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Awesome and Affordable Gifts for Backpackers in 2023

Are you looking for gifts for backpackers that are thoughtful and practical, unique and innovative, but also won’t be too hard on your wallet?

Our top picks for the best gifts for backpackers in 2023 check all the boxes. They are useful, lightweight, and affordable!

Tara wearing a backpack while hiking and using some of the best gifts for backpackers mentioned in this post.

As a travel writer, I spend a lot of time living out of a backpack. Whether I’m road-tripping, hiking, or simply packing light so I can avoid extra baggage fees, I’ve spent years experimenting with all kinds of gear, sorting through the hype, and finding backpacking products that have made my life easier while traveling.

If you’re searching for a few amazing gifts for backpackers in your life (including yourself), read on. These are some of our favorite finds for backpackers, thru-hikers, and lightweight travelers. 

When it Comes to Gifts for Backpackers, What Does Affordable Even Mean?

I’m well aware that affordable means different things to different people. Throw around words like inflation and recession and the definition becomes even less clear.

All of these gifts for backpackers will come in under $50. We’ll include a range of items at different price points from very inexpensive gifts for backpackers (perfect as stocking stuffers), to items on the higher end of the scale so that you can find a gift for everyone on your list, maybe even yourself!

Best of the Best: Gifts for Backpackers

If you’ve had enough of the research and indecisiveness, and just want to buy something you’re favorite backpacker will love, try one of these:

Affordable Gifts for Long-Distance Hikers

There’s a distinct difference between backpackers who are living life on the trail and those who are traveling the world, and while many of these affordable gifts for backpackers can be used by all types of travelers, the following gifts are geared more toward thru-hikers and other wilderness travelers.

BioLite HeadLamp 325: The Most Comfortable Headlamp I’ve Tried!

A man wears a Biolite headlamp while search through a backpack. The Biolite hadlamp is one of the best gifts for backpackers.
The BioLite headlamp’s electronics are integrated directly into the fabric band for supreme comfort.

A lightweight, long-lasting headlamp is essential for all hikers, backpackers, and travelers, and I’ve yet to find one as comfortable as the BioLite HeadLamp 325. This lovely piece of equipment weighs less than 2 ounces and provides 40 hours of light per charge in a package so comfortable you’ll forget you’re wearing it.

You’re right in assuming that your favorite backpacker already has a working headlamp, but they will appreciate this one for its ease of use and longevity, not to mention how light and comfortable it is.

The red-light feature is great for seeing what you need to see while keeping your eyes adjusted to the nighttime. The rechargeable battery can be easily replenished in a few hours using a wall outlet or a power bank if you don’t have electricity.

We have a pile of handlamps in our camping gear stash, but I always pack my Biolite headlamp for backpacking, dog-walking, and reading in bed.

This little light comes with me on every single trip I take. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this headlamp as the perfect gift for backpackers, hikers, travelers, or dog walkers.

Aeropress: Ingenious Portable Coffee Maker

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As a self-proclaimed coffee snob, my backpacking life changed dramatically when I discovered the Aeropress Portable Coffee Maker.

This small device is a smaller, more practical version of a French press, and unlike a French press, there’s no grit with the Aeropress.

It weighs 10 ounces and can brew the richest coffee, espresso, or even cold brew in minutes. The Aeropress is my favorite gift for backpackers, road trippers, and frequent travelers.

Comfy Socks: They’re on Every Hiker’s Wishlist!

A woman stands on the shore of a lake looking out at the water. She is wearing Lily Trotters compression socks.
Lily Trotter compression socks help fight leg fatigue while hiking. Plus, they’re cute!

When it comes to comfy socks for hiking, I have a few different brands on my wishlist.

My all-time favorite sock for hiking, winter sports, or just lounging around in front of a fire is Darn Tough Vermont. They are made here in Vermont from 100% Merino wool, they’re incredibly warm, and they come with a lifetime warranty. According to Darn Tough, a lifetime supply of Darn Tough Socks is just seven pairs, but everyone in our family has at least 10!

We’ve been wearing Darn Tough socks for decades, and I have nothing bad to say about them. Honestly and truly, they are the best socks I’ve ever worn, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them as gifts for backpackers and hikers.

Darn Tough Vermont has a variety of fun styles for casual wear, hiking, skiing, and snowboarding, and they offer free shipping on orders over $50.

When hiking long miles, your feet and legs take a beating.

For long backpacking trips, I always have a pair of Lily Trotters compression socks for high-mile days. They’re also awesome for long days of city walking and airplane travel.

Not only are Lily Trotters great for preventing leg cramps, reducing swelling, and increasing blood flow to the legs while hiking, but they are also proudly made in the USA. These would make great gifts for hikers and frequent travelers.

Getting socks as a gift is far from boring. The backpacker in your life will love you for it. I promise!

Packable Camp Pillow: Small and Light for Every Backpacker You Know

Camping gear next to a tent.
This pillow is so tiny and so comfy!

The teeny-tiny Aeros Premium Pillow by Sea to Summit packs down to fit in the palm of your hand and weighs just 2.7 ounces.

Unlike other inflatable pillows, this one is super soft on the outside, thanks to brushed polyester knit and a scalloped bottom edge that centers the pillow around your shoulders.  

We have a bunch of inflatable camp/travel pillows, but this is the one we fight over!

I find the Aeros pillow most comfortable when it is just a little bit underinflated. It’s perfect for tent camping as well as car and airplane travel, and it makes an ideal, lightweight, affordable gift for hikers and travelers who want to add a little bit of comfort to their lifestyle.

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter: Clean Water in the Woods

The Sawyer Squeeze Water Filtration System is one of the lightest and easiest to use, ensuring clean water for every backcountry adventure. The pouch/filter combo fills most bottles in less than 20 seconds, or backpackers can drink straight from the filter.

The system comes with two 32-ounce mylar pouches and weighs just 3 ounces when empty. An inline filter allows you to attach it to a water reservoir, and the system also includes tubing to create a gravity system for filtering large quantities.

I used this extensively on a remote paddling trip without issue, but it also makes a great gift for international travelers, thru-hikers, and preppers.

Packable Quick-Dry Towel: A Backpacking Necessity

A small quick-dry towel next to a hat.

A fluffy, cotton towel is pretty much out of the question when backpacking. Nor only do they take up a lot of room, they stay damp forever.

The Multi Towel Deluxe from REI is the perfect gift for backpackers because it dries quickly and fits in every backpack.

Even the XL, which is huge, weighs under a pound. The large size (pictured above) is only seven ounces!

These are also my go-to towels for all of my camping, backpacking, and canoe trips, and they’re sure to be welcome gifts for anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors.

FlipFuel: A Handy Gadget for Consolidating Backpacking Fuel

FlipFuel device for consolidating fuel canisters.

Every backpacker who heads into the woods with a canister of mystery fuel will understand the dilemma – how much fuel are you actually carrying in your pack?

Should you bring an extra canister in case you run out?

FlipFuel makes it easy to maximize space and weight by consolidating partially full backpacking fuel canisters before heading out on a trip.

It’s a tiny, ingenious device that every single backpacker will appreciate.

Use code BACKROADRAMBLERS to save 20% on your FlipFuel purchase. This gem of a product makes a great stocking stuffer for backpackers.

Affordable Gifts for Lightweight Travelers

When travelers have to live out of a backpack, they are looking to get a lot of use out of the gear they choose to bring along. Little luxuries will be appreciated – items they won’t be able to find when they’re bouncing from airports and bus stations to hostels and hotels.

Here are our top picks for unique gifts for backpackers who spend a lot living out of a single bag.

Lens Kit for Smart Phones: The Perfect Gift for Phone Photographers

 Even backpackers who love photography have a hard time dealing with heavy camera gear when they’re traveling.

Phone photography has improved drastically over the past few years, and most travelers are opting to leave the camera behind for the all-in-one convenience of a smartphone.

Help the backpacker in your life improve their photography skills with a Xenvo camera lens kit. This kit includes two important lenses — a wide-angle for perfect street scenes and landscape shots, and a macro lens for capturing all the details.

The Xenvo camera lens kit got high reviews on Amazon and is definitely going on my own holiday wish list.

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Stanley X Pendelton Trigger-Action Travel Mug

Stanley Travel Mugs lined up on a stump.
Photo credit: Stanley

When it comes to travel mugs, there are about a billion choices. For long-term travel, I enjoy this leak-proof, easy-to-clean Stanley travel mug, and I think it’s one of the best gifts for backpackers who do a lot of traveling and want to ditch single-use plastic cups for good.

This beautiful travel mug holds just the right amount of coffee (16 ounces), has a trigger design to prevent spills and leaks, and keeps beverages hot for hours.

Not only do I bring this mug with me wherever I travel, but I also use it pretty regularly at home.

Portable Speaker: For hotels, vacation rentals, and hostels

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Everybody needs a small speaker for traveling — trust me!

This highly-rated waterproof speaker from JBL offers big sound in a tiny package. It pairs easily with your phone via Bluetooth, has a surprisingly long-lasting battery, and is durable enough for all kinds of outdoor activities.

While this is one of our favorite gifts for backpackers, it would also work well for campers and hikers who want a rugged, quality speaker that won’t take up much room.

A Lightweight Power Bank: An Essential Gift for Backpackers

A portable power bank is essential for frequent travelers and makes one of the most well-received gifts for backpackers of every persuasion.

The Anker Portable Charger weighs just 7.5 ounces, is slim enough to fit easily in a pocket, and provides versatile charging for phones, earbuds, and other small devices.

10,000mAh battery pack with ports for Micro USB and USB-C cables.

This is a great affordable gift for all of the travelers on your list. Mine has enabled me to stay connected and work from national parks, airplanes, trains, and coffee shops, and while I like being forced to disconnect now and then, I also really like having the freedom to work where I want.

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Tiny First Aid Kit: To Tuck Away for Emergencies

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At the risk of sounding dull, a small, packable first aid kit is not something people think to buy for themselves. No, that job is for the concerned parent, auntie, or best friend, which is why a first aid kit makes such a great gift.

This first aid kit from Adventure Medical Kits weighs just 4 ounces and includes treatment for minor wounds and illnesses, as well as blister protection.

Now, you just have to hope that your backpacking friend or loved one can tuck this away in the bottom of their backpack and forget about it!

Shopping for holiday gifts doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. Hopefully, you’ve come away with some unique gift ideas for backpackers and travelers that are both useful and affordable.

We hope you have an amazing holiday season with your loved ones!

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A collage of photos featuring the best gifts for backpackers.
Tara Schatz sits with her two dogs, Gatsby and Flynn.

Tara is a freelance writer and travel blogger with a passion for outdoor adventures. She is the co-author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes in Vermont and currently blogs at Back Road Ramblers and Vermont Explored, where she shares travel tips, adventure destinations, and vacation ideas for the wanderer in everyone.