Of all equipment carried afield, the daypack is perhaps the most overlooked, under-prepared and least thought-out element of most hunter's array of gear. For most hunters it's that bag that you throw lunch, a bottle of water and some extra ammo into just before heading out from camp. The daypack is that convenient carry-all that gets left in the rear of the SUV awaiting our arrival back after the morning hunt with lunch and a snack inside. All too often, it's the element missing from the lost hunter's possession when things go wrong in the field. The one missing item that would make the difference between comfort overnight and misery, or worse the difference between life and death in extreme circumstances.
Sure, we all like to be alone at times in the woods, but the best safety factor you can have is to hunt with a partner. At least have an accountability to a partner, that you'll meet at a given geographic location at a specified time, or keep in touch with two-way radios. In lieu of hunting with a partner, you should at least tell someone where you are going, and when you are expecting to return, either to camp or home, and a time you agree would be a reasonable reference point to look for you. All this being said, most hunters spend many, many days afield, with never so much as a hint of problems.... but it only takes once, being unprepared and the unexpected to happen to make a great outing become a nightmare.
As game becomes spookier, we must hunt farther back into remote areas for a quality experience, and although this allows us to enjoy the essence of our sport, it also puts us at an element of risk, especially in late fall and winter, where unexpected storms can crop up, temperatures drop, causing concern for hypothermia, and muddy, icy or snowy slopes can cause treacherous conditions. It is these conditions, especially if we are a long way from our vehicle or camp that can cause great problems for the hunter, a twisted knee, a sprained ankle, broken leg, or other such unexpected injury can impose conditions and situations unforeseen upon us in the blink of an eye. Under these circumstances, other than the company of a hunting partner, the best provision you can have is a well appointed, well equipped daypack.
The daypack needs be light enough when fully packed with the essential elements, as to not be so burdensome that it's left behind, yet thoughtfully and methodically stocked with the proper equipment and necessities to be worthy of it's heft. Its size needs be sufficient for usefulness, yet manageable and unincumbering when carried afield. It needs to be whisper quiet when carried, tough enough for the most grueling of treatment, and be easily organized for efficient use of space. Finally, so that the pack is carried, rather than left at camp or in a vehicle, the pack must be comfortable to carry.
Now with that in mind, we can look at the elements of a pack, and make some determination of those that are necessary from a utilitarian viewpoint when selecting a daypack, and preparing it for field employment. First off, the pack needs be of sufficient size to accommodate necessary gear, and it needs individual outside pockets to effectively organize equipment and supplies. The number of these pockets and the size of the pack is largely personal preference, but a minimum of three outer compartmentalized outer pockets in addition to the main cargo space seems to be the bare minimum for most efficiency. The size of the pack will depend upon the individual person. Selection from a diversity of manufacturers available today is amazing, and a pack to suit everyone is available with minimal time invested looking.
Now, for the customization of your pack. Most daypacks available have all the features you could possibly want on them, just look long enough, and you'll certainly find one to your liking. The one feature, however, that seems lacking on all of the mainstream manufactured daypacks, are lashing points for extraneous items, not fitting inside the pack itself. At first, you might question the need for such lashing points, but consider a pack stuffed with your gear, and then needing a place to stow garments as you shed layers from morning to afternoon, especially when covering ground still hunting. Or, perhaps you'll want to bring back a shed antler, or maybe even the rack off your bull elk on the trip back to camp for help.
These lashing points are easily installed on your pack, and require no special equipment. A common household sewing machine is up to the task, as is a hand stitching awl. The leather shown in this illustration came from a boot and shoe repair shop, and is the leather used for the upper shank of heavy work boots. Similar leather can be obtained from leather stores, boot and shoe repair shops and from old, worn-out boots (often available at yard sales and thrift shops for next to nothing). The photos below show the shape to cut these lashing points, as well as how to cut the slits for webbing, using a leather punch to terminate the slits in the leather to minimize the tendency for the leather to tear. This weight leather is easily cut with a heavy-duty pair of scissors or shears, as well as a common box-knife.
Sew the leather lashing points to your pack in places top and bottom for lashing down items in either place, or using them in conjunction with one-another to secure really large, hard to hold items. Too, make sure that you have lashing points on the sides of your pack as well, for anything that might need side-stabilization with cross-webbing, or for lashing such things as fishing poles or camp-axes. The main thing, is that you need not be stingy with the lashing point installation, as they don't really cost anything, except for your time invested, and an abundance of these installed on your pack, as shown in the photos below, really make your pack a much more versatile and efficient piece of equipment in the field.
Below is a photo of a number of outer garments, such as those that would typically be worn in layers on a crisp fall morning hunting. However, by mid-day, those layers would be very much overdone, especially with any amount of exertion. The question, what to do with them in the field when hunting, especially if you are on the move, as when elk hunting or mule deer hunting out West? They are bulky, and even if your pack were empty, it is doubtful that all this gear would fit inside the pack. Here's where your improvised lashing points shine on a daypack! Observe the placement of the gear, and how efficiently it is secured to the pack, with a minimum of fuss, and with zero opportunity to lose anything while on the trail. This system is designed to use nylon web lashing straps as described in this tip: Strap That Load!M
Now, having selected a pack, and maximized its functional utility by adding lashing points, its time to examine the contents. While this could become a lengthy discussion on survival gear, its application and emergency procedures, we'll confine this discussion primarily to the basics necessary for those eventualities and the more commonly needed gear afield. While this overviews most needs, the items listed in your particular daypack could easily far exceed those reviewed here. Although you can get elaborate in your preparedness, keep in mind that this package needs to remain manageable both in size and weight, or it won't travel with you afield, and consequently won't be of value when needed!
Here's a list of those items in my own daypack, having developed over the years both a system and organization of those items necessary for emergencies in the field, and routine tasks afield when hunting. By no means is this list the definitive last word on the subject, but should serve as a stimulus for formulating your own repertoire of equipment and supplies.
Keep in mind, when you are selecting and acquiring gear for your pack, that buying cheaply made equipment because you will only need it once in a blue-moon, if ever, and then only in an emergency is being very foolish indeed! If you do need the contents of your pack, it will be because you really need it, and there won't be any room for failed equipment! Too, if you feel you should by inexpensive, cheaply made goods because you are on a limited budget, think again. You are too poor to buy anything except the very best you can find! Why do I say this? Because you don't have the money to continually replace gear that has broken down or failed. Buy excellent quality goods (this does not always mean the most expensive), and they most usually will last a lifetime. If considering skimping on the quality of goods for your daypack because of price, consider this: How much is your life worth? Your daypack very well can mean the difference between life and death in some instances. If finances are a concern, prioritize your purchases, based upon importance of the item, and then buy the very best you can find. Admittedly outfitting yourself with the best of gear is very expensive, but taken in increments, it doesn't take a huge bite at any given time.
Poly Rain Poncho
Extra Eyeglasses & Contact Lens Case (For Those Who Wear Corrective Lenses)
Nylon Web Straps (Strap That Load)
Hand-Axe & Sheath
Poly Utility Tarp (8'x10')
Clear Poly Sheeting (1 mil-12'x20')
Mini-Mag Light & 2 Extra Light Bulbs
AA Batteries (8)
Butane Lighter (Forget Waterproof Matches)
Strike Anywhere Matches (Fire-Starting Kit)
Inner Tube Pieces (Scope Covers)
Duct Tape (1/4 Roll)
Nails (16 Penny & 18 Penny 12-20 Each)
Poly Bailing Twine (100')
Fine Tie Wire (6-12 Feet)
Green Trash Bags (Need 2, 40+ Gallon Size) (Trash Bags In Your Pack)
Nylon Wire Ties (Secure Your Tent)
Notebook (Spiral Bound Pocket Sized)
Compass (Extra In Addition To One Carried) (Don't Lose That Compass)
Maps (Of Area Hunted)
Identification Papers (Secondary ID)
Knife Sharpener (Diamond Hone, Hone-Steel or Whetstone)
Flagging Tape (Selection Of Flagging Tape Colors), (Mark Your Trail)
Parachute Cord (100')
Fine Copper Wire (20 Feet For Snares)
Signal Mirror (A Real Glass Signal Mirror)
Wool Gloves (Extra In Addition To Other Gloves)
Wool Stocking Cap (Extra In Addition To Hat Worn)
Wool Socks (Extra Pair)
Cotton Socks (Extra Pair)
Carabineers (Carabineers In The Hunting Pack)
Orange Vest (Light-Weight Hunter Orange Cloth Vest)
Fishing Kit (Pocket Fishing Essentials)
Compact Gun Cleaning Kit (Emergency Gun Cleaning Kit)
Metal Drinking Cup
Water Bottle Or Canteen
Hard Candy (Peppermint)
The contents listed above, are organized in the pack, utilizing quart sized zip-lock style plastic bags. Not only do they keep the gear separated, but also clean and dry. The bags can be quite useful in themselves too. Examine the photo of the gear, you'll notice the gray and black fanny pack. By organizing your gear, and placing the most essential, "don't-leave-home without these items", into a fanny pack you've done two things. One, the most important items, being in the fanny pack, are available for a quickie jaunt out of the vehicle, "just over the ridge" type excursion, when odds are, the full daypack would be left behind. If a more compact, and lighter alternative is available, you are more likely to take it with you for those seemingly inconsequential excursions... when the unexpected usually happens. Rather than being without anything, you'll at least have some essentials with you when the unexpected strikes. Two, by putting these items into your fanny pack, then stowing it into the daypack, you have actually given yourself yet another means of carrying extraneous gear, should you need extra cargo space. Should you kill a few grouse, find a cache of wild mushrooms or perhaps some ginseng to bring home, you'll not only have the zip-lock plastic bags, but room in your pack for your booty, by removing the fanny pack and wearing it while you shoulder the daypack. By far the most important of these two advantages is making a more portable package that accompanies you on a larger percentage of your outings than would just the full daypack.
How many times have you bailed out of a vehicle, in pursuit of a big buck that just crossed the road ahead of you? How many times have you been on that same bucks track three or four hours later when you thought it was just going to be a "quickie hunt"? It's for these times, that you'll appreciate the fanny pack, that you can grab in an instant out of the daypack, and take with you, being totally oblivious to its weight, and not slowing you down in the least. It's precisely these times, when you least expect it, that you'll need the items in that pack. Think about it, you've bailed out of your rig, no one knows which way you've gone, and you're three hours and five miles from the vehicle tracking this buck of a lifetime, and you slip and fall down a slick little embankment and blow out your knee or break an ankle! Now, you might as well be twenty miles from no-where because nobody knows where you are, and you're physically incapable of making it back to the vehicle, darkness comes along with a fresh snow. Are you prepared? Your fanny pack should be equipped so you can at least have a fire, and something dry over your head for the night, and perhaps a space blanket so hypothermia doesn't get you. Herein lies the beauty of having the fanny pack, with the essential basics packed, as an integral part of your daypack, so that at all times it at least has these rudimentary items packed for just such occasions. It's amazing how much better you'll fare in the described situation, if you are dry, relatively warm, have a fire, a hot cup of tea to drink and some Tylenol with codeine for pain and swelling, a compass for your orientation the next day, and a New Testament to read while waiting for help!
The photo below gives an idea of some of the items that are found in my fanny pack, which is stowed neatly into my daypack at all times. Even with only the light fanny pack, there are enough essentials to make life much more pleasant afield, not to mention safer in the face of an unforeseen turn of events, than being afield with nothing more than pockets contents.
The fanny or daypack aren't complete without at least rudimentary first aid supplies. By no means are we going to carry an industrial first aid kit with us, nor be equipped for a full triage center, but some basics, listed below will go far in treating and addressing many field-encountered injuries, discomforts and emergencies.
Super-Glue (Super Glue In Your Pack)
Baby Wipes (Versatile Baby-Wipes)
Feminine Napkins (Sanitary Napkins In Your Pack)
Dental Floss (Dental Floss In Your Pack)
Veterinary Medical Wrap
Aspirin/Tylenol (With Codeine If Available)
Emergency First Aid Guide (small pocket reference)
These items aren't necessarily in any particular order of priority, or importance, but a few notes here concerning the selection of a few of these items is appropriate. A few of these items have been detailed in our Tech Notes, and require no further explanation of their inclusion in the pack, others however merit exploring a little more thoroughly.
The Super-Glue as mentioned in the listed Tech Note comes of it's own merits, not only for medical application, but also to serve a multitude of unexpected tasks afield with failed or broken equipment, torn clothing or as emergency stitches in the case of severe laceration.
As mentioned in the Tech Note, the individually packaged baby wipes are a real boon in the field in medical emergencies. They not only give something damp to cleanse a wound, they are sterile as well, making them very well suited to this application. Too, they are very, very light in weight, and have an excellent shelf-life, guaranteeing that they'll be ready when you need them. Mandatory equipment.
Individually packaged alcohol wipes make a welcomed addition to any first aid situation, giving a truly sterile wipe to use, and to sanitize a wound or affected body part before bandaging. Also, if you must use your knife or Leatherman tool for treating a wound, either to pull out a fish-hook or something similar, the alcohol wipe may be used to sterilize the tool or knife before use. These too are extremely light weight, taking up little or no space in the pack, and have an incredible shelf-life with the benefit of being quite inexpensive. A must in the medical portion of your pack.
Veterinary Medical Wrap may or may not be familiar to you. It is a relatively new product that is available to the public in veterinary supply stores, Grange and farm co-op outlets and many feed stores. This vet wrap is slightly adhesive, yet doesn't stick to anything except itself, and won't pull hair, nor bandages off wounds when removed. Too, it has a breathable quality to it, so that a wrapped area doesn't become moisture chapped. It acts in place of a traditional Ace-Wrap, but doesn't require the little clips to hold it in place, and the vet wrap isn't affected by moisture to any great extent. This product has an almost indefinite shelf-life, and is almost invaluable in the field when this type of dressing is required. It can hold compresses into place, splints, or wrap a sprained joint. It is worth the effort to locate and procure, and deserves a place equal with any other medical supplies in your pack.
Polysporin Ointment is listed here, because it can make the difference in an infected wound, and a clean, easily healed wound. Once cleaned up with the baby-wipes and alcohol wipes, an application of this anti-bacterial ointment is your best insurance against infection. It can be used to help seal the wound, then bandage over the area with an appropriate size sterile dressing.
Also note the listing of some oral medications. Benedril is useful for a number of things, but most notably to treat someone having an allergic reaction to a bee, hornet or wasp sting, or in the event of getting into stinging nettles. In these cases the Benedril will minimize the swelling from these inflictions, and can make a major difference in the amount of reaction a person has to them, especially to a person allergic to these irritants. The Tylenol and Aspirin listed are just good companions to have in the field for any number of reasons, and for those that live near the Canadian border (available over the counter in Canada), or have other access to either the Tylenol or Aspirin with codeine, the versatility and effectiveness of these drugs make them must-have additions to the medical kit in the daypack.
It might seem foolish to put a basic first aid booklet into your daypack medical kit. However, in an emergency, or if we ourselves are injured, often times our rational, clear thinking gets disrupted. In these instances, just having the basics in print, for review if nothing else, can be invaluable, for double checking that your treatment was correct, to help us look at a medical condition from another angle, and perhaps treat it from a perspective different than our own under the circumstances. Also, it can help us deal with situations that we previously have only read about. Remember, the emergency supplies in your pack, while carried for your safety, may well be used in coming to the aid of someone else while you are afield. It pays to be prepared for even the most unexpected emergency, and a printed booklet on emergency first aid can make a life-saving difference under some circumstances.
Now, that all the medical supplies are garnered together in one place, they need to be kept in one place. A zip-lock plastic bag will house all your medical essentials, and it should be stored in your fanny pack portion of the daypack, so it will be with you wherever you go afield. Even all of the gear listed, enough to prepare you for quite an array of medical emergencies, still weighs considerably less than one pound!
Working our way through the main list of items, there are several of these items too that have been detailed in our Tips section for one reason or another, and yet there are those items listed for the pack that need some further expounding, as to their importance and relevance for inclusion in the essentials for your daypack.
If you wear corrective lenses for your vision, an extra pair of glasses packed into your essentials pack is mandatory. If your corrective lenses are primarily contacts, then you'll need also to carry a lens case to put your contacts into when you might have need to take them out, and perhaps some eye drops as well. However, make SURE that you have a backup pair of glasses in that pack in either event. Getting out of the woods can be not only a challenge, but nearly impossible for those of us with really heavily corrected vision should we be without our prescription lenses!
The Wyoming Saw. Although this is a brand name, it is meant to refer to a class of equipment or tools that are available on the market today, for a specific purpose. The Wyoming Saw pictured in the photo has been with me for close to a dozen years. It is rugged beyond words, and has served in several emergencies as well as customary hunting camp butchery use. The beauty of having such a saw, is that you can have both a wood-saw as well as a bone-saw in the same tool, and be a very functional tool at that. Although there are other products that do a superb job of performing the tasks of the Wyoming Saw, there are also a host of other "wanna-be's" that are nothing more than flash and glitter in a sporting-goods store. Make sure whatever equipment you choose for your pack is up to the most extreme task you think you'll ever ask of it, then a margin of utility and durability beyond that benchmark. Someday you may very well call on that piece of equipment to perform beyond the call of normal duty... it had better be ready for that call! A saw such as this is a real help when out hunting. It can be used to cut poles for a blind, to trim branches away from a line of fire, or from a tree-stand for greater visibility, or to cut a pole to drag a deer. This in addition to the obvious chore of splitting the pelvis, or cutting off antlers from a big game animal.
The hand-axe. You ask if this isn't a little redundant when a saw is already in the pack? Not at all! The hand-axe is arguably one of the most useful of the implements in your daypack. And yes, the daypack is where it belongs, not hanging off of a belt in a so called belt sheath! The hand-axe, or hatchet, performs work beyond that of the saw. Trimming brush from a trail, cutting branches for a blind, making an emergency shelter, splitting kindling wood for starting a fire, cutting pitch off of burned out stumps, driving nails, driving stakes for a tent or improvised shelter to any other number of tasks. In an emergency situation, where you are unexpectedly forced to camp-out, the hatchet serves a multitude of tasks, much simplifying imposed camp life!
It's interesting how little space an 8'x10' polyethylene utility tarp occupies in a daypack. If packed against the flat back portion of the pack, upright it compromises virtually no room, and at only 24 ounces in weight, it's great insurance that you'll be dry if caught out overnight or in a storm. These tarps typically come in blue, green and gray colors, my choice is the bright blue, for the reason that if I have to use it for emergency shelter, it is easily seen from the air and would serve as a good locator marker for anyone searching for me. These tarps have brass grommets spaced about every two feet apart on the tarp, and make it easy to tie off, either for an improvised shelter, or to tie it down covering something. The heavy duty construction of these tarps make them very durable, even in high winds and with severe snow loads, a welcome addition if stuck out in the pucker-brush somewhere for a day or two.
The next item on the list might appear to be redundant as well, especially having just discussed the heavy-duty poly tarp above. However, there is a specified need, and justification for the light-weight poly sheeting in the list. A one mil plastic tarp 12'x20' (or similar size) is typically purchased in the hardware section of a department store, and sold as a painter's drop-cloth. These only weight about four ounces, and are worth every ounce! These tarps are large enough cut into two pieces in an emergency situation, one piece to be used for a ground cloth underneath you for sleeping, the other either to put over you, or over perhaps your firewood to keep it dry in inclement weather overnight. It can be used to improvise a quick temporary shelter, or a storm flap for the ends of your shelter made with the heavy-duty tarp above. It always pays to carry an auxiliary way to keep dry! This extremely light weight tarp belongs in the fanny pack portion of your daypack, that way both portions of your pack have a means of keeping dry on board.
The mini-mag light on the list above is to be carried in addition to the one in your hunting clothes. It DOES pay to carry two of these lights. The mini-mag lights are small, light weight (for the utilitarian value of them) and very reliable. They come in a variety of colors, I recommend the blue color and the red, due to their being so different than natural surroundings, and less tendency to become lost or misplaced. The blue light can be easily overlooked in the snow, as can the red color in fall leaves, but either one is an improvement over the black or camouflage designs so popular today. Along with the mini-mag lights, make sure to carry two extra light bulbs, the krypton variety, as they emit a far greater amount of usable light than conventional element bulbs. Too, carry a minimum of four extra, fresh, AA batteries, with a preference being eight extras, especially if you carry one of the little FRC two-way radios to communicate with your hunting partner. The extra batteries are very inexpensive insurance that you'll have light when and where you need it, especially if an emergency crops up.
Fire starting is always an issue to consider whenever you are out afield. Even if you aren't in an emergency situation, a fire can add comfort to your condition, be it for something hot to drink or eat, or as a warming fire. Too, a fire can mean the difference between having a good time and an emergency due to hypothermia. A way to light a fire is a first and foremost matter to address, and it's best covered two-fold with a plan "A" and a plan "B". To this end, I suggest not only carrying a pair of good quality butane lighters (not the 3/$1.00 variety), but also a film canister filled with strike anywhere matches and pieces of rubber inner-tube in the film canister. The butane lighters are almost foolproof, and although they can be cantankerous to light because the flints won't spark if wet, they will dry out and be perfectly fine. A butane lighter kept in one of your plastic zip-lock bags along with other supplies will insure that at least one of your lighters is dry and ready for service at all times. Too, if you have the film canister of light anywhere matches, they will almost always produce a good hot flame to get a fire going. For tinder to start a fire, the very best and most reliable medium I've seen is old-fashioned rubber inner-tube pieces. I've suggested carrying some pieces of inner-tube in the film canister along with the strike anywhere matches, and also to use a wide rubber band of inner-tube for a scope cover. This scope cover can be cut apart with you knife to make many, many fire starters. The inner-tube burns hot, whether it's wet or dry, and it burns such that you almost can not put it out! With these fire starting elements in your pack, you're certain to never want for fire starting tools.
The votive candle in the list is for a couple of purposes. One it will serve for a light in a shelter at night, allowing not only light, but heat as well, if you can seal off your shelter using your tarp and painter's drop cloth. Second, it is an extremely useful tool for helping to get a fire started, especially in wet weather conditions. A votive candle is short and squat, making it much less apt to be broken than would a longer taper type of candle. Also, the wax from a candle can be used to improvise a waterproofing for various purposes when melted and a whole host of other improvisations using paraffin, if your situation calls for an extended stay in the wilds.
A quarter to a third of a roll of duct tape can do wonders for a hunter! It sticks to about anything with a tenaciousness matched by few other products. About the only limit to what it might be used for is the imagination of the user! You'll find over the years that the small amount of weight in a quarter to a third of a roll of this tape is more than justified when you need it! In an emergency situation, where you are improvising a shelter, the tape really comes in handy when trying to make things seal up, and get somewhat air and water-tight. It'll fix a whole host of problems out in the field as well when it comes to equipment failures. Between this, the tube of super-glue and some wire-ties you'll be in great shape for more situations than you can anticipate!
Odd as it may sound, you'll find more uses for the nails in your pack than you thought possible. Using the combination of a couple of dozen nails, your hatchet and saw; many great blinds, temporary shelters, gun rests, and other niceties are yours for the making. The small amount of weight involved with carrying a modest number of nails is immaterial when compared to functional utility derived from using them when needed! Something you probably have never carried in your pack, but won't be without once you've used them in the field! (They won't do much good however if you don't have a hatchet along to drive them!)
One more addition of functionality to the daypack without expense or weight concerns is loading up about a hundred feet of polypropylene bailing twine. This twine is available from most farm supply shops, Grange and farm co-op stores across the nation. It is most generally sold in boxes containing two, one-mile rolls of this twine! Those two miles of twine generally cost about 25 dollars, and have a breaking strength of somewhere around 500 pounds. It is very economical, and extremely light weight, with a hundred feet weighing only a few ounces. It is an orange color, and very visible, so makes good guy lines for lean-to's and other improvised shelters, and it is very durable and resistant to UV light, making it suitable for lashing together pieces for a blind, or other forest structure. It is so inexpensive that you can feel free to cut it into whatever lengths you need for the project at hand. An excellent addition to the survival pack.
Along with a discussion of fasteners, comes our wire ties. These nylon wire-ties are extremely strong, very durable and also extremely compact and light-weight. They can be used for repairing pack straps, fixing rifle slings, belts, emergency fixes of many different descriptions. Just one more chink in your armor of field-fixes, and a great piece of versatility to add to your daypack.
Trash bags in your daypack are just another form of staying dry. Whether it's to put your shed layers of clothing into to keep dry during a rain or wet conditions, or to improvise a rain poncho to keep dry during a storm, these big, heavy duty trash bags take up no space in your pack, add little to its weight and can be a real plus in many situations. One of these belongs in both the fanny pack and daypack.
A space blanket, such a simple, and inexpensive item can make all the difference when you are wet and cold, or have to spend the night away from camp and your vehicle. They conserve body heat, and if used right, can also be a protection against summer desert heat. These are very compact units, readily purchased from many sources and mandatory equipment in your pack, the fanny pack portion to be exact. This should always be with you, as it also can be used as a reflector to direct the heat from your fire. No, it's not the same as a good wool blanket, but you're not going to carry a wool blanket anyhow, so this is the best you're most likely to carry around with you. It is MUCH better than nothing, and if used in conjunction with other natural insulating materials, you can be quite comfortable through several nights with the proper preparations taken before nightfall.
The small notebook, the pencil and extra compass should reside inside your fanny pack portion of the daypack inside a heavy-duty zip-lock plastic bag. The notebook is for just that, making notes and observations, leaving notes or instructions to others and keeping a journal if you become lost, incapacitated in some way and end up spending some unexpected time in the woods, perhaps overnight or a few days. If you keep a running journal of what happened, what you've done, and your activities, it will do several things. First, it will allow you to keep perspective of where you are, and what you're doing... this may be important if you are in great pain or have a head injury, and your memory becomes impaired. Second, it will provide a baseline for you to reference to so your memory doesn't play tricks on you, and you'll be better able to keep track of time, especially if several days go by during your troubles. Lastly, if you are found by those looking for you in an unconscious state, they will know what happened to you, what you've done, what medications you've taken, what medical treatment you've administered yourself, and if you've written down your symptoms, it will be a great benefit to the medical personnel treating you, especially if you aren't in a physical condition to relate to them the information they need. A person's physical condition typically doesn't degrade all at once in a survival situation, but it gradually fades away over a period of time, that time dependent upon the injuries he has, or the conditions he's in, the journal helps chronicle what's happening to you, at least during your coherent times for others to piece together what's transpired. Lastly, the journal will help to keep you focused, and if you're having to articulate on paper the events of the day and what's happening, it forces you to organize your thoughts, and thus focus your thinking and often times just writing things down brings a clarity to your mind, and helps formulate a course of action.
The extra compass is for two reasons. The first is in case you lose or damage the one on your person. But if you have it safety-pinned to your pocket, it is rather doubtful that either would happen. However there are two scenarios where a second compass could save your bacon. Both hinge around various stages of hypothermia. As hypothermia sets in, a person goes past the uncontrollable shivering stage, then becomes disoriented, often times not believing the compass he is reading. Having a second compass, the person who is disoriented, will compare the two compasses, and finally (in some cases) conclude that both compasses aren't both wrong, and sometimes the person will manage to make their way back to a vehicle, camp or other place to get warmed up or in the company and help of others. Lastly, in the final stages of hypothermia, a person begins to feel hot, and will start to shed layers of clothing as they wander about the countryside. If the outer layer shed also contained the only compass you owned, then you might not have any hope of finding your way back. Although it is a long shot that a person in this condition would still have their pack with them, it is possible, and it is hopeful that they would manage to find their way back to safety before it was too late. Often times when persons are found, having died of hypothermia (exposure), they are totally naked, wearing no clothing, because they felt hot, and took them all off. Interestingly, however, they often times have their other peripheral gear with them, (rifles, binoculars, packs, etc.).
The scenario above is reason enough for the extra identification papers on the list. What is this? Well, it's a copy of your driver's license, your address, phone number and perhaps even your hunting license number, all neatly written down and sealed inside a zip-lock plastic bag to keep it clean and dry. This is for a couple of reasons as well. Should you end up separated from your gear due to a fall, or injury, or perhaps hypothermia, someone searching for you, happening across your gear would know instantly that it belonged to you, and that they were on the right track. Too, it also would serve as a secondary form of ID if you lost your wallet while in the woods, and your critical information, including hunting license number and maybe even tag numbers would be accessible not only for your own ID, but perhaps for replacement of your license and tags. It doesn't take any room, cost any money, nor weigh anything extra to pack around, so you might as well do it!
We also have maps on our list. These maps need to be current issue, and of the area we are hunting at the time. Preferably you'll pack two maps, one a topographic map and the other a typical Forest Service type map with roads and landmarks. Not only will they be of great service to you in your hunt, but in the event of an emergency these maps can make all the difference in your getting out in a timely fashion and wandering around where you think you might be or should be. Your maps and compasses, don't leave home without them. Also, along this vein of thought, also carry with you an instructional pamphlet that comes with most compasses on compass use and map-reading using a compass. Yes, you might be an expert at navigation and using your compass, but in the pressure of a physical injury, or other traumatic event, it can be both reassuring and helpful to have that little bit of printed instructional matter in hand when we might not be thinking as clearly as we otherwise would. This too can make a big difference in keeping a cool head when things don't work out as planned.
Flagging tape, a roll belongs in the outer pockets of the daypack, and a roll in the fanny pack as well. Two rolls of flagging tape isn't overkill at all, and makes all the difference, especially when in unfamiliar country, or when flagging out a trail to a downed game animal for later recovery when you have help, or more equipment. Also, flagging tape can be a great tool when lost or hurt, as you can use your pencil to write a message to others on the flagging tape when you hang it in a prominent place marking your trail. An absolute must have item in the packs.
In selecting knives for you pack, you should have a good sturdy sheath knife in both the fanny and the daypacks. The knives need not be heavy, just well made of good steel that holds an edge. For the knife in my fanny pack, I prefer a simple knife manufactured by Cold Steel, the Red River Knife, a copy of the old Green River knife design. It has a blade-through-handle design, is very tough, the steel takes and keeps and edge very well, it comes with a simple, no-nonsense sheath, and is only about nine ounces in weight. I have a heavier constructed custom knife that lives in my daypack's outboard pockets, and an old hone-steel that goes with me wherever the pack does. The knives are fine, but you need a way to put an edge on them, especially if you are dealing with either elk or moose. These are big critters, and a big job once they hit the ground. Even the very best of knives will need sharpening a few times to get through the skinning and butchering jobs on these animals.
Now we come to the extra clothing on the list. The wool gloves, stocking hat, and socks are all in addition to whatever is being worn afield that day. These need to be nearly new condition, thus having all the warmth properties possible. These are to be backups in case the front-line items worn afield get wet or lost, making sure that there is an excellent condition, dry and warm replacement available in the pack. These extra wool garments need to be packed in zip-lock plastic bags to protect them from moisture and to keep them clean and organized. The extra cotton socks on the list are to replace the cotton socks worn as a first layer underneath the wool socks. Should the cotton socks become wet from perspiration, or outside induced water sources, they need to be changed, before the feet get severely cold. The cotton socks will help wick moisture away from the feet, and ultimately keep them warmer by being dry.
Although optional, I also carry an extra, dry, heavy-weight cotton t-shirt in my daypack as well as the other clothing mentioned above. The extra shirt can be very welcomed if you over-exert yourself physically and work up a sweat on a very cold day. That perspiration soaks your t-shirt, and that wet t-shirt ultimately makes you cold, particularly if there is a wind blowing and the temperatures are at or below freezing. Simply stripping down, and changing into a dry shirt can make a world of difference in your comfort level for the rest of the day! In addition to the cotton t-shirt, I also carry a rather bulky, cable-knit wool sweater in the pack as well, when the high temperatures are near freezing during the daytime. This extra sweater comes in mighty handy if the temperatures plummet while sitting on a stand, or if hunting until dark, then coming back a few miles to camp in the dark, the temperatures can really drop in a hurry. The extra bulk and warmth of the wool sweater put on under my other outer layers of clothing can make a big difference in being toasty and alert, or being cold and inattentive, and generally miserable. It's sure nice to have an extra layer in reserve if you need it, and it doesn't really weigh that much to make a big difference in the total weight of the daypack.
The compact gun cleaning kit, with the emergency bore cleaner makes sense to carry, along with a bottle of gun oil (No-Scent is my preference) to clear a bore should mud or snow get into the barrel, or to merely put a protective coat of oil on the gun and in the bore, especially if for some reason you end up spending an unexpected night in the woods, and it's been a wet day. You'll want to protect your gun before you turn in that night.
Now, we come to the subject of food. The items on the list I consider mandatory, and here, I'll tell why. I've specified a metal drinking cup. The one I use is a graniteware type cup, the largest I've been able to find. The reason for the metal cup, is that you can heat a cup of water in it, next to a fire, without damage to the cup. It's sometimes very nice to have something hot to drink, especially when it gets wet outside and the temperature drops along with a wind. I pack the inside of my cup with as many tea bags as it will hold, then put the whole shebang into a zip-lock bag. A cup of tea is a welcomed addition in many circumstances and too, tea has medicinal qualities to it, and the tea bag itself can be used as an anti-bacterial poultice for first aid purposes. I also carry hard candies with me, usually about a half a pound's worth, and usually a good portion of those are peppermint. Peppermint candy, when dissolved into a cup of tea makes a good nasal decongestant if you're spending a night out in the woods impromptu, then it also makes a tasty drink to enjoy. The cup, stuffed with tea bags and some peppermint candy go in the fanny pack.
You'll notice too that I've included salt, pepper, oregano, and basil for inclusion in the pack. These items take up almost no space, and weigh virtually nothing. However, they can make most anything edible! Even tough jack rabbits when cooked with either oregano and pepper or basil and pepper with a bit of salt are palatable. It's been said that anything can be palatable with the addition of pepper and oregano. There is much truth to the matter, and if you end up staying for a time in the wilds, unplanned for whatever reason, it's nice to eat something tasty rather than something that resembles the flavor of boiled fence posts. It takes so little planning to include these items into your pack, and you'll appreciate them all the more if you EVER use them in the field.
Important here, is perhaps the single most necessary element of your pack. Water. Water is essential, there's no getting around the need of water. Figure on about two quarts of water, minimum per day afield if you are the least bit active. Water may be packed in a number of ways, but my favorite is in the commercial water bottles from bottled water. Whether you choose to carry bottled water, or refill the containers, they are the most practical way to carry hydration in your daypack. The bottles can be collapsed to purge all air out of the bottle, as the water is consumed, and in so doing, all sound from the water sloshing in the bottle is eliminated, and you won't spook game. Canteens, both metal and the GI issue plastic are fine, they are very durable, but they are noisy, and unnecessarily heavy. Too I used leather boda bags for a number of years hunting with great satisfaction. They too are quiet in the woods, but my complaint of them is that if they are full, and you drop them, the plastic bladder inside the leather covering bursts, and you have no more water container. Not only don't you have a water container, but everything gets wet from the ruptured boda bag. The commercial bottled water containers are cheap, disposable after hunting season, light-weight and convenient. Carry at least two large bottles at a time with you into the game fields. You might not need them both right then, but in the event of an unforeseen emergency, you'll be glad for the pair of them.
The weight of your daypack, as loaded and described above, is only seventeen pounds! Although seventeen pounds can feel like fifty at the end of a day, it really isn't that much considering the peace of mind, and the preparedness it affords. May I suggest that it might just be the most important seventeen pounds you'll carry afield.
Finally, I'll end up the list of items to take, with some optional items in the way of food. It is a fact that you can survive thirty to forty days without food, but it's also a fact that if you have some fuel on-board, you'll perform better and think more clearly in a stressful condition. The food items I've listed here are ones that go into my daypack each time I go afield. I carry a one-quart aluminum camp pot with a lid, (weighs six ounces), and in that pot, I put a zip-lock bag with two measured cups of long grain rice, in another bag two cups of dry rolled oats (old fashioned oatmeal) and two or three of the seasoning packets found in a package of Top-Ramen noodles. This doesn't sound like much in the way of food, but it can be stretched quite some time, and is versatile, especially if the rice is cooked in conjunction with edible plants or small game. The whole package described here weighs an additional two pounds, but even this, when added to your pack makes for a package of less than twenty pounds.
The bottom line on a daypack is to evaluate your needs, anticipate the unexpected, then pack accordingly, keeping in mind your particular style and terrain of hunting, and the degree of solitude and isolation you enjoy when afield. Leave the daypack fully loaded year around, perhaps rotating out the batteries only, then it will be ready whenever you go afield. This pack not only applies when hunting, but during pre-season scouting, and any activity that will take you off the beaten path, where you could find yourself in any of the scenarios discussed in this article. Be smart, pack accordingly, then TAKE IT WITH YOU!
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