Hiking is a pretty basic activity. A pair of boots, some reasonable clothing, and a few other essentials are all you need to hit the trail for a day (backpacking not included). Simple and easy, sure, but it doesn’t have to be like that. There are plenty of little gadgets and useful tools that can make your hike (or an unplanned situation) more fun, safe and bearable. Here are ten low-cost products that might just find their way onto your next adventure.
1) Everyone loves fire. Day hikers may never have the need, but in a pinch Light My Fire’s Swedish FireSteel Mini ($7.95) can provide the spark for ambiance or an emergency. Run the striker (or knife) along the magnesium rod and you’ll have enough spark to fire up dry tinder or paper (hopefully not your map!). Tuck it in your pack for use in any weather.
2) Map symbols and writing can be small so use the Carson TriView Magnifier ($8.00) to reduce your eyestrain. Three separate lenses can be used to create magnifications of 5, 10, or 15 times.
3) Find north and know the temperature with REI’s Therm-O-Compass ($9.50). It is designed as a zipper pull for a jacket or pack.
4) Cord Locks are found on lots of hiking and camping gear and here is your chance to double up their use. The Black Crater Cord Lock Light ($10.00) is your simple Cord Lock, but with an LED light built in. Small and lightweight, it is a simple backup to your flashlight or headlamp.
5) With a blade, screwdrivers, and a bottle opener, the Gerber Curve Knife ($16.16) can handle everything your old knife did, but the built-in carabiner will keep it safe with you and not lost in the forest.
6) With seven tools in one small package the Highgear Adventure Tool ($20.00) negates most of the other items in this article. You get an LED light, compass, digital thermometer and clock, whistle, signal mirror and a magnifying glass. It weighs about an ounce and stands just over four inches.
7) Light up your life in an unusual way. That wide mouth water bottle you carry isn’t just for water anymore. Screw on the Guyot Designs Firefly Bottle LED Lamp ($21.95) and you have a lantern unlike any other. The electronics are protected from the water (or other drink) so this top can be used in place of your other one.
8) Is that a deer…or a bear? Big binoculars are great, but can be heavy and bulky. To keep that pack small and light, try the Brunton Echo Pocket Scope ($31.20). Its 7x magnification will answer my question and enable you to better enjoy your surroundings.
9) If you leave your iPod at home, you are certain to hear the forest symphony: rushing streams, singing birds, distant thunder or a howling wolf. If you simply can’t leave it behind, you might want to consider the OverBoard Pro-Sports MP3 Case ($39.95). It protects your player from water and other crud. It is ideal for water crossings and storms. For those clumsier hikers it even floats.
10) Last, but not least (but most expensive) is the Brunton Atmospheric Data Center Wind Gauge ($67.40). This is for someone who can’t seem to gather enough weather information. It tracks wind speed and temperature, calculates wind chill and has all the functions of a good digital watch.
I was recently jabbed by a mosquito so hiking season is officially here. It doesn’t matter whether you go close to home or far away, just grab your pack and hit the trail. Be safe, carry the essentials, Leave No Trace and have fun.