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Video: What to carry in your big game hunting daypack

what to put in hunting daypack, best hunting daypack, make survival kit
600 300 Survival Common Sense Blog | Emergency Preparedness

A hunter’s daypack houses a very personal collection of gear designed to keep you safe, dry and warm. It also must contain meat cutting tools and equipment. Here’s what I carry.

by Leon Pantenburg

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The way I hunt big game requires a lot of walking, sitting and glassing.  Here is the gear I’ll take along this deer and elk season in the Oregon high desert. This gear has also worked well in Mississippi deer hunts in November in an entirely different environment.

An old blue Ensulite pad has a place on my hunting pack. (Blake Miller photo)

This hunting pack is fully loaded for an unexpected night out. (Blake Miller photo)

Take a look at my list and improve upon it to fit your needs. (This is in addition to your Ten Essentials, of course, along with any prescription medications you might need.)

These things always go along in my pockets: You could be separated from your survival gear if thrown from a horse, or dumped from a canoe. In those instances, your survival depends on what equipment you have on you. These things stay with me at all times: Altoids tin survival kit, tricked up BIC lighter, sun protection chapstick, bright bandana, keyring survival kit.

When hunting, a map, compass and Swiss Army knife go in my BDU side pocket.

Packs: Hauling your gear without the proper pack is a major pain. Basically, packs for hunting can be broken down into three broad categories:

Backpacks: This is the cargo pack for multi-day backpack hunts in  the wilderness. For years, I’ve used my trusty Kelty Tioga external frame for this. After setting up a tarp shelter base camp, I’d take the pack off and take the frame and a light daypack to hunt with. The frame also worked well for packing out meat.

Daypack: I like my REI as an all-day daypack. The REI works well if the plan is to leave the camp or vehicle and hunt dawn to dusk. In these cases, you may need to carry lots of food, up to a gallon of water, and extra clothing and rain gear. My REI is purposely mid-sized and is setup to use a bladder hydration system.

Fanny pack:  I’ve used a Kelty Elk Horn fanny pack for several years, and I really like it. The suspender design keeps the loaded pack from sagging, and redistributes the weight evenly between shoulders and hips. The Kelty is just right if a lot of extra clothing or raingear aren’t needed, and it  has room enough to carry the essentials. Another good choice is the Badlands Monster fanny pack.

Water: I’ll typically carry a quart military canteen, and a couple of Platypus collapsibles. If I need to carry more water, the collapsibles weigh next to nothing and they can be filled up. I also like a sport bottle with the built-in water filter if I’m hunting in mountains where there are lots of water sources to replenish from.

This combination of water bottles works well. The rigid Nalgene in the middle is used for drinking and the Paltypus soft bottle are used to store extra water in the pack.

This combination of water bottles works well. The rigid Nalgene in the middle is used for drinking and the Paltypus soft bottle are used to store extra water in the pack.

Inside the pack:

Hunting license and tags: I carry these in a plastic sandwich bag. You can’t improvise these!

Knife and sharpener: The discussion about what is the best hunting knife never ends, and I love to participate. But I generally carry an Ambush Tundra  or a Bark River Gunny rampless if I’m going light and only want to take one knife.

I used to carry sharpening tools for the knife, but I find with today’s super steels such as A2, CPM 3V, Elmax, and forged 1095 it isn’t necessary. I have a strop and abrasive compounds back at base camp for re-sharpening or touching up the blade. I also take of  all the knives of my hunting buddies, because of this obsessive-compulsive need I have to sharpen things.

Saw:  A saw can be useful when butchering or for gathering wood, so I may take along my Fiskar sliding blade. Another good choice is a folding saw, such as as the Sven Saw.

100 feet of paracord: This has a ga-zillion uses. The cord is particularly valuable for improvising a shelter,  hanging meat to cool, or tying off a leg while skinning and butchering a big game carcass.

2 – 55 gallon contractor trash bags: This is my emergency shelter, but it also comes in handy for butchering. The bag can be split to make a plastic tarp, and the quarters of meat can be placed on it.

2 or 3 – 2 1/2 gallon Ziplock bag: This size is perfect for carrying out an elk liver, heart or kidneys. Also, if you must bone out a rib cage, these bags will hold a lot of meat.

Flagging tape: Typically, the location of a downed animal is marked with  a GPS waypoint. But flagging the best route to it can save a lot of  tough hiking. It is also smart to put flagging streamers on any antlers being packed out.

Game bags: These breathable bags help keep dirt and debris off the meat, and protect it from bees and flies. Everyone in the hunting party should carry at least one. I like to use the culinary bags saved from 50-pound bags of rice – they are tough and breathe well.

Sit upon: Cut up that old closed cell sleeping pad in the garage into sitting-size pieces. Use it to sit upon, and that cold, wet log or rock won’t be nearly as uncomfortable.

Vinyl or latex gloves: I wear gloves when field dressing game for sanitation and ease of cleanup.

Purell hand cleaner: This is a great item for cleaning up after butchering, and Purell is also a fine firestarter.

Several sheets of quality paper towels: These are wonderful for cleanup, and can double as toilet paper.

My choices for daypack hunting gear have been arrived upon after decades of hunting backcountry, mountains and swamps. What works for me may not for you, so take my suggestions and use them as a basis for your own list.

(And never forget to leave a note telling where you went hunting, expected time back and other important information!)

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10 comments
  • Jordyn Crane

    This was an awesome with helpful content. I believe in professionals so this is a very useful article for everyone. Thank you very much for sharing..

  • Leon

    Contact Mike Stewart at BRK. I send my Gunny back today to have it reground to a clip point. Cost to me was $15 for shipping and handling, and it should be done in about two weeks. Mike told me it was part of the 100% satisfaction guarantee. I want a Canadian LT with a Kalahari handle!

  • Brian G

    I didn’t know BR would grind blades to order. Have often wished my Gunny had more of a drop point. Probably not cheap to have it done, though. I think I’ll just keep on saving for that Canadian Special I’ve been wanting!

  • Douglas Rossi

    Hey cool ideas! This is perfect for our next outdoor adventure. I’m a knife enthusiast by heart and survival is my number one goal wherever I go. Thanks for sharing!

  • Leon

    I’ll be using a Bark River Sahara and Sportsman on a hunt this weekend. I’ll pack a few more pounds in my pack in order to stay comfortable and safe if I have to spend a night out. I’m sending my Gunny back to the factory to have it ground into a clip point, and I’ll use it on a deer hunt in Mississippi in November.

  • Brian G

    Great suggestions, Leon. I’ve tried to go ultralite on past hunts and have paid for it (travel light, freeze at night). These days, I tend to carry a little more gear, and the additional comfort is worth it. I too have a Cold steel Master Hunter and a Bark River Gunny (with ramp). They make quick work of Whitetail deer. I recently bought a Cold Steel Canadian Belt Knife and can’t wait to take it to the field! It seems like it will perform every bit as good as my Grohmann Boat Knife.

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