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Minimalist Non-Gear Gifts for the Weary Hiker:

Resupply boxes in Etna, CA
Resupply boxes in Etna, CA

Backpacking with all your worldly belongings turns many into minimalists. So what do you get a hiker—be it a friend or family member—that fits into his or her minimalist style while also acknowledging that person’s love for hiking? What do you get a hiker who is still feeling the effects of the trail several months after finishing?

Knowing exactly what to get your hiker friends and family can be tough, but here a few ideas that show you really get what is happening to their body and mind after a hike.

  • Massage with a licensed massage therapist, preferably someone with sports therapy experience. A long hike can mess up your body. Afterall, it’s a lot of repetition. A licensed massage therapist with specialties in athletes and who is knowledgabe about anatomy should be able to help you work out some post-hike tightness or reduced mobility that never seemed to get better after a few months away from the trail. S/he can also help identify overuse injuries or other wear and tear on your body.


  • Yoga classes: can be a great way to help work out post-trail reduced mobility or injury, too. When I finished the CDT, I was skeptical about yoga, but also couldn’t lift my right arm above my head without pain. Yoga helped me heal through the injury and increased my mobility so that I was ready to strap a pack on again several months later.
  • Sun damage repairing lotion: I’ve always thought of anti-aging creams as being pretty fru-fru for a hiker, but admittedly, no matter how much sunscreen I use, after a thru-hike, my nose becomes a uni-freckle. On a whim, a fan suggested I try Colorado Aromatics Springtime Gold. I was a little skeptical about any skin cream actually being able to repair my uni-freckle, but tried it and noticed that my skin is looking a lot better than it did at the beginning of the hiking season. There’s a lot of sun damage repairing lotions out there, some more or less expensive, but if you’ve noticed that a hiker friend’s face doesn’t quite look back to normal even after a few months after a thru-hike, this may be an appreciated present (especially for the ladies).
  • Wall map of the trail or calendar: Calendars are utility items that you get rid of after a year. Wall maps hang vertically against your wall so don’t take up space in a house. This laminated wall map of the PCT can be written on with a dry erase marker as you walk your way up the trail (or want to add notes). This wall map of the Appalachian Trail hangs on the door to my bedroom and this Continental Divide Map is on the wall in my room. Even as I work on a TPS report, I can always look up and see the trail…

  • Photo book including photos the person sent from the trail and journals (requires some assembly): If your hiker friend sent you photo and email or journal updates, they’ll enjoy having a book (yes, a real paper book) put together of their journey. Speaking personally, I’ve never created a book after my hikes, but as my harddrives die and I forget Shutterfly passwords, one of the few material belongings I wish I did have was a book documenting my trip. This website and this website review the top web-based book making platforms, but in general, Blurb/Amazon offers an easy to use photo book making service
ALDHA-W 2014 Gathering at Meany Lodge. Photo by Jeff Kish.
ALDHA-W 2014 Gathering at Meany Lodge. Photo by Jeff Kish.
  • Map app or Software: Hikers love maps and the minimalist web or phone based maps can be perused without taking up physical space in a hiker’s tiny house, van, or yurt. Many thru-hikers love using  Gaia, but Alltrails, Caltopo Pro, and Backcountry Navigator are also popular. Of course, GutHook Apps also offers trail specific navigational tools for your phone or tablet and has become the tech-based tool that thru-hikers use these days to get on the trail.
Allgood reveling in an obscene amount of chocolate on the SHR.
Allgood reveling in an obscene amount of chocolate on the SHR.

Have a wonderful holiday and don’t get caught up in the presents. The best present for a hiker–for anyone– is an experience, time spent together on an adventure (even if that adventure is just a conversation).


Liz "Snorkel" Thomas

Liz Thomas is a well-traveled adventure athlete most known for breaking the women’s unsupported speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. She has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking–the Appalachian Trail, the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, and 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail–and has backpacked over 15,000 miles across the United States. While not on trail, Liz lives in Denver, Colorado.