I’m a minimalist at heart and try to keep my pack as light as possible for the specific hunt I’m on. However, there are essentials that I have in my pack on every hunt and these items include:
- Raingear – most of my hunts are in Wyoming where we rarely get rain all day nor rain for several days in a row, BUT in September 2019 we had a day and a half soaker and the raingear was essential! In addition, raingear can double as decent wind protection and protection again wet morning dew when hiking through tall grass or brush. I use the Sitka Dewpoint pants and the Sitka Thunderhead jacket.
- High quality game bags – I tailor the amount and size of game bags to the hunt I’m on, but always have them with. Bags from either Caribou Gear or T.A.G. Bags are worth the money AND one of the bags can double as a pillow case and/or a bag for hanging food in bear country.
- Replaceable-blade knife – My favorite is the Outdoor Edge Razor-Lite EDC due to its durability and lightweight. I carry one extra blade with since these babies hold their edge so well. Most of the time I can bone out an entire animal (including elk) with one blade before it needs to be sharpened or replaced.
- Coffee cup – as I get older, coffee is essential in the morning. My morning routine is to get up, lay down a bear bait from last night’s supper, boil water for coffee and brush my teeth. I’ve found the YETI Rambler 18 with the Hotshot Cap works great and fits easily in my pack.
- Possibles bag – I use and old Eberlestock mesh bag that one of their dry bags came in and keep my odds and ends in, such as a pen for validating my carcass tag when I harvest an animal, small sewing kit for emergency repairs, bow string wax, alcohol wipes for cleaning optics/camera lenses, extra batteries for headlamps, hunting licenses, etc.
- First aid kit – I have a kit I’ve compiled over the years that fits in a quart Zip-Loc bag and includes small bandages, larger cloth bandages, gauze, athletic tape, Tecnu First Aid Gel, and so on.
- Emergency/Fire starter kit – This, too, I keep as simple as possible and I include waterproof matches, magnesium strike stick, cheap lighter (although I did just start toting around the new plasma lighter from Pyro Putty which is USB rechargeable), Vaseline-rolled cotton balls, emergency whistle, and an emergency foil shelter that weighs next to nothing.
I like to keep things pretty basic on my hunts and of course different hunts require different items but here are six things that are always in my backpack no matter what I’m hunting or where I’m hunting it.
- Sitka Flash Shelter: 8×10 – This super packable shelter not only helps keep me out of the rain and sun I can also pitch it wherever darkness may find me for a simple and efficient “Coyoting Out” camp. When your day’s wanderings take you too far from the truck or camp just find a nice dry spot to pitch the Sitka Flash, layer up and catch some Z’s mountain man style!
- Hornady Ammunition: Whether I’m miles deep in the backcountry or running and gunning on the plains there’s always one extra box of Hornady ammunition in my pack. I know what you’re thinking, no way I’m toting all that extra weight around.” Well, for me that weight is added security… a rifle is just a club without ammo and I’m of the always prepared mindset.
- Outdoor Edge Folding Saw: Speaking of trading weight for security or usefulness… this super lightweight little saw has helped me cut wood for fires and shelters, breakdown game and build meat poles in the backcountry. It’s worth the few extra ounces in my pack.
- Sitka Cloudburst Rain Gear: I cram both the Jacket and Pants into my pack before season starts and they live there until I unpack it when the season is over. In the West I bet my rain gear only sees a few hours of use in an entire season but when it’s needed it’s really needed; rain, snow, wind… you just never know when you’ll wish you had some quality rain gear in your pack.
- Caribou Gear Game Bags: I carry an entire Wapiti kit in my pack at all times, it doesn’t weigh very much and it ensures that I’ve got bags for hanging, packing and protecting meat at a moment’s notice.
- Snickers Bars: Yup, that’s right, those little lumps of goodness are always with me to ward off the “hangry” diva on long grinds into and out of the backcountry because “you’re just not you when you’re hungry!”
Todd’s Back At The Truck Bonus – I always have some beverages and snacks iced down and waiting to impart refreshment in a YETI under lock and key in my rig. A long hike out of rugged country is quickly made better when you don’t have to wait until you get to town to celebrate a bit.
I have found I like to have everything in my pack I will need on a hunt. Even if it’s a quick play I want to have these items at all times. Brian Barney
- Sig Oscar 8 27-55 x 80: I have fallen in love with the clarity and quality of this scope. I like to do my walking with my eyes and this scope allows me to pick apart distant terrain. Its also so handy at field judging animals when I find them. I don’t go anywhere without my scope.
- Tyto TI: This light-weight replaceable blade knife goes everywhere with me. This has been an absolute game changer for me. I can process an entire elk in an hour with this one knife and a couple blades and it weighs next to nothing.
- Sitka kelvin pants and kelvin light jacket: I have these on every hunt. These are my insulating layers and have saved my bacon multiple times. Whether on a vantage, at camp or just freezing cold, these are the ticket. I can also stay overnight with these layers if need be and I actually consider them a safety item too.
- High mountain seasoning jerky: Okay this meat treat is always with me. I make my own jerky and it is a major staple to my hunts. I have some elk meat in the dehydrator right now as I type this. HMS does an awesome job with their seasonings and have a great variety.
- Sony A7ii R: I always have my camera with extra batteries and SD cards. I love capturing the hunt through photograph and film and always opt to pack the extra weight.
- Evolution outdoors Hyde broadhead: I always have a couple spare broadheads with me. I am backpacked in most times and if I get a miss, I want to be able to trade out the head for a sharp on and still have a full quiver.