These are some of my favorite tried-and-true backpacking products for under $100. Some make good stocking stuffers while others are more substantial. Among the collection are items that would make good gifts for birthdays, anniversaries or holidays.
- Sun Sleeves, $10. Good for sun protection but I usually use them in the morning when it’s cool. When it warms up, just peel the sleeves off and tuck them in a pocket. You don’t even have to take your pack off. They come in a million fun colors, too.
- Chums Braided Leather Eyewear Retainer, $10. Keep those sunglasses safe on the trail. See the complete Chums line of retainers.
- AegisMax Down Sleep Booties, $18. Warm down booties keep feet toasty in a sleeping bag. Use only for sleep as they are slippery on the bottom.
- Down beanie, $40 for Outdoor Research, $70 for Black Rock. Keeps your head warmer than a fleece hat in winter temperatures.
- Buff Multifunctional Headware, $24. So versatile, so many uses and so many cool designs. I wear it as a neck gaiter most often but also slip it over my inflatable pillow as a pillowcase hack. See the complete Buff line.
- Hiker Medal, $25. Top quality, heavy-duty zinc-alloy medal with designs for many of the most popular trails, including the JMT, PCT, AT, Half Dome and many more in the U.S. and around the world.
- Hydrapak Stash Collapsible Water Bottle, $25. This lightweight, collapsible bottle is space-efficient when empty. See the complete Hydrapak line.
- Solight Design Solar Puff Solar Lantern, $30. Hang this collapsible lantern off your pack in the sun and it provides plenty of light at night. Luci Lights are also popular.
- Petzel E+LITE Ultralight Headlamp, $30. This lightweight, tiny headlamp is a great summer emergency light.
- Leatherman Micra Multitool, $30. This little (2.5 inches long) knife, scissor, tweezers combo is all we need on the trail. See the complete Leatherman multitool line.
- A Leader Water Shoe for Women or Men, $30. This mesh water shoe is lightweight and has a low profile–perfect for stream crossings and camp shoes.
- Granite Gear Event Uberlight Waterproof Drysack (10 L), $32. These sacks are lighter than those that come with sleeping bags and are waterproof. Very useful for clothing bags or anything that should be kept dry. See the complete Granite Gear waterproof stuffsack line.
- Therm-A-Rest Trekker Pillow Case, $15. Soft against the skin and can be stuffed with extra clothing or an inflatable pillow.
- Therm-A-Rest Down Pillow, $17. This down pillow shell offers luxurious comfort when paired with an inflatable pillow.
- Exped UL Inflatable Pillow, $45. This pillow is smaller and lighter than many other inflatable pillows making it feel more like standard gear and less like a luxury. Be sure to get the UL (ultralight) version for the smallest, lightest pillow in the line.
- Culo Clean backcountry bidet, $13. Small item that attaches to just about any water bottle to create a backcountry bidet. Let’s keep toilet paper out of the backcountry.
- MaskIt bags, $20. These biodegradeable, opaque bags were designed for feminine hygiene products but work very well for used toilet paper (leave no trace). See the complete MaskIt line.
- Kula Cloth Pee Rag, $20. A quarter of a bandana works fine as a pee rag but the Kula Cloth is more absorbent and has antimicrobial qualities. Plus there are cool designs. Only available on pre-sale; verify that it’s in production before purchasing for Christmas 2018.
- Deuce of Spades, $20. Super strong, weighs less than an ounce and comes in pretty colors. There’s no better trowel for the UL backpacker who does the right thing and practices Leave No trace.
- Cusa Premium Instant Tea, $10 for variety pack. Perfect for tea lovers. The powder dissolves in hot or cold water. See the complete Cusa Premium Tea line.
- Sarabeth’s Hot Chocolate Parisienne. This is the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had outside of France. Rich flavor, real chocolate nibs and a clean, simple ingredient list.
- Trader Joe’s Oven Baked Cheese Bites, $10 for 2 bags. This is a good high-protein snack that also provides needed fat calories.
- Tailwind Endurance Fuel or Rebuild Recovery Drink, $35 for bag. Tailwind products are remarkably clean tasting with no unnecessary additives.
- Highs and Lows on the John Muir Trail by Inga Aksamit, $13. Shameless self-promotion.
- The Hungry Spork: A Long-Distance Hiker’s Guide to Meal Planning by Inga Aksamit, $10. More shameless self-promotion.
- The Hungry Spork TRAIL RECIPES: Quick, Gourmet Meals for the Backcountry, by Inga Aksamit. $15.
- Recipes for Adventure: Healthy, Hearty & Homemade Backpacking Recipes by Chef Glenn MacAllister, $22. Detailed instructions with photos to illustrate how to dehydrate and assemble meals for the backcountry. Pair it with the Nesco Pro Dehydrator (see below) for the perfect starter kit.
- Wildflowers of the High Sierra and John Muir Trail by Elizabeth Wenk, $16. Get the hard copy for home and the Kindle version for field identification.
- Guidebooks by Elizabeth Wenk: Top Trails Yosemite ($17), Yosemite Hiking Guide ($23), John Muir Trail: The Essential Guide to Hiking America’s Most Famous Trail ($17), Sierra North, Sierra South and more. See Wilderness Press‘ complete line of guidebooks.
- Backpacking California, various authors. Consider any state or regional guidebook or map to provide inspiration.
- Early Days in the Range of Light: Encounters with Legendary Mountaineers by Daniel Arnold, $38. The author researched the routes and gear used by Muir and other early explorers, then tried to replicate the journey as much as possible. Each chapter is another fascinating glimpse into another world, recounted with vivid descriptions and lyrical style.
- The Log of a Snow Survey: Skiing and Working in a Mountain Winter World by Patrick Armstrong, $20. A fascinating recounting of the adventures of a winter snow surveyor in the Sierra.
- Nesco Pro Dehydrator, $80. For anyone who likes to cook and wants to make healthy backcountry meals, a dehydrator is critical. Pair it with “Recipes for Adventure” and “The Hungry Spork” (see above) for the perfect starter kit. Throw in some fruit roll trays ($8) to enable dehydrating soups and sauces.
- ZPacks Vertice Waterproof Mitts, $65. These lightweight, factory seam sealed rain mitts can be worn alone or paired with warm gloves to create a layered system. Ski gloves will get soaked and are too warm for hiking so a layered systems works better in cold, wet conditions. I prefer the shape of Mountain Laurel eVent Mitts, $45, but seam sealing at home is a pain.
- Colorescience Sunforgettable Mineral Powder Sunscreen Brush, $65. Lightweight mineral powder brushes on easily and there’s no mess to wash off of hands.
- Kahtoola Microspikes, $70. These quality spikes will keep the adventurer safe on moderate amounts of packed snow.
- Tilley Airflow Hat, $70. Tilley is legendary for making quality hats with a lifetime guarantee. This is one of their more popular models.
- REI FlexLite Camp Chair, $79 or splurge on Helinox Camp Zero, $115, to shave off ounces. The folding chairs weigh in at 1 lb, 10 oz vs 1 lb respectively.