11 things you gotta have in the backcountry
When you head to the backcountry on a multi-day hunt, being prepared means more than having your sleeping gear, weapon and the right layers to wear. Keep the weight of your pack as minimal as possible with these essential items and you will be prepared for whatever you encounter out in the field.
1. Electrical and duct tape
Electrical tape is the king of quick fixes for a range of hunting equipment. I used it to repair my bow after falling on it on a hunt in Mexico; the tape prevented the fraying and splintering limbs from flying apart. I ended up harvesting a giant deer the two days later with the cracked limbs. Lorenzo had a carbon tent pole break in the backcountry making for uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, but the electrical tape fixed and flexed with the tent pole making the sleeping conditions as good as new. For extra security I will also take a small amount of heavy duty duct tape in the backcountry. I normally carry a small roll of electrical tape or I will attach a decent amount to a hiking pole for easy access.
Other uses: Put electrical tape over a rifle barrel when in wet or dusty conditions to protect it. Tape moleskin to your feet when blisters occur on your 20 mile hike.
2. Parachute cord
Super light and strong, use parachute cord to hang your food at night out of the reach of bears. About 50 feet of parachute cord should do the trick for most hunts seven days or fewer. Carrying the extra length of parachute cord is beneficial if you need to cut it up for other uses. Parachute cord is also the best way to lash down antlers to your pack.
Other uses: Replacement boot laces. Gun sling.
3. Lighter + waterproof matches
It pays to not put all your trust in a lighter on a hunt, especially if it rains. A small capsule of waterproof matches ensures you’ll be able to light a fire no matter what. I will also soak cotton balls in Vaseline and store a few in a Ziploc bag. The lighter, waterproof matches, and cotton balls in Vaseline will give you a huge boost when you need an emergency fire. To keep weight at a minimum, pack a mini-sized lighter (0.4 oz) instead of full-size (1.1 oz) to light your fire or camp stove.
Other uses: Seal your parachute cord by melting the ends if you cut it. Melt boot laces together if they break and make them usable again.
4. Surgical sutures and Super Glue
A small addition to your standard first aid kit that could save a life. If someone receives a severe wound 20 miles in and you cannot get on a satellite phone, use a suture to stitch them up, or glue the wound back together before search and rescue arrive. Even though you won’t have optimum surgical conditions in the field, it’s better than having a giant open wound and potentially dying. Remember: don’t try this at home and if you do not know how to use a suture it is probably best to just leave them at home. Super glue comes in handy if your buck or bull breaks any velvet or points off during his expiration. Glue the points or velvet back on for the field photos so the animal looks as natural as possible. Also at time you may need to glue screw to keep them tight on your bow or rifle. Super Glue has a lot of applications in the backcountry.
5. Multivitamins + supplements
Speaking of health, vitamins are essential to keep going for days in the backcountry. You’ll lose salt and other essential nutrients in your days of scouting and hiking. Fish oil and other supplements for joint health keep your knees and elbows happy. Electrolytes keep you hydrated; I prefer Hammer Nutrition’s line or Wilderness Athlete.
Lighter and stronger than aluminum, titanium is essential for long backcountry trips. You’ll feel the difference in carrying a titanium stove, spork and pot for water after just a few days. If it is made in a titanium version ... it will most likely be a huge benefit in the backcountry. Bonus: it’s basically unbreakable.
7. Ziploc bags
Instead of carrying all the packaging for your Mountain House meals, transfer all but one meal into resealable baggies. Reuse the remaining Mountain House pouch to rehydrate your meals. Use separate Ziplocs for toilet paper and wet wipe storage. They are also great for packing out trash and as emergency dry bags for electronics, optics and battery storage.
8. Water purification
You don’t want to get giardia from bacteria in the water. Trust us. A dedicated water filter system can be bulky (and freezes easily in cold temperatures), so opt for water purification drops like Aquamira. Iodine tablets are another reliable, lightweight purifying method although they are not effective against a cryptosporidium infection. You don’t want one of those either. Carry your purified water in a bladder with a hose to shave some more ounces off your pack weight: a 2 liter bladder will get you through most backcountry days provided there are water sources available.
If you are going to use a water filter, be sure to read the directions on how to operate and clean it.
9. Satellite messenger or satellite phone
Prepare for the worst-case scenario on your backcountry hunt with a way to let others know you need help. Basic satellite messengers allow you to contact search and rescue with your GPS location if things go wrong. Some models will also send check-in messages to friends and family to let them you know you’re alive. For the truly wired, pack a satellite phone and make calls from mountain tops. Whichever you choose, these devices do wonders for your peace of mind.
10. Tools/Allen wrenches
A must for bowhunters in particular. Pack only the three or four allen wrenches for your equipment. The same goes for the any small wrenches you need to tighten your rifle scope in case something gets bumped. Now is not the time to haul your Craftsman or Snap-on set into the field. But for longer pack-in horse trips where you might need a bunch more, think about something like the Leatherman Bit Kit. All together the 21 double-ended bits weight under 3 ounces, but to keep it lighter, just pull out the hex heads and drivers you’ll need. Allen wrenches and small tools might not be multi-purpose, but they’ll save you lots of grief.
11. Solar panel
Let the sun charge your batteries for your cellphone, satellite messenger or electric blanket. The goHUNT film crew loves Goal Zero’s foldable, portable solar panels to keep their cameras rolling for days in the backcountry. Since most models of these lightweight solar panels weigh less than a pound, it’s easy to hike around with one strapped to your backpack during the day and keep everything charged. Brunton’s Power Essentials Kit is another excellent option for the backcountry.