CAMPING & HIKING

Backpacking Gadgets: Be Prepared For Anything Out On The Trail

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Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

We all have a little bit of wanderlust, and grabbing a backpack and hitting the wide open road is a wonderful experience. Traveling light means making some choices about what you are going to carry too. If you want to make the most out of your space and not suffer any loss of luxury while you are on the road, check out these backpacking gadgets.

This is where planning comes in. Don’t assume that just because you have access to something in your home, it will be available to you out there in the big wild spaces. Something as simple as charging your phone can be a big hassle if you are unprepared. This is even true in cities. Many people think that there will always be a place to plug their electronics in, but many times there simply isn’t.

Let’s look at some areas that you may be overlooking when it comes to being ready for the road.

My Power?

Let’s face it, we have become addicted to our smartphones. It’s nice to pretend that when we go out on the road  we are going to put the phones down, but it isn’t going to happen. If you aren’t a frequent traveler you might be surprised at how difficult it can be to find a charger when you are out in the world.

backpacker admiring the view

Some of the most basic solutions are little more than a battery pack with a case and some USB connections. If you aren’t going out for more than a day or two, this sort of gadget would be a good fit for your needs.

A gadget that holds power for charging other electronics is generally referred to as a power bank. In addition to the basic varieties, there are many variations the introduce some pretty amazing features.

Some power banks include things like:

  • Flash Lights
  • Ventilation Fans
  • Built-in Charging Cords
  • Multi-voltage Sockets

If you are hostel-hopping you can get a solid charge on your smartphone and your power bank every day, you won’t need a special model. A normal power bank without auxiliary charging technology should be just fine. But what about those rugged travelers that need a little more versatility?

Backpackers hiking on trail

Check out some of these ingenious methods to charge your gear:

  • Hand Crank Generator: A hand crank power bank is a great way to be able to make an electrical charge no matter what. A small dynamo is connected to a power bank, all you have to do is crank a little handle, and you will be making power. They usually aren’t made to store a large amount of power, and are really designed for emergencies.
  • Solar Cells: The solar powered power bank is a far less labor intensive option that takes advantage of the sun to get your electronics charged up. The size of the solar cell will determine how fast the battery charges. Some of the smaller models are really meant for emergency charging. While the larger models will have no problem charging your smartphone up day after day.

The key in this situation is being prepared, and having the gadget you need to make your life run smoothly. Think about the kind of traveling you will be doing, and buy accordingly.

Entertain Me!

Being out in the wilderness is great, but sometimes the sound of the rushing river and drone of crickets is just too boring. Your smartphone can offer some relief, but if you really want to jam out in nature there are some solid options for you.

Portable bluetooth speakers

Portable Bluetooth speakers are a relatively new product that are perfect for travelers. They are all battery-powered and will give you hours of jams on a single charge. Taking one on your next camping trip is a great idea. You can go to the middle of the woods, and still be able to listen to your favorite music at full blast.

For those of you who love to stay in hostels when you are on the road they are great too. Having some music to share with your new friends can be a lot of fun.

All the other travelers will have music they love on their smartphone, but if you have a Bluetooth speaker, everyone can share the music that they have with them.  There are even weatherproof models that you don’t have to worry too much about when you are packing them. If they get a little wet, no problem.

Stay Connected

We have gotten used to associating our smartphones with seamless connection to each other. What many people forget is that even 4G coverage isn’t perfect, and sometimes we need to make a phone call. Especially in rural areas, there is simply no service for the most commonly used frequencies.

4G satellite connection

The Iridium satellite network, for example, can keep you connected no matter where you go on the planet. They have a propitiatory network of satellites in low earth orbit, and their sole purpose is to provide service so that your phone will always work.

Lets Look At Some Gadgets

The number of amazing little problem solvers is growing by the day, and if you root around long enough, you will find so many interesting things for your next trip. Keep in mind that the quality for many of these products varies widely. Affordability and durability don’t always go hand in hand.

Carrying tech backpack

Be sure to pay attention to the reviews that a products receives. In many cases, there are lots of different versions of a similar product, so shop around to find the right one for you. There are also some innovative combinations available, so you may be able to get all of your gadget needs squared away in a single item.

With that said, here are some of the more innovative products you can take with you on your backpacking trip.

Skyocean Power Bank Mini Rechargeable Personal Fan

Skyocean Power Bank Personal FanWhat It Does: Keeps the air moving and charges up electronics.

Price: $27.99-$30.45

Features: High Efficiency Fan and 6000mAh Power Supply

A wonderful example of a 2 in 1 gadget, this little box will help you stay cool. It has a built in fan that is made to circulate air and would be the perfect addition to your infant’s stroller. In addition to working as a vent fan, this neat invention has a 6000mAh battery inside.

If you want to be able to charge your smartphone or any USB device, this gadget can make it happen. Most smartphones have a battery of between 2000-3000mAh, so getting a full charge from this little gizmo should be easy.

There is a series of lights on the front of the box that display the charge level. The fan works without blades, and this allows you to use in next to your infant if you want to. When fully charged, the fan will function for 6 hours on the highest speed, so using it overnight is possible.

Overall this is a really nice power bank that offers a well built and quiet fan to boot. Really a great gadget, especially for the hot summer weather.

Check the price on Amazon

BioLite Wood Burning Campstove

BioLite Wood Burning CampstoveWhat It Does: Charges your Electronics with fire, and helps you cook dinner.

Price: $94.98-$105.95

Features: Safe and easy way to make fires, charges electronics via USB port.

This gadget is really unique, and offers you a few great options for getting lots out of it. To begin, it is a very handy way to make a small fire. No having to deal with the wet ground, or making sure that you get rid of all the leaves and brush either. This little cylinder works wonderfully to heat water, and you can even cook over it.

In addition to being a sturdy little camp stove, it takes advantage of the heat from the fire to generate electricity for a USB port. The charging ability is good, though larger batteries might struggle to get a full charge. This would be an especially useful gadget for cooking a nice camp dinner, and then having some LED lights for the night time. It does have a small battery built in, but it could also be used to charge up a power bank while you cook over it.

Check the price on Amazon

X-DNENG Solar Charger 8000mAh Solar Power Bank

X-DNENG Solar Charger 8000mAhWhat It Does: Holds 8000mAh of power and is charged by the sun

Price: $17.95-$19.99

Features: Solar powered 8000mAh power bank, two USB ports and rubber armor. Water-resistant

These Solar Powered Power Banks are becoming more popular all the time. This one has a large 8000 mAh battery that can charge multiple items at once. The twin USB ports are a really nice touch as well. One of the really great parts about this particular power bank is its weatherproofing.

With a sealed body this solar array can be left out in a drizzle and you won’t break your new gadget. It is important to note that the solar panel is not meant to charge this power bank, and is really only meant for emergency use.

If you want to have a solar only option, there are other products that can help you. This is a great way to have a lot of portable power, and if you need some electricity in a pinch, it can make some for you!

Check the price on Amazon

Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot 800w Compact Travel Iron

Sunbeam Hot-2-Trot800w Compact Travel IronWhat It Does: Will let you iron your clothing anywhere.

Price: $11.95-$13.05

Features: 110v/220v Multi-voltage iron. Compact and made with non-stick soleplate and Steamshot technology.

A little iron is a must if you are going to be on the road and what to look good. This iron is really small, and has the ability to be used just about anywhere. In addition to using both 110v and 220v, it has Steamshot technology which is designed to press out the most stubborn of wrinkles you may have in your clothing, and maintain those sharp creases along the hems of pants and shirts.

The iron also has a soft-grip handle, so doing a few dresses and shirts won’t be a strain. The value you get for your money is amazing. For what it costs to have such a convenient little iron you may as well buy two.

Check the price on Amazon

Sylvania PINK Water Resistant Bluetooth Speaker

Sylvania PINK Water Resistant BluetoothSpeakerWhat It Does: Plays your tunes over a Bluetooth connection.

Price: $23.88-$26.95

Features: Durable rubberized design. Multiple colors and IPX 6 weatherproofing. Easy Bluetooth connection.

Having your own music is a great thing when you are on the road or in the woods. This all-in-one rechargeable speaker connects to your smartphone or computer with Bluetooth. In addition it offers you the ability to use the 3.5mm aux in, in case you have something else you want to use it with.

There is no need to worry about taking it into the wild or to the beach. It has IPX 6 grade weatherproofing and will survive the rain no problem. The prices for this kind of gadget have come down a lot in recent years. Now is a great time to pick one up.

This model is available in 3 colors, pink, blue and black so there is something for everyone. If you don’t have a little portable speaker already, this would be a good candidate to consider.

Check the price on Amazon

MAXOAK 50,000mAh Battery Pack

MAXOAK 50000mAh Battery PackWhat It Does: Gives you a lot of portable power.

Price: $129.96-$138.79

Features: 6 power ports, 4x USB, 1x 12v, 1x 20v. 50,000mAh battery. Solid construction.

This gadget takes power banks to a whole new level. Once it is fully charged you can recharge an iPhone more than 8 times. It can also be used to power laptops as long as they are under 5 Watts. This is really a very serous battery that will keep you in power for days, especially if you are using it to charge up phones.

If you have a family of smartphone users, this is a perfect solution for charging your gear on the road. This power bank has 4 USB ports that can all be used simultaneously for maximum efficiency. It also includes more than 10 kinds of adapters for all sorts of laptops. Make sure to check with MAXOAK before ordering to see if your computer is compatible.

Check the price on Amazon

BlueCosmo Iridium Extreme Satellite Phone

Iridium Extreme 9575 Satellite PhoneWhat It Does: Lets you make a phone call from anywhere.

Price: $1149.75-$1189.99

Features: Prepaid Satellite Phone, Has Service Everywhere On The Planet.

This phone may look like a throwback to the cellphones of a decade ago but it is anything but ancient history. If you want to make sure that you can stay connected no matter where you go, s phone like this is your best option. Smartphones rely on communication with a tower or other ground based relay to communicate.

But with this phone, you are able to connect directly with the Iridium satellite network. This phone calls space directly. This is a huge advantage because you can go just about anywhere on Earth, and as long as you can see the sky, you can make a phone call.

The downside is of course the price. This sort of thing is for people who go places where making a phone call could make the difference between life and death. If you have the money and go places without cellphone service, this isn’t a bad gadget to have into your emergency kit.

Check the price on Amazon

DeLorme AG-009871-201 inReach SE

DeLorme AG-009871-201 inReach SEWhat It Does: Lets you send a text and GPS coordinates from anywhere on earth. Also offers tracking and SOS distress signal.

Price: $234.99-$243.78

Features: Will track your movements and send via GPS. Sends texts via satellite network. SOS alert via GEOS monitoring service.

This gadget is a budget friendly solution if you want to have worldwide communication ability, but don’t have the money for a satphone. For only a few hundred dollars, you can send and receive texts from anywhere. Transmit your location automatically, and call for help from anywhere on earth.

This is a really great safety product, and the texting ability is a great feature. If you want to spend a little bit more, there is another model that also acts as a GPS navigator. This is a great gadget for anyone that travels to off the beaten path places, and needs to stay in touch. If you want your loved ones to know where you are, this is the perfect way to go.

Check the price on Amazon

So many gadgets to choose from!

This is only be tip of the iceberg when it comes to backpacking gadgets. There are so many variations to choose from that you will surely find something that helps you on the road. Be sure to read the reviews, as the features change a lot from model to model.

Gear-filled backpack

If you have had any experiences, good or bad, please comment below. We really love to learn how these products preform in the real world, so please share your experiences with us in the comments section below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Janet Wilder

    It’s true, there are countless gadgets out there to choose from. I try to avoid having too many items that require power, after all, if I am out in nature I am there purposefully and would rather enjoy it for what it is. That being said, it would be silly not to have something to charge items like phones, among other things. I do not have a power bank, but I do have solar and hand crank chargers. The latter is good if you want a bit of an arm workout.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Thanks for the great comments Janet. It’s true, these solar chargers are so convenient, especially when I go on long trips and stay in camp for a couple of days. I used to think of the good o’le days when we used to buy a lot of batteries for our cellphones in order for us to stay in contact with the outside world. My backpack is filled with batteries, I can tell you that. :o)

  • Natalie Green

    If I am going to hike on my own, there is nothing I love to do better than bring a Bluetooth speaker along with me and just blast music and sing while I go. I try and limit this to places that don’t get hiked too often, because I would hate to intrude on someone else’s hike without realizing it. But gosh, it’s just so fun. And the animals don’t complain about my questionable singing either. Definitely need a few chargers and a power bank with me though, sorry Janet.

  • Daniel Carraway

    I bet the animals are happy to hear you sing Natalie! Being prepared is the best thing to do. So be proactive and enjoy the outdoors with friends and family!

  • Tonya Murphy

    I most certainly have to disagree. In my opinion the whole purpose of going out in nature is to enjoy nature! I like the crickets and rushing water. I do agree with everything else-it is extremely important to be prepared. You’re in the elements and those can change at any moment in time. Always be prepared!

  • Phyllis Perez

    That picture at he beginning really makes me feel anxious. Where do you fit all those things? Of course, I understand you can’t be too careful when you’re out and about in nature. It doesn’t always take us into consideration. Great article!

  • Daniel Carraway

    I was taken aback by your comment and did a second look at the picture. 🙂
    Actually, these will all fit since most are very small items the clothes are lightweight and can easily be folded. The trick is the bag – it has to have a large enough capacity so nothing gets left behind.

    I’ve often said before, be proactive. It means planning what you have to bring and making a thorough list of ONLY the essentials. When I was starting out, that was my waterloo.

    I can’t seem to pack light. But, practice makes perfect and I soon learned that to enjoy camping, packing light is not an option but a basic rule. 🙂

  • Daniel Carraway

    I think what you’re saying is that all those gadgets should be left at home, right? You’ll be surprised that some campers have their entire gadgets with them. Well, for me, the basics are the best but it depends where I’m going.

    For longer trekking/camping – essentials for me are my satellite phone and my solar packs. During trips to snowy peaks, I bring my avalanche beacon, and emergency radio to name a few.

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