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.)
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?