Essential Backpacking Accessories for 2020

 
Aerial view of a complete backpacking gear kit
 

It’s the little things. Beyond your backpack, tent, and sleeping bag, what else should you carry? What are other things to pack that you will actually need and use? We polled backpackers with a collective 100,000 miles of backpacking to get the answers.


Note that not everything on this list is carried on every trip. Our actual packing list varies based on the length of the trip, the terrain, the season, and overall climate.

If you’re looking for other backpacking gear for your trip, check out our Best Lightweight Tents guide, Best Backpacking Backpacks, Best Sleeping Bags, Best Sleeping Pads stories.


Altra+Gaiters+in+gray+teal.jpg

GAiters

Altra Gaiters

Read why→

Aquaseal+SR.jpg

Shoe Repair

Aquaseal SR

Read why→

Krazy+glue+single+use.jpg

Adhesive

Krazy Glue Singles

Read why→

Tenacious+Tape+in+Green.jpg

Gear Repair

Tenacious Tape

Read why→


Sea%2Bto%2BSummit%2BRepair%2BKit.jpg

sleeping pad repair

For your sleeping pad

Read why→

Sawyer+Picaridin+Lotion.jpg

Insect Repellent

Sawyer Picaridin Lotion

Read why→

Sawyer+Permethrin+Pump+Spray.jpg

Tick Prevention

Sawyer Permethrin Pump Spray

Read why→

Tick+Key+in+orange.jpg

Tick Removal

Tick Key

Read why→


Deuce+of+spades+in+blue.jpg

Potty Trowel

Deuce of Spades

Read why→

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TP REmoval

Earth Rated Dog Waste Bags

Read why→

Rawlogy Cork Massage Balls (1).jpg

Massage ball

Rawlogy Cork Massage Ball

Read why→

Toaks+Titanium+long+handled+spoon.jpg

Long handle Spoon

Toaks Titanium

Read why→


Sea+to+Summit+Dry+Bag+4L+in+yellow.jpg

Dry Bag

Sea to Summit Dry Bags

Read why→

Anker+PowerCore+10000+PD+Redux.jpg

Portable Charger

Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux

Read why→

Hefty+Trash+Compactor+Bags.jpg

Pack Liner

Hefty Trash Compactor Bags

Read why→

Buff+coolnet.jpg

Buff Headwear


Leukotape.jpg

Sports and medical Tape

Leukotape

Read why→

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Anti-Friction Cream

Trail Toes

Read why→

OtterBox Defender.jpg

waterproof Phone Case

OtterBox Defender

Read why→

OPSAK.jpg

Odor Proof Food Bag

LOKSAK OPSAK

Read why→


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Sewing Kit

Gear Aid Sewing Kit

Read why→

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Water Treatment Backup

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Nail Clippers

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Diaper pins



Dirty Girl Gaiters on hiker next to bear scat

Gaiters:

Altra gaiters

Dirty Girl Gaiters


If you’re wearing low hiking shoes or trail runners, you might know the frustration of getting rocks and grit in your shoes. It can be frustrating to stop and remove rocks, not to mention that fine grit can contribute to blister formation. Enter the lightweight gaiter. These aren’t the gaiters that come up to your knees. These just cover the tops of your shoes and come up to just above the ankle. Bonus - they keep your shoelaces tied as well. For more fun patterns and colors, try Dirty Girl Gaiters.

 

Dirty Girl Gaiters

Altra Gaiters


Shoe Repair:

Aquaseal SR


Hiking shoe and boot failure happens in the wilderness...more often than we’d like to remember. Soles separate, toe caps delaminate, you name it. Aquaseal SR (the product formerly known as Freesole) has saved us many, many times and we’d never be without it. Many hikers will pre-treat their shoes if they know where problems happen regularly with their shoes.

Aquaseal SR on boot

AquaSeal SR

 

Super glue is another great multi-use product, which they now sell in mini single-use versions. Use it to close a minor wound or seal a blister until you can get proper medical care. And of course, use it to repair your gear too!


Krazy glue singles

krazy glue singles

 

A down jacket with Tenacious Tape on sleeve.

Gear Repair:

Tenacious Tape


Got a hole in your down jacket from a campfire ember? Use Tenacious Tape. Did your sewing kit needle poke a hole in your dry bag? Use Tenacious Tape. Did a rock put a hole in the bottom of your tent? Use Tenacious Tape.

We’ve had down jackets with Tenacious Tape on them that hasn’t come off in years. Multiple washings and heavy use too. This stuff works.

 

Tenacious Tape

 

Inflatable Sleeping Pad Repair Kit 

There’s nothing worse than laying on your sleeping pad and hearing the sound pshhhhhhh as it deflates (ask us how we know). Unless you’re carrying a foam pad, carry a patch kit. It’s light and the kind of thing you’ll be so happy to have when you need it. Super glue and Aquaseal can also help in a pinch. We recommend carrying the patch kit specific to the manufacturer of your sleeping pad. Many pads now come with the kit; replacement kits are also available.

Close up of the REI Flash sleeping pad with a patch.
 

Inflatable Sleeping Pad Repair Kit

 

Sawyer Picaridin Lotion 4 ounce bottle

Insect repellent:

Sawyer Picaridin Lotion


Mosquitoes can ruin a trip. That’s why most hikers carry some kind of insect repellent. We like picaridin rather than DEET. Studies have found no significant differences in performance between the two but picaridin does not have the same neurotoxicity concerns. Like DEET, picaridin repels both mosquitoes and ticks. But unlike DEET, picaridin does NOT destroy your gear.

The 4-ounce bottle is probably too much to carry on a trip so we recommend buying a smaller container and repackaging.

 

Sawyer Picaridin Lotion

 

Tick Prevention:

Sawyer permethrin pump spray

Ticks are the animals we fear most in the backcountry. They are found in all the US lower 48 states, and one species even in Hawaii. Non-native ticks are making their way to Alaska as well. And the diseases they carry...well, you really don’t want to catch one. [The Lone Star tick bite can make you allergic to red meat.]

Permethrin is an insecticide that can be sprayed onto clothing and gear to kill ticks. Studies have shown that it is more effective than repellents for ticks, but less effective for mosquitoes. Sawyer makes it easy to treat your clothes AND gear with permethrin with a pump spray. Most packs and tents can be treated with permethrin (check manufacturer’s information).

You can also buy factory treated permethrin clothing that lasts for 70 washes.

 

Sawyer Permethrin Pump Spray

BugsAway CLothing

 

Tick Key in orange.

Tick Removal:

Tick Key


When hiking in tick country, it’s essential to check yourself for ticks every day. If you do get a tick, remove it quickly and easily with a tick key. Weighing in at 9 grams, there’s no reason not to carry one.

Just slide the tick into the slot on the Tick Key and pull the key away from your skin. Easy!

Tick Key

 

 

Deuce of Spades in blue.

Potty Trowel:

Deuce of Spades


Leave No Trace Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly. For human waste, we need to dig catholes 6-8” deep (4-6” in the desert) and 4-6” in diameter. This can’t be done with a hiking pole or a random stick, trust us on this. The Deuce of Spades potty trowel comes in 3 different weights (0.45, 0.60, and 1.0 ounce versions) and 8 different colors. You can use them handle up or handle down for even more digging power.

 

Deuce of Spades

 

TP Removal

Dog waste bags


For toilet paper, we recommend packing it out. The easiest, cleanest, cheapest way we’ve found is to use dog waste bags. Drop your used TP on the ground, put the dog waste bag over your hand and wrist, and pick up the TP. With your clean hand, pull the bag over the other hand and tie off the bag...just like you would with dog waste. We recommend unscented bags.

A Dog waste bag dispensary

Dog Waste Bags

 

The Rawlogy cork massage ball being used on a foot.

Massage Ball:

Rawlogy cork massage ball


On the trail, one of my rituals every night in the tent is to massage my feet. Even if it’s only for 30 seconds, it makes a huge difference. I was positively DE-lighted when I found this massage ball that’s light enough to carry on a backpacking trip. Designed by hikers for self-massage, it only weighs 1.4 ounces (and the mini version only weighs 0.7 ounces!). And they’re made from recycled wine corks so they’re grippy even when wet.

 

Rawlogy cork massage ball

 

Long handled spoon:

Toaks Titanium


Don’t like getting food all over your hands (or your dirty hands all over your food) eating out of those freeze-dried meal pouches? Neither do we. A long handled spoon is an absolute must. We like the Toaks titanium version with the polished bowl. It’s easier to clean with a polished bowl, while the matte handle gives more grip. It comes with an orange nylon storage sack which makes it easy to see in your food bag (and keeps the spoon clean). The long handle is also great for stirring your rice or pasta in your cook pot because it keeps your hand a nice distance away from the heat. You can also use it to unlock your bear can!

Camper enjoying a freeze dried meal with a long handled spoon
 

TOaks Titanium Long handled spoon

 

Sea to Summit 4 liter dry bag in yellow.

Dry bags:

Sea to Summit


Some gear you really, really want to make sure stays dry. Top of that list is your sleeping bag - down or synthetic. Even if we have a “waterproof” pack, and even if we use a trash compactor bag in our “waterproof” pack, we recommend using a dry bag for your sleeping bag. The Sea to Summit 4L version only weighs 1.7 ounces, and we think it’s worth the weight.

Sea to Summit Dry Bag

 

The Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux.

Battery pack & charging cables:

Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux


So. Many. Electronics. Phone, headphones, satellite messenger, camera, headlamp may all need to be recharged on a longer trip. Battery packs are now fairly cheap, light, small, and powerful. We’ve had great success with the Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux. It has three charging modes: 18W power-delivery USB-C port, powered-enabled USB-A port, and trickle-charging mode for low-power devices like Bluetooth headphones. It has dual USB ports to charge two devices at the same time. And with a USB-C wall charger it can be fully charged in just 3.5 hours.

 

Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux

 

Pack Liner

Hefty Trash Compactor Bags


Most hikers agree: the best way to keep your gear dry is to line the inside of your pack with a trash compactor bag. They’re thicker than regular trash bags and much more puncture resistant. They’re extremely light. If the weather forecast looks good, you can leave it folded up in the bottom of your pack. And in our experience, they work better than any external pack cover we’ve ever used. True trash compactor bags can be hard to find, so we recommend buying online or at an Ace Hardware store.

A stem bag can be designed for using paper maps, but also can store sunscreen, eyedrops, lip balm, or anything else you are likely to want close at hand.   Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

A stem bag can be designed for using paper maps, but also can store sunscreen, eyedrops, lip balm, or anything else you are likely to want close at hand. Photo courtesy Brandon Lampley.

 

Hefty Trash Compactor Bags

 

 

Happy hiker wearing a Buff

Synthetic Quick Dry Buff


It’s UPF 50, moisture wicking, quick drying, and can be worn 12 different ways. So. Many. Uses. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

  • Sun protection
  • Cold protection
  • Dust protection
  • Wind protection
  • Bug protection
  • Keeps your beanie on your head when you sleep
  • Keeps your hair out of your face when you hike
  • Dish rag
  • Personal flair

 

Synthetic quick dry buff

 

Leukotape

Sports Tape:

Leukotape


If there’s one lesson we’ve heard repeatedly from backpackers it’s that preventing blisters is wayyyy better than treating them. Leukotape is in our backpacking kit for this very reason. Leukotape is a sticky but breathable and flexible sports tape. It’s also tearable by hand which makes it convenient to use. At the first sign of a hot spot, we stop, clean the area well, and apply a piece of Leukotape. It stays on for days (even with wet feet) but is easy to remove once you get to town.

Leukotape

 

Anti-friction cream:

Trail Toes


To help protect the feet and body from the ABCs (abrasions, blisters, and chafing) of outdoor adventures, we highly recommend carrying some kind of anti-friction cream. Our favorite: Trail Toes. We’ve used for thousands of miles for blisters, back and hip chafing, and even on the days when we knew our feet would be wet all day as a protective barrier. It comes with a small container to repackage.

Trail Toes anti-friction cream
 

Trail Toes Anti-Friction Cream

 

Phone Case:

Otterbox Defender


The best way to keep your phone safe from water, dust, and shock is to use a phone case specific for your phone model. Many hikers have had great success with the OtterBox Defender. Waterproof bags also work for protection against water and dust, although we don’t recommend Zip Locks. Better: LOKSAK waterproof bags. They’re much thicker and protect against sand, humidity, and water.

Otterbox Defender

 

OtterBox Defender

LOKSAK Waterproof Bags

 

Odor proof food bags:

LOKSAK OPSAK


Sleep better at night knowing your food is protected from bears and rodents with an odor proof food bag. We recommend the tried and true LOKSAK OPSAK. They’re thick, they’re durable, and they only weigh 0.8 ounces.

LOKSAK OPSAK odor proof food bags

LOKSAK OPSAK Odor proof food bags

 

Gear Aid sewing kit.

Sewing kit:

Gear Aid Sewing Kit


You never know when you might need to do emergency repairs on your clothes or shoes. You can swipe one from your next hotel stay, assemble one at home, or buy a lightweight kit from Gear Aid. Make sure it has 2 needles - small and large. The large needle can be used with dental floss as thread for heavy duty repairs, such as shoes or boots.

 

Gear Aid Sewing Kit

 

Water treatment back up:

Bleach in Mini Dropper Bottle


No matter what water treatment you’re carrying, we recommend carrying a lightweight backup method. Our choice: bleach. It’s the recommended method during emergency situations and a little goes a long way. Buy some black mini dropper bottles (bleach is light sensitive) and fill one with bleach. Just make sure it is unscented bleach!

Mini dropper bottles for bleach.
 

Litesmith Mini Dropper bottles

 

Nail clippers:

So iLL


Fingernails and toenails break easily and often in the backcountry and nail clippers make the situation much easier to deal with. Even if you’re going out for a short overnight, we’d still recommend carrying nail clippers. The So iLL nail clippers come in two sizes and the green color make them easier to see in your bag.

A pair of So iLL nail clippers in green
 

So iLL Nail Clippers

 

Diaper pins in green

Diaper pins

No, we’re not carrying diapers. We use diaper pins to pin our wet socks to our pack to dry out during the day. They’re much sturdier than regular safety pins and can handle the weight of wet socks. We put one on each side of our pack on the daisy chain, not the actual pack material itself (you really don’t want to puncture that).

 

Diaper Pins

 

Extra batteries

These days you likely only need extra batteries for your headlamp (although rechargeable headlamps are getting really good these days). The batteries always seem to run out when you need them most. We recommend carrying one set of whatever size you need and keep them in a place that’s easily accessible.

Local currency

Whether you’re hiking in your home or in a foreign country, it’s always smart to carry cash. 

Many, many times my credit card has been canceled on trail due to fraud and cash is my only backup. Not all small towns have ATMs so bring some with you. We’ve also known hikers who had to resort to waiving cash trying to get a hitchhike.

Hiker in Canadian Rockies with gear spread out