Hiking up to a ridge.
Photo by Holly Mandarich
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10 Thru-Hiking Gifts for Under $20

Whether you're stuffing stockings or just looking for affordable gifts for the hiker, thru-hiker, backpacker, or outdoorsperson in your life, you're sure to find something on this list.

Zoë Symon       11/30/2018
Zoë Symon
11/30/2018

Prices are listed as they were at the time of writing. No products were donated or given for the purposes of review.


A hiker holds a pot of tortellini and vegetables with a spoon in it.
Hiker dinner, featuring a long-handled spoon.
Photo by Zoë Symon

1. Long-handled Spoon

This is a thru-hiking and backpacking necessity, and chances are, most thru-hikers already have one. If not, though, this is the ultimate affordable outdoors gift: able to reach the bottom of a peanut butter jar, and it won’t break. (Can you tell this is my favorite item?)

Most companies offer either a stainless steel or titanium spoon, and most weigh around 0.5 oz or less. Below are a few options.

Sea to Summit Alpha Long Spoon ($8.95, 0.4 oz)
Toaks Titanium Long Handle Spoon ($10.95, 0.65 oz)
MSR Alpine Long Tool Spoon ($9.95, 0.3 oz)
Optimus Titanium Long Spoon ($9.95, 0.67 oz)

An open multi-tool sits against a tree.
This multi-tool is a little bigger than the ones that most hikers carry, but it was found on the trail, and you can’t beat free for price!
Photo by Zoë Symon

2. Multi-tool

This one may be a little over $20, but it’s so useful it belongs on here. Also, it’s really helpful to have all your tools in one! This is doubly true for thru-hikers and backpackers where space and weight are big issues.

When selecting a multi-tool, keep weight in mind: the smaller and lighter the better, but not so small and light that it’s useless. Also, scissors as part of the multi-tool are a necessity. They are useful for opening food packages, cutting tape to repair gear, cutting someone’s old paracord out of trees, and so much more. Below are a few good options.

Gerber Dime Butterfly-opening Multi-tool ($21, 2.2 oz)
Leatherman Style CS Multi-tool ($29.95, 1.4 oz)
Leatherman Micra Multi-tool ($23.96, 1.8 oz)

Granola bars are stacked up against a blue background.
Granola bars are another good snack food and have a wide variety.
Photo by Alice Pasqual

3. Snacks

Hiker hunger is a well-known phenomenon, and most thru-hikers do love to eat, but food as a gift is tricky. Consider giving an IOU for snacks for their next hike rather than buying a million Clif Bars now. Also, maybe don’t go for only Clif Bars… other options are below.

ProBar Meal (~$3.50/bar, vegan)
Epic Meat Bar (~$2.50/bar, paleo)
These links will take you to the company websites, where they only sell in bulk. Most health food stores or outdoor retailers will sell single bars.
Trail Butter (prices vary, vegetarian)

a person holds two ibuprofen pills.
A couple of ibuprofen, ready to help with aches and pains.
Photo by Zoë Symon

4. Ibuprofen

This one is kind of a downer, because no one likes to think about being in pain while hiking, but chances are that any thru-hiker will want some “vitamin I” while on a long-distance backpacking trip. When the difference between not being able to get out of your tent and having a great day hiking could be as simple as a couple ibuprofen, it makes sense to carry a few along.

For those hikers who are sensitive to ibuprofen, naproxen can be a good pain relief alternative.

Generic Ibuprofen (~$5 for a 50 pill bottle)
I’ve linked CVS here, but you can find a similar product and price at any pharmacy, grocery, or convenience store.

A worn out tent seam in need of some minor repair.
A tent seam waiting for some repair tape.
Photo by Zoë Symon

5. Gear Repair Tape

Frustrating things can happen sometimes, and thru-hikers definitely shouldn’t be stuck out on the trail with no way to repair a tent that has failed. Most gear repair tape is lightweight, strong, and completely worth it on the off chance that a tent, rain jacket, or other piece of gear gets damaged.

Plus, if you carry it, then you’ll never need it, right?! Some good options are below.

Gear Aid Tenacious Tape ($5.25, nylon)
Zpacks Seam Tape/Repair Tape ($3.50, dyneema)

A small towel hangs on a tree to dry.
Hanging a small towel to dry after cleaning a cooking pot.
Photo by Zoë Symon

6. Small Towel

Many thru-hikers might consider a small towel an unnecessary luxury item, but it’s so lightweight and multipurpose that it can make it worth its weight.

Most small camp towels are absorbent, quick to dry, and can be used for a variety of purposes, from washing your cooking pot to washing your dusty trail legs before getting in your sleeping bag.

REI Co-op Multi-towel Lite ($9.95, 0.7 oz – Small)
PackTowl Nano ($9.95, 0.9 oz)
PackTowl Luxe ($12.95, 1.1 oz – Face)

many varieties and colors of cord and utility line are all in a pile.
Rope and paracord in a pile.
Photo by Emma Louise Comerford

7. Paracord

Talk to any thru-hiker about how they store their food, and you’ll find there’s an intense debate about whether to hang your food. However, in bear-prone areas like much of the Appalachian Trail and other long trails, it’s a good idea to be prepared just in case. Having some paracord in your pack will give you the option to hang your food if necessary, and can be useful in other situations too!

Consider taking your gift a step further and printing instructions for the PCT bear hang method to go with the paracord.

PMI 3mm Utility Cord ($5 for 50ft, 3.8oz)
Gear Aid 550 Paracord Utility Line ($6.50 for 30 ft, 2.6oz)

A hiker wears gaiters and trail running shoes while hiking.
Dirty Girl Gaiters and trail runners go great together!
Photo by Zoë Symon

8. Gaiters

This is another item that could be just over the $20 mark depending on the brand you get, but gaiters are worth every penny.

Gaiters are so lightweight you won’t even notice you’re wearing them, but your feet will thank you because your shoes won’t fill with abrasive dirt and debris that can cause chafing and lead to other foot issues. The only problem is remembering to put them on before your shoes when you’re still half asleep. Some great options are below!

Altra Trail Gaiter ($20/pair ~1oz)
Dirty Girl Gaiters ($23/pair, ~1oz)
Outdoor Research Surge Running Gaiters ($28/pair, ~1oz)

a person holds an empty bottle of hand sanitizer/
Out of hand sanitizer! Oh no!
Photo by Zoë Symon

9. Hand Sanitizer

Another must-have for day hikers, section hikers, and thru-hikers. When you haven’t had a shower in a week, it’s probably a good idea to use some hand sanitizer before you eat. When you’re using the bathroom in the woods (or in a privy because, let’s be real, those things can be gross), you’ll probably want some hand sanitizer afterwards. When Grubby Joe Hiker sticks his dirty little fingers into the trail mix bag and then offers you some… well, you’ll probably just want to say no thanks.

Generic Hand Sanitizer (~$1.50 per 2oz bottle)
I’ve linked CVS here, but you can find a similar product and price at any pharmacy, grocery, or convenience store.

A person holds a postcard from the Appalachian Trail.
A postcard from the Appalachian Trail.
Photo by Zoë Symon

10. Postcard Stamps

A fun way for thru-hikers to keep in touch with family and friends while on the trail is by sending postcards from all the amazing places they have the opportunity to visit. However, with post office hours, it can be a pain to find stamps for the postcards.

An entire sheet of stamps might last a hiker for their entire trip! Consider gifting a pen as well, as it can be hard to find single pens for sale.

Postcard Stamps ($7 for a sheet of 20)

A woman holds a phone showing the Guthook Guides trail guide app.
A thru-hiker uses the Guthook Guides app.
Photo by Jonas Jacobsson, screenshot courtesy of Atlas Guides

BONUS. Guthook Guides

Many of our trail guides are under $20. Browse our list of guides and consider giving the gift of Guthook!

Hikers and their gear.
Photo by Zoë Symon

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About the Author
A smiling woman wearing a rain jacket and a backpack stands next to a tree.

Zoë Symon

Zoë grew up in North Carolina and first heard of the Appalachian Trail during her time in college. In 2016, she took a leave of absence from her job and thru-hiked the trail. This adventure fostered her love for the outdoors and for hiking. Currently, she explores the public lands of Oregon. In 2017 she joined the team at Atlas Guides as Creative Director. She spends her days improving experiences for all our users.