Let’s be honest: no one needs any fancy gadgets or high-tech toys to explore the backcountry. You’ll survive fine without a cellphone, radio or UV water filter (iodine tablets work OK, they just make H2O taste like crap).
And yet, just about every outdoor adventurer I know is drawn to these gadgets. They may not necessarily be interested in the latest high-tech gear and hiking apps, but even the most dedicated backpacking purists understand that a little innovation is a beautiful thing. Who couldn’t use a smaller, lighter more compact pot?
So go ahead, peruse the latest techno do-dads for camping. Just one word of advice: focus on the devices that deliver the most benefit for the least amount of size and weight. I’ve dug deep to feature some of the best-reviewed gizmos around (and FYI, there are affiliate links in here). So if you need a few ideas, check out the list of cool camping gadgets below.
This monster of a case turns your iPhone into a hardcore action camera. Waterproof and impact-resistant, the Hitcase Pro is designed to be a budget-friendly alternative to the popular GoPro cameras. No, it’s not the same as buying professional quality camera gear, but this case does add some cool shooting features and a helluva lot more protection to your iPhone.
It features a wide-angle lens and mounting system, so you can secure it to yourself while tackling treacherous terrain. You’re not going to get quite the same video quality as GoPro, but you will have access to perks that no other action cameras can provide — that’s thanks to the iPhone’s app and cellular radio support. Plus, with a price tag of $130 it’s a pretty affordable way to protect your smartphone while turning it into an action camera. You can read more about it by clicking here.
Nitecore Tiny Monster
No, size certainly isn’t everything. As the world’s smallest 3500 lumen LED flashlight, the Nitecore Tiny Monster has enough juice to blind your hiking partner. Well, at least temporarily. This little brute also has eight different brightness levels so you can conserve batteries while it’s crafted from waterproof aircraft aluminum alloy. Powerful stuff.
You sure as hell can’t count on reliable cell service in the boonies – that’s where this handy gadget comes in. Pair the SPOT Connect Satellite Communicator with your smartphone and you’ll be able to send messages (think Twitter and Facebook) and your GPS coordinates from pretty much anywhere in the world. (sorry, no phone calls).
It’s an amazing device for emergency situations, but you could also have a little fun with it as well. But what if your smartphone runs out of juice? Well, that is a concern. Please read on.
One of several products out there that use thermoelectric energy to charge smartphones and other devices people want to carry into the backcountry. There are two main players in this segment: The BioLite and the PowerPot.
The BioLite stove burns wood to power a generator that can charge USB devices. It’s gained a lot of praise and even won an Outdoor Writers Guild Award. The BioLite is a cool product, but probably not the best choice for backpackers. It’s a tad heavy (weighing nearly a kilogram) and doesn’t do much good when trekking in wet areas (like the Canadian west coast) where it’s tough to light a fire or in regions where campfires are banned.
A better option for backpackers is the PowerPot. This device weighs 516 grams and can generate power from any heat source. Position it at your campfire or stick it on your camp-stove, fill it with water and cook your grub while charging your gizmos. The cables are fireproof and it packs pretty small. If you want to use all those sweet hiking apps while on the trail, the PowerPot is your best bet.
Gotta love hand-crank devices. Simple, dependable and able to get you outta a jam with just a bit of effort. The handy Eton FRX3 is a radio/flashlight/charger in one. Just one minute of cranking provides 21 minutes of light. Not too shabby. It also comes with a solar panel, so you can give your wrist a break when the sun is shining.
It can also get all 7 NOAA weather channels and standard AM/FM channels, plus it’s an alarm clock. To top it off, this multi-tool gadget can also charge your USB devices (just don’t rely on it to power your smartphone 24/7). At $50 a pop, the Eton FRX3 Hand Turbine Radio is a pretty decent deal.
Every step you take adds a little more juice to this innovative charger. Until it’s full, of course. The nPower PEG Personal Energy Generator draws its power from kinetic energy, so you’re creating electricity as you hike. That means your smartphone won’t be starved for juice anytime soon.
Another cool feature: if the battery’s dead, just shake it for about 10 minutes and you’ll create enough power to quickly access that map app. (Remember that Shake Weight everyone chuckled at? Yeah, kinda like that). At a mere 396 grams, the nPower PEG Personal Energy Generator Battery is a solid way to whip up some power on the trail.
It’s always great to have a big-ass 20-litre pot nearby when you’re in the woods. But there’s no freakin’ way you’re gonna haul that sucker through the wilderness. A potential solution: The Kitchen Sink – a collapsible unit that holds up to 20 litres of water and then folds down to a pouch that fits in the palm of your hand. Weighs just 180 grams (for the 20-litre one).
OK, this is the last power-generating device on the list. The Brunton Explorer2 Solar Panel charges devices super-fast and folds down pretty small. It doesn’t have a battery to store up energy to release later, but it’s able to power-up your gadgetry at a rapid pace when it’s in the sun.
It’s also compact and relatively light-weight (419 grams) for a solar panel, which makes it a good fit for backpacking. But perhaps the best part is you can grab the The Brunton Explorer2 Solar Panel for under 40 bucks.
This isn’t exactly the newest product on the market – I’ve had my SteriPEN for about five years now. But it makes the list because it’s such a simple and efficient device. Pop the pen into a bottle of sketchy water and ultraviolet light kills 99.99% of viruses and bacteria. It also comes with a handy prefilter for the silky stuff.
Tiny and light-weight, it’s great for wilderness backpacking but I also used it while traveling in South America. And with an estimated lifespan of 8,000 uses, the SteriPEN Water Purifier is a pretty solid deal at $65.
By Dustin Walker