Here are ten gift ideas, in no particular order, for that committed long-distance walker on your list. They range from the absurdly expensive—although serious walkers with a few thousand kilometres under their belts would love these gifts—to small, inexpensive stocking stuffers. All have been tested by Gail and me over the past year on the Andalusian Coast to Coast walk, the Chaucer Way and the first leg of the Via Francigena. That’s a thousand kilometres and 44 days of testing!
Hyperlite 2400 Southwest Backpack (Black)
I’ll start boldly with this ultralight backpack by Hyperlite Mountain Gear. Weighing in at a scant 917 grams, it is at least one pound (454 grams) lighter than the competition, such as Osprey Farpoint 40. It gets this light by using Dyneema® Composite Fabric (aka Cuben Fibre) and a minimalist design. It’s as close to waterproof as you can get without requiring a rain cover. It’s very comfortable and can be ordered in various lengths to fit your torso. There are two side pockets for water bottles and a large back pouch for things you need to access quickly. The 2400 will hold everything you need for the trail yet it’s compact enough to qualify as carry-on on most airlines (Air Canada, for example). The shocker is the price: USD $330, a humbling $440 or so for us Canadians.
That said, this is without doubt a great pack and that pound it takes off our backs is worth every loonie. These bags are not widely available in stores. Order them on the Hyperlite website. Delivery is very fast but Canadian pocketbooks will suffer even more with shipping and brokerage charges from the US.
Hyperlite Packing Pods
The Hyperlite 2400 Southwest Backpack is a top loader, which is a little more awkward to access than the typical back-opening backpack. That downside is easily resolved with the Hyperlite Packing Pods. Weighing a mere 34 grams (small size) or 37 grams (large size), these Dyneema® Composite Fabric bags are a fantastic way to organize pack contents. The Dyneema fabric adds an additional layer of water resistance (the pods would be fully waterproof if it were not for the zippers). I take four small pods for electronics and camera gear, outerwear, trail gear and clothing and one large pod for “Hotel Gear” such as toiletries and prescriptions. That’s everything I carry in the pack with the exception of my touring shoes (see below). I tuck those at the bottom of the pack in a kitchen garbage bag. On the trail, I can easily access my outerwear pod for rain gear or my trail gear pod for lunchtime utensils and food. In a hotel room, everything can be quickly pulled out and kept organized.
Large pods are USD $60 and the small ones are $50. Order your pods on the Hyperlite website.
New Balance Zante Solas Running Shoes
Aside from the Keen mid-height boots I wear on the trail, I like to take a pair of evening/touring shoes, something not weighty while stowed in my pack but refreshingly light on the feet after we’ve check-in at a lodging for the night or for touring around town on a rest day. These New Balance shoes are, without doubt, the lightest shoes I have come across. At 169 grams each (men’s size 12) they are nevertheless comfortable, supportive and stylish enough for a good restaurant. The foam soles provide a plush, soft platform and the fabric uppers are a cosy sock-like material. They compact down into a small lightweight package at the bottom of my Hyperlite pack.
These shoes can be hard to find in stores. I ordered mine online from New Balance. Sizing was true to my usual shoe size. The retail price is CDN $130.
Platypus Push-Pull Caps (and Smart Water bottles)
So far, the gifts have been practical but expensive. Here’s one that’s practical and cheap.
If you check out ultra lightweight (ULW) backpacking videos on YouTube, you will notice that many backpackers are using Smart Water bottles instead of fancier water bottles by Nalgene, Camelbak and others. The reason is simple: Smart Water plastic bottles are much lighter but more durable than other single-use bottled waters available at grocery stores. The only downside is the screw-on cap. The Platypus Push-Pull Caps fit perfectly. Gail and I have used the 650ml Smart Water bottles and Push-Pull Cap combo on this year’s long walks in Andalusia (22 days) and on the Chaucer Way/Via Francigena (22 days). They easily lasted the length of each walk. When the trips are over, we save our caps for the next walk and recycle the bottles. Total weight of a bottle (empty) and cap is a slight 32 grams. A 650ml Smart Water bottle (including free water!) is around CDN $4 at your local grocery or convenience store. A pair of Platypus Push-Pull Caps can be purchased from MEC for CDN $3.95.
Sea To Summit Shampoo with Conditioner
Gail and I generally stay in hostels, bed and breakfasts and hotels. In most cases, they supply shampoo and soap. But there are always one or two (hostels, for example) that don’t. On recent walks, we have carried a small bottle of Sea To Summit Shampoo with Conditioner. It’s super-concentrated, smells good and suds nicely. We’ve used it as a body wash, a shampoo and in the sink to clean lunch ware. At 89 ml, it can be carried on flights. One bottle, weighing in at 107 grams, is sufficient for two people. Purchase it at your local outdoor store for CDN $5.95.
Hadley Digital Camera Bag by Billingham
Carrying a good quality camera and lens on long walks is my one “essential luxury” and I want to use that equipment at all times and all weather. These days, I use an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark 2 and an Olympus Zuiko M. Pro 12-40mm f2.8 lens. Both are splash proof so I can shoot during a rain shower. I also need a camera bag that is not only light, compact and durable but waterproof as well. The Hadley Digital Camera Bag (482 grams) by Billingham Bags, a UK company, does all that…with panache. Billingham makes great looking bags and I can assure you that the expensive equipment inside will stay dry in a heavy downpour. Few bags can make that claim.
All this comes at a price: £140.00 if you buy directly from Billingham in the UK. In Canada, the bags are available through Photo Central in Winnipeg or online at Camera Canada. Or B&H Photo in the US. I would recommend the FibreNyte fabric as the exterior material. I suspect it is easier to keep clean and presentable than the alternative canvas exterior.
Leukotape P Corrective Taping
Anyone who has used bandaids on the trail to protect blisters, or applied moleskin to prevent them, knows how frustrating these products are. Your skin gets sweaty and they fall off. In past, Gail and I have used duct tape. It sticks like glue but will take off any skin hairs when removed. Ouch! Leukotape P is far superior. We have tested it extensively this year. On the foot, it is ideal for preventing blisters when a hotspot occurs. It’s thin and it sticks to your skin even if it gets wet. You can shower with it on and it will survive intact. Yet it comes off without ripping out your hair and skin. As a bandage substitute, a folded square of medical gauze stuck to a piece of Leukotape works well. It will survive sweat, rain and abrasion for a day or two of walking. You can buy a big roll of this stuff for CDN $14 on Amazon (search for Leukotape P Corrective Taping, 1.5 x 15 yards). It comes as a bulky and heavy roll, so throw a cheap ballpoint pen or pencil in the gift bag. The giftee can wind a quarter of the tape roll around it for a more packable package.
Fiskars Folding Scissors
To cut that Leukotape, a pair of scissors is necessary. The Fiskars Folding Scissors are compact and super-light at 15 grams. And they are TSA approved so they can be carried on flights. Buy a pair from MEC for CDN $8.00.
Petzl Bindi Headlamp
It’s not fun walking in the dark but, plan as you may for a day’s walk, it can happen. It’s good insurance to have some form of light in your pack. Sure, there’s a flashlight app on your smartphone but, if you’re walking that long and late into the day, chances are that your phone is near dead. It’s better to have something dedicated to the task of lighting your way. The Petzl Bindi Headlamp is very bright and, by wearing it on your head, it frees your arms for poling or reading maps.The phone charger in every walker’s backpack can be used to recharge the headlamp via the supplied USB cord. At 35 grams, the Bindi is lightweight insurance to have on hand. Buy it at MEC for CDN $75.
Showa 281 Waterproof Gloves
Your walker friend will win no fashion awards when wearing these bright blue industrial gloves. But they will keep hands dry and, with a pair of lightweight gloves underneath, warm as well. And, let’s face it, if your friend is walking through a cold, driving rain, he or she already looks like a drowned rat. The Showa 281 gloves are designed for serious work on industrial sites, like commercial fishing boats. I’m not gutting fish but I can manipulate camera controls and use walking poles while wearing these. They weigh a modest 53 grams for the pair. Buy them large so lightweight gloves can be worn inside. For me, the XXL size fits best over my large size Head gloves. In Canada, I order them online through Rainbow Net and Rigging. Cost is CDN $11.50 for a pair. In the US, try Seattle Marine.