20+ Thoughtful Gifts For Backpackers They Actually Need 2020
This post may contain some affiliate links. We’ll get a couple of quid if you use the link – at no cost to you of course. We’ll also always be honest and only suggest companies, hotels or products we actually think are worth it!
Having someone in your life who travels the world constantly can be difficult. Apart from missing them, it’s a nightmare buying them presents! We’ve put together this list of some of the best gifts for backpackers so you can give them something super practical but also thoughtful and fun too.
Thinking of something that will fit in their luggage, be useful AND thoughtful can be tricky. I know that my family are always complaining that they’ve wanted to buy me a gift but I can’t take it with me. They’ve actually got kind of used to it now and have begun to buy me things that I not only want but things that come in handy too.
Whether you’re buying unique stocking stuffers for Christmas, making up for lost birthdays or considering buying a going away present, this gift guide for backpackers so you won’t be stuck for choice!
What Are You Looking For?
Electronic Gifts For Backpackers
Buying electronics for someone about to embark on an exciting trip will definitely make you flavour of the month! These are great gift ideas for backpackers as they probably won't buy anything from this list themselves!
Absolutely no-one travels with books anymore, but sitting on the beach with a good read and coconut is truly the epitome of backpacker life! A Kindle is one of the best gifts for backpackers because it is small and lightweight, simple to use and it will last years!
I travelled for 2 years with my Apple earphones and they constantly gave me earaches, fell out of my ears when I was relaxing and got tangled up EVERY. DAMN. DAY.
My mum bought me a pair of wireless headphones for Christmas last year and they were literally Godsend. This year Kev upgraded me to these Bose Soundlink beauties and they're incredible. They are so much more comfortable than regular earphones, and they are amazing at blocking out sounds. I got the white pair but you can choose black too.
Kev bought me this mini projector for my birthday last year. It might not sound like a typical backpacking gift but it has been so much fun!
Whilst working in the pub in Australia, we would have Sunday movie nights with the rest of the staff which gave us all something to look forward to at the end of the week. When we stayed in a co-living space in Bali, we also used it in the shared living space and our housemates would all join in the fun too. It’s just a great way of bringing people together because everyone loves a home cinema night!
We love our LG Mini Beam because it is so small yet the picture quality is still incredible. The battery life is brilliant, it can project at over 100” (being conservative!) and it comes with a nice soft case that slips into your luggage easily.
The only drone I could possibly recommend as one of the best gifts for backpackers is the Mavic Air. There are some other foldable compact drones on the market, like the Mavic Pro and Mavic 2, but these are more expensive and are geared towards travelling photographers and videographers. The bundles they come with are amazing value but the upfront cost is high if you're buying a Christmas gift for a backpacker!
The Mavic Air is tiny, lightweight and produces some absolutely stunning 4k video @30fps and Full HD at 120fps. Bearing in mind that this could fit into a smaller space than your plimsolls, this is the drone that any travelling enthusiast needs.
On a side note, don't be swayed into going for the DJI Spark. They say it is DJI's smallest drone but in fact, it is much harder to pack that the Mavic Air. This is because the spark has fixed wings and not foldable wings. For transport that makes taking the Spark around with you much more annoying.
Not many people travel with one, but they’re so handy to have when there’s a group sitting by the pool or on the beach. Plus, luckily we're no longer in the '80s so speakers are a lot smaller and more portable nowadays!
They’re also good to use with the projector I mentioned above for movie nights!
Travelling for long periods of time can mean that most updated phones will run out of battery pretty quickly. I am a huge fan of Apple products but I have to say that the battery life on my iPhone is terrible! Kev's Samsung lasts much longer so if you know a backpacker with an iPhone, this could be a great gift!
Most backpackers will need a phone to find their hotel, and get in touch with their family at home, let alone being able to call emergency services if they need to. Having a full battery is really important, so one of these cases can save the day when they run out!
The newest Go Pro as of 2019 is the Hero 7 Black. I only recommend the Hero 7 if you are very much into photography and you believe you will be taking a lot of video footage doing fast paced activities. The reason for this is because it has very good image stabilisation but it's much more expensive than previous models.
If you are going to be using it for videos out and about or snorkelling, etc, then I definitely recommend that you buy the Hero 5 instead. It is two generations behind but is basically the same camera as the Hero 6 and 7. Save yourself some money and go for the Hero 5, it's a fantastic camera with only some very minor differences.
It has a fantastic optical zoom for capturing those moments that are a little out of reach but is small enough to fit comfortably in your pocket. The size and versatility make it literally ideal for anyone who is into backpacking or travelling in general.
Not only that, but it comes with some state of the art technical specs that cameras twice the price don't have. We highly recommend this camera. I recommend having a look at our guide to choosing the best backpacking camera for you to save time and money!
Airport lounges are the perfect place to start any trip, whether it backpacking around Asia or going on a luxury all-inclusive holiday to the Caribbean! Buying an access pass for a backpacker is a great gift because rather than spending some of their holiday money on over-priced meals in the airport, they can have unlimited food, drinks and WiFi all included! Usually the lounge passes are around $25 – $35 and give access for between 2 and 5 hours. There are comfortable seats, quiet areas, showers and some places even offer complimentary massages!
Classes/Day Pass (Get Your Guide) or Activity Voucher (Tinggly)
Sometimes experiences are better than material gifts, and if you know someone who likes to take part in activities, then consider buying them a lesson or class in a new country. It could be a surf lesson in Bali, an evening river cruise in Cambodia or a wine tasting afternoon in Perth. There are hundreds of different activities to choose from, in just as many countries so get creative and choose something they wouldn’t necessarily pick for themselves but would love!
Get Your Guide has some awesome day passes that allow the user to skip the line at many city attractions, and there are also plenty of fun classes offered too.
Something that is on many people’s bucket lists is learning to scuba dive. There are so many dive shops out there but it’s often not an expense that backpackers will have the budget for! Why not purchase a beginner’s course for them so that they have the opportunity to learn a new skill and perhaps enjoy a lifetime hobby!
The most famous diving company is Padi but SSI are cheaper and still just as good. Padi has a few more dive shops around the world but if you get your certificate with SSI, you can still go to a Padi Dive Centre and scuba dive with them. We decided to use SSI and still got an amazing course and the qualification to dive pretty much anywhere!
At home, free music is easy to access because of the constant access to WiFi. However, whilst travelling, it can be hard to get a good internet connection. This can be a real pain, especially on long travel days – sitting on a rickety train for 12 hours with no music or entertainment can bore the most enthusiastic of travellers!
With a monthly Spotify Premium subscription, the music can be downloaded and listened to offline. With their new headphones and rechargeable phone case, a backpacker will never have to go without their favourite playlists again!
Spotify also often does a deal where you can get 2 months Premium membership for free so look out for that!
Another great subscription gift is Amazon’s audiobook platform. Audible has over 425,000 audio books that can be played on the free app anywhere. Sometimes listening to a book is better than reading one because you can close your eyes on that bright sunny beach, or on the cramped aeroplane and enjoy being read to.
A lot of travellers will cancel their Netflix subscription to save a few extra pounds every month before their big trip. A great gift is to re-subscribe them for their travels, because Netflix is available even on a phone so can be watched anywhere.
Using a VPN allows you browse Netflix’s full database from any country! Astrill is a good VPN that we regularly use to watch Netflix shows that aren’t available in the country that we are currently in.
Do you know a backpacker eager to learn a language whilst on the road? One-to-one classes are great, but if you’re travelling then you can’t set up a base for spending time with a tutor. With an online resource like Rosetta Stone, you can use their online software and choose between 20 different languages to learn. It’s a great way to supplement learning whilst in a new country!
My very first travel pillow was basically just a cushion, and it was made for children. I picked it because of the fun ladybird pattern, not because I knew anything about the ergonomics of neck travel pillows.
However, I lost it and my mum bought me a new one that literally blew my mind. It was soft but it supported my neck and head when I slept and it easily fit in the straps of my backpack so I didn’t have to carry it around the airport.
When people go travelling, one of the most common activities they do is go snorkelling.
Every snorkel tour and even most hotels will have snorkel gear that customers can use, but having a personal set that’s the right size and shape for your head is a game changer. I can’t even count the amount of times that we used old snorkelling equipment and the eye mask steamed up immediately, or the mouthpiece had been chewed to pieces.
A decent set can be tied to a backpack easily, and it also gives you more freedom because you can go snorkelling literally anywhere you want!
No one wants to be that person sleeping naked because they didn’t pack the essentials, and old albeit comfortable pyjamas someone’s had since they were 15 are also not going to make a great impression either.
Depending on where they’re going, your backpacker friend might appreciate some s light t-shirt and shorts combo, or they might need something a little warmer. Be careful if you’re buying winter pyjamas though because they can take up unnecessary space.
A small but cute gift idea, a personalised luggage tag is also actually really helpful because spotting your luggage immediately on the baggage carousel is such a good feeling!
Not having to run around following a bag that turns out to be someone else’s is a much better way of arriving in a new country. You could even choose tags where you can order different shapes, sizes and even pictures which help individual bags stand out.
Even with the increased use of e-tickets now, travellers always seem to have documents to print out and keep safe.
I see so many people pulling out a tatty and flimsy plastic sleeve that they’ve been storing everything important in. Why!? There are so many nice-looking and functional document holders available to buy online - do your friend, daughter, cousin or whoever is going travelling a favour and buy them one!
Choose one that will fit in their passport, plane tickets and a little bit of travel cash, as well a travel insurance documents, visa forms and different sim cards too.
Not everyone is into sharing their adventures in a travel diary, but if you have a budding writer or even someone who just likes to read back on their written memories then a good journal is a perfect gift for backpackers.
There are all sorts of different types out there – plain notebooks, bullet journals or scrap booking diaries but choose one that suits your traveller.
I have the burgundy colour you can see above, but there are other options to choose from too. I love the authentic brown paper that it comes with - but that's easily removed and replaced.
Buying presents for travellers doesn’t actually have to be difficult. You could buy one large gift, or a couple of small things as a little hamper set if they already have a lot of luggage! And Mum, if you’re reading, this is our Christmas list for this year 😉