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Hikers can be a tricky group to shop for: After all, with so much time spent on the trail, they’ve probably amassed a collection of trekking gear that they absolutely swear by — and might look distrustfully on any so-called improvements. (On the opposite end, you have the bare-bones hiking contingent, who might look distrustfully at any gear, period.) But plenty of hikers love the newest tool and greatest gadget — and the best part is, each time they use it on the trail, they’re sure to send a thought your way. Our advice? Pick something that’s practical, but elevated: something they’d never buy themselves but would love to use.
We’ve rounded up our favorite gifts for hikers from around the Internet that fit this description: from a water bottle that keeps water literally as cold as ice (we know, the price tag is ridiculous, but it’s worth it) to a pair of socks that are guaranteed to last a lifetime and to prevent blisters along the way — no matter how many miles they rack up on the trail.
Our Top Picks
Best Water Bottle: Yeti Rambler Stainless Steel Bottle
Yeti is having a moment right now, and for good reason: The company’s coolers have achieved near-legendary status for their insulation. Luckily for those of us needing on-the-go gear, Yeti’s branched out into water bottles. Although you might never have thought you’d consider spending serious dough on one, these keep cold liquids cold and hot liquids hot better than any other product on the market, thanks to the double-wall vacuum insulation. (Your hiker knows that there’s nothing worse than cold water that turns warm — or even hot — on the hardest part of the trail.) The leak-proof, proprietary TripleHaul cap makes sure that not a single drop of liquid spills out, even if it’s bouncing around in the bottom of a backpack for miles on end. The three-finger grip keeps the bottle from slipping out of tired, sweaty hands, too, while the 64-ounce size holds plenty of liquids to keep hikers hydrated for miles to come.
Best Foam Roller: TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller
Another useful tool having a moment? Foam rollers. Quickly becoming a much-beloved and well-used staple at gyms, these magical tubes do the most to work out sore muscles after a day (or three) lifting and carrying packs and hiking trails. We love this top-rated textured one for extra digging-in-ability when it comes to knots and aches, and the anti-slip surface keeps it from scooting out from under someone when it’s positioned on spots like the lower back. Thanks to its solid construction — soft multi-density EVA foam on the outside, PVC core on the inside — it won’t lose shape over time (it has a 500-pound weight limit). Another bonus from the must-have tool? It comes with free online how-to videos, so you can get some training on how exactly to use it before rolling around. One hint: These are also great for use before hitting the trail to help warm up muscles for the trek ahead. This model comes in black, orange, camo, pink, and lime.
Best Notebook: Rite in the Rain All-Weather Notebooks
Whether your hiker is drawing a trail map, sketching the mountain views, leaving a note for a partner or simply taking a moment to journal their thoughts while on the trail, a notebook is alway a great idea for a hiker. Rite in the Rain notebooks are famous and well-loved among those whose work (or hobbies) take them outdoors often — and for good reason. As the name implies, the paper repels water, preventing valuable information from smudging and smearing when it gets damp or when a few raindrops hit the page (grease, sweat and mud are also helpfully repelled) — just use a pencil for maximum security (water-based inks, it’s important to note, will beat off the sheets). The wire binding is sturdy, too, and can survive being bent and beaten up among gear without the spirals getting squished. Consider gifting one of Rite in the Rain’s all-weather pens to round off the gift — those who like to sketch in ballpoint will love them.
Best for Photographers: YOUMILE Cell Phone Camera Lens
If your hiker always brings back gorgeous photos from the trail to show off — the mountains, the sunrise — give them a tool that expands their budding repertoire. YouMile’s cell-phone camera lens transform regular smartphones into pro-quality DSLR cameras — and clip right on to iPhones and Samsung Androids for professional-quality photos on the go. The price point is great for the quality they offer: There’s a professional 112-degree super-wide-angle lens to capture a panoramic vista or a group shot of their hiking crew sans distortion, as well as a 15X macro lens — the better option to zoom in on cool flora and fauna they see along the way. The durable lenses are made of high-quality aluminum alloy for resistance to scratches and scrapes — though it also comes with a “crush-resistant” box and lens cleaning cloth for use in backpacks on the trail. The lens comes in multiple colors to match the recipient’s phone, from rose gold to dark gray.
Best Repair Kit: Gear Aid Tenacious Tape for Fabric Repair
If fabric goes awry on the trail, it’s pretty bad news: A tear in a tent during a rainstorm, a rip in a well-insulated sleeping bag on a cold night, or a jagged gash on the bottom of a backpack can all lead to disaster. Tenacious Tape takes long-time hiker staple duct tape and raises it one, with a fabric-repair table that’s specifically designed to seal the kinds of fabrics you use on the trail: technical fabrics, nylon, canvas, mesh, neoprene, rubber and vinyl. There’s no heat required either: You just peel the patch off its backing and apply it — then sit back and let this ultra-strong table work its bonding magic. It’s also weather-resistant, so don’t worry about this peeling back during a rainstorm and undoing all your efforts. It comes in plenty of colors, too, from neon pink to black to clear, so there’s a roll out there to match (or purposefully clash) with whatever gear your hiker’s bringing alone.
Best Energy Boost: Nuun Electrolyte Tablets
If you know someone who heads out for a day — or a few days — on the trail, they’ll want to have plenty of water with them, but if they're hiking on a hot day or live in a dry climate (or both), having a little extra oomph to that hydration is always a good thing. Nuun’s electrolyte tablets can slip right into their water bottle to transform its normal H2O contents into a highly hydrating beverage that will keep their energy up during a long haul and restore focus to the brain, which is critical for decision-making on the trail. The tube itself and tablets are really light, so they won’t affect the weight of a pack, and they’re neither artificially sweetened nor artificially flavored. The tablets also contain just 10 calories each. There’s a caffeinated version, too, if a little extra energy boost is required.
Best Socks: Darn Tough Socks
Yeah, yeah, everyone gets (and, admittedly, gives) socks as a present for birthdays and holidays — it’s a recurring semi-joke as old as time. But these aren’t just any socks: Darn Tough socks are built for the trail and come with an unconditional lifetime guarantee, meaning your hiker will be wearing these for miles and miles to come. The fine-gauge merino wool is soft, but has the bonus properties of being antimicrobial and antibacterial, meaning they won’t smell after days on the trail (should sock supplies get that drastic). Made in Vermont, these socks have a great fit, even in tightly laced hiking boots, so they won’t slip down, bunch or otherwise do anything that would cause dreaded mid-hike blisters. For those who wear hiking shoes, rather than boots, there are Darn Tough socks available in a lower cut, too.
Best Base Layer: SmartWool Merino 150 base layer T-shirt
Every hiker needs a good base layer, but if yours is the type to throw on yet another Hanes cotton T-shirt under a sweater before hitting the trail, this might just change their life. SmartWool’s lightest version of their backpacker-favorite base layers is great for cooler days or worn under both mid and outer layers on cold ones. Made of 87 percent merino wool and 13 percent nylon, this shirt is breathable and moisture-wicking — forget the clammy feeling of damp, sweat-soaked cotton sticking to skin (and keeping that damp chill trapped). We also love that the shoulder seams are offset to eliminate rub and chafing under straps, whether they belong to a daypack or weighed-down backpack. Even after it has many miles logged with it, these tees hold their shape — and it takes a lot to make them look beat up (heck, we know some people that wear them to the office).