What in the world can you buy a thru hiker? They probably have all the gear they need, and even if they don’t, they are likely pretty particular about what they want. What else can you give someone who is about ready to take off for the summer? Well, here are some ideas.
1. Socks. At $10-20/pair, and the rate that we go through them, socks are my single most appreciated gift item. Darn Tough and Smart Wool are the favorites on the trail, and you pretty much cannot go wrong with either.
2. Books. They probably already have their guidebooks and they aren’t likely to carry a book while hiking. But, you can keep them entertained throughout the long winter months with some books written about long trails. Some of my favorites are Justin “Trauma” Lichter’s book Short Stories From Long Trails, Erin “Hummingbird” Miller’s Hikertrash: Life on the PCT, and Jennifer “Odyssa” Pharr Davis’ Becoming Odyssa. I have also heard great things about Married to the Trail, and Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart, and there are many others!
3. Zappos e-Gift Card. The other thing your hiker will need a lot of are shoes. And, their feet may change over the course of their thru hike, so they may not even know what brand/size they need until they are out there. Because of cost, almost all thru hikers push the limits of their shoes well beyond what they should and many suffer stress fractures and plantar fasciitis as a result of it. You just may save their hike!
Some online retailers are really great about sending shoes to obscure addresses in the middle of nowhere. Zappos is one of them.
4. Hotels.com eGift Card. Nothing feels better on a thru hike than being able to afford to stay at a hotel: bathe, do laundry, sleep in a bed, and veg in front of the TV (while eating mass amounts of pizza). Due to cost, many hikers forgo that luxury more often than they would like to.
5. Pack Liners. Most thru hikers use lightweight pack liners instead of the heavy (and inefficient) pack covers that traditional backpackers use. Because they are lightweight, they don’t last forever. I like the Gossamer Gear Liner Bags.
6. Hikertrash Swag. While we aren’t hiking, we like representing with cotton shirts, trucker hats, coozies, temporary tats, and stickers. My two favorite brands are: We Are Hikertrash and Backcountry Ninjas.
7. Gourmet Backpacking Meals. Food on the trail gets pretty boring, yet, we remain pretty lazy (and poor). Every once in a while, someone makes something gourmet and everyone around them is jealous! You could make them a few customized meals from my blog (https://thehikingtreeblog.wordpress.com/category/food/), or you could order something yummy from Packit Gourmet, such as the All-American Burger! Mmmmmmm.
8. Backpacking Light Subscription. If they haven’t already bought all of their gear, this is a great place for your hiker to find used items for much cheaper than retail. You need to be a member to get on the Gear Swap forum.
9. Satellite Messenger. I apologize in advance to the hikers; this is actually a gift for yourself. A satellite messenger, such as SPOT, will allow your hiker to essentially be able to call 9-1-1, even when cellphone reception is lacking. Also, they can send and “I’m okay” message as frequently as they like. All they have to do it carry the device and hit a button every so often. You can even track their progress on an interactive online map. Don’t forget to pay for the annual subscription to ensure they get all of the features that you want them to have to be able to communicate with you.
10. Single-Serving Condiment Packets. You can start stashing these away for your hiker. Sometimes they help improve our disgusting on-trail fare. I particularly like: mayo, ranch, hot sauce, parmesan, black pepper, cream cheese, and butter packets. But, you can find anything you want at Minimus.biz.