Two years ago I posted a little gift guide, for the traveler/pilgrim/walker/hiker in your life (or, for yourself!). As the holiday season is rolling around once again (is it just me or are the years just moving faster and faster lately? I swear I was just buying cheese for last year’s Thanksgiving cheeseboard, and here we are again!), I thought I would republish this list, but with more additions.
I know that when I’m trying to put together a small wish-list of my own, it tends to be filled with things I could use for my travels. I always ask for a fresh pair of Darn Tough socks (and Mom comes through every time!). And while there are still so many nifty and useful travel and hiking things out there that I don’t have, over the years I’ve accumulated a small collection of trusty and true gear.
From buffs to journals to cookbooks to camera cases; here is this year’s list. Happy shopping!
(Some of these links will be affiliate links; this means that if you click through and order one of these items, a small commission will come to me at no extra cost to you. A win-win! And, I’ll never use an affiliate link on something that I haven’t used and loved myself.)
Stocking Stuffers $15 and under
- Dr. Bronner’s Soap: While this could give some people the wrong message, I think a good bar of soap is always a fun and appreciated little nugget to find in your stocking. There’s a lot I like about Dr. Bronner’s- it’s a family business that focuses on organic and environmentally responsible products, and I’ve used their Castile bar soaps on every Camino and long-distance trek (my favorite is peppermint). On my walks I use the soap to wash my body and my clothing and it works great, and smells even better.
- Buff: Ah, the strange piece of tube-shaped fabric that has countless purposes. It took me a couple Caminos to warm up to my buff, but now it’s an indispensable part of my pack. Some popular uses: head band for windy days, head band on hot days (soaked in cold water first), wrist band for strange patches of sunburn (shout-out to my cousin!!), neck wrap to avoid sunburn, napkin, worn over the mouth in dusty areas, etc. The list is really endless. And this past summer, in a pinch, I even used mine as a bathing suit top!!
- Moleskine Journal: I use Moleskine notebooks in my job, and I also use them in my travels. The link will take you to the particular type I use on my walks: they are thin and lightweight but high quality and perfect for capturing details and memories.
- ExOfficio Underwear: You might not give this to a friend (unless it’s a really close friend!), but with family anything goes. This is great underwear for traveling: light, comfortable, dries extremely quickly.
- Nalgene Water Bottle: I’ve had my Nalgene for years and years (I have several, but my 16oz bottle comes with me on the Camino, along with a backup supply of water in my pack). The bottle has taken quite a beating, but it’s been indestructible.
- ChicoBag Daybag: I’ve taken one of these on every summer trip for the past 6 years: they barely weigh a thing, are perfect for using in the evenings when I’m not carrying my large pack around, and they also work well as a shower bag (they are water resistant and can hold an incredibly large amount of stuff).
- Darn Tough Socks: They keep my feet warm in the winter, cool in the summer. They are durable and the pairs I’ve had for several years and worn day after day on my long-distance treks have held up really well.
- Marmot Rain Jacket: Bought it for my first Camino, used it ever since. Lightweight and protects pretty well from the rain. A must for any long-distance walking trip.
- Marmot Rain Pants: I bought these rain pants a few years ago before walking in England, and every single time I’ve worn them since, I’ve marveled at how wonderful they are. They keep the rain out amazingly well!
- Havaianas Flip Flops: Hiking shoes or boots aren’t the only footwear you’ll need for a long-distance trek… you’re going to need something to change into in the evenings. For a summer walk, I love a pair of Havaianas. Soft, durable, designed and made in Brazil.
- Eagle Creek Packing Cubes: These were a game-changer on my second Camino, and I’ve used them ever since. They helped me organize my clothing, protected it from the rest of my (dirty) pack, maximized space, and were ultra-lightweight. I love them!
- Travel Towel: I use a medium sized travel towel that I bought from REI before my first Camino, and it’s the one I’m still using 5 years later. There are different sizes to choose from (the medium is more like the size of a large hand towel, but it’s worked for me), the towels are very absorbent and dry super quickly, plus are light and small and will hardly take up any room in your pack. They’re a great travel towel!
- Jackery Bolt Power Bank: It took me five years of traveling before I got myself a power bank to use as backup for charging my iPhone, and now I can’t imagine traveling without it. I rely heavily on my phone to take photos during my walks (and sometimes I use it for navigation, as well), and the last thing you want is to be on a path in the middle of nowhere with a drained battery and no way to snap a photo (this happened to me on the Pennine Way, ugh). The Jackery Bolt is light and small, weighs 5.3 oz, and fully charges my iPhone up to two times (it charges fast, too!).
- Backpacks: I still adore the pack I bought for my first Camino in 2014 (Deuter ACT Trail 24 liter- here’s the link but I’ve just discovered that it’s no longer available! I think it’s a wonderful pack, which makes me wonder why it’s been discontinued… though it seems like there are some other, similar options). I also really like my larger pack from Deuter, the Aircontact Lite 45+10 Liter, which I’ve used for the Pennine Way and camping trips. Finally, a couple of years ago I picked up a smaller daypack from REI, and it’s been great to take on traveling and shorter hikes closer to home. (It’s important to note that, when it comes to backpacks, what works for one person may not for another. For anything larger than a daypack, I’d recommend going to a store and trying packs on for fit and comfort. That said, I love Deuter!)
- Neoprene Camera Case : Earlier this year I invested in a new camera for my travels, a Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless Digital Camera. I knew I wanted a case to protect the camera while wearing it/stuffed in my backpack, but I didn’t want to add too much extra weight. I found this neoprene case, and while it’s specific for a number of Fujifilm models, I wanted to include it in this list to give an example of a light and protective case. I’m sure there are similar types for whatever camera model you might be traveling with.
- Jetboil Cooking System: I suppose you’d only take this on a pilgrimage if you were planning to camp (which some pilgrims do!). But if you are planning on any camping or backpacking trips next year and don’t have a way to heat up water to cook food, then I highly, highly, highly recommend this system. Compact, lightweight, beyond easy to use, heats water to boiling in 2 minutes.
- Camino/Trekking guidebooks: Now is the time when pilgrims and travelers are planning their travel adventures for 2020 (and beyond). For those choosing to walk the Camino, many will begin with the Camino Francés. Love it or hate it, John Brierley’s guide is the most popular of them all (personally, I really liked it). I’ve also used the Cicerone guide for the Camino del Norte/Primitivo and the Trailblazer series for the West Highland Way, Hadrian’s Wall, and the Pennine Way. My blogging friend Kat Davis has authored a Cicerone guide for the Camino Portugués, and I’m adding that one to my own list this year!
- Walking to the End of the World: A Thousand Miles on the Camino De Santiago, Beth Jusino. I consider Beth another blogging friend, though we’ve never met (Camino connections are great!). I read a copy of her book as soon as it was published, and think it’s a wonderful depiction of a journey on the Camino, beginning with a pilgrimage through France on the Chemin Le Puy- there aren’t many books out there on Le Puy!
- Tastes of the Camino, Yosmar Monique Martinez. While I don’t yet own my own copy (what am I waiting for??), Yosmar’s cookbook is THE Camino cookbook you’ve been waiting for. With 30 recipes from Tortilla Español to Pulpo a la Gallega to Sopa de Ajo, accompanied with personal notes and gorgeous photographs, this is a Camino must-have.
- My Kitchen in Rome: Recipes and Notes on Italian Cooking, Rachel Roddy. I discovered Rachel Roddy’s blog years ago, and even though I’m not much of a cook, and even though I don’t do much traveling in Italy, I was drawn in by her beautiful writing and even more beautiful images. Her blog is where I got the recipe for the fabulous lemon ring cake that I make for dinner parties on the terrace at La Muse. Since her early days of blogging she’s published two cookbooks, all recipes and many of the photos are her own.
After the Camino/Misc:
- Artifact Uprising photo book: A few years ago, a good friend gifted me a beautiful photo book from Artifact Uprising- full of images from my travels! It’s a beautiful little book that I love flipping through whenever I’m missing the Camino. So often we return from trips and aren’t sure what to do with the hundreds (thousands?) of photos we’ve taken, and I think putting together a book of favorite images is a great way to capture and revisit the memories.
- Cairn box subscription: Another good friend of mine once gifted me a few months of Cairn boxes: a subscription gift-box of outdoor goodies. It was such a fun gift: each month I’d receive up to 6-items of outdoor products, including gear, apparel (I got a very warm hat that I wore earlier today on my walk!), food, skincare, etc. You can send a one-time box or choose a specific number of months to gift, and I think this is a wonderful gift for any adventurer in your life. (Or, yourself! I think it’s a great service to use if you’re just getting started in your outdoor adventures).
These are just a few ideas; if you want to read more about the things I brought on my Camino you can take a look at my packing list, as well as this post, which goes into more detail about the items I used and loved on my treks.
Happy shopping and happy future travel planning!