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 the advertising hype and marketing-hoopla that lurks around every dark corner of the internet. Have no fear, though, as we’ve put together some of the best gifts for hikers we could find out there for hikers of every 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 already own) ourselves.
The Ultimate All-Access Hiking 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 on your Christmas list 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, and 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.
America The Beautiful Annual Pass
The Perfect Hiking Socks
The rules for hiking socks are pretty simple: They need to fit well, provide some cushioning, wick moisture, and stay breathable. For that reason, most are made from some combination of performance synthetic materials like nylon/polyester/spandex and soft and insulating merino wool. Our favorite choice is the Darn Tough Merino Wool Hiker, whose performance and durability have made it a favorite among thru-hikers and backpackers from coast to coast. Some people are hesitant about splurging on a $25 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.
Darn Tough Hiker Merino Wool Socks
Trail Running Shoes
Newer hikers have a tendency to hit the trails in either big, bulky hiking boots or standard running or athletic shoes. Neither is ideal for your average hike and we’ll tell you why: Hiking boots, on the one hand, are just overkill. 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 loose and technical surfaces of
Trail runners share the low weight, speed, and breathability of a running shoe, but get a host of rugged outdoors upgrades as well in the form of grippy, knobby outsoles, a protective internal plate that guards against sharp rocks and debris, and reinforced uppers that hold up to the rigors of the trail like abrasive rocks and thorny underbrush. 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 shoe while you hike.
Nike Wildhorse 7 Trail Runner
A Global Compass
Similar to the hiking socks above, many hikers (both new and experienced) often buy themselves a compass, but they don’t splurge on themselves to get the “good stuff.” In the case of compasses, 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 is something that hikers and travelers will keep and use for the rest of their lives, and also happens to be as affordable as it is useful.
Our favorite global compass is the Suunto M3, which provides hikers with everything they need including 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, all without being too bulky or heavy inside a pocket or backpack. 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. Can’t go wrong with a Suunto.
Suunto M3 Global Compass
A Comfortable Place To Sit
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.
We’re talking about Nemo’s Chipper closed-cell foam seat, which is an extremely lightweight (5.6 oz) seating alternative made from 100% reclaimed and recycled sleeping pad foam. Nemo uses a special blend of variable density foams in the Chipper, so although 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.
Nemo Chipper Closed Cell Foam Seat
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