Hey Everyone! I hope you've had a good week and everyone is healthy and safe. This week I want to talk about some of my favorite backpacking accessories. These come in no particular order sort except one that I will save for last as my favorite accessory. Unfortunately, we as backpackers tend to collect all sorts of things that can weigh down our packs. The things I like may not be the same things you like. We tend to pack according to our fears. If we're afraid of being too cold, we will bring too much clothing. If we are afraid of getting hurt, we will overpack our first aid kit. So be careful not to overpack, because a light pack will make you enjoy your trip more than anything. So far I have talked about the big three items that we take backpacking and my camera kit. So here are some of my favorite backpacking accessories.
Headlamp - Some sort of light is a must in the backcountry. There are many kinds of lights, from a small flashlight to a fancy headlamp. I have had fancy headlamps that claim to be all that and a bag of chips. LOL But your headlamp doesn't need to be extravagant. It needs to be simple to operate and simple to use. I first got the headlamp that I use through photography. I got it for night photography, and it quickly replaced my expensive headlamp that I was using. The VITCHELO V800 is a simple inexpensive headlamp. I got mine off of Amazon for under $20. It is simple to use with just two buttons, one for a red lamp and one for white. I like simple. My more expensive headlamps had one button, and you had to go through a series of pushes to get this or that to operate. I love this little headlamp for its simplicity. It uses 3 AAA batteries that last a long time, so I don't have to worry about recharging it. Nice and simple. I have recently purchased a new headlamp, the Nitecore NU 25. This little headlamp is simple to use like the one explained above, but it is rechargeable and lighter in weight. It costs around $30.
Smartphone and Apps - Everyone has a phone nowadays, and they can be very versatile and do lots of things besides just being a phone. It's my backup camera if something happens to my main camera. It's a GPS device that can get me out of a jam with offline maps downloaded to it. It can be entertainment in the form of a book or a downloaded movie or show. And of course it can hold your favorite hiking music. It can even be an extra flashlight if something happens to yours. So as you can see it is a very versatile piece of equipment. But remember that a lot of places you go you will not have cell phone coverage, so be prepared if you're using it for navigation. And a backup battery bank will also come in handy to recharge this device. I use GAIA maps for my hiking and exploring, and I download offline maps to make sure if I lose cell coverage I still have maps to use for hiking and driving navigation. One tip to save battery power if you know you're going to be out of cell coverage reach is to put your phone on airplane mode so it doesn't use all of its energy looking for a signal.
Portable Battery Pack - One thing electronics all have in common is that they use batteries to power them. My camera batteries, my new headlamp, and my phone. When you're out in the wilderness there are no electrical outlets to plug into, so where do I get my power for these things? I use a portable battery bank made by ANKER. I got this like almost everything off of Amazon. It is a 20000 MAH battery and can recharge my phone many times, my batteries for my camera, and my headlamp. It is a great resource and can supply not only battery power but also a sense of security. It also can recharge my next item.
GPS Communication Device - My next item gives piece of mind not only to me but to my family. In the places I go when backpacking or just exploring, cell phone coverage is spotty at best. This device is a two-way satellite communicator and doesn't need cell phone coverage to work. It uses the satellites that circle the earth to communicate. It is a Garmin Inreach Mini. This is a fancy GPS device that can pair to your phone. You can send and receive text messages and send your coordinates to your loved ones. With a link that is sent, they can see on a map exactly where you are. The device also has an SOS button that can be pushed in case of an accident. Say you broke your leg and can't get out of the backwoods. You can push this button, and a service will notify the rescue personnel where you are. They can text you and check on your condition. They can come and get you and bring you to safety. As the name implies, this is a small device that rides on the shoulder strap of my pack. This is an expensive device coming in at $350, but well worth it to keep my family and friends informed. If you plan on doing a lot of exploring where there is no cell phone coverage, a device like this is a must-have, whether you have this on your pack or in your car.
Lightweight Chair - There are all kinds of accessories that you can take with you in the backcountry. A new addition to my backpacking lineup is a lightweight chair. I know this sounds silly. But I am a weekend warrior, not a through hiker, so I like my comfort especially since I've gotten older. It comes in right at a pound but worth it. After a long day's hike when you get to your campsite, even if it's an established campsite with places to sit, there is no support for your back. You can't just lay back and eat your meal or have somewhere to sit if you're at an unestablished campsite. I use the REI Flexlite Air. There are many brands out there now, but this is a luxury that I give myself when I go backpacking.
Now for my Favorite backpacking accessory. It's my Trekking Poles. I know it sounds silly for those who have never used them, but they are my favorite accessory. Trekking poles help you walk and keep steady. They will allow you to hike farther with less effort. Instead of being two-legged, you're now four-legged. They take stress off of your knees, which is why I got them in the first place, and from the first day I was faster and more efficient hiking. For any distance past a couple of miles, I always use trekking poles. They are also the poles I use for my tent when I use a tent. I can truly say that they have let me see more scenery. When I started using them, I noticed that I didn't have to pay so much attention to where I was walking with my head down looking for roots or where to put my feet. The trekking poles give me more stability when I hike and I am able to look up to see more of what I came out for. You can get all types of trekking poles, from very expensive carbon fiber ones to less expensive aluminum ones. I have the latter. I think they are more durable. I only have had two sets. The first ones I got I was coming down the stairs the first day I got them and slipped and fell on one of them and broke them. But I was so pleased with how they performed that when I got home I ordered a new pair and have had those for years. They may be one of my oldest pieces of equipment. But I couldn't go on a backpacking trip without them.
So there you have some of my favorite backpacking accessories. Do you have any? Drop me a line and let me know what they are. So until next week, get outside and start exploring!