The Best Travel Gadgets for Backpackers? We got ’em!
Finding the best travel gadgets and accessories is always a fun mission. This goes for whether you’re looking for the essential travel gadgets for camping or just generally the best travel accessories for backpackers.
We asked ourselves what makes a “gadget” a gadget? Because we had thought that only things that are electronic are technically gadgets. So, we looked it up in the dictionary. Gadget: a mechanical or electronic device that is novel or useful. Well there you go. For this list then, we’ve included non-electronic items so long as they are handy for a traveller!
For us here at Penguin and Pia, we’ve learned a lot about how to pack – and we’ve gotten lighter and lighter as we go. We’ve learned that we really don’t need much gear for weeks on the road at a time in Europe. We bring with us the backpacking essentials, and we’re getting even lighter, shedding and changing gear as we go.
That said, the best travel accessories for Europe might differ from the best ones for Asia, for example. Things like climate, culture, and how long you are backpacking will change the gear you bring with you. In either scenario, it’s key to have useful travel accessories and not ones that will slow and weigh you down! So, if you’re ready – go go gadget!
Portable Solar Powered Battery Pack w/ Lights
If you’re going to be in the wild without plugs and power, a solar-powered rechargeable charger might be for you! This one is super durable and comes with two USB ports for charging two devices at the same time. It’s rated for 10000MAH – meaning there’s lots of juice to charge your things. The indicator lights tell you when it’s recharging under the sun or charging your electronics. There are two bright LED lights so you can use it as a flashlight as well.
It should be noted that you should charge the device before heading out on your trip. The solar charger is for topping up the power in the charger and not for fully recharging the entire thing. That said, it’ll do in a pinch hanging off your bag if you’re walking the sunny trails all day and want to top it up to charge your phone later! It also has a tiny compass and hangs easily – so that’s neat!
Ultralight Grayl Water Bottle + Filter
This water bottle can literally be a lifesaver. The patented design and filter mean that you can turn basically any water source into drinking water in about 15 seconds. Not bad! The Grayl has been recommended by lots of backpackers and campers and is certainly a good investment if wherever you are travelling to lacks sources of clean drinking water. Don’t forget to purchase filters – but they are good for 300 usages so you will be covered for quite some time!
Collapsible Vapur Reusable Water Bottle
If your gear is small and space is limited, a bulky water bottle can be the thing that ruins the perfect packing job. Luckily, there are alternatives. Bag water bottles are reusable and can be folded or rolled small when they aren’t full – perfect for taking onto an airplane of popping into your bag in a hurry. The Vapur is a decent brand for collapsible water bottles with a secure lid, wide opening for refilling, and they are BPA-free.
Rechargeable Anker Travel Power Pack
Similar to the one above, this power bank is good for recharging your electronics but doesn’t have a solar back-up. This is very similar to the one we have and it works great. This model is a 20100mAh so that’s quite a bit of juice! You’ll be able to charge your devices multiple times with a single charge of this external battery. For us, it would be more than enough to charge phones and GoPro if we’re on the road and using lots of power on a particular day or trip. It also comes in black!
Honestly, as far as external batteries go – there are so many different brands and sizes out there. Just think about your usage levels, compare it with others, and buy accordingly. Rule of thumb is the bigger they are the more power you’ll have BUT the heavier they can get. Not by much – but if you’re a light traveller, you’ll know that every little thing does start to add up!
Waterproof Multi-Purpose Ground Cover
This multi-purpose ground cover is just a fancy word for blanket or tarp because it has so many uses. This is used for camping, for at the beach, for many, many other things. It’s waterproof, sand proof, and puncture resistant. If you need it for a rain fly, there are loops in the corners for quick tie-ups, and the thing fits into a tiny bag for easy storage and packing.
It also comes in a bunch of awesome colours and is big enough for 4 people comfortably. Honestly – it’s like everyone needs this!
Credit Card Sized Multi-Tool
A multi-tool is great if you’re backing or camping and you need an essential item (lens or knife) but are short on space and don’t want to bring lots of random items with you. This credit card sized tool comes with a knife, lens, compass, tweezers, a toothpick, opener, and more. Just be sure to pack this in your checked luggage if you fly because you can’t take a knife on board a plane. if you are just camping then you are probably fine!
Now, this might now be for a backpacker on the road, but it’s certainly a useful gadget for a cyclist, sailor, camper van travellers, or just regular campers who need a mechanical fix so we had to include it. This multipurpose tool has almost everything you’d need to assemble, tighten, loosen or secure things from bike parts to camper vans.
It’s made from high-grade metal which makes it super strong and surprisingly comfortable. Since it’s wearable, you don’t have to necessarily have to pack it away if you have lots of uses for it in a short amount of time. Give it a try for the handy backpacker in your life!
Quick Drying Towel
If the list was a condensed version to the absolutely “essential” items – a quick drying towel would be on it. Even when we rent Airbnbs, we still bring our quick drying towels. Sometimes they serve as a beach towel. Other times, we’ve stayed at a hostel because of an unexpected accommodation change and needed to have our own towels.
Quick-drying towels are a lifesaver.
In many scenarios, they don’t take up too much extra room and they are usually machine washable – making cleaning them a breeze. Eric has had his for 4 years and it hasn’t missed a beat, while Lisa had an even smaller one for her hair. Both work great on the road!
Also called a “collapsible” daypack, these are backpacks that are super light and fold into their own little pouches. This makes having another bag in your main bag simple. The downside with any of most packable daypacks is that since they are so light and thin they rarely offer any back padding or support.
It’s just a bag with a zipper. Nothing more – but man do they come in handy! We use the Herschel collapsible and we love it. It makes a great daypack for the beach in Montenegro and we also used it for grocery runs in Croatia. Lisa is also wearing ours it in the cover photo of this blog post. Eric bought it in San Francisco in 2015 and it’s been a great bag.
Handheld Rechargeable Pocket Fan
Ever finding yourself wishing you had a fan to keep you cool? We have the answer. This rechargeable USB fan has two speeds and it very light for packing away into your backpack. It even has a little stand so it can rest on a table if you don’t want to hold it. Might be perfect for Asia is you’re travelling in the humidity!
Inflatable Neck Pillow
This is one of those problems (having a sore neck) that we constantly deal with on airplanes or trains but don’t do anything about. We’re still in the old frame of mind that travel pillows/neck pillows are too bulky for our needs.
In actual fact, we’re learning more and more that there are new versions of travel pillows and decent alternatives that can give our necks comfort on long journeys without being too cumbersome for our luggage. So, that said – we’re honestly looking more and more into a neck pillow like the one above. Technology and design just keeps getting better – which is pretty cool! Easy to inflate, easy to deflate, easy to store.
Portable Mini Travel Speaker
It’s never a bad idea to have portable music on hand for a long car ride, a camp site, or a hike through the woods. Most good portable speakers are small and USB powered. This means that you can give them a quick charge before you head to the beach, to the campsite, down to the dock, wherever. This one connects to your music device using Bluetooth or with an audio cable.
The Rokono is a well-regarded brand with 10+ hours of playback time on a charge. We have a mini-speaker up at the cottage in Canada and it’s a great addition to our summer set-up.
This particular clip is the Lulabop and, while it’s not rated for climbing, it can hold up to 50 pounds or weight. This can come in handy if you’re camping and creating a shelter out of tarp and small line or even for hanging your bag in a bathroom stall in an airport where there is no hook available! Just think of all the possibilities!
Reusable Plastic Cord Ties
It’s no secret that because we all travel with more electronics these days, the charging cords for them can be a hassle. That is why, along with the travel cord organizers themselves, having a few “ties” that can be used to keep things tidy are essential.
Enter – the GearTie. These rubber coated twist-able ties have a wire inside that makes them strong and reusable. The rubber on the outside means they don’t slip once you twist the ends to secure whatever you are securing. The ties are super versatile – meaning they have lots of uses. Notably, these smaller ones are great for wrapping up cords like headphones.
GoPro Hero 5 Session
This is the exact GoPro Eric got for Christmas a few years ago and it’s been our main video camera ever since. Check out our Penguin and Pia YouTube Channel is you want to see it in action!
We have to admit, we love the camera BUT because of the size of the camera (small square) as opposed to the usual size (small rectangle) it’s made finding gimbals/stabilizers that fit it really difficult. It’s been a bit of a setback considering we’re trying to up our YouTube game but we will order one that fits when we have the money to purchase a proper one! For no, we make due just fine with our little camera. Eric also has this exact floating handle with wrist strap and it’s a great attachment for security and water shots!
Compact Hikenture Utensils + Opener + Case
If you’re on the go and always hungry (us at most times) then you might find it handy to have utensils at the ready. We’ve certainly been in train stations in Europe and purchased food that would have been easier to have with cutlery (think about pasta salads).
Well, with a multi-cutlery tool like the Hikenture, you’ll be covered anywhere you go. This is especially handy if you are camping since you only need one small tool for all the utensils. This one also has an opener attached. Just watch this tool if you are flying because technically the knife edge is still a knife and security might take it away from you in your carry-on luggage!
Waterproof Durable Flashlight
There is absolutely nothing worse than not having light when you need light. This could be at a camp site outside or a hostel dorm room trying to find something at night. Having a good source of light is essential in travel. This durable flashlight might be for you if you are camping and need one that is water resistant and has a functional strap.
Eric carries a mini light like this and it works great for his travel needs. If a physical flashlight doesn’t work for you, perhaps a high-rated headlamp that leaves your hands free works for you needs?
Tablet Grip Handle
Embracing the culture of tablets we have going on now, it’s understandable that they will serve a purpose on long flights, trains, buses, and road trips in the car. Want to watch something but don’t want to hold the tablet with two hands? Enter the grip handle!
This handle is intended for a tablet, has a universal grip size, and is very stretchy. The sticky adhesive is strong but leaves no residue if you remove it to put the handle on another device. Pretty handy gadget, no pun intended. They make smaller ones for smartphones and they help with just basic stability when you’re running or on-the-go. So, there are even more uses than just travel-related!
Smartphone or Tablet Holder
Similar to the travel gadget above, this is a great little travel accessory for on a plane or train when you’ve got a tray table in front of you and you want to watch something. Simply bend the flap to the correct position and angle to stand up and hold your phone or tablet – and you’re done! Watch whatever you want.
When you’re done, simply straighten it out again and put it back in your bag. You’ll surely have the people behind and beside you jealous for this “no-hands” approach to watching your favourite movie or TV show.
Travel Adapter With USBs
Since lots of smaller gadgets are powered and charged via USB these days, so it makes sense to grab a travel adapter that has lots of USB slots for charging multiple items at once. We like this travel charger with USBs and it makes life a breeze.
This is especially important when we are changing countries often and they all have different plus shapes. There’s even a backup fuse that will blow to prevent damage to your devices IF the voltage is too much in the country you are in. Pretty handy.
Noise Isolating Earbuds
Having good quality music and eliminating or reducing the background noise can be a life saver in a hostel, on long bus rides, or on airplanes. Some people don’t like the fit of these rubber inserts – since they go quite far into your ear. However, this design is how they work best so expect noise isolating earbuds to be similar everywhere you go.
This pair from Symphonized has a crafty wooden shell, multiple sized inserts, eternal volume changer, carrying bag, and clip. What else do you need from a pair of earbud headphones?
Samsung USB Stick
Having travelled around Europe the past few months, one of the lessons Eric has learned is that his hard drive is good but too bulky for his needs. And it’s true – one good USB stick replaces a bulky hard drive these days.
Since there are so many data sticks out there these days, we like the one from Samsung. This one comes with a ring for a carabiner or keychain so you don’t lose it. If you have lots of media to move (photos, videos, music) we recommend getting a 3.0 USB – because it’ll transfer faster. This one is also good because with a solid casing it is unlikely to break and get dust/sand into smaller openings and make the USB stick useless. It’s waterproof, shockproof, and dustproof.
SanDisk Memory Card + Adapter
We have memory cards for our big cameras (Nikon and Fujifilm) and use them for transferring photos to our computers. Eric only trusts his SanDisk Micro 64 GB and adapter. Other brands have broken and he’s lost photos. Years later, SanDisk keeps on rolling. Enough said!
Small Gear Organizers
We’ve already talked about travel cord organizers that are more for sorting out cords and electronics. This kind of organizer is for lots of other objects like pens, memory cards, and other loose objects that need a pouch or pocket in your bag.
This case from ProCase does exactly that. Rolled up it doesn’t take up too much space. Once you unroll it, there are lots of different pockets, pouches, and mesh sections to sort and secure small loose items. That can be REALLY handy if you the kind of person with lots of smaller gear items but only one backpack with minimal extra pockets for separate storage. It’s also water-resistant on the outside so you can throw the thing in a pool but a little rain on your backpack won’t harm your gear.
And there you have it – some of the best travel gadgets for backpackers that we could find. For us, this list was all about function. If it wasn’t a really good product with a legitimate usage, then we didn’t include it! In the future, we’ll write about funny traveller gifts or items that are more novelty since there are definitely some that caught our eye.
What do you think? Do you own any of these products? Do you have a go-to gadget that you can’t live and travel without? Let us know and get in touch – we’d love to share notes and provide the best info possible.
As always, Happy Travel Gadget Waddlin’,