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Practical gifts for desert hikers

Updated on November 7, 2014

A gift guide for desert hikers

This lens is about finding practical gifts for hikers to use on desert trails. Desert hiking can be a little different than other types of hiking mostly because of the extremes of the desert climate. Deserts can be hot or cold, dry and even wet with raging flash floods. I hope to show some gifts that can people can give to their loved ones who hike the desert so that they can have more fun, more comfort and less risk

All of the non-product photos in the lens were taken by me, though they were taken a couple years ago, so don't laugh. I don't look like that now, ha ha.

List of comfort and survival items

Here is a list to give some ideas of what desert hikers like to have with them on the trail for a day hike or a short overnight hike. Desert hikers will appreciate items in this category, though some items, such as toiletries and personal items, should be given by intimate friends. Examples of gifts will be given in the next module.

  • Something light to carry water in. Desert hikers are constantly looking for efficient ways to carry mass quantities of water on their hikes, but water is heavy and carrying it can be difficult and cumbersome. Gifts for carrying water should be easy to hold on to and make the water easily accessible. Hiking "bladders" and water backpacks can be good for short hikes, but when buying one for a desert hiker, make sure it is compatible with their packs and other gear. Many bladders can't be worn over or under some backpacks.
  • Clothing and temporary shelter to regulate body temperature. Desert hikers need something that will keep them cool during the day and warm at night. Wool products are usually the best way to go on this.
  • Good hiking boots. Boots should have ankle support because most desert hikers move up and down hills and often have to scramble over rocks and uneven ground. Hiking shoes are OK, but don't provide good ankle support. Work boots can do in a pinch on short hikes. Running/walking shoes are not recommended.
  • A good backpack that is light and can carry a lot of food and water. For overnight hikes, a pack that can carry a sleeping roll and small tent is highly desired.

Ooo, thunder!

In the summer, you need protection from both the heat and the rain! Monsoons bring thunderstorms and flash flooding. This is me a few years ago in the high desert where there was a good monsoonal flow and some rain/thunder.

Comfort and survival items on

I picked out a few items to help you feel comfortable on your hiking trips in the desert. The most important thing is water and sun protection, even in the winter.

Nalgene Wide Mouth Cantene (48-Ounce)
Nalgene Wide Mouth Cantene (48-Ounce)

I'm always looking for an efficient way to carry water. One thing I really like about these is that they're collapsible even though they're made of nalgene. So, you don't have to have those bulky bottles in your backpack to get the sturdiness of nalgene.

Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat, Chambray/Charcoal, Medium
Sunday Afternoons Adventure Hat, Chambray/Charcoal, Medium

Hats with a brim are highly recommended. The more ventilated they are, the better. Ball-caps are OK but really don't help protect the neck.


Fun items

After a desert hiker gets out in the desert, what do they like to do or see? Are they birdwatchers? Sky watchers? Into geology? Like to play geocaching? Photography? Here are some ideas for people who don't just hike in the desert, they go there to look at and study things.

Here is a list of ideas for fun things for a desert hiker:

  • Photography equipment--especially add-ons that will protect the equipment from the elements or make it easier to carry.
  • Optics--these can be binoculars and scopes for bird and wildlife watching. Or, telescopes for sky and star watching
  • GPS--this is also not only a fun item, but can be a very useful tool for the map-challenged.
  • Two-way radio-- for communicating with members of their party. Many radios can reach a very long distance in some parts of the desert depending on elevation.
  • Regular radio or weather radio--radio reception is usually available in most areas and this can be handy in case the weather changes.

Fun hiking stuff on Amazon

Here are some hand-picked fun items

Midland - GXT1000VP4, 50 Channel GMRS Two-Way Radio - Up to 36 Mile Range Walkie Talkie, 142 Privacy Codes, Waterproof, NOAA Weather Scan + Alert (Pair Pack) (Black/Silver)
Midland - GXT1000VP4, 50 Channel GMRS Two-Way Radio - Up to 36 Mile Range Walkie Talkie, 142 Privacy Codes, Waterproof, NOAA Weather Scan + Alert (Pair Pack) (Black/Silver)

Cell phone reception in the desert can be spotty if there's any reception at all. These radios can help with communication between those in your hiking party or emergency officials.

Ambient Weather WR-089 Compact Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio, Flashlight, Smart Phone Charger with Cables
Ambient Weather WR-089 Compact Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio, Flashlight, Smart Phone Charger with Cables

A flashlight and radio are an excellent combination. I've found radio reception to be fairly good in most areas that aren't blocked on all sides by hills or cliffs. This one is supposed to be able to charge up cell phones, though I have heard it's not as easy as it sounds.


Hiking in the Anza Borrego Desert

Me out hiking
Me out hiking

While jeans and t-shirts can do for short hikes, what really would be nice is to have some stretchy wool pants or shirts made out of more breathable material. Hats and good boots are always welcome gifts for the desert hiker. Sunglasses are nice, too. I usually wear prescription eyeglasses with ultra-violet protection.

Looking at wildlflowers
Looking at wildlflowers

Miscellaneous items

Books, compasses, walking sticks, etc.

Books and basic navigational items are great to have, especially when visiting an area that is unfamiliar. Guides to birds, plants, and flowers in the area are also great tools. Walking sticks can be helpful, especially when hiking over a lot of uneven terrain or uphills. Here are a few other things that might be useful gifts for desert hikers.

The photo here is of me looking at wildflowers near the Palm Canyon Campground in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Miscellaneous desert hiking things from Amazon

Here are a few miscellaneous items that can be helpful to desert hikers.

Colorado Desert Wildflowers: A Guide to Flowering Plants of the Low Desert, Including the Coachella Valley, Anza-Borrego Desert, and Portions of
Colorado Desert Wildflowers: A Guide to Flowering Plants of the Low Desert, Including the Coachella Valley, Anza-Borrego Desert, and Portions of

This is a great guide that will cover most of the flowering plants in southern California and southwestern Arizona. I've passed by so many flowers and plants in my life not knowing what they were, so this guide is a great help.

SE WS630-40 Survivor Series Hand Carved Flower Hiking/Walking Stick, 40"
SE WS630-40 Survivor Series Hand Carved Flower Hiking/Walking Stick, 40"

Helps you stay steady on steep, rocking trails. I recommend walking sticks for those who have difficulty climbing or balancing on narrow trails.


Ouch, Cholla!

Teddy bear cholla
Teddy bear cholla

Sometimes, it's good to have a good pair of gloves, boots, or pants when hiking around these plants as they are easy to get stuck by. I've had a few of these hook onto my skin and it's not fun pulling them off. Plus, the marks stayed on my skin for months!

Hiking in Utah

Utah and Arizona also have some great desert places to hike. I've been all over the southwest hiking and looking at various landscapes, including some that looked like this one. This poster is avaiable at

Buy this at
Buy this at | Source

Which kind of gift would you like?

Vote here for your favorite desert hiking gift, or add our own!

Got any more recommendations?

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    Post Comment

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 

      6 years ago from Kansas

      Great hiking gift ideas. I'm more of a mountain hiker, but many of these items would be great for that as well.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Keeping your feet happy is very important. I have had good luck with both Timberland and Hi-Tech boots.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like the fun items, very nice lens!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      great lens :)

    • Howcanigetagirl profile image


      6 years ago

      Great idea for a lens - very useful for desert hikers!

    • sweetstickyrainbo profile image


      6 years ago

      you look happy in the desert

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love these gifts for desert hikers

    • octopen profile image


      6 years ago

      What beautiful scenery.Great lens!

    • Jogalog profile image


      6 years ago

      I love hiking but never been desert hiking yet. One day I hope to.


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