hunting gear list

The Complete Essential Hunting Gear List: What Every Hunter Needs to Own and Pack

The call of the wild, it’s strong in some and you are one. It is tempting to grab your rifle and a couple of Snickers, jump in the truck and get on the hunt. Hold on just a minute and take the time to make a list of what you need for your next hunting adventure.

Better yet just print this article off. We have done all the thinking for you and prepared a detailed hunting gear list that is guaranteed to keep you safe, happy, and prepared on your next hunting trip.

The Hunting Gear List

“Be prepared,” is the Boy Scout motto, but “Be prepared and enjoy the hunt,” is the hunting man’s motto. When compiling this list of must-have hunting gear we wanted to make sure we included not only survival gear but also the gear that makes the hunt more comfortable and enjoyable.

These additional items are often forgotten by the less “hardened” of hunters that have learned from years of experience out in the wilderness. Don’t wait to learn from experience, trust us when we say “you want to put these items on the list.”

The Bare Essential Hunting Gear

We should start with the basics. Going hunting usually means going far away from any convenience store. What your body needs to survive and keep healthy goes on top of the list.

Backpack

A backpack is first on the list for good reason. Don’t underestimate the importance of a high-quality pack. All this gear is heavy so do your back a favor and pay the extra money for a metal-framed hiking backpack. Golden tip: military backpacks are ideal. A World War II soldier’s standard-issue military pack is built to last the war so you can be sure it will serve you well.

Water

The body requires 6-10 cups of water each day to keep the body healthy. However, water is heavy and if you are going to be on the hunt for several days the weight adds up quickly. Know that land has water sources.

Important: Always filter or boil water from natural sources such as streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes. That being said make sure you have a water filter and/or water treatment additives such as iodine tablets to ward off nasty bacterial infections.

Food

A man has gotta eat, right? Take three meals a day and a little extra just in case. Meals ready to eat (MRE) are an excellent choice for an easy quick solution to meals while you hunt. Dried fruits, nuts, and protein bars are a good easy staple for in-between meal snacks to keep your energy levels up.

Clothing

Dress for the weather and pack for all possible weather conditions. Basically, you want to stay dry and warm when out in nature. Wear layers of clothing and have thermal gloves and a hat for winter days and cold nights. Even if the forecast says no rain have your rain gear ready.

Boots

Take care of your feet. Keep your feet dry and warm. Did we mention it is important to take care of your feet? Seriously though, a good water-resistant pair of hiking boots is BOLD on the list of essential hunting gear.

Toilet Tissue

We know, you’re welcome. It is a rookie mistake to neglect to bring tissue along for the trip. Sure leaves and water work, butt…

For the Long Haul

Going out on the hunt for days or even a week? Prepare to heavy your pack a little to sustain yourself. Hunting for days and living out in the wild, known as backpack hunting, is a completely different game than day hunting.

You likely will divide your days into time sections something like this:

  • morning hunt (5:00 am – 10:00 am)
  • mid-day rest (1:00 pm – 4:00 pm)
  • evening hunt (4:00 pm – 8:00 pm)
  • night rest (8:00 pm – 5:00 am)

Your schedule will, of course, depend on the game your hunting and the night/day cycle of the sun in the area. Unless you are forward tracking game deeper into the bush each day and need to stay mobile, setting up a base camp for your mid-day and night rest is the best way to go. Put these on the list if you need to stay a night or longer in the bush:

Shelter

Bring with you a little home away from home. A tent is ideal for reliability and convenience, but if you are looking for a real wilderness survival experience you could get away with a tarp, some rope, and an ax. Building a basic temporary shelter can be fun and save you some weight in your pack. Your shelter back at base camp will not only keep you warm in dry in the night but serve as a good place to keep your extra ammunition cool and dry during the day.

Sleeping Gear

Get off the cold and wet ground. A good waterproof drop tarp or foam mattress will do the trick. If you are looking for a little bit more comfort invest in an inflatable air mattress.  Bring an insulated sleeping bag and an additional blanket.

Cooking Kit

A warm meal doesn’t have to be sacrificed when hunting. A small gas burner makes for a convenient hot meal, but a pot on an open campfire is all you truly need to prepare your meals. Don’t forget a fork and a spoon.

Light and Fire

At night you need light. A battery-operated headlight is a handy hands-free solution for walking out of the camp to relieve yourself or check out that noise in the dead of the night. LED flashlights are awesome because of their high energy density. A power bank and a USB LED lamp will keep your shelter lit many a night.

Making fire for warmth and cooking is survival 101. Important: Keep your lighter, lighter fluid, and strike-anywhere field matches in a Ziploc bag and waterproof container.

Entertainment

Although staring at trees and the sky can be Zen, you might want to consider bringing something to fill the hours of time sitting and waiting for your shot and for the hours spent back at base camp.

Nothing against a traditional book, but to save weight you could put thousands of books and magazines on an E-book reader or your smartphone. Behind on your favorite TV shows or never got around to watching that movie your buddies are talking about? Now is a good time to bring along some time killing technology.

Pointer for the modern-day hunter: bring a couple of power banks to keep your devices charged and keep all your electronics in a waterproof and air sealed bag or container.

Life or Death

Stay safe on the hunt. Always wear a neon orange safety vest so you are not mistaken for game by other hunters. That being the big one, here are some other important safety items to add to the list:

Basic First-Aid Kit

Injuries happen to the best of us. If you are prepared a minor or even serious injury doesn’t have to end your trip. Be ready to treat cuts, scrapes, and joint injuries with basic first aid supplies like bandages and disinfectant.

It is also a good idea to have antibiotics and other medications that you might need. Headache, indigestion, and allergy medication comes in handy if you get hit with a mild illness while out hunting. Ziploc seal and pressure damage protect your medical supplies in a hard box container.

Satellite Phone

Most likely, you won’t have cell phone reception where you are going. An emergency situation where you need assistance to survive is nothing to take lightly. Every self-respecting hunter has a healthy respect for the wild and these days carrying a satellite phone for emergencies is common sense responsibility.

Weapons

No must-have hunting gear list is complete without the tools of the trade. Carefully pack and protect your rifle, handgun, and/or compound bow and adhere to gun safety guidelines. Technically you only need one cartridge, bullet, or arrow to land your prize, but please be wise and always have plenty and plenty of ammunition.

Insect Repellant

Don’t forget this one, unless misery is your middle name. They are small, but they are numerous and vicious. Your gun and bow are useless to fight them. Avoid the embarrassing conversation following the horrid look and question “What happened to your face?” Underline insect repellant on the list.

Range Finder

You got one shot. It is a long shot. A kill from 100 yards plus is huge bragging rights, but, obviously, it is going to have to be one hell of a shot. To stand a chance of hitting your target you’re going to need to dial in your scope, make adjustments for the distance and wind. Yeah, you need a range finder.  

Tracking Gear

99% of the hunt is hunting. To maximize the chance of success bring along everything you can to help track and find your target. These are few that make our list:

Gotta Call Em

Deer and Elk calls have proven essential items in the century’s old hunting tradition. Never tried using calls? Consider giving them a go and you may understand why many experienced hunters pack a couple with them.

Map and Compass

Your map and compass are not only for navigation but for record-keeping. Write GPS locations and notes on your map or a separate notebook with indicator markings on the map. The investment in the time of days of tracking and learning the behaviors and habits of your prey deserves to be recorded for later reference.

Scent Killer

Most animals have an excellent sense of smell to protect them from predators like you. Chances are without a scent killer wash or spray, the animal will smell you long before you see them and give them time to make tracks away from you.

Binoculars or Spotting Scope

“Is it a bird, a plane, no it’s Superman!” Get eyes on your prey. Super-vision is every hunter’s best friend. A skilled hunter will use their spotting scope and binoculars from the lookout point and plan a sneak and surprise attack hours or even days ahead of the kill.

Meat Harvesting Gear

A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Don’t forget to plan for a successful hunt. You have tracked and hit your mark, but now its time to bring home the bacon so to speak. Here are the “Yahoo! I got er!” hunting list items for going home with your kill.

Hunting Knife

A hunter without a good hunting knife… need we say more?

Bone Saw

You managed to take down an animal bigger than you. Well, first of all, “Congratulations! Nice shot!” But now what? It’s time to get bloody. Feild butchering should be avoided if possible, but if you want to get big game meat home you’re likely going to need to take a few grueling hikes back humping meat quarters.

Tags and Hunting License

“Yes Mr. Ranger Sir, I have every legal right to be here and kill these animals.” If you can’t say that then you have no business hunting. Hunting laws are made for very good reasons and not respecting these laws is simply irresponsible.

Make sure you’re legal and have all your paperwork in order folded neatly in your front breast pocket. There is nothing like a hefty fine, ban from hunting for the season, and a permanent black mark on your record to spoil your hunting trip.

A Good Kill

When it all comes down to it, it matters most in a hunt, whether or not you made a good kill. Every preparation and every gram of inventory needs to be geared towards that one means to an end. Tick off each item on the hunting gear list one by one and make sure you have plenty of ammunition. Check out this article for more helpful advice on preparing for your trip and Happy Hunting!

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