Make your list and check it twice before you head afield

The topic of hunting gear can be a touchy subject. What works for one hunter doesn’t always work the same way for another. My favorite brand of boots might give someone else blisters. Your backpack might not fit me. And we won’t even go into selecting a camouflage pattern!

Setting aside brand selections and recommendations, I have a fairly robust checklist of items that can be handy as you head out hunting this fall.

The first thing to consider when choosing what to put in your backpack is how long you plan to be out. If you’re going for a day hunt and will be coming back to a base camp or your truck each night, you can carry much less gear, obviously. If you plan to stay out overnight (bivy hunt), you’ll need to carry a few more items.

For day hunts, I break my gear into three categories: hunt, harvest and survival. To stay out overnight, I add a fourth category: camping.


For a day trip, I try to keep my pack light. I want a pack that will allow me to carry some meat out when I’m successful, but I don’t want to wear myself out carrying the kitchen sink around the woods. Fast and light is my motto. Ideally, I will come in at less than 15 pounds (closer to 12 is better), and that includes the pack and my food and water. It’s possible, I promise.


• Diaphragm calls/bugle tube

• Scent Shield spray

• License/tags

• Wind checker

• Rangefinder

• GPS/maps


• Knife/blades

• Flagging ribbon

• Game bags

• Parachute cord

• Camera/batteries


• Flashlight/batteries

• Lighter/matches

• Toilet paper/baby wipes

• First-aid kit (bandages, moleskin, ibuprofen, small garbage bag, super glue, electrical tape, Ziploc bag)

• Water

• Food

• Rain jacket


When it comes to bivy hunting, I need all the gear mentioned above, and I need to add my camping gear — and more food.

This is a minimalist packing list, and when weather starts getting worse later in the year, it will add some additional weight to the bivy pack. However, I try to keep my overnight pack weight in the low 20-pound range — definitely lighter than 25 pounds for one night. Additional nights will require additional food, which will slightly increase the weight. A five-day backpacking trip shouldn’t bring your pack above 35 pounds, though. Much more than that and the weight will wear you out.


• Bivy tent

• Sleeping bag

• Sleeping pad

• Water filter

• Extra food

• Cooking kit (Pocket Rocket stove, butane fuel, aluminum pot, spork)

• Pen/notepad

• Toothbrush/ toothpaste

• Extra socks

The only thing you need above and beyond this list is what you carry on your person — clothing, boots, binoculars, weapon and ammo.

Oh, yeah, you also need an elk or deer to stand still long enough for you to get a shot! Pack light, hunt hard and good luck.

Corey Jacobsen is an eight-time world champion elk caller and a founder of, a website devoted to elk hunting education and instruction. Check out for elk hunting information, interaction with other hunters, videos and gear advice.

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