The 14 best gifts for backpackers and travelers

best gifts for backpackers

The 14 best gifts for backpackers

Backpackers are generally traveling on a budget and don’t have money to splurge, so generous parents, relatives and friends come in handy during the holidays!

A single gift can go a long way in enhancing the comfort of a traveler or backpacker. Noise-canceling headphones make long flights enjoyable, and luggage locks ensure that personal items don’t get stolen in hostels.

Many travelers, especially digital nomads, still need to be “connected” while traveling and require access to email and other forms of communication, and that’s why an iPad is an excellent gift idea for a traveler.

Remember, the best gifts for backpackers and travelers are ones that are compact, light and small enough to fit in a backpack or carry-on luggage.

Presents for Travelers

The following gifts are great investments and have uses long after traveling comes to an end. For less expensive gifts, check out stocking stuffers.

Travel Backpack

travel backpack osprey gift

Price: $100 – $300
The Gist: A good backpack makes all the difference while traveling. From my experience, Osprey makes the best travel backpack and I still use the one I bought over 7 years ago. You can head to your local REI to try on various backpacks to see which one fits best. But for the best pricing, and free shipping, head over to Amazon.

A few things to look for in a backpack: does it have a lot of pockets? Does it have zippers that will allow you to use a luggage lock?  Does it come with a built-in whistle?  Wattle bottle holder? Does it have a steel frame?

GoPro Portable Camera

GoPro camera christmas present

Price: $299+
The Gist: Every backpacker wants to capture his or her travel experience with pictures. Video is even better! GoPro allow backpackers to do just that. GoPros have exploded in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. These portable cameras are extremely durable, compact, and capable of capturing HD video and high-quality images.

What makes GoPro cameras even better are the fact they have many accessories and cases. For example, a backpacker on a surf trip can use the waterproof-housing to capture video while surfing.

Kindle eReader

Kindle gift for traveler

Price: $169+
The Gist: One of the biggest challenges of backpacking is trying to fit all necessary luggage in a travel backpack.  Every backpacker needs to make a few sacrifices when packing, and decide what items they need to leave at home before they head on a journey across the world.

In the past, bulky and heavy books were low on the list of must-bring items for a backpacker, even for the book worms. But thanks to the advent of eReaders, any traveler can bring their library along with them.

The Amazon Kindle is by far the best eReader on the market. The “paper-white” technology is easy on the eyes, even in low-lit conditions, making it perfect for dark hostels and overnight flights.

iPad Mini

christmas gifts for travelers

Price: $300
The Gist: Laptops are too big and heavy to carry around while traveling. Smartphones are compact, but they’re capabilities are limited by small screens and weak computing powers. Enter the tablet.

The iPad mini is a perfect travel companion. A music player, web browser, eReader (can substitute for a Kindle), camera, game console and file management all-in-one.

Applications like Google Maps replace traditional paper maps. There’s even a digital compass. And the facetime app is great for staying in touch with friends and family back home.

If there is one gift that I would recommend over all others, it’s the iPad Mini.

Rechargeable iPhone Case


mophie christmas present iphone

Price: $65
The Gist: In this day and age, smartphones come everywhere with us, even while we’re traveling. They’re great for taking pictures, looking up directions, finding hostels & cafés, and can be used as a flashlight. And of course, phones come in handy during emergency situations.

I originally got a Mophie for use at music festivals because I would always run out of battery. The Mophie doubles as a stylish case, and a rechargeable battery pack that almost doubles your smartphone’s normal battery life. These are a must for any traveler (well actually, these are a must for anyone with a smartphone!)

External Backup Hard Drive

external hard drive present
Price: $50 and up
The Gist: Backpackers take thousands of photos while on extended trips. It’s important to backup your images from your camera just in case it should get stolen or lost. My camera was once stolen off a table at an outdoor café in Rome. Something behind me distracted me and I turned around to see what it was. About 5 minutes later I realized my camera was gone. I lost over 2,000 photos from my backpacking trip across Europe. Don’t let this happen to you!!

Portable external backup drives are great for making sure you never lose your most cherished memories.

An alternative to a backup drive is an account with Quickly and easily upload your photos to the cloud and access them from anywhere in the world. The only issue with using DropBox is that you must have a high-speed internet connection when uploading photos. Or you can compare cloud storage providers here.

Another alternative is to buy and carry multiple SD cards in your camera.

Noise Canceling Headphones


best noise canceling headphones for traveling

The Price: $299
The Gist: The ultimate gift for any traveler. Bose’s noise canceling headphones come in handy on long-flights and in noisy hostel rooms. I use mine on a daily basis: when traveling, at work and at home. Yes, they’re expensive, but Bose headphones are built to last.

Stocking Stuffers for Travelers

The best gifts for backpackers don’t have to be expensive! The following are all under $20, but will go a long way in helping your traveler has a safe and relaxing trip.

Spotify Account

spotify for christmas

Price: $10/month
The Gist: As discussed in a previous article, the streaming music service “Spotify” is a must for any traveler. $10 a month grants you access to an unlimited amount of music. An awesome smartphone app turns your phone into an awesome music library. There is a free version of Spotify, but you can only listen to about 3 songs before being interrupted by an advertisement. Head over to to signup. It’s the best $10 you’ll ever spend.

Say goodbye to CDs (come on, it’s not 1998 anymore) and $0.99 iTunes downloads.

Sign up for Spotify free here

Gorilla Pod

gorilla pod tripod traveling present

Price: $15
The Gist: Using a tripods eliminates shaky pictures taken in low-light conditions. Tripods are also great for taking self portraits (“selfies”!)

Traditional tripods are expensive and too bulky to travel with. The Gorilla Pod is the perfect replacement. Compact and durable, it can wrap around almost anything, and it fits almost every camera and smartphone!

International Outlet Adapter

gift ideas for travelers

Price: $5
The Gist: There’s nothing worse than arriving at a hostel after a long plane ride only to find that you cannot charge your electronics because the wall socket isn’t compatible with your charger. Luckily, problems like this can be avoided with a small and inexpensive adapter. This item is a must for any serious traveler.

Luggage Locks

tsa travel lock

Price: $5
The Gist: The last thing you want to do while traveling is get your wallet, passport or smartphone stolen. Hostels and train stations are notorious for being places where items “go missing.” (I had my camera stolen from my backpack on a train bound for Rome, while I was wearing my backpack!) Get a couple of luggage locks and make sure your things are safe!

Traveler’s Neck Wallet

travel wallet necklace gift

Price: $15
The Gist: Pick-a-pockets are experts at identifying and robbing tourists. In public squares, parks and train stations, no wallet is safe in a pocket. Neck wallets are hung around the neck and stay hidden beneath clothing. As a bonus, you’ll never accidently set your wallet down somewhere because the neck wallet is attached to your body.  They’re easier to access then a money belt and I take my neck wallet on almost every trip.

Safety Whistle

travel safety whistle

Price: $5
The Gist: This is a no-brainer for any female traveler. A whistle can scare would-be muggers and alert bystanders. Cheap, small and potentially life-saving.

Ear Plugs

ear plugs for travelers

Price: $7
The Gist: Any backpacker will tell you they wished they had earplugs when trying to get some rest in a noisy hostel dorm. These are light, inexpensive and work on planes and trains.


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