Howdy folks, welcome to another edition of CIBTC’s gear guides! Today’s guide: the absolute essentials you need to take hiking in the backcountry. There are a million guides like this out there, but basically none of them have things you actually need. They’re just places for companies to stuff new gadgets they want to sell, which you aren’t actually going to use. So, we experienced hunters came up with the real must-haves that you can’t do without. They won’t cost you an arm and a leg, but they’ll get you through a good hunting trip without any mishaps or discomfort.
First up is a good pack. Frame packs are the obvious thing to use, because you can tie up your meat to it pretty easily to get it out of the bush. Get something with big pockets for all your weather gear and provisions, and plenty of places to attach the kill when you get the money shot.
Next up is shelter. You can go two ways with this: a tent, or a tarp. Tents are obviously more comfortable, but you have to haul a lot more material and the poles as well. It’s a lot of bulk, especially if there’s only one or two of you. If you go the tarp route, you can either use parachute cord to tie it between trees for a flat roof, or make a simple lean-to against a rock face. Depends how much you want to rough it, what the weather’s going to be, and how long you’re going to be in the woods. Either way you go, make sure whatever you’re using is waterproof, rip-stop, and lightweight.
Regardless of what you’re sleeping under, you’re going to need a warm sleeping bag rated to at least the worst temperatures you can expect where you’re going and a waterproof bag to carry it in so it doesn’t get soaked if you’re hiking in the rain.
You need a good water bottle to stay hydrated wherever you are. We’ve used water packs before, but they’re hard to clean and they’re hard to gauge as far as how much water you have left. It’s easier to ration with a bottle, and it’s really easy to refill a bottle in the rain at your campsite for some fresh, clean water. If you’re going to have to refill and can’t use rainwater, you should also keep a few iodine tabs in your pack to purify stream water.
Bring a few pairs of socks, at least two pairs to rotate through. Wearing the same socks day after day is basically asking for an infection or trench foot to start, which is going to put you out of action possibly in a dangerous spot. It’s really easy to avoid if you get moisture-wicking socks instead of cotton and cycle through them every day. Let them dry on your pack if you have somewhere to secure them.
A first aid kit is an obvious thing to bring, so don’t forget it. Other good gear everyone should bring is a multitool, a headlamp with some extra batteries, and a map or gps. That’s really all you need, unless you think you’re going to be cooking in the woods.
Bring these things, and you’ll be good as gold. And don’t forget your hunting gear: rifle, bow, or crossbow, with ammo, and bring a rangefinder. Wear good boots, and don’t take chances in the woods, because there’s not a lot of wiggle room when things go wrong. Good luck out there.
It’s a wide world out there, and yet finding a great hunting spot is somehow still a struggle a lot of the time. All the spots that are recommended in big hunting magazines and online are overrun with tourists and hunted out, so it’s always a balancing act between finding a recommendation and ending up somewhere that’s empty of game. Here’s the CIBTC guide to finding the best places to have a successful hunt:
The easiest thing to do, and the best way to find somewhere that’s relatively off the grid is to ask around your network. Post on Facebook, or call your hunter friends for their secret spots. One cool trick you can do to find people you might not necessarily think of is to search Facebook for your friends who “like” hunting, so you can see who to send messages to. You can also start groups to share with a few trusty friends who want to share spots but don’t want to let the whole world know about them.
You can also check your state hunting and fishing site, official wildlife page, or whatever it’s called in your state. It’s the site you’d go to for hunting season dates, licenses, and all that sort of thing. They also have maps of public and protected land that you can hunt on, which is a good place to start. A pretty sizable number of state and national parks can be hunted with the right permits, so doing some poking around can be really fruitful. The National Wildlife Refuge System has a good database for the whole country, if you’re looking to take a hunting trip out of state but still in the US.
Open hunt leases are another good place to look on the internet. They’re on Craigslist, although that tends to be sketchier than other sites, but you can also look on classified sections in local papers, or on twitter and other social media around where you live. Or just search “hunting lease” with your zip code and you should find a few options.
Of course, it’s better to find something that’s not advertised for everybody under the sun. So joining a hunting forum can be really productive. Don’t just hop on a bunch and assume you’ll get invites, though. Pick one forum that seems good, make a few comments, start some conversations, and then you’ll start having options left and right for places to hunt. It’s all about who you know in this world.
Last up, for folks who have some money to spare, you can also buy a plot of land somewhere really good for hunting, like in the Rockies or Appalachians, and keep it between you and your hunting buddies. It’s expensive, but it’s a surefire way to get control over a spot and make sure you always have a fruitful place to shoot. So, get started searching, pack your bags, and don’t forget your hunting rangefinder!