40 killer camping gadgets for backpackers

hiking gadgets

Updated July, 2019 by Chris Koehn

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).

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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 doodads 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.

Handheld GPS Devices

Unless you are great with maps and compass, a good GPS is going to keep you on the trail and out of trouble. It should be simple to use and have superior reception to see you in and out of the backcountry safe and sound.

Name

Price

Weight

Rating

Notes

$$$

1.76 oz

Premium GPS handheld with BirdsEye Satellite Imagery subscription

$$$

0.51 lb

Premium GPS handheld with Birdseye Satellite Imagery subscription and TOPO maps

$$$

0.58 lb

Expanded Internal Memory 4GB

$$$

4 oz

Check in - let contacts know where you are and that you're okay with a pre-programmed message

$$$

3.52 oz

Small, rugged, lightweight satellite communicator enables two-way text messaging

$$$

7 oz

Message- exchange messages with any cell phone number or email address

It will be difficult getting lost with a top of the line GPS unit like the Map 66s. It's essentially the older sibling to the stupendously reliable Map 64s. Both are capable of managing signals through deep canyons and forested areas while delivering on user functions like smartphone connectivity, but the 66s adds vastly more internal memory, which is great for large map files.

A beautiful 3-inch screen that's easily viewable in sunlight displays detailed BirdsEye satellite imagery. It features an LED flashlight, altimeter, barometer and compass. If you're just Geocaching or getting away from it all in the backcountry, the Map 66s will be good company.

Pros
  • Beautiful screen
  • One of the most accurate GPS units available
Cons
  • Garmin isn't the greatest when it comes to figuring out secondary features like smartphone connectivity
  • Too heavy for backpackers concerned with weight

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For an extra $50 you get US topographical maps preloaded on the Map 66st.

A budget option, but by no means a sacrifice in GPS reliability and performance, the Map 64 sports a slightly smaller display and less internal data. No matter, MicroSD cards are super cheap and there's a slot for expanded storage.

I can still remember when the first SPOT hit the market. Bridging the gap between PLB and cell phone messenger. The SPOT is a communication tool and backcountry rescue beacon in one.

Generation 3 brings refinement and improvement along with new features like the ability to remotely upload your location every 30min by satellite to a website where friends, family, and fans can watch.

My personal favorite part? It runs on replaceable normal batteries. At 11+ days per two batteries, you can continuously upload your location easily for a month on only a handful of batteries.

But to be honest, it may not be the best companion for international treks. My wife and I used one while trekking in Nepal and the ‘check in’ email function didn’t work out too well. A certain worried sister-in-law didn’t get our messages, which almost had her calling the embassy.

Pros
  • The cheapest PLB currently on the market
  • Ultra simple to use
  • Tried, tested and true
Cons
  • Messaging isn't an option
  • Coverage is not as good as Iridium devices

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While the SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger remains a popular option due to its low price and availability, there have been numerous other entries into this category since SPOT first helped define the personal locator beacon market.

The Garmin inReach Mini packs more features yet retains the lightweight portability of the SPOT Gen3. Send and receive text messages from anywhere on the planet using Iridium satellite coverage. Subscription packages keep you connected to everything from rescue services to your friend or family member's compatible Garmin wearables. You will need to connect to a smartphone for messaging, however.

If you want to stick with SPOT and you don't want a device that requires a smartphone for messaging, have a look at the SPOT X. It's essentially a Blackberry with a satellite antenna. It's a bit larger than the Garmin inReach Mini and the SPOT Gen3, but you can use its messaging capability with the built-in keyboard and it's about $100 cheaper than the Garmin.

Day hiking accessories

While many of you may decide that these items could also easily taken on longer trips, there are many factors to consider: battery management and weight are among the most important. Some of these gizmos simply useful gadgets to bring along and enhance a shorter excursion, while others might be staples on any trip. Either way, they're chosen to enhance your outdoor fun.

Name

Price

Weight

Rating

Notes

$$$

1.6 oz

Built-in GPS - built-in to acquire satellites quickly to track how far, how fast and where you run

$$$$

3.36 oz

Ultimate multisport GPS watch that estimates heart rate at the wrist and includes color TOPO maps featuring Trend line popularity routing to help you find and follow the best paths

$$$

1.6 oz

Lightweight recreational compass made of durable, clear, scratch-resistant acrylic

$$$

5 oz

equipped with 7 tools, including a knife, pliers, a large exchangeable bit driver, wire-cutters, and a carabiner/bottle opener. It comes with an extra bit stored right in the handle.

$$$

9.6 oz

A variety of pliers, wire cutters and stripper, knife, saw, hammer, a variety of bit drivers and wrenches, bottle and can openers, carabiner, safety whistle, ferrocerium rod, diamond-coated sharpener, and awl with thread loop.

$$$

3.65 lbs

RockSteady Digital Video Stabilization; Time-Lapse, Hyperlapse, Slow-Motion Mode

$$$

4.2 oz

HyperSmooth Video Stabilization

$$$

4.2 oz

Please note that phones with a Micro USB port can not be connected to Osmo Pocket through the Universal Port

While Garmin's GPS tech is at the top of the heap today in terms of performance and reliability, they've struggled with streamlining their user experience when it comes to apps and some advanced features. If you've ever tried syncing to your computer you'll understand. But Garmin really nailed ease of use with their Forerunner line of watches.

This simple standalone device sits on your wrist accurately tracking your hikes, runs or walks. They've added a heart rate monitor as an upgrade to previous models and the design is a little more modern. With the press of a button you are acquiring satellite connections and it manages to hold that signal in heavy coverage pretty well.

When you're done, you can upload your trek to the Garmin app and share your adventures online.

Pros
  • Budget friendly for a watch with these features
  • Improved design, previous models looked like bulky '80s digital watches
  • Solid GPS connection
Cons
  • Not a true smart watch
  • Does not offer the navigation features of more expensive models

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This is the best of the best. There are too many features to list, but if you want a watch that takes you outdoors and back, this will never lead you astray. There are topo maps, a host of sensors for bio-feedback and plenty of smartphone features bound in this stylish titanium beast.

Or maybe you are an orienteering ninja, or at the very least you know you're way around a map? The Suunto A-10 is a classic, lightweight, acrylic compass with declination scales and a lanyard. You have to admit, it's kinda cool having this analog device hanging around your neck whenever you come across fellow hikers.

Now of course you're going to need maps. National Geographic has been in the map business for over a century. They make beautiful, detailed maps that are waterproof. They're great fun to look over in between trips to plan your next one.

While a survival kit sounds like a great idea, it's usually best to build them yourself rather than rely on the janky tools and oddities that fill countless cheap offerings. Besides, you're going to be more familiar with a DIY kit than something you never open until you need it. One of the best tools you can have as the basis for a survival kit is a reliable multi-tool.

The Leatherman Skeletool CX excels with its lightweight, stainless steel construction. The company is known for its crazy warranty, but these things are really hard to break. The Skeletool comes with a lean assortment of tools compared to the rest of the lineup, but it's only 5 ounces because of that.

You get the basics, a knife, pliers, cutters, carabiner/bottle opener combo and some bits. It's pretty much all you'll need on the trail and it won't bog you down if you're watching your pack weight. Just be careful where you stow it if you're flying.

Pros
  • Has all the right tools you need
  • Light, yet indestructible
Cons
  • Fewer features than other tools in the Leatherman lineup

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While the SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger remains a popular option due to its low price and availability, there have been numerous other entries into this category since SPOT first helped define the personal locator beacon market.

Fine. You have to have all the bells and whistles, don't you? Well here you go. The Signal is chock full of camping specific features that would impress Bear Grylls. except that he's a Gerber brand guy (there's always that one Gerber guy whenever everyone starts talking about their Leatherman).

You get a knife, saw, hammer, bottle opener/carabiner, safety whistle, fire starter rod and sharpener in a slick 1 pound package. That's significantly heavier than the Skeletool, but admittedly some of these features will come in handy.

Check out our list of the best multitools for backpacking for more reviews.

If a hiker goes into the woods, and nobody records it, did it really happen? DJI made a huge splash in the action camera market earlier this year with the release of the Osmo Action 4K camera. What impressed videographers, outdoor vloggers and sports enthusiasts so much was its incredible image stabilization.

Touted as the GoPro-killer, the feather in DJI's hat was the inclusion of a front facing display so that you could see yourself and make sure you're in the image when using a selfie stick or mount. The GoPro Hero 7 arguably provides a better image, though it’s very close, but that sweet, sweet front facing screen solved a lot of problems for action cam users.

If you're a camera nerd, you already know all the specs, but here's a rundown for the rest of us laypeople. It captures 4K video in 60 frames per second, which is super important for fast-paced action, but this can be lowered to 30 frames per second with a slight increase in picture quality for those of us who are engaged in more leisurely pursuits, such as hiking. With this lower frame rate, the image is able to capture scenes with dark forests and brighter skies with better detail because of increased dynamic range.

The Osmo Action is waterproof without a need for a case and can capture spectacular timelapses and slow motion modes. There is a crazy assortment of gadgets associated with these action cameras just to mount it on nearly anything conceivable, so your creativity is unlimited when it comes to capturing interesting footage.

Pros
  • Terrific video stabilization
  • Takes photos as well as video
  • Front facing display!
Cons
  • Ever so slightly worse picture quality than the latest Hero 7 camera

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With the release of the DJI Osmo Action, GoPro dropped the price of its Hero 7 to avoid being killed off by a cheaper, yet similarly featured camera. You still can't beat the Hero 7 Black when it comes to image quality, though it's purely subjective at this point.

Both cameras offer 4K at 60 frames per second, but the Hero 7 offers far better video stabilization options, thought the DJI is no slouch in this department. The GoPro also shoots still photos as well as video. You honestly can't go wrong with either of these choices.

Here we go with another DJI product, but this is one of the coolest camera gadgets to come out in a long time. If you don't care for waterproofing and ruggedness, the Osmo Pocket is a modern marvel. It is a tiny camera that is kept absolutely steady using a device called a 3 axis gimbal. What that means is that miniature motors continuously calibrate for how the Osmo Pocket is moving and that motion is countered by the camera's computer to provide very steady footage.

With similar specs to the action cams above, it would have been the top pick except that ruggedness and waterproofing are likely going to be very important to most users. The Osmo Pocket is not overly delicate, though it would be unwise to whip it out in a rainstorm or drop it. 

Check out our list of the best cameras for backpacking for more reviews.

Cooking gear

Your wilderness cuisine can be as complicated or as simple as you like. There's something deeply satisfying about crafting a well-made meal outdoors but sometimes you just want to boil up a field ration and be on your way. Cooking gear options run the gamut of necessary to luxurious and like survival kits, it's best to build your own. You can also check out our mammoth guide to backpacking cookware for even more ideas.

Name

Price

Weight

Rating

Notes

$$$

14.6 oz

Powered by Fluxing technology, the Minim reaches a rolling boil in just over two minutes with half the fuel consumption of traditional systems.

$$$

2.6 oz

Boils one liter of water in just 3.5 minutes and flame easily adjusts from a simmer to a rolling boil for gourmet cooking in the outdoors

$$$

2.06 lbs

The award-winning BioLite CampStove's latest upgrade features 50% more power, an integrated battery, and an updated LED dashboard for improved control and feedback.

$$$

4.8 oz

Unique design with stainless steel stiffening ring that prevents the sink from collapsing when full

$$$

12 oz

Water-purification system with SteriPen Classic UV water purifier to eliminate pathogens and a SteriPen Pre-Filter to remove sediment

$$$

7.2 oz

Kit includes 2-stage filter, threaded wide mouth and standard caps, standard and sport mouthpieces, leakproof lid with loop, and carry bag

$$$

3.5 oz

Lightweight insulated sleeve keeps beverages warm in mug and free of dirt while camping, hiking, and backpacking; holds 17 fluid ounces of liquid

The cooking stove. It's the basis for all cooking setups. The Jetboil MiniMo is a convenient, portable stove that boils water in two minutes. This system is also highly efficient so you don't have to carry as much bulky fuel (up to 50% less than other stoves).

With adjustable heat settings for precision cooking and expandability beyond 1 liter you can be prepared for any kind of backpacking cuisine you can imagine. This is one of the best canister stoves available.

Pros
  • Ease of use
  • FAST boil
  • Fuel efficient
  • Packs down well
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Wind resistance is not as good as other stoves

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Backpackers can save a few bucks and even more precious weight with the MSR PocketRocket 2. It comes to a boil quickly and has decent flame control for something so basic. It's a bit less stable than the JetBoil MiniMo due to its size and it will be greatly improved by using a foil windscreen to protect that flame.

Formerly the top pick, this nifty little gadget will recharge your other nifty little gadgets using the latent energy in burning twigs. A bit too heavy and lengthy charge times, this isn't your toy if you're going lightweight. With all the compact solar charging solutions now available, the BioLite's charging abilities no longer make the cut. But if it's cloudy, this is a great backup to solar.

It’s always great to have a big-ass 10-liter 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 10 liters of water and then folds down to a pouch that fits in the palm of your hand. Weighs just 4.7 ounces.

Pros
  • So very many uses
  • Collapses into small package
Cons
  • Heavy when full
  • Can't find a larger size

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.

Pros
  • Very portable
  • Kills viruses
Cons
  • Battery operated, keep it charged!

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You've been hiking for hours and you're thirsty. The last thing you want to do is hunch over and try to drink from a creek with an awkward tube in your mouth. With the Lifestraw Universal, you simply fill up and drop the filter adapter kit into your bottle and drink away, confident that 99.999% of bacteria and parasites are filtered out.

Now that you've got your water source secured, your stove setup and your campsite lit up and ready to relax in, it's time for a warm beverage. This mug holds a lot and keeps it warm until you're finished. It's just a nylon handle that looks a little strange at first, but works perfectly.

You're not going to get any sort of terrible plastics leaching into your system thanks to the BPA-free polypropylene construction and that also allows it to get banged around quite a bit without breaking. Just hang it off your pack somewhere or fill it with equipment and stow it. At 3.5 ounces, you'll hardly know it's there.

Pros
  • Looks rad
  • Light and durable
  • No BPA!
Cons
  • Outer sleeve will require washing
  • Don't put it in the dishwasher when you get home

Take a gander at our list of the top 10 backpacking and camping mugs for more product reviews.

Lighting

A good light is essential. Have you ever tried putting your tent together in the dark? Under crummy weather conditions? Don't. Get a light. Here are some of the best.

Name

Price

Weight

Rating

Notes

$$$

4.3 oz

Powerful 1800 Lumen Beam

$$$

0.8 oz

Ultra-Bright 350 Lumen LED

$$$

3.2 oz

One Quad Power LED and one Double Power white LED emit 350 lumens

$$$

1.1 lbs

Max 1000 lumen output

$$$

8 oz

One Triple Power LED and 1 Double Power LED can combine to emit up to 300 lumens

$$$

1 lb

Built-in, recessed hook on the lantern base for downright hanging and a removable globe for use as an area light

No, size certainly isn’t everything. This small tactical flashlight far outperforms its Maglite brethren of old that sported four or more D-Cell batteries. At 1,800 Lumens, this updated pick has half the output of the now unavailable Tiny Monster model but still has enough juice to blind your hiking partner. Well, at least temporarily. This tactical model also has five different brightness levels so you can conserve batteries and it’s artfully crafted from waterproof aircraft aluminum alloy. Powerful stuff.

It's also rechargeable. Nitecore provides the NL1835HP li-ion battery that's charged through a micro-USB port and provides a claimed 30 minutes at max brightness. There are also strobe, SOS and beacon modes if you find yourself in a jam. The batteries are readily available online or you can buy a Nitecore battery and charger pack so you'll never be without those blinding, 1,800 Lumens. 

Pros
  • Waterproof, compact
  • Rechargeable, solid battery life
Cons
  • Rubber charging cover can pop off easily if not carefully replaced

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Some of us want to extend the life of our current gear, or find a way to repurpose it and make it live forever. For those of you with quality incandescent bulb technology flashlights, like the trusty Maglite, check this out:

Still love your Maglite but want the power of LEDs without buying a whole new flashlight? Litt Industries offers a bright 350 Lumen LED bulb upgrade! Not only will it vastly improve your Maglite's battery life, it will also throw light further and brighter than before. The only downside to this efficient upgrade is the color cast at the fringes of the beam, but for most of us that's not a deal breaker. Twenty bucks gives your Maglite a new lease on life.

Check out our list of the best backpacking flashlights for more reviews.

You won't find a headlamp with a better combination of brightness and function than the Black Diamond Storm. Powerful LEDs emit up to 350 lumens of brightness or, to preserve your night vision, you can select a red LED mode. There are eight modes including blue and green LEDs and strobing. If you want a little less light, or you just want to extend your battery life, you can punch in a different brightness to suit your needs.

It's completely waterproof with a IPX67 rating, dustproof and the unit tilts to adjust for optimal lighting angles. Four standard AA batteries will last you around 40 hours on low mode and it does accept rechargeables.

Pros
  • Great beam, many useful light modes
  • Excellent battery life
  • Waterproof
Cons
  • Uses four AA batteries
  • Heavy

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Need maximum photons? Fenix claims a 1000 Lumens output with their HP25R model. You'll pay a few extra bucks and add some weight, however, as this light uses larger, more expensive 18650 batteries and weighs in at 1.1 pounds. Bring extras because you'll be lucky to get three hours of light with the brighter settings enabled.

A rechargeable option that punches above its weight is the Black Diamond Revolt. This convenient headlamp ships with three rechargeable AAA batteries that can charge in the unit using a micro-USB cable, but it will also take standard batteries to offer up to 300 Lumens of brightness. It's waterproof and only weighs 3.4 oz with batteries installed.

Not the lightest piece of gear, the UST Duro weighs 1.1 pounds and takes 3 D battery cells but this light provides 30 days of workable 30 Lumens ambient light for under $40 (it has been seen for as low as $25 on sale). That's full days, not just 30 nights worth of light.

It has all the standard light features, SOS mode, variable brightness, and some level of water resistance (IPX4). Maximum power will illuminate up to 75 feet or so and there is a removable diffusion globe so you can maximize that illumination radius. The globe provides a nice, soft ambiance and once your eyes adjust you'll probably want to leave it on. There is a glow ring on the bottom for when you need to locate it in the dark.

Pros
  • Durable construction
  • Amazing battery life
Cons
  • Heavy and bulky

Solar-powered gadgets

In the past, bringing all of these wonderful battery-powered gadgets would be unthinkable. Remember lugging bags full of D-Cell batteries to power your lanterns, flashlights and radios? Let's not return to those dark days. Current solar technology has seriously dropped pack weight and allowed hikers to bring some pretty cool stuff into the backcountry. You might also want to check out our list of the top portable battery packs for camping and backpacking.

Name

Price

Weight

Rating

Notes

$$$

14.7 oz

Fast Charging Technology: PowerIQ delivers the fastest possible charge up to 2.1 amps under direct sunlight.

$$$

1.3 lbs

Triple USB Ports Power: 2 USB Charging Ports with SmartIC Technology and each port supply the optimal charging efficiency up to 5V/2.4A max. The 3 USB Ports can offer the total current at 5V/3.4A.

$$$

3.1 lbs

Dual-Port Output:USB port (5V/2A) for charging your 5V powered gadgets, and 18V DC output (18V/2A) for charging your laptop or other 18V powered devices

$$$

6.9 oz

Designed with optimal portability in mind. Slips easily in and out of a purse, pocket, or bag

$$$

1.28 lbs

Colossal Capacity: 26800mAh of power charges most phones over 7 times, tablets at least 2 times or notebooks at least once

$$$

1.33 lbs

Receives AM/FM & Weather band Alerts

$$$

1 lbs

NOAA Weather Scan will automatically scan through 7 available weather (WX) band channels and locks onto the strongest weather channel to alert you of severe weather updates.

$$$

10.4 oz

Epica’s compact, lightweight device includes a 3-band radio (standard AM and FM broadcast frequency plus NOAA VHF weather frequencies)

When it comes to charging the myriad gadgets that find their way into your backpack, you can choose to haul multiple battery packs, which may be the better choice depending on the length of your hike, or you can carry a portable solar charging system for a more lengthy excursion.

There is no dearth of power solutions out there and you can spend hours online sorting through countless offerings, but a few of these stand out from the rest including our choice, the Anker PowerPort.

The PowerPort is an ultra-portable, 21-watt, dual-USB solar charger with Anker's PowerIQ technology for recharging two gadgets simultaneously. Anker has been around long enough to cement itself as a reliable brand that seems to find just the right price range for its products. They're known for extremely popular power banks that charge everything from phones to laptops for those of us on the go.

It automatically adjusts the power output to maintain a charge under changing sunny conditions and uses higher efficiency panels than some of the competition. It manages this in one of the smallest solar charger packages available.

Pros
  • Charge multiple devices at once quickly
  • Light, compact and durable
  • Handles partially cloudy conditions better than most other chargers
  • Great price
Cons
  • The pocket isn't that useful due to its small size
  • It's merely weather resistant

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A lot of cheaper manufacturers are entering this realm of solar power. Batteries can cause fires and some sizes are restricted on flights so be sure to check out the regulations. Here are two charging options from reliable manufacturers with decent reviews.

For something with a little more charging power and waterproofing at the cost of cloudy day reliability check out the Big Blue 28W.

If you really just need more power, then the X-Dragon might be what you're looking for.

Anker has yet to let me down with their products. Innovation, quality, and exceptional reliability across their entire lineup of products is admirable. This portable battery pack accompanies me on backpacking trips where I have use of my cell phone for maps or communication. It’s also pull double duty around the house or car. I carried this charger on the Appalachian Trail for several weeks and it easily got me enough use out of my iPhone to last a week between charges.

A lot of cameras charge through USB-C now, and this power brick will do that multiple times before needing a recharge of its own. Other models will even deliver enough juice to keep your laptop going if you choose to bring it.

Pros
  • Intelligent Quick charging for phones and other compatible devices
  • High capacity charges
  • Small and compact model
Cons
  • Not super rugged

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With a backpack full of electronics, you will likely be packing a plethora of batteries along with their requisite charging cradles. Forget that. Bring one or two of these and you'll probably be OK for your entire trip. The PowerCore+ can charge multiple devices at once over and over again before tapping out. Kitted out with a USB-C laptop, you can also keep that running with the PowerCore+'s 30W of power delivery. It's big and it's heavy, but it beats carrying a mess of batteries and cords.

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.

Pros
  • Sun or elbow grease will give you plenty of light and radio
Cons
  • Not as rugged as some models
  • Battery can die without frequent use

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There are so many emergency radios on the market so have a look at these top picks.

The Midland ER310's a bit more rugged and charges more reliably in variable conditions, but costs approximately $20 more than the Eton FRX3.

The best budget-friendly unit is certainly the Epica. It's a little more compact than the Eton FRX3 and not quite as rugged, but for $20 you can't go wrong.

Phone accessories

Let's face it, as humans we are incapable of leaving our phones behind for a minute, never mind a week-long hiking trip. If you're going to bring your phone along you may as well give it a fighting chance and protect it with a great case?

Name

Price

Weight

Rating

Notes

$$$

1.44 oz

Hit case for iPhone

$$$

3.84 oz

Moment M-series Photo Case for iPhone 7 Plus / iPhone 8 Plus (ONLY).

$$$

2.88 oz

Compatible with iPhone 8 (NOT Plus)

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 less than $100, 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.

Pros
  • Waterproof, shockproof
  • Provides wide-angle field of view for your phone's camera
Cons
  • Newer phones are offering multiple lenses rendering this obsolete
  • Nothing beats the image stabilization in newer action cameras

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There are plenty of cases with everything from extended batteries to nuclear blast level protection. The most important feature of these protective cases today are the ability to add quality lenses as camera technology continues to improve.

A less rugged option that offers a more diverse lens selection comes from Moment, a company that succeeded in bringing some stellar lens options to the smartphone filmmaking world. Their undisputed optical quality gives your phone fisheye, telephoto or even droolworthy anamorphic options.

In the spirit of capital market competition and a little anarchy, we’ll toss in this alternative case. Having used this case for many years on several iPhones it’s pretty clear the case can hold its own.

A rubber gasket mounts tightly around the glass of the screen providing a waterproof seal while still allowing direct access to the touch screen with no protective layers between your thumb and the device.

Pros
  • No really, this case is everything proof
Cons
  • None, unless you hate having a case on your phone

At the end of the day...

...the recipe for a great hiking experience begins with being at the right place with a sturdy pair of boots. You don't really need any of these gadgets to have a good time, but they enhance our experiences.

It's fun to track yourself in real time on a map that you can share with your pals and there's the added safety of not getting lost. Why not document your hike with a high-quality ultra-portable camera? You don't need to but it's a great chance to throw something together on the computer and post it to YouTube for your friends to see.

When you're shopping for gadgets, your first question should be: does this make life easier and more fun? If you can't see how it accomplishes any of this, skip it. It's that simple. Phones are capable of so much today, maybe a protective case and a few apps can substitute for something on this list?

We all have differing priorities when it comes to what is fun, or what is convenient. There are hikers who will not tolerate anything that puts their pack over a certain weight limit and they're willing to forego any convenience that a gadget offers just to keep things light. That's totally valid.

There are hikers who won't leave without a camera in case they come across a once-in-a-lifetime sunset, or a vista they know they won't see again. They might be willing to sacrifice pack weight for quality camera equipment. Understandable.

Only you know what makes it all come together for you. Read reviews. Check out gear lists. But ask yourself the tough questions too and maybe you'll avoid GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and save a few bucks for a new trip. Hopefully these suggestions have introduced you to something new and have saved you some grief.

Happy trails!


About the author

Chris Koehn

Chris Koehn is a Canadian freelance journalist who writes about cameras and outdoor gear when he's not contributing to local news.

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Leigh - November 3, 2013

Most of those products are new to me. I quite like the idea of personal energy generators.

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chrisnichols55 - August 29, 2013

Cool Website and Gear! Thanks

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