Pack Light: What to Pack in a Hunting Backpack

No one wants to lug around a heavy backpack for hours on end. But what do you pack in your hunting backpack? It’s always best to pack light, but what are the essentials?

This blog post will discuss what items need a spot in your hunting pack and why!

The first items to pack are the most important. First, you need a good hunting backpack! The smallest of details can make or break your hunt (literally). If you pick one that doesn’t fit properly, is poorly designed, or lacks good storage space – it will weigh down on your back and cause fatigue. Here are some essential features to look for in a hunting backpack:

Straps: Make sure the straps are adjustable, durable, and comfortable. You don’t want it digging into your skin or slipping off your shoulders mid-hunt! Additionally, make sure they have extra padding on top of the shoulder blades. That is where most people feel any weight, so it’s vital to have extra padding.

Compartments: A hunting backpack should be organized with compartments for each item you pack. If not, things can get lost or cause discomfort while hiking around in the bush! It is also helpful if your bag has a compartment that zips closed at the bottom (like an external frame pack). This way, you can fit your rifle or bow securely in place without worrying about anything falling out.

Waterproof Finish: Every good hunting backpack should have a water-resistant finish! When the weather turns on you, being able to keep things dry is vital. You don’t want your sleeping bag soaked with rainwater when it’s time to rest.

Lightweight: A hunting backpack should not weigh more than 25 pounds, regardless of the size! If you pack too much weight into your bag, it will wear down your back and cause fatigue – no one wants that mid-hunt! You also want a lightweight pack because some animals can hear 50+ pound packs rustling around in the bush!

When it comes to picking a hunting backpack, these are critical things to look for. Once you’ve chosen one that fits your body and has all of these features – it is time to select the items you will pack into it! 

Hunting Backpack Checklist

The following are the absolute necessities. It’s best to turn around and go home if you leave any of these things behind.

Water-There’s nothing more important than water for a hunting trip, irrespective of the length. Pack at least three liters of water, preferably more.

Food-Pack enough food to last you the entire trip. Make sure it is lightweight and full of nutrients to avoid getting weak or sick after eating it.

Matches/Lighter-Since bush fires are standard during this time of year, make sure your matches are waterproof.

Flashlight-Pack a flashlight, even if you’re not expecting to use it! You never know when the sun will set or your equipment will break down, so having one can be life-saving.

First Aid Kit-Your first aid kit should contain bandages of various sizes, gauze for wounds and burns, alcohol wipes or antiseptic, painkillers/anti-inflammatory cream, and sunscreen.

GPS-If you are planning to go somewhere far off the grid, it is best to have a GPS tracker on your person at all times! This way, there will be no trouble locating you if something goes wrong (e.g., missing game). If possible, pack two in case one break.

Knife-A knife is necessary for the bush when it comes to the skinning game, cutting branches for a fire, or self-defense. Make sure yours has all these features: a durable handle, sturdy folding blade, and safety sheath!  

Related Article: Best Knife Sharpener For Backpacking

Extra Clothes/Sleeping Bag-Pack a different set of clothes and place them in a watertight bag. You never know when you might get soaked or need to double up on your clothes due to the weather! Additionally, pack an extra sleeping bag (or warm blanket) if something happens to yours.

Bandana-You can use this as a potholder while cooking over a fire, a filter when drinking water, a headband, or a tourniquet.

Sunscreen-Pack sunscreen because you never know when the sun will peek out! It’s essential to protect your skin at all times of the year, especially in the summer months. Don’t forget to reapply every two hours and after swimming/excessive sweating!

Compass-It’s always a good idea to keep track of your location in the bush. A compass is what you need for this!

Extra Ammunition-It isn’t wise to pack all your ammunition into one bag because it will weigh down on you and make noise if something happens (e.g., animal attack). Keep some extra rounds tucked away in your pocket at all times.

Extra Food-If you get stuck out in the bush overnight, it’s nice to have extra food on hand! You never know when something might happen and make it impossible for you to return home (e.g., broken leg). Pack some high-protein snacks like chocolate bars or trail mix.

Weapons-Of course, you don’t want to pack your weapons into the hunting backpack because they are too heavy. But make sure there is a place for them in your vehicle, or bring along something like this: folding rifle/shotgun case!  

Rain Gear-Pack rain gear just in case the weather changes. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!

Notebook/Journal-Make sure you have a place where you can jot down any game sightings, exciting things about the landscape, or other information that isn’t easily forgotten. You never know when something will come up, and it’s essential to have a record of it!

Binoculars-If you’re hunting from far away, pack binoculars so that you can see the game more clearly. That means less wasted ammo and more successful hunts overall!

Cooking Equipment (Overnight Trip)-If you plan on bringing down the game, pack cooking equipment so that you can prepare it. Make sure to include a pot for boiling water and pans for frying!

Fishing Rod-If your hunting trip is in an area where fishing is permitted (e.g., lake), bring along a fishing rod so that you don’t go hungry or go home empty-handed.

Cell Phone-In case of emergency, pack a cell phone in your hunting backpack! You never know when something might go wrong, so it’s always best to be safe than sorry. Pack an extra external battery if the one you have runs out of juice while you are out on the trail.

Gloves-Pack gloves for your hands to avoid blisters on them while walking through the bush or handling game.

Pack of Gum-Chewing gum will keep your mouth moist and prevent Laryngitis (if you are hunting in silence). It also reduces hunger pains!

Hat/Sunglasses-If there is one thing you should never forget while hunting, it’s a hat and sunglasses! Make sure the hat is durable because of possible rain/wind.

Camo Masks-If you plan on hunting in a group, pack camo masks so that there is no confusion as to who belongs where.

Waterproof Jacket-Pack waterproof jacket just in case the weather changes unexpectedly. It’s essential to be prepared for anything!

Extra Socks/Underwear-It can sometimes take longer than expected for your hunting trip to come to an end. Pack extra socks and underwear so that you don’t have to go running around in your dirty clothes!

Game Calls- Pack game calls in your hunting backpack if you know that the animal will likely come through.

Trash Bags-Pack trash bags in your hunting backpack if you plan on disposing of any game. Ensure to bury the bag and fill it up with dirt so that animals can’t smell anything suspicious!

Headlamp-Pack a headlamp in your hunting backpack if you don’t want to get caught up in the dark. It’s easy to misplace things, and trip over something, so make sure you have good visibility!

Range Finder-If you plan on hunting something far away, pack a range finder so that you know exactly how close or far away you are.

Weapon Cleaning Kit-No one wants to get blood all over their clothes! Pack cleaning equipment just in case you bring down the game.

2-Way Radio (Walkie-Talkie)-Pack a 2-way radio if you want to make sure that everyone in your hunting group is on the same page.

Satellite Messaging Device-Pack is a satellite messaging device if you don’t want your loved ones to worry about you. They will know that there is nothing to be worried about as long as the tracker responds within a specific timeframe. It’s also suitable for letting people know what time you’ll be returning so they can prepare dinner!

Survival Guide-Every hunter needs one of these! It includes tips on avoiding dangerous animals, what plants are edible, and other helpful information.

Maps (Paper/Printed)-Pack maps of the area if you plan on venturing away from your hunting area. Make sure to highlight specific areas so you don’t get lost!

Toiletries-Pack toiletries for yourself just in case you are out longer than expected. It’s good hygiene practice to have these available.

Wind Detector-Pack a wind detector if you think it’s going to be a windy day. 

Hiking Boots/Sneakers-If your hunting is done at lower altitudes, pack hiking boots for yourself. If your hunting is done in mountainous areas or near water, pack sneakers that won’t weigh you down!

Bear Spray-Pack bear spray if you plan on hunting in areas where there are high concentrations of bears. If you find yourself face-to-face with a bear, this will keep the animal at bay while you either kill it or run away.

License, Zip Tie & Pen-Pack your hunting license in case you get caught by law enforcement. Pack zip ties if you plan on catching/killing the animal yourself. Pack a pen to fill out any necessary paperwork!

Night Pack Preparation

If you plan on hunting at night, pack a small bag that is easily accessible. Pack some extra ammunition and enough rations for several days so that nothing can go wrong!

Waterproof/Wind-Proof Matches-Pack waterproof matches in case your regular matches get wet or blown out by the wind. Ensure to store them somewhere safe where they won’t get wet (e.g., in a plastic bag).

Knowledge-Never forget knowledge! The more you know about your surroundings, the better off you are in hunting games. So make sure that you study maps and learn everything there is to know about the area where you plan on going hunting!

Small backpacking tent/bivy-If you find yourself in danger or alone on the hunt, pack a small backpacking tent or bivy so that you have at least a place to spend the night.

Personal care items (toiletries, medicines)-Pack the bare essentials, so you don’t have to worry about getting sick or injured on your hunting trips!

Flashlight/Headlamp with extra batteries-Pack a flashlight and headlamp (with extra batteries) if there is a chance of you having to go out into the night. Also, pack spare batteries just in case.

Travel bow case/weapon scabbard-Pack your weapon in a sturdy travel case to avoid damage. It also helps you transport the gun to and from the hunting area.

Small first aid kit-Pack a small first aid kit if you plan on going out into the wilderness! It is always better to be safe than sorry.

How to Pack a Hunting Backpack

-Pack your hunting gear starting with the heaviest items first.

-Layout everything you plan on packing so that it is easier to see what goes where!

-Pack extras like gum, bandages, and extra ammo in easily accessible places (e.g., side pockets). It will save time if something unexpected happens.

-If you are going on a short hunting trip, you can pack your gear in either duffel bags or backpacks. If it is an overnight stay, we recommend using the best hiking backpack so that you don’t have to set up camp and unpack all of your items!

-Pack extra batteries for electronic devices (e.g., cell phone) if the one you have runs out of juice while you are hunting or setting up camp!

-Pack your rain gear last so that it’s easily accessible/you don’t forget it at home if there is a possibility of rain. Make sure to pack extra socks and underwear as well!

-Pack extra nonperishable food (e.g., dried fruit) if you don’t plan on packing a cooler for your hunting trip and know that it will be an overnight stay. You can also pack camping meals like instant noodles, dehydrated soups, and other items to make mealtime easier!

-If you are camping overnight, pack extra snacks for when you’re hungry but don’t want to cook. Also, make sure to bring enough water for cooking and drinking!

-Pack your hunting backpack in a way that makes it easy to carry around with the weight evenly distributed throughout the bag.

Hunting Backpack Tips

-Pack a whistle in your hunting backpack so that you can make noise if something goes wrong during the hunt.

-Pack extra batteries for electronic devices (e.g., cell phone) if the one you have runs out of juice while you are hunting or setting up camp!

-Trim excess straps from camping gear to avoid getting caught on branches or other objects while you are hunting.

-Pack a small, high-powered flashlight in your hunting backpack if you’re going to be out after sundown. Bright flashlights will scare away animals but can draw attention from them as well!

-Pack extra nonperishable food (e.g., dried fruit) if you don’t plan on packing a cooler for your hunting trip and know that it will be an overnight stay. You can also pack camping meals like instant noodles, dehydrated soups, and other items to make mealtime easier!

Things to Avoid When Packing Hunting Backpack

-Avoid packing too many clothes. You won’t be able to wash them while hunting, so packs just enough for the duration of your hunt!

-Pack items that are lightweight and compact in your hunting backpack. For example, you should leave behind heavy boots if they will weigh down your backpack significantly or fill up lots of space.

-Avoid packing too much food in your hunting backpack. Pack just enough for the duration of your hunt!

-Avoid carrying lots of water so that you don’t have to keep stopping during a long hike/hunt. It will not only wear down your energy but also reduce the chances of spotting the game while on the move, which is the whole point of going hunting!

Wrap Up

Hunting is one of the most popular pastimes for Americans. It’s a way to spend time with friends, enjoy nature and get some exercise all at once. But few things are worse than lugging around your heavy hunting backpack for hours on end. We hope this blog post helps you pack light but be prepared! 

If it’s been a while since you’ve packed up your gear, take our list as inspiration, or use these tips before every hunt to make packing easy. 

What items would you include in your hunting backpack?

 Let us know below!


Related Articles:

How To Pack A Backpack For Travel

What To Put In A Survival Backpack

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Z Hashan

Z Hashan

I’m Z Hashan, an entrepreneur, but more importantly (well, to me at least), a traveler.

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