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Your Backcountry Bowhunting Packing List

Your Backcountry Bowhunting Packing List

Columnist Matt Gibble walks though the Colorado backcountry with his traditional archery equipment.

A comprehensive list of everything you need while on a backpack archery hunt in the backcountry

A Rocky Mountain backcountry archery hunt necessitates specific packing requirements. To keep all of these details organized, I recommend creating a digital packing list. Additionally, not only will you be able to find my suggestions here, but you can also find them in Hunt to Eat Magazine.

The Beginnings of My Packing List Organization

I first created this list when I started backpacking in hunting’s offseason. My goal was to be able to get out of town in short order, not scrambling to throw my pack together last minute. I also wanted a rough idea of how heavy my pack would be before I hit the trail.

Being organized was my key to making this happen. First, I dedicated an area in my house to my camping and hunting gear. Everything is stored in one place, it’s organized, and it’s easy to pack. Next, I dedicated racks and bins in a spare room to the rest of my gear. You might need to work with a smaller space like a closet or place in the garage. However, if you have everything in one place, it makes it easier to pack it all up when it’s time to go.

The second part of this requires a little more planning. But I’ve gone ahead and done most of the work for you. I use a Google spreadsheet to list out all the items that I may take with me on a trip.

The author begins setting up his home base at a prime camping spot.

Packing Gear and Tracking Weight

If you clicked the link above, you saw my detailed packing list. However, you can easily edit it and make it your own. I’ve shared a few items from the “Clothing” section below.

It’s necessary to weigh each item that will go into your pack individually. I have a digital hanging scale that I use to weigh heavier items. I also use a digital kitchen scale to weigh out items. The kitchen scale breaks weights down to fractions of an ounce. Everything needs to be converted to ounces for the spreadsheet. 

On my packing list, you can see the item of clothing and its weight in ounces. If I am taking the item, then I place a “1” in the Check column. The “Pk Wt” column is the calculated weight for the item. I decided not to take a heavy hooded jacket and thus put a “zero” in the column. If I took two t-shirts, I would put a “2” in the column. Then the weight would adjust accordingly.

ClothingWeightPk WtCheck
Rain pants10101
Rain Jacket12121
Base Layer6.76.71
2nd layer19191
Base bottoms6.86.81
Light jacket13.513.51
Hooded jacket1800

Packing Cookware and Food

In the example below, I included my entire cookware and food packing list. Again, I weighed my items. The spork is essentially nothing; however, I still want to check it off so then I don’t forget it. My fuel is what a full small canister of isobutane fuel would weigh. 

Now, things change up a bit with food and water. When packing food, I measure out 1.5 pounds of food per day. For me, I try to consume roughly 3,000 calories per day in the field. You’ll need to do some research into what works for you. It varies for everyone, but off-season and scouting trips are great ways to see what your body needs calorically.

Under “Weight,” I have 24 ounces listed, or 1.5 pounds. In my “Check” column, I enter the number of days I’ll be afield. In this example, I pack four full days plus 0.25-day for when I hike in and 0.25-day when I hike out. It’s always a good idea to pack at least one extra day’s worth of food in case of an emergency. 

Maven's logo over a hunter with the sky behind him and a pair of binoculars to the right.

Packing In Water

With my water, I list the weight as “1” for one ounce of water. I enter 16 in the “Check” column because I’m only going to bring 16 ounces to start. This is important to note; water is heavy! However, water might not be the place where you want to cut weight. Yet, for my hike in, I’m going to be climbing almost 2,000 feet. I know my entire route is along a creek, so I can plan on stopping and getting more water, which I will most certainly need. This also offers the advantage of taking breaks and not exerting too much energy on the hike in.

Generally, my plans include setting up a base camp below treeline and hunting from there. In this case, I’ve already been in the area. I previously scouted it for good camping and hunting spots. Basically, I just need to get my heavy pack to base camp. Once there, I can set up my home-base and hunt with lighter packs each day.

CookwareWeightPk WtCheck
Bowl or coffee cup10101
Food 1.5#/day241084.5
Total Cookware9.625

Packing Your Hunting Gear

Let’s look at one more section of my packing list. You’ll see that in my hunting gear I have a lot of items that are listed as zero under “Weight.” The paracord and knives are all part of my kill kit. I have those items along with my game bags, sharpener, in a big Ziploc bag. I’ve weighed all of that together, which is 38 ounces, and have it listed as such. But I still like to list out those items so when I’m packing each year I can verify I have what I need for my kill kit.

Everybody may do this differently, but my hunting license and hunter education card is stored in my kill kit. I’ve never had to show it to a Wildlife Officer, but I know where it is if I need it, which is hopefully when game hits the ground.

Farther down the list you’ll see more zeros. I carry my bow in my hand, not on my pack, so I don’t count it in the weighted pack. I also carry a repair kit and extra items for my bow. Some of these items are listed as zero weight, but again I have put all those items in one small sack which weighs in at 15 ounces. 

Hunting GearWeightPk WtCheck
Para cord001
Game bags38381
Extra tab001
Tools for your bow15151

Here you can see my entire list and what I took with me for the first part of the archery big game season in 2021. This is a great resource to work on after the season ends. It allows you to inventory your gear and make necessary repairs and clean things up. Once stored, you’ll know where everything is.

The author’s base camp is all set up and from here on out, he can hunt with a lighter pack each day until he needs to hike back out.

Using Packing Lists for Other Outdoor Adventures

You can add, edit, or remove items as the years go along. As I replace gear, I make the necessary changes so the list is always current. When my wife goes along on summer backpacking trips, I check the list off for her, print it out, and give it to her. From there, she can quickly (in 10 minutes) have her backpack ready to go.

I especially like this list for summer scouting trips. Quite often, I may only have a quick night to get up to check out an area or look over a new area. With my list, I can be out the door quickly and in the hills with little stress. 

Finally, when hunting season rolls around, the task of preparing and packing is much less daunting working off this list. I hope you find it to be helpful in your prep as well. If you’re looking at backcountry hunting in the next few years, this will give you a good place to start. Your pack is your home on your back, so the more efficient you are with what you pack inside it, the happier you’ll be on your backcountry trip.

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