The gifts are hidden and waiting for unwrapping. The cookies are ready for Father Christmas’ perusal and grazing. Then it strikes you, what about the stockings? That jolly old elf might take care of this detail, but do you want to take that chance? Even he misses things. Stocking stuffers (or as we call them, boot-stuffers) are often an after-thought.
Stockings seem to get forgotten in the hustle and bustle of the season. Our boot-stuffers are important because they are the things that we may need, like to eat, or tend to forget. They’re the nuts in the fruitcake- they’re not necessary, but the cake is just somehow wrong if they’re not there.
I mean, unless you’re allergic to nuts, of course.
Here is my list of proven boot-stuffers. All of them are useful in the backcountry, and all of them are appropriate for kids or adults. These are easy gifts for the adventurers in your lives, ways of filling out stockings, or things crotchety old Belsnickle can throw at kids or shove into boots. I’m talking to you, you hirsute, switch-carrying gift-bringer!
Oh, and the best part…they’re all under $20, with most of them at $10 or less!
Note: Products below marked with a star (*) are from Keen. From 11/01-11/30, 20% off orders over $100! Not Valid on Utility Products, only at keenfootwear.com. Use coupon code: 20PercentKEEN2020
1. Extra Boot Laces
Boot laces are one of the most functional and appropriate boot-stuffers. This gift is on-par with getting new underwear from your Great Aunt Gladys; they won’t be jumping for joy at the sight of new laces, but when their old ones snap in the hinterlands, they’ll be thanking you.
They may try to save these delicious treats for the trail, but there is a chance they rip them open right then and there to munch on. Nothing wrong with that! It’s a little taste of the trail that will get them raring to go on their next adventure. They might even share if they’re feeling the giving spirit.
Alpineaire’s Mango Fire Trail Mix has the sweetness and spice sure to warm you up. It’s like fruitcake, but better. Want something like a holiday cookie, but healthier? Try Honey Stinger’s Organic Gingersnap Waffles. What about something sweet? You can’t go wrong with Jelly Belly 10 Flavor Holiday Box– they’re a classic stuffer!
My go-to stuffing snack is jerky! We have a local farm that makes awesome elk jerky, and small-time makers can be found all over. If you want something easily ordered and trail-tried, check out this Bacon Jerky by Oberto. I took this on my last backpacking trip and forced myself to not eat all of it at once!
Or you could make your own trail mix or jerky. That personal touch takes the gift to another level!
3. Lip Balm
Useful for any season, this is one gift they can start using immediately. Most sticks are small enough to toss in a pocket and go and add barely any weight.
The beauty of lip balm, however, is that it isn’t just for lips. You can apply lip balm anywhere you have dry or cracked skin, as a small cut dressing, loosening stuck zippers, a wind-blocker for your cheeks, as a sealant against rust, and many, many other uses that requires lubrication or sealing.
There’s a good chance you’ve already given or received them as stocking-stuffers in the past, so now it’s a tradition armed with new uses!
Pick up a seasonal scent, or go plain-Jane with something like Badger’s Unscented Lip Balm.
4. Stuff/Dry Sacks
A device for stuffing stuff stuffed in as boot-stuffers? Say that 10 times fast.
This is one of those items that you don’t need until you need it. Stuff sacks come in a variety of sizes, materials, and functions, are simple cinched affairs or waterproof/resistant ditties. Want to keep your keys, phones, or other little articles safe and separate while on the trail? Get a tiny (1L-1.5L) stuff sack. They’re even great if you’re building your own first aid, fire-starting, or emergency gear kits.
If you’re a fan of Osprey packs like me, you’ll opt for something like the Ultralight Stuff Sacks, or the Ultralight Dry Sacks if you want to keep stuff dry (they both come in different sizes and colors).
We’ve had great success (and didn’t break the bank) stuffing my son’s sleeping bag with these Co-Op Stuff Sacks by REI.
5. New Socks
Another boring pair of boot-stuffers? Ah, not so fast…a pack of regular old socks from a department store is boring. We’re upping our game, though. For an explorer, you need something a little more functional and- dare I say- stylish. Nothing urges an outdoors-person towards the backcountry more than great outdoor clothing, and Merino wool socks are no exception. They’re soft, they wick away moisture, and they dry fast. Even better, you don’t need a half dozen of them when you’re out and about in the wilds- two pairs will serve you well.
These are AWESOME as boot-stuffers because it makes sense. Stuffing socks into a stocking just seems weird in a cannibalistic way. (Just kidding…go ahead and stuff some wild styles into those already wild stockings!)
6. Bug Spray
Okay…bug spray. In winter. Not exactly the sort of thing you want to think about while you’re roasting chestnuts or out wassailing. Trust me, though, when spring rolls around you’ll have your gift-receivers ready to tackle the onslaught of blood-suckers. (This is not a Halloween post, I swear!) If you’re like me, you care about protection against those annoying little buggers as much as you care about how that protection affects your loved ones. I’ve picked my favorite bug-protection.
Herbal Armor by All Terrain is an all-natural, DEET-free, pump spray that smells great! You will not come away feeling and smelling like a science experiment when you use it. I use this spray exclusively to all others.
7. Waterproof Notebook
Anyone else write while on the trail? Useful for note-taking (or burning, if need be) when the weather turns sour, these will not turn to mush or bleed all over when they get wet. Even if you or your loved one isn’t a poet, it’s always useful to have paper with you. Plus, you know, getting them to write about their adventures will only spur on more adventures.
Oh man, I LOVE maps. Even when I’m not out on the trail, I’ll spend whole evenings poring over maps, figuring out where I want to go next and how to get there. Take it from Treasure Island, Lord of the Rings, Winnie the Pooh, and Around the World in 80 Days, maps are one of those things that spur on adventure like no other! When they’re folded, their size is perfect as stocking stuffers, and when the gift-receiver pulls them out, you can ask them with a grin, where do you want to go?
Pick local maps that’ll see a lot of use and are waterproof. I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of Purple Lizard Maps (mostly around Pennsylvania). They’re cool because they not just shed water (I’ve even spilled coffee all over them), but they’re easy-to-read and have a lot of little insights into the areas they cover.
Or go the other route and pick up a map that details somewhere you’re not. National Geographic makes beautiful, hardy maps perfect for this. You could even use this as the perfect way to hint at an upcoming adventure!
9. Foot Cream
Sooth those sore feet after a long hike. These are “medicine cabinet” boot-stuffers that may not see much use on the trail, but it very well could see some heavy use after the trail. Everyone can benefit from a soothing foot treatment, from the youngest scrambler to the oldest hobbler. Taking care of your most important tool should be a top priority for all hikers.
Try something like Badger’s Foot Balm to sooth dry, cracked feet.
Okay, what gives? Wasn’t this supposed to be all about hiking boot-stuffers? Indeed, it is, so it makes sense that I give you some affordable and durable options when it comes to enjoying drinks on or just off the trail. While libations will vary depending on the imbiber, these drinkware options are perfect for rugged outdoor use because they’re not going to shatter into a million jagged pieces if you’re a little rough with them.
Enjoy your drinks in a branded pint? Osprey’s Camping Pint is safe and flexible enough even for the most active and careless children. Prefer wine? Osprey has a metal, stemless Wine Cup that forgoes the uselessness of a stem in the wilderness. I mean, really…half the time you don’t have anywhere to put it anyway.
Maybe something a little more functional in a boot stuffer? Try GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Sierra Cup. We’ve used these to boil water for single-serve meals when we didn’t want to dirty every dish in our kit.
11. Tiny Bottles
Like the stuff sacks above (#4), this is another item that you don’t know until you need it. These little bottles are great for keeping matches dry, packing in extra spices, cooking oil, contact solution, or any other situation where you need to keep the stuff separate from conditions outside. You can’t go wrong with a few of these stowed away with your gear for when you need them.
Nalgene-highly durable, chemical-free plastics developed for laboratory use- carries a whole line of little bottles worth their weight. Consider a Narrow-mouth 2oz., Narrow-mouth 1oz., 2oz. Drop, or 1/2oz. Drop. You are by no means limited to these sizes- they have tons of other sizes and designs.
12. Water Bottle
The kind you use depends on your hiking style, of course. I’m a fan of the hard, impact-resistant Nalgene Wide Mouth Tritan 32oz. bottles. We’ve put them to the test, and they can take a shotgun blast and still hold water. When you want to go a little lighter, opt for a Nalgene Wide Mouth HDPE bottle. If you want to go even lighter, go for a Platypus Soft Bottle.
When hiking and backpacking, I like to unwind in the evening by relaxing and blanking my mind with or without a fire. Sometimes, though, I have a little extra energy to burn. Sometimes the kids need a little diversion so they’re not beating the tar out of each other. So we bring along little games with us to pass the time. If you’re not too incredibly concerned about weight, or a miniscule amount of added weight, taking a small game with you can be a life-saver.
Besides, many of our ancestors did it when they ventured from place to place.
Consider playing cards (get plastic-coated so they last!), a card game (like Uno!), a set of dice (there are all kinds of dice game rules online), or a portable version of a game like Mancala. And anyone my age is sure to remember footbags (or “hacky sacks”) as the diversion of the mid-90’s. Pocket Disc’s Large Footbags are made out of recycled material, and the larger size makes them easier to play with.
I don’t go anywhere without at least 1 bandana stowed in my pocket, and I carry even more when I’m on the trail. These little squares of fabric have so many uses it isn’t funny- snot-rags, sweat-blockers, tent-wipers, makeshift bandages, cooling wraps, potholders, pre-filters for water, and even bandito-style mouth covers. Paisley Bandanas by companies like Carolina are the “traditional” bandana, but there are loads of other options.
I noticed that the cheaper you go (they can get really cheap), the more washes you should give it. The cheapest ones can bleed and may have funky chemicals. I wash mine a bunch of times anyway- I like them to be soft. Stuff a couple into those boots!
15. A Beanie
This headwear can be worn year-round, are packable, and are great for early mornings and late nights on the trail. Crawling into a sleeping bag with one on brings your rest to a whole new level while preventing the loss of precious heat. It’s a sensible gift that only requires you to guess at head size, and even then most of them will stretch.
Let’s Stuff it.
See what I did there?
These boot-stuffers are all great add-ons for a hiking- and backpacking-inspired Holiday season, sure to get the gift-getter’s mind geared up for their next adventure.
What do you stuff into the boots or stockings of the explorers in your lives?