into your pants pocket.
20. Durston X-Mid Pro 1
The Durston X-Mid Pro 1
is a 15.7 ounce single-wall trekking pole tent that is exceptionally easy to set up. This 2-door tent is made of Dyneema DCF, an ultralight and extremely waterproof material. All of the seams are taped and the inner tent is sewn to the fly so the tent can be pitched in the rain and still remain dry inside. This exceptional tent is quite stormworthy and includes extra guy-out points for extreme conditions.
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