Hiking and backpacking require loads of gear, which means there are tons of great stocking stuffers for hikers out there. In fact, there are so many that it can be hard to know where to start. You want something more personal than a gift certificate and sexier than blister pads, but with a lower price tag than hiking boots. Even if you are looking at bigger ticket items, backpacks and trekking poles are such individual choices that it can be tricky to be sure you’re picking out the right model and style.
To help you decide, we’ve come up with a list of our 15 favorite stocking stuffers for hikers and backpackers that are small, relatively affordable and items that the hiker in your life will definitely appreciate and won’t mind having multiples of if they already own one just like it.
1. Hiking socks
Socks are the quintessential stocking stuffer and you can literally never have too many, especially since so many of them disappear on laundry day. Compared to regular socks or even sports socks, hiking socks are soft and cushioned to help prevent boot rub, durable, and most importantly keep your feet dry and warm in all conditions by wicking sweat away using materials like merino wool. We gave the Darn Tough Hiker Boot Midweight socks five stars for their performance in the hills, and you can check out our list of the best hiking socks on the market for more ideas.
2. Hiking gloves
Don’t let the hiker in your life hit the hills in an old pair of street gloves that are unsuitable for hiking. Hiking gloves are another small but specialty item that can make or break a walk in the hills and we recommend every hiker owns several pairs. Of course, gloves keep your hands warm on a cold day, but a good pair of hiking gloves should also wick away sweat, repel wind and water, and provide enough finger dexterity that you can still adjust backpack straps and fiddle with gear without taking them off. Our list of the best hiking gloves covers everything from light liner gloves for milder conditions to heavy duty winter warmers for frozen expeditions, and we love the Rab Khroma Tour Infinium glove for high-quality all-rounders.
3. Beanie hat
Keeping with the theme of cozy gifts, a snug beanie hat like the Penfield Harris Winter beanie is ideal for keeping heads warm on cold hikes and looks good enough to wear around town, too. The best hiking hats for winter stay put in high winds, wick away sweat and pull down over the ears to keep everyone happy.
4. Hiking seat pad
Your hiking friends and family are probably pretty tough, but that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy a little padding when they stop for a break. Sure, they can sit on wet grass or a cold, hard rock, but they’ll definitely enjoy their lunch more on a hiking seat pad. Hiking seat pads come in foldable foam and inflatable models so they compress and fit easily inside a backpack and can turn breaks into a much comfier affair, plus some of the inflatable models even double as a camping pillow.
No hiker should leave the house without a headlamp. Even if you never intend to hike in the dark, things can go wrong in the hills and if they do, you certainly want to be able to see where you’re going. A headlamp is a compact and robust torch that straps around your head, giving you a hands-free night vision, which is so important for many types of outdoor adventure such as map reading, trail-finding or just rummaging around in your tent. They’re also easy to lose, so your loved one will be pleased to have an extra. Petzl and Black Diamond are two of the best-known brands of headlamps, and we really like the Black Diamond Storm 500R for its easy-to-adjust brightness, but our list of the best headlamps covers all budgets.
If you’re seeking something a bit more symbolic and special, look no further than the quintessential navigation tool, designed to guide the hiker in your life to adventure and to safety. The best compass is a lightweight, reliable and rugged little tool that easily fits in a stocking and can be used anywhere in the world. Baseplate compasses are the stalwarts of hiking navigation and the Silva Expedition Type 4 and Suunto M-3 both claimed top spots in our guide to the best compass for hiking.
7. Maps and hiking guides
A compass works a lot better when it’s used in conjunction with a map, and if you are buying for a hiker that often explores in a particular area – say, a National Park or National Forest get them a topographical map or hiking guide for that region if available. UK hikers have the gold standard of Ordnance Survey maps, which make great gifts, while in the US you can find some hard copies of maps from the US Geological Survey.
8. National Parks pass
If your loved one visits more than two National Parks per year, or lives near a lot of National Parks (think: Utah, Colorado, California) then an annual National Parks pass is the gift that keeps on giving. For $80, they’ll be able to visit any National Park or National Wildlife Refuge in the country for an entire year, and the pass covers any passengers in their car, too, up to four people! It's basically like getting them a free pass to some of the most beautiful sites on the planet.
9. Emergency blanket
If you’re seeking something really affordable and practical, pick up an emergency blanket or two. These super lightweight, single-use metallic blankets work by reflecting a person’s body heat back towards them to keep them warm in a pinch and can save a life if things really get out of hand.
10. Water bottle
Hiking water bottles can come in plastic, steel, aluminum and even glass which provide varying degrees of durability, but one thing is for sure – when it’s being used by a hiker, it’s probably taking a beating. If your loved one needs a new water bottle, consider a sturdy stainless steel bottle or for an extra special stocking stuffer, the Lifestraw Peak Series Collapsible Squeeze 1L Water Bottle which rolls up when it’s empty, making it easy to travel with, and comes with a built in water filter for souring water safely in the wild.
For a really nifty piece of safety gear, check out the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter. This really affordable piece of kit is about the size of a Magic Marker and filters out harmful bacteria and viruses if you need to drink directly from a stream in a pinch.
12. Hiking flask
If the person you’re buying for just loves a good hot cuppa, look no further than a hiking flask to keep their brew warm on a chilly walk. The best hiking flasks keep hot drinks, soups and stews warm for hours, even on the coldest days. A big and bulky thermos might not be so welcome if they’re a lightweight traveler, so seek out a sleeker, lightweight flask with a built-in mug like the Thermos Revival or the Vango Magma if you’re in the UK.
13. Multitool or camping knife
What with their plenitude of uses, buying someone you care about a multitool is a bit like buying them 10 or more gifts in one tiny package. Whether they need to trim or fix gear on the trail or prepare food or even open a bottle of wine at their campsite, a multitool like the affordable Gerber Truss, which made our list of the best multitools, could save the day time and time again. If what you really want to buy your special someone is a good knife, we do recommend foregoing the versatility and going for a camping knife instead as the blade will be better.
14. Nikwax gear care
As we’ve already mentioned, outdoor gear like hiking boots, down jackets, tents and waterproof jackets can be pricey, and they tend to take a lot of wear and tear. Help someone you care about look after the gear with planet-friendly Nikwax gear care products like Tech Wash to clean wet weather clothing, Fabric & Leather Proof to revitalize their boots or Tent & Gear Solarproof to protect their shelter against sun and water damage.
15. Massage gun
Anyone that’s covering a lot of ground on their feet needs to take time for recovery, and a one-time massage is a great gift, but why not try a massage gun so that they can take care of tired, sore muscles any time? A massage gun is a handheld, rechargable device that you press against tired muscles to relieve tension and aid recovery. Though it’s the largest item on this list, you can still squeeze it inside a stocking and it’s bound to delight anyone active.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.