The thru-hiker or backpacker in your life is probably busy saving for their next long-distance adventure, and we can pretty much guarantee they have a long list of items on their wish list. This collection of thru-hiker and backpacking gift ideas under $200 is a good place to start. We’ve listed a variety of gift ideas, from technical backpacking gear to treat-yourself dehydrated meals, to unique gifts that will help commemorate their adventures.
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.
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. 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!
4. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Shoulder Pocket
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Dyneema Shoulder Pocket
is by far the most popular shoulder pocket used by backpackers today. Compatible with backpacks from other manufacturers (not just Hyperlite’s) it’s ideal for protecting your camera, Smartphone, satellite communicator, or wallet from the rain while keeping it easily accessible. Two universal clips are included that attach to daisy chains or hydration loops on backpack shoulder straps.
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. Cocoon Merino Wool Liner
The Cocoon Merino Wool Liner
adds up to 10 degrees of warmth to a sleep system, a good answer for hikers on a multi-season thru-hike who don’t want to buy two sleeping bags or quilts. This liner can also be used on its own for the warmest nights, and the merino material wicks sweat and is highly breathable.
7. Zpacks Dyneema Pack Cover
The Zpacks Dyneema Pack Cover
is exceptionally waterproof and as just 1.4 oz, it is considerably lighter in weight than conventional pack covers. If you want to shave as few ounces as possible this is the pack cover for you. Available in multiple sizes, it includes a clip to prevent loss in windy conditions.
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. Good To-Go Backpacking Meals
Healthy, dehydrated meals are a luxury many thru-hikers can’t afford for the duration of their hike. After the initial budget wears off, it’s back to ramen and Pasta Sides. Good To-Go
was started by a Michelin-starred chef, and includes a wide variety of meals packed with pronounceable (!) ingredients. A few favorites include bibimbap, pad thai, and mushroom risotto. If you have the option, buy the two-serving packets. Thru-hikers have a big appetite. Good To-Go has a number of variety packs available which I can recommend if you’re not sure what foods your hiker friend likes.
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. Shokz OpenRun Headphones
Thru-hikers rely on music and audiobooks on their phones to stay motivated and keep their minds occupied when hiking big miles for hours at a time. However, it’s important to maintain a certain degree of situational awareness so you’re not surprised by a mountain biker or grizzly bear bearing down on you unawares. Skokz OpenRun headphones
are comfortable to wear for long hours and their open-ear design helps maintain situational awareness. They stay on securely during intense bouts of activity and their angled bone conduction transducers ensure optimal placement on the cheekbones for improved sound. Waterproof up to one meter, they have an 8-hour battery life and a quick charge feature for reliable use on the trail.
17. Lifeproof FRE Series Waterproof Phone Case
With smartphones acting as the camera, GPS, and entertainment for most thru-hikers, keeping the devices protected is paramount. There are a lot of waterproof, shatter-resistant cases on the market, but the Lifeproof FRE
is still one of the most reliable and durable. A case like this is peace of mind for smartphone users, keeping the devices secure from rain, accidental drops, and the general grime of trail life. Note: many models of this case are available for different smartphone models.
18. Leatherman Micra Multi-Tool
Realistically, most thru-hikers don’t need anything more than simple folding pocket scissors during their hike. When it comes to opening packages of food, prepackaged water purification tablets, or bandaging blisters, scissors are much more useful than a knife. Weighing just 1.7 oz, the keychain-sized Leatherman Micra
multi-tool includes scissors, a knife, tweezers, a nail file, and multiple-sized screwdrivers, basically everything you need for self-care and simple repairs while backpacking on a long trail.
19. PROBAR Bolt Energy Chews
Gnawing on the same granola bars can get really old. But PROBAR’s BOLT Energy Chews
are a quick way for an on-the-go hiker to get a burst of energy, and Probar’s version comes in convenient pouches with tasty, chewy blocks in a variety of natural flavors. Buy an assortment of flavors, or go for a 12-pack. We’re particularly fond of the pink lemonade and cran-pomegranate flavors.
20. 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.
About the author
SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
Kate "Sprouts" Washington has thru-hiked long distance trails in New Zealand, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest. A midwife, she lives in the Seattle Area and enjoys backpacking with her "tramily" and dogs on weekends.