There is nothing fun about carrying a heavy pack during your hunting trip. Here are a few creative tips and tricks to cut some of that extra weight off of your pack this archery season.
Pack, Shelter, Sleeping Bag, Pad
Let’s start with the obvious. These four items are typically the bulkiest and heaviest items you carry with you. Do your research and find a meat hauler pack that is light but doesn’t sacrifice strength. Find a light one-person tent or bivy rather than packing that four-person tent you use on family camping trips. If you’re not going to get wet, down filled sleeping bags are lighter than synthetic filled bags at the same temperature rating. There are plenty of sleeping pads that are super light and very compact compared to the pads from just 10 years ago. You can easily shave 5-10 pounds from your load by finding the lightest versions of these four essentials.
A pump and a bladder are a very powerful combination to allow you to remain hydrated and safe. But both add weight and use quite a bit of pack space. Consider taking a couple Lifestraw bottles to alternate between. You can store these in either interior or exterior pockets on your pack. Another great option is a steripen and a basic plastic bottle. And a third option (and one I would bring anyway) would be water treatment tablets or drops. The other inconvenience of a bladder is that you have to take everything out of your pack in order to refill it. If you know that there are consistent water sources where you plan to hunt, then there’s no need to carry three liters of water with you all day.
I don’t know about you, but after a long day of hunting there is nothing better than a hot meal waiting for me at sundown. For me, it is better for to cut weight with my daytime food. Instead of powerbars and sandwiches I pack the small one-ounce 100 calorie packs of gels and nut butters to provide enough calories through the day. Focus on calorie-dense and lighter options to cut a pound or so off your week-long meals without sacrificing calories needed for energy.
My favorite knife I own, and the one I carry on every non-backpack hunt, is one my father made 40 years ago and gave to me my first hunting season. Unfortunately the fixed-blade knife is too large and too heavy for me to take in my pack. I’ve since switched to the replaceable blade knives and bring a half dozen extra razor replacement blades.
If you have batteries, take them out of their blister packs. Knife, leave the sheath behind. Ditch the manufacturer first aid kit bag and use ziplock. Only bring just enough contact solution, scent spray, toothpaste, wet wipes etc that you need. You typically don’t need to bring the entire package of these items.
Share the Load
If you’re hunting with a friend, there are many items that you simply don’t need to double up on. Consider bringing only one of the following items if you’re hunting with a partner: Water filtration pump, stove, tent, spotting scope, tripod, tools, and fire starter.
This is a new trick for me this year. I hate sleeping cold, so I tend to take a colder rated sleeping bag on my trips, especially late in the season. But this year I’m taking a sleeping liner along with my lighter sleeping bag. This will cut over a pound off of my pack weight this year.
Nylon game bags
If you’re still using those heavy cotton game bags, it’s time to upgrade. Several companies now offer very lightweight and strong game bags that cut the weight and volume of space needed for the game bag in half. Synthetic or nylon bags also do a better job keeping flies and fly eggs off of your quarters when you have to make several trips back and forth to retrieve your meat.
Ditch the unnecessary items
If you find that you typically pack three pairs of pants but usually only use two, then leave behind the other pair. The extra ammo for your sidearm, tube of toothpaste, spare knife, quiver full of arrows, the arm guard you never wear. Leave these items at home or in the truck. Additionally you can shave some weight by just bringing the allen wrenches that fit your bow rather than the entire set. If you’re already scouting an area, and you know you’ll be back to hunt that area, stash some non-perishable food where you’ll find it on your next trip.
I hope some of these tips help you lighten your pack and help you hunt longer and stronger. Good luck this upcoming season!