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Updated Nov 27, 2022 3:22 PM

Whether you are a hiker yourself or a committed armchair adventurer, purchasing a gift for a hiker can be intimidating. Hikers are notorious for being snobs about having a just-so piece of gear, which can make finding something that they’ll actually use a serious challenge. To help you pick something that will impress and delight, we’ve selected some of the top products we’ve tested over the last year as some of the best gifts for hikers available today. 

Best for Trail Runners: Smartwool Athlete Edition Run Mountain Print Crew Socks

Smartwool

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Key Features

  • 1.6 ounces
  • 49 percent merino wool, 45 percent nylon, 4 percent elastane, and 2 percent polyester
  • Crew height
  • Thin
  • Great performance
  • Fun designs
  • No slip

Product Description
Trail runners need socks that can put up with abuse after abuse and still perform. The Smartwool Athlete Edition Run Mountains start with a big chunk of of merino wool (excellent for moisture management and temperature control) and then add in almost as much nylon for durability. To tackle one of the biggest failure points for running socks (the toes), these also have an extra chunk of cushioning—useful if you bang your toes on an errant root during a run. I’ve also found during testing that these socks stay in place better than anything I’ve tried. I never think about them when I’m running, which also means they’re always the pair I reach for before heading out. 

Best Seat: Therm-a-Rest Z-Seat

Therm-a-Rest

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Key Features

  • Closed foam construction 
  • Provides comfort and warmth
  • Simple construction
  • Insulation
  • Comfortable
  • Compact
  • Lightweight

Product Description
This is a game-changer for every trip I am on. The 2-ounce weight is negligible, so there is actually no excuse not to carry this. It provides a barrier between your butt and the ground—key for me when taking a break during a XC ski or snowshoe trip. It not only provides comfort, but some warmth. 

When you can’t carry one of the best camping chairs, this portable option is convenient to bring anywhere. It folds like an accordion and opens up to a 13 x 16-inch seat. I use this when sitting on snow, wet ground, hard ground, alpine tundra covered with berries, at a picnic table, at a concert or sporting event, kneeling on the ground doing gardening work, and so much more. It can also be a great addition to your first aid kit as a splint or a bit more cushion under your sleeping pad. When I am guiding clients on a hiking adventure, I bring one for them. 

There is an option to buy it with ThermaCapture, which has some heating properties by reflecting your body heat back up to you, which I use for winter activities. Have I convinced you yet?  —Justin La Vigne, Best Camping Gadgets

Best for Chefs: MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set

MSR

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Key Features

  • Includes 2.5 liter pot, 1.5 liter pot, one lid, and one handle
  • Weight: 1 pound
  • Materials: ceramic-coated aluminum, aluminum, stainless steel, nylon, rubber
  • Non-stick surface makes for a quick and easy cleanup

Product Description
This two-pot set from MSR is both great to cook in—a true non-stick surface—and a breeze to clean up afterward. While virtually every other pot I looked at in my test of the best camping cookware needed some elbow grease to clean, all of the food in the MSR Ceramic peeled right off and left almost no residue behind. Despite its robust appearance, the aluminum construction of this set means it has some give when pressure is applied, especially compared to the stainless steel pots in my test. But this slight tradeoff in durability is more than compensated for by its weight. This set is so light that I wouldn’t hesitate to take it on short backpacking trips where I’m planning to do some real cooking. 

Best Camping Mug: OtterBox Elevation

OtterBox

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Key Features

  • Size: 14 ounces
  • Weight: 11 ounces
  • Ice cube test: 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Materials: Stainless steel with internal copper lining; lid is made from polyester, silicone, and polypropylene 
  • BPA and BPS free
  • Hand wash

Product Description
If the hiker on your shopping list has been using the same ceramic camping mug for so many years that it’s more chips than mug, then they’ll appreciate this upgrade. Not only was the OtterBox Elevation an excellent insulator, it also has a unique lid that sets it apart from the competition. 

Taking the OtterBox Elevation on a short hike during the field test trip.
Taking the OtterBox Elevation on a short hike during the field test trip. Laura Lancaster

The centimeter-tall rim makes it easier to take a slow first sip, when you’re really just checking to see if it’s safe to drink your coffee yet, as the outside air has longer to cool the hot coffee before it hits your mouth.  

Best Stocking Stuffer: Grabber Hand Warmers

Grabber Warmers

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Key Features

  • Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Only one use
  • Maximum measured temperature: 118 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Lasted for 11 hours
  • Inexpensive

Product Description
Help keep your loved ones outside in the colder months with this top-performing hand warmer. In my test, the Grabbers stayed warmer longer than all the other hand warmers in this style, emitting heat as soon as the package is opened up, and lasting for 12 hours.

Measuring the real-time temperatures of the hand warmers over twelve hours.
Measuring the real-time temperatures of the hand warmers over twelve hours. Laura Lancaster

 It works when the outside air, specifically the oxygen in the air, kickstarts the oxidation of the iron powder inside the wrapping, which produces heat as the iron begins to rust. The secret sauce for most of these packets is in how they control the heating process, so that the heat is released continuously and at comfortable temperatures.

Best Socks: Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Midweight Hiking Sock

Darn Tough

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Key Features 

  • Materials: 61% merino wool, 36% nylon, 3% Lycra spandex
  • Cushion level: Medium
  • Height: Low calf
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Durable enough for a thru-hike
  • Wicks moisture well in all conditions

Product Description
Darn Tough’s hiking sock has been the standard bearer for the best hiking socks for years, and they are still at the top of my list. The balance of merino wool—which both retains heat and wicks away moisture—with nylon’s durability, keeps my feet hot-spot free and comfortable on day hikes and thru-hikes alike. Since wool contains lanolin, a natural antimicrobial, the stink factor stays down on trips where even creekside rinses aren’t an option. The Lycra spandex provides just enough stretchiness to keep these socks from slipping down on high-mileage days. 

I’ve worn these socks everywhere from the San Juans of Colorado to the Mojave in California to the temperate rainforest of Olympic National Park, and it performs equally well in all conditions. And when they did eventually blow a hole in the back heel after a thousand miles or so of use, Darn Tough’s Lifetime Warranty means you’re always covered.

Best Shirt: Icebreaker Merino Tech Lite II Short Sleeve

Icebreaker

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Key Features

  • Materials: 100 percent wool
  • Sizing: XS to XL
  • Styles include scoop neck and long sleeves
  • Available in men’s and women’s
  • Fantastic odor control
  • Excellent temperature regulation
  • Good wicking

Product Description
If I’m heading out into the backcountry, where the only “laundry” I’ll be doing is dunking my layers in a stream during the heat of midday, there is only one fiber I want against my skin: merino wool. Whereas synthetic fibers start to feel clammy and sweaty by the end of the second day—if you’re lucky—I’ve gone up to nine days without washing a merino wool top and was still completely happy to put it on in the morning. You can’t have too much merino wool in an article of clothing in my books, and this shirt from Icebreaker agrees. It’s 100 percent merino wool.

Of course, there are some trade-offs here. This shirt wasn’t as soft as many of the synthetic shirts in my test of the best hiking shirts. It also held onto moisture longer than expected during the drying test (wool is hydrophilic, after all). Finally, it’s plenty expensive. But for sheer comfort, this one is worth the price.

Best Solar Charger: Goal Zero Nomad 10 and Venture 35

Goal Zero

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Key Features 

  • Max power output: 18W from the USB-C port
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds (0.6 pounds for the Venture 35 and 1.1 pounds for the Nomad 10) 
  • Ports: One USB-C, two USB-A
  • Units sold separately
  • Warranty: Two years

Product Description
While there are several all-in-one, lightweight options available that prioritize either the solar part of solar chargers or the charger (power bank) part, the best way to maximize your available power in the backcountry is to purchase the solar panel and power bank separately.

Testing the Goal Zero Nomad 10 and Venture 35 combo along with a smorgasbord of smartphone-sized solar chargers.
Testing the Goal Zero Nomad 10 and Venture 35 combo along with a smorgasbord of smartphone-sized solar chargers. Laura Lancaster

Goal Zero products are great for hikers, backpackers, and backpack hunters because they offer a wide range of power capabilities, everything from a single 5W Nomad 5 solar panel (12.7 ounces) and lipstick-tube-sized 12Wh Flip 12 charger (2.5 ounces) up to the 20W Nomad 20 (2.3 pounds) and 71Wh Venture 75 (20.4 ounces). But my favorite combo is the 10W Nomad 10, paired with the 35Wh Venture 35

The Goal Zero Venture 35 is virtually weatherproof—an unusual feature for battery packs that anyone who spends time outdoors will find useful.
The Goal Zero Venture 35 is virtually weatherproof—an unusual feature for battery packs that anyone who spends time outdoors will find useful. Laura Lancaster

With this setup, you can top off your power bank while sipping coffee in the morning or setting up camp in the evening—no need to have a solar panel hanging off the back of your pack all day—and still have plenty of power for the next day. 

Best Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze

Sawyer

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Key Features

  • Effective against protozoa and bacteria
  • Weight: 3 ounces (initial); 5 ounces (end of testing)
  • Time to filter a liter of water: 0:55 (initial); 0:45 (end of testing) 
  • Provided plunger simplifies backflushing

Product Description
If the hiker or backpacker in your life hasn’t updated their water treatment system in a while, then this gift is a no-brainer. A mainstay of the backpacking world for a number of years, the Sawyer Squeeze performed exceptionally well in our test, coming in a close second to the Platypus QuickDraw for fastest flow time, while being noticeably easier to use. 

Flowing water makes the bags easy to fill. Standing water poses more of a challenge as the bag tends to collapse inward blocking the water from filling inside.
Flowing water makes the bags easy to fill. Standing water poses more of a challenge as the bag tends to collapse inward blocking the water from filling inside. Ashley Thess

Part of what makes this filter so effective is its backflushing system, which involves filling a simple syringe with water and then pushing its contents into the outflow nozzle on the filter. After running the filters through three liters each of the Puyallup River, I wasn’t surprised to see the water shoot out brown initially, but it cleared up after only a couple of rounds of backflushing. 

Author tests LifeStraw and Sawyer Squeeze water filters.
Author tests LifeStraw and Sawyer Squeeze water filters. Laura Lancaster

Best GPS Watch: Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar

Garmin

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Key Features

  • Solar powered (up to 37 days of battery life in smartwatch mode)
  • 3 different size options
  • Touch screen
  • Flashlight (on large “X” size)
  • Multi-band GPS and preloaded Topo maps (on Sapphire model only)
  • Format settings on your phone
  • Variety of health tracking features and programs
  • Compatible with other Garmin devices like dog e-collars and inReach
  • Rugged, durable construction
  • Long battery life

Product Description

If James Bond was into outdoor recreation and fitness, the Garmin Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar would be his watch. Garmin’s new line of Fenix watches includes three different models (Standard, Solar, Sapphire Solar). Each model is offered in three different sizes. There are too many variations to get into, so I’ll stick with the model I tested, the Fenix 7 Sapphire Solar, which is the high-end version. This model has sapphire lens material and titanium bezel material. It has a larger and more efficient solar panel than previous Garmin models.

I’ve used this watch for a little over a month and am still digging into all of its features. On the upside, general setup was quick and painless. I navigated through the watch’s setting options and then paired it with my phone through Garmin’s Connect app. The first thing I did was take it for a run through one of my regular routes and was happy to see the watch tracked perfectly. As it should. The Sapphire Solar uses multi-band GPS, which can access more than one range of frequencies from different constellations of satellites (most GPS systems use a single connection to the satellites). In other words, it utilizes more powerful GPS technology that should mean faster and more accurate navigation. While navigating on hikes, the touch-screen feature made moving around the topo map (which comes pre-loaded on the watch) a breeze.

Like all other smart watch options, the Sapphire Solar has a variety of fitness and health metrics you can track and tinker with (though its offerings go deeper than most). But this watch is a bit heftier and quite a bit more expensive than most other smartwatches. Where the Fenix Sapphire Solar really sets itself apart is with its rugged construction, improved solar charging, and powerful GPS. So if the world (of standard GPS watches) is not enough, then you should go with the Fenix Sapphire Solar.  It makes for one of the best gifts for hikers. —Alex Robinson, Best GPS Watches

Best for Planners: OnX Backcountry

onX

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Key Features

  • Tracking and route planning tools
  • GPS offline access
  • Detailed maps with route and landmark descriptions
  • Easy to save maps offline for off-grid use
  • Ability to add useful layers such as historic and active wildfires, air quality, avalanche forecasts, slope angles and aspects, and more

Product Description

OnX Backcountry will free up some of the time mom spends planning adventures so that she can actually adventure.
OnX Backcountry makes it easier to get out on backcountry adventures. Laura Lancaster

OnX Backcountry puts many of the tools you need in one place, simplifying trip planning for a wide audience of people. Starting with the detailed maps that OnX already offered with its Hunt subscription, the Backcountry app layers on campground and trail information for hikers, campers, and backpackers from the Outdoor Project, as well as detailed information about wildfires, smoke and air quality conditions, weather forecasts, avalanche conditions, and more. This app is one of the simplest to use out there, making it an appropriate gift for even self-styled luddites.

Best First Aid Kit: NOLS Med Kit 4.0

NOLS

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Key Features

  • Weight: 1 pound 26 ounces
  • Extensive wound care materials
  • Materials in accordance with NOLS wilderness medicine curriculum
  • Many med kits do not include a CPR mask, duct tape, irrigation syringe, and triangle bandages for sling and swath
  • Includes SOAP notes for communicating a patient’s condition to search and rescue
  • Extensive wound care materials
  • Lightweight, yet there’s room to customize your kit

Product Description
This is the med kit I’ve been taking backpacking for years, and out of the 11 kits I tested for this roundup, I still won’t backpack with anything else. I have a NOLS Wilderness First Responder certification, and I’ve found this kit has a high emphasis on treating more severe wounds than minor abrasions. If the purpose of a wilderness medical certification is to stabilize a patient until emergency medical services can reach them, then this kit supports that intention. 

Obviously this kit doesn’t have everything, so I have added a SAM Splint for fractures (although it adds weight), as well as a “cheat sheet” I made for assessing an injured or sick patient in the field and a lightweight SOTO Amicus backpacking stove. The 4.0’s roomy pockets are also a good place for the group to keep their personal medications if they so choose. 

I also evaluated the Adventure Medical Kit Mountain Series Backpacker in my test, but ultimately feel more prepared with the 4.0 in treating significant wounds. In fact, I gave this kit to a friend (an EMT) who had to treat someone in the field with a deep wound that had to be thoroughly packed and was immediately transported. That’s all the additional assurance I needed.  —Samantha Silverman

Things to Consider Before Buying Gifts for Hikers

Weight
Even if the hiker in your life seems to have everything they could need, there is always one way to impress them with a gift: get them something they already have for hiking, but lighter (and you get double points if you get them something made out of titanium). 

Aspirations
Hiking can mean anything from a two-mile river walk before brunch on Saturday to thousands of miles in the backcountry over several months. Knowing what kind of hiker you are shopping for is essential to picking the right gift. Before making a purchase, spend some time asking your friend or family member what kind of hiking they enjoy, and what kind of hiking they hope to do in the future. 

Season
Committed year-round hikers typically need a much wider range of gear than hikers that stick to fairer weather, including bulkier layers, more durable rain gear, snowshoes, hand warmers, and more. Knowing whether your hiker is planning to head out in more inclement weather can expand the range of potential gifts that would be appropriate. 

FAQs

Q: How much do gifts for hikers cost?

Gifts for hikers can cost anywhere from a couple of dollars up to hundreds of dollars. 

Q: What are the ten essentials for hiking?

According to the American Hiking Society, the ten essentials for hiking include appropriate footwear, navigation (map and compass/GPS), water, food, appropriate clothing, safety items (headlamp, firestarter, and whistle), first aid kit, knife, sun protection, and shelter.

Q: What do you need to go hiking?

What you need to go hiking depends in large part on the type of hiking you are planning on. Hikers headed out on a long (over ten mile) trek on rarely used trails should be careful to pack the ten essentials and share their hiking plans with someone in the frontcountry before they leave. Hikers that stick to short, popular trails can typically grab a bottle of water, some snacks, and appropriate layers and be fine. 

Final Thoughts

Choosing an appropriate gift for the avid hiker in your life is a matter of knowing what gear they already have, what aspirational hikes they are planning on for the future, and what their personal preferences are. Many hikers and backpackers can be quite picky about what gear they do and do not want to carry with them on the trail, so spending a bit of time asking about their preferences is a great way to ensure you give the best gift for hikers in your life.

Methodology

The Outdoor Life gear team and contributors have been taking the top gear and accessories out for day hikes and backpacking trips across the country for months as part of our ongoing testing. This roundup features the best of the best products we’ve used that are appropriate for hiking, including day hikes, backpacking trips, and even thru-hikes. We’ve also focused here on gear that will accentuate and improve an already dedicated hiker’s gear setup—no gag gifts or party favors. We use these products ourselves and are confident that they will impress even the most avid hiker in your life.