How to Pack/Organize A Hunting Backpack

Any experienced hunter knows that proper hunting equipment makes the difference so very often. If you’ve already bought a hunting backpack, the next thing to learn is to learn what to put /pack in a hunting backpack.

A newbie will always be tempted to put too much gear, essentials and will end up with a heavily loaded backpack. Moreover, he/she may not go hunting with a bulky and cumbersome hunting backpack, which will lead to failed hunting.

What should be in a hunting pack?

When you go hunting, it’s not only what to keep in a hunting backpack that matters, but also how you put it. Organizing your essentials so that you find it all easy and fast, without making noise, is very important. From the items you put in all hunts to things you only need when day hunting or deer hunting, you will need to collect as much information as possible.

Read also: How to Clean and Wash A Hunting Backpack

What are the main principles to organize your backpack?

Let’s start with a general view of packing a hunting backpack; you may apply the principles to all hunts, regardless of the type and length of your experience:

  1. Light and cumbersome items at the bottom

You should store the unbreakable, lightweight, and cumbersome items at the bottom of your backpack. Tents, clothes, or sleeping bags should be placed vertically so that the heavier items sit over the hip belt, protecting the fragile items from hitting the ground while you’re seating.

  1. Heavy items close to the frame and above the belt

Place heavy items such as water and food close to the frame; the lighter items should be away from the frame. Some food items will be heavier than others; you may organize the food by the length of your hunt.

Pay attention not to load one side of the pack more than others, especially when you’re hunting on rough terrain.

  1. Frequently used on top

You should pack the smaller items (GPS, radio, headlamp, etc.) at the top, using gloves, beanie, or neck gaiter to protect.

If the backpack features a removable storage lid, you may use it for storing camping items; leave the lid when you go hunting. Some hunters also use the lid for storing water or smaller items that they use a lot.

Store the hunting rain gear in an external pocket if there’s a chance for rain. Otherwise, it’s better to store it deep in the pack.

  1. Optics, tripods

If you’re utilizing a spotting scope and tripod, you will provide better protection by carrying them inside the backpack. However, you lose fast access, so you should use an external pocket for the spotting scope and the other pack on the opposite side for the tripod.

If you’re hunting with a bow or gun, you can attach it on the opposite side of the tripod for better weight distribution and balance. Use compression straps for locking them in.

Keep it quiet

Make sure not to pack the stove and fuel, cooking utensils in just one place; they will get loud while you’re hiking. You should pad them with a sleeping pad or other soft items to reduce the risk of metal-to-metal contact.

Day hunt checklist

If you’re going on a day hunt, you will need to give a good thought to what you will need when hunting. Feel free to adjust the list to your specific needs, and use our packing list for a hunting backpack as general guidance:

  • Hunting rangefinder
  • Hunting binoculars
  • Facemask
  • Rain gear
  • Blaze orange vest
  • Heavy camo gloves
  • Rubber gloves for field dressing
  • Outdoor knife for field dressing
  • Game bag for transport
  • Water
  • Cellphone/wallet
  • Energy bars or snacks
  • Optional bone saw or hatchet

It’s never a good idea to throw it all in and figure it out when you’re at the hunting location. In the morning, you’re in a hurry because you try to arrive at the stand before your game begins to move; you don’t have 5 minutes to find out whatever you need in the poorly organized backpack. Let’s not forget that you should be as quiet as a mouse, and rummaging through all sorts of items is anything but quiet.

Day Pack Organization

“What should I have in my hunting backpack for a day hunt?” is something that many new hunters ask.  You want to be as effective as possible, so following some principle to organize your items will help you be fast and productive on your day hunt:

  1. Begin with the things you need after the hunt or at night. Place the sleeping bag, game, sleeping bag, field dressing gear at the bottom of the pack. By the time you need these items, you’re not pressed by time anymore. Also, they create a solid and stable base for the pack.
  2. Continue with backup and weather-related gear, such as spare gloves, rain gear, extra jacket, etc. You only need these items if the weather changes or something happens all of a sudden.
  3. Pack at the top all gear connected to the hunt. You should have fast access to a GPS unit, binocular, rangefinder, compass, shell games, extra shells should. These items are minor to slip through the gaps; external pockets and pouches will provide a much better organization.
  4. Put the food in Ziploc bags and at the top of the backpack. Food and water should be inside pockets or at the top; you want fast access without losing the effortless access to your gear.

You should pack the freeze-dried meals at the bottom. You may slide the collapsible bottles along the sides of the backpack or inside the external pockets if they’re big enough.

If you use a built-in hydration bladder in the hunting pack, it should be beside you or handing from the tree stand.  A small bottle of water can work too.

Overnight hunt checklist

You will probably have to pack all the items in the day hunt and the gear you need for a comfortable night in the woods. Your hunting backpack should be larger for your items’ efficient storage; consider separating the overnight bag from the day’s pack in your hunting backpack.

The more space you have in your backpack, the easier it will be to have everything you need; the risk of overloading is also higher, and you may end up with a heavy bag on your shoulders. 2000 to 2500 ci is a good capacity for an overnight hunting trip.

Here are the things to pack (along with all the other items from the day pack):

  • Sleeping bag
  • Small backpacking tent/bivy
  • Roll up sleeping pad
  • Small first aid kit
  • Personal care items (toiletries, medicines)
  • Trash bag (well-sealed and rugged)
  • Freeze-dried food or whatever you want for the night
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Scent blocking spray for gear before the next day of hunting.
  • Travel bow case or weapon scabbard

Overnight pack organization

The organization can save you time and help you use wisely all storage space:

  1. Place the overnight and day hunting gear separately, if possible. The overnight gear should be at the bottom or work as a base layer; hunting gear should go above it as you do it for the day pack.
  2. Keep the field dressing gear and after the hunting gear close to the bottom too. Once you shot your game, you won’t be in a hurry to find your gear.
  3. Place the weather-specific backup gear above the field dressing gear.
  4. Pack the essential day hunt gear (rangefinder, binos, etc.) near the pack’s top, above the field dressing gear. You should also store weather-related items in extra pockets.
  5. You can use a larger backpack for the overnight gear and attach a pack for the daily hunt. The market is very generous when it comes to this type of backpacks as well.

Hunting backpack essentials/hunting backpack necessities

Hunting is excellent also because it’s so complex and teaches us so many things. It won’t take long until you learn (preferably the easy and not the hard way) that the goal of packing your hunting backpack necessities is to ease out your hunting and help you focus on shooting.

Some hunting backpack essentials are needed all year round, whereas others only in some seasons.

All year hunting backpack necessities:

  • Throw a packable rain suit, gun boot, or gun rain cover in your backpack. Even if there’s no rain in the forecast, you can never be too sure.
  • Range finder
  • Binoculars and binocular harness for safe and easy carry
  • Knife with a gut hook for fast and easy cutting the hide the deer before field dressing. You can use the knife for cutting and quartering the meat, removing the gut
  • Field book with pencils; you should note how you get to a specific stand site, the wind direction, or other necessary details.
  • Extra ammo and clip for the rifle because it’s not wise to load the gun before you arrive at the stand.
  • Wind direction powder because you know precisely how the wind blows; you don’t want the game to smell you.
  • Pruning shears and folding saw to cut small branches in the shooting lane so that the arrow or bullet doesn’t defect before reaching the target.
  • 25-ft piece of webbing because it’s lighter and easier to store than rope.
  • Topographic map of the property you’re hunting. Have within reach a copy of the permission to hunt on a private land. Remember to always pack the license.
  • Hand-held GPS receiver or cell phone with built-in GPS
  • Don’t forget about the portable charger for the cell phone. If the navigation equipment runs out of batteries or stops working, a traditional compass will be of great help.
  • Good flashlight and batteries
  • Snacks, food, and water
  • First-aid kit comprising aspirin (Aleve), tourniquets, moleskin to prevent blisters, other necessary medical equipment
  • Odor eliminator
  • Emergency poncho, packable sleeping bag
  • Gloves to keep your hands warm and a face mask (balaclava)
  • Waterproof matches, whistle, and a fire started- you may have to spend the night in the wood unplanned.
  • Reflective trail markers and flagging tape signal the trail to the stand or mark the blood trail of your shot.

What are the seasonal hunting backpack essentials?

According to the area and season of your hunt, you may add the following essentials to your backpack:

  • Deer lures and deer calls
  • Bodywarmers/hand warmers
  • Insect repellent, chapstick, extra meds
  • Emergency blanket
  • Multi-tool
  • Extra orange vest

How to pack a backpack for elk hunt

Elk hunting represents one of the most challenging types of hunting. Not only that you have to be alert and determined, but you also have to travel a lot through various terrain, as elks like to move a lot. You will need to write down everything you will pack for your elk hunting so that you remain safe, comfortable, and focused throughout the entire hunt.

To make it easy, we’ve divided the elk hunting backpack list into several categories:


You may be surprised on the opening weekend of elk season with a blizzard and 80-degree sunshine. Go prepared and carry full-on shell jackets and pants for backcountry hunting. When you’re heading into the mountains, the risk of rain and temperature swings is never null.

Don’t forget to pack a merino buff, a beanie hat, a packable down jacket, and some mid-weight gloves. Here’s the shortlist

  • Rain gear
  • Camouflage
  • Fleece
  • Thermal underwear
  • Warm stocking hat
  • Extra socks
  • Extra gloves
  • Brimmed hat for hunting

Safety essentials

It’s not a bad idea to have more than just one method to find your way out if you like hunting alone. It would help if you always assumed that you might have to spend the night too. Some hunters go with smartphones with built-in GPS and a GPS unit, a SPOT locator beacon; don’t forget about extra batteries or portable chargers.

A complete first aid kit, a small shelter tarp that you can also use, a butchering drop cloth, a pistol, small water filter will also be helpful. A bear spray and a gun will come in handy when hunting in Grizz area.

Here’s a shortlist of the essentials:

  • Small daypack
  • Compass
  • Altimeter
  • Bright tape to mark trails
  • Tags/licenses/hunter education certificate
  • Binoculars
  • Maps
  • Flashlight with batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Water purification tablets
  • Flashlight with extra batteries

Kill equipment

A good hunter knows that hunt is the mindset that luck can come across at any moment; you just need to be ready for it.

Six large game bags are recommended for elk hunting, even if you may need eight at times. It would help if you packed them in a small stuff sack with a small sharpener, sharp knife, and garbage bag. Use come suitable gloves for extra protection and garbage bags for the meat and backpack.

  • Rifle/bow
  • Ammunition/arrows
  • Folding saw
  • Knife
  • Game bag
  • Rope to hang the game

Essentials for comfort

Some hunters will like to travel light, whereas others won’t mind some extra weight if they’re comfortable all the time. You can pack something to sit on comfortably or a very light hunting chair.

Trekking poles will only add a pound, but you will need to find a backpack with adequate packing features for the poles. You will need the poles for the steep descents and ascents; they give extra support and balance. If you’re in deep mud or snow, the end-cups for the trekking poles will make a difference.

Spotting scopes may also come in handy; it depends on the visibility of the landscape. Some hunters won’t go elk hunting without a tiny tripod for glassing for best visibility.

Adding a stove isn’t a bad idea either. You will feel a lot better after a bowl of hot soup on a cold afternoon.

  • Water bottle
  • Thermos
  • Tent
  • Foam sleeping pad
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag for cold weather (you can always sleep outside of the pack if it gets warm)
  • Pillowcase (stuff extra clothes in the case at night)
  • Cooking pot with lid
  • Water bottle
  • Waterproof matches
  • Lighter
  • Tinder material
  • Toilet paper
  • Camera
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Trash Bags
  • Fishing Supplies
  • Utensils
  • Cooking stove
  • Hand/dish soap

Here are some suggestions for food:

  • Instant coffee
  • Instant hot cereal
  • Trail snacks
  • Powdered milk
  • Summer sausage
  • Pork and beans, pork, eggs, fresh fruit

Note: For the ride home, don’t forget to pack large coolers, clean clothes, and dry ice.

How to pack a backpack for deer hunting

You can never begin preparing for deer season too early. You don’t want to be taken by surprise, so you should plan what to include in your deer hunting backpack before the season begin. We know that you have to set the trail camera, practice, and food plots; you may skip preparing the hunting backpack.

deer hunting backpack items

Your deer hunting backpack list should include the following items:

  1. Hand saw

Limbs on the stand can be uncomfortable, and the only way to eliminate them is to cut them. Throw a small telescoping saw in the backpack before heading to your stand.

  1. Quick loads, extra release, slugs, or cartridges

Typically, you will pack them all when you’re packing the bow, rifle, muzzleloader, or shotgun. When you hunt your deer for five days, you may lose some of the organization, leave them in the tree stand or lose it. You should always pack extra release, a couple of cartridges, quick loads, and several slugs in the gear bag.

  1. Gutting knife

No matter how experienced you are, you may still find yourself in the situation where the deer is on the ground and the knife is away from you. It would help if you strapped the gutting knife or store it in a designated pocket so that you have no surprises later on.

  1. Gear rope

You don’t want to get to your tree stand on a cold morning and discover that you don’t have enough rope to haul the gear. Either you’re a climbing tree stand user or a hang-on hunter, you should always pack 25-25 ft of thick nylon rope.

  1. Hooks and hangers

You will need to hand your backpack, gun, bow, extra clothes, quiver or camera, so hooks and hangers are always a must. It will ease out the hunting from the tree stand.

  1. Deer calls

Some hunters will overuse or use at the wrong time the deer calls, but you should always be capable of snort-wheeze, bleat, rattle, or grunt if there’s a buck in the area. It’s better that you have the deer calls in your backpack, trust us.

  1. Headlamp

You will always need one or even two headlamps when hunting deer. Use one with bright red and dull red light; red light is suitable for walking without being noticed, and the LED is reliable for blood trailing.

  1. Binoculars

Many hunters cannot go deer hunting without their binoculars. They can help you identify aging bucks or to make the difference between a dog and a deer.

  1. Battery pack/mobile power station

Truth be told, most hunters won’t pack a battery pack, even if a mobile power station or battery pack can take the hunt to another level. You may have the phone charged at all times, set the camera gear, and so on.

  1. Water and snacks

It’s not that you’re weak and need a little snack every once in a while; we all get hungry sooner or later. You should pack some snacks and water. Try not to pack a water bottle because it gets very loud when the water is gone; it’s better to use a hydration pack or plastic bottle.

  1. Extra clothes

A hoodie, coveralls, or a hat may take some space in your hunting backpack, but they can win you some extra hours while you’re waiting for your deer to show up. Extra clothes for the cold sits or afternoon sits are great as they keep you warm while you’re aiming to end your hunt.

  1. Hand warmers

Just like food, we all need to use hand warmers sooner or later, especially when hunting between November 15ht and the end of the season. Any item that will keep you comfortable and warm should be packed!

  1. Rain cover

There’s going to be a little rain when hunting deer; it’s almost the detail that makes the deer hunt so unique. You may install the umbrella or the rain cover in the tree stand so that your gear stays dry.

  1. Camo face paint tubes

Your face must be covered every time to go to the deer stand. Don’t forget to pack a couple of camo face paint tubes in your hunting backpack for a deer hunt.

How to pack a backpack for backcountry hunting

You should use your common sense should be used every time you’re packing your essentials for hunting, no matter where or when you’re going. Things like using a once-ounce toothpaste and not a six-ounce or plastic spork instead of fork and spoon make some of the numerous tips to remember when packing for hunting. Backcountry hunting will be easier if you use titanium ant, not steel pots, for example; make sure that your load never goes over 50-60 pounds.

gear pack list for backcountry hunting

Try to spend some time and money when buying a tent and sleeping bag. You can compromise many things, but you should never compromise on the safe shelter and warm sleeping bag. You may also install a lightweight tarp close to the tent for storing more gear, especially if you go with friends.

Another thing to remember when packing for your backcountry hunting is always to skip the cotton clothing. It’s relatively heavy and dries very slowly in cool weather. Wool is light and warm but dries very slow too. It’s better to pack all synthetic materials; fleece is suitable for cold days and soft polyester for hot weather. If your backcountry hunting will span for more than ten days, remember to pack underwear, T-shirts, one change of socks.

Essentials for backcountry hunting

When you go hunting in the backcountry, you will spend several nights so that you will need:

  • Backpack rain cover or garbage bag (contractor-grade)
  • Down jacket
  • Base layers, insulated hat, extra socks
  • Trekking poles
  • Satellite phone
  • Camp shoes
  • Water purification system

Hunting gear

Feel free to add/take out the hunting gear according to your level of experience, type of hunting, and game:

  • Backpack (3000-5000 cubic inches, according to the length of the hunt)
  • Bow
  • Extra bowstrings
  • String wax
  • Bow sling
  • Bow repair gear/Allen wrenches
  • Arrows
  • Release aid or tab
  • Extra broadheads
  • Rangefinder
  • Binoculars
  • Armguards
  • Calls
  • Scents
  • Camo facepaint
  • Binoculars
  • Signal whistle
  • Folding saw
  • Knife/sharpening steel
  • 50ft of nylon cord
  • Maps/GPS unit/compass
  • Lighter
  • First-aid kit
  • Emergency fire starters
  • Headlamp/flashlight
  • Plastic flagging

Camping Gear

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Tarp for sun/rain shelter
  • Inflatable camp pillow
  • Toiletry kit
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Band-aids
  • Soap
  • Towel and washcloth
  • Toilet paper


  • Camp stove and fuel
  • Matches/lighter
  • Plastic plate
  • Dishcloth/soap
  • Plastic bags
  • Water filter
  • A small container of cooking oil
  • Cooking pot
  • Drinking pot
  • Spork/spoon


  • Instant oatmeal, dehydrated meals
  • Instant coffee packs
  • Granola with powdered milk in plastic bags for breakfast
  • Hard rolls/tortillas with cheese, candy bars, dried beef for lunch
  • Instant potatoes/rice, instant pudding, freeze-dried dinners


  • Thin socks
  • Lightweight shoes
  • Hiking boots
  • Thick socks
  • Underwear (two)
  • T-shirts (two)
  • Fleece jacket or shirt
  • Fleece pants
  • Light shirt
  • Warm hat
  • Down/fleece vest
  • Wool gloves
  • Rain gear
  • Wool scarf/ neck gaiter

First-Aid Kit

  • Gauze pads
  • Band-aids
  • Moleskin
  • Diarrhea medicine
  • Medications
  • Aspirin

Note: When you go backcountry hunting, it’s wise to keep it simple and avoid foods that need cooking. Freeze-dried dinners are convenient.

If you plan to cook, at least buy a reliable stove. Butane stoves work fast and are user-friendly, but butane isn’t reliable in cold weather. A stove with white gas or other liquid fuels will make a better choice.

Robert Dwayne

Robert Dwayne

To say that I am an outdoors enthusiast is probably an understatement. I am hyper passionate about everything outdoors: hiking, survival, hunting. On this website I am sharing my stories and experiences, and I hope you'll find inspiration to take up your own adventures!