The friend who posts incredible photos of untamed wilderness and nameless peaks. The one who’s always either planning or just returning from an epic week-long solo paddling trip. Who added an extra 15km hike to her last backpacking trip, just because.
What outdoor gift could you possibly get for that person?
To find out, I chatted with a bunch of adventurous MEC staffers about the gear that stands up to thru-hikes, paddling expeditions and peak-bagging escapades. Here are some of our favourite gifts for backcountry explorers.
1. MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove
They might already own a camping stove, but do they have one this tiny? The MSR PocketRocket 2 will come in handy for solo trips when they want to be ultralight and fast. Weight: 73g
2. GSI Cookset
The Pinnacle Dualist Cookset has everything they need for a camp kitchen, and it all nests together in the pot. There’s even room for a 225g fuel canister and a tiny stove, like the one above. Weight: 611g
3. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Sleeping Pad
Upgrade their old foam pad. The NeoAir Xlite is a lightweight, super-compressible sleeping pad. It’s a great choice for spring-to-fall trips, and it packs down to about the size of a 1L Nalgene. Weight: 350g (regular)
4. Petzl Actik Core Headlamp
With a red-light mode to preserve night vision and a water-resistant design to handle bad weather, the Petzl Actik Core is a solid backcountry companion. A rechargeable battery pack helps prevent waste, and 350 lumens light up the trail for nighttime running or cross-country skiing. Weight: 80g
5. Backcountry hammock
When the terrain is rough or they just don’t feel like carrying a tent, this single-sized hammock comes in handy. (It also works well for naps between bouldering sessions at the crag.) Weight: 420g
6. MSR TrailShot Microfilter
Clean water without the waiting period of chemical treatments. Just drop the hose in the water, squeeze the handle, and drink. As one reviewer notes, the TrailShot Microfilter is “smaller than a pop can,” so it won’t take up much room in a daypack. Weight: 115g
7. Lightweight trekking poles
Help them keep their balance on rugged terrain, steep descents and slippery West Coast Trail logs. The C3 Carbon Powerlock Poles are tough with glove-friendly adjustments. Weight: 380g+
8. GSI Fair Share Mug II
With a cloth-loop handle to save space and weight, the insulated GSI Fair Share Mug II keeps trailside meals and drinks hot. Graduated measurements help backcountry chefs perfect their favourite recipes. Weight: 193g
9. BioLite SolarPanel 5+
Keep their electronics alive when they venture off the grid. This rugged BioLite solar panel charges USB-powered devices like phones or a GoPro, and it’s easy to attach to a pack or pannier. Weight: 390g
10. Leatherman Sidekick Tool
With serrated and straight knife blades plus lots of other gadgets, the pocket-sized Leatherman Sidekick comes in handy on all kinds of adventures. Reviewers like its style and durability. Weight: 198g
11. Gerber Hatchet
That firewood isn’t going to cut itself. This 17.5in. hatchet’s shaft is long enough to make quick work of a few logs, and it’s hollow, so it’s light enough to carry along in a pack or on portages. Weight: 924g
12. Garmin inReach SE+
Want to splurge and keep tabs on their progress? Get updates, even when they’re off the grid. Satellite technology in the Garmin inReach SE+ lets your favourite adventurer send texts and emails from anywhere on the planet. Weight: 213g
13. Dehydrated meal cookbook
Dehydrated meals are awesome in the backcountry, especially when they’re homemade. With 180 recipes, Backpack Gourmet will inspire more than a few delicious trailside meals.
14. Cushy canoe seat
Who says a canoe seat can’t be luxurious? Reviewers rave about the GCI Outdoor Sit-Backer Canoe Seat, using terms like “lifesaver,” “necessity” and “hands down the best designed piece of camping gear I have ever laid hands on.” Weight: 1.4kg
Biodegradable CampSuds can be used to wash everything from dishes to hair in the backcountry (your friend is probably well-read on the 7 Leave No Trace principles, so they’ll know to wash up 70m away from streams or lakes). A highly practical stocking stuffer. Weight: 155g+
16. Portable s’mores
The deliciousness of s’mores without needing a full bag of marshmallows. Weight: 80g
17. A rugged dry pack
Make sure they always have dry gear to change into after a long day of paddling. The watertight MEC Slogg 70 Dry Pack is designed to be tossed in and out of boats and still be comfortable enough to portage. Weight: 1.6kg
18. A big bear vault
Proven to foil both black bears and grizzlies, the BV500 Bear-Resistant Food Container holds seven days’ worth of food. It also makes a handy seat in camp. Weight: 1.16kg
19. Merino wool long johns
Cozy MEC Merino T2 bottoms will keep your friend toasty. Super-soft fabric helps buffer temperature changes and naturally prevents odour build-up. Weight: 152g+ (depending on size)
20. Darn Tough Hiking Socks
A moisture-wicking blend of merino wool, nylon and Lycra keeps feet warm and dry, and dense cushioning stands up to high-mileage trail days. Reviewers rave about both the Darn Tough midweight hiker men’s and women’s versions.
21. How to Sh*t in the Woods
A classic guide to a crucial backcountry skill, How to Shit in the Woods has sold more than 2.5 million copies. Hilarious and practical, it’s a go-to resource for heading off the beaten path.
22. MEC Gift Card
Why a gift card? Because they probably already know exactly what they want.