If you’re looking for some fabulous and functional backpacking gift ideas to buy that special someone, then look no further! I’ve brought together my favourite backpacking gifts for you to choose from. From stocking stuffers and useful gadgets to full-on tech wizardry, I’ll help you find the best gifts for backpackers to fit any budget, so you know exactly what to buy for backpackers in your life!
Choosing What to Buy for Backpackers
This backpacking gift guide is aimed towards budget travellers who are backpacking around the world or a specific country. Cash-strapped backpackers often appreciate the simple gift of money, but if you prefer to know exactly where your money is going, I’ve found some great backpacking gifts for you to choose from.
What you buy will depend on how much you want to spend, how well you know the person you’re buying for, and what kind of backpacking gear they have already. Whether you are buying gifts for backpackers who are hoping to take their first trip soon, or for an experienced traveller, I’ve found some fun, useful and unique gifts for backpackers that are bound to satisfy even the most discerning traveller!
Essential Backpacking Gear
If you’re looking to buy a backpacking gift for a newbie backpacker, then there are several essential items they are going to need for their trip. When I first started travelling I had a huge list of backpacker stuff I wanted to get, and I certainly appreciated some help buying everything. Before making a purchase, make sure they haven’t bought these gift ideas already!
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Yep, backpackers need a backpack! Which backpack you buy will depend on exactly what kind of activities your backpacker will be doing. Are they into multi-day hikes where they’ll need to carry all of their gear? Or are they travelling long term with a backpack instead of a suitcase?
My favourite backpack brand is Osprey. I have one of their 40-litre Fairview backpacks which I’ve used for hand luggage only trips to Europe, and I bought a bigger backpack in preparation for my 3 week trip to Morocco (which was sadly cancelled so I haven’t actually used it yet!). Their backpacks always get great reviews and there is a wide selection to choose from so you can find the perfect fit. Check out the full selection here.
Filter Water Bottle
When travelling or hiking anywhere, there is one accessory I never leave home without. My Water-to-Go bottle with a built-in filter is absolutely essential as it allows me to drink from any freshwater source by filtering out any potential nasties.
I’ve used it in all sorts of places where you’re not supposed to drink the water, from airport bathroom sinks to tap water in Mexico. It is also very useful for hiking and I take it everywhere with me. You can read my full review of the Water to Go bottle or head straight to the website for more information about how it works.
I have partnered with Water-to-Go to offer all Tales of a Backpacker readers a 15% discount on the purchase of a Water-to-Go bottle. If you are based in the US or Canada, click here to order your bottle now, or if you are in Europe or Australia, click here. Simply choose the water bottle you want to buy, and add in the code BYORB for a 15% discount on your purchase.
No matter where your backpacker is headed, a waterproof jacket is a must. I prefer to layer my relatively thin waterproof with a wind-proof jacket underneath, but for colder weather, a thicker waterproof jacket could be better. It’s probably best to chat to your backpacker before buying their jacket as you’ll need to know the type and size they prefer.
Hiking boots are probably the most important gear a backpacker needs. Keeping your feet warm, dry and blister-free on hikes will save them so much pain and discomfort! Before my big backpacking trip to South America, I knew I would be hiking to Machu Picchu so I definitely needed a good pair of boots. My mum & dad bought me some Salomon hiking boots for my birthday and I am very glad they did!
I love my trek towel, and although it’s not the same as wrapping yourself in a big fluffy bath towel, microfibre travel towels take up a fraction of the space and dry so much quicker than normal towels do. There are a range of colours and sizes to choose from, and most include a carry-bag too.
Money-Saving Gifts for Backpackers
Access to Work Exchange Programs
Backpackers who are travelling for a while are often looking for ways to save money while travelling. Work exchange programs allow them to trade their time and skills in exchange for accommodation, so they can basically travel for free! Work exchange websites like Worldpackers and Workaway list thousands of available work exchanges which backpackers can apply for, once they have paid the membership fees.
Membership fees start from $29 for 18 months (with this discount voucher) for Worldpackers, and $45 USD for 15 months for Workaway. These memberships can be used in any country in the world (including their own) so no matter where they plan to go they can find something to suit them.
Membership to Trusted Housesitters
Another great way to save money while travelling long term is to become a house sitter. Websites such as Trusted Housesitters list hundreds of home owners who are looking for people to look after their homes and pets while they are away. Placements vary from weekend stays to several months, so can save a lot of money for cash-strapped backpackers! Membership costs $129 for the year.
Depending on where your backpacker is planning to travel, buying some foreign currency for them is a thoughtful and very useful gift! Try to get a mix of notes with different values so they don’t have trouble changing huge notes.
Travel insurance is one of the biggest expenses for long-term travellers, yet it can cost them a lot more if they don’t have it! Offering to pay for their travel insurance is sure to get you lots of brownie points, and you can feel good about helping them to travel safely too.
Travel insurance from WorldNomads is available to people from 140 countries, and you can buy and claim online, even after you’ve left home. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
Activity Gift Cards
Gift experiences can be much more fun and rewarding than buying physical gifts for someone, so if the person you’re buying for loves to try new things when they’re on the road, a GetYourGuide gift card would be a fabulous present for them. You can choose the amount you want to give them, then they choose their activity and enjoy! GetYourGuide also has a range of online activities too, so they can use the gift card wherever they like – and they’re valid for 3 years too.
National Trust or National Parks Membership
When I was spending the summer in England I bought my own National Trust membership, but if I could have waited until my birthday I would have done! Buying a membership for the National Trust, or similar organisation such as English Heritage or the RSPB is a great gift idea for travellers and backpackers who will be spending a lot of time in the UK.
For backpackers in the USA, a National Parks pass grants access to over 2000 Federal recreation sites in the USA. One pass covers the pass-holder and the accompanying car passengers, or the pass-holder and up to 3 adults (kids under 16 go free) at sites where there is a per-person entry fee. It’s great value and is a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year, as every time they use it they will think of you!
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Tech Backpacking Gifts
Kindle and/or Kindle Unlimited Subscription
If your favourite backpacker loves to read, they will find that packing several books in an already stuffed backpack just isn’t practical. A Kindle (or any kind of e-reader) makes a great backpacking gift. Travellers will certainly make use of it on planes and buses, at the beach, or in the evening chilling out under the stars. Storing hundreds of books in one tiny space means they will never be without their favourite book, no matter where they go.
The standard Kindle is a good choice, but the more advanced Kindle Paperwhite is waterproof so is super useful for backpackers who might get caught out in the rain. If they already have a Kindle, then a Kindle Unlimited subscription could be really useful for them, as it includes unlimited access to over 1 million eBooks. They can also use the subscription on any device with the free Kindle app, they don’t even need to own a Kindle.
If your gift recipient prefers to listen to books, an Audible gift subscription to listen to audio-books would be better for them. They can also use the Audible subscription on the Kindle with Bluetooth headphones. I love listening to my audiobooks when I’m on a plane or bus ride, or even when I’m cooking in a hostel kitchen. On a rainy day, it’s very comforting to have your favourite author reading to you! At the moment I’m listening to David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet which is essential listening.
I love listening to music when I’m working, cooking, chilling or hanging out around a campfire, and although I’m conscious not to have it loud enough to disturb my neighbours, I use a portable speaker to play my favourite tunes. This mini speaker is also waterproof and comes with a carry case. They’re also really easy to charge up with a power bank off-grid if needed.
A power bank portable charger is also on my backpacking essentials list as I could not do without it when I am off-grid! I have a relatively large Anker power bank that will charge up my phone three or four times, which makes a huge difference. There are smaller, cheaper portable chargers available but I definitely recommend the Anker brand as I’ve used this one for several years without any issues. This smaller Anker power bank charges phones at least twice so could be a great option.
Go-Pro Action Camera
If you are buying a gift for someone adventurous then a Go-Pro action camera is a great choice. They can record their adventures as photos or videos to share with friends back home or even use them to create content for blogs and vlogs to earn money while they’re travelling.
If they already have a go-pro camera, there are hundreds of Go-Pro accessories which make for great stocking fillers, either from the official Go-Pro store, or unofficial ones which do the job just fine – such as this 50 piece accessories pack. Just make sure that whatever you buy is compatible with the right model of camera.
Tripod and Microphone
As with the GoPro, budding videographers and vloggers will be very grateful for this gift – a tripod and external microphone for use with a mobile phone or action camera. I recently got a GripTight PRO TelePod and Wavo Mobile microphone from Joby and I love it! The tripod is great for a selfie stick or for setting up for photos of me as a solo traveller, and the microphone makes such a difference to the sound it is incredible.
There is no better way to take epic photos than with a drone. These little flying machines can take pictures and videos from angles we can only dream of from the ground. DJI drones are some of the best on the market (with a price tag to match) and are great gifts for people who might use the footage professionally. Backpackers will want something compact, such as the DJI Mini 2, which can fit easily into a backpack.
However, for the enthusiastic amateur, there are plenty of cheaper options on the market, like this one, which gets excellent reviews for the price. Make sure you also pass on the information needed to fly a drone safely and responsibly and tell your gift recipient to check the rules carefully for each country they plan to visit. Most drones will need to be registered and they may need a license to fly it.
External Hard Drive
Backpacking usually means travelling without access to a TV, but sometimes there is nothing better than curling up to watch a movie. Having a bunch of films on an external hard drive means I can watch to my heart’s content without worrying about downloading on sketchy wifi or using all my phone data, especially with expensive roaming costs abroad.
Hard drives are also very useful for backing up photos, videos and work from my laptop, so it is another very useful gift for backpackers. However, if they are very tight on space, then a couple of memory sticks could be more useful. These mini memory sticks are compact yet some can store over 500 GB of data.
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Useful Backpacking Gifts for Backpackers
Here are some backpacking gift ideas for a newbie backpacker, that are useful, fun and thoughtful!
An Anti-Theft Day Pack
As well as my big ‘luggage’ backpack, I also have a day pack which I carry as my hand-luggage and use to explore once I’ve arrived. However, the downside of having a backpack is that everything you put in it is out of sight once it’s on your back! An anti-theft backpack with slash-proof material and securable zippers will help keep everything safe. Pacsafe are a well known and reliable brand, and their 25 litre anti-theft backpack is a great choice.
A scarf is a very useful gift for backpackers, and any kind of traveller really. They can keep you warm in cold weather, a damp scarf will keep you cool when it’s hot, and these travel scarves from Waypoint Goods have a hidden pocket for storing phones, wallets and passports to keep track your belongings nice and safe.
Currently, they only ship to the USA but I managed to get my hands on one of these Orchid purple scarves and I love it!
There are other ways to keep belongings secure, including money belts which fit under clothes, actual belts with hidden compartments to fit cash in, hidden bra pockets and more. Anything that helps a backpacker to keep their cash safe will be appreciated I’m sure!
While we’re talking about thefts, let’s also talk about potential attackers. It is an unfortunate reality that there may be times in every person’s life when they are attacked on the street. Whether that happens a block from their own home or on the other side of the world, a personal alarm could deter their attacker and give them enough time to escape. I have recently bought a set of personal alarms like this, and although I haven’t had to use it yet they do give off a very loud noise!
Particularly useful for solo female travellers who want peace of mind at night, these doorstop alarms fit under most hotel, hostel and Airbnb room doors, and have two functions – to stop the door from being opened from the outside, and to let off a loud alarm should someone try. I haven’t used one myself, but after reading the reviews I think it’ll be going on my Christmas list! You could also go the whole hog and get a set of portable door locks too.
A Guide Book
Although backpackers don’t have a lot of space for books, I still love to take a real guide book with me for inspiration on routes and things to see and do on my travels. For my South America trip, the Lonely Planet Guide to South America was essential, and I carried that thing with me everywhere! You can also find equivalent books for destinations all over the world.
For days when the wifi isn’t working or to have a break from a phone screen, journal writing is a great way to relax and to clear your head, as well as to keep track of any backpacking adventures! There are hundreds of different journal designs so you can find something for everyone, this is one of my personal faves.
Of all the backpacking gifts you could think of, packing cubes are one of the most useful but also most underrated. I travelled without them for years, and thought I was doing the right thing by rolling up clothes, rummaging around and having to re-pack every time I moved on. However, I have recently seen the error of my ways and bought a set to use in my campervan, and they are definitely coming with me on my next trip!
They keep everything tidy and relatively flat so I don’t spend ages trying to find something which is scrunched up at the bottom of my rucksack. Different colours and different sizes are useful for identifying which cube has what in it, so backpackers can keep everything tidy and organised.
It folds up really small but is big enough to seat two people and keep them clean and dry, wherever they want to sit down.
There is nothing more uncomfortable than trying to sleep on a plane or bus journey and waking up with a sore neck. I took an inflatable travel pillow with me to South America which literally saved my neck on every long journey and folded up small when I wasn’t using it.. I’ve also tried out the TRTL travel pillow which is much more comfortable but is probably too bulky for a backpacker to take.
Cheap Backpacking Gifts Perfect for Stocking Fillers
Earplugs & Eye Mask
Waterproof Phone Pouch
I hope this backpacker gift guide has given you some great ideas for backpacking gifts to choose from – no matter what you choose to buy I’m sure that it will make that special someone very happy!
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Just to let you know, this post may contain paid or affiliate links, which help to maintain Tales of a Backpacker and give me the chance to keep travelling, and to keep creating awesome content for you! I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: November 20, 2020