Hikers are a tough group to shop for, especially if you're not a hiker yourself. The amount of hiking gear on the market has exploded in the last few years, and it can be especially difficult to identify the good stuff that a hiker will actually use and enjoy amidst all of the advertising and marketing hype. But fear not, because we've put together some of the best gifts for hikers we could find, no matter their skill level. Every gift on this list was selected by an outdoor enthusiast on our team, so you won't find anything in the list below we wouldn't use (or don't already own) ourselves.
The Ultimate All Access Hiking Pass
America The Beautiful Annual Pass
We often get so caught up looking for the latest tech, gear, and gadgets that we miss the best gifts hiding right under our noses. Enter the National Park Service's "America The Beautiful" pass, which allows you to give any hiker access to over 2,000 federal recreational sites for a full year. Honestly, we can't stress the value of this pass enough. Not only does it grant unlimited access to every national park in the country from Death Valley to Yellowstone (you can check out the full list here), but it also covers areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the entrance fees for every passenger in the holder's vehicle as well. As a bonus, if you pick your pass up at REI (either online using the link below or in-store), they'll donate 10% of the sale directly to the National Park Foundation.
The Perfect Hiking Socks
Darn Tough Hiker Merino Wool Socks
The rules for hiking socks are pretty simple: They need to fit well, provide some cushion, wick moisture, and stay breathable. For that reason, most are made from some combination of performance synthetic materials like nylon/polyester/spandex and insulating merino wool. Our top pick? The Darn Tough Merino Wool Hiker socks, which excel in both performance and durability. Some people are hesitant about splurging on a pair of socks for themselves, but as a gift for a hiker, Darn Tough socks are an affordable item that makes a huge impact on whoever unwraps them.
Trail Running Shoes
Nike Wildhorse 7 Trail Runner
Newer hikers have a tendency to hit the trails in either big, bulky hiking boots or standard running/athletic shoes. Neither of these is ideal for your average hike and we'll tell you why. Hiking boots are just overkill, as they're built for supporting giant 40+ pound backpacks full of gear, and all that extra and unnecessary support comes at the cost of speed and breathability. Athletic shoes, on the other hand, are fast and light but their outsoles don't provide proper traction, protection, or support on the uneven surfaces of
Trail runners offer the low weight, speed, and breathability of a running shoe, but get a host of rugged outdoor upgrades as well. These include grippy outsoles and reinforced uppers that hold up to the rigors of a trail, like thorny underbrushes and abrasive rocks. Our favorite right now is the Nike Wildhorse 7, and for good reason. The Wildhorse 7 combines a stylish sneaker look with serious off-pavement chops like properly knobby outsoles, a reinforced heel box, a protective rock plate, and even a neoprene ankle cuff that keeps small rocks and debris out of the shoes while you hike.
Some Extra Support
Cascade Mountain Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
Uphill, downhill, and uneven terrain can all be hard on your knees and will drain your energy faster no matter how conditioned your body is. That’s precisely why it helps to have additional stability and support while hiking, which can be achieved with trekking poles — a more advanced and durable form of a walking stick! Designed with tough tips on the end, they can plant or rest on nearly any type of terrain, helping you keep your balance and making your trek just a little bit easier on your body.
These carbon fiber trekking poles from Cascade Mountain are lightweight, so they won’t bog you down during your trip. They make an excellent gift for outdoors folk, whether hiking or camping. Meanwhile, the cork and EVA grips are comfortable on the hands, with straps to ensure they remain on your person. They come bundled with two poles and also a set of rubber boot tips, mud baskets, snow baskets, and small rubber tips, all interchangeable. The plastic quick-locking system allows you to easily change the pole heights, and lock them in place. Gift them to a fellow hiker and you’ll soon find they won’t leave home without them.
A Global Compass
Suunto M3 Global Compass
Similar to the hiking socks above, many hikers, both new and experienced, often buy themselves a compass, but they don't splurge to get a more efficient one. In fact, most hikers choose to save an extra $20-$30 by buying themselves a compass that only functions in the northern hemisphere rather than buying a global compass that works from any point on the globe. A quality global compass will also last a lifetime for campers, hikers, and travelers alike.
Our favorite global compass is the Suunto M3, which provides hikers with everything they need, such as adjustable declination, metric and imperial readouts, glow-in-the-dark details for low-light readings, and a transparent (and magnifying) base plate for quick and easy bearing conversions on hiking maps. It's also not bulky or heavy and can fit inside a small backpack pocket. Suunto has been making high-performance navigation tools for decades and is a well-known and respected name among explorers of all kinds from backpackers to sailors.
A Comfortable Place to Sit
Nemo Chipper Closed-Cell Foam Seat
There's nothing quite like crushing a long hike and being rewarded with a panoramic mountain view at the end. Unfortunately, the wild places we seek rarely provide comfortable seating options, which is why many hikers choose to bring their own camp furniture with them. Typically, this involves either a superlight camping chair or a hammock, but we'd like to suggest something unique for the hiker on your gift list this year.
Our favorite is the Nemo's Chipper closed-cell foam seat, which is an extremely lightweight seating alternative at just 5.6 ounces. It's made from 100% reclaimed and recycled sleeping pad foam, which is integrated with a special blend of variable density foams. Though it's only about 1-inch thick when unfolded, it's surprisingly comfortable on dirt, rocks, tree stumps, or any of the other less than ideal surfaces we find ourselves sitting on outdoors.
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