Someone recently asked me if I had any gift ideas for a relative of theirs who was off backpacking. It can be a surprisingly difficult task to choose a gift for someone who is travelling and living out of a rucksack. If they haven’t left yet, the chances are they have meticulously chosen every item they plan to take and if they’re already on the road, they’ve probably got everything they need.
The first time we headed out on a long trip, we were inundated with well intentioned leaving gifts that we simply didn’t need. We were madly grateful for the generosity and thoughtfulness of everyone who had gone out and bought us something, but we had beautiful travel journals coming out of our ears. We’d been gifted clothing that wasn’t suitable for where we were going, travel pillows when we’d already tested out about 10 and beautiful pens when I had been slowly whittling my drawing tools down to a selected few for several months.
Many backpackers will have opted for a minimalist lifestyle that inevitably ends up extending far beyond their travels and into their “regular” lives. If there’s one thing that teaches you you don’t need “stuff” to be happy, it’s living out of a bag that you have to lug around on your back. Combine that with the endless humbling travel experiences that open your eyes to different ways of living and you’ll likely find your level of gratitude for gifts becomes sky high, while your desire for them becomes non-existent.
Not only can it be a challenge to come up with worthwhile and useful gifts for people who are heading off on their travels or who are already on the road, if you yourself are backpacking, it can be difficult to come up with gifts to give to loved ones at home or those who you’re with. There are of course fantastic websites like Etsy which are full of beautiful gifts, but spending hours browsing through thousands of options isn’t always a possibility. Also, if you’re watching every penny you spend or if you’re simply not feeling like a physical gift is the way you want to show some love it can be hard to come up with ideas.
Over the years that we’ve been traveling, we’ve experienced several of our own birthdays and Christmases on the road and have been out of the country while family and friends celebrate birthdays and Christmases elsewhere. We’ve managed to come up with various creative gifts to send to fellow travellers based on some of the things we already have and have also received some lovely and useful gifts ourselves.
The best piece of advice I would offer, if you’re kindly planning to buy something physical for someone who is travelling, spending time abroad or planning to head out on the road, is to chat with them about it first. See if there’s anything they need. If this sounds a little ungrateful, it’s really not intentional. There’s just no point spending money on something that could end up collecting dust.
The list below is a collection of gift ideas which has been specially curated with travellers in mind. They would (I think) be well suited to anyone living out of a backpack and many of them are also great gifts for backpackers to buy for loved ones at home. A lot of the time backpackers aren’t in one place long enough to receive things in the post so you really do have to get a bit creative! Included below is a mix of useful physical gifts as well as meaningful presents that can be gifted to people who are halfway across the world!
I’ve written about our love for our travel tap filter bottle in a couple of other blog posts. They allow you to fill up from anywhere, safe in the knowledge that your water becomes safe to drink as you suck it through the straw. This means a huge reduction in plastic usage, saves money on bottled drinks and can be a real life-saver if you’re somewhere remote.
We don’t have experience of any of the other water-filtration bottles on the market. We’ve heard great things about the Life Straw, so have a shop around and find what suits the needs of the lucky recipient.
Stainless Steel Straws
Re-usable straws such as these from Caliwoods are fantastic for travel. They of course eliminate the need for plastic straws but also come in handy when you’re forced to use a dirty cup. Most metal straws come with a handy cleaning brush, making it extremely easy to keep them clean.
We often opt for this gift for family and friends over Christmas. Donating money to a cause that you know will resonate with someone is an amazing and thoughtful present. Websites like Global Giving and Good Gifts allow you to browse various charities in need of donations which you can give in the name of the person you are giving a gift to.
Amazon vouchers come in really handy for backpackers. Though as a company, their ethics are questionable to say the least. I’ve personally ended up using Amazon to order a range of things, including a knee brace when I injured my knee as well as cat food for my cat back in UK. It’s also great for kindle users as they can use vouchers to buy new books.
A small one, but incredibly useful for attaching things to the outside of your bag, such as water bottles, clothing or smelly shoes! If you’re buying for a climber make sure you get a good quality one.
Book: How To Shit Around The World
I was given this book by my sister before we first left UK. I absolutely loved it and it seriously made me laugh. It’s not for the prudish among us, however it is really useful and teaches you everything you wanted (or didn’t want) to know about relieving yourself around the world, avoiding sickness and maintaining good hygiene.
We have an Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack which we find incredibly useful. It’s a very lightweight backpack that rolls up into a tiny ball and is great for hiking, using as a shopping bag, or at any other time when you don’t want to use your regular backpack.
If you’ve read any of my other posts lately, you’ll know I’m a bit obsessed with essential oils. They offer so many different benefits and a plethora of delicious scents. They also make great gifts since they’re tiny and last for a really long time. Make sure you purchase from a reputable company to ensure the oils are safe and pure.
Not the most glamorous gift in the world, but find me a backpacker who doesn’t travel with hand sanitiser. For something a bit special, you could opt for this organic lavender hand sanitiser from Dr Bronner. We were lucky enough to be given one by my sister. It smells amazing, is made without nasty chemicals and has lasted us ages.
Patreon is a membership platform that allows you pledge money to fund artists and influencers, enabling them to continue doing whatever it is that you love them doing. Last Christmas, Tom bought me a year’s subscription to Earthling Ed’s Patreon. There are more than 100,000 creators on the platform covering a huge range of different topics.
A Gorilla Pod is a small flexible camera tripod, designed in a way that allows you to bend it into all kinds of shapes so that you can attach it to different surfaces. It’s perfect for travel since it’s so small and light and means you can get great shots without lugging around a huge tripod
With an airbnb voucher you can treat someone to accommodation of their choice anywhere in the world. Gift cards start from $25 and are perfect for a last-minute gift, since the recipient will receive your present instantly via email.
Create Some Artwork
I love to draw and paint, so on a few occasions, I’ve taken the time to create a piece of art, which I have then photographed and sent to a family member, knowing that at some point I can give them the original.
A head torch comes in so handy when you’re backpacking. When a phone torch won’t suffice or you need both hands free a head torch can be a life-saver. They’re great for hiking in the dark, using public toilets and reading in dorm rooms.
Donate to a crowdfunding Project
There are a number of different platforms allowing you to donate money towards funding all kinds of amazing ventures. There are so many wonderful and worthwhile projects looking for support across websites like crowdfunder, gofundme and kickstarter, there’s always going to be something that resonates with you and the person you’re buying a gift for. In most cases, pledging money entitles you to some sort of reward, so it’s like shopping, but the money goes towards somebody’s fundraiser.
A bottle or bar of Dr Bronner soap is eco-friendly, vegan, comes in beautiful packaging and has 18 different uses. It’s perfect for hand-washing clothes as well as your body. Ours seems to last forever and we wouldn’t travel without it.
This is a great gift for people traveling with multiple devices. A USB charging port allows you to charge multiple devices (battery pack, phone, camera, kindle…) at the same time, making use of just one plug socket. Handy if you’re staying somewhere with….just one plug socket. Aim to buy something lightweight with a suitable amount of ports. There are a huge range to choose from, so spend some time perusing reviews.
This is a great option for anyone who’s just treated themselves to a new camera for their travels. Make sure you get one that suits their specific model, or alternatively you could consider a gift voucher and let them pick their own.
Turkish Cotton Towel
Call it a towel, call it a blanket, call it a beautiful scarf. We would be lost without our gorgeous cotton Turkish towels. They are soft, quick drying, multipurpose, roll up really small and come in a range of colours and designs. Etsy is a great place to pick one up.
If you know someone who is planning to travel with some cheap in-ears, you could take their whole travel experience up a notch by treating them to some decent headphones. What you get will depend hugely on your budget, but consider a pair that folds down, is light-weight and doesn’t contain any leather if you’re buying for a vegan.
Vouchers for a local restaurant or order them a cake
A great gift idea for someone already on the road, is a gift voucher to a restaurant in the area they’re travelling in. As long as they can be sent via email, you can easily treat someone to a great night out without actually having to be there. Alternatively, look up local bakeries and see if they can deliver a cake. Everyone loves cake.
Make A Video
We’ve been known to create little videos to send to people on their birthday. You can put as much or as little time into it as you like. We all have cameras at our fingertips these days and what’s lovelier than seeing the face of someone you love on your special day
Local Traditional Handicrafts
If you’re already on the road and looking to give a gift to one of your fellow travellers, check out the local handicrafts in the area. You’ll probably be able to find something small that will remind you all of the place you all celebrated in.
If you’ve given or received any great gifts while on the road, we’d love to hear what sort of things they were.