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 NU33 Rechargeable Headlamp
The Nitecore NU 33 is a very bright 700 lumen rechargeable headlamp with a larger-than-average 6.6Whr (2000 mAh) lithium-ion battery for long-lasting power. It has four brightness levels, a primary CREE spotlight, and auxiliary LEDs for flood, closeup, and red lighting modes with a tilt adjustment making it ideal for night hiking, trail running, cycling, and camping. The NU 33 has a built-in power indicator and lock to prevent accidental activation, it is water-resistant to 2 meters and includes a USB-C cable for recharging. Price: $50.
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. Price: $50.
Darn Tough’s Micro-Crew socks are hands-down the most popular hiking socks on the Appalachian Trail 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! Price: $25.
The Zpacks Duplex is an 18.5 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 as a gift. Price: $699.
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! Price: $40.
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. Price: $420.
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 you 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. Price: $189.
An insulated jacket for under $200? Yep. The Enlightened Equipment Torrid APEX is a synthetic insulated jacket with a lightweight, water-resistant shell. It has a deep hood, you can wear it while hiking since the synthetic insulation is more breathable than down, and it weighs around 8 ounces. Choose from custom colors, or buy one “off the shelf” if you don’t want to wait for the lead time. Price: $185.
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. Price: $65.
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. Price: $30.
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. Price: $39.
Adding one or two of these Dyneema Composite Fabric “pod-shaped stuff sacks” to a backpacking setup helps keep gear organized and protected from the elements. They are extremely durable and versatile—use them for small items you want to keep handy at the top of your pack, or to keep a compressible down jacket protected. The structured design and wide-mouth zipper make for easy access and stackable packing. They’re also compatible with most backpacks. Price: $59.
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 Deuce of Spades 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. Price: $20.
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: $475.99
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! Price: $100.
The Swiss Army Classic multi-tool is a longtime hiker favorite because it’s super lightweight but packs many of the tools that hikers need on a daily basis, ranging from a small pair of sharp scissors and a knife to a nail file, toothpick, and tweezers. Weighing just 0.7 ounces, it’s easy to clip to the outside of your backpack with a mini-biner for easy access. Replacement toothpicks and tweezers are also available since they’re usually the first thing you lose. Price: $22.
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. Price: $389.
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, but also means you need to be more careful to avoid breakage. Important note: If the thru-hiker on your list is an ounce-counter, these poles are a great option. If they’re harder on gear, look for something heavier and more durable. Price $195.
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. Price: $400.
Gossamer Gear’s “The One” is an ultralight, single-walled trekking-pole tent that weighs 17.7 oz. It has a spacious interior that’s a palace for one, with excellent ventilation to help prevent internal condensation. Made with 10d Sil/PU ripstop nylon, the One is factory seam-taped so you can use it without seam-sealing. The front vestibule is quite large with a zippered center opening which can be closed shut in inclement weather, or rolled back for views and ventilation. The vestibule is also large enough to store your pack under half the vestibule and get in and out through the other. Price: $299.
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