Whether you’re a seasoned hunter or you are preparing for your first hunting excursion, it’s important to make the right hunting supplies for your hunting trip. While there are many “minimalist” hunters who pack the bare minimum, you can get the most out of your excursion if you take the time to pack carefully.
While there are many supplies you can make do without, your trip can be more comfortable, enjoyable, and successful when you consider our ultimate hunting supplies checklist. Our checklist is designed for every hunter, and while some supplies may not apply, we’re confident that you’ll find a few supplies that you will be happy that you didn’t forget to pack.
Starting With The Basics
If you’re new to hunting and haven’t ventured out on a weekend-long hunting trip, you might be unsure of what to pack. Before we tell you which hunting supplies are essential for a trip, it’s a good idea to consider some of the basics.
While many experienced hunters may consider some of these basics as “no-brainers,” it’s always smart to consider all the things you need before you head out on your trip. Here are some things to consider before you even start packing.
How Well Do You Know Your Weapon?
Many hunting trips may feel like a “bust,” and a hunting accident may occur if you don’t know how to use your hunting weapon that well or if you don’t feel confident using your weapon. While hunting is a lifelong learning experience, you should always feel comfortable using your weapon and know how to use it properly.
Never go hunting until you know how to use your weapon, regardless if it’s a rifle or bow. You can learn from experienced hunters or even enroll in a course. Not knowing how to use your weapon is not only dangerous for you, but also for other hunters.
You should also familiarize yourself with how to troubleshoot any issues that you might encounter with your weapon.
Make Sure You Have The Proper License and Permission To Hunt
Before you can go on a hunting trip, you need to make sure that you have the right license for hunting. Depending on where you live, there are open seasons for specific hunting, and you often need a license or tags (such as deer hunting). Failure to get proper licensing can land you in some legal trouble, steep fines, and even the seizure of your favorite hunting gear.
As you’re planning your hunting trip, you must be familiar with where you’re hunting and whether or not it’s private or public land. Never attempt to hunt on private land without permission. Not only is a big “no-no” in the hunting community, but you could be charged with trespassing.
Don’t forget to carry your regular ID, such as a driver’s license, but avoid carrying valuables, cash, or a credit card. If you must bring them along on your trip, consider locking them in storage in your vehicle.
Brush Up On Hunting Laws and Safety Skills
Responsible and successful hunters are up-to-date on hunting regulations in the state where they hunt and know some essential hunting safety skills. While problems and accidents may arise during any hunting trip, knowing what to do in the event of an emergency can save your life.
Check The Weather Forecast
Have your mind set on hunting, rain or shine? Checking the weather forecast might seem like a “must do” before every hunting trip but you may be surprised by how many hunters are unprepared for their trip due to the weather.
Even though the weather can change drastically, and with very little warning, checking the weather will help you be better prepared for your trip. Dress and packing accordingly and if you’re able, always avoid hunting in dangerous weather, such as storms with lightning, blizzard-like conditions, or sub-zero temperatures.
Share Your Trip Plans With Someone
Whether you’re planning your hunting trip to your favorite hunting spot or are trying out new hunting grounds, you should always share your hunting plans with someone (not just your hunting buddies). This is especially important if you are hunting alone.
It’s important to share your hunting trip plans with a family member or friend, in case of an emergency. Include essential information like lodging, contact info for other members of your hunting party, and where you will be hunting. If you change your plans, don’t forget to let others know.
Get Your Vehicle Maintenanced
Some hunters are so excited to get out and hunt that they forget to have their vehicle, ATV, or boat maintenanced before they head out on their trip.
Whether you are driving your truck to get to your hunting destination or will be hitting the water on your duck boat, ensuring that your vehicle is tuned up and ready to go is just as important as making sure your weapon is in good working order.
Plan Your Route
Many hunters rely on a GPS or are simply familiar with their hunting grounds, but it’s always a good idea to map out your route before you go hunting. Don’t forget to bring a standard map just in case your GPS doesn’t work.
If you are hunting in unfamiliar territory, it’s easy to get lost. Maps and surveying the area beforehand (especially in daylight hours) can reduce your chances of getting lost.
What To Wear
Hunting clothing is all about function, comfort, and durability. The clothes you wear should be comfortable enough to wear all day, keep you warm and dry when it’s cold or wet, and not interfere with your movement.
Let’s take a look at some of the essentials that you should pack, regardless of what or where you hunt, starting from your feet on up.
Most hunters wear boots during their hunting excursion, and if this is your footwear of choice, it’s important that you choose a pair that is waterproof, comfortable, durable, and supportive. Since you may be spending the whole day on your feet, you want a pair of boots that can handle all types of terrain and support your feet and ankles.
Insulated boots are a popular choice for cold weather hunting, but always make sure that your boots (or footwear of your choice) is roomy enough for insole inserts if you need them, thick socks, or even toe warmers.
If you have more than one pair of boots, it’s best to bring another pair along as you never know when you need to dry out a pair after a long day of walking through wet grass or stepping through some deep puddles.
Don’t forget to pack a pair of comfortable shoes or slippers that you can put on after a long day of hunting, whether you’re relaxing in a camping lodge or driving home.
If most of your socks are standard cotton tube socks, you will definitely want to consider a different type of sock for hunting. Consider a wool sock over cotton. Despite what many people think, wool helps to keep your feet warm and wicks away moisture while cotton just retains wetness which can result in a cold and damp foot all day long.
You might want to consider sock liners if you will be spending the day in the cold but don’t want to worry about bulky socks.
If you’re prone to athlete’s foot, don’t forget your foot spray or powder to apply before and after your day on your feet, to keep itchy feet at bay.
Even if you have a perfect-fitting pair of boots and the right socks, you might get a blister or two (especially if you’re breaking in a new pair of boots). Bandages, athletic tape, or moleskin may come in handy if you feel a blister developing. Even if you don’t end up using your blister kit, it won’t take up too much space.
Base Layer Clothing
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For many hunters, the key to staying warm and dry is to wear layers. Aside from a good pair of tight-fitting underwear (to prevent chafing). Your base layer should be form-fitting and preferably made from wool or another moisture-wicking synthetic material.
High-quality base layer tops and bottoms typically cost more than a standard set of thermal underwear, but it’s a worthy investment that lasts for a long time.
Shirt and Pants
Depending on where and what you’re hunting, you might be wearing insulated clothing or rain gear over your regular clothes. While you might be comfortable enough to throw on a sweatshirt and lightweight outdoor pants over your base layer, it’s still a good idea to layer up with synthetic materials that will wick away moisture and even odor.
Since being “odorless” as a hunter can help you be more successful and hit your target, you may benefit from purchasing clothing with that is designed to “block” odor (Under Armour is just one of the many brands that use odor-blocking technology).
Don’t forget to pack some comfortable “non-hunting” clothing just in case you decide to check out a restaurant, bar, or another event in the area.
Like your base layers, your outerwear (or top layer) should keep you warm and dry. Depending on the weather, you may benefit from a lightweight coverall rather than one that’s insulated. If you hunt during various times of the year, you will probably want to invest in different types of outerwear, such as one-piece or two-pieces (jacket and pants).
Some hunters prefer to wear fleece outerwear because it’s “quieter” and easier for specific types of hunts, such as moose.
While most hunting gear has a camo design, you should definitely consider wearing some blaze orange clothing to keep you safer and more visible to other hunters (wearing orange may even be required depending on where you hunt).
Keeping your head warm is essential during cold weather hunting, as much of your body’s heat can escape when you fail to wear a hat. Whether you choose a balaclava or a standard knit beanie style hat, choose one that will block out the wind and is easy to clean.
In warmer weather, you may want to find a brimmed hat with a flap on the back to protect your neck from the sun’s rays.
Don’t forget gloves or a neck gaiter, particularly if the weather is cooler. Choose gloves that are comfortable and make it easy to handle your weapon.
Every hunter has experienced how difficult it can be to see their target with the sun glaring back. Sunglasses not only protect your eyes from the sun, but can also improve your accuracy when hitting your target (and will keep you safer, too).
Whether you need prescription or non-prescription sunglasses, look for sunglasses that are anti-fog and have polarized lenses. There are plenty of sunglasses on the market, but you may have better luck with sunglasses that are specifically designed for hunters.
Now that we’ve given you the basics for the clothing you should pack, don’t forget to stash away an extra pair of clothing in your field pack just in case you need to change clothes while you’re hunting.
Picking The Right Pack
Depending on the length of your hunting trip, you might benefit from packing all your gear in a suitcase (particularly if you are flying to your hunting destination). Regardless of where you are hunting, you’ll want a separate backpack just for your gear when you’re hunting.
The size of your pack will ultimately depend on how much you need when you’re hunting, but you should consider a pack that is rugged, waterproof, and is comfortable to wear. Since you are likely to wear your backpack throughout the day, look for one that has adequate cushioning and a waist strap.
Hunting Supplies To Pack in Your Backpack
Aside from packing a spare set of clothing in your backpack, there are other things you should have on hand (and packed in your backpack) while you’re hunting. While many hunters store essentials in their vehicle, while they are out hunting there are some items that you might need while you’re miles away from your vehicle.
Sunscreen, Bug Spray, and Scent Killer Spray
Even if you wear clothing that is designed to be “odor-blocking,” you may benefit from spraying your clothes and footwear with scent killer spray. Some hunters will wash their hunting gear in scent killing wash prior to their hunting trip, but a scent killing spray can be beneficial while hiking around and looking for their target.
Sunscreen is a must whether it’s overcast, sunny, winter, or fall. Most adults know that sunscreen is essential, but most forget to apply it before it’s too late. It’s best to slather on some sunscreen before you head out for the day, but it never hurts to pack a small bottle in your hunting pack.
Many hunters try to skip the bug spray because deer can detect the smell, but anyone who has tried to tough it out during the season of biting flies, gnats, or mosquitoes knows that insect spray is a must. Insect spray, especially with DEET, is essential in preventing tick bites.
If you’re worried about your scent, look for an insect repellent that is specially formulated for hunters and is designed to mask “human” scents.
You may be tempted to stay alert and energized with a cup of coffee or even an energy drink, but don’t forget to bring water. Even when you’re not hot or thirsty, adequate hydration is essential when you’re hunting.
Since water bottles can be bulky, you may benefit from a water bladder (such as a Camelbak) and have a stainless steel water bottle on hand. Compact water filters or iodine tablets may also be useful, and they don’t take up too much space in your backpack.
While some hunters like to sit back and enjoy a beer or sip from a flask, save your imbibing for the end of the day (after you hunt). Drinking and hunting simply don’t mix.
Healthy and Protein-Packed Snacks
While you might be looking forward to hunting and eating your kill in the evening, you need to keep hunger at bay and ensure you have enough energy while you’re hunting. While beef jerky is a popular protein option for people “on the go,” the meat smell can scare away your prey (and maybe attract a few predators).
Choose snacks like trail mix, granola bars, fruit, and other healthy and easy to eat foods. Store and prepare your snacks in airtight containers to avoid accidentally dropping trash on your hike.
Depending on your personal needs, your first-aid kit is likely to be a little different, but you should consider some of the basics like bandages, antibiotic cream, OTC pain relievers, hand sanitizer, an instant ice pack, an emergency blanket, flares, and any prescription medications. Hand and feet warmers are also nice to have on hand when you’re hunting in cold weather.
If you have a medical condition, or take prescription drugs, you may also want to consider a medical ID bracelet or put a note in your backpack about your medical condition (in the event that you experience a medical emergency).
Don’t forget to stash toilet paper or wet wipes in your pack, as you will never know when you’ll need them (and you will undoubtedly be happy that you packed them).
Even if you don’t plan on spending the night out on the trail, you should stash some waterproof matches or a lighter in the event you need to build a fire to stay warm or to cook some food.
Head Lamp or Lantern
If you’re hunting before sunrise or after dusk, a light source is essential whether you’re trying to find your way back to your vehicle or even setting up camp for the night.
A camping lantern, particularly one that is solar powered is helpful, but depending on the size of your pack, a head lamp may be a better option.
If your light source requires batteries, don’t forget to toss a few spares in your backpack.
Multipurpose Tools and Pocket Knives
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Multipurpose tools and pocket knives are essential for all types of excursions, including hunting. Depending on the type of multipurpose tool you choose, you can use your tool for sniping wire, brush, and other obstacles while you’re hiking around.
Keep your tool clean and dry by storing it in a separate case or pouch, so it doesn’t drop out of your pocket. If you decide to bring a knife, don’t forget to pack a knife sharpener as well.
Binoculars are essential for nearly every type of hunter. While many styles are heavy and bulky, there are several types of binoculars that are lightweight and compact which makes it ideal for stowing away in your backpack.
If you plan on using a long-range or night vision scope, you might want to pass on packing binoculars but they can be versatile and a welcome addition to any hunter’s backpack.
Cell Phone and Walkie Talkies
Whether you’re hunting alone or with others, it’s essential to have a method of communication. Handheld two-way radios are a good choice for hunting groups (don’t forget the spare batteries) but you should always bring your cellphone as well.
Keep in mind that your cell phone may not pick up a strong signal and even if you’ve charged your phone for the day, the battery might drain quickly. To avoid being stranded with no way to communicate, consider a solar-powered phone charger.
Camera or Video Camera
While many of today’s smartphones have high-quality cameras with video capabilities, you might be more of an old school photog and want to take photos and videos of your hunting trip. Make sure that you have enough batteries and proper protection, such as a padded case.
Many hunters like using trail cams, particularly if they are on longer hunting trips or are tracking game for long periods. Even with a trusty canine hunting companion, it can be difficult to keep track of your prey, and a trail cam can be helpful.
A trail camera is also a useful tool for deciding where to go hunting, as many hunters set up a trail cam ahead of time to see what type (and how many) animals pass in front of the camera. Most trail cameras are not too heavy or big, so you should have room in your pack if you chose to use a trail cam when hunting.
Trash Bags, Rope, and Zip-Ties
While items like a trash bag, rope, or zip-ties may seem like random things to take up space in your pack, all items are versatile and may come in handy. Not only do trash bags keep your hunt site clean, but you can turn it into a rain poncho or to store wet and dirty clothes.
Rope and zip-ties can be useful when hauling or fixing broken gear and can be essential if you need to create a quick shelter. Even a roll of duct tape can come in handy and can have a variety of uses in a pinch.
Do You Need Shelter?
If your plan is to only hunt during the day and head back to the campground or lodge at the end of the day, you might be trying to decide if you need to bring a portable shelter along.
A pop-up shelter is not only lightweight and easy to carry, but it can keep you protected from the elements and keep you out of view of your prey. Many portable shelters cost around (or at least $100), so you if you’re not interested in spending that much, you might benefit from packing tarp and rope to build a shelter if you need one.
Don’t know how to build a shelter? Packing a wilderness survival guide, and brushing up on some basic survival skills, can be helpful in a number of situations when hunting and spending time in the great outdoors.
Essential Gear For Your Hunting Dog
If you are planning on bringing your hunting dog on your excursion, it’s important to pack with your pup in mind. Here are some “must have” items to pack when bringing your hunting dog.
- An orange vest
- Extra collar and tags
- Dog food
- Portable water dish
- Treats (or other rewards)
- Benadryl (for allergies, etc.)
Some hunters recommend printing up some “Lost Dog” flyers with a picture of your dog and other relevant information before you go hunting. It may seem a little morose to print up flyers for a dog who isn’t lost, but hunting dogs get lost more often than you may think. Even with social media, printed up flyers are effective in finding lost pets.
Before you take your dog hunting, makes sure that all vaccines are up-to-date and if your dog doesn’t have a microchip yet, this might be the perfect time to do have it done. You may also benefit from bringing a “no bark” collar in case your dog ends up barking while you hunt.
If your dog wears a blaze orange vest will hunting, find one with a pocket and put information about you and your dog in the pocket. If your dog runs off or if something happens to you, this important information may be life-saving.
Weapons and Ammo
Our checklist of hunting gear wouldn’t be complete without mentioning your weapons and ammo. As we already mentioned it’s essential to know how to use your weapon with confidence. Nervous and uneducated hunters are a danger to themselves and everyone else.
While hunting is often a sport that requires practice and you’ll get better the more you hunt, you should always know the basics. Have any questions or concerns? Address them before you plan a hunting trip.
Whether you’re hunting with a rifle or a bow, make sure you have a proper storage case and that you know how to assemble and disassemble your weapon properly and safely.
If you’re planning on bringing a scope, range finder, and other accessories make sure you know how they work before you go hunting, so you don’t waste valuable time trying to figure out your equipment.
When it comes to ammo, it’s always good to pack more than you think you’ll need. Even the best hunters miss shots and end up using more ammo than they initially thought.
The weapons and ammo that you need to bring on your hunting trip will depend on what you’re hunting for, where you are hunting, and other factors, but here are a few ideas to consider. Keep in mind that if you are on a guided hunting trip, there may be some specific rules and guidelines that you must follow.
If you are hunting with a rifle, you should bring a gun and scope as well as a rifle sling and scope cover. One to two boxes of shells are typically enough, and if you need more, you may want to bring a few extra to keep locked up in your vehicle.
Depending on how you travel, such as air or by car, you might need a hard gun case (on airlines), but soft cases are typically easier to carry.
If you are hunting with a compound or traditional bow, you may want to pack extra string and cables, as well as an extra rest and sight pins. Bring two releases, a bow sling, an armguard, and one to two dozen arrows.
You may also benefit from bringing a compact or portable bow press, Allen wrenches and other tools, and string wax and silencers. You will also want to make sure you have a bow case and an arrow tube.
If you’re a muzzleloader hunter, you will want to bring your gun, about two dozen balls/bullets, powder, a couple of quick loaders, and tools like a breech tool and an Allen wrench. You may benefit from bringing a cleaning rod and jab, a bullet puller, breech plug lube, cotton cleaning clothes, cleaning solvent, and a waterproof bag.
Supplies That You Need After Your Hunt
Assuming that you will be catching some game (and being prepared for your trip, you probably will), it’s essential to make sure you have the right supplies on hand, especially if you’re on a weekend hunting trip or are away from home.
If you plan on processing your own meat, you may benefit from having the following supplies:
- Game bags (some hunters use old pillowcases)
- Processing knives and sharpening stones
- A vacuum sealer and packaging supplies
When you’re processing your meat, help your friends out, clean up your mess, and dispose of the carcasses properly.
Know Your Hunting Etiquette
While hunting etiquette is not your traditional “must have” hunting gear, it is important to mention as it may make or break your hunting trip. Here are some tips to consider to keep you safe and to also earn a good reputation as a hunter.
If you are seeking permission to hunt on private land, don’t be offended or get angry if a landowner doesn’t grant your request to hunt on their land. Remember, it’s their land and they are not obligated to grant your (or any hunter’s) wish to explore their land.
If a landowner does give you permission to hunting, respect any rules or guidelines they have in place. Don’t attempt to “bend” the rules or tamper with any of the property (such as fencing or gates). Always try and remember the rule of leaving a place better than you found it. Never leave your trash behind, including ammo shells.
Whether you’re hunting alone or with others, be aware of your surroundings. Never shoot near people, homes, vehicles, or other buildings. No matter how good you are at hitting your target, you don’t have complete control as to where your shell or arrow will end up.
When hunting with others (or even in close proximity of other hunters), be respectful by keeping noise to a minimum. Many hunters view their hunting trip as an opportunity to connect with nature and to enjoy the quiet of the outdoors.
If you talk too much, are too competitive or boastful, or are just too loud in general, you might find yourself hunting alone rather than being invited on trips. Congratulate and encourage your fellow hunters; don’t act like you are superior to anyone else or get negative if you didn’t have any luck on your hunting excursion.
If you become lost or have an emergency and you find yourself on someone’s private property, approach a person’s home carefully. Do not arm yourself with your weapon as you’re heading towards the door to ask for help.
Many people may feel uncomfortable helping strangers with weapons; do not be offended if you are not invited into someone’s home. If you are having an emergency, ask someone to call 9-1-1 and wait for help to arrive.
You can positively represent hunting culture if you take the time to respect non-hunters (as well as other hunters). Hunters often have a bad reputation and if you display your kill for all to see, particularly when driving down the road, it can give people the wrong ideas about hunters. Use some discretion and think about your future hunting opportunities.
Where To Buy Your Hunting Supplies
Hunting can be an expensive hobby, but if you plan ahead and shop around for deals, you may be able to get all the gear you need in a short period. While some of the gear we recommend may be better to splurge on than find a cheaper alternative (such as a backpack, outerwear, and boots), you can still find appropriate hunting gear if you have a limited budget.
Shopping online can often find the lowest prices on essential gear, but shopping in stores can help you get a good look and feel for what you want. Shop around at your local sporting or hunting store and then do some price comparisons online.
You might get the best deals after a hunting season ends, but keep in mind that the inventory may be picked over and you might not get exactly what you want. If you are buying general outdoor or camping gear, check out sales after the summer camping season.
Do Your Research Before You Buy
As you would with anything you buy (and plan to use long term), it’s always beneficial to take your time and do a little research. If you’re new to hunting, you may be overwhelmed by all the options and brands available on the market.
You can start out by asking friends what type of equipment they prefer and also refer to our comprehensive checklist. Consider reading customer testimonials and reviews on online marketplaces like Amazon or on specific hunting gear sites. Carefully weigh out the pros and cons and don’t forget to check out the return or warranty policy on hunting gear.
It can be difficult to know if certain gear is right for you until you’ve given it a good test run; many companies will allow you to test out your gear for a small period and return it if you don’t like it.