On Twitter, @DanteHarker wrote:
“@PassportREQ I’m wanting inspiration for interesting gifts for backpackers – any thoughts? thanks 🙂 #travel”
Honestly, it’s something I never considered, so I’m glad he asked and we get a chance to create this amazing list of gifts for those courageous folks who go into the world with nothing more than a few t-shirts, maybe a compass (read: GPS Navigation), a bottle of water, and longing to share the stories they collect with the folks they left at home over a thousand miles back.
1. Journal: The greatest gift anyone could ever buy me is a journal. As a backpacker, I’m also a storyteller, and truthfully, I’ve never met a backpacker who isn’t. Let them know their thoughts and memories are worth reading, even long after they’re gone. Modern day Matthew Henson and such.
2. Small Bag Filled With Disposable Cameras: Yeah, we’re living in the digital age of online albums and cell phone photo galleries, but there’s something magic about taking a photo and not knowing how it turned out until you return home and drop the film off at a developer. They become artifacts, memory holders, and things you out into an album you’re able to hold and share with generations to follow. Trust me, no one wants to look through your 19,000 Facebook photos to piece your life together.
3. Heavy Duty Pocket Sewing Kit: People look at my travel backpack, and sometimes my regular backpack, and wonder how they’re still functioning. I’ve had to sew on one strap using a knife and a shoestring, and although it now adds character, I have a pair of shoes that I can’t wear because I’m too cheap to buy shoestrings. A heavy duty sewing kit will prevent these mishaps and definitely come in handy.
4. Hammock: Because they freaking rock and there may be those days when lodging is pretty tough to come by. A hammock to the backpacker is a house, a bed, a hug from a friend, and an adventure! There are companies like Kammok that donate regularly to amazing causes like treating malaria in Africa.
5. Digital Voice Recorder: I purchased a Zoom H4n a while back to aid in my filmmaking, but I’m falling more in love with it as a traveler. I run into some of the most amazing people in hostels and in teashops, and once we get a great conversation going or a jam session with guitars and table drumming, I ask if they’ll allow me to record them. One day I’ll use the collected audio and put something pretty amazing together.
6. Travel Adapter: But not just any ol’ travel adapter! Get one that also comes with a surge protector that will give you extra outlets and will adapt to just about every country visit-able. Check out the Bestek Universal Travel Adapter.
7. Fanny Pack: Not your father’s summer vacation to the amusement park fanny pack, but the cool, new, slim fanny packs that are pretty freaking dope! They even fit comfortably under your shirt for those times you find yourself among the pickpockets and need to hide your phone, money, cards, and passport.
8. A Book or 3: I always travel with books that have been recommended and I don’t return home until I’ve finished them all. Plus it gives me things to do when night falls and I’m on a train or hitchhiking in a backseat or can’t sleep on the plane because of a crying child. Here are a few I recommend:
a. Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer
b. Vagabonding – Rolf Potts
c. The Great Railway Bazaar – Paul Theroux
d. The Negro Motorist Green-Book – Victor Hugo
9. Portable Campfire Stovetop: The world is getting smaller and so are our gadgets. A stovetop that will fit into the pocket is amazing for those hikes into the wilderness for days at a time and cold food isn’t something you want to endure every day. They have some that are a bit heavier that allow you to even charge your phone while you cook.
10. Headphone Splitter: You may meet the love of your life on a bus from Paris to Amsterdam and they’re a language barrier, but you have the music. This will let you both plug your headphones into your phone and listen to Sade, John Legend, Nina Simone, and The Lumineers. Read: From MAK to AMS to Hella with Love: A Dating Story
Backpackers are genuinely appreciative people and will love any gift you get them. Be sure not to weigh them down or force them to add on any responsibility they don’t need and you will be loved.
Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.