In the past year and a half, more and more people discovered hiking as a hobby or as an alternative safe travel activity. And with good reason! Hiking is probably one of the most calming and healthy activities you can do!
Although sometimes you can just grab your hiking boots and go, if you truly want to be prepared you’ll want to bring more with you than just boots. That’s why in this post, several experienced travel bloggers will recommend their top hiking gadget for the truly prepared hiker.
No, you don’t necessarily need them all, but some backpacking gadgets can be quite handy on the way, which you’ll definitely discover when scrolling down!
Let’s take a look at the best hiking gadgets for 2021!
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The 17 best hiking gadgets
Hands-free hydration pack
Contributed by Nadia from Perth Weekend
A hands-free hydration pack is a fantastic hydration option for serious hikers. At its core, a hydration pack consists of a water bladder attached to a hose with either a mouthpiece or nozzle for you to drink from.
It’s a great water bottle alternative as you can carry it around without having to hold anything or stop to dig around in your backpack when thirsty. Having both hands free allows you to be more efficient, whether it’s climbing a hill or navigating difficult terrain.
The only drawback of hands-free hydration packs is they can be more difficult to clean and dry out than traditional water bottles.
Packs come in a variety of sizes, and some are even built into their own backpacks – allowing you to save space and carry more gear. The best brand to go with is Camelbak, their products are high quality, come in a wide range of sizes and carry a lifetime guarantee.
Personal Locator Beacon
Contributed by Jennifer Parkes from Backyard Travel Family
A personal locator beacon is an absolute must-have when you are hiking, especially if you are hiking alone or with children. A personal locator beacon is a small device, to be carried on your person, that can alert search and rescue services in the case of an emergency.
There are a number of different types of personal locator beacons. The cheapest and simplest PLB’s have one main “call” button. When pressed, emergency services are contacted and they will find you, based on your GPS location. It’s a great idea to get yourself into a clearing, if possible, to help make this as accurate as possible.
Other PLBs work on a paid subscription service and are a bit like a satellite phone where you can message back and forth, or send set messages to loved ones. This can be handy, if you are going to be back a day or two late for example, but are actually fine and well. This means your loved ones won’t get worried. It may also be helpful, when search and rescue are called, to give them an idea of the injuries.
A great gift for kids and outdoorsy people, be it hiking, kayaking, boating or just exploring the beautiful backcountry. Much better to be safe, than sorry.
Contributed by John from Your Destination is Everywhere
Knowing how to start a fire in the backcountry is a valuable skill because you never know when you will get lost, injured, or just stranded overnight. For this reason, a kit of waterproof matches is an essential hiking item that everyone should bring. It is lightweight, compact, easy to use, and can be reignited after being submerged in water. There’s no reason not to pack one.
I bought this UCO stormproof match kit and was very satisfied because it’s very reliable. I tested it beforehand and the advertisement is true, these matches can be ignited after getting soaked. I had to use them a few times on the trail and they have not failed me once.
Top tip: I recommend packing a few of these tinder cubes (especially if you’re hiking overnight) because they come in so handy when starting a fire.
Contributed by Erin Gifford at Go Hike Virginia
For winter hikers, it’s an absolute must to have a pair of microspikes for hiking tucked away in your daypack, even if you don’t think you will need them. They provide traction when crossing slippery surfaces, like snow and ice. Simply slip them over your trail runners or hiking boots and get hiking on the trails. If you are in-between sizes, go a size up so they are easier to put on.
Importantly, they reduce your chances of a slip, fall, spill or splatter when out on the hiking trails. Small spikes dig into snow and ice to keep you safe and standing tall. They are ideal for the casual hiker tackling moderately icy or snowy trails. They are also a must-have when on higher elevation trails where you may unexpectedly encounter ice.
Technically, Kahtoola owns the trademark for the word “microspikes.” Actually, MICROspikes. So, if you do a quick web search, you may see these slip-over devices listed as snow spikes, footwear traction devices, even ice grips. They are all the same and will all keep you from face-planting while on icy winter hiking trails.
Travel Coffee Press
Contributed by Emily from Wander-Lush
Made for use in the great outdoors, this mini version of the much-loved AeroPress is compact enough to fit in your backpack. Made from BPA-free plastic, it weighs under 320 grams (11 ounces). It packs down smart, too: The silicone case doubles as a mug, and everything you need to prep your coffee – including a small spoon, a foldable stirrer and a case of filter papers – sits inside.
Each press makes eight ounces of coffee (enough for 1-3 cups). You don’t even need hot water: A quick cold brew only takes a couple of minutes, so as long as you have a source of fresh water you can obtain your caffeine hit on the go.
When you’re done, dispose of the grounds, give it a rinse and pack it away. It looks right at home on your kitchen bench, too.
Child hiking carrier
Contributed by Victoria from Explore With Tori
If you’re looking to hit the trails with little ones in tow, a proper child carrier is essential.
An aluminium-framed child hiking carrier is designed to evenly distribute weight in your legs, similar to a traditional hiking pack, and alleviate the stress in your back that’s typically associated with carrying in a soft carrier. The child will sit safely up higher, while you can store gear, water, snacks, and baby essentials in the pack’s other compartments.
Quality packs, like an Osprey Poco Plus or Deuter Kid Comfort, are fully adjustable; set your torso length, strap the hip belt around the top of your hip bones, tighten the shoulder straps and the load lifters, and make adjustments as needed on the trail. Child hiking carriers will typically fit a child from six months, through about 4 years old (depending on the maximum weight capacity of the pack, child, and gear).
While costly, a properly fitted child hiking carrier allows for longer hikes, backpacking trips, less injury, more gear storage, and an overall happier hike.
Swiss army knife
Contributed by Lara from The Best Travel Gifts
No matter how well you plan out your hike, you will always come across something unexpected.
You may trip over a branch and bruise your knee or you may need a sharp knife to cut some food or open a package. Or, most importantly, you may have brought a bottle of some sort and need a corkscrew or a bottle opener before you can drink it! This is just a handful of occasions in which a Swiss Army Knife is your best friend on a hike and a must-have hiking gadget.
Personally, I don’t have the official Swiss Army Knife, as they are quite expensive. I just use a cheaper brandless multitool knife. The idea is the same, a small gadget with various practical utilities such as scissors, knives, and openers.
But to be honest, the Swiss army knife is a bit cooler than the brandless ones. This is also the reason why I included it on my list of awesome gifts to keep someone safe when hiking and traveling!
Contributed by Delilah from Our Travel Mix
Keeping a good quality dry bag in your backpack is always a great idea when travelling, but when hiking it becomes an essential gadget.
These days hikers always carry some form of technology that they wouldn’t want to get wet. This can include thousands of dollars worth of smartphones and camera gear, as well as spare clothes on longer hikes.
Hiking is one of our favourite things to do in Queenstown, and our Sea to Summit dry bag saved our camera, lenses and phones on numerous occasions. We’ve found ourselves 4-hours into a hike only for a torrential downpour to occur. Scrambling to shove our cameras, phones and dry clothes into our dry bag potentially saved us thousands.
On longer hikes keeping our clothes dry has made day 2 and 3 much more tolerable, especially in wetter regions. Plus, a dry bag can also double as a way to hand wash your clothes in a pinch.
Most dry bags are fine, but if you’re wanting something you can rely on, stick with a well-known brand. We love our Sea to Summit dry bag and use it all the time. It’s fairly waterproof, durable and extremely lightweight.
Contributed by Tom Bartel from MN Trips
The old adage for gearing up for any adventure is, “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” That’s the guiding principle for what goes into my day pack.
And that’s why I include the emergency bivy (bivouac) bag from Sol as a must-have hiking gadget.
In case you’re wondering, a bivy bag is a very light bag made of insulating material that will retain your body heat if you have to stay out overnight. It only weighs 3.5 ounces, (100 grams), and fits into a stuff sack about the size of your fist. So, I carry mine all the time.
A bivy bag will also serve as a sleeping bag if the weather is not too cold. Luckily, I’ve never had to use my bivy bag for emergency purposes, but one day when caught in chilly rain, it was very nice to snuggle in it under a tree until the shower passed.
Contributed by Alya from Stingy Nomads
A GPS watch is one of the best and most useful hiking gadgets one can have. Modern GPS watches like Garmin Fenix 6 give a lot of information and details of your hike: distances, elevation gain/loss, maps, average pace, heart rate, calories used, recovery time, etc.
They are great for navigation since you can download a map of the chosen trek and follow the route on your watch. No need to worry about losing the trail even if it’s not well-marked. You can mark your own routes as well.
The Garmin watch is a great item to pack for high-altitude hiking. Advanced models like Garmin Fenix 6 Pro have a built-in wrist-based pulse oximeter that measures the peripheral saturation of oxygen in your blood. This gives you an idea if you’re at risk of getting altitude sickness and need more time for acclimatization or not.
The watch is easy to connect to your phone or laptop by using Bluetooth. The Garmin app keeps all the details of your hikes. You can always look back and find a completed hike in your calendar.
Solar phone charger
Contributed by Victoria from Guide Your Travel
There are different types of solar chargers available, one is like a transportable solar panel where you can charge your phone directly, the other one is compared with a power bank which is the better option. Lay out your power bank whenever you make a stop or put it in the water compartment while hiking which works as well.
You shouldn’t buy the cheapest one you can find on Amazon, invest 50$ to 60$ for something better. Depending on your needs, you will find solar chargers with USB and USB-C Outputs as well as micro USB inputs.
Contributed by Allison from She Dreams of Alpine
The Garmin inReach Mini can be a lifesaver – literally! – while hiking, but it’s useful in so many ways. You can use the inReach Mini to send out an SOS if you have an emergency while hiking, even if you don’t have cell service. You can also send and receive text messages to stay in touch with friends and family while in the backcountry, and the device provides basic GPS coordinates.
The inReach Mini is an expensive gadget, but if you have an REI membership, you can earn a dividend when you purchase to eventually use for other hiking gear. An important thing to know about the inReach Mini is that a Garmin subscription is required to use it to receive satellite communication and send out an SOS. This is an additional cost beyond the original purchase price, but I believe it’s worth it for the peace of mind and ability to communicate in the backcountry.
Contributed by Martha from May Cause Wanderlust
When hiking, and especially when doing multi-day trails that involve camping in tents, you will want to bring a headlamp! A headlamp is a small battery-powered torch that can be worn on your head like a headband, shining light in front of you, but letting you keep both hands free.
Mine is by Cybalite and it is very lightweight, adjustable (the elastic can be extended to fit your head), simple to use (you just screw the lamp to turn it on) and batteries can easily be changed (it takes 2x lithium CR2016 3Vs).
This little inexpensive gadget came in very handy on the Inca Trail in Peru, where there’s very little light after the sun sets, the ground is uneven and the campsite toilets are gruesome – you would definitely not want to be feeling your way around in the dark here!
Contributed by Jessica from Unrooted Traveler
One of the most basic hiking staples, a backpack, is essential to hold all of your other gear while you’re out climbing mountains. There’s a wide variety of hiking backpacks to suit a diverse range of activities- think a small lightweight packable backpack you can throw into your carry-on bag to take on treks around your vacation destination or a sturdy internal-frame 75L backpack you take for backcountry camping trips, fit to hold your sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and all of the other tools you need to make the outside your home for a night or two.
While the size and form of the backpack may vary based on your use case, all hiking backpacks should have a side pocket for a water bottle and a couple of zippered pockets that are easily accessible, to hold things like snacks or a first aid kit, if needed. You should go to a good outdoor store, like REI, to try out some different kinds to see what suits you and your frame- there’s some great options with Osprey or even REI’s own brand!
Water Bottle with a Built-in Filter
Contributed by Claire from Tales of a Backpacker
By far the most important hiking gadget you need is a water bottle with a built-in filter. Forget carrying litres of heavy water with you, or waiting for iodine tablets to do their work – when you have a water bottle and filter you can drink from any fresh water source from streams to ponds or even puddles and horse troughs.
I highly recommend a Water-to-Go water bottle, as they are the only brand (along with Grayl) whose filter removes water-borne viruses as well as 99.9999% of all microbiological contaminants in water. Three different filtering technologies work together to give you clean and safe water anywhere you are.
The water bottles are also of great value and mean you never have to buy bottled water again. The bottles are made of BPA free plastic so aren’t completely plastic-free, but each filter can replace up to 400 single-use plastic bottles – I’d definitely call that a win!
Lightweight hiking poles
Contributed by Claire from Go South West England
Having a good pair of hiking poles is essential for hiking over rough terrain. They don’t add too much weight to your pack, and can really help you when needing a little extra push to get up hills or stabilisation when walking downhill.
They are also very beneficial if you need to cross rivers or navigate snow. Having trekking poles means that you are a lot less likely to trip and gives you the ability to carry heavier loads. They also help you preserve energy but at the same time, they give your arms a workout!
My preferred hiking poles are Black Diamond, which are lightweight but incredibly robust. You can purchase these from most camping stores. They helped me greatly while hiking parts of the South West Coast Path, especially the challenging Porlock to Lynmouth walk!
Contributed by Nikki of She Saves She Travels
If you’re looking for the best hiking gadgets, then don’t pass up water shoes! Ideal if you’re hiking through a stream or to a lake, waterfall or river. Pack them in your backpack and swap out your hiking boots for water shoes when you want!
The key to hiking with water shoes is to bring a plastic bag so you can wrap them up when you’re done and they don’t get everything in your bag wet. Also, be sure you have a lightweight water shoe so it doesn’t weigh down your pack.
It feels so good after a long hike to get to a beautiful lake, waterfall or stream and dip your toes in the water! Many times you’re hiking to a spot with a rocky shoreline or base, so water shoes will provide traction and prevent slipping.
The drawback to carrying them with you is that you’ll need to save space for them in your backpack. For this reason, it may make more sense that you bring them on day hikes when you have less gear.
A great, lightweight brand is Aleader Mesh Slip on Water Shoes. With sturdy soles and just the right amount of holes for drainage, these water shoes are perfect for taking along on a hike.
Whether you’re hiking to the best waterfalls in Glacier National Park, along the ocean at the Kalalau Trail in Kauai or anywhere in between, this is the perfect hiking gadget to purchase before your next hike.
This was quite a list, isn’t it?
I hope you found a few hiking gadgets that will be very useful on your next trip!
Personally, I love to take a Swiss army knife with me as well as water shoes (I once had to cross a river during a hike without these and that wasn’t the best experience). I also really need to start investing in decent hiking poles!
What are your top hiking gadgets? Let me know in the comments!
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