When you’re getting ready to head out on a hunt, you might be overly focused on many of the common things, and your strategy, and forget some relatively common things. While you might be ready to squeeze the trigger on “the one”, there’s still a lot of prep and packing that needs to go into getting you there and surviving until trigger time.

One of the most important things any hunter can do to prepare for an outing is to make sure they have their hunting backpack prepared with gear appropriate for the type and length of outing they’ll be on. The biggest problem is, countless hunters, ponder for hours not only what to pack, but how to pack it all in the best and safest way possible.

The good news is that we’re going to take a look at exactly that. We’ll check out why pack management is so important, how your pack should be packed, no matter what you’re putting in it, how your hunt gear might fluctuate, and how heavy you can expect your package to be. In the end, we’ll go over a few things to steer clear of when getting your pack ready.

Why Proper Pack Management Is Vital

Packing your backpack might seem like an intimidating task when you’re sitting there with all your gear spread out and a pack in front of you. The first thing people wonder is if it will all fit, and in most cases, you’ll be able to fit your essentials and then some. What is important to remember, however, is how to pack intelligently, and what small measures you can take along the way that will add up to an easy-to-manage pack.

That’s the end goal, essentially. You want a pack that has everything you need for your trip, in a form that’s easy to handle, carry, and manipulate. Extra items will weigh your pack down and make travel far less comfortable and energy-efficient, forgetting essentials can make your trip uncomfortable or worse, unproductive.

How To Organize Your Pack

To have the most well-packed hunting backpack, you’ll need to make sure that everything is packed in tightly, but not unevenly, and in such a way that there are no air gaps or other areas of negative space. This will help your pack to fill slower, and help it to be denser and tightly packed to avoid shifting while in motion.

Additionally, when packing essential items and things you’ll be using often (like a hunting flashlight), make sure they stay highly accessible. They should be in storage pockets on the outside of the pack, not in the large, primary storage compartments.

Filling Your Pack

When filling your pack with the bulk of the gear and supplies, they will need to be packed in such a way that allows them to remain stable, keep their carrier stable, and prevent injury.

Keep your lightest items, such as sleeping bags or extra clothes, in the bottom of your pack. Above those will go the items with medium weight, like gear, tools, and food. Save the heaviest items for the top of the pack, as well as along your back. This will keep the center of gravity less off-balance and will help prevent the wearer from having lopsided weight.

Day Hunts vs. Overnight Hunts

The biggest difference between the pack needed for day hunts compared to one used for overnight or multi-day trips is the basic capacity. A day pack is going to be about 2,000 cubic inches or less. This gives you plenty of space for food, water, clothes, first aid, hunt calls, other gear, and more.

A hunting pack for overnights or multi-day trips will be between 2,000 and 4,000 cubic inches. This gives you the same capacity for gear, with additional space for things like a tent and sleeping bag. They will also have the space to help those in the backcountry pack out large loads of meat from bigger prey.

How Much Weight Can A Hunter Carry

How much weight you can carry is going to depend on, well, you. Some people are in far better shape than others, some have had pack experience in the service, and so on. To one hunter a 40-pound pack hoofed for 5 miles might seem like the end of the world, another may forget they’re even carrying a pack that light.

To put it in perspective, it’s not about how much you can carry, it’s about using the weight you are capable of carrying, in the smartest way. That same 40-pound pack may have all the essentials for a 2-day trip in steep mountain terrain, but it might be complete overkill for a same-day trip across some moderately flat acreage.

According to REI, an overnight pack should not weigh more than 20% of your body, while a day pack should not weigh more than 10% of your body weight. Is this accurate? Tough to say, but I thought it was interesting to reference. 

Key Things To Avoid

Now that you know what you’ll need to bring and how you need to pack it, let’s dig into some things that you should avoid.

Avoid Overpacking Water

Bring water purification gear, and plan to be near water. If you can find a place near moving water and can pack in some purification tablets or a small emergency purification rig, you can save a lot of weight as well as some potential garbage.

Keep Food Dehydrated Or Instant

Stay away from packaged foods, processed foods, and other foods that are more or less ready to eat. Not only will they pose a potential hazard in areas that have bears or other large macro-foragers, but they will also save you a lot of weight. Prepared foods like MREs and canned goods already have most or all of their water content, which makes them heavier.

My Final Take

There you have it, the basics on how to pack a hunting backpack, as well as tons of additional information. You should be well-prepared to not only pick the right size hunting backpack for your trip but to pack it well with everything needed for a successful hunt.

Remember to consider not only how long you’ll be hunting, but what type of terrain you’ll be crossing, and you should have everything you need to pack the perfect backpack for your hunt.