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When you’re preparing for a hunting trip, there are essential items you should always have with you. You need to remain warm, dry, fed, and hydrated. You also need to know where you are and how to reach your destination on foot.
As a hunter or outdoorsman, you need to be prepared. Understanding wilderness survival and woodcraft is a necessary foundation, but what else should you have?
The requirements for a hunting trip are not necessarily the same as those for a bug-out bag or long-term survival kit. You probably don’t need a complete change of clothes, spare boots, a camping stove, and a portable generator. You should, however, have enough supplies to last you one or two nights in the woods — if the need arises.
10 Things to Make Sure You Have
When you go on a hunting trip, the first item on your checklist should be your hunting weapon, whether that’s a recurve bow or a lever-action deer rifle. Inspect your weapon carefully before leaving home to ensure that it’s both clean and operational.
You may also consider carrying a sidearm, such as a semi-automatic pistol or revolver chambered in a powerful caliber — e.g., 10mm Auto, .44 Magnum — for defense against black and grizzly bears, cougars, or other predatory animals.
If you’re traveling on foot for a prolonged period, across uneven terrain, and under variable weather conditions, you’ll be expending a significant amount of energy. To keep yourself adequately fueled, pack trail mix — nuts, dried fruits, seeds — granola or protein bars, milk chocolate, peanut butter, or beef jerky. These foods are calorie-dense and are high in macronutrients.
Don’t risk becoming dehydrated, especially in hot, dry environments. Clean drinking water is essential, and you’ll need ways of carrying and acquiring it.
For carrying water, a stainless-steel military canteen or a durable water bottle that allows you to boil water directly over an open flame for cooking and preparing coffee or tea are the best options. If it has a cup with a folding handle, all the better. An alternative choice is a hydration bladder with a bite valve.
For acquiring water, you can consider water filters, such as the LifeStraw or MUV Survivalist Water Filter. When you go on a hunting trip, you can use these filters to extract and purify water from rivers and lakes, rendering it safe to drink in the process.
Hunters typically carry a knife, which is one of the most versatile and invaluable tools you can possess. A pocket knife that you can open with one hand and has a locking blade can be a vital asset.
You should, however, also consider carrying a fixed-blade hunting/survival knife in a sheath on your belt. No so-called survival knives with hollow handles — these are stylish but impractical. Any hunting or survival knife, regardless of the steel alloy, should have a blade that extends through the handle. This extension increases strength and durability.
4. First-Aid Kit
Whether you’re hunting, camping, fishing, or hiking, a first-aid kit should have a place of honor in your pack. Depending on space and weight limitations, the hazards you expect to face, and your level of skill, the contents of your first-aid kit may vary considerably.
At a minimum, a first-aid kit should include the following:
- Bandages and plasters
- Sterile gauze
- Medical tape
- Antiseptic wipes
- Burn ointment (w/ lidocaine) and hydrogel pads
- Antibacterial/antibiotic ointment
- sterile saline solution for wound and eye irrigation
- Moleskin or SecondSkin
- 1 × pair of scissors
- 1 × pair of tweezers
- 1 × pair of hypoallergenic medical exam gloves
You can also include a jeweler’s glass or magnifying glass for finding splinters and trauma shears for cutting away clothing to gain access to injuries.
The importance of training cannot be overemphasized regarding the proper use of medical supplies. For example, if you don’t apply hemostatic agents, such as QuikClot, correctly, you risk harming the patient.
The same is true regarding the emergency tourniquet. If you include one, learn how to use it. Ideally, you should take a first-aid course. Humanitarian organizations, such as the American Red Cross, offer first-aid courses free of charge.
The first-aid kit’s contents should be in a water-resistant bag or container.
5. Space Blanket
While you should have warm, weather-resistant clothing appropriate to the environment, climate, and season, a space blanket is always handy to have as a backup.
A space blanket, also called an emergency blanket, is a thin square sheet of plastic with a metalized, heat-reflective coating. First developed by NASA, the space blanket, when folded, is about the same size as a cigarette pack. As a way of protecting against hypothermia, a space blanket is effective, inexpensive, and compact.
6. Fire Starter Kit
In addition to a space blanket, you should have a reliable way of generating heat. Keep a spark rod, also known as a Ferro Rod, and a scraper on hand. If you can, you should also carry a fueled lighter, waterproof matches, and tinder in a sealed bag.
A handheld flashlight can be handy at dusk, dawn, and at night. Aside from allowing you to see in the dark, if you become lost or stranded, a flashlight will also double as a signaling device. Choose a flashlight that is impact-resistant and water-resistant.
8. Hunting License
If you’re hunting, you should have a hunting license. Consider keeping your hunting license in a Ziplock bag to protect it from rain, sleet, mud, and other elements.
9. Compass/Topographical Maps
While you should have a cellular phone or a GPS device, you should also be prepared to navigate without battery-powered technology. Electronics can fail or become lost. Laminated topographic maps of the area you’re hunting in and a compass can play a critical role in wilderness survival.
10. Spare Ammunition
If you need to feed yourself for a protracted period, defend yourself against dangerous fauna, or use your gun to signal for help, additional cartridges can mean the difference between life and death.
If you have space, consider carrying one or two extra magazines or a bandoleer. A side saddle attached to the receiver or stock of a repeating shotgun can add five to eight shells.
Equipment specific to hunting isn’t listed because it depends on the environment, game animal, and other factors. Game calls, game-specific scents and attractants, safety harnesses for tree stands, and other equipment should also be on your list.
Skills vs. Equipment
Too many shooters, hunters, and preppers buy equipment and store it. They think that simply owning a rifle, a knife, or a first-aid kit makes them prepared. Don’t wait until you’re alone in the wilderness to become familiar with your equipment or test its quality. You must test your equipment before you enter the wilderness.
As a hunter, it’s essential that you have a checklist of those items that you need to have with you at all times. If you find yourself lost, tired, hungry, thirsty, or hurt, you should have the supplies you need to keep you alive and comfortable, no matter what.