27 Best Gadgets for Hiking (Ultimate Budget Guide)

What are the best gadgets for hiking?  Collapsible trekking poles, travel-sized sunscreen wrapped in duct tape, and clip-on sunglasses are a few of our favorites. 

Besides carrying hiking essentials like a good water bottle, appropriate hiking shoes or boots, and food, incorporating some of these gadgets into your packing list can make your hike that much more comfortable.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker, casual hiker, or something in between, you’re bound to find a tip you may not have thought of. 

What Counts as a ‘Hiking Gadget’?

The following list does not include the essentials like good footwear, appropriate clothing, a backpack, a water bottle, and snacks, because I don’t consider those to be ‘gadgets’.  

Instead, this list is focused on the things you may not have thought of and that have made my hikes much more comfortable.  So, in no particular order, here are my 27 best gadgets for hiking: 

Hiking Gadgets: The Basics

Everyone should carry the following ‘gadgets’ with them (in some form or another).  The brands and other tips/hacks I list below are simply my personal favorites and what I recommend to my friends and family. 

They tend to be on the less expensive side; I’m all about getting the best value without the extra cost. 

1. Anker Power Bank

A backup power source is essential, especially if you are relying on your phone for navigation.  I love the Anker line of power banks.  They are small, inexpensive (you can find the cheapest one for less than $20 on Amazon), and will charge my phone three times.

I don’t bring a lot of tech devices on my hikes, but this is something I have with me for all my outdoor adventures.  

Another great option is the Hilucket solar power bank, which uses a set of 4 small solar panels to charge your phone.  This option is a little more expensive, so I lean toward the Anker power bank. 

overhead view of an Anker Power bank with a charging cord in the background
I’ve used this Anker Power bank for years; I can fully charge my phone three times

2. Smartphone Navigation with Downloaded Map

I am a big fan of Alltrails and have been paying for their premium service for three years.  For less than $40 per year, you can download every trail map and have access to additional map details. 

If you prefer a paper map, they’ve got an easy printing option as well.  And, they offer a one-week trial so users can check it out and see if it is something they’ll use. 

If you plan to do multi-day treks in areas with no cell reception. In that case, it’s probably worth investing in a higher-end GPS tracking device, like the more expensive Garmin Inreach Mini (which enables you to send text messages and share your location with friends or a family member in areas with no cell reception).

Still, I’ve found that a downloaded trail map on my phone works great for most day hikes.  

3. Sunscreen Tube with Duct Tape

I have this in my backpack all the time, not just when I’m hiking, and it’s come in handy more times than I can count. 

I use a travel-sized squeeze tube, fill it with SPF 50 sunscreen, and then wrap the tube with strips of duct tape.  This is an easy way to have a small supply of tape with you all the time without taking up extra space in your backpack.

I try to remember to apply sunscreen whenever I’m outside for more than 30 minutes, especially to my face and upper arms if I’m not wearing a long-sleeved hiking shirt

green travel tube of sunscreen wrapped in strips of duct tape.  A larger tube of sunscreen can be seen in the background.
I carry a travel-sized tube of sunscreen wrapped in duct tape on every hike I go on

4. Sawyer Water Filtration System

For extended hikes where you won’t have access to clean water, my top water filter recommendation is the Sawyer water filtration system with the 32-oz squeeze pouches. 

I’ve also used other filters, like Lifestraw, and I prefer the Sawyer filter because it’s a little smaller and I prefer using a squeeze pouch instead of attaching the Lifestraw filter to my water bottle.

Speaking of water, I generally carry a regular water bottle instead of a hydration bladder.  I’ve got friends who love their hydration bladder with hands-free straws, but I can’t stand the plastic taste. 

close-up view of the Sawyer water filter, one of the best gadgets for hiking
This water filter is small, and the squeeze pouches are easy to use

5. Headlamp

I haven’t used a regular flashlight in a decade; headlamps are the way to go!  I like the Rechargeable Headlamp by Lighting EVER.  It’s rechargeable (no need to worry about purchasing extra batteries), and it’s super bright without being overly bulky.  

And, headlamps like this are not a big investment.  This EVER LED headlamp is currently less than $20 on Amazon.   

6. Travel-sized Tube of Insect Repellent

I always carry this with me.  I like the travel-sized spray tube because it’s lightweight and I can easily refill it from a bigger bottle when I get home.  

Mosquitoes are most active on the hiking trail during the early morning and late afternoon hours, especially in shaded or wooded areas. Watch out for areas with standing water like ponds or slow-moving streams, these are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes. 

close-up view of a travel-sized spray tube of insect repellent
These tiny tubes of insect repellent are easy to refill and fit in your day bag

7. Emergency Blanket

For most day hikes, you won’t have a sleeping bag, so you’ll want to carry something to keep warm and maintain your body heat if you get stuck on the trail overnight.

I’ve never had to use my emergency blanket, but I always have it with me.  The good news is, that these are very small and lightweight (mine is about the size of a deck of cards).   

close-up view of a folded emergency foil blanket, next to product label
My foil emergency blanket is about the size of a deck of cards

8. Whistle

A whistle is another essential take-along in case of emergency.  A whistle can be used as a signaling device if you were to ever get lost or injured. The high-pitched sound of a whistle can travel a lot further than shouting, especially when you are in the mountains. 

And, a whistle can even be used to scare away wildlife.  This is another must-have that I always carry with me and hope to never have to use.  

close-up view of a simple metal whistle
Using a whistle is much more effective than shouting

9. Small First Aid Kit 

My first aid kit is very simple, especially when day-hiking, and usually has the following:

  • A travel-sized tube of Biofreeze topical gel: Hiking works a lot of muscles, and I’ll use this if something starts feeling inflamed. 
  • A few Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Benedryl (or other allergy medication)
  • Tweezers
  • A tiny tube of Bacitracin
  • A few medium-sized bandages
  • A few iodine water purification tablets (I will use these along with my water filter if my water source is questionable).

Hiking Gadgets for Injury Prevention

If you put in a lot of miles, you might notice that things start to ache.  While the best way to prevent this is by increasing your mileage slowly, I’ve found that there are a few things, like trekking poles, that make me less likely to get injured. 

10. Collapsible Trekking poles

Trekking poles are a lifesaver for steep inclines or long hikes (especially if you have any kind of knee problems), and have allowed me to increase how many miles I can hike in a day, without having patellar pain afterward. 

I love my Glymnis aluminum collapsible trekking poles.  I can fold them up and throw them in my backpack for stretches where I want my hands free (this tends to be when I’m rock scrambling or during long flat stretches when I want my hands free to eat snacks or use my phone.

close-up view of a pair of collapsible trekking poles
These poles have an easy quick-release lever for adjusting the length

They came with five different tip attachments, two rubber sets for paved or indoor walking, snow baskets for snowshoeing, and mud tips.

11. Moleskin and Skin Prep Wipes

One big difference between hiking and walking is the amount of friction generated on your feet.  I always carry a small roll of moleskin on my hikes.  I’ve found I don’t need to bring the entire roll, so I’ll cut off about 12 inches and throw that in my bag with my first aid kit.

TIP: To get my moleskin to stick better, I’ll carry a few skin-protectant wipes with me.  These not only help with adhesion but also protect your skin from the adhesive.

roll of moleskin with three individual skin protectant wipes
I always carry a small roll of moleskin and a few skin-protectant wipes

Especially for long, hard hikes, be sure to watch yourself for the first signs of hot spots forming on your feet.  It’s much more effective to apply moleskin before a blister develops. 

12. Walkhero Insoles and Adjust-a-lift Shoe Inserts

For anyone with plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendon problems, the Walkhero Insoles and Adjust-a-lift shoe inserts are the two products that will help keep you on the trails.

The Walkhero insoles are the best I’ve found for plantar fasciitis.  They are fairly inexpensive and provide fantastic arch support.  The insoles are firmer than most that come in your hiking or walking shoes.

close-up view of the Adjust-A-Lift heel inserts, showing the adjustable layers
These heel inserts are perfect for taking pressure off the Achilles tendon
close-up view of a pair of blue shoe inserts
I’ve put a lot of miles on my Walk Hero inserts and they’ve done wonders for my Plantar Fasciitis

The Adjust-a-lift shoe inserts are a lifesaver for slightly offloading your Achilles tendon.  In 2022, I injured a plantar plate ligament and my Achilles tendon and spent months recovering. 

I was desperate to get back on my favorite trails in the Wasatch Range and spent months trying different products.  The Adjust-a-lift inserts were what finally worked for me.  Now, I keep these inserts in my bag and use them for steep inclines or whenever I start to feel my Achilles flaring up. 

13. Knee Compression Sleeve

Besides using my trekking poles, wearing a snug knee sleeve is the best way to keep my knees comfortable on the trail.  I’ve been using a pair of UFlex compression sleeves for years, and they’ve been fantastic.

These sleeves have rubber grippers to keep the sleeve in place, and the synthetic materials help to wick sweat.

close-up view of a pair of knee compression sleeves, showing the rubber ribbing that holds them in place
The rubber ribbing on these knee sleeves helps keep them in place. They are comfortable and wick moisture

Clothing and Accessories 

14. Real Hiking Socks (Not Cotton)

Having a pair of real hiking socks makes such a difference (especially on long, hot trails).  I like the Dickies Women’s Dri-tech moisture-control crew socks.  They are made of polyester, spandex, and nylon, and wick moisture well during hikes.  

They are comfortable and have a slight compression around the midfoot area, which I love.  These socks, combined with the right hiking shoes, will make a huge difference in keeping your feet blister-free on the trail. 

a purple and grey hiking sock; hiking boots in the background
These Dickies Dri-Tech socks wick moisture and have a slight compression around the midfoot

15. Leggings with Pockets

You can spend a lot of money on specialized convertible hiking pants, but I’ve found that Capri-length leggings with pockets work just as well, and they are much less expensive.  I usually find my leggings at our local thrift store for less than $10.  

I love leggings because (as long as they are made with synthetic materials), they are comfortable and moisture-wicking, great for changing weather conditions. 

The Capri-length version is the best because I can easily roll them up into ‘shorts’ when the weather is hot.  

The side pockets are an easy spot to keep my cell phone or car keys, and my favorite pair even has a waistband pocket to keep things like credit cards.  

close up view of a hand in the side pocket of a pair of leggings

16. Fitbit Watch 

If you are an avid hiker who wants to log distances with high accuracy, you’ll want to invest in a GPS watch like the Garmin Fenix series, but for your average hiker, the Fitbit Inspire 3 watch is my top, lower-budget recommendation.

This watch is lightweight, has a long battery life, and lets you track the basics like your steps, mileage, average pace, heart rate, and calories burned, and is a great option for most hikers (this makes for a great gift idea!) 

close-up view of the Fitbit Inspire 3 watch
This Fitbit Inspire is on the budget end and tracks steps, calories burned, and miles.

17. Microfiber cloth

I always bring a microfiber cloth on multi-day hikes, or any hike where I’ll be swimming or getting wet.  A small microfiber towel can be used to dry off after a lake swim, or just to wipe sweat during your day hike. 

18. Clip-On Sunglasses

Eye protection is a must!  Because I already wear glasses, my favorite way to protect my eyes is by using an inexpensive pair of polarized clip-on sunglasses that fit right over my regular glasses.

If the trail is shaded, I’ll unclip the sunglasses and throw them in the front strap pouch of my backpack.

clip-on sunglasses over a pair of regular glasses
Carrying clip-ons is easier than carrying a separate pair of sunglasses, especially if (like me) you’re already wearing prescription glasses

19. Gloves 

I always bring a pair of gloves with me; neoprene gloves if I’ll be getting wet and cheap cloth gloves for dry conditions.  Even during the summer, my hands tend to get cold in the morning and evening hours.

20. Cloth Headband

I always wear a simple stretchy cloth headband.  First, it protects the part in my hair from getting sunburned (I always forget to put sunscreen on my head), and it keeps the sweat out of my eyes.  

And I love that it keeps the hair in my ponytail from flying around and tickling my face.  

close-up view of a cloth headband
Cheap cloth headbands like this help keep sweat out of my eyes

21. Hiking Spikes (For Snow and Ice)

While shoe spikes won’t prevent you from sinking into deep powder (you’ll need snowshoes for these kinds of trails), they are perfect for packed-down snow or ice.  

The spikes themselves are connected to metal chains that run along the bottom of your hiking shoes or boots, and the outer edges are made of stretchy rubber that can easily slip on over your shoes. 

an orange pair of hiking spikes attached to hiking boots
Hiking spikes like these are perfect for icy, slick trails

My husband and I got ours as a gift, and they’ve turned out to be one of the best gifts we’ve ever received.

22. Heated Socks with Rechargeable Batteries (For Very Cold Weather)

 I purchased a pair of Black Squid heated socks a couple of years ago, and they’ve done wonders for keeping my feet comfortable on the trail.  I will say though, these tend to be made of cotton, so you’ll want to wear a merino wool synthetic liner sock as a base layer underneath these. 

The batteries will last up to 8 hours on the lowest setting, and 3-4 hours on the hottest setting. 

close-up of two white rechargeable batteries
Rechargeable batteries with 3 heat settings
man showing the underside of heated socks, with the heated toe pad area
The socks’ cables connect to a toe pad

Organization and Fun Stuff

23. Akaso Brave 4 Action Camera with Remote Control Wrist Strap

I love taking an action camera with me to capture shots without breaking stride.  While many people love the GoPro Hero series, for those on a budget, the Akaso Brave 4 is the way to go.  It’s a great value option that has most of the features of the GoPro Hero with a much lower price tag.

front view of Akaso Brave 4 action camera
Captures 4K video and 20MP photos
close-up view of remote-control wrist strap that comes with Akaso Brave 4 Action camera
Remote control wrist strap

24. Backpack Strap Pouch 

I use the WYNEX Accessories Pounch with my backpack because it’s the perfect place to keep things I want easy access to, like my cell phone, sunscreen, and sunglasses.  They’ve got a version with a water bottle pocket if you’d prefer to keep your water bottle on the front strap of your backpack. 

close-up view of backpack front strap pouch with a hole cut in the front pocket
I cut a hold in my pouch for my action camera, which fits perfectly in this front pocket

25. Gallon Ziplock Bags

I always throw a couple of heavy-duty gallon ziplock bags in my backpack.  Besides keeping things more organized, I can use it to keep my valuables dry if there’s a chance of rain.

If you are planning on getting submerged in water (like a chest-high river crossing, you’ll want to opt for a dry bag, but I’ve found that gallon ziplock bags work great for most day hikes, and they are cheaper and more versatile. 

These bags are also great for packing out your trash.  

gallon ziplock bag, box of ziplock bags in the background
These bags are great for keeping your stuff dry, organizing, and packing out your trash

26. Tactical Pen or Multi-Use Tool

I always bring my tactical pen when hiking (you could substitute this for a knife or multi-tool).  My pen comes with a bright flashlight, a bottle opener with a serrated edge/screwdriver tip, and a blunt metal tip for breaking glass or metal.  And of course, I like the pen function (sometimes I’ll jot down notes on the trail). 

close-up image of the screwdriver tip of a tactical pen, with the pen and flashlight in the background

27. Downloaded List of Conversation Questions

Let’s face it, hikes can get long, and especially if you are on a hiking date, sometimes you just run out of things to talk about. 

Kendall and I always download a long list of conversation questions (I like the lists from conversation starters world), and this not only makes the time fly, but I always learn something new about the people I’m hiking with. 

Conclusion: The Best Gadgets for Hiking

So there you have it!  My list of the 27 best gadgets for hiking.  I use almost all of these on my day hikes and have found that in some way or another, they improve my hiking experience.  

So, get ready to embrace the great outdoors and bring a few of these gadgets on your next trip!

Similar Posts