How to Start Backpack Hunting

Over the last couple of years, backpack hunting has become more and more popular, with many hunters liking to live out of the packs and go backcountry hunting. This hunting type will give the most authentic feel of living in the wild; it’s the ultimate adventure for any hunter. You’re all alone and rely only on yourself and your backpack- it’s why many new hunters are intimidated and afraid to take the plunge.

What are the fundamental items for backpack hunting?

You don’t just start backpack hunting; some learning about the topic is necessary. Talk with experienced hunters, ask your hunter friends, learn about other hunter’s experiences. Learning about the tips for backpack hunting is just one of the several things you have to do. First, you should know what makes the fundamental gear to put in your backpack. Backpack hunting is entirely different from truck camping, and you have to decide on four main gear items:

  • Backpack
  • Shelter/tent
  • Quilt/sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad


There is no backpack hunting without the backpack, and, understandably, you have to buy the best model for your needs. It’s essential to select a pack that can haul the heavy loads and provides the best comfort.

Selecting the backpack is a complex process, where you need to consider many elements. From the material to features, pockets, straps, or frame, there are myriad things to consider when selecting the backpack for your hunting.

You will need 1,000 cubic inches per day- but it’s just a rule to give you an idea about the intricate process that the hunting backpack’s selection truly is. Look for 5,000 cubic inches if your hunting will last for more than five days. It would help if you didn’t begin with a 5-day hunt, but that’s another aspect we’ll cover later.

Read also: How to Clean and Wash A Hunting Backpack

Tent or shelter

It’s all about which of the two you like most for sleeping: tent or shelter. Some will like to use lightweight backpacking tents, for various reasons. A floorless shelter can also work, especially if you have no problems with scorpions or rattlesnakes.

Some hunters use bivy sacks, as they’re lightweight and provide minimal comfort for sleeping.

Sleeping bag or quilt

Hunters who also hiked a lot, are familiar with sleeping bags, so they know how to select one. There are various types, sizes, and weights to choose from, with the mummy bag the most common choice. They restrict movement, but they insulate the body heat very efficiently.

Quilts also make a reliable choice for backpack hunting. They’re lighter than sleeping bags and don’t compress insulation like sleeping bags. The various filling is used for both sleeping bags, so do your homework before choosing.

Sleeping pads

Rollout pads and inflatable pads are widely available, so you have numerous options to choose from. You may find light and heavyweight models, some for early season and others for late-season hunting. It’s all about your preferences and needs.

Food, water, clothing – what are the best choices?

When you go backpack hunting, it’s not only your essential gear you have to think about but also the necessary items. You will spend at least one-day backpacking, and water and food will be a must. The weather forecast is never 100% sure, so you have to prepare for unexpected weather.


Backpack hunting is complicated, and you would think that at least selecting the food is easy. Experienced hunters know that having the proper amount of calories will make the difference when backpack hunting. You will burn a lot of calories while hiking through rough and various terrain while backpacking. When you lack the energy for it, you won’t be able to move, let alone hunt.

It would help if you kept it simple when selecting your food. Go with what you like, nevertheless. Oatmeal, protein bars, and freeze-dried meals make popular choices for hunters who backpack hunt. They’re easy to fix; keep in mind that you will need boiling water for oatmeal and freeze-dried foods. You may use a lightweight backpacking stove. Pack the food you like the most, but look for a high nutritional amount. 2,500 and 3,000 calories per day should be enough for a hunter.

For your first experience, think about how much food you took on a day trip to the mountains. Did you get hungry all the time? What gave you energy? Use Ziploc bags for one day’s worth of food. To make an idea, here are our suggestions for a day of backpack hunting:

  • Breakfast: rolled outs with raisins and whey protein; some breakfast biscuits can work too.
  • Snack: two kinds of bars
  • Lunch: a bagel with honey and peanut butter. Have a protein bar too.
  • Snack: a bar and trail mix
  • Dinner: dehydrated bear chili (homemade) and something to hydrate


Some hunters like to choose the camp (you will need to learn about it) in areas with water nearby. Water isn’t always available, especially in arid regions. If so, you should always have water on you and stashed too.  Squeeze filters, pump filters, and gravity filters are some of the most common kinds of water filters to choose from

Water purification tablets or drops are lightweight and effortless to use. They make a fantastic choice for backpack hunting. When none of these solutions is efficient, you can always go back to boiling water. It’s not the best choice because you will use a lot of fuel and time when you could be hunting instead.


Wearing the proper clothes can increase your comfort and speed you up. The more comfortable you feel, the longer you can spend hunting and be more effective at your hunt. If you’re sweaty or too cold, you won’t be able to focus and stress, missing your shot.

The layering system

You will need to learn about the layering system; it refers to putting various clothing pieces together for best comfort. You will be ready even when the weather changes all of the sudden. Here are some suggestions:

  • Top

Use a lightweight base layer (it has to wick moisture from your skin), a mid-weight layer (for warmth and moisture-wicking), and a softshell insulation piece (it will isolate the body heat while the lightweight and mid-weight layers get dry). Remember to always pack the rain gear within reach; at the top of your pack or in a pocket is a good choice.

Various materials are available for backpack hunting, with merino wool as the most efficient in arid areas. Look for synthetic fabrics in moist regions.

  • Bottom

You want your pants to provide mobility, comfort but also protection against the elements and abrasion. You may have to add a merino/synthetic base layer under the pants

for the cold season.

You should adjust the layering system to your likings and the location. You should use just one layering system for every hunt. Nine times out of ten, it’s not necessary to pack ten pairs of socks or four pairs of pants.

What are the main principles when you start backpack hunting?

You will need to read as much as you can about the tips and tricks for a successful backpack hunt. Until then, you can begin with our recommendations:

Be dedicated

Backpack hunting isn’t for the quitters; you can either do it or not; there is no in-between. Commitment and determination are the key when you decide to try backpack hunting.

Even if it sounds simple, you should commit yourself mentally before even selecting your backpack. No matter if you plan to go 1 or 10 miles, do it and don’t find excuses for giving up.

Start small

It’s better that you don’t lose your enthusiasm; starting small is one way to do it. It would help if you didn’t begin with a 10-day backpack hunt, no matter how dedicated and committed to it you are. You don’t have a clear idea bout having to live in the wild for ten days and hunt at the same time. The mental preparation for backpack hunting is just as necessary as preparing your gear essentials (if not more important).

If backpack hunting sounds appealing to you, you should begin loading your pack, getting to the spot, and setting up the camp close to your trick. Some hunters have never spent the night outside or used a sleeping bag. You can progress with hiking to another spot and spend one night. It’s only a matter of time until you will be able to spend an entire week backpack hunting. The more time you devote to backpacking and hunting, the more you understand the beauty and challenges of backpack hunting.

Get in shape

You’re not going to need to have a six-pack for backpack hunting, but you will need to have an excellent physical shape. Training will be necessary, especially if you’re not particularly active. Don’t stress too much; you train for hunting and not for weight lifting.

A healthy lifestyle and constant workout regime will be enough to simulate the endurance and strength you will deal with when backpack hunting. It takes time to get comfortable backpacking and hunting at the same time, for a whole day, and you don’t want to give up from day one. Take it slow and give yourself time.

Choose wisely your gear.

Modern technology made hunting gear evolve so much over the last couple of years; it’s not always a good thing, though. Obviously, you will be able to move faster and effortless with a 20lbs backpack than with a 60lbs pack. The more you’re willing to pay for your gear, the higher the chance to have a comfortable bag that comes with all the features you need for your rifle. The backpack should be lightweight, comfortable, and with features for your hunting gear’s practical carry. It’s better to spend the extra buck now than having to buy a better backpack in the next six months.

Select the camp spot properly

It’s wise to know where you’re planning to camp before you leave the trailhead. You will always make better choices when you’re at home when you’re not cold, tired, hungry or soaking wet.

It would help if you considered several factors when selecting the camp location; water source, proximity to a vantage point, shelter from the wind, and so on. Each aspect relates more or less to the hunt, the terrain, the season, and the weather forecast.

It’s very easy to select the worst camp location when you don’t have a plan or a clue. When you’re tired, you want to lie down, no matter how rough or unprotected from the wind that place may be. Camping in the wrong spot will cause various problems; you won’t be able to get to the vantage point before sunrise, waste your energy, and even miss the elk bugling at night because you’re sitting too close to the running water. Other times, you could be too dehydrated from camping too far from water.

Make realistic expectations

Even if seven miles don’t look much on paper, they can become a burden when you’re backpacking with 4,000ft elevation loss/gain, regardless of your excellent physical shape. It’s wise to select a distance for backpacking that you can handle and complete. We don’t learn to ride the bike today and go on tour de France the following week.

You will spend more than one day with elk hunting, that’s for sure. Give yourself two or three tips to pack out when you’re packing a camp. You will need enough time to pack in, hunt, and pack out the animal.

It’s rough

Backpack hunting is anything but a luxurious experience. Even if you pack lightweight, you will still have times when everything hurts, and you need a break from it all. Backpack hunting is a fantastic adventure, but only if you’re determined and focused will you be able to succeed. It’s wise to prepare for unexpected situations such as a rain or snowstorm. It’s better to let yourself enjoy the ride and stop wasting energy on all the little things that you can’t control anyway. Sometimes, if the sleeping pad has punctured, you can only rest as much as you can throughout the night. Your goal is to get your game; you will choose a better sleeping pad once you return home.

Instead of a conclusion

Stop sitting on the fence about whether you should start backpack hunting or not; take the plunge. Not only will you discover the best adventure ever, but you may also find that you can live away from the modern world with all the gadgets and the stress.


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!