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Ultimate Hunting Pack Essentials You Need To Have This Season

Don't leave home without these gear items when headed on your next backcountry adventure.

Ultimate Hunting Pack Essentials You Need To Have This Season

Hunters spend countless hours during the off-season scouting their hunt units, practicing their marksmanship skills and increasing their physical abilities. Doing so inevitably swings the odds of success in their favor come opening day. Unfortunately, these preseason practices, while crucial, often push the importance of gear selection to the back burner. I’m not talking about big-ticket gear items such as your layering setup, weapon of choice, tent selection or bedding preference. Specifically, it is the smaller knick-knacks stuffed in your pack that add convenience, efficiency and safety to your days afield that are often afterthoughts.

Depending on your pursuit and style of hunting, the items stashed in your pack can vary drastically. However, there are several items that should hold a permanent spot in your hunting backpack regardless of where your adventures take you. Below is a list of several pieces of gear that should never leave your pack, as well as a few items that, while not essential in a life-or-death situation, will make your time in the woods much more comfortable.

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The Essentials

First-Aid Kit

The importance of having a well-stocked first-aid kit stowed in your pack cannot be stressed enough. Doing so can quite literally save your life, or the lives of your hunting partners. More common uses for the contents of your first-aid kit include treatment of a laceration from a wayward knife blade, painful bee stings, obnoxious blisters and sprained ankles to name just a few.

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Available space in your pack is always a valuable commodity so hunters often toe the line between having the necessities and conserving space. Many hunters choose to build their own first-aid kits, including items specific to their needs, while others prefer to buy a prepackaged kit. Both have their pros and cons. If you choose to go the latter route, Uncharted Supply Co. First-Aid Pro kit is a great option. The First-Aid Pro includes the essentials in a neatly packaged kit that fits in the palm of your hand.

If you choose to go with a prepackaged first aid kit, it never hurts to throw some form of a fire starter in there as well as a lighter or matches. Your first-aid kit is also a good place to keep any personal medication that you may need while on the mountain.

Headlamp

Many of the tasks that hunters perform on a daily basis are done during the twilight hours, necessitating a reliable headlamp. When purchasing a headlamp, there are several features to take into consideration including overall size, lumen power and beam length. However, all other features being equal, a headlamp’s battery life is most important to me as a hunter. Most really good headlamps on the market will have the ability to light up your surroundings for hours on end.

headlamp

There is a smorgasbord of good headlamps to choose from. Streamlights Enduro Pro USB headlamp is a great option that provides several light settings and can run for seven hours on its high setting or 48 hours on the low setting. The Enduro Pro also won’t break the bank with most major box stores selling them for around $45.

Knife

Ask ten different hunters what their go-to knife is for breaking down animals and chances are you will get ten different answers. But you can bet that every one of them is packing a knife into the backcountry. The knife debate amongst hunters in recent years has been the use of a fixed blade vs. replaceable-blade knife. Both have their pros and cons. Fixed blades are certainly more durable, but resharpening can be a hassle. Replaceable blades are scary sharp and easy to replace, but those blades can get expensive if you are burning through them.

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Personally, I use both on occasion, but tend to use my Havalon and Outdoor Edge replaceable-blade knives more often. As a guide and avid hunter, I break down more than 25 animals a year in the field. The ease of swapping blades to always have a sharp edge saves me plenty of time versus resharpening a fixed blade knife multiple times per season. But, to each their own. Figure out what works best for your needs and run with it.




Game Bags

Game bags come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and material. Mesh game bags are practical and lightweight but can only be used once rendering the necessity to purchase them often. A wide variety of very nice nylon-blend game bags have been released in recent years that are lightweight, durable, and breathable. These nylon blend game bags enable the meat to cool while keeping unwanted flies off your hard-earned trophy. Most importantly, they can be washed and reused many times over.

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Argali Outdoors makes a great set of nylon blended reusable game bags designed for a variety of hunting pursuits. The Argali game bag sets come with four quarter bags and a slightly smaller bag for the loose meat. All five bags are neatly stashed in a compact stuff sack for convenient storage in your pack. Kuiu also makes some great game bags that can washed and reused many times over.

Satellite Communicator

One of the many reasons that hunters head for the hills every fall is to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. However, the ability that we now have via a Garmin InReach or ZOLEO to communicate with our loved ones at home, regardless of where our adventures take us, is an extremely valuable asset to have in the field.

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Most importantly, the Garmin or ZOLEO acts as a lifeline in case of a life-or-death emergency. Since its inception, more than 10,000 individuals have been rescued after hitting the SOS button on their device, many of which were hunters.

Water Filter/Tablets

Water is heavy. Given the option to pack water in or take a filter or tablets, I will always choose the latter to conserve weight. Following the lightweight trend, my go-to water filter for years has been the cheap Sawyer Squeeze water filters. They are incredibly easy to use and take up minimal pack space.

Tablets are also a great lightweight option, but I tend to shy away from them as I am not keen on the lingering aftertaste most tablets leave. If you do choose to go with tablets, it is a good idea to take some sort of water flavoring to distill the unpleasant after-taste.

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Essential Non-Essentials

There are several items that, while not essential for survival, certainly will make your time in the backcountry more comfortable. One of these “essential non-essentials” that always find a way into my pack is a small package of wet wipes. At the end of a long day, it is refreshing to wipe your face and hands clean with a wet wipe, not to mention they double as a toilet paper alternative. Another “essential non-essential” that I always have with me is a small battery pack and or solar panel depending on how long I intend to be off the grid. As a hunter, I am constantly using my phone to look at maps, take photos, etc., and the ability to keep my devices charged in the backcountry is essential. Disposable gloves are also a common convenience item that hunters pack into the backcountry, but what goes in must come out. If you use disposable gloves when cleaning an animal, please have the courtesy to pack them back out with you once you are done.

With the fall hunts underway in the west, if you haven't already, now is the time to finalize your gear list. This is far from a comprehensive list of what gear is necessary to take in the backcountry, but incorporating these smaller gear items into your pack will make you a more effective hunter as well as could save your life or those that you are with.

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