5 Unique Gifts for Experienced Hikers and Backpackers

Stumped for a present? Camping & Hiking expert Olivia Whitehead shares five great gift ideas for the hiker or backpacker who seems to have it all.

Photo by Joe Leineweber

Figuring out the perfect gift can be tough, but it always feels like you’re making progress on identifying a thoughtful present when you have insight into the hobbies and interests of your special recipient. If your target loves hiking and backpacking there are so many great gifts to consider, but what if they are experienced hikers and backpackers - they probably have everything, right? They might, but here are five ideas for unique things that just might be the cool, super useful surprise you are looking for.

1. A Two-Way Satellite Messaging Device

Two-way messaging devices typically use satellites to allow backpackers to communicate with the outside world, and nothing provides better peace of mind than these devices! Not only can you send a quick text to your loved ones, letting them know that everything is okay on the trail, but you can also ask for valuable information that you can’t get yourself. For example, you can ask for a quick weather update while on the go and then plan your upcoming days accordingly. I have personally also used a device like this to ask for updated flow projections while on a longer river trip.

When it comes to choosing the right device, you have a few different options to consider. The two most popular brands are Garmin and Spot, both with their advantages. I suggest talking with the recipient beforehand to find out exactly what will suit their needs best. All three devices I recommend have an integrated SOS button to alert the emergency response services for your specific area, but we’ll look at their differences below:

Garmin InReach Mini and Explorer+

Garmin’s most popular two-way devices are the Mini and the Explorer+. Both Garmins allow you to connect the device to your smartphone, which is a major advantage over the Spot X, and can give you live weather updates for your specific area. However, the Mini and Explorer+ both have their pros and cons as well.

The biggest perk of the Mini is its tiny size and more affordable price, while the Explorer+ offers the advantage of longer battery life and a visual map display.

The disadvantages of the Garmin devices really just come down to price, as both items are more expensive than the Spot X. The subscription plans that allow the Garmins to function are also going to be a bit pricier than the comparable Spot plans.

Spot X

The biggest advantage of the Spot X is the fact that it’s more affordable than either Garmin option and generally has a longer battery life. The technology itself is fairly similar though, and communication will be comparable when talking via the device.

The disadvantages of the Spot X include the fact that it is quite a bit bulkier and heavier than the comparable InReach Mini. Currently, the Spot X also lacks the ability to connect to your smartphone, a feature that the Garmins provide.

If your loved one already has a messaging device of their own, you could also consider gifting them a subscription plan in lieu of a physical gift. There’s no better way to let them know that you care about their safety while they’re on the trail!

2. A Year of Strava Premium or AllTrails Pro

Along the same lines of an electronic subscription plan, a year of Strava Premium or AllTrails Pro is a great gift to consider for the avid hiker or backpacker in your life. Both unlock valuable features that the free versions don’t include and can help your loved one work toward their big outdoor goals.

Strava Premium

A year of Strava Premium is very affordable at just $5 a month, or $59.99 a year, and it includes features such as Strava Beacon and analytics tools to track your physical progress over time. Similar to the two-way messaging devices, Strava’s Beacon feature allows you to share your location with others and gives you some added safety while on your adventure. It’s also a fun feature for those who simply want to follow along during your trip and see your progress!

Additionally, the Strava subscription allows the hiker in your life to keep track of their exact analytics and steadily work toward their next big goal, whatever that looks like! For example, if they’re trying to improve their fastest time on a specific hike, Strava can help track things like their heart rate and fatigue levels.

AllTrails Pro

AllTrails Pro is an even more affordable gift at just $29.99 a year, and it provides valuable features for the adventurer in your life. The most important of these features is the ability to download different maps to keep on track, even without having cell service. Your backpacker will be able to see exactly where they are in relation to their downloaded map, and they can even turn on “off-route notifications” to let them know when they stray too far from their intended trail.

As with Strava Premium, the AllTrails subscription plan allows you to share your current location as well as projected timing with loved ones. This feature, called Lifeline, will even notify your pre-set safety contacts if you don’t finish your route within your intended window of time.

Someone walks down a trail, with their back to the camera, on a green hillside with wildflowers. Craggy peaks rise in the distance.
Give your loved one more confidence in the backcountry with downloaded, offline maps. Photo by Krivec Ales

3. A Subscription to Cairn

Cairn is a subscription box service that specifically caters to the hiker in your life and it offers many ways to customize your specific plan. It works by sending a monthly box to your recipient that’s full of hiking snacks and helpful gear that they’ll be excited to use. For example, past boxes have included high-quality wool socks, sunscreen, energy bars, electrolyte drink mixes, first-aid kit supplements, and much more.

To get started, you visit the website and create a quick profile for your hiker. You can choose between a box that caters to women, men, or a box that is gender-neutral, and you’ll enter your recipient’s size for clothing and accessories. From there, you can customize their subscription even further by adding other activity interests of theirs (think climbing or snowshoeing) and even select options for dog-owners, coffee-drinkers, or those with young children. The possibilities are endless, but the result is always a box that is perfectly tailored to your favorite hiker’s preferences.

4. A Food Dehydrator

While this gift may seem a little unusual, it’s actually incredibly useful for avid hikers and backpackers! Not only is it expensive to constantly buy light, calorie-dense snacks like jerky and dehydrated fruit, but it also uses way too much plastic packaging to do so. By giving the gift of a food dehydrator, your hiker will be able to make their own dehydrated food in bulk, altering it to their preferences and dietary needs. They’ll save a lot of money in the long run and eat better as well! As an added bonus, you can throw in a cookbook with ideas for even more creative trail meals!

5. An Annual National Parks Pass

Finally, an annual National Parks pass is a wonderful gift for the hiker in your life. Not only does it support America’s National Parks, but it also gives your recipient access to incredible hiking trails throughout the country. At the moment, an annual pass costs just $80, and a single visit to some of the most popular parks alone can cost almost this much! As with the food dehydrator, you could even pair this gift with a book highlighting either a specific national park or the best hiking routes throughout the country.

An image from the Tunnel View lookout at Yosemite National Park. Half Dome rises out of the background.
Giving the gift of a National Parks annual pass allows your loved one to explore incredible places. Photo by Vladimir Kudinov

If you have any questions or want specific advice on certain items, feel free to reach out to the experts here on Curated for free recommendations! Not only can we help point you in the right direction, but we can help find the best deals on gear as well. We also offer the option of a Curated gift card which can be used towards making an outdoor equipment purchase with free expert help finding the right gear for your hiker's needs.

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Written By
Hello! My name is Olivia, and I have five seasons of experience working as an overnight river guide on several different rivers in the Southwestern US. I also enjoy backpacking as often as possible, and I have been lucky enough to chase this sport everywhere from the Southeastern US to the Candian R...

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