Do We Really Need To Hunt With All This “Stuff”?

I would venture to say that the majority of hunters carry too much “stuff” (gear, tools, clothes, accessories, extra items, backup items, etc.) into the woods with them. I count myself among that majority, but I am looking to change.

There are many reasons that we all carry too much stuff. You could look at our modern society’s proclivity towards comfort. You could look at the force of marketing to sell us things that we don’t need, or convince us that we actually do need ACME’s latest innovation. You could look at the fact that, plain and simple, we all like stuff; especially new stuff.

Many hunters live by the motto…

I would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

That sounds good, but if I pack for a hunt according to that phrase then I can easily justify stuffing almost every single piece of gear, every single tool, and every piece of camouflage that I own, into my hunting pack. That motto can be helpful, if used with some discretion. But where do you draw the line? After all, you never know what may happen, right?

Maybe you are the guy with every single backup and emergency item. You have a solution for every problem. You pack extra tools, extra clothes, extra food, extra broadheads, extra this, and extra that. You have all the latest gear, gizmos, and gadgets. Maybe that is you, and maybe you are fine with that. Who am I to tell you what you should and shouldn’t hunt with?

(Actually, I would love to have you with me on my hunts. I just wouldn’t want to carry your load.)

Why Change?

My reason for changing what I carry is to become less weighed down, both literally and figuratively.

The odd thing is, I could have written this post last year, said all the same things, and every bit of it would have been just as true then. I am coming to realize that what we carry, and more specifically what we think we “need”, changes over time. I have never been the one to carry things unnecessarily, but I have come to a new place of questioning what is truly necessary on a hunt.

I want to be a more mobile hunter. I have scouted some spots that are far from trails, and even further from roads. Getting deeper will require going lighter. Ironically, going deeper will, in some cases, also require more gear. It is an interesting balance to pursue.

We don’t have stuff; it has us.

I have found that taking too much gear into the woods creates not only a burden of physical weight and volume, but also a mental distraction during the hunt. The irony is that many items we take with us are supposed to make things simpler, easier, and more convenient, but what often happens is that the item just becomes another “thing” to pack, keep track of, and attend to.

If we don’t make a conscious effort to simplify, then we will find ourselves spending too much time preparing to hunt, packing for the hunt, and setting up during the hunt. All of these things leave little time for, you know, hunting.

More stuff = more work.

Each and everything we take into the woods is something that must be packed, carried, kept, and often setup, maintained, and cared for. (Is the cartridge in my ThermaCELL full? Do the batteries in my GPS have enough juice? Did I top off my wind indicator? The list could go on, and on…)

My Grandpa was your classic “old school” hunter. He would head out with a rifle, a knife, and a smashed bologna sandwich in his pocket. He would hunt 13+ hours a day and that is all he would carry. I am not advocating foolishness, and I am not even necessarily advocating minimalism, but I want to raise some questions that I think we need to stop and consider.

When is enough, enough? Should I carry all of these “just in case” items? Has the hunt become too complicated? Is most of our modern gear a convenience or a distraction? Have we bought into “needing” too much hunting gear, gizmos, and gadgets?  Have we become too dependent on tools and trinkets?

Each of us needs to answer these questions for ourselves.

I don’t have it all figured out yet. I don’t know if I ever truly will. Each trip can present its own challenges, requirements, and conditions, which dictate what gear may be necessary. I am really looking forward to Part II of this article, which will cover some very practical considerations regarding the what, why, and how of packing for a hunt. I hope you will come back, not only to read my thoughts, but to join the conversation and share what works for you.

So, how about you? Are you an over-packer, a minimalist, or somewhere between the two? How has the amount of stuff you bring into the woods changed over the years?

The Author

Mark Huelsing is a regular guy with an irregular passion for bowhunting and the outdoors. Learn more about Sole Adventure or get in touch with Mark...

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  • Ben

    I am for sure an over-packer! I can remember when my Dad used to take me hunting when I was a kid, we took a gun and put our bullets in our pocket and that was it! Now it seems like I am going on a weekend visit somewhere.

    • SoleAdventure

      I can definitely relate, Ben. Hopefully we can both learn where that fine line of “just enough” is.

  • Al Quackenbush

    Excellent post! I am looking forward to Part II already. I know in my case I am the ‘safety packer’ amongst all of my buddies. I am one of the only ones with a First Aid Kit, SPOT locator and other items.  Most of my friends think I am crazy for packing 45 lbs for a day hunt, but in the high desert of SoCal it can reach 90-100 degrees by 11 AM. When you consider a gallon and a half or water, my pro camera, etc. the weight can add up. Can’t wait for the follow up!

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Al! I have often been that ‘safety packer’ as well, and it has saved myself (and friends) a few times. A FAK, SPOT, and other types of emergency items may be necessary, depending on the trip. I can relate to the water and camera gear as well. It hasn’t been unheard of for my to load down my Badlands 2800 for just a day trip. It seems ridiculous to do so, but it has happened.

  • The Will to Hunt

    I definitely used to over pack but hunting more often got me to trim that down to Binos, Knife, 2 Flashlights (small), Knife, Camera w/ 2 Lenses, 2 Pair Medical Gloves. Weather might make me add extra gloves, facemask, waterproof layer. Depending on length I’ll add water/food

    Great Post! Looking forward to Part II!

    • SoleAdventure

      That is a pretty good list, Will. Is there a a reason you have two knives and two lights? Still, nice and simple. Lugging my DLSR and lenses is a pain, but it is also a requirement for those of us that are capturing our hunts to share with others.

      • Will Jenkins

        Only carry one knife just managed to type it twice . .  oops. . .  I have a head lamp and a handheld so they take up little space and if one gets wet or dies on me I’m not wandering in the dark!

        • SoleAdventure

          Ahh, that makes sense. I definitely can’t blame you for having two light sources. I think that is one “extra” that can be easily justified.

    • huntography

      Great post to make everyone think about what matters……Yes, even I carry too much stuff…..and Will, yeah, he’s like a walking Cabela’s – You”l see in the DeerTour Documentary ;)

      • SoleAdventure

        Ha ha, I see that will has been outed! (I can’t wait to see the new season of DeerTour!)

        • Will Jenkins

          I didn’t have that much crap, it was just a few different calls in one of the pouches that you could see LOL. But I did get rid of a bunch of stuff later in the season when I got my new pack!

  • SoleAdventure


  • Dustin Jones

    Great post Mark! I am in the same boat as far as being an over-packer but have been limiting what I pack more and more to just the bare essentials that I absolutely need. Of course the way I pack depends on the type of trip I am on but learning from my dad who is a bit more on the worrisome side, I have been packing a little less here and there on the different trips. I’m looking forward to part II that’s for sure!

  • Al Quackenbush

    Will’s comment reminded me of why I carry two light sources. Two years ago I was a quarter mile into bear and mountain lion country and headed out at dark from my stand. Go to turn on my headlamp and nothing happened. Talk about my heart sinking! I was more than thankful to have my flashlight in the pack, but with every step I thought I would see eyes. Frightening not to have your headlamp work.

    • SoleAdventure

      Al, that could have been bad. Like I mentioned to Will, I think that having two light sources is a justifiable ‘extra’ in many situations, and especially in yours. I am curious…is there anything else that you pack multiples of?

  • Erin M.

    I have my layers  (I sit in a stand), a granola bar, gum, hand and toe warmers (it gets cold just sitting in the woods in Maine) 2 bullets in the gun, 1 in my pocket, my dad (who has the knife on him) and that’s it.  We spend about 10 hours a day in the woods but are also 5 minutes from home and head home for lunch.

    • SoleAdventure

      Hi Erin,

      I would say that is a pretty basic list. I have also found that hunting from a stand requires some extras…especially layers. (That is awesome that you hunt with your Dad!)


  • Timothy Brass

    Great Post!  I especially like your reference to the need for all the technology and included a link to this article here:

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Tim! I will be sure to head over and check it out!