Many experienced backpackers and helpful backpacking guides help you nail down the big, important pieces of equipment, like your clothing, shoes, and tent. But what many of these informative posts tend to leave out are the small things.
Backpacking equipment can help make or break your outdoor adventure. With today’s innovation and technology, there are tons of options for ultralight backpacking gear that can easily qualify as must-haves.
Let’s not waste any more time, check out some cool backpacking gadgets below.
27 Cool Backpacking Gadgets
1. Lifestraw Personal Water Filter
One of the hardest things to pack when it comes to backpacking supplies is an ample water supply. Unfortunately, this isn’t an area where you can skimp. Staying hydrated is critical, especially in case of emergencies.
The Lifestraw Personal Water Filter is an innovative tool that allows you to drink from virtually any water source, like lakes, rivers, and streams. It filters out 99.999% of contaminants, making it safe for you to use.
Plus, this little invention is super small and won’t take up a lot of space in your backpack. We definitely consider it one of the best backpacking gadgets,
2. Mosquito Repeller
Bug spray has a long history of being included on the average camper’s packing list. But when you’re trying to cut down on space and weight, packing that extra bottle can seem like a little much.
Plus, most bug sprays require you to reapply throughout the day, and there just isn’t any time to stop and do that every hour.
Mosquito repellers like the Thermacell MR300 are totally portable and require no batteries or outlets. They include a highly effective repellent that protects a 15-foot zone—no more sticky sprays or nasty smells to ruin your adventure.
3. Waterproof Bags
Sure, you have your backpack to keep everything packed neatly together in one space, but will it keep 100% of the water out in all situations?
Waterproof storage bags are smaller bags that you can pack in your backpack. You can keep important items in there, like clothing or electronics, to ensure that they don’t get wet.
These bags, like the Unigear Lightweight Dry Bags, come in various sizes to suit your needs. You can wear the larger ones as your backpack or pack the smaller versions inside your bag. You can also strap it to your backpack on the outside.
4. Pocket Torch
The ability to start a fire will absolutely make or break your backpacking experience. Matches can get wet, and lighters often offer a very weak flame. But a pocket torch? It doesn’t just sound awesome; it’s the perfect solution and one of the cool accessories you can keep in your backpack.
The pocket torch is powered by butane and provides a very strong blue flame. Plus, it’s only six inches long and is basically the size of a pen. It takes up almost no space at all and will have your fire going in no time.
5. Emergency Paracord Bracelet
Is there anything more convenient on your outdoor adventures than a multi-tool that you can wear? The answer is no, in case you were wondering.
The Atomic Bear Paracord Bracelet, in particular, offers four different tools: a compass, an emergency whistle, a flint fire starter, and a scraper. This paracord is perfect to use when venturing to the wilderness and a handy item to give to your hiking buddy.
The best part? It doesn’t add any weight to your outdoor gear!
This bracelet ranks high on the safety list. With it, you will always have a way to find your bearings and start a fire. The powerful whistle can be heard for miles, and the scraper has multipurpose use in itself.
6. Hydration Bladder
Tired of frequently stopping to dig in your pack for a drink? Or do you keep spilling water all over yourself by trying to drink and walk simultaneously?
Either way, you can save yourself the hassle by using a hydration bladder.
These flexible and durable bags hold water and sit nicely inside your backpack. They sport a long tube with a mouthpiece on the end, so you can loop it over your shoulder and sip as you walk.
Many of these bladders, like the KEELOOO Hydration Bladder, hold as much as 2 liters (405 oz) of water, so you can go great lengths before refilling.
7. Compression Sacks
Compression sacks are similar to waterproof bags, except that they squeeze the air out of bulky items like clothing and sleeping bags to take up less space.
Smaller options can hold things like socks and underwear, while slightly larger sacks can handle your extra layers, puffy jackets, and even sleeping bags.
When you’re trying to save as much space as possible, these bags will certainly come in handy. Check out these ones from Sea to Summit.
8. Foldable Solar Panel Charger
If you absolutely cannot go a few days without your phone or other devices, well, we’re definitely judging you. However, we do agree that having a working phone could be essential in the case of an emergency, so we’ll also give you a pass. Maybe.
The Solar Charger folds down to the size of a cell phone, making it the perfect size for backpacking. It opens up to four solar panels that are completely waterproof and durable and includes two charging ports.
We know how hard it can be to disconnect, so this gadget could make a nice addition to your camping or backpacking list.
9. Inflatable Pillow
Backpacking trips are often viewed as rough and tough – connecting with nature and living off of very little supplies for a few days.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t be comfortable. An inflatable pillow allows you to pack light and save space while also giving you a good night’s rest at bedtime.
We love the Trekology pillow because it’s ultralight and perfect for camping. It’s like an inflatable mattress for your head!
10. Compact Camping Chair
What do you get when you pair light packing with comfort? We say portable, compact camping chairs.
After a long day of hiking, the last thing you want to do is sit on the cold, hard ground or a swampy mud pit. Standard camping chairs are obviously far too large to carry from place to place, so try a compact chair instead.
The Trekology Ultralight Folding Camping Chair is the perfect option. The frame is made from aluminum, so it weighs only two measly pounds. It folds down as packs into a convenient carrying case that measures just 14 inches (35 cm). That’s small enough to fit in a carry-on bag.
Plus, the seat itself is super comfortable, breathable, and durable.
11. Emergency Matches
If you prefer to take the traditional route and use matches over small torches, you can always opt for emergency-type matches or stormproof kits. These types of kits include matches, but they’re usually packaged in a waterproof case.
Like the UCO Stormproof Match Kit, you can find very small containers filled with enough matches for your trip. The case has a striking strip right on it, and the matches themselves are also waterproof and windproof.
Starting a fire should be a piece of cake with one of these sets.
12. Foldable Sunglasses
Sunglasses offer great relief from the bright sun during your daytime hike, but no one wants to take their nicest, most expensive sunglasses on a backpacking trip. Not only do you risk losing them, but you might very well crush them in your pack.
Foldable sunglasses are inexpensive and literally fold up into a small square. You can tuck these into your pocket or right into your bag with no worries.
13. Outdoor Flask
Just like your sunglasses, you probably wouldn’t want to take your best and most expensive flask to the great outdoors. One of the best rules you can follow is to never take anything camping that you won’t want to lose.
An outdoor flask is a lightweight plastic bottle with a foiled exterior designed with a carabiner loop so you can conveniently carry your favorite liquor on your trip.
Flashlights are great for camping and can make a great accessory for scary stories and tent puppet shows. But when it comes to backpacking, they tend to be bulky, heavy, and just inconvenient.
Headlamps are the perfect replacement gadget for standard flashlights. Because you wear them on your head, they leave you hands-free for other things. They make it easy to operate after the sun goes down, allowing you to continue your hike or set up your campsite.
This EverBrite LED headlamp is durable, lightweight, and super bright and can make an excellent addition to your backpacking list.
15. Gravity Water Filter
When it comes to camping, hiking, and backpacking, we’re obsessed with staying hydrated. Carrying enough water for your entire trip is nearly impossible, so we love solutions like a good gravity water filter.
Like the Lifestraw, this device filters out contaminants like lead, parasites, and bacteria. However, a gravity filter lets you fill up a whole gallon-sized bag at once. Then, gravity does the rest by pulling the water through the filter.
These water filters, like the Lifestraw version, are ideal for long trips or large groups. You can drink straight from the straw or use it to fill your own bottle.
16. Tent Lantern
Just like the headlamp we talked about above, a tent lantern gives you the gift of light without the hassle of a flashlight. Tent lanterns hang from the upper hook in your tent and serve as a sudo-ceiling light for your temporary little home.
The SUAOKI Collapsible Tent Lantern is shaped like a mini ceiling fan with LED lights on three panels for optimal lighting. While you can charge this baby up ahead of time using a USB charger, it also features solar panels so you can continue to power it throughout the day.
Other tent lanterns operate on battery power and work just as well. Just be sure to check out their running times and plan to pack extra batteries.
17. Folding Spade
Having a spade with you on your backpacking trip can come in handy for a number of things. It’s ideal for digging a nice hole to do your business when there are no outhouses around. It’s also perfect for creating a safe temporary fire pit in the ground.
Many camping spades, like the Gerber E-Tool spade, employ a folding design to make it compact and ready for travel. It folds twice, so it’s small enough to pack, and it’s lightweight, yet it’s sturdy, tough, and reliable.
18. Hand Pump Inflator
If you plan on taking anything inflatable with you on your journey, the last thing you want to do is waste any of your precious energy blowing it up. Of course, in the great outdoors, there are no outlets.
What you can try instead is one of these nifty hand pump sacks like this one from Sea to Summit.
Rather than using electricity, this ingenious design uses an accordion-like movement to pump air with your hand. The simple up and down motion generates enough air to quickly fill an inflatable mattress or an inflatable pillow.
When you’re done, this great little gadget squishes down to practically nothing, taking up far less space than whatever inflatable object you decided to pack.
19. Collapsible Water Bottle
In a situation like backpacking, where every inch of space counts, it’s always a safe bet to go for the collapsible options. Collapsible water bottles break down or fold down in some form, bringing them down to about half their original size.
These types of water bottles also tend to be lightweight, making them easy to pack and carry around.
The Que collapsible water bottle uses an accordion-style construction that allows you to squish it down when empty. It also has a carabiner attached so that you can clip it onto your backpack.
High gaiters are best for backpacking in the snow, but during the other three seasons, it’s a good idea to use low gaiters to protect your feet and shoots from rain, mud, and other debris on the trail.
Low gaiters strap around the bottom of your shoes and sit about mid-calf, forming a protective layer over the tops and openings of your footwear.
These Outdoor Research gaiters are durable and waterproof with an easy-to-use strap. They can help you face the elements, applying a lightweight solution you’ll be glad you purchased.
21. Travel Espresso Maker
Look, we get it; no matter how minimalist and rugged a trip may be, some of us still need our morning coffee fix to be the least bit productive. That includes the mornings of a backpacking adventure.
Thankfully, someone out there came up with the brilliant idea for a travel espresso maker.
These little mini coffee machines are even smaller than the average travel mug, and they’ll probably sit nicely in one of your backpack’s water bottle holders.
This Wacaco Minipresso machine doesn’t even need batteries because it’s entirely manual, which gives you one less thing to worry about packing. It’s super lightweight and works with your favorite coffee, and includes your very own cup – again, one less thing to worry about.
22. Camping Stove
What if you could cook your breakfast on a stove that fits in the palm of your hand? It’s possible that would be the pique of all camping creations.
Well, folks, we’ve done it: we’ve reached the pique.
The EXTREMUS Portable camping stove is ideal for backpacking because of its tiny, lightweight design. It all packs up neatly in a 5cm x 8cm box – all you have to do is attach it to a small butane tank.
The metal arms provide a nice surface area to place small pots and pans. There are many portable camping stoves on the market, so even if you don’t like this one, you can certainly find another option.
23. Camping Cookware
Just because you’re backpacking doesn’t mean you have to eat freeze-dried food the entire time. If you get yourself a nice compact camping stove along with some space-saving camping cookware, you can prepare food like the chef you want to be.
The MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit not only gives you the tools you need to make a meal (pots, pans, dishes, utensils, etc.), but it also leads to a quick and efficient cleanup too.
This kit and others like it also include a cleaning sponge and a nylon travel bag. Everything folds down and sits inside the pot and pan, which collapse down to just under six inches for a small, convenient bundle.
Multipurpose items are critical when backpacking because they allow you to pack fewer things without sacrificing helpful tools. For example, the Oakvue Camping Multitool has a whopping 12 tools in one small object, including a hammer, knife, ax, pliers, screwdriver, bottle opener, and more.
Every multitool is different and will include various products, so it’s a good idea to do a little bit of research and consider what you’ll actually use during your backpacking trip.
25. Compact Waterproof Ground Cover
Compact waterproof ground covers like the BEARZ Outdoor Pocket Blanket ensure that you always have a dry place to set up camp. Even if it hasn’t rained in hours, the ground can stay saturated for what seems like forever.
Water resistant ground covers are blankets that block out moisture, so you can sit on the ground without getting damp. Many of them are also puncture-resistant and sand proof, making them ideal for a wide range of settings.
These blankets fold up into a tiny little pouch, which you can either pack away or clip right onto the outside of your bag.
26. Quick-Drying Towel
Towels are a must for any camping or hiking trip, but the problem is that they can be so fluffy and bulky. They just take up too much space, so many people would rather go without.
Of course, most people instantly regret this decision the moment they fall into a creek.
Thankfully, there are many quick-drying towels that are lightweight, travel-sized, and don’t stay soaked for long. The Wiseowl camping towel is just one example. It packs up neatly into a mesh travel carrier.
27. Compact First Aid Kit
Safety should always come first when prepping for a backpacking trip, especially if it’s your first time in the great outdoors. Accidents happen – even to the best and bravest of us.
But how does one fit a whole First Aid kit into their backpack without losing precious space?
There are plenty of compact and mini First Aid kits on the market that will shock you with their small size and extensive content, but we love the Surviveware kit.
This little kit only measures about 5” x 4” x 2” (12 x 10 x 5 cm), yet it holds a whopping 150 pieces. It’s small enough to stick right in your pack, or you can attach it to your belt for quick and easy access.
Sometimes the best way to learn is to ask questions. Luckily, many people interested in hiking and backpacking have already asked the right questions, and we have the answers here below!
How much should your backpack weigh when backpacking?
As a general rule of thumb, your backpack for backpacking should not weigh more than about 20% of your body weight. For example, a hiker who weighs 120 pounds shouldn’t carry more than 24 pounds on their back.
How do you train for backpacking?
Backpacking requires a lot of endurance, so you can prepare for your trip weeks and even months ahead of time to improve your experience.
Start with a simple walking routine. Wear a backpack while you walk, and add more weight to your pack day by day – starting with a very light load.
You can also perform strengthening exercises such as squats, lunges, mountain climbers, and calf raises to help condition your legs, ankles, feet, heart, and lungs.
Do walking sticks really help while backpacking?
Walking sticks can be extremely helpful when hiking, particularly when you’re carrying a heavy load on your back. When used properly, walking sticks help absorb impact, minimizing force on your lower joints and making the experience more comfortable.
Walking sticks can also help you keep your balance on uneven terrain. Just keep in mind that they add one more item to your packing list.
How do you hike at night?
You should try to avoid hiking at night, especially if you’re a beginner backpacker. However, sometimes it’s necessary if you’re behind schedule or you’re trying to stay ahead of bad weather.
If you plan on hiking at night, make sure you have a reliable headlamp along with extra batteries. Never hike at night alone, and be certain you stay on a trail you’re familiar with. Having a well-organized backpack will help you find things quickly in the dark, too.