Alright, so let’s pick up where we left off last week when we talked about the “stuff” that we carry into the woods with us. I heard from many of you here, as well as on Twitter. I wasn’t surprised to find out that many of you could relate to carrying too much stuff, but I was also pleasantly surprised to hear from a handful of you that are already doing your best to keep it simple and stick to the true necessities.
As I mentioned last week, I am in the process of changing what I carry into the woods on each hunt. Part of the problem is that, for me, a hunting outing can be anything from a 3 hour tree stand hunt that is within shouting distance of a my parents’ home, or it could be a multi-night backpack hunt that is several hours from home and completely out of cell service. As you can see, those two hunts are polar opposites, and will therefore require vastly different gear. This leads me to my first point…
Assess Each Hunt
Each and every outing will likely have different gear requirements. These requirements are determined by several things, including: the length of the outing, the location and remoteness, the availability of communication, the weather, the terrain, etc. Part of my problem is that I have not been diligent enough to pack for each hunt individually. I have kept my pack loaded with all the “necessities” for almost every type of hunt; but obviously what is necessary for one hunt may be foolish for another.
If you really want to be smart about what you carry, and take only what is required, then it won’t be good enough to have your hunting pack loaded up with a standard set of gear for each and every hunt. You will have to…
Assessing the gear required for each hunt creates a problem; that is, we will now have to potentially pack and re-pack on a regular basis. To pull this off, you have to have a master checklist to pack from. I have a spreadsheet will all of my gear, and then I mark each item according to whether it is required for every hunt, only for hunts away from home, only for multi-day hunts, only for hunts without cell service, etc. Having this spreadsheet makes it easy for me filter my gear list for a given hunt, and then to pack accordingly.
Not only will having a packing check list help you decide what gear you need for each hunt, it will also help you have a list to run through before you head out the door. How many of you have made your trek into the woods and then settled into your hunting spot and realized that you forgot something? The item you forgot may have been something small and non-consequential, or it may have been the release for your bow, stopping your hunt before it began. Either way, having a smart packing checklist will help you determine what you need, and make sure that you have it in your pack when you need it. Speaking of packs…
No Pack, Small Pack, Big Pack
The type of pack, or the lack thereof, that we take on a hunt is the thing that most influences what gear we take into the woods with us. If you have too much space in your pack then it becomes very easy to fill it with things that you don’t need. You look at a specific item and think,
“Well, I probably won’t need it, but I have the room, so I will go ahead and take it.”
Tell yourself that line a few times and before you know it you are heading into the woods looking like you just stepped out of a Cabela’s catalog and you are going on a 10-day hunt in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
I have packs that range from tiny to large; my goal is always to take the smallest one that I can get away with, or if possible, none at all.
Do I Really Need That?
Our strategy for determining what we take into the woods concludes with this point. We have to consistently, maybe even constantly, ask ourselves this question – “Do I really need that?” Many of us carry “just in case” items, but we fail to stop and realize that we have carried them for years and have never needed them. Now, I obviously don’t want you to risk your health or safety, but we need to stop and think about what we have never used, and likely never will. My general rule is that if I have taken something on a hunt 6 times and I haven’t used it once, then I need to consider not brining it at all. Additionally, I will look back at the end of each season and identify items that I have only used once, maybe twice, and decide whether it was worth packing along.
What, if anything, are you considering changing about what you pack into the woods this year?