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Best gifts for hikers, from their feet to their butts

Not sure what to get the hiker in your life? Start with these practical gifts they'll actually use.

This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

It's not always easy to buy a gift for a hiker. There's a lot of specific gear that most hikers are particular about, and as much fun as those silly hiking-themed shirts you see advertised on Facebook are, there are better options out there. (Yes, I have received at least one of those shirts.) The best gifts for hiking are practical items your hiker will actually enjoy and use, whether they're embarking on a 5-mile loop near home or on a multi-day backpacking trip somewhere off the grid.

Before we discuss the perfect gift for hikers, let's talk about what to avoid. You want to be sure to skip the cliches and gag gifts that wind up being dead weight, like a random colorful walking stick you found in your local farmer's market or online. (And yes, that's also something I've been given as a gift.)

As you look for a great gift for the hiker in your life, take into consideration a few of my suggestions, which are based on my experiences hiking over the years. There's a good chance you'll find some gear on this list your hiker doesn't already have -- or which could use an upgrade before their next outdoor adventure.

Camelbak

There is nothing more important on any kind of hike than hydration, and for a very long time the gold standard in hydration on a trail or a bike is the Camelbak. You can store loads of water in a convenient pouch on your back, with a long tube you can clip next to your shoulder for when you need a quick drink. 

You can get a lot of different kinds of backpack holsters for Camelbak reservoirs, but the Ambush is my personal favorite for hiking. The durable fabric can survive a fall, you don't have to fully remove the bladder to refill it, and there are several pockets for holding all of your essentials. It's the perfect backpack for any kind of hike, and makes it easy to leave with just this bag on your back.

Smartwool

There's no such thing as too many socks, especially when you're hiking. Whether it's a day hike or a full week out on the trail, having the right socks makes a huge difference. Smartwool socks come in a variety of heights, cushion levels and designs. They're also great for any temperature, because the primary focus is keeping moisture away from your feet and adding pressure in all of the right places to help prevent blisters. Consider buying your hiker a variety of light, medium and highly cushioned hiking socks. The lightest and thinnest (no cushion) also feel great in everyday sneakers, and the wool material has never made me itch.

Jetboil

When it comes to camp stoves, Jetboil is the champion. It works better at higher altitudes without consuming as much fuel, and it's compact enough to fit in any pack. If you're doing a hike for more than an afternoon, this is the cook stove every hiker loves. What we don't love is accidentally running out of fuel in the middle of a trip, and that's what makes the JetGauge so useful. It weighs the canister and gives a percentage of the remaining fuel for better preparation, and belongs in every hiker's pack if they're hiking for multiple days. 

Somewear

Every long-distance hiker or backpacker either loves the idea of a satellite phone or knows someone who wishes they had one. Unfortunately, satellite phones are crazy expensive and often take up a lot of space in your pack even if you can afford one. The Somewear Global Hotspot isn't a sat phone, but it's a satellite-powered global hotspot that can connect to your existing phone via Bluetooth. Once connected, you can text and check the weather in the area. The GPS is also shareable with your loved ones, just in case you need to be found.

Superfeet

I swear by these. Not every hiking shoe or boot comes with the right arch support for your foot, and even those that do could use a boost. If you've got high arches like me or you're in need of something to provide a little extra heel support, Superfeet insoles mitigate the beating your feet take over hikes of any duration. Every color in the lineup indicates a different kind of support, and once you have trimmed these to fit the right shoe, they can stay there as long as you keep the boot. You can also pull them out and transfer them to any other shoe. Prices vary depending on size and support, but pick the right one and it'll last years. 

Russell Holly

Most kayaks take up a lot of room, and they aren't all that portable. If you wanted to go to a lake at the top of a hike and get in the water, your average kayak would make that a little rough. The Oru Kayak Inlet is an origami kayak that folds up when you're not using it. You can wear it like a backpack, making it easier to get to places. 

The whole kit weighs 20 pounds and the backpack case can fit other things on it, so you can easily take it on a hike and enjoy the water when you get to your destination. 

OneTigris

The most important thing you need to know about hiking is that the weight of your pack matters -- and that goes double for distance hikes and backpacking. It's hard to find a high quality camping chair light enough to carry on your back all day, which is what makes the OneTigris chair so good. It actually supports your back (and butt), which is critical after a full day of hiking, and only weighs 2.4 pounds. 

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.