Having the right accessories for a hiking backpack can be a boost to both the enjoyment and quality of a hiking trip. With such a wide range of available extras on the market, the difficulty is separating the hiking essentials from the luxuries.
The 15 essential hiking backpack accessories you need to buy are:
- Waterproof backpack cover
- Hydration bladder
- Chest rig
- Torch and whistle
- Battery pack
- Waterproof matches
- Bungee cords
- Water filter bottle
- Hiking poles
- Compression bags
A well-planned hiking trip can make life simpler with nothing to focus on but hiking, and having the right accessories makes this much easier. While you can live without something you never had, once you make these items a part of your backpack setup, you’ll never look back.
The backpack accessories you can get range from essentials such as waterproof backpack covers and gloves to quality-of-life boosts such as water filtration devices. With accessories for helping with packing, hydration, climate, and safety, every aspect of hiking can be easily upgraded.
Your essential accessories generally fall into two categories: items that will usually be for inside your backpack, and those that are usually housed on the outside. Both areas are massively important and having the right equipment to help manage your backpack, and increase its functionality, can turn a good hiking trip into a great one.
From drybags to keep your items separated and waterproof, to compression bags to maximize every liter of storage space in your backpack, knowing what each accessory does will help you make the best decisions before you set foot on the trails.
The outside of your backpack should never be overlooked either. With accessories such as carabiners, bungee cords, and a quality chest rig, you can accessorize like never before. Safety equipment is also vital, items such as a good torch and whistle, safety matches, and even a battery pack in case of emergencies, should be considered essential for a safe and enjoyable trip.
While many good backpacks come already supplied with a waterproof backpack cover, if that isn’t the case for yours, you need to make buying one a priority. Unless your backpack is a top-of-the-range piece of kit, it won’t be fully waterproof, merely water-resistant.
A quality waterproof backpack cover not onlyensures your pack’s contents remain dry, but it also acts as extra insurance against losing items. If your backpack has a kangaroo pocket at the front, these are usually stretchy and don’t zip up. These are handy as you can grab things quickly but leaves them susceptible to the elements.
Your waterproof cover will keep the main compartment, kangaroo pocket, and any other outer pockets dry and secure. A backpack can be heavy enough when it’s dry, but add a backpack of soaking wet clothes to that and it becomes inconvenient and tiring.
Drybags should be used alongside a waterproof cover, not as a replacement for one, as they allow you to individually pack your items into waterproof bags. Also known as dry sacks or packing pods, drybags are a great way to keep track of your items, as well as a good place to store dirty clothing until you get home.
Inexpensive and robust, drybags are a better option than plastic bags, and being able to compartmentalize your items allows for easier packing and speeds things up on the trail when you need just that one item.
Used in conjunction with a waterproof backpack cover, your clothes and any electrical equipment should stay dry and safe. Constant downpours can eventually see rain seep into the most secure of backpacks, so why take the risk?
Without a doubt one of the best investments a hiker can make is in a hydration bladder. The need to keep hydrated on your hike is paramount, and water can be as cumbersome to carry as it is vital to have. Buying a hydration bladder will allow you to not only carry more water but have it secured in your backpack in a more convenient container with better weight distribution.
Most quality backpacks come with a hole to feed out the drinking hose from a hydration bladder, allowing a hiker to take much-needed sips of water while hiking. The benefits of having your water stored in your backpack is that it stays cooler, it is less of a burden to carry, and you don’t have to keep stopping to unpack your water supplies.
Having a few padlocks in your backpack is very useful when hiking, as they can be used to lock the double zipper on your backpack when it’s not to hand. Any trips that involve air travel, for instance, would benefit from you being able to lock up your backpack beforehand.
Hiking where you may be staying at hostels overnight in between hikes would also benefit from you having padlocks to hand. Many hostels provide secure storage for hikersto leave their belongings but expect hikers to either buy a padlock from the hostel at a premium, or provide their own.
A perfect accompaniment to a hiking backpack is a chest rig, which is a chest-mounted storage system that can be worn at the same time as your backpack. Your chest rig would go on first, and then your backpack would go on over the top of that. The benefit to having a chest rig with your backpack is the extra storage space, especially for commonly used items.
Not having to stop and take off your backpack after having ensured it is secured comfortably is a great help to a hiker. Having a medium-sized storage bag sitting on your chest makes grabbing a snack, drink, or mobile phone, a lot easier.
It’s also worth pointing out that the chest rig will also help with balance, as having some of your equipment at the front will help offset your heavy backpack. Most chest rigs come with multiple pockets and webbing, and they make hiking a great deal more convenient.
The back of most good quality chest rigs are made of a breathable mesh, much like the ventilation system on your backpack, so you shouldn’t feel worried about overheating as your skin can still breathe normally even with both chest rig and backpack on.
A good torch can be a lifesaver while hiking, especially on those longer trips where camping is involved. From helping while making camp after a long day hiking to being able to see where you’re going at night when nature calls, a torch should always be close at hand.
A head torch is a great alternative to a standard hand-held torch, as your hands are free for whatever activity you need them for. When hiking at dusk or dawn, that extra bit of light can help you to avoid accidents such as twisting an ankle.
A whistle should also be an essential purchase before going hiking, as they’re a great warning system when in trouble, or even for those just-in-case moments. Whistles don’t scare off animals such as bears, but if you’re needing to attract the attention of another person, having a whistle to hand can be invaluable.
For those hiking trips that are going to last more than one day, a battery pack can be a real quality-of-life improving accessory. As well as being able to charge your mobile phone or radio, a spare battery pack adds that extra insurance to any hike. Should your mobile phone run out of battery, having an easy way to charge it up is invaluable.
In case of emergencies, being able to use your phone is vital. You may also have a GPS or any other electrical device that needs charging, a small power pack in your backpack could be crucial in a pinch.
For all but the most seasoned of frontiersmen, starting a fire by rubbing two sticks together is a time-consuming, knuckle scraping chore. Having a pack of waterproof matches in your backpack won’t add to its weight but could end up keeping you fed and warm.
A broken camping stove, or just running out of fuel, can leave a hiking trip in jeopardy. Being able to start a fire to either cook your food, or just to keep warm at nightwill keep spirits up and stomachs full. In case of emergencies, being able to start a signal fire with your matches could be a lifesaver.
Hiking is a fantastic hobby to have but having multiple uses for your essential accessories is key. Sure, your matches are there to keep you warm or well-fed, but should things go wrong, being able to help yourself is the difference between success and failure.
Having spent money on buying great hiking clothes and an excellent backpack, ignoring your hands could be your undoing. Buying weather-appropriate gloves should always be on your list of essential accessories.
With options for waterproof or windproof gloves, mittens, fingerless gloves, knitted, and Gore-Tex, the list is endless. Purchasing the right gloves for your needs is essential to keeping warm while hiking.
For rockier terrain where hikers are scrambling over things using their hands, a strong pair of gloves can keep hands well protected. For winter hikes, insulated and waterproof gloves can be a blissful addition to your backpack.
Even on warm-weather hiking trips, if you use hiking poles, a thin yet robust pair of fingerless hiking gloves can protect your palms against blistering. A nasty blister won’t be the end of the world, but it’s an inconvenience that could have been avoided by wearing a pair of sturdy gloves.
A common mistake among novice hikers is that everything must fit within your backpack, which limits how much you can carry. Several items should remain outside of your pack, rain jackets and groundsheets for example.
Buying a pack of bungee cords is a great investment, inexpensive, and multi-functional. A pack of assorted length bungee cords can make strapping accessories to the outside of your pack a breeze. A well-packed tent and groundsheet can sit easily on the top of your backpack and be well secured with bungee cords.
Your sleeping bag is another great accessory to bungee to your backpack, just make sure it’s in a waterproof sleeve first. It can be strapped above or below your backpack, it keeps it out of the way during the day and allows you to have more free backpack space for other essentials.
You’ll often find many other uses for your bungee cords too, from strapping down equipment in camp to making impromptu clotheslines to dry off wet clothes. Bungee cords really are essential to any hiker’s backpack.
Carrying your water is an essential part of hiking but taking advantage of nature and being able to source water from streams, rivers, or even ice while hiking can keep you topped up and hydrated. However, you need to ensure the water you source while hiking is clean and free of any harmful germs. A water filter bottle is a great way to make sure you’re drinking clean water.
Water that looks clean may in fact be full of contaminants or bacteria, and a water filter bottle offers the protection you need to keep on hiking and replenish your water supply on the go. Water filter bottles vary in price, but the top-of-the-range ones offer filters that can last for well over 3,000 liters of water before needing to be replaced.
Some water filter bottles use battery power to filter the water, others UV systems. Finding the right one that suits your needs will give real peace of mind, especially when you go further afield on your hikes. In some countries tap water is harmful to visitors unused to drinking it, so why trust a water source out in the field?
It’s a fact of life that things break when we least expect them to, and your hiking equipment is no exception. Usually, when you’re as far away from a store as possible, you’ll need to get a bit of DIY done, and having a multitool and pocketknife to hand could save the day.
There are many excellent multitools on the market, and some fearsome looking pocketknives, although a sturdy Swiss Army knife may do the trick just as well for the odd fix. Anything from repairing tent pegs to cutting down a broken strap, multitools are compact and extremely useful to have.
Survival kits often have everything you may require, and then some. Fishing line and hooks, multitool, knife, cable saw, and a torch are all often included. While this may be a bit overkill for anyone who isn’t a downed WW2 pilot trying to evade capture, a survival kit is a viable alternative to a multitool.
Survival kits cover lots of bases while being compact enough to be stored in your backpack and forgotten about until they’re needed. Plus, they look cool, and you can pretend to be MacGyver.
Hiking poles are incredibly useful additions to your backpack and are a great help to hikers going over rocky or uneven terrain. They offer added balance, and extra weight-bearing support, and help a hiker push on when the going gets tough.
Most quality hiking poles are able to be folded up into a compact unit that can be stored in a backpack, so there’s no reason at all why they shouldn’t be on your essential accessories list. Either telescopic or folding, hiking poles will take your hiking skills to the next level.
The other consideration apart from whether the poles fold up or are telescopic is the materials they are made of. The two main options are carbon and aluminum, with carbon being the more expensive of the two. Carbon poles are lighter, and therefore more expensive, but can be prone to breaking easier than a sturdier, cheaper, yet heavier aluminum hiking pole.
Your budget and the kind of hiking you propose to do should give you the right pointer as to which type to buy. A fast hiking trip over easier ground may suit the lighter Carbon poles, but a free-for-all over rocky terrain may be ideal territory for Aluminium poles.
Buy a pack of carabiners because you’ll need them, it’s that simple. A carabiner is the hiker’s best friend, they are multi-function accessories that will pay for themselves thousands of times over, and it’s recommended that you keep some to hand while hiking.
Used for anything from rigging up a pulley system to lift foodstuffs out of reach of bears, to using them as impromptu locks to keep items secure. Perhaps you’ll try rigging up a makeshift shelter, or simply use them for hanging extra equipment from your backpack. Carabiners are the Swiss Army knife of the backpack accessory world.
There are many quality carabiner packs on the market, and the prices vary depending on the materials used for construction. You may not plan on any rock climbing, and if that’s the case, you can buy carabiners that are perfect for utility. If serious weight carrying is required though, buy the best you can afford.
Space is always at a premium when you’re hiking, everything needs to be carried, and most of it is going to be in your backpack. Any way to create space is a huge bonus, and short of breaking your toothbrush in half, only taking one spare shoe, or dare it to be said, leaving things at home, a compression bag is the way to go.
These ingenious bagsallow you to condense clothes, sleeping bags, and many other items down into the smallest possible size they will get down to. This allows you to take get much more out of your backpack. A good compression bag can reduce the size of sleeping bag or clothes by up to 66%, making them an invaluable resource on an equipment-intensive hiking trip.
Many compression bags allow you to simply squeeze the air out of them, and often come with extra straps to tighten them down even further. This may sound a bit tedious to deal with at first, but the extra space that becomes available can allow you much more freedom when hiking, as well as keeping everything inside your pack secure and well packed.
An overzealous hiker could fill their backpack with accessories long before they ran out of things to buy, so carefully selecting the right ones for your needs is key to success. Essential hiking backpack accessories should be just that, essential, and with many of the selections on our list being compact yet extremely useful, your backpack has never been more well equipped.