The links to Amazon on this page are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate South East Asia Backpacker earns from qualifying purchases.
If you have a backpacker in the family or your group of friends, you know that they’re frequently setting out on new adventures. Giving them a gift to send them off on each new trip always seems like a great idea until you try to pick something out! Really though, what is a good gift for a backpacker?
The key to choosing a travel gift your loved one will truly appreciate is going for something that serves an actual purpose for their travels. Packing is tight to start with and the last thing you want to do is bog a backpacker down with something they’ll get no use out of! Grab a practical item from our Southeast Asia packing list or look for something more fun below!
Read on to see what our community of avid travellers suggest as some of the best presents for backpackers this coming year!
The Best Gifts for Backpackers – Quick Answers!
- Most useful gift – Universal Travel Adaptor
- Best budget gift – Travel Towel
- Best gift for long journeys – Noise-cancelling Headphones
- Best gift for hostel goers – Sleeping Mask
- Best gift for the party starter –Portable Speakers
- Most thoughtful gift – Sponsor a worthwhile cause
- Just for fun – Scratch Map
55 of the Best Backpacking Gifts!
The items on this list are ranked in ascending price order so stick to the top of the list if your budget is tight, or scroll down to the bottom if you’re looking to splash out!
1. Repair Tape (Approx $4)
Backpacking is a rugged business and chances are something will get torn along the way. Backpacks, tents and even clothes can benefit from the quick fix of a bit of repair tape. It’s a cheap and practical gift that’s sure to be a hit.
2. Waterproof Playing Cards (Approx $6)
Playing cards is a pastime that’s fun in most situations. Backpackers can enjoy their downtime even more by playing a few of their favourite card games. Often backpackers will spend a lot of their downtime in bars or coffee shops where spills are common. So, waterproof playing cards are one of the best presents for backpackers that will last for many trips.
3. Headphone Splitter (Approx $6)
Twelve-hour bus journeys can be challenging, especially without stimulation and conversation. Headphone splitters are a great gift which allows travellers and their buddies to listen to the same music or podcasts without bothering everyone else on the bus!
4. Travel Laundry Bag (Approx $8)
Even backpackers need to do laundry while travelling! Whilst they may wash a lot of their belongings by hand, they still need efficient bags to collect their dirty clothes and towels in until it’s time for cleaning. Mesh bags are great gifts for backpackers because they allow dirty belongings to breathe.
5. Hippie pants (Approx $8)
If your loved one will be on the Banana Pancake Trail, chances are they will be buying and wearing a pair of hippie pants before you know it. Why not get them a pair before they leave so they fit in as soon as they arrive in their hostel!
6. Hydration Sachets (Approx $8)
Great for when travellers are sick, have food poisoning or are battling a monumental hangover. Hydration sachets are a great way to make sure your loved one is healthy on the road and they won’t stretch your purse strings too far.
7. Permethrin Spray (Approx $8)
Traditional bug spray works for short-term situations but the better alternative is permethrin spray. This type of spray is applied to clothes, backpacks and tents to prevent pests from infiltrating equipment. A little goes a long way and backpackers will get a lot of use out of their spray.
8. Flip Flops (Approx $9)
Often touted as the ultimate, multi-purpose travel shoes, flip flops make a really useful gift for the backpacker close to your heart. They can be used in hostel showers, on the beach, for short walks around town and take up very little space! Almost every type of traveller will use flip flops during their trip so these are a useful gift that won’t break the bank.
9. Passport Holder (Approx $9)
No matter what country a backpacker is visiting, their passport is a key item. Once they reach their destination, a backpacker may store their passport somewhere safe until they need it again. Gifting them a passport holder helps them to ensure that their passport doesn’t get damaged during their travels.
10. Travel Watch (Approx $10)
Even if your favourite backpacker doesn’t wear a watch daily, they may find that it pays to have one whilst travelling. Digital watches are often backlit for use at night in those dark hostel dorm rooms and are usually waterproof so can survive all the swimming or diving thrown at them.
11. Packable Coffee Maker (Approx $10)
It doesn’t matter where they go, a coffee lover will find a way to drink their morning cup. Make the process easier for backpackers by gifting them with a packable coffee maker. They fit in compact spaces in a backpack and perform just as needed. There’s no need for backpackers to sacrifice small pleasures.
12. Sleeping Mask (Approx $10)
Whilst this may strike you as more of an airplane item, sleeping masks can really come in handy for backpackers who spend a lot of time moving from place to place. The best way to get a decent night’s sleep in a busy dorm room is to use a sleeping mask.
13. Journal or Diary (Approx $10)
The experiences backpackers collect throughout their travels are unique. Being able to scribble down their reflections about daily life during their adventures will give them something special to look back on later. There is a wide range of sizes and styles of journals to choose from. Pocket options make great gifts for backpackers.
14. Pack Cover (Approx $11)
No matter where you are in the world, it will rain at some point. Help your backpacking buddy keep their stuff safe and dry with a waterproof pack cover for their bag. When it comes to keeping water out, nothing is as effective!
15. Carabiners (Approx $11)
Let’s face it, although backpackers try to fit all of their gear into the main pockets of their bag, sometimes a little extra space is needed. That’s where carabiners come in. These handy gadgets clip on to the backpack and allow for additional carrying. They come in different shapes and sizes.
16. Neck Pillow (Approx $11)
Whether it’s long plane rides or long bus rides, backpackers spend a lot of time in transit. One of the best things to do during these journeys is sleep. Having a neck pillow will make plane and bus trips more comfortable and can even be used in hostels when the pancake pillow provided is not up to the task.
17. Money Belt (Approx $11)
Backpackers don’t always carry around their biggest packs and even when they do, easy access to money is helpful. A money belt allows backpackers to store the cash, cards and other small items they might need to access at a moment’s notice. A money belt is a perfect complement to a backpack.
18. Netflix Subscription (Approx $12 per month)
Just because backpackers have left their normal lives for a bit of new scenery, doesn’t mean they want to miss out on their favourite sources of entertainment. A Netflix subscription is useful because backpackers can log in anytime, anywhere to enjoy a movie or catch up on a popular series. Whether you’re searching for gifts for backpackers UK or US, Netflix comes through.
19. Universal Travel Adaptor (Approx $13)
Instead of focusing on a specific region, gift a backpacker an adaptor they’ll be able to use on virtually any trip they take. Universal travel adaptors are an essential part of every backpacker’s gear. This is a practical gift that has long-term potential. Choose an adaptor with surge protection!
20. A Good Hat (Approx $13)
Hats can make a major difference when spending hours hiking in the sun. Backpackers can benefit greatly from a hat with a wide sun-blocking rim and a neck flap. Choosing a hat made from a flexible material will make it easier to pack. Keep an eye out for those with good ventilation and moisture-wicking properties as well.
21. Rechargeable Head Torch (Approx $14)
The only thing worse than being woken in a dorm room by someone tripping over their backpack is having someone whack on a light at 3 am. A head torch means you can navigate your way through the dark assault course of other people’s luggage without having to wake up the entire room.
They are also super useful when camping, hiking at night or if you are chilling on a quiet island paradise.
Save yourself the hassle of running out of batteries and make sure you opt for a rechargeable one. They can usually be charged via USB and have around 20 hours of constant use between charges.
There are even more compact options available but these often involve having to find paper filters before they are any use.
22. Earplugs (Approx $15)
The sleeping mask may not work as well without earplugs. Hostels and other communal sleeping situations can get pretty noisy. Even if the backpacker in your life rarely uses earplugs, sending a reusable pair along with them may make a major difference in their time spent sleeping and resting whilst travelling.
23. Travel Scarf (Approx $15)
You can never be too careful about where you keep your money and important cards when travelling. Travel scarves come designed with hidden zipper pockets ideal for keeping cash or credit cards. The pocket isn’t at all noticeable or cumbersome and the scarf doubles as a comfortable pillow for plane and bus rides.
24. Polarised Sunglasses (Approx $15)
Taking in the sights is one of the best parts of backpacking. Everything is more enjoyable when a good pair of sunglasses helps temper the sun. Polarised sunglasses are convenient and help keep the eyes healthy. Make sure a case is included!
25. Clever Travel Underwear (Approx $17)
Not simply designed for those who aren’t satisfied with what they’re “packing” in their pants, this ingenious system allows travellers to hide the most valuable items in their underwear. Even the most daring thieves tend to draw the line in sticking their hands down your pants…
26. Sleeping Bag Liner (Approx $18)
Sleeping bag liners serve multiple purposes during a backpacker’s journey. In addition to adding warmth and padding to a sleeping bag, liners play an important role in hygiene at hostels. No matter how filthy the bed, the sleeping bag liner will keep the user in a clean cocoon.
27. Travel Towel (Approx $20)
If you’ve never been backpacking, you may wonder how backpackers deal with the towel situation while travelling. The answer is that many use travel towels. Travel towels are often made from microfibre so that they dry quickly and make transitions fast and smooth. Travel towels are backpacker gifts that serve an important purpose.
28. Scratch Map (Approx $20)
Every traveller loves to keep track of their voyages. A scratch map is the perfect way to help backpackers keep track of each place they visit over time. The novelty gift is a fun memento that will bring a smile to the recipient’s face. Choose one with a variety of colours for a brighter aesthetic.
29. Packing Cubes (Approx $20)
Figuring out how to fit as much as possible into their bag is a backpacker’s main mission. They want to bring everything they need without having to take up too much space. Packing cubes help their cause by organising belongings into compact spaces that maximise a backpack’s load capacity potential. Make sure you get a set that has various sizes to help pack those awkwardly shaped items!
30. First Aid Kit (Approx $20)
When thinking of gifts for the backpacker, it’s important to think practically. Safety always comes first which is why every backpacker should be equipped with a practical yet compact first aid kit. You never know when a backpacker may need a first aid kit to help themselves or others around them. Go for a kit that comes with a convenient travel bag.
31. Socks (Approx $20 for 3 pairs)
I must admit, I am a lover of socks for Christmas but I understand that puts me in the minority. However, there is a shed load of walking involved with travel, whether it is across a city, through a jungle or a day spent exploring a temple complex. Good quality shoes are important but so are socks. Plus, socks are much cheaper!
32. Swiss Army Knife (Approx $21)
Anybody who spends a significant amount of time outdoors knows the value of a good Swiss army knife. They come in handy at the most unexpected times. All backpackers should have one at the ready, even if they can’t imagine when they would use it.
Remember though, a Swiss army knife will not be allowed in a traveller’s carry on. If they are travelling without a checked bag don’t bother with this gift or it will only get left at home.
33. Packable Raincoat (Approx $23)
Let’s face it, getting caught out in the rain sucks. This is especially true for backpackers who have a limited number of clothes. A packable raincoat is a godsend for travellers, they weigh very little, take up only a small amount of valuable backpack space and prevent their last clean outfit from becoming soaked by a freak downpour.
34. Foldable Electric Kettle (Approx $25)
Backpackers will often want access to hot water for things like tea, coffee and some breakfast options. When their hostel of choice doesn’t come through with a kettle, foldable electric options are unique gadgets that offer a lot of punch for the price. The backpacker recipient won’t believe how compact these travel kettles can get.
35. Menstrual Cup (Approx $25)
There’s no getting around that time of the month, ladies. Standard alternatives like pads and tampons just add a lot of unnecessary bulk to a backpacker’s bag. Gifting the female backpacker in your life a menstrual cup will allow them to leave behind the stress of carrying supplies or finding them abroad.
36. Portable Power Bank (Approx $26)
It is nearly impossible to go anywhere without seeing someone charging their phone with a portable power bank. They are a great way to keep phones and tablets charged while on the move.
37. Solar Power Bank (Approx $27)
It seems like everyone carries a power bank with them wherever they go these days. Backpackers are often outdoors for long periods so why not use the sun’s powerful rays to keep devices charged. It’s kinder to the planet and the electricity bill of wherever they are staying!
38. Buff (Approx $29)
Not everyone wants to wear a hat but head coverage is important for backpackers who spend a lot of time trekking under the sun. A buff is a super practical gift because it allows people to cover their head in a variety of ways or it can be worn as a neck warmer.
39. Portable Speakers (Approx $30)
The best way to get everyone in on the party is to break out the portable speakers and put on some great music. Sending a backpacker on their way with a reliable portable speaker is a great way to remind them to have fun. Make sure you choose portable speakers with Bluetooth capabilities for listening anywhere!
40. Guide books (Approx $30)
Guide books may be slowly dying out thanks to the prevalence of the internet but barely a day will go by when travelling without spotting someone leafing through a dog-eared copy of the Lonely Planet. Even if the information is hard to keep up to date, people still use them for inspiration if nothing else.
41. Pocket Blanket (Approx $30)
Sometimes it gets chilly whilst travelling. It is common practice for overnight buses to crank up their AC to an unbearable level so a pocket blanket is a great idea for backpackers.
Maybe even more useful though, is the fact they double up as picnic blankets or just as a sand-free place to sit on the beach!
A pocket blanket is a gift that will take up just a tiny amount of space in a pack and will be greatly appreciated by travellers and hikers alike!
42. Inflatable Lounger (Approx $30)
If the backpacker in your life is going to be travelling for a long time, please, whatever you do, don’t get them an inflatable lounger! They’d hate you for it… However, if they’re off for a couple of weeks of island hopping, they’ll love you for it. They are pretty compact for easy storage and inflate in moments for relaxing on the beach.
43. Travel Yoga Mat (Approx $30)
Yoga mats offer more than just the chance to head to a yoga class abroad. Backpackers can use yoga mats to complete just about any type of workout wherever they find themselves. A good travel yoga mat is super lightweight and easy to fold for seamless packing. A mat with non-slip grip is always a plus!
44. Airport lounge pass (Prices vary)
The backpacker in your life will spend an ungodly amount of hours in airports. Help make the experience a little more pleasant for them by gifting them a few hours of comfort in an airport lounge. These lounges often contain comfortable seating, free hot drinks, light snacks and sometimes there is even a masseur available for an extra fee!
45. Phone Camera Lens (Approx $40)
Not everyone can or wants to carry along a full-sized camera on their backpacking adventures. The next best option is using a gadget that will improve the camera on a cell phone. Gifting a backpacker a lens that attaches to their phone will allow a traveller to up their Instagram game with very little effort!
46. Noise-cancelling Headphones (Approx $45)
Being able to enjoy music or podcasts while travelling is an almost universal pleasure. Whether headphones are used solely for trips on planes and buses or are a constant part of a backpacker’s day, they shouldn’t be left behind. A noise-cancelling pair of headphones is one of the best gifts for backpackers.
47. Filtered Water Bottle (Approx $90)
Water is necessary wherever you are and for backpackers who spend a lot of time in places with questionable water quality, a filtered bottle becomes a must-have gift. This bottle purifies water to remove everything from particles to viruses, making water from any source safe to drink! For more inspiration on plastic-free travel, check out this article!
48. Backpack (Approx $160)
A backpack should not be the kind of gift you give as a surprise! The bag that backpackers carry is the most important item for their trip so be sure to search for the backpack together or at least get a list of the backpacker’s must-haves in the ideal pack. Don’t forget to pay attention to sizing and check out backpacks readers poll for some recommendations.
49. Hard Cash (This one is up to you!)
Let’s face the facts. Most people want nothing more than a little (or a lot) extra pocket money when they’re heading on a trip. Backpacking has a reputation for being an affordable way to travel but like all trips, things do add up over time. Backpackers will always appreciate a gift of cash.
50. Kindle or other eReader (Approx $160)
Reading is a wonderful thing to do while travelling. Backpackers are often gone for long periods of time which means that they can easily go through several books. Whilst classic printed books may feel nicer and provide a sense of nostalgia, they’re not convenient for backpacking. A Kindle allows backpackers to have as many books as they want right at their fingertips.
51. Action cam (Approx $400)
People want to share their trips with friends and families back home. Help them do this by setting them up with a lightweight, hard-wearing action cam. Many of the ones these days are waterproof so they can even take photos of their diving trips!
52. Sponsor a worthwhile cause (Prices vary)
Whether it’s sponsoring a village to get clean water, helping put kids through school or keeping elephants out of the hands of poachers, there are plenty of worthwhile causes you could sponsor in the name of your travelling loved ones.
They will usually receive updates and photos from the charity to keep them informed as to where the sponsorship money is going.
53. Experience days (Prices vary)
With people today collecting more experiences than physical items, an experience day is a great choice. From jungle treks to cooking classes, there are plenty of options for tours and experience days that a traveller will never forget.
If your loved one is heading over to Southeast Asia or South America then check out the great, community tested tours sold through our sites. They make great gifts for that special backpacker in your life!
54. Travel Insurance (Prices vary)
Travel insurance is something that rarely crosses the mind of travellers until the last moment. The fact is, however, that it’s super important, especially for backpackers. Travel insurance comes in different packages in varying price ranges. Learn more about the backpacking trip and help get your loved one properly covered. The companies that we recommend are: World Nomads, SafetyWing and True Traveller.
55. Travel Books (Prices vary)
If the traveller in your life is a bit old school and doesn’t fancy a kindle, then you can still set them up with some great reads, recommended by our community. Here are some of our favourites that are sure to inspire wanderlust in the heart of any backpacker!
On The Road – Jack Kerouac (Approx $18)
An all-time classic novel that showcases Kerouac’s unique writing style and inspires a sense of freedom and wanderlust in readers. Follow the story of Jack and his friends as they spend their lives travelling back and forth across the United States in the mid 20th century.
Vagabonding – Rolf Potts (Approx $11)
One of the seminal books for the travellers of today. Vagabonding is part memoir, part how-to guide and covers everything you need to know to travel the world for cheap while having meaningful experiences and making life long friends.
How To Travel The World On $50 A Day – Matt Kepnes aka Nomadic Matt (Approx $16)
Nomadic Matt has been helping backpackers make their travel dreams come true for over a decade from his website. In 2013 Matt laid out his advice, hints and tips in this great book which would make an excellent gift for the traveller in your life.
The Beach – Alex Garland (Approx $14)
Love it or hate it, The Beach is an iconic book (and film) when it comes to Thailand. Alex Garland inspired so many of us to sack off the day to day grind and head out in search of the life we want! This book is one that is sure to inspire wanderlust but it does have its haters. Some people blame this book and this book alone for the influx of tourism that has “ruined Southeast Asia”.
The Backpacker – John Harris (Approx $11)
This amazing true story has to be read to be believed. Whilst things certainly do not go 100% to plan for Harris in this memoir, there is no way you can read it without thinking, “Wow, I want to do that!”
Backpacker Business – Nikki Scott (Approx $10)
If you want to know how Southeast Asia Backpacker came into being, look no further than Backpacker Business, written by our founder and editor in chief, Nikki. From novice backpacker to world-renowned Southeast Asia expert, the journey was not a smooth one but this book will surely leave you inspired to follow your own dreams!