If you’re looking to go on your first bowhunt in the backcountry, then there are some things that you must bring along. Whether you plan on camping out for one day or multiple days, having the proper gear to have on hand is important for your well-being, health, and safety.
Since most hunts in the backcountry don’t last too long, hunters don’t want to invest a ton of money into their trip, so with these items, you will be able to hunt and protect yourself effectively while you are out there.
Some may recommend high-tech gear or even items that you don’t necessarily even need, but going overboard on expensive products is not often necessary to have in order to have a successful trip. With that being said, I have compiled a list of all the relatively inexpensive things I use so that you can get through your trip just fine. 20 items may sound like a lot to some, but in my opinion, are bare essentials to have while hunting in the backcountry.
Unfortunately, when hunting out in the backcountry, you don’t have the luxury of being able to use the restroom in the comfort of your home, so having toilet paper, sanitary wipes, and a toothbrush is good for keeping your hygiene up to par while you are on your hunt.
Bringing a small bucket to handle your business in can be difficult as it is probably too bulky to pack into your bag, so finding a safe and comfortable area near wherever you set camp up at or in the woods amongst the animals will probably be your only option.
2) Slip Resistant Boots
Depending on what the weather conditions are looking like when you hunt, hunting grounds in the backcountry can be very slick. Rain, ice, and snow can make climbing up small hills a challenge and can make traveling on foot dangerous.
If you plan on doing a lot of hunting or walking for long distances at a time, then it is recommended to pick bring along a nice pair of slip-resistant boots. They will allow you to cover more ground easily and will keep you safe by stopping you from slipping and falling, and potentially causing you to sustain serious injuries.
Keep these in your bag and you will find how much easier it is to get around.
Keeping a good skillet on hand can and will serve you well with cooking up your meals. Because freshly killed game meat can hold some pretty nasty stuff such as tapeworms and parasites, it is best not to eat this until after putting your meat through the cooldown process.
So, bringing along some food from home can help you with keeping your hunger satisfied. If you don’t have a skillet used for hunting yet, it is best to pick up a non-stick one so that all your food is not sticking to it. Having that and a grate to cook it on top of is all you’ll need for successfully cooking your meals over a fire. If you’re experienced with using your resources to create a platform for your skillet, that’s fine, too.
Insects, animals, and the chill of a late night breeze can all be frustrating and uncomfortable to deal with if you are not protected with some sort of cover overhead, so having a tent is an absolute must when going hunting.
In addition to that, it can protect you from rain, be a storage space for your personal belongings, and can help keep you warm by trapping heat within it. Nobody likes to sleep exposed when hunting in an area with animals, so having a tent with you will help you get through the nights with little to no issues from any of these problems.
This one is pretty obvious, but food is one thing you will definitely need to bring, no questions. Sometimes hunting doesn’t always go the way you want it to and even if you caught something, you generally aren’t eating it right away. So, having food that you brought from home can prevent you from going hungry while you are hunting.
Bowhunting can take a lot of energy out of you, so bringing along hearty and fatty foods such as bacon, meat, and foods that are high in protein and fiber will help you get full and satisfy your hunger after a long hunt.
Don’t forget to bring meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Throw in some snacks to for in between. You’re going to be away from any type of resources for picking up food, so be very generous when packing your bag with it.
Water, water, water. I can’t stress that enough. When preparing for your trip, you are going to want to bring lots of water. Water makes up most of our body and you need it in order to function and perform properly.
When hunting in high temperatures or even when just walking for great distances at a time, the body loses a lot of water through all of the sweating that happens because of this, so having a ton of fluids to replace that is very important in keeping your body healthy and regenerated for your hunt and for your health.
In addition to all of the water you should be bringing, having a water filtration straw to have with you while you’re traveling on foot can be great in the situation in which the water supply you were carrying ran out.
7) Backup Clothing
There are a million things that could get your clothes dirty when you’re hunting. Gutting an animal, splashing up mud, or just simply becoming too sweaty, to name a few. Just in case any of these things happen, you’ll want to have a backup of extra clothes so you can change quickly.
Smelly or dirty clothes can attract insects and animals and should be discarded from your body right after getting back to your campsite. Sealing your clothes away into an odor-concealing bag and swapping them out for fresh ones will probably be the best idea.
It is not difficult to get dirty multiple times throughout your trip, so having a couple outfits handy will benefit you the duration of your hunt.
8) First Aid Kit
Accidents are prone to happen during your hunt, so having a first aid kit in your bag can help with minor injuries that occur while doing so. Unattended cuts can result in infection and can even cause death if deadly parasites enter the bloodstream.
Animals carry all kinds of diseases, so having a first aid kit to seal up an open cut or womb will be a lifesaver and will help stop infected blood from getting into it while field dressing an animal. Make sure your kit is full of supplies and up-to-date for full effectiveness.
Animals can be very aggressive during certain times of the year and can even be deadly in situations in which they are hard to properly handle. Your bow is a very powerful weapon that can take down even the strongest and toughest of wild game, but when stuck in a position where you have to act fast, the bow may not always get the job done.
Bringing along a small handgun on your trip for backup just in case you are faced with a deadly situation is important for keeping you safe. Many game animals in the backcountry, including bears and moose, will bring a human down with ease and should be taken care of properly in the event in which you don’t have much time to react.
10) Extra Gear
Just like with clothes, you’ll need some backup equipment. Whether you lose an arrow or run out of juice with your flashlight batteries, you will need extras. When backcountry hunting, running out of something completely is probably one of the worst things that could happen. This is because there are usually no places near for you to replenish your supplies.
Having a few extra of everything is always recommended and can stop you from having to pack up and leave your trip earlier than you may have wanted to. In my opinion, there are never enough supplies to have on hand when deep into the isolated area of the backcountry, so bring as many items as you can comfortably bring so that you know you’re more than covered if you need to replace anything.
11) Sleeping Bag
Hunting grounds can be cold, hard, and extremely uncomfortable to lay on and tents usually don’t provide protection against this unless extra equipment is bought, so having a sleeping tent in your tent can ensure you are staying comfortable and getting a good nights rest when you put everything up for the night.
When my children were younger, they used to take turns playing around inside of a thin Lion King sleeping bag that I bought for them, but if we were to use that for hunting, it wouldn’t have cut it. With that said, you’ll want to get your hands on one that is heavily padded and will provide you lasting comfort throughout the night and keep thinner ones at the house.
Trust me, your body will thank you later for it.
12) Fire Starter
In weather conditions in which winds are high and rainfall is heavy, starting a fire can be extremely difficult. At some point in life, most of us outdoorsy people have tried our hand at trying to start a fire at least once. Unfortunately, though, it is not always as easy as the people on TV or videos make it seem.
Mother Nature can play a huge factor in how quickly we are able to get a flame going and between the weather and the hassle it takes, it is just not worth it. Starting a fire is a cool thing to be able to do if you have free time on your hands, but if you are hungry and you want to make a meal quickly, this is not something that most people want to bother with too much.
A good fire starting kit can help cut your fire starting time in half and can save you from banging your head against the ground out of frustration while trying to start it.
Unlike public hunting grounds, there is usually a lack of signs and distant markers that help you know what direction you’re going in or where you’re going, so having a compass with you can help you maneuver your way through the backcountry hunting grounds and assist you in getting back to your campsite safely.
Getting lost is not an unlikely thing to happen while hunting in the backcountry and can result in you walking even further into the woods or even cause you to dehydrate due to exhaustion from traveling too long so having a compass with you can eliminate the possibility of this happening.
14) Cell Phone
Depending on how deep you decide to go into the backcountry, cell phone signal can be poor when hunting so far away from cell phone towers, but it is good to have one on hand so that you are able to reach out to anyone or anyone is able to reach out to you in the case of an emergency.
Aside from hunting with a group, contact with human life can be limited and should always be taken into consideration before any kind of hunt. Letting friends and family know where and when you’re leaving and having a cell to use will always be one of the best things to have in regards to getting outside assistance with any medical issues that you or your fellow hunting buddies may experience during the trip.
15) Portable Space Heater
Whether you’re hunting in the summer, winter, or fall, temperatures can get pretty low depending on the time of the day, so having something with you to keep you warm and get you through those chilling nights is mandatory to bring along for a nice and toasty hunt.
Not having a heating device can make cold, chilling winds unbearable and can even cause danger if cold enough. Winter weather can bring along temperatures in the negatives and can cause potential frostbite if hands, feet, and other body parts are not thawed off.
Bringing along a portable, battery-operated or rechargeable space heater can get you through these harsh conditions and can stop you from freezing from the cold and frigid temperatures after a long hunt.
Tarps can be used for more than some might think. They are handy for field dressing game on, protecting meat from rain and moisture, and keeping any hunting gear that you may have with you dry. Keeping items and game meat dry is probably one of the most important things to worry about while on your hunt, so having a tarp to provide that needed protection is an absolute must.
Hunting clothes can get smelly and grow mildew if wet for long periods of time and wet game meat can harbor the growth of bacteria, so having something to cover them up and keep them protected from the effects of rain and moisture will be very helpful for you.
17) Safety Flares
I don’t recommend hunting in the backcountry at night since most areas can be unfamiliar and getting help if accidents happen can be difficult, but if you decide to take your chances and you feel that you are able to utilize equipment effectively and work your way through the deep woods safely, then make sure to pack up some safety flares.
Safety flares will highly increase your chances of being spotted if you’re ever stuck in a sticky situation and extremely handy with providing you with a backup light source if you happen to need one.
Pulley’s can be extremely useful when it comes to hoisting your game meat up. Brush piles can be effective with drying your meat out but are not nearly as beneficial and efficient as hanging it up. Hoisting meat will keep animals out of reach of your meat, allow it to be more exposed to high winds, therefore drying your meat out quicker, and allowing you it to be more easily accessible when tending to it.
When deep into the woods, you will need a map. Navigation without one can seem impossible in unfamiliar areas, and for your safety, should be avoided at all costs. Rain and snow can easily ruin paper maps by making trails unreadable and dependency upon one much harder, so investing in lamination for your map or buying one that is already waterproof is highly recommended.
20) Merino Wool Socks
These particular socks are great at keeping feet warm by providing great insulation and are able to soak up more moisture than cotton socks. They are great for bowhunting because a lot of hunters travel long distances on foot and work up a bit of a sweat inside of their boots while doing so.
Damp feet can make foot odor even stronger if a lot of moisture is accumulated and can also make them colder in certain weather temperatures. Having these socks to keep your feet dry and warm will eliminate a lot of the smell and will keep your toes nice and warmed up while you sleep at night.
Backcountry hunting can be rough, so having the bare essentials to make your trip go smoothly is an absolute must. Survival, hunger, and comfort are all things you should take into consideration before a hunt and having a checklist to go over the items that you have packed is important before you leave.
Just to be safe and sure that I have everything I need for my trip, I will go over my list several times throughout the days or weeks leading up to the hunt just so I can make sure I am not leaving anything behind.
Missing one thing can make a hunt even harder and should be well thought out and checked so that you don’t end up getting to your campsite just to find out you forgot something. Be very generous with your gear and make sure you have more than enough of each item to safely and comfortably get you through your trip.