Perhaps you have a young traveler in your life that is about to embark on a gap year. Or a college student preparing to study abroad. Or maybe your colleague is taking a sabbatical. In any case, there are aspirational gift guides (looking at you Neiman Marcus) and there are practical gift guides. This is the latter. Most backpackers do not want to lug a $925 vintage-inspired Steamline luggage trunk into the back of a refurbished school bus in Nicaragua. So read on for a practical gift guide full of things a traveler will actually use on the road!
- Osprey Volt 75L Pack, $200
If your adventurer is hitting the trails, a comfortable, well-made pack is worth every penny. Gregory and Osprey are my favorite brands for quality and design. The Volt (and Ariel model for women) is the perfect bag for hikers and travelers alike, with features like custom-fit hip belts, internal hydration sleeve and sleeping bag compartment.
- Cocoon CoolMax Travel Sheet, $45.95
When backpacking in hot climates and staying in hostels, a travel sheet is a must. It ensures cleanliness and comfort when sleeping and packs down very small to fit into a pack.
- Kindle Paperwhite, $120
I admit, there is a romance to traveling with an old, tattered book. There’s something that doesn’t feel quite right about traveling by slow boat in Laos with an e-reader. And yet, the Kindle allows you to have a huge library at your fingertips which makes those long rides easier. I’d recommend a Kindle for travelers who don’t mind trading nostalgia for convenience or volunteers who will be in a remote location for long periods of time.
- Patagonia Atom Bag, $49.00
Keeping your stuff safe while out and about becomes a way of life when traveling. Backpacks put all of your contents behind you, making them much more susceptible to theft. After dropping their large bag at their lodging, I recommend travelers carry a sling on their front so they are better able to monitor valuables while exploring their destination.
Dirty laundry enters a whole nother level when traveling. Mud, city dust, elephant dung and more can all easily make their way onto clothes while volunteering or exploring. Help your traveler separate that stuff from clean items before laundry day with a packing organizer. The will be glad they did!
Encourage your traveler to share their favorite music with fellow travelers, homestay siblings and other new friends with portable speakers. One wants to be prepared at all times to start a dance party when traveling.
- Chaco Sandals, $100
These bullet proof sandals are comfortable enough for day hiking (conditions permitting) and durable enough for every day wear for months. I took my pair around the world for 10 months and wore them practically every day. They are still going strong.
- Turkish Hand Towel, $9.99
For those with long hair, packing a smaller towel in addition to a sarong is a luxury to be grateful for. I like Turkish hammam-style towels because they dry fast and pack down to next to nothing.
Keep safe by having medical essentials packed and at the ready. Kits like these include supplies for wound care, basic medicines and a first aid guide. You can also build your own kit by checking out the CDC recommendations.
- Icebreaker T-Shirt, $85
Did you know merino wool doesn’t stink? It can go multiple wears sans smell, which makes it the perfect material for travel clothes. This fabric works well in cold or heat thanks to it’s moisture-wicking and heat-regulating properties.
Bonus Stocking Stuffer Ideas
Gerber Dime Bladeless Multi-Tool, $18.59
Multi-tools are the workhorse of any travel item. This Gerber model is unique because it is TSA approved for carry-on luggage. If you get a multi-tool with a blade, be sure it gets packed in a checked bag or it will get confiscated at airport security.
Deet Bug Spray, $5.50
Bug sprays featuring Deet are sometimes impossible to find abroad, so best to bring your own. With Zika, malaria and other mosquito borne illnesses a danger in much of the world, staying protected with spray and a mosquito net is a priority.
Duct Tape, $4.50
The perfect stocking stuffer for a traveler! I never travel without duct tape, as it never goes unused. You can use it for everything from fixing gear to preventing blisters to marking luggage. If a traveler doesn’t have room for a whole roll, you can wrap some around a permanent marker (also an unexpected travel essential!).
KIND Bars, $13.40/pack of 12
Any backpacker knows the scourge of “hanger” while traveling. You get off a ramshackle bus after twelve hours of bumpy roads and still need to find a place to sleep that night. Cue a sanity-saving granola bar to put them over the finish line.
Happy Holidays and Safe Travels!
Originally written for Huffington Post