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Holiday gifts for high Sierra backpackers

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As the season for gift giving rolls around again, you may find yourself with backpackers on your holiday gift list. With innumerable choices in gear from more than a handful of companies both online and off, buying for backpackers can seem both easy and overwhelming. Here are a few gift ideas for the altitude lovers in your life.

Patagonia Nano Puff jacket - Backpackers are a little obsessive about weight, so what could be better than a workhorse insulating layer that tips the scale well under a pound? Patagonia's Nano Puff pullovers do just that. At just 10 ounces (men's) and 9.2 ounces (women's) these jackets are excellent stand-alone insulating layers for chilly wilderness mornings and evenings, and they layer well with a rain jacket or baselayers as high country temperatures drop after sunset. Hooded and full-zip options are also available for a few more ounces. Choose neutral colors to reduce visual impact in the backcountry.

Lightweight micro-light - The ultralight or lightweight backpacker on your list will appreciate this upgrade in the headlamp department. Photon LED Micro-lights come in several styes and are about the size and weight of a quarter. Add some cordage and a cord lock and this light can be worn as a headlamp. These bright little lights are great as a sole light source or as a lightweight backup light. They make great stocking stuffers and might even work for the backpacker you need to surprise for your secret Santa workplace exchange.

Leave No Trace membership - For the backpacker who has everything, a donation to an outdoors-related nonprofit organization can be a meaningful present. Leave No Trace know-how is among the most important of backcountry skills and knowledge, and this organization has been doing consistent education and outreach that grows in importance as the number of visitors to the wilderness continues to rise. Members are eligible for a variety of perks and get the satisfaction of doing something more to keep the wilderness pristine.

Sierra North and Sierra South trip-planning books - Nothing says happy holidays like inspiration for the upcoming backpacking season, and the backpacker on your gift-giving list will find plenty of it in the Wilderness Press Sierra series. Sierra North (9th ed; ISBN 978-0-89997-396-8) and Sierra South (8th ed; ISBN 978-0-89997-414-9), both by Kathy Morey and Mike White, provide comprehensive trip-planning details for 80+ trips each the wilderness areas of the Sierra most likely to be on a central California backpacker's destination list: Yosemite National Park north to the Lake Tahoe area and the Mammoth Lakes region south to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These guides are bookshelf essentials for seasoned and novice central Sierra backpackers alike.

Food dehydrator - The El Capitan of gifts for your favorite backpacker, a food dehydrator will delight anyone who likes to eat well on the trail. Dehydrating is the ultimate in cost-effectiveness and variety when it comes to backpacking food, allowing wilderness travelers to pack their favorite meals and sauces, preserve fresh produce and lay in a wide selection of mix-and-match meal components that can be combined quickly for impromptu weekend trips or extended backcountry outings. NESCO brand American Harvest dehydrators seem to be the next great thing in dehydrating, and dehydrating enthusiasts have enriched this trend with a variety of food dehydration "cookbooks," some even tailored for backpacking.

The days begin to grow longer in late December, which means that the temperate seasons will soon be here again. These gifts will have the backpackers on your holiday shopping list anticipating mild days to come and thanking you for your generosity in helping to get them where they most want to be: safe and well equipped in the stunning and alluring wilderness of the nearby Sierra.

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