Gift Ideas for Backpackers

In a few days, one of us will be celebrating getting a year older. Usually that day involves being surrounded by friends, family, cake and beer. Sometimes you’ll even be lucky enough to visit a foreign country (but usually only when there’s an “0” at the end of the age).

As a traveller, you are almost definitely in a foreign country; the things you’re used to having at this time of year aren’t there; and the people that usually shower you with multicoloured gifts now want to know what you want for your birthday.  All you can think is “How can I fit anything else in my 30L backpack?!?”

An internet search for “What to buy for a backpacker” will take you to hundreds of pages chocked full of links telling you that your friend “needs” a toothbrush cover, or a wooden compass.

So if your friend is either on a backpacking adventure, or somewhere exotic trying to make a name for themselves in business – this is a great guide on what to get them for their birthday/Christmas/just because you love them.


1. Cake – I mean who doesn’t want cake for their birthday. If you happen to be in the local area, make one yourself. Otherwise, online companies will send your friend a cake on their birthday. Just search online for “send a cake” and the country they are in.

2. A Meal in a Fancy Restaurant – Backpacking often means doing everything as cheap as possible. Malls with fluroescent lighting and communal tables are great, quick and cheap; but lack almost everything that makes a sit down meal enjoyable. Give your friend licence to treat themselves to a fancy meal (and even some wine),


3. Netflix/Kindle Unlimited/Audible Subscription – These things tend to end up on the back burner after a long list of expenses including feeding and cleaning oneself. Treat your friend to a few laughs (or sobs).

4. Video Message – Get all your mates together and sing happy birthday at the camera. Then get everyone to record a soppy message about how much your friend means to them. Edit and email.

5. Digital Magazine Subscription – In all the actual travelling time your friend has (those 12-hour flights do stack up), they could really use some entertainment and a nice reminder of home.


6. Skype – Figure out the time difference, set aside a chunk of time and settle down for a good natter; bringing the booze always helps.


7. Same Activity, Different Time Zones – Do the same thing at the same time from across the globe. Watch a movie, get a massage, play tennis – whatever! Then compare experiences after.


8. Clothes – Either sent from home or an insistence they go on a shopping spree at your expense. It could be that your friend hasn’t bought any new clothes in a while. If they have been travelling hand luggage only, the tiny capsule wardrobe they started with might be looking a little ragged right now.

9. Haircut – This is another thing on ‘The List’ that you never quite get round to. Get someone to go all Edward Scissorhands on them.


10. A night in a hotel – Those nights in shared dorms, couch surfing and on over night buses take their toll. Splurge on your friend for a night in a hotel with their own bathroom (preferably with jacuzzi bath), air conditioning and a flat screen TV. Champagne on arrival is optional.oi000147_26834473695_o.jpg

11. Visit – If your budget allows, you have the time spare and you want to visit the place your friend is; why not visit them! They would absolutely love to spend their special day with someone from home.

12. Organise An Event – Whether that’s a weekend away, adreline-fuelled day or just a promise of a night out on the lash, organise something amazing for when they get home – make sure they know you’re thinking of them and still want to hang out with them.

13. Experience Voucher – Buy an experience voucher for your friend for something that they wouldn’t splurge on themselves. Whether that’s skydiving, a massage or just a cinema ticket.

Are They Settled For Longer?

15. A Birthday Card – If your traveller friend has settled down in one place for long enough, send them a real life birthday card. It’s amazing to find a card in the postbox, rip it open and then display it proudly for all the world to see.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA16. Local Currency – A wad of notes can sometimes feel like a sucky gift, but if you’ve made the effort to get down to the exchange booth then you’re definitely on to a winner. Bonus points if you put it in a real life birthday card (see number 15 above)

17. Yoga Membership/Race Fee – Maybe not as extravagant as a bungee jumping voucher or 4-day hiking tour, a small ‘experience’ will be just as much appreciated. See what is going on their local area that they would enjoy.

Digital Nomads

18. If your friend is an aspiring digital nomad, they might appreciate a professional membership to a regulating body – this gives them authority in the world and makes them look super duper. They might not have the money to do it themselves, or it might just end up as another thing on their to-get-round-to list.

19. Digital Journal Subscription – To a journal in their field. They might name drop one in conversation. “It says in (insert name here) that (some complicated jargon you don’t undestand)…”. Alternatively, ask someone in the same field or do a bit of googling to find a reputable one.


20. Ask Them – Just ask your friend what they need most right now. Remember that not all gifts have to have postage stamps – they might need a hug, some loving or the promise to answer the phone no matter what time they call.

What other gift ideas do you have? Have I missed any of the list? What have you gifted/had gifted to you? Let me know in the comments below!

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