Here are the essentials for a backcountry hunt.
Packing for a backcountry hunt can be difficult.
Here’s what you’ll need to get in and out safely and successfully.
1. A Good Pack
The first thing you’ll need for your backcountry hunt is a quality pack. Choose an internal or external frame depending on your preference and give it a good test run before your hunt. The last thing you want to happen is a pack failure when you’re carrying out a heavy load of meat and antlers.
2. Sleep System
Your sleep system should include a sleeping bag rated for temperatures lower than you expect to encounter, an inflatable or roll up foam sleeping pad, and the shelter of your choice. If you are trying to go ultralight and the weather is expected to be fair, a simple tarp may suffice, but a lightweight tent will serve you better in bad weather.
3. Water Purification System
Clean drinking water is a must on any backcountry hunt. Therefore, a water purification system is essential equipment. Gravity filters allow you to filter lots of water quickly, but add weight to your kit. If you’re trying to go as light as possible, consider using Aqua Mira drops. They weigh almost nothing and will purify a lot of water.
Food for a backcountry hunt should be as free of water as possible and high in calories, fat, and protein. The old standby system of oatmeal for breakfast, nuts, jerky, and power bars for lunch, and a Mountain House freeze dried meal for dinner is popular with most backcountry hunters for one reason—it works. You probably won’t be able to replace all the calories you burn on your hunt, but think of it as the world’s best weight loss program.
5. Lightweight Stove
Those Mountain House dinners don’t taste too good without the addition of some boiling water, and how can you hunt with a morning cup of coffee? To prepare these necessities you’ll need a lightweight stove on your backcountry hunt. Ultralighters can get by with a simple Fancy Feast stove, but a Jetboil or MSR pocket rocket will get your water bubbling quicker.
6. GPS Unit
Carrying a GPS unit will save you miles of walking. It also allows you to mark the location of game, promising sign, or your camp. Don’t go on a backcountry hunt without one.
7. Map and Compass
I know it seems like overkill to take both a GPS unit and a map and compass, but it’s really not. A map gives you a larger view of the area you are hunting. Paired with your GPS unit, your map and compass are even more useful. Plus, you never know when your GPS will run out of batteries or lose satellite reception. Having a map and compass will give you the peace of mind to hunt hard in any conditions.
8. Extra Socks
Happy feet = a happy hunter. A spare pair of socks is worth its weight in gold on a backcountry hunt. Change your socks daily and rinse the pair you’re not wearing while filling your water bottle. Hang the wet socks on the outside of your pack and they’ll be ready to go by the next day. You’ll be amazed at how far your happy feet will take you.
9. Trekking Poles
Walking miles with a heavy pack is hard on your legs. Give them some assistance by packing and using a set of trekking poles. They’re especially handy when you are walking up or down hills or crossing streams full of slippery rocks. They can also double as tent poles with some ultralight shelters.
10. Contractor Bags
The number of uses for a couple of heavy duty contractor garbage bags on a backcountry hunt is almost infinite. You can use them to line your internal frame pack to keep it from getting bloody, waterproof your sleeping bag stuff sack, or even use them as makeshift rain gear. The fact that they weigh close to nothing leaves little reason not to take some contractor bags on your next backcountry hunt.
11. Quality Knife
When you get an animal down in the backcountry, the work begins. A quality knife will help you cape out and disassemble your trophy with minimal cursing. Replaceable blade knives like the Havalon Piranta and the Gerber Vital allow you to keep working without stopping to hone your edge.
12. Game Bags
Once you’ve got that animal skinned and quartered you’ll need a set of game bags to keep your hard earned meat clean and dry. Old pillowcases can be used in a pinch, but a good set of synthetic bags like those made by Caribou Gear and TAGS will wick moisture from your meat and offer a higher level of protection than their inexpensive counterparts.
One more thing: Your Brain
The most important item to take along on your backcountry hunt is an understanding of how to get in and out of the woods safely. There’s no game animal that’s worth risking your life. A basic knowledge of survival skills, orienteering, and plain old common sense will ensure that this backcountry hunt is not the last thing you ever do. Thinking logically will also help you be more successful.