Shopping for ultralight backpackers means you've got to know what performance gear & technologies to look for.
Any clunky or heavy sleeping bag from a big box retail store just won't do.
Here we highlight some of our top recommendations for anyone who enjoys backpacking, hiking, & spending time in the outdoors. From stocking stuffers to more "main event" style gifts, we've got you covered.
Each of these gift suggestions will help any backpacker or outdoor enthusiast enjoy their adventures more comfortably & confidently by helping them lower pack weight, stay warm, and focus more on the outdoors!
The best part is, you can avoid busy shopping malls and long lines at checkout by ordering online!
Best "Backpacking Essentials" Gifts
Whether you're shopping for a new backpacker or someone that's been at it for years, these gifts are not only necessary for backpacking, but will help them lighten their pack weight and stay more comfortable on the trail:
This all-new backpack has already gotten attention from major publications like Outside, Backpacker, and GearJunkie. At 27 oz, it's one of the lightest & most comfortable full-framed backpacks out there, and the super durable UltraWeave 200 will ensure the user can enjoy their pack without worry for thousands of miles on trail!
Topquilts are one of the best ways to shave weight in your backpack while staying just as warm and comfortable at night! StormLoft Down Topquilts are almost half as much weight as a similarly rated down sleeping bag. In addition to weighing less, they pack smaller & are sure to make any backpacker happy!
These ultralight tents not only weigh pounds less than traditional free standing style tents, but they are built to withstand high winds and bad 3 season weather with extra storm points & guy out lines! Fortius Tents come in both a 1 person & 2 person option.
Best Gifts For Her
These 3 season exterior layer jackets have created waves! The women-specific fit, zippered pockets, 50% recycled insulation, and amazing warmth are something she will enjoy and use often. Vario Jackets weigh just 9 oz & pack down to the size of a grapefruit.
NovaPro Jackets are even warmer than your typical 3 season down puffy! Make sure she stays warm this holiday season with a jacket that has 10,000 fewer stitch holes and DownLT insulation that doesn't "wet out." It's warmer, lighter, & actually looks good!
These hoodies were included last year in Outside Magazine's summer Gift Guide, and are the perfect mid layer for active use or daily wear. Ventus Active Hoodies only weigh 7 oz, and pack down to the size of a grapefruit!
Best Gifts For Him
These 3 season exterior layer jackets were JUST LAUNCHED in October, & have created waves! The sleek fit, 50% recycled insulation, and amazing warmth are something he will enjoy and use often. Vario Jackets weigh just 9 oz & pack down to the size of a grapefruit.
This impressive 3 season puffy jacket has 10,000 fewer stitch holes than many similar puffies (we counted). That means less down loss & better water resistance. Plus, the DownLT™ insulation doesn't "wet out" in case moisture does get inside! NovaUL Jackets are a 12 oz layer he'll use all the time.
Launched just last year, the Tushar Rain Jacket uses advanced dual waterproof membrane lamination technology to maximize both waterproofing and breathability in an ultralight rain jacket that weighs just 7.4 oz! This year it was featured in Outside & Backpacker's Gear Guide & is causing quite a stir!
Best Gifts Under $50
As far as we are aware, the Altitude Hoodie is THE LIGHTEST weight sun hoodie currently available. As a fully synthetic ultralight hoodie, use it as either a sun shirt or base layer. It dries quickly, breathes well, and weighs just 4 oz!
These Merino Wool Neck Gaiters can be used for a plethora of things on the trail from protecting your face to use as a trail rag. The natural properties of merino wool give these gaiters odor resistant properties, and also allows them to insulate when wet.
Whether you're looking to keep your inflatable sleeping pad from sliding or protecting it from punctures, these 1/8 inch Close Cell Foam Pads weigh just 2.5 oz & are a no brainer for any backpacker! Use them as a sit pad on the trail, to increase the R value of your sleeping pad, or as a mat to kneel on while setting up your tent!
Best Gifts For Trail Runners
Ever heard of fastpacking? It's basically crossing trail running with ultralight backpacking so you can go further & see more even if you only have the weekend to do it. The new Skyline 30 Fastpack has grabbed attention from many major publications, & was just launched this year! The running vest style harness and optimized design keeps you comfortable with all your gear while on the move.
With the huge popularity of our Altitude Sun Hoodie (one of the lightest weight synthetic sun hoodies available), we decided to create a hoodless option that comes in both long-sleeve & short-sleeve options. This quick-drying, moisture-wicking shirt is both lightweight and extremely breathable. It's perfect for a large variety of active outdoor adventures!
The Skyline Trail Shorts weigh in at just 4.4 oz, & are equipped with a super breathable mesh crotch gusset & side panels for extra breathability. These shorts were designed to MOVE. Once you put them on, you'll never feel restricted, & you also won't sacrifice protective coverage while you run by overgrown foliage on the trail.
Best Gifts For Those That Are Always Cold
Looking for a great gift for someone that's always cold at night on the trail? Summit Down Sleeping Bags have recently been refreshed with new fabrics and a new design for increased loft & warmth. Plus there's even a -15 degree F option!
One of the first areas of our bodies to feel cold is our feet. These ultralight LoftTek Hybrid Booties are super warm & super compressible. Plus the LoftTek Hybrid insulation won't "wet out" or collapse with moisture! With these booties, you're basically guaranteed warm feet at the end of any day!
Another place we often lose a lot of our body heat is through our heads. LoftTek Hybrid Balaclavas can cinch around your nose and mouth to keep you warm all night, plus the LoftTek Hybrid insulation won't wet out with moisture. That's a big deal for something that you'll potentially be breathing into all night!
Looking for something more to layer up with? These new fleece leggings were released just months ago! The proprietary process used to create the fleece gives them one of the BEST weight to warmth ratios around. For just 3.5 oz, you'll stay toasty warm at camp or out on those cold winter adventures.
Best Gift For Backpackers That Have Everything
This membership subscription is perhaps one of the BEST gifts on this list. By subscribing, members get at least 10% off any order year round, free upgraded shipping, rebates back on non-OV branded gear items, & have access to a closed FB community of like-minded backpackers!
Perhaps the best part is that this membership is essentially FREE.
That's right, each month members get $10 of store credit that never expires. Basically it's like you load $10 into a "savings account" for backpacking gear plus get a ton of other benefits!
Live Ultralight Members also get access to Member Exclusive products, and retail items not designed by Outdoor Vitals. If you already have all the gear you need, then another GREAT use for the membership is to use it as a backpacking food fund!
It's one of the most affordable ways to get backpacking food on the internet!
Definitely a no-brainer gift for any ultralight backpacker.
Best Gifts For Kids (Bonus)
Everyone likes to have something they can call their own - especially kids! Giving them their own freestanding tent will give them a sense of ownership & excitement. They may even be willing to carry their OWN gear down the trail for once! Not only is this gift good for the trail, but they can set up their own "fort" in the living room, backyard, or wherever they please.
This is a very practical gift for backpacking families! A topquilt can be MUCH lighter than a sleeping bag & just as warm. Plus they compress so small, they'll easily fit in the same backpack your kid takes to school. If your kid is still only about 3 ft tall, then a good portion of their body will fit in the closed footbox, and you can fold over the excess quilt to "double layer" their sleep system for extra warmth!
Disclaimer: we have NOT tested these socks yet, but from what we can tell they look like a good option. Merino wool socks are always a better option for hiking than the normal cotton based socks people use day-to-day. Q for Quinn seems to have developed a line specifically for kids! For adults, our favorite socks come from Darn Tough.
We hope this 2023 Holiday Gift Guide helps point you in the right direction for some meaningful gifts for those you love.
May your holidays be filled with love and adventure!