Three Essential Backpacking Products You Should Upgrade

Natural Falls State Park OK Waterfall

When you can't depend on natural conveniences, take conveniences along. Photo of Oklahoma's Natural Falls State Park by Mary R. Vogt (taliesin) at

A backpacking or camping trip can be a grand adventure or a miserable slog through the backcountry. Many of the factors that can affect the quality of your journey are out of your control. Thankfully, the right equipment can make up for a lot of the hassle and mitigate most of the troubles you may encounter on your journey.

Hammock Tents

Hammock tents are the next generation of lightweight and versatile homes away from home. You get as much space as you would in a compact one- or two-man tent, plus enough room to stow your gear and rest comfortably, all in housing that can withstand the same treatment a tent can — and then some.

Hennessy’s Expedition allows
entry from below.

Hammock tents only need a couple of sturdy tie offs and you’re in business. They let you camp wherever a tent can go and where no tent can hope to serve. For swamp camping or rocky climbs, nothing beats one. Carry a regular tent in such conditions and you may be out of luck.

Eagle Nest’s SingleNest packs
to softball size.

In a hammock tent, you sleep off the ground — away from water and the discomforts of a hard surface. Most models come equipped with a rain fly and netting to keep out the bugs. With your tent securely mounted and the fly in place, you can sleep safely and soundly without any need to struggle in the night to secure your shelter against wind or rain. You ride out any storm in your warm little cocoon, swaying above any puddles, rather than lying in them.

Eagle Nest’s DoubleNest supplies
extra space for people or gear.

If you’re hauling gear that can’t serve multiple purposes, you’re wasting space. A spare hammock tent can stow extra gear safe and dry, and most hammock tents double as a convenient camp chairs during the times when you aren’t ensconced inside their compartments. Double hammocks can hold two people, and all versions allow you to participate in Leave No Trace camping.

Read more on hammock tents here.

Camp Showers

A camp shower is not a requirement, but it is often far more than a luxury item. A misstep or incident along the trail, a nasty stomach bug or a group camp can demonstrate for you the need for a shower option all too vividly. Whether you’re with intimate comrades or relative strangers, you may want — or need — to scrape off a layer of sweat and trail dirt after a couple of days out. Even if you disagree, your tentmate may have another point of view.

Backpack with Kindle

Instead of fouling that lovely waterfall, bathing in a frigid stream or trying to wash your whole body with a damp bandanna, carry along a portable shower system. Versions like the Zodi can heat and dispense hot water conveniently and economically and double as a camp stove, saving you room and weight.

Lightweight packers may want to opt for the solar shower bag systems to save ounces. Campers may want to go the extra distance and get an optional privacy screen, although a little distance, some respect and a well-placed tarp can do as well for a fraction of the cost.

Read my full camp shower article here.


Dependable, bright, versatile
spotlight from Coleman.

A dependable flashlight is practically a necessity if there is even a chance you will find yourself out on the trail after nightfall. Hardcore hikers may insist all they need is a little moonlight, but when you need to see the trail to avoid a debilitating injury while miles from help or to a skirt a deadly fall along the edge of a steep trail, you need to know your light will be there.

Runs on high for
29 hours using
only 3 AA’s.

A good light can be used to signal for help or to help you find that dry pair of socks deep inside your pack. Light is a comfort and a convenience most of us would put at the top of any pack list. Humans are visual creatures and we perform better when we can see what we’re up against. That may be a late night visit by a creature to your camp or the need to secure your gear in a howling storm.

Petzl’s TacTikka runs
120 hours, hands-free.

The modern mini flashlights, small Maglites and even keychain versions can do as much as the old fashioned D cell-munching beasts we used to have to haul along. And they do the job with a couple of tiny batteries in a light that weighs ounces and fits in your palm. These lights last over the long haul on a single set of batteries, and their reduced size and versatility mean you practically have no reason not to carry one. They drop easily into any small compartment, always at the ready.

Read more on mini lights and their uses on the trail here.

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