The old saying “work smarter, not harder” is not just a good motto to live by when working in a regular job, but it also comes in handy when out of the trail.  As many of you will know, I am a complete geek when it comes to gadgets and gismo's but there are some items in my pack which are sensible as they have multi-functions.  Why take three items when one item that is less in weight will do the same thing?

Here are my top ten multi-purpose backpacking items:-

#1 – Phone

I thought I would start with the obvious one.  On my first Camino trek, I took along my guidebook and a Kindle. I soon learned that every ounce counts and that my phone would easily replace these items.  Simply take photos of the pages of your guidebook and keep them in your favourites on your phone for easy access, or download the various applications that will help you navigate your way through the route.  I found that reading on my iPhone was not as bad as I expected it to be.  With the Kindle app, I had access to all of my kindle books at my fingertips.   A smartphone is also a fantastic tool for booking accommodation, accessing your bank, using as a camera and video recorder… the list is endless.

#2 – Trekking Umbrella

Wow!  I love my trekking umbrella as it has many functions.  I only wish I had purchased one before crossing the Pyrenees in the pouring rain, which was actually quite miserable.  Here are other reasons to hike with an umbrella:-

  • Umbrellas provide more ventilation than any rain jacket
  • Umbrellas weigh less than any rain jacket
  • Umbrellas work in snowstorms
  • Umbrellas protect you against the sun
  • You do not need to carry as much water when hiking in the hot sun as you will not sweat as much if under an umbrella.
  • Umbrellas provide a micro shelter – if you are walking across the Meseta on the Camino then you will appreciate any bit of shade that you can find.
  • Umbrellas can be used as a stick, to steady yourself when crossing streams, or fighting off stray dogs.

#3 – Needle and thread

I always carry a needle and thread with me on all trips.  They are not only handy for patching up holes in socks or other items of clothing/gear, but they are incredibly handy for dealing with blisters.  Check out the video below to see how to use a needle and thread to manage those blisters!

#4 – Buff or Bandana

There are so many uses for a buff when hiking that I actually take two!  I use the mission control cooling buff (fab bit of kit that you snap three times to keep cool) and a regular buff for all other purposes.  I use my spare buff for:-

  • Wiping my brow
  • Padding my shoulders when I ache from my pack
  • To hold a hot cup so that my hand does not burn
  • Snot rag (sorry!)
  • To dry dishes
  • To mop a wet area
  • Clean my glasses

#5 – Hand Sanitizer

It is important to carry hand sanitizer with you as it has quite a few purposes.  Not only can you sanitize your hands before eating or using the bathroom but it is a great little gadget for:-

  • Give your phone a good clean with a small dab of sanitizer on a soft cloth (or buff!).
  • Clean your glasses or sunglasses, and boy do they get dirty on the trail!
  • Dab a small bit on a spot/zit.  It works wonders!
  • Removes any sticky residue from clothes
  • Sanitizer stops mosquito bites from itching!  Yes, really!
  • Emergency deodorant
  • Disinfect minor wounds in an emergency

In addition to my top five items, there are other items that seasoned hard-core backpackers would recommend that I have not yet had the opportunity to explore.

#6 – Trekking Poles

I use Nordic Walking poles to hike with, however, many seasoned backpackers out there will use trekking poles.  Trekking poles can also be used as a replacement for tent poles which helps reduce your weight.

#7 – Sleeping Mat

If you are considering walking with a frameless backpack to help reduce your weight, then a sleeping mat will come in handy to help provide support for your back.  It is also a handy item to be used as a “sit pad” or “arse pad” when on the trail.

#8 – Spork

I have never really got on well with sporks (a spoon/fork in one), however, some backpackers swear by them.

#9 – Duct Tape

Duct tape is a brilliant multipurpose item and is great to have at hand on longer hiking trips. Duct tape can be used for emergency gear repair and waterproofing. It can also be used as a plaster to protect you from blisters or used as a makeshift bandage.  Many hikers wrap duct tape around their hiking poles rather than taking a whole tapereel with them on the trail.

#10 – Tent Pegs

If you are hiking with a tent then you will not need to bring along a trowel to dig cat holes (to poop in the woods).  One day I will test this out for myself, but I am not really counting the days until that happens!

Hike smarter not harder!