How I Built My Survival Kit For My Hunting Backpack

a backpack sitting on the ground next to a tree

As an avid hunter who spends weeks deep in the wilderness every year, having the right survival gear has been absolutely essential for keeping me safe and comfortable on my expeditions. Over the years, I’ve perfected my hunting survival kit with all the essential tools, supplies, and knowledge needed to handle any situation far from civilization.

In this post, I’ll take you through everything that goes into my foolproof wilderness survival kit, from choosing the right equipment and packing enough food to brushing up on key navigation skills. I’ll share plenty of tips and tricks I’ve learned from my years of experience hunting in rugged terrain and unpredictable weather. So buckle up for the definitive guide to building the ultimate survival kit for your next big game hunting adventure!

Choosing the Right Hunting Backpack

The foundation of any good survival kit starts with choosing the right backpack to hold all your gear. For multi-day big game hunting trips, I recommend a hunting-specific backpack in the 50-80 liter range. Here are some key features to look for:

  • Durable, waterproof fabric – You’ll likely face wet weather, so make sure your pack can withstand the elements. I love gear from brands like Kifaru and Mystery Ranch, built with waterproof 500D nylon or Cordura.
  • The padded waist belt and shoulder straps – Hunting involves long miles with heavy loads. A comfortable fit is crucial. Load-lifters and sternum straps help stabilize weight.
  • Meat shelf and rifle carry system – Features specifically for packing out meat and carrying your firearm safely.
  • Spacious main compartment and pockets – Room for all your gear, with pockets and dividers to stay organized.
  • Lightweight yet sturdy – You’ll cover a lot of ground, so opt for a lightweight but durable pack in the 5-7 pound range.

After extensive testing, I’ve settled on the Mystery Ranch Pop-Up Pack as the perfect do-it-all hunting backpack. Its innovative design balances comfort, features, and adaptability for any multi-day backcountry hunt.

Gear and Tools For The Hunt

The following gear and tools make up the core of my hunting survival kit, allowing me to successfully track, hunt, and pack out my game:

Quality Firearm and Ammunition

Your firearm is arguably the most important piece of gear. I stick with a lightweight, high-performance .308 caliber rifle perfect for big game like deer, elk, and bear. Be sure to pack more ammunition than you expect to use in various weatherproof containers to keep it dry. Waterproof rifle slugs specifically designed for hunting are best.

Knives and Multi-Tool

A good knife is another essential item. I carry a sturdy 4” fixed blade knife in a protective sheath on my belt for skinning, a smaller 2-3” folding knife in my pocket for utility uses, and a saw for removing limbs or cutting wood. A multi-tool with pliers, screwdrivers, etc., adds further utility.

Don’t head into the wilderness without the proper navigational equipment. Must-have devices include a compass, topographic map of the area, a handheld GPS navigator, and a personal locator beacon (PLB). I also bring a portable power bank to keep devices charged in case I’m out longer than expected.

Binoculars and Spotting Scope

Quality optics allow you to spot game from far away and identify whether it’s a legal animal to pursue. I never leave camp without my 10×42 binoculars and lightweight spotting scope in my pack.

Game Calls

Game calls are useful for attracting animals by mimicking noises like deer grunts or elk bugles during the rut. They add an advantage for hunters willing to learn proper calling techniques. Practice your calls at home beforehand!

Game Bags and Haul System

Be prepared to haul meat from the field with game bags and a haul system. I use lightweight waterproof game bags tied to metal frames that distribute weight. A meat hauler system saves your back and shoulders over long distances.

Having top-notch gear suited for your environment will give you the tools needed for a successful hunt. But survival in the wilderness requires much more, as we’ll explore in the next sections.

person holding black round container

Packing Proper Clothing and Outerwear

Spending all day outside in unpredictable weather demands packing the right clothes to keep you warm, dry, and protected. Use a layered system and carry extra garments in case you get drenched crossing a creek or temperatures drop at night. Here are the essentials I always carry:

Base Layers

Moisture-wicking synthetic or Merino wool long underwear keeps your skin dry and regulates body temperature. I wear both a lightweight set for active hunting and a midweight set for idle cold-weather glassing.

Mid Layers

Mid-layers provide insulation and warmth outside of base layers. A wool sweater or PrimaLoft insulated jacket is perfect. For wet conditions, a down jacket inside a waterproof shell works well. Having options for varying temperatures is key.

Outer Shell

A waterproof, breathable outer shell jacket and pants protect you from rain, snow, and winds. Look for coated nylon or Gore-Tex materials. Make sure the seams are sealed. I toss a lightweight waterproof poncho in my pack too.


Bring beanies, ball caps, neck gaiters, and insulated hats to protect your head and neck. Opt for moisture-wicking wool or fleece materials. I regularly swap hats to adjust my comfort level.

Hand and Foot Protection

Well-insulated waterproof gloves or mittens are vital. For footwear, choose sturdy all-leather hunting boots with aggressive tread and waterproofing. A quality pair fitted to your feet prevents blisters over long distances. I also recommend gaiters that cover boot tops and keep out debris.

Don’t skimp on clothing. Staying warm, dry, and protected against the elements allows you to hunt safely in any weather condition. Now let’s get into other key elements of my survival kit.

three gray, green, and white scarf on top of table

Packing the Right Food and Water

Hunting burns massive calories and requires staying hydrated, so packing enough of the right food and water is critical. Here are some tips on supplies to pack:

  • Lightweight, calorie-dense foods – Jerky, protein bars, nut butter, dried fruit, and trail mix all provide energy without much weight.
  • Quick and easy meals – Pack dried meals or MREs (meals ready to eat) that just require boiled water. They’re perfect for tired nights back at camp.
  • Insulated bottles and bladders – I make sure to have both insulated bottles and hands-free hydration bladder systems to keep me drinking all day.
  • Water purification tools – A portable water filter lets me drink from creeks and springs. Water purification tablets are an alternate option. Boiling water also works in a pinch.
  • Snacks within reach – I keep plenty of high-energy snacks like jerky, nuts, and gels in my pack’s pockets for quick access when glassing or still hunting.

Being properly fed and hydrated allows you to hunt harder, glass longer, and maintain energy levels over tough miles. Don’t let hunger or thirst hinder your hunt!

Setting Up A Base Camp and Emergency Shelter

After long days of hunting, having a secure base camp to return to is key for recharging. I’m also prepared to quickly set up an emergency shelter in case I become stranded. Here are some tips:

Choosing a Campsite

Look for a flat site near water that provides cover from elements and danger. Be at least 100 yards from trails and drainages where the game travel. Clear the area of all sticks and rocks before setting up.

Sleep System

An insulated sleeping pad and warm sleeping bag suited to the expected low temps ensure you get adequate rest. If rain is expected, set up a durable waterproof tent or tarp overhead to stay dry.

Emergency Shelters

Should I become stranded, I can build an emergency shelter from a tarp, survival blanket, rope, and natural materials in the field. Practice making debris huts, lean-tos, and other shelters at home. Knowing proper techniques may save your life!

Having a secure base camp and skills to build emergency shelters gives you added safety and the ability to survive an unexpected night in the wilderness. But what if someone gets injured far from camp? Let’s discuss what I pack for medical emergencies next.

fire pit near gray dome tent at daytime

Preparing For Medical Emergencies

The remote wilderness locations I hunt in make professional medical care far away. That’s why packing a well-stocked first aid kit is absolutely essential. Here are some of the key supplies I carry:

  • Bandages and wraps – I carry an assortment of fabric and elastic bandages, gauze wraps, butterfly bandages, and adhesive tape for stabilizing wounds and stopping bleeding.
  • Medications – Pain relievers, anti-inflammatory meds, antihistamines, antibiotics, electrolyte tablets, and any personal prescriptions needed for several days.
  • Tools – Tweezers, trauma shears, safety pins, thermometers, syringes, and gloves for treating injuries. Eyewash and hand sanitizer also come in handy.
  • Emergency items – Skin closures, tourniquet, splint, emergency blanket, and whistle for attracting help.
  • Instruction manual – A book detailing step-by-step procedures for treating common hunting injuries and emergencies serves as a reference guide for applying first aid.

The key is having supplies not only for minor cuts and scrapes but also for major trauma should the worst occur miles from help. Additionally, being trained in wilderness medicine protocols like stopping bleeding, immobilizing limbs, treating shock, and safely moving injured parties allows you to respond effectively. Take the time to get proper hands-on training with medical experts. Knowing how to respond under pressure could save a life!

Having reliable navigation tools and techniques for signaling help in an emergency completes my survival kit. Here are some key items and skills:

Topographic Maps and Compass

Always carry waterproof topographic maps of any area you hunt and know how to read them. A quality compass aids navigation when paired with map reading skills. I take paper maps and load digital maps onto my GPS device.

Altimeter Watch

An altimeter watch tracks your elevation, helping pinpoint your location on a topographic map. This comes in handy when hunting in mountainous terrain with varying elevations.

GPS Device/ Locator Beacon

While I try not to become overly reliant on technology, a handheld GPS device and personal locator beacon provide extra insurance if lost. I know how to mark waypoints and navigate back to camp or my vehicle using GPS.

Signaling Devices

A whistle, signal mirror, and brightly-colored flagging can all be used to attract attention from search parties if injured or stranded. I keep these in pockets close at hand.

Landmark Identification

Being able to identify distant peaks, drainages, rock outcroppings, and other landmarks visible on the horizon aids navigation immensely. Study maps and get to know the hunting area’s unique features. This allows you to pinpoint your location by simply glancing around.

Have reliable tools, but also learn classic navigation techniques like pacing distances, triangulating, and backtracking. Knowing how to find your way even without today’s modern gadgets provides confidence to hunt deeper into the backcountry.

first aid kit, help, suitcase

Final Thoughts On Building My Hunting Survival Kit

Staying safe and self-sufficient while hunting remote areas requires having the right survival knowledge paired with a well-thought-out kit of gear and supplies tailored to the conditions. After many seasons and trials, I’ve dialed in a comprehensive backpack-ready system for handling nearly any situation the wilderness throws at me.

The key is assessing your specific needs based on location, game, terrain, weather, and planned duration in the field. A mule deer hunt in the mountains requires different clothing, shelter, and navigation tools than a prairie antelope hunt, for example. Customize your survival kit based on your personal hunt.

I hope this detailed guide gives you a blueprint for assembling your own hunting survival setup. Let me know if you have any other questions! Nothing beats the peace of mind that comes from heading into the wild, knowing you have the tools and training to handle any curveball and make it home safely. Here’s to successful and enjoyable hunting trips for years to come!

Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.

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