25 Incredible Hiking Hacks Every Hiker Should Know

Line your backpack with a trash bag for added waterproofing

Using a trash bag as a liner in your pack offers extra protection in case of a rainstorm or stream crossing gone wrong. If you don’t end up getting wet, you’ll have an extra trash bag.

Use your headlamp to turn your water bottle into a lantern

Turn your headlamp on and strap it to your water bottle to create a lantern. This trick will provide you with glowing ambient light without needing to pack any additional gear.

Add a wine cork to your keychain

Adding a cork to your keychain makes the keys float, allowing you to find them more easily and quickly if you drop them in the water. The same technique can be applied to other small valuables to help you avoid losing them when crossing a river or stream.

Waterproof your map, pack, and other gear

Waterproof your map and other gear to protect them from the elements. You can do this by laminating the map in plastic or spraying items with a commercial waterproofing spray that is safe for use on paper. Doing so will help ensure you stay dry and avoid getting lost, even in harsh weather conditions. 

Turn a pill bottle into a mini first aid kit

A first aid kit is an essential item in any hiker’s backpack, but traditional first aid kids can be bulky and take up a lot of valuable space. Pack essential first-aid items like bandages and disinfectant into a pill bottle to save space while remaining prepared for potential cuts, scrapes, and other injuries.

Use a candle, soap, or lip balm to fix a zipper that’s stuck

From your pack to your pants, a stuck zipper can be annoying on hiking trips. Rub an unlit candle, soap, or lip balm along the teeth of the zipper (on both sides, if possible). Jiggle the zipper and repeat as needed until it runs smoothly and freely.

Use shellac to Waterproof your match sticks

Waterproof or water-resistant match containers are always a good idea, but you can protect your matches even further from any potential moisture issues. Waterproof them with shellac, nail polish, candle wax, or turpentine for extra security in case of a heavy rain shower or tumble into a stream.

Mark your trail with biodegradable tape

Getting lost can quickly turn a pleasant hike into a terrible one. Pack some biodegradable trail tape to help find your way back in case the trail is poorly marked. This tape is usually brightly colored to ensure you’ll be able to see it even in conditions with low visibility.

Put important items like your phone and other electronics in plastic bags

Protect items like matches and electronics from any water damage by sealing them inside small resealable plastic bags - even when it’s not raining. If your water reservoir leaks inside your pack or if you fall into a river when on the trail, you’ll be happy you took the extra step to keep your phone and matches dry. This technique should also protect electronics from dirt and dust.

Pack duct tape around items like lighters to save space

Saving space and weight in your pack is important on all hikes and especially crucial on backpacking trips. Instead of bringing a whole roll of duct tape, wrap lengths of tape around items like lighters or water bottles or buy small, hiker-friendly rolls. You can also wrap some duct tape around your trekking pole so you always have it handy.

Use duct tape to treat blisters

Duct tape is an exceptionally versatile item and can be incredibly helpful when it comes to hiking. In a pinch, you can use duct tape to protect blisters. Cover the original dressing with the tape and make sure it doesn’t stick to any problem areas. Better yet, prevent blisters and hot spots from forming in the first place by investing in a quality pair of hiking socks like Silverlight socks.

Mark your water bottle to stay hydrated

Use tape, stickers, or a permanent marker to divide a clear water bottle into regular sections based on recommended water consumption in the weather you’ll be hiking in. Label each section with times of the day to ensure you’re staying hydrated. Doing so will also help ensure you’ve packed more than enough water for the trip and help you ration your supply.

Use duct tape to trap ticks

This is one of the many great uses for duct tape while hiking. Tuck your pants into your socks and wrap duct tape around the area where they meet, sticky side out. The tape will trap any ticks that try to crawl up your legs. Bring along a tick key to quickly remove any ticks that manage to latch onto you.

Bring a bandana to use as a water filter and more

Bandanas can help protect you from the sun, cool you off when it’s hot out, and keep rocks out of your boots, but did you know they can also filter water? You’ll still need to purify the water before drinking it, but bandanas do a great job of filtering out the sediment.

Use binder clips to attach wet clothes to the outside of your pack

Pack binder clips in case any of your clothes get wet on the hike. You can clip the wet clothes to the outside of your pack to help them dry faster and keep them from getting the rest of your gear damp.

Use deodorant, vaseline, or lip balm to prevent blisters

Friction is one of the key causes of blisters. Before putting your socks on, lubricate your feet with something you already have in your pack, like deodorant, vaseline, or lip balm, to limit friction on problem spots.

Repackage food to save space and reduce waste in the backcountry

Prepackaged foods come with a lot of unnecessary packaging, and there is excess air in snacks like bags of chips. Repacking the food into plastic bags or other containers will save space in your pack and cut down on the amount of trash you need to carry out with you.

Learn to use your fingers to estimate the remaining daylight

If you want to see how long you have before sunset, fully extend your arm and count how many finger widths fit between the horizon and the sun. Each finger is approximately 15 minutes, but always err on the side of caution and allow more time than you think you’ll need to get back before dark.

Use a pillbox to organize spices

Just a little bit of spice can liven up meals when hiking, camping, or backpacking. Take along a few of your favorite spices in a travel pillbox to enjoy flavorful meals without adding bulk to your pack.

Make DIY firestarters

Coat cotton balls or pads in vaseline or wax and pack them in a small plastic bag to start a fire. They should burn about 2-3 minutes depending on their size and how much wax or vaseline you’ve coated them in. Corn chips and dryer lint also work well as firestarters and are easy to bring along on a hike.

Use a vegetable peeler to make single-use soap leaves

Turn any bar of eco-friendly soap into the perfect size for single use with a vegetable peeler. Pack the soap leaves on your hiking trip to eliminate the messy soap problem many hikers have faced.

Attach a piece of sandpaper to the top of your match container

This trick will allow you to light your matches easily without having to search for a surface to strike them on. Make sure you have packed strike-anywhere matches.

Put a dry tea bag in stinky hiking boots or trail runners

When you get back from your hike, throw a couple of dry tea bags into your shoes and leave them there for a day or two to get rid of any bad odors. Add some newspaper to absorb moisture and help the shoes dry faster so that they’re ready for your next hiking adventure.

Create single-use packets for antibiotic ointment with a straw

Cut a straw into pieces and seal one end by pinching it with pliers and then melting it with a lighter. Fill the opening with antibiotic ointment, toothpaste, or another cream or ointment and then seal the other side. Add these to your space-saving first aid kit.

Turn an old Altoids tin into an emergency light source

This pocket-sized piece of gear is an excellent addition to your survival kit. Cut cardboard into strips according to the depth of the container and pack it in with the exposed side facing up. Melt wax and pour it into the container, making sure to cover as many of the cracks as possible.

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