What goes in your hunting pack will largely be determined by two factors: the weather and the length of your hunting trip. If it’s a day hunt during bow season or early rifle, there’s a good chance you won’t need much more than the clothes on your back, a snack, a knife and some optics. However, if you’re planning a multi-day hunt in December you’ll need to add warm clothes, shelter, and some survival gear to your packing last. The tips below will help you think what you do and don’t need for your trip and how to load your hunting pack most efficiently.
Tips for Packing Your Hunting Pack
The biggest consideration when loading your hunting pack is how to keep it organized. Things that you’ll need throughout the day should be readily accessible, while stuff you only need for field dressing or camping can be left closer to the bottom of the bag. You also need to pay attention to weight distribution. The lightest gear should be packed towards the bottom, while the heaviest should be near the middle, where the straps can distribute the weight better. The following sections will cover what should go in your hunting pack and where it should be placed for maximum convenience and pack stability.
The first decision you’ll need to make about packing your gear is what to put it all in. This is largely determined by the length of time you’ll be out in the field as camping necessitates significantly more gear than a day trip. For short hunts, look for a pack with a capacity around 25 liters (1500 cubic inches). This is enough space to store food, optics, and some extra ammo. For lengthier trips, consider a 75 liter (4600 cubic inches) bag, which should give you enough room for the tent, sleeping bag, extra clothes, and food.
If you’re just out for the day, the only shelter you’ll probably need is a waterproof jacket, but for multi-day hunts you’ll want a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. For each of these, you’ll want the most lightweight version you can afford, think down sleeping bags and tents with a relatively small footprint. If you’re hiking with a buddy, this is the perfect opportunity to split up some of the gear; a fair tradeoff would be that one of you carries the tent, the other carries the optics. All of this stuff can go on the bottom of your hunting pack; you won’t need it until the end of the day, so it doesn’t need to be very accessible.
How much survival gear you bring will depend on how comfortable you are with risk. At minimum though, you’ll need a first aid kit, firestarter, water purifying tablets/filter, and flashlight. It’s okay to put most of these items in the bottom of the bag, as you’ll only need them in an emergency. Don’t make them so inaccessible that you can’t find them when the time comes though (and when you run out of daylight).
Most hunters don’t change outfits, even on longer trips (though a change of socks and underwear wouldn’t hurt), but you will probably want to dress in layers and store them in the pack when they’re not needed. For colder weather, you’ll also need to consider a hat and gloves. Store you’re clothing in the middle of the backpack or in exterior pouch – you never know when the weather might change.
Food and Water
If you’re only going out for the day, you’ll just need some snacks and possibly lunch. For longer trips involving camping, you can carry dehydrated meals, which don’t take up much space and weigh very little. The best place to store food is either in the very top of the pack or in the “wing pockets” on the hip belt (if yours has them). Food needs to be readily accessible as you know you’ll need it at some point during the day. The same goes for water, which is why one of the better ways to carry it is with a hydration bladder. Pulling a water bottle out of your pack involves taking the pack off and operating noisy zippers. A hydration bladder lets you take sips from a hose whenever you need to. Most backpacks have a pouch for the bladder, so you won’t need to worry about it mingling with the res of your equipment.
For one day hunts, this will make up the majority of the gear in your hunting pack. How much you choose to bring will be based on your style of hunting and how much weight you want to carry. Binoculars, hunting knife, rangefinder, camouflage facepaint, spotting scope, extra ammo, and game calls are all good things to have with you, but each piece of equipment will weigh you down and make you less mobile. In any case, this items should be packed towards the top of the bag so they’re easily accessible during the hunt.