Holiday Gift Essentials for the Beginner Hiker
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
If you're a beginner hiker or you are shopping for a beginner hiker, you should know that hiking gear is the best place to start when trying to find the right gift for the holidays. New, better gear is always appreciated, and as an avid hiker, you can never get enough!
Here is my list of recommendations for you to get for the beginner hiker in your life. If you're a beginner hiker yourself? Add these items to your wishlist!
Note: This blog post contains affiliate links to products that I recommend. Clicking a link and purchasing an item through the link does not cost you anything extra, but I may earn a commission on the items you purchase.
Outdoor Essentials That Your Hiker May Not Yet Have:
High-Quality Hiking Boots
I will never stop preaching the necessity of a pair of high-quality hiking boots. In fact - I actually forbade my best friend from coming on a hiking trip with me to the Adirondacks this past summer without first buying a pair of hiking boots. She did indeed buy them and told me she was glad she did.
What makes a pair of hiking boots high quality? Well, first of all, they should be comfortable to wear and move around in. They should be waterproof or at least water-resistant. They should have some good tread on the bottoms of them to reduce slipping and increase traction. They should be durable and not rip anywhere easily. I prefer the kind that goes up over your ankle in order to give your foot the most stability possible. I wear the highest quality Salomon boots that I can find because I prioritize my footwear at the top of my gear list. Merrell also has a great line of hiking footwear and it is the brand that I buy for my daughter because they have a good kid's selection.
High-Quality Back Pack
I've been using a tactical backpack that I already had in the house as my hiking backpack. It's had a good run and it worked well, but now that I've done some research on backpacks, I am working on an upgrade. I tried out a couple of hiking backpacks at the sporting goods store the last time I went out and found that a good pack makes all the difference. A good backpack comes with buckles in all the right places to help distribute the weight evenly on your person, and helps to cinch the pack down as close to you as possible. A good hiking pack is made out of lightweight but durable material so that it doesn't feel heavy after going long distances. Some have pockets and loops in the straps for easy access to small things like snacks while you're trekking. Osprey makes a lot of good hiking and backpacking packs. Also, I may have already secretly purchased myself one of these (below!) and am just waiting until the holidays are over to use it!
With the holiday season comes shorter days and more chances to end up hiking in the dark. A good headlamp is an absolute must for these situations. Your cell phone flashlight will not be a strong enough light, nor will it have enough battery power to get you back to the trailhead. A good headlamp will have both strong light and long-lasting battery power. It also has the benefit of being hands-free.
The holiday season coincides with the "shoulder" season which means that the weather can be temperamental and change at any time. It could be sunny and 70 degrees, it could be snowing and 30 degrees or it could be somewhere in the middle and suddenly start raining. You can never go wrong with having a lightweight raincoat to keep in your pack.
This is a must-have for any hiker who may come across freezing conditions during their hike. In New York State, this means hikers should pack microspikes from October through June when hiking any sort of elevation. I was shocked the first time I used them how well they gripped the ice as I was climbing up an ice slab.
I keep including winter hiking supplies because if you're giving gifts around the holidays, your hiker is going to want to get out on the trails and try them out. Snowshoes are a great way to get outside and go exploring when winter is in full force. When there is a considerable amount of snow on the ground, wearing snowshoes makes hiking much easier because you don't sink into the ground as far, plus you don't make those deep post-holes that make it much harder for other hikers to use the snow-covered trails.
Wool Hiking Socks
Wool hiking socks are a good thing to have any time of year and I find myself wearing them during the summer and during the winter. During the summer the socks prevent my feet and ankles from rubbing against my hiking boots and also wick away moisture from my feet so that they aren't drenched in sweat and give me blisters. During the winter they are nice and warm so my feet don't freeze!
It's important to do your research before heading out on a hike where you are unfamiliar with the terrain. A lot of people depend on websites and apps like AllTrails and while these services are a great resource, nothing is more dependable than a good old-fashioned (and up-to-date!) map and compass. If your cell phone battery dies or you can't load the app for some reason, having a physical map of the area where you are hiking can be a lifesaver.
A good compass is an essential pair to a map as it will help you orient yourself to the locations of North, South, East, and West so that you can properly align your map. Be sure to buy a good compass - don't use the one on your phone or one of those cheap add-ons that sometimes come with carabiners or other hiking gear, unless absolutely necessary.
Small Items You'll Love That You Didn't Know You Needed:
I love my solar charger because it is so easy to use. It was a no-brainer purchase. You initially have to charge it up using a wall outlet, but once it's got at least a little bit of a charge, you can have it out in the sun and it uses solar power to charge up. It's light, and small, about the size of your average smartphone. It comes equipped with Qi wireless charging so if you have a compatible phone you can simply place it on top of the charger to charge up your phone. You can also charge it through a traditional cord if you'd like. Having both options allows you to charge two phones at one time. It also has a flashlight on one end that makes a great back-up light source.
Outdoor toilets are not always easy to come by. You can make the world be your bathroom with a cathole digger. These lightweight tools are meant to help you dig a hole 6"-8" in the ground when you have some business you need to take care of that you need to bury. Actually, it's the law. It's illegal to leave human waste lying around. You also need to be sure you are well off-trail and away from any water sources before allowing nature to call.
Water bottles are a perfectly acceptable way to bring water with you on your hike, but they may not always be the most convenient method of carrying thirst-quenching liquid. A water pouch or bladder is flexible and can be placed inside your hiking pack. It will have a long straw type nozzle that will allow you to drink directly from your pack without much effort at all. You won't have to stop hiking, take off your pack, and dig through your supplies to find your water bottle.
This one may or may not belong in the first category above. I tend to not use trekking poles very often so I don't consider them to be one of my essential items. I have found them handy on very long hikes with a lot of elevation change. At that point, they become game-changers for the well-being of your knees. They help divert some of the weight and work to your upper body instead of your knees taking the brunt of the impact. Below is a simple set to get you started. You may find that after using these for a while, you may want to upgrade your quality.
When you're hiking deep into the summer months, you may find that even the strongest dose of deet doesn't save you from the bugs and black flies that you encounter. When I bought myself a bug hat/net, it was a game-changer. I didn't have to worry about black flies biting up my face and neck. I only had to worry about my arms and legs, haha. But seriously, the bug hat below, while it may look ridiculous, was actually one of the things that allowed me to enjoy the hike.
If you love taking photos out in the woods as much as I do then you might just love having a flexible tripod. I use this wonderful piece of equipment anytime I go out on a solo hike when I have nobody to take that perfect summit photo of me. I also use it when there's a cool shot I want to take but the only way to take the shot is to wrap the tripod legs around a tree. Paired with the camera shutter app on my phone, it's the best way to take perfect summit selfies out in the forest.
The holidays are the best time to find that perfect gift for yourself or for your favorite hiker. You can be sure that your gift will be well-received and will be used for many outdoor recreation activities in the years to come.