Great Christmas gifts for campers under $50: tested and recommended by experts

Woman in tent decorated for Christmas
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Shopping for a camping gift can feel baffling – there's so much gear out there, how can you pick something that's genuinely useful and won't let your loved one down in the middle of the backcountry?

That's where we come in. We test outdoor equipment for a living, and we've put together a comprehensive list of affordable items that we've personally used and loved. Every item in this list has been put through its paces out in the field, and you can be confident that each one will provide years of happy camping.

Camping lantern

PrincetonTec Helix Backcountry Lantern

(Image credit: PrincetonTec)

1. Princeton Tec Helix Backcountry Lantern

The Princeton Tec Helix holds the top spot in our roundup of the best camping lanterns thanks to its compact size (folding down to the size of a coffee cup), light weight (5.5oz), and maximum burn time of 24 hours. Our reviewer found it super versatile, capable of standing firm on uneven ground thanks to its sturdy tripod legs, or being hung from a tree. We also appreciated its red night vision mode, which ensures you won't be dazzled if you need to switch it on for a late night bathroom trip. This is the USB-charged version, but there's also a battery-powered model that's better if your loved one is going to be heading off-grid for an extended time.

Not sure if it's right for them? Our guide 9 reasons you need a camping lantern will help you decide.

Camping pillow

Nemo Fillo Camping Pillow

(Image credit: Nemo)

2. Nemo Fillo Camping Pillow

We've tested a lot of camping pillows, and the Nemo Fillo comes particularly highly recommended. Our reviewer called it the most comfortable inflatable pillow they've ever used, saying "this is as close you’ll get to feeling like you brought your pillow from home with you without taking up too much extra space".

It has built-in foam padding in addition to its inflatable cell, which makes it much nicer to sleep on than cushions that are essentially just a balloon, and has a soft jersey cover that's easily removed for washing. Our guide do you need a camping pillow explains why it's such a great gift.

Sleeping pad

Two hikers carrying Therm-a-Rest Z-lite Sol sleeping pads

(Image credit: Thermarest)

3. Therm-a-Rest Z-lite Sol Sleeping Pad

The Therm-a-Rest Z-lite Sol is one of the most affordable sleeping pads we've tested, but also one of the best. Our tester found it extremely durable thanks to its closed-foam design (it won't burst or leak like an air mattress), but it's also nice and light at just 14.5oz. "The mat folds up concertina-style, so it can easily be strapped to the outside of a trekking pack or slotted down the side of a large rucksack," our reviewer explained.

It's not as insulating as an inflatable sleeping pad, so best for camping in spring and summer, but it's genuinely practical and a great gift for someone who's new to camping. Undecided? Take a look at our guide to inflatable vs foam sleeping pads.

Camping saw

Bahco Laplander camping saw

(Image credit: Matthew Jones)

4. Bahco Laplander Camping Saw

A good camping saw is one of the most useful pieces of gear you can have in the backcountry, and our experienced reviewer gave this compact folding model four stars out of five. "All in all, it’s one of the best camping saws for sheer versatility," he concluded. "A great choice for campers and bushcrafters, as well as for general pruning work in your yard or garden."

Although it's modestly priced (under $30 at the time of writing), the Laplander doesn't skimp on build quality or features. It comes with a handy leather lanyard, andhas a straight Sandvik steel blade, finished with a low-friction coating that helps it glide through even knotty or sappy wood. This finish also protects it from corrosion and staining. 

For more details, take a look at our full Bahco Laplander Campign Saw review.

Camping stove

Two people using Campingaz Twister Plus PZ camping stove

(Image credit: Campingaz)

5. Campingaz Twister Plus PZ Camping Stove

This little camping stove is great value and weighs only 9.6oz, making it a good option for backpacking adventures. It has its own built-in piezo ignition, so there's no messing about with matches, and it's easy to connect to a gas canister. "A neat heatshield protects your fingers from the flame as you turn the knob that adjusts the supply of gas and heat," said our reviewer.

If your loved one doesn't have their own camping stove yet, or is trying to pare down the weight of their camping setup, it could be a great pick. For more guidance, see how to choose a camping stove.

Camping shower

Woman using Sea to Summit Pocket Camping Shower

(Image credit: Sea to Summit)

6. Sea to Summit Pocket Camping Shower

A proper shower can make a world of difference, helping you feel more human after a day of hiking, but a camping shower isn't something most people own. We've tested a lot (warm and cold), and this little one from Sea to Summit is our number one pick. It's lightweight (only 4.25oz) and unlike many other camping showers, it includes everything you need so there's no need to find and connect a separate bottle. We found the spout tap really practical, actually allowing you to control the flow of water, and if you leave the black bag full of water hanging somewhere sunny, it'll be nicely warmed by the time you're ready to use it.

"At the rate you need for a good shower you’ll get around seven minutes of washing time, though it'll last longer if you turn off and on again between stages," our reviewer advises.

Camping mug

Man pouring coffee into Stojo 12oz Folding Mug

(Image credit: Stojo)

7. Stojo 12oz Folding Mug

I own two of these collapsible camping mugs, so I can have one clean one on me at all times while the other is in the dishwasher. They're incredibly useful in the backcountry, packing down small enough to shove in the pocket of your hiking pants, but also great for carrying around town. No more disposable takeaway coffee cups.

The only downside is that you can't use it to cook over a camping stove. For that you'll want something metal like the MSR Titan Kettle (currently on sale for $48.93 at REI).

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.