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The gift of experiencing the outdoors is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. For beginning hikers, there is much joy to be found in discovering new trails and learning new things. One of the most essential ways to help someone start off on the right foot is ensuring they have the right equipment. In this post, we will cover the best gifts for beginner hikers to help them build a foundation of items to ensure their safety and comfort on the trails.
Starting with the Basics
Price Range: $19 – $40
Comfort is key on a hike. Having a few basic staples can help set a beginner hiker up for success when they are out on the trail.
A good hat is key for sun protection. In many cases, a baseball cap or visor will work well. I recommend something adjustable that can be tightened on a windy day. Since hikers tend to get dirty and sweaty while out on the trails, it is good to have a dedicated hiking hat. Find a hat that matches your recipient’s personality. My go-to hat is the United By Blue “Tough As Trails” hat below . I wear it on every hike lately.
For hikes out in the desert or above the treeline where there is no shade, beginner hikers will need a sunhat, which provides wider coverage. I’m very sensitive to sun exposure and need hats like this to help combat migraines. I prefer a sunhat like the Columbia Bora Bora Booney Hat when I’m going to be out in direct sun for a while.
A Buff is a jack of all trades. These are thin fabric bands that can be lightweight or wool and can be worn in a variety of ways around the neck or head. Some of the most popular ways to wear them are as a headband and as a face-covering to keep out sand, dust, etc. Lately, people have also been wearing them as a COVID face covering as well but that is not their intended use. Buffs come with a variety of coatings on the fabric that are specialized to address specific issues such as UV protection and repelling insects. Having a Buff saved me during a weekend of 60mph winds in Canyonlands NP. I wouldn’t have been able to breathe and enjoy the park without it. I’d recommended a Buff with cooling properties, like the one below to get people started.
OK, stick with me on this one, but every hiker needs several good pairs of hiking socks! I know, I know. No one wants to be the person giving socks for the holidays but hiking socks are one of the most important items a hiker owns. The reason for this is because they are essential for preventing blisters. Nothing ruins a hike like blisters, so having socks as good prevention is essential. Hiking socks are more expensive than regular socks but they are much better quality. I like mine so much that I pretty much wear them non-stop in the winter. That said, even though I know their value, I’m never excited to spend my hard earned cash on socks. So the fact that they are necessary but not something a hiker is going to want to buy for themselves makes them the perfect gift. I have personally requested this as a gift several times. My favorite brand is Darn Tough. I have the pair below in several colors.
One more “basic” item that is essential to a beginner hikers arsenal is a headlamp. This will help ensure that they have the gift of light if they find themselves out on the trail later than they planned. This is one of the items that you may not plan on needing but if you need it and don’t have it you’ll regret it. Despite best laid plans, I have had hikes where I didn’t make it to the destination until after dark and would not have found my way there without the headlamp. I have only ever used Black Diamond Headlamps and they have served me well. It’s important to purchase one with an infrared setting, which is intended to provide light while not shining too brightly at the people around you. This Black Diamond Spot 350 has all the essential features a hiker would want in a headlamp.
Focusing on Safety
Price Range: $24 – $60
Ultimately, nothing is more important than safety in hiking. It’s easy when everything goes well to not think about how easy it is for something to go wrong. An unexpected fall, a turn in the weather, or a wrong turn can quickly escalate to a more severe situation. There are several essential safety items that would make perfect gifts for beginner hikers, so let’s dive into a few of them.
Safety 101 is all about hydration. The best way to stay hydrated is to have a hydration pack (also known as water reservoir or bladder) that fits into a hiking backpack. This allows hikers to easily sip water as they hike without having to reach for a water bottle. These hydration packs come in various sizes. I recommend a 100oz hydration pack for backpacks over 25L (see below for details on backpack capacities). This will give the option to fill it to max capacity for longer hikes and hot days. I’ve used a Camelback Crux 100 oz. for several years and it has served me well.
Equally important to carrying enough water is having a way to purify more water, if needed. This could be important if someone is lost or stranded or something unexpected causes them to run out of water. There are several methods to purify water. For a day hiker, having something lightweight and compact is important. I love the Sawyer Squeeze because it is simple, small, and extremely light.
Having a simple first aid kit is a must. This kit should include bandages, antiseptic wipes, gloves, medical tape, and medications. Kits come in various sizes. In most cases, a kit for 1-2 people is the perfect size for most beginner hikers. I carry this Adventure Medical Kit Mountain Hiker – 2 days, 2 people kit because I prefer to have a little more than what may be needed.
Another kit that is crucial is an emergency kit. These also come in a variety of sizes. For a beginner hiker it is important the kit not be too big so that it keeps the size and weight reasonable within their backpack. The most important items that the kit should include are a signal mirror, a fire-starting tool, and an emergency blanket. Adventure Medical Kit’s SOL Scout Survival Kit is a perfect combination of the most essential items. Believe it or not, SOL here stands for Survive Outdoors Longer…which is better than the alternative version.
These tools are a hiker’s best friend. Need a can opener? You got it. Need a knife or a screw-driver? That’s here too. Need scissors, a nail file, wire cutters? You get the picture. These tools are always handy to have for whatever issues come up. I swear by Leatherman. I’ve had mine for years. A model like the Wingman will provide all the tools a hiker could need for whatever the trail throws at them.
Getting the Right Gear
Price Range: $125 – $442
When it comes to gear, quality should be a guiding rule of thumb. There are certain pieces of gear that should be seen as an investment and will be part of a hiker’s journey for years to come.
These poles intended to help provide hikers with stability on uneven terrain as well as to ease the pressure on joints going up and down hills. They can be extremely beneficial. They come in complete single pieces or collapsible pieces that fold down for easy travel. The grip types vary on the hand holds. My preference is for cork. Black Diamond’s Trail Ergo Poles for women are fantastic. I purchased the women’s set four years ago and absolutely love them. They are very sturdy and the cork grip is very easy on the hands, even after several hours.
A good hiking backpack can make all the difference in the world to having an enjoyable hike. Hiking backpacks, sometimes called “packs” come in a variety of sizes, measured in liters based on the capacity of space inside. The size needed will vary depending on how long the average duration of the hikes will be. It is important that they be large enough to store essential items and a sufficient amount of water. For day hikes, I’d recommend a capacity of 20-30L. Key factors of a good pack are the right number of logically designed pockets, a padded hip belt, configuration for use with a hydration pack, and rain cover included. My first pack was by the brand Gregory. I loved the fit and comfort so much that any packs of other sizes I’ve bought since then have also been Gregory. Packs like the Women’s Jade 28 Liter would be the perfect gifts for beginner hikers.
These emergency beacon devices connect to a satellite network to send an SOS message for help when it is needed most. This transmits the location of the hiker and allows them to stay in touch with trained emergency staff while awaiting assistance. This gives peace of mind to the hiker and their loved ones as they start to hike more into the backcountry. NOTE: The SOS feature should only be used for true emergencies as its use will prompt a response that utilizes valuable rescue resources.
These devices also allow the owner to send both preset and custom text messages to family and friends when they are out of range. Last year, I had no cell service while in the Many Glacier region of Glacier National Park. I was on a solo trip and was able to keep my family updated on my safety thanks to my Garmin. An active subscription with Garmin is required to send messages, including emergency messages. These subscriptions can be monthly on an as needed basis (and cancelled when not necessary) or they can be paid for annually. I have the Garmin In Reach because I prefer the larger screen. The more recent In Reach Mini has many of the same features and is smaller and lighter. The Mini does not have some of the additional navigational features available on the regular In Reach. Both versions are identical in their messaging capabilities and emergency beacon features.
Best Gifts for Beginner Hikers Highlights
For these and other gifts for beginner hikers, invest in quality products that are meant to last.
When possible, if ordering products online from the same location, request that they be shipped together to minimize packaging waste.
Garmin’s Official Website for details on subscription plans for the In Reach and In Reach Mini:
For more details on how to get started hiking right now, check out this blog post: https://expeditionswithevelyn.com/how-to-start-hiking
What are your thoughts on gifts for beginner hikers?
Are you purchasing gifts for beginner hikers? Are you a hiker starting out and looking for guidance on where to get started? Let me know if I can help in the comments.