On the whole, travellers tend to favour memorable experiences over physical possessions. It’s an admirable trait, but one that makes them a notoriously tricky bunch to buy presents for.

But fear not, disgruntled gift giver! In this set of gear reviews we take a look at a cross section of gift items that are perfect for those with a penchant for exploring pastures new, from jewellery that stokes wanderlust to practical kit that’ll prove invaluable out on the road. Because ultimately nothing says ‘I care about you’ like a good pair of trekking socks.

Stocking-fillers

Kora Upside Down Socks, shown in purple with extra padding on the top of the foot and back of the heel
Convention-defying comfort with Kora Upside Down Socks © David Else / Lonely Planet

Kora Upside Down Socks

Giving socks to loved ones for Christmas is a tradition as old as plum pudding. Trekkers may instinctively seek padding underfoot, but the Upside Down socks from yak wool specialists Kora have padding on the top of the foot (where it’s needed), while under the sole the fabric is comparatively thin to avoid creases (which cause blisters). It’s counter-intuitive but in testing we found it really does work. While they’re tailored to tackling mountain trails, they’re equally good for lounging around the house, daydreaming of dramatic peaks.

  • Plus points: yak wool, nylon, polyester and Marino blend gives warmth, comfort and durability
  • Worth noting: Marino and yak wool is naturally odour resistant – ideal for long treks
  • Cost: US$22, £19, €21.50
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
  • More info: kora.net
Lifeventure Travel Washbag, shown in blue with a grey handle
Stay clean and organised on the road; Lifeventure Travel Washbag © David Else / Lonely Planet

Lifeventure Travel Washbag

It might seem a little practical for a present, but giving someone this washbag from gadget specialist Lifeventure is actually bestowing upon them the gift of good personal hygiene on the road, a luxury that shouldn’t be overlooked. The small receptacle keeps lotions and potions safe and tidy in transit, then simply unzips and hangs up (via integrated hook), so contents are easily accessible while enjoying a soak. Features include a waterproof internal pouch, and even a mirror for off-grid journeys where you can’t easily assess the state of your sweat-strewn locks.

  • Plus points: integrated hook is simple but highly effective
  • Worth noting: available in two sizes and two colours
  • Cost: £17.99; €20 approx
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 9/10
  • More info: lifeventure.com
The Luxe Bamboo Neck Tube from BAM, shown in purple and worn by a female model
Warm, soft, stylish; the Luxe Bamboo Neck Tube from BAM © David Else / Lonely Planet

BAM Luxe Bamboo Neck Tube

Like socks, a scarf is another fail-safe festive favourite. BAM have given the humble winter garment a modern twist to produce the Neck Tube, a cylinder of luxuriously soft bamboo fabric that’s moisture wicking and naturally anti-bacterial. Its protective properties are manifold: it’ll keep loved ones warm in cold climates, sensitive necks sunburn free in the harshest heat, and can be pulled up to cover mouths and noses when city smells get a little overwhelming.

  • Plus points: moisture-wicking fabric is ideal for skiing or winter activities
  • Worth noting: various colours to suit all tastes
  • Cost: £18; €20 approx
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
  • More info: bambooclothing.co.uk

Mid-range gifts

Kinetic Neckband Earphones from Kitsound, shown with black 'band' that rests on the back of the neck
Every journey needs a soundtrack; Kinetic Neckband Earphones from Kitsound © David Else / Lonely Planet

Kitsound Kinetic Neckband Earphones

These Kinetic Neckband Earphones will come as music to the ears of any travelling audiophile in your life. The sleek bluetooth headphones harbour no long cable to tangle with backpack straps or aircraft seatbelts, and sound-quality is excellent for the size. We found them ideal for the more relaxed side of travel, although while walking or jogging the neckband bounced and pulled out the earpieces.

  • Plus points: rechargeable via mini-USB
  • Worth noting: headphones are not waterproof
  • Cost: £49.99; €42,66
  • Rating: quality 8/10; practicality 7/10; value 7/10
  • More info: kitsound.co.uk
Cassiopi’s travel-themed jewellery, one locket with a blue compass design and a pair of cufflinks, one with a compass design and the other with a map of Europe
A special gift for a special someone: Cassiopi’s travel-themed jewellery © David Else / Lonely Planet

Cassiopi locket and cufflinks

For those who like to wear their love of travel on their sleeve (or around their necks) these personalised cufflinks and locket from independent outfit Cassiopi make for a lovely present. Carefully hand-crafted in England, and shipped worldwide, the locket features a compass design interlaced with classic travel maxim ‘not all those who wander are lost’ (taken from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings), while the cufflinks feature a compass and globe design. For geographical relevance you can choose the continent depicted on the globe cufflink, and for emotional relevance you can choose the message concealed inside the locket.

  • Plus points: various colours and design variations available
  • Worth noting: locket is silver-plated with sterling silver chain, cufflinks nickel-plated
  • Cost: £25 (locket); £19 (cufflinks)
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 9/10
  • More info: cassiopi.co.uk
Opinel Nomad Cooking Kit, including two knives, vegetable peeler, chopping board and cork screw
Venerable name, modern manufacturing, top-class products; Opinel Nomad Cooking Kit © David Else / Lonely Planet

Opinel Nomad Cooking Kit

One for globetrotting foodies who take mealtimes seriously, even if they’re in the middle of nowhere – the Nomad Cooking Kit, created by the iconic knife manufacture Opinel, is certain to add a sprinkle of culinary class to any outdoor eating experience. This suave-looking set of utensils includes a compact chopping board, two stainless-steel knives, veg peeler and – most importantly – a corkscrew; all of which feel good in the hand and are sourced from high-quality materials (so should last a fair few dinner services).

  • Plus points: kit also includes a wrap-cloth for transport
  • Worth noting: if you’re flying, keep knives in hold luggage
  • Cost: US$85; £65; €59
  • Rating: quality 9/10; practicality 9/10; value 8/10
  • More info: opinel.com

That special something

The Samsung Galaxy Watch, shown with a calendar displayed on the face and black strap
Wellness and connectivity on the road; the Samsung Galaxy Watch © David Else / Lonely Planet

Samsung Galaxy Watch

The latest in wearable tech, the Samsung Galaxy Watch is the ideal gift for the digital traveller who likes to be in touch with their biorhythms, as well as the rest of the world. Simply Bluetooth it to your phone to see emails, texts and app notifications on the screen. Available in two sizes and a range of colours, the watch includes an altimeter so you know when you’ve climbed 10 flights of stairs or how many more metres to go to reach Everest Base Camp, plus numerous wellness features so you can monitor sleep patterns (handy for Caribbean hammocks) or stress levels (useful for Asian buses).

  • Plus points: bezel scroll feature is a touch of genius
  • Worth noting: we found the pulse monitor intermittent
  • Cost: US$349; £299; €329 (all for 46mm watch)
  • Rating: quality 8/10; practicality 8/10; value 8/10
  • More info: samsung.com
The 950 Travel Backpack from F/CE, a black backpack with three main compartments
Style in the city or on the trail; the 950 Travel Backpack from F/CE © David Else / Lonely Planet

F/CE 950 Travel Backpack

Travellers tend to get a tad sentimental when it comes to old backpacks, but if a partner or travel buddy’s bag has been around the block one too many times, investing wisely in a new receptacle can prove a winning gift. The 950 Travel Backpack, from Japanese brand F/CE, combines stripped-back style with serious practical features, ideal for day trips or weekend city breaks. Padded and ventilated shoulder straps ensure long-lasting comfort while the different-sized compartments (including one with a padded laptop sleeve) help to keep kit safe and organised.

  • Plus points: made from tough Cordura fabric
  • Worth noting: available in various colours
  • Cost: US$160; £122; €139
  • Rating: quality 8/10; practicality 8/10; value 6/10
  • More info: root-store.com; cordura.com
GoXtreme Barracuda, a small, square video camera with a minimalist design
Capture holiday memories above or below the water; GoXtreme Barracuda © David Else / Lonely Planet

GoXtreme Barracuda action camera

Give the gift of lifelong memories – or at least a few more ‘likes’ on social media – with the Barracuda action camera from GoXtreme. The camera easily handles action shots and really excels when the going gets wet, whether used rafting, snorkelling or even diving to 10m. Operation is intuitive and easy because a waterproof case is not required. Options include stills, time-lapse and 720p/1080p/4K video at various frame speeds. In testing, we found the camera’s 3.75GB file limit allowed 10 minutes of 4K video, although 720p at high frame speed gave 28 minutes and better results – so that recorded heartfelt thank you message will be impressively crisp and clear.

  • Plus points: small compact size; also supplied with impressive array of straps, mounts and fittings
  • Worth noting: no warning to indicate camera has reached file limit and stopped filming
  • Cost: US$100; £100; €100
  • Rating: quality 8/10; practicality 8/10; value 9/10
  • More info: goxtreme-action-cams.com

More travel gear reviews

How we review products

Our opinions are by definition subjective. Our testers (male, female, young, old) trial products in the real world, then give their honest opinion and scores for quality, practicality and value: 5/10 = mediocre; 6/10 = fair; 7/10 = good; 8/10 = very good; 9/10 = excellent; 10/10 = perfect. We don’t include anything that scores less than 5/10.

We aim for gender balance, and over a year cover an equal number of male- and female-specific items. We state where kit is available in male and female versions, or for everyone, unless it’s obvious.

Prices are quoted in at least one major currency. Where possible we include other currencies. We take prices from manufacturers’ websites; information was correct at the time of publication, but you may find different prices online or in specialist stores, particularly after a period of time when products are discounted.

Manufacturers supply Lonely Planet with test products for review. We do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

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