It can be difficult finding gifts for ultralight backpackers since the entire point of many ultralight backpackers is to have as few things as possible. That said, there are some items that can please almost everyone.
A lot of these items are justifiably awesome, but they’re equally expensive. That’s what makes a great gift, right? Something that you would love to have but that you don’t want to spend money on for yourself? A lot of these items are exactly that.
If there’s one thing everyone should be doing all the time – but especially hikers – it’s washing your hands (especially before you eat). Sinks and soap may be a luxury on the trail, but Dr. Bronner’s Organic Hand Sanitizer is a luxury that even ultralight hikers can afford. It comes in lavender and apparently peppermint as well but I’ve found it difficult to find the peppermint variety. Either way, it’s a great way to stay clean, not get giardia, and smell nice.
Joe Chocolate brings together two things that many of us love (myself included), caffeine and chocolate. Like many backpacking-specific snacks, it’s not particularly cheap which makes it an excellent gift. I could probably eat this stuff (which comes in multiple flavors) exclusively for days – so long as I also got my nightly dose of mac and cheese.
I’m not the biggest fan of cowboy coffee (just letting your grounds settle to the bottom of the cup), but I’m also not a coffee snob, so I have no qualms with instant coffee. That said, so long as I’m drinking instant coffee, I might as well drink good instant coffee. Alpine Start Original Blend Instant Coffee is a great option for the coffee-loving backpacker in your life. And if you don’t like to boil water in the morning (and don’t mind cold coffee), it works with cold water too.
Nikwax Down Wash Direct is something that every ultralight backpacker needs – and it won’t even cut into their pack’s weight. Most people (I know) neglect their down products (sleeping bags and jackets), but they really should be washing them properly with the proper detergent (at least once a year). Nikwax makes down detergent and other detergents for treating other outdoor gear as well. A variety pack isn’t a bad idea as a gift.
Self-care is something lots of ultralight backpackers overlook. “Just keep hiking” isn’t always the solution. A single (or a set of) Rawlogy Cork Massage Balls will make saying “no” to taking care of your body at the end of each day a lot more difficult. These lightweight cork balls come in a variety of sizes and weigh next to nothing. A no-brainer for inclusion in any backpacking setup – ultralight or otherwise.
Good To-Go Meals are always a great gift option for backpackers. Even ultralight backpackers have to eat. Like fancy hand sanitizers and caffeine-infused chocolate, these meals are awesome to have but not always awesome to buy (which makes for great gifts). That said, some don’t carry stoves and I don’t know how these meals do with cold soaking.
Every good backcountry poop kit needs a trowel. I use (and recommend) the TheTentLab The Deuce #2 UL Backcountry Trowel it’s something that a lot of backpackers may find it difficult to spend money on, but I can personally attest to the fact that using a rock, your heel, or a stick will not always allow you to get the job done when it comes to digging a hole to poop in. Tell someone you care about their poops (and LNT practices) and get them a trowel.
If there’s one group of people who love talking about socks, it’s ultralight backpackers, and if there’s one sock that ultralight backpackers love it’s the Darn Tough 1/4 Cushion Socks. Really, any socks from Darn Tough will make an excellent gift, and Darn Tough’s lifetime guarantee means that your gift will be a gift for life (so long as the dryer doesn’t end up eating them).
Ever seen someone with some awesome gaiters and think to yourself, “those are awesome, where did they get those and how can I get some?” Well, UltraGam Gaiters are your answer. They come in a huge variety of equally amazing patterns and are something that you could easily have multiple pairs of (so you don’t have to worry about accidentally getting someone something they already have). And these patterns are seriously awesome.
I recently got a Space Bear Bags Poop-moji Pouch for my backpacking poop kit and I love it. It’s a lot more eco-friendly than the gallon-sized Ziploc I used to use, isn’t transparent, and doesn’t leave much to the imagination when it comes to knowing what’s inside. I would recommend one of the two larger sizes, but if the small is what suits you (or your gift recipient), go for it (and let me know how it goes).
The market for titanium backpacking gear, I am guessing, is largely kept afloat by the ultralight backpacking community. The TOAKS Light Titanium 550ml Pot is a great option if you’re planning to carry a stove. It isn’t so small that you can’t fit anything inside of it (it will fit a small gas canister inside), but it’s still large enough to make your nightly mac and cheese (or whatever lesser food you’re eating). There are a number of larger (and smaller) TOAKS pots as well if 550 ml isn’t quite right.
It’s always a good idea to keep your sleep system in its own dry sack – even if you’re using a waterproof backpack. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Roll-top Stuff Sack is about as safe and as lightweight an option you could ask for when it comes to keeping your gear dry. They come in four sizes – 3.7L, 9.4L, 19.5L, and 44L – the 9.4L should be suitable for any three-season sleep system.
Some ultralight backpackers like to use a small LED light strapped to a piece of twine, but if you want something a little more substantial (but still lightweight), the BioLite HeadLamp 200 is an excellent option. For backpacking it will do everything you need it to – illuminate the trail in front of you and just enough of the trail to the side that you’ll be able to see those cougar, er deer, eyes staring back at you.
It can be difficult to spice up an ultralight kit sometimes since the addition of any single piece of gear can be devastating to that all-important base weight. But the High Tail Designs Ultralight Drawstring Stuff Sacks are awesome gifts because 1) they’re expensive for being essentially bags that do nothing more than store things and because 2) they come with awesome designs and colors.
The RabSilk Neutrino Sleeping Bag Liner is the lightest sleeping bag liner I’ve found and it does a great job of both keeping my sleeping bag (or quilt) clean or as serving as my sleeping bag substitute when it’s too hot to be bundled up in my bag. There are heavier and arguably more comfortable options out there, but as far as weight goes, this one is the winner.
The Kahtoola MICROspikes Traction System is a staple of the ultralight snow travel kit. Yes, there are some who opt to not bring any snow gear, but frankly, that’s stupid. These lightweight spikes make snow travel much safer and allow for some serious added security when traveling across the ice and snow.
A lot of ultralight backpackers consider anything not completely essential to survival to be a luxury item, but at just 2 oz / 57 g, it would be hard to write off a pair of Goosefeet Gear Down Socks. They keep your feet toasty, can be used as camp shoes in some environments (but I would recommend keeping them clean) and come in a variety of awesome colors (the most important part of any gear).
The America the Beautiful Pass allows unlimited entry into all National Parks throughout the United States. It’s a must-have for anyone hoping to make more than three trips into National Parks during a year. True that you can simply walk into many parks without paying, but even ultralight backpackers drive to trailheads sometimes.
The Ombraz Leggero Armless Sunglasses won’t count against your base weight since they’re technically worn weight, and they’re designed with outdoor pursuits in mind. They’re affordable, polarized, come in three different lens options, prescription options, four different lens options, and non-polarized options (although I highly recommend the polarized option since it’s only $15 more).
The Patagonia Houdini Jacket is an ultralight wind jacket (some ultralight backpackers may consider it a shell – it’s not) that can do wonders to keep the chill off you. It packs down super small and has a single zippered chest pocket. As far as ultralight clothing goes, you can’t get much lighter than this.
Safety often gets excused as not being an essential piece of backpacking equipment, but a Garmin inReach Mini is a lightweight piece of gear that every backpacker should have in the backcountry – particularly if they’re venturing into remote areas or going out in adverse conditions. It does require a subscription to function and call for help, so if your ultralight backpacker gift receiver already has an inReach, getting them a subscription could also be a great gift option.
In addition to being one of the lightest down jackets on the market, the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL is also one of the most expensive. At least it comes in awesome colors? With a 5D nylon shell and 1000-fill down, it’s fragile, but that’s also what makes it so lightweight.
The Katabatic Sawatch Quilt is something that should be on every ultralight backpacker’s wishlist. Katabatic makes incredible quilts that are both warm and lightweight. I got my first one last year and have been using it religiously since. It’s available in three different fills and five different sizes. Katabatic has a bit of a lead time producing and shipping their products, so be sure you’re getting the correct quilt before you place your order.
The Garmin fenix 6 Multisport GPS Watch is an incredible piece of outdoor gear capable of much more than simply tracking your activities. I got one last year and absolutely love it. And this watch is a gift for someone you really love. There are a lot of options for the fenix lineup – large or small faces, solar charging – so best be sure precisely which one you want before committing.
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