Minimalist Non-Gear Gifts for the Weary Hiker:
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
- Attendance to a hiker gathering: After finishing a long hike, one of the best medicines to transitioning back to the real world is a support group of other hikers. There’s no better place to interact with other hikers than one of the events held by the American Long Distance Hiking Association-West, the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association Annual Gathering , PCT Kick Off, CDT Kick Off, or AT Kick Off.
- 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.
- An IOU for a maildrop: Your hiker friend probably has another trip in mind already. And while a box full of food—even treats—would be appreciated a lot right now, a package of homemade cookies, fancy trail-specific chocolate, and luxury food items will become even exponentially more awesome once your buddy has been on trail for a few months.
- Membership to a trail organization or conservation non-profit: In this time of giving, why not give twice in one swoop? By buying your loved one a membership to a trail organization, you are supporting stewards of the trail and giving those good feelings to another person, too.
- General trail and conservation organizations that help trails:
- Show you appreciate your loved one’s love of the trail by getting them a trail-specific membership to:
- The Continental Divide Trail Coalition
- Pacific Crest Trail Association
- Appalachian Trail Conservancy
- Pacific Northwest Trail Association
- Great Divide Trail Association
- Tahoe Rim Trail www.trta.org
- Colorado Trail Foundation www.coloradotrail.org
- Friends of the Ouachita Trail www.friendsot.org
- Benton MacKaye Trail Association www.bmta.org
- Superior Hiking Trail Association www.shta.org
- Florida Trail Association www.floridatrail.org
- Green Mountain Club (which maintains the Long Trail in Vermont): www.greenmountainclub.org
- Ice Age Trail Alliance www.iceagetrail.org
- North Country Trail Association www.northcountrytrail.org
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.