9 Necessities for Backpack Hunting

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by Jordan McDowell 

If you’re in need of a mental reset, few options can compare to backpack hunting. It’s just you, your instincts as a hunter, and the great outdoors. Instead of bringing all the fancy equipment in your truck, why not get back to the basics? It’s a great way to polish some prepper skills.

Backpack hunts can be a commitment, and you should never leave your house without the essentials. Here are a few items you won’t want to forget. 

1. Clothing for all temperatures

The weather can change at a moment’s notice, and you need to be ready. As you pack camouflage clothing for your hunt, make sure you have layers available. Include a short sleeve shirt, long sleeve shirt, coat, and hat. You should also bring several pairs of socks. This article talks about layering properly.

While out on your hunt, add and remove layers based on the temperature outside. In most cases, it’s easiest to start out with multiple layers and then gradually remove one after another until you’re comfortable. Don’t forget to pack your dirty clothes in airtight containers at the end of each day to prevent animals from catching your scent. 

2. Equipment to start a fire

There’s nothing like ending the day in front of a campfire. On a backpack hunt, a campfire isn’t just a source of comfort. It also provides warmth, light, and a way to cook whatever meat you bagged along the way while also warding off predators. Pack a hatchet to cut down branches to use as fuel, a set of waterproof matches to start the fire, and a few pieces of newspaper to get the initial flame burning. 

3. Backups for your hunting equipment

Nothing spoils a hunting trip more so than having your equipment malfunction. To stop your hunt from being a total bust, pack extras of everything. That includes a second gun or bow and ammunition. You should also pack extra of any accessories you’ve practiced with, such as a scope or laser sight. While all of this additional gear can pack on the pounds, it will spare you from weeks of disappointment. 

4. A first aid kit

Even minor injuries can doom a backpack hunt. You should always head out into the woods with basic first aid kit supplies. This should include basics for wound closures such as Band-Aids, an antibiotic solution such as Neosporin, and an ace bandage or brace for sprains and broken bones. You may also want to consider packing kits for specific types of injuries, such as burns or snake bites, depending on the environment where your hunt is taking place.

5. Plenty of water

It may sound obvious, but it’s still worth saying: You should never go into the woods without packing enough water. Plan to pack several bottles of water for your backpack hunt. It’s also wise to include electrolyte power in your backpack just in case it’s a hot day and you begin to feel dehydrated. 

Of course, water can quickly weigh you down. Another excellent addition to your bag is a portable water filter like the Sawyer Mini.

6. A way to communicate 

No one plans on getting lost in the woods, so it’s always a good idea to prepare as if it’s a possibility. Since cell phone reception out in the woods is typically spotty at best, it’s wise to have a backup plan ready. There are a number of satellite messaging devices built specifically for hunters who choose to go off the grid. These devices allow you to easily get in touch with friends and family even when you’re in remote areas. Another option could be a portable ham radio, as explained in this article.

7. A sleeping bag

A sleeping bag will ensure you sleep soundly, no matter the weather — as long as you buy the right one. When choosing a sleeping bag for a backpack hunt, you need to factor in weight and compressibility. A sleeping bag that is too heavy or too unwieldy can add a lot of extra weight and make the hike to your hunting and camping spots extremely challenging. As you’re shopping for a sleeping bag, search for one that is lightweight while also having a temperature rating suitable for the climate you’ll be camping in.

8. A tent 

Much like a sleeping bag, a good tent can protect you from the elements. When choosing the right tent for your hunting trip, you need to balance weight with size and protection from the weather. Your tent will be one of the heaviest items in your backpack, so you should aim to buy a lightweight or ultra-lightweight tent. Just make sure it will stand up to rugged conditions if needed.

Here’s an article about choosing a tent.

9. The right backpack

We saved it for last, but the backpack itself is a critical choice. As you review your options, weight, space/capacity, and durability should be among the top factors you consider. You could be carrying up to 100 pounds in the backpack, so you’ll want one capable of carrying quite a lot of weight. It should also have special features allowing you to store your bow or rifle easily. 

Here’s an article about choosing the right backpack.

Embrace the experience of backpack hunting

Backpack hunting isn’t the easiest way to hunt, but it’s one of the most rewarding. You’ll be amazed at how relaxing a few extra quiet days in the woods can be! Give it a try — you’ll be happy you did. 

Have you ever gone backpack hunting? What gear would you add to the list here? Do you have any advice about it?

Let’s discuss it in the comments section.

About Jordan McDowell

Jordan McDowell is a writer and second amendment rights advocate. As a proud advocate for responsible gun rights nationwide, he writes about recreational hunting as well as the latest developments in state and national legislation. Check out his work at https://swordsofnorthshire.com/

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • So this isn’t about prowling the aisles at the camping store… no, this is way out of my purview. Interesting, but I can see difficulties in getting the game out of the woods, depending on the size of the animal (deer?) and distance from the trailhead.

  • I’d be hesitant to hunt the larger Big Game like Mule Deer, Elk or Moose on a solo Backpack Hunt. Field dressed weight for the Mule Deer can run from 300 to 400 lbs. Elk 700 to 1200 lbs (fully mature bull), and Moose are well over 1,000 lbs.
    White Tails on the other hand, average in the 120 to 180 lb range, unless it’s an old big buck, which could run over 200 lbs. dressed.
    Small Game, though, is definitely a doable, except for the weather. Here in Colorado, Small game seasons run from Oct. 1 through the end of February, and weather here, especially in the mountains, can turn on you in short order.
    A buddy of mine and I used to do a little Backpack hunting in the late fall/early winter for Snowshoe, Cotton Tail Rabbits and Squirrel. In our late teens before life and steady jobs put an end to those excursions. It was fun and challenging.
    Small Game is confined to the Winter months to cut down on parasites the little furbearers carry. Fleas and Ticks are an issue, so gloves are a must. Rabbit entrails should be buried/discarded, as they carry worms year round. If the Liver has white spots, bury the carcass, as that’s a positive sign the animal has Tularemia, and it’s unsafe to eat, even cooked. Warbles (from Bot Fly Larvae, can be picked out of the flesh, before cooking. Though unsightly, they do not effect the meats flavor. Rabbits are very, very lean, almost zero fat, so some condiments to season the meat for flavor isn’t a bad extra to pack.
    That brings up a point. I wouldn’t go without taking some food with me. Freeze dried or easy prep, because you might not get any Game you first day, or the entire trip duration, and keeping your energy up is crucial to a successful hunt.

  • No mention of wild birds. Long ago my father used to take his shotgun to where pheasants and wild ducks regularly hung out. That was a reliable source of meat for family Thanksgiving dinners. It was also an opportunity to teach us kids the does and don’ts of bird butchering. We also learned to chew very slowly so as not to break a tooth on bits of buckshot still in the cooked meat.

    Regarding bigger game than a backpack can handle, there are lots of game carts on the market. Here is just one example of several different carts with capacities, features, and prices.

    https://under-the-open-sky.com/best-deer-cart/

    At some point you have to make the decision as to whether the size of your target animal is such that you can easily pull an animal-loaded cart back to your place of origin, or at least back to your not-too-distant vehicle (over possibly rough ground), or whether your combination of physical ability, cart capacity, animal weight, rugged ground, and the distance to your vehicle … is a combination of factors better passed up for a more manageable deal.

    –Lewis

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