The process packing for a multi-day backcountry hunt can sometimes feel overwhelming. What do you really need? What can you live without? Keeping your gear organized, compact and lightweight certainly isn’t easy. By the time your pack is fully loaded, you may be wondering, “What on earth did I put in here?”
As you prepare for the upcoming big game hunting seasons, here are 7 tips to stay organized, save space and save weight:
1. Get Organized at Home
An organized, lightweight and well-planned hunt begins with having your gear well organized at home. If your gear is an unorganized mess, it’s going to make packing that much more difficult.
Everyone’s space and needs are going to be different. But as much as possible, consider dividing your gear into basic categories and keep a separate bin for each one. For example, you might have a bin for your camp kitchen gear – stoves, fuel, utensils, etc. Organizing gear into separate bins is especially helpful for small items that are easily misplaced. For example, I keep a small bin with my headlamps, flashlights and spare batteries. I keep another bin with knives, replacement blades and field sharpeners. I have one bin that is dedicated to para-cord, tape, and repair materials.
Next, label the outside of each bin so that it’s easily recognizable. This way, as you are packing for a hunt, you can simply pull the items from each bin that you need for that specific trip. And when you get home, it’s easy to reverse the process and put everything away.
This can make packing for a trip very quick and efficient. When I do this, I am less likely to forget something that I need. And everything is right there when you need it.
2. Build Your Own First Aid and Emergency Kit
Pre-made first aid kids are readily available from outdoor gear stores, drug stores and many online retailers. While these kits are an easy solution, they tend to be heavier than necessary. They may have items you don’t really need – or they might lack things that would be useful in your situation.
Building your own first aid and emergency kit will certainly take more time. But ultimately, it will allow you to carry exactly what you need and nothing you don’t.
Start with an ultra-lightweight and waterproof storage bag. Companies like SeaLine and many others make lightweight storage bags. Since you’re going for lightweight, you don’t need it to have internal pockets or any features. A basic nylon bag will do.
Next, build your kit with the items that make sense for your adventures. Keep in mind that your First Aid/Emergency kit might vary from one trip to another. Keep all the “extras” in a small storage bin (see tip #1 above) so that you can quickly grab and go when packing for a trip. If you’re not sure what to put in an emergency kit, a quick Google search will give you tons of ideas. Besides the obvious things like Advil, Band-Aids, gauze and blister treatment, my kit usually contains things like, Quick-Clot, fire starter, lighter, water purification tablets and a Petzl E-Lite.
3. Create A Versatile Kill Kit
On a multi-day backcountry hunt, time is a critical factor when you have an animal on the ground. Make it an efficient process by keeping all of your field dressing necessities in one convenient kit.
Each hunt is of course a little bit different. But no matter where or when I’m hunting, the kill kit contains some basic items. First, my field dressing kit contains game bags for the species I’m hunting. Next, I always include a Hunter’s Tarp, which provides a clean surface to lay quarters while field dressing and also a pack liner for hauling meat. I always pack my field dressing knives and spare blades. In states where it is required, I will bring a zip tie (and usually a couple of extras) to attach the carcass tag. I usually bring a few gallon zip bags for the heart or any other organs or small parts that I intend to keep. And I always keep my hunting license and hunter’s safety card (again, in states where applicable) in a ziplock bag within my kill kit.
As described above, I keep all of these kill kit materials in their own storage bin for quick, grab-and-go packing. And just like the First Aid kit, I use a waterproof, ultralight bag to pack my kill kit for the hunt.
4. Pre-Pack Food Bags For Each Day
When you wake up well before daylight to begin your hunt, save yourself the trouble of trying to pack a lunch or snacks in the pre-dawn darkness. Plus, it’s easy to forget something when you’re half asleep.
Before I leave on any hunt, I pre-pack food bags for each day of the hunt. If it’s a five-day hunt, I will have five gallon zip bags. Then, each morning while I'm hunting, I simply grab a bag, stash it in my backpack and leave the tent.
Thinking through meals and snacks ahead of time helps eliminate over-packing and also helps ensure that I have enough calories to keep me going.
5. Use Packing Cubes to Stay Organized
While on a multi-day backpacking trip, have you ever experienced the frustration of looking for an item, and finally unloading the entire backpack to find it? We've all been there.
In order to keep your gear compact and well organized in your backpack, use packing cubes or lightweight nylon bags. Keep separate cubes for your clothing, cook system, food, kill kit, and other main categories of gear. Any soft goods like sleeping back or clothing should go into a compression sack. The rest can go into ultralight nylon bags.
You might be amazed at how much easier it is to find things, and actually how much space you can save when you keep gear organized in packing cubes and compression sacks.
6. Carry Tape Without Carrying an Entire Roll
It’s no secret that duct tape and electrical tape can sure be useful in a pinch. But there is no sense in carrying an entire roll of tape on a multi-day trip when you’re trying to cut every ounce possible from your backpack.
Before leaving on any backcountry trip, I make several wraps of electrical tape around my lighters. And I make several wraps of duct tape around my water bottles. I can’t count how many times this has been useful. This allows you to carry a small stash of tape without any more weight than necessary. And when neatly wrapped around a lighter or water bottle, the tape will stay sticky for a long time.
What Are Your Favorite Packing Hacks?
Have your own tips? Please leave them in the comments below! We’d love to learn what you do to stay organized, save space and save weight on your multi-day hunts.
If you have questions or need help finding the right gear for your next hunt, please let us know. Check out the gear we carry here in the Caribou Gear Store. And best of luck on all your upcoming adventures!
By Ryan McSparran
One of the things I have found to save weight and make an item more functional is the QuikStick attachment made by Wiser Precision. It is an attachment the turns your trekking poles into very functional shooting sticks and keep you from carrying two separate items.
Good article with timely information. Another tip I use is to vacu-seal items like my Caribou MOB game bag kit which greatly reduces the size in your pack and keeps them totally dry. If you use your game bags later, the vacu-seal bag then becomes a garbage bag for my gutting gloves and blood towel.