Backpacking and hiking are two of the most popular ways to get out enjoy the great outdoors. They’re accessible and enormously liberating – just grab a ̵; and hit the trail. To us, there’s no greater freedom.

But what goes into that ‘pack to make for a fun-filled and stress free adventure? A sweet haul of backpacking , of course!

While an old pair of hiking boots and rucksack will just about do the job, you’ll be much happier, warmer and dryer with some proper outdoors gear, as featured in our list of hand-picked backpacking essentials below. 

From accessing safe drinking water in the wilds, to protecting your knees on long and rocky descents, these are the tools of the serious backpacker’s trade. Before we unveil the goods, how do you know what gear to stuff in your backpack, and, more importantly, what to leave out?

The right backpacking essentials for you 

When it comes to backpacking, there’s a fine line between what’s essential and what’s just added weight. For trails of any length you’ll need a comfortable but sturdy pair of waterproof boots, and a quality rucksack. 

If you’re venturing out for longer – or further – you’ll need to prepare for different weather conditions. You’ll also need to ensure you’ve got enough juice to keep your gadgets, especially your phone or GPS unit, powered to help you navigate or communicate with others.

Staying hydrated and fed keeps you energised, which in turn makes your adventure easier and more enjoyable. To keep things simple, we’ve rounded up the following backpacking essentials to enhance your next outdoor excursion… 

Backpacking essentials: Mammut Creon Tour rucksack in red  - missing image - Backpacking essentials: 9 ace gadgets and accessories to stuff in your ‘pack

1. Mammut Creon Tour Rucksack

A super comfortable and lightweight rucksack for backpacking

Reasons to buy

+Quality build  +Cutting-edge back ventilation 

Reasons to avoid

Too for winter backpacking

Going backpacking with a poorly-fitted rucksack is a miserable experience. It’ll rub in all the wrong places and make every step a chore. 

Luckily the Mammut Creon Tour takes a technical attitude to solving this issue, with a custom mesh rear panel that not only controls the load, but ventilates your back too. 

Easy-to-operate straps, dual pockets and hydration system-compatibility means this slimline package delivers on any trail. 

The Creon Tour is available in two sizes (20 or 28L), which are both on the small side. Why is that a good thing? It’ll force you to keep your pack load to a minimum… Something you’ll be thanking us for an hour or two into your trip. 

Backpacking essentials: man wearing a Buff neck scarf  - missing image - Backpacking essentials: 9 ace gadgets and accessories to stuff in your ‘pack

2. Buff Neckwear

A backpacking essential to protect your face in harsh weather

Reasons to buy

+Highly breathable+Budget friendly

Reasons to avoid

You might get hat hair!

The Buff is an often ignored backpacking essential. It’s something you could live without, but it’s probably the most versatile item on this list, and the one you’ll thank yourself most for buying.

Worn around the neck or hung down like a legion hat, it’ll protect from the sun. You can also wrap into a beanie hat in the cold of the evening. In stormy weather, the Buff protects your neck and face from harsh cold and bitter winds. 

Useful in a huge range of situations, the Buff weighs nothing, packs down teeny, and delivers protection from extreme weather. Don’t leave home without one.  

Backpacking essentials: LifeStraw Universal filter  - missing image - Backpacking essentials: 9 ace gadgets and accessories to stuff in your ‘pack

3. Lifestraw Universal

Get safe drinking water in the wild with this dinky water filter

Reasons to buy

+ Neat solution when clean water isn’t available+Tried and tested

Reasons to avoid

Unnecessary on shorter treks 

Trekking to remote places where water may be contaminated and unfit to drink makes a water purification system essential. On trips where you’ll want more water than is sensible to carry, clean water will soon become a luxury. 

Yes there are a host of tablets and UV wands around, but for old-school confidence, a proper water filter is a must. Our recommendation comes from Lifestraw…

The Lifestraw Universal not only removes 99.9% of bacteria and parasites, but also fits into your favourite existing water bottle, so you can carry less and waste less. Good for 1,000 gallons, this is a true backpacking essential.  

Leki poles are a backpacking essential  - missing image - Backpacking essentials: 9 ace gadgets and accessories to stuff in your ‘pack

4. Leki Black Series Walking Poles

This backpacking essential saves your knees on long descents

Reasons to buy

+Super light+Portable+Great support for knees

As even the casual backpacker knows, walking poles can save your knees from a serious amount of battering, especially on long descents. 

A pair of comfortable, durable walking poles makes a reak to how much you enjoy walking outdoors, so be sure to find a good set.

We love the Leki Black Series, crafted from 100 per cent Carbon Fibre and weighing a featherweight 452g per pair. They feature Leki’s Speed Lock 2 mechanism, which enables rapid adjustment of the poles even if you’re wearing gloves. 

The push button release mechanism means you can ‘set and forget’ the length between 110cm and 130cm. Simply unfold the walking poles from a tiny 38cm packed length and lock them out in a jiffy.

Backpacking essentials: Suunto 9 Baro Fitness watch   - missing image - Backpacking essentials: 9 ace gadgets and accessories to stuff in your ‘pack

5. Suunto 9 Baro

Let this wrist-mounted navigator act as your route checker

Reasons to buy

+Tiny GPS unit +Long battery life

Reasons to avoid

Not cheap

There are all manner of gadgets to consider taking with you on a backpacking trip, but one that could prove indispensable is a rugged GPS watch. 

The Suunto 9 Baro comes with fully functioning GPS to save your navigational bacon, as well as impressive fitness and heart rate , 120 hours of operation and weather warnings. 

It’s also waterproof up to 100m, which is more than enough for your backpacking adventure. Yes it’s one of the most expensive items in our list of backpacking essentials, but it’ll serve you well on a wide range of outdoor pursuits.

Backpacking essentials: Purple LifeVenture towel  - missing image - Backpacking essentials: 9 ace gadgets and accessories to stuff in your ‘pack

6. LifeVenture Travel Towel

The Hitchhiker’s Guide was right: know where your towel is

Reasons to buy

+Lightweight+Rolls up small 

Reasons to avoid

Unnecessary added weight on shorter trails 

A small towel is a useful item for longer treks and hikes, so long as it’s not your standard bathroom towel weighing you down. The LifeVenture towel absorbs six times its own weight and dries nine times faster than a conventional towel. 

It’s also been treated with Polygiene anti-odour technology to prevent your stuff smelling damp when you unpack at the end of the day.  

Available in a range of colours, the LifeVenture towel is a backpacking essential that’s easy to throw in your bag and forget about, but proves invaluable if your route involves streams or rivers.

- missing image - Backpacking essentials: 9 ace gadgets and accessories to stuff in your ‘pack

7. Black Diamond ReVolt Head Torch

A great outdoor gadget to help you see the light at night

Reasons to buy

+Super bright+Waterproof

Reasons to avoid

Heavier than some headtorches 

Whether backpacking, camping out for the night or simply hunting for elusive equipment in your car boot, a head torch is essential in many nighttime situations. 

The market is crowded, but we recommend the Black Diamond ReVolt because it’s really bright, knocking out 300 lumens, and features a three-level power metre to ward off flat batteries.

The battery department really sets the ReVolt apart from other head torches, as it’ll run on its own rechargeable batteries as well as standard AAA batteries, so acquiring replacements is easy.

This backpacking head torch is also waterproof, rated to IPX8, which is 30 minutes at 1.1 meters underwater. That’s very wet indeed.  

Backpacking essentials: Freeloader Sixer black solar charger  - missing image - Backpacking essentials: 9 ace gadgets and accessories to stuff in your ‘pack

8. Freeloader Sixer

Power your with this water-resistant solar charger

Reasons to buy

+Charging on the go +Built in cables 

Reasons to avoid

Charging time slows on cloudier days  

Unless you’re going fully off the grid, you’ll likely pack at least a few items of tech for your backpacking hike. After a full day of capturing scenic shots of and videoing in 4K, the batteries on your phone or camera will be depleted. 

Luckily, Freeloader has a solution in the shape of the Sixer, a lightweight but robust and water-resistant solar charger. 

With built-in Lightning/micro USB charging arms and an included USB C adapter, it’ll fully boost a smartphone battery three times over, and an action camera up to four times.

Backpacking essentials: JetBoil MightyMo portable camping stove  - missing image - Backpacking essentials: 9 ace gadgets and accessories to stuff in your ‘pack

9. Jetboil MightyMo

Tea time can be any time with this portable gas stove

Reasons to buy

+Efficient and fast+Lightweight+Powerful

Reasons to avoid

Bulky to pack

While drinking water will keep you hydrated during your backpacking adventure, there’s nothing like a freshly brewed cup of tea at the end of a big hike. 

A small camping stove enables you to boil water for a cup of tea or coffee, as well as for cooking simple hot meals on longer backpacking trips. Ok so it’s a luxury version of a backpacking essential, but if you like a good cuppa, this is a must for you.

The Jetboil range has a lot going for it in terms of simplicity and light weight, and the MightyMo is particularly worthy of mention due to its combination of traditional idiot-proof gas stove and high-tech heat absorbing cookware. 

This reduces gas use without introducing fragile stove components, which can be a risk to carry on less smooth trails. A regulator valve also increases efficiency, as well as enabling one of the best simmer settings around.

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