HelloTrail is reader-supported and all of our top picks are expert-approved. We may earn a commission, at no additional cost to you, on purchases made from our chosen links.
Our incessant quest for immediately available information has resulted in the development of some pretty cool hiking gadgets to suit a plethora of modern needs while we’re traveling through the backcountry.
Of course, our basic hiking gear needs still remain — a lighting source, water purification, and instruments for navigation.
But now we have products that easily meet these needs in addition to being lightweight and durable enough to handle nature’s most unpredictable moods.
The outdoors has become the playing field for a new high-tech era of hiking gear.
Let’s take a look at some of best hiking gadgets of 2020 so that you can hit the trails with everything you need — plus a few things to enhance your experience, making it memorable for years to come.
Best Hiking Gadgets of 2020
1. Garmin inReach Mini
No matter how long or short of a hike you are going on it is good practice to let someone know where you will be.
A satellite communication device like the Garmin inReach mini makes this a whole lot easier.
When you are out of reach of regular cellular service having a way to let someone know where you are or if you get into trouble is vital.
This particular Garmin enables you to send texts, track your waypoints at certain intervals and even send SOS messages when needed.
It pairs to your phone via Bluetooth and you can use the Earthmate app to use topographic maps, US NOAA charts and is Apple/Android compatible.
The main caveat is that you must have subscription plan for it to work - via Garmin’s website.
Currently it is $24.95/mo on their annual plan or $34.95/mo on their Freedom plan which requires a minimum 30 day commitment.
That plan level allows for 40 text messages per month, unlimited SOS and will set tracking intervals at 10min+.
The inReach mini can be charged with a powerbank and/or solar charger - scroll down a few more items and we have you covered on that suggestion...
The device should be kept outside of your pack so the antenna can have access to the sky.
One of the best features is that it will provide your coordinates when you send text messages.
That way your friends and family will know exactly where you are at certain times for peace of mind.
It's called 'mini' for a reason and only weighs 4.23 oz.
The SOS feature is interactive so you will get connected to someone 24/7 in case you are in need of rescue.
They will also keep in touch with your emergency contacts so they know what is going on as well.
Keep in mind though that you could be billed for any rescue efforts.
There is insurance available and GEOS offers plans and memberships to help defray the costs as well.
Go ahead and pick up your own Garmin inReach Mini from REI today...
Similar to Garmin's inReach, the Bivystick gives you the ability to utilize 2-way satellite communication.
The major difference is that you use your own phone to send and receive the messages by pairing the Bivystick via bluetooth.
A big plus though is that is also doubles as a powerbank and can be used to charge your phone 1-2 times.
It does weigh more than the Garmin above at 7 oz. but is small in size at 1 5/8 x 5 5/8 x 1 1/8 inches.
The prices of both devices are similar so your choice might come down to the subscription plans - of which you need one for the Bivy as well.
Their plans cost $17.99/mo for 10 credits or $59.99 for unlimited credits.
A credit is used when you send or receive a text, when you share your location, access a weather report or track your path for 1 hour.
You can purchase additional credits in packs of 20, 50 or 100 for an extra fee.
The Bivystick will still work when you run out of credits and you will be charged $0.50 for each credit.
Your unused credits do roll over if you continue your monthly base plan.
The advantage is that you are not in a contract, can cancel anytime and they do not charge any activation fees which Garmin does on their plans.
They also use the GEOS SOS system and you get access to similar downloadable maps as with the Garmin inReach mini.
Get your Bivystick straight from Bivy by clicking here...
3. My Medic MyFAK (First Aid Kit)
A lot of hiking gadgets revolve around safety and even though this isn’t a ‘techy’ choice it is something every hiker should have!
Whether your hike is only going to last a couple of hours or a couple of days you never know what could go wrong.
There’s always a tree root or slick rock that could sneak up on you at any minute so having a first aid kit handy will help you finish your trek intact.
The MyFAK comes in a basic and advanced version and at first glance you might get some sticker shock but rest assured you will have what you need in case of an emergency.
Everything from various bandage sizes, pain pills, emergency whistle, survival blanket, finger splint and more are included in the basic kit.
Personally I would opt for the advanced that also includes paracord that can have many uses, a tourniquet - which I hope you never have to use -, a lightstick, hyrdration tablets, and other items that are useful in case of more extreme situations.
The case is weather resistant and made of ballistic nylon - aka very tough material - so it is made to last!
Of course you are heading outdoors to enjoy nature and take in the surrounding beauty but it never hurts to be prepared.
Learn more about the My Medic first aid kits...
4. GoalZero Venture 30
Never be left without power — because you never know when you might need it.
Whether you need to recharge your phone, camera, or light source, the Goal Zero Venture 30 is the perfect day hiker’s companion.
Featuring an IPX6 weatherproof rating, it can withstand heavy sprays of water and is completely dust proof.
The Goal Zero Venture 30 was made for life in the backcountry.
The product includes two USB ports for charging up to two devices simultaneously including phones, video recording devices, tablets, and headlamps — and charges them at the same rate as a wall charger.
The product features 7800mAh battery capacity and can charge your headlamp 5-10 times or your smartphone 2-2.5 times in a single cycle.
It weighs just 8.8 ounces — light enough to take on any expedition.
The Venture 30 can be recharged via USB or solar panel, sold separately on Amazon.
Hiking Hydration Water Filters
5. Sawyer Mini Filtration System
Bringing along your own water filtration system has huge advantages.
You don’t have to carry as much water and can drink from the sources you encounter along the way — including streams and rivers.
The Sawyer mini is both lightweight and versatile, weighing in at just two ounces.
It features a 0.1 micron filtration system, which filters 99.99% of all bacteria and protozoa so you can be assured the water you’re drinking is safe for consumption.
The system is rated to filter up to 100,000 gallons and includes its own drinking patch and straw.
Prefer to use your own hydration system?
The Sawyer Mini matches the thread on standard water bottles and can also be connected to hydration pack tubing.
Make sure to read what other hikers think about it...
6. Sagan Life Inline Water Purifier
We use both the Sawyer Mini you see in this article and the popular LifeStraw but what attracted me to the Sagan Life water purifier is the face that you can attach it to your existing hydration pack bladder.
Our Camelbaks join us on all of our day hikes so having the ability to dip our hydration bladder in a cold mountain stream and knowing the water will be filtered properly is a huge plus!
Granted, you can achieve a similar result with the Sawyer Mini but it's nice the Sagan Life version is specifically designed for such use.
This isn't all they off though. You can also get other water purification products such as a water bottle or straw.
If your day hiking backpack has room for a bladder but did not come with one they also sell a 2L or 3L Mazama bladder already fitted with the inline water purifier (see first image above).
It will filter up to 250 gallons of fresh water (not for salt water use) and removes 99.99% of all the bad stuff!
Handy Outdoor Tools
7. Leatherman Wingman
If you dislike the idea of carrying around ton of individual objects, the Leatherman Wingman is the perfect solution.
This pocket-sized product provides for 14 tools in one, including pliers, scissors, a can opener, bottle opener, and a combo knife — all of which could come in handy on a hike.
Whether you need to open a can of beans, slice up an apple, or fix a piece of gear, the Wingman has the tool you need to get the job done.
Its stainless steel construction ensures it will hold up in the backcountry and be able to withstand typical trail abuse.
I have used a Leatherman for decades dating back to my days on the farm and one thing I can attest to - they last!
Plus you can't beat a 25 year limited warranty. Leatherman truly stands behind their products.
Make sure to read what other users think...
8. Three Trees USB Rechargeable Hiking Headlamp
Don’t get caught out in the dark — whether you’re setting out on an early morning hike, plan on finishing later in the evening, or just in case of an emergency, it’s ideal to bring along a headlamp and the Three Trees USB Rechargeable LED Headlamp is an ideal choice.
Headlamps are easily the most efficient source of lighting in the backcountry, being both hands free and compact for packing.
This LED headlamp is weatherproof, with an IPX4 waterproof rating, and comfortable — so you don’t have to worry about the elements around you and can wear it for extended periods of time if necessary.
Unlike many headlamps on the market, this product is USB rechargeable, which means you don’t have to carry around extra batteries — it pairs perfectly with a battery pack.
This headlamp tilts up to 60 degrees, allowing you to adjust the light where you need it most.
Want more choices? We take a look at the best headlamps for hiking to help you light the way.
9. Suunto MC-2 Compass
A compass is a backcountry essential — whether you’re setting out on a day hike or a weeklong expedition.
You’re going to want something reliable, durable, and compact.
The Suunto MC-2 is professional and military grade, boasting top-of-the-line features for precise directional measurements.
The display shows direction in mils and a 20 degree tilt margin allows for easier reading.
The capsule is liquid filled for optimum operation and the product includes luminescent markings for working in low light. USGS UTM scales are utilized.
The Suunto MC-2 comes with a lanyard for easy transport and yet is also detachable for when you need to coordinate your compass with a map.
It has a transparent base that makes it easy to use with maps.
And the mirror can double as a signaling device if needed but let's hope that isn't necessary.
Read user reviews on Amazon...
10. Garmin Foretrex 401 GPS Watch
GPS navigation systems are one of the most popular technology advancements to infiltrate the outdoor industry.
Leave your map behind and navigate the backcountry from your wrist with Garmin’s Foretrex 40.
This product includes a built-in electronic compass and barometric altimeter.
Its compact and lightweight design makes for ideal use on hiking trips.
The watch’s stand-out features include water resistance and a built-in memory system that keeps track of your path, allowing you to retrace your steps using the TracBack navigation feature.
The watch includes a trip computer, a storage database for your favorite routes, accurate times for sunrise/sunset, and even hunting and fishing information.
Bonus feature? The Foretrex 401 allows you to connect to wireless accessories like heart rate monitors and cadence trackers.
This watch has a battery life that lasts up to 17 hours in navigation mode — perfect for a day hike, but you’re going to want to bring extra AAA batteries on an overnighter.
Is a gps watch not your thing? Then make sure to check out some of the best handheld gps for hiking available.
Outdoor Action Camera
11. GoPro Hero8 Black 4k
If you want to relive those perfect moments out on the trail and capture picturesque landscapes on camera, the GoPro Hero 8 Black is the ultimate adventure companion.
It provides for impressive 4K video and 12 mega pixel photos in single, burst, or time lapse modes and stable, shake-free filming.
The Hero8 Black's biggest improvement over earlier GoPro's is the addition of HyperSmooth 2.0.
This means you record in all available resolutions and frame rates choosing from their 3 levels internal stabilization to avoid shaky videos.
You can even fine-tune the exposure settings to make sure your final product is cinema worthy.
The Hero 8 is completely waterproof to 33 meters in depth — you know, just in case you happen to fall in that lake you set out to hike to.
It can mount to various products such as a head or chest strap for simple hands free recording.
My personal go-to method is this awesome backpack strap mount...
The Hero8's 2-inch display lets you check out your shots with ease and a simple interface allows you to trim videos and quickly adjust settings.
The battery is rechargeable, making a battery pack an ideal compliment, or you have the option to purchase an extra battery.
Another major aspect of the Hero8 Black is the option to add new 'mods' such as flashes, microphones, lcd screens and more.
If the ability to add these new accessories to your GoPro isn't something you will use then you can save some money on the prior year's Hero7 Black.
It still will give you top notch video quality and has most of the same features and benefits as the newer 8 version.
This is another of my personal choices and as Ashley snaps pics with her Canon dslr I'm making sure to capture everything I can with our Hero8 Black!
Hiking Gadgets Buyer's Guide
Water resistance is a huge consideration when you’re out on the trail.
Mother nature is unpredictable — and rain or thunderstorms can strike at any moment, depending on where you are in the world.
It’s worthwhile to check weather forecasts in advance and become familiar with the climate through which you’re hiking.
Take into consideration any river crossings you might encounter along the way.
You also need the proper accessories to contain your products, especially when it comes to electronics.
For example, rainfall can be devastating if you don’t have a waterproof case for your camera.
As you plan your hike take into consideration if the gear you choose is water resistant or even water proof and then decide what kinds of accessories you might need to purchase.
The IPX scale provides weatherproof ratings used by many manufacturers.
IPX ratings range from IPX-0 to IPX-8, with IPX-0 providing no water or dust protection and IPX-8 allowing you to completely submerge an object in water for a specified amount of time at a certain depth.
Anything IPX-6 or higher provides complete protection from dust.
The best outdoor gadgets need to be rugged enough to withstand rough conditions, including dirt, dust, and moisture.
Most of the time your gadgets will be stuffed away in some deep, dark crevice of your backpack — so they need to be able to handle the typical clanging and banging corresponding to your movement down the trail, scrambling over boulders, or bushwhacking through the undergrowth.
In general, if a gadget is built specifically for the outdoors it was probably developed to certain trail standards — but it’s important to look at a product’s construction to ensure its durability.
The whole point of an outdoor gadget is that it serves to assist or enhance your backcountry experience.
Whether it’s designed for navigation, water filtration, or to help with a physical task, a gadget should have a purpose.
When you’re packing for a hiking trip, consider each object’s functionality.
You could ask yourself: When am I planning on using this?
It could be helpful to break down gear into separate categories, such as for daily use, occasional use, or for emergency purposes only.
Don’t bring along something you’re not going to use, because then you’re just wasting precious space in your backpack.
On the same note, don’t leave behind something you might need if conditions take a turn for the worse.
Wrapping It Up...
Imagine day hiking through a lush forest, carrying a single water bottle, and refilling it using your water filtration system at various streams along the way.
You look down at your GPS watch and navigate your way back to the main trail — no map needed.
It’s your son or daughter’s first hike and you’ve captured the best moments on camera with your GoPro.
Whether you prefer strolling through the woods or hiking up a mountain, some outdoor gadgets meet our essential needs while others enhance our experience.
The most important things to consider are durability, weather resistance, and functionality.
Luckily, we’ve done the research for you — and you can be assured the gadgets we’ve picked to round out your hiking gear accessories will hold their own, come rain or shine.
Have you tried any of these or any you would add to the list?
Let us know in the comments!
You Might Also Like...
About the Author - Andrew
Andrew's love for the outdoors began at an early age growing up in the midwest farmland and taking family vacations out west. Being a dreamer with his head in the clouds most moments make the mountains the perfect location for him. He hasn't met a false summit he doesn't like yet! Click here to learn more about Andrew's outdoorsy background...