deer hunting backpack

Must-Have Gear: Essential Items for Your Deer Hunting Backpack

You’re up before dawn, heading to your tree stand for opening day. In position well before daylight, you finally spot the massive 10-point buck you’ve been chasing all season. Heart pumping, you steady your aim and squeeze off a perfect shot, dropping him on the spot.

As you prepare to field dress him, you reach into your backpack and your excitement turns to dread – you forgot your skinning knife! Now you’ll be stuck using a tiny 2-inch blade to clean this 200-pound beast.

The moral is clear: Never go hunting without a dedicated skinning knife. That essential tool makes dressing and processing your harvest easy. Come prepared with a quality fixed blade knife, and you’ll be thankful when it’s time to clean that monster buck. Don’t ruin your hunt with improper gear!

So do you need to know what to have in your deer hunting pack? I recently talked to some seasoned hunters to get their take. Here’s what every pro has in their bag.

Key Takeaways

  • The essential items for your deer hunting backpack include a skinning knifeflashlightbinocularsutility knife, gloves, rangefinder, haul rope, rain cover, water bladder and folding saw.
  • These items are critical for a successful and comfortable whitetail hunting trip.
  • Additional recommended items include stand prep gear for clearing shooting lanes, camouflage gloves for concealment, hunting calls and extra SD cards for your camera.
deer hunting backpack

Essential Deer Hunting Pack List

Now that you have the deer hunting gear list overview, let’s dive into each piece of gear.

Skinning Knife

Your skinning knife is like Excalibur – a legendary blade that elevates you from squire to knight. A quality skinning knife makes field dressing your harvest a cinch instead of a chore.

hunting knife

The Buck Knives 110 Folding Hunter is a classic with its 3.75” clip point blade that holds an edge forever. The Knives of Alaska Cub Bear Caping Knife is another favorite for its thin, flexible blade that slices through hide like butter. Don’t skimp here. A pro-grade skinning knife is worth its weight in whitetail backstraps.


Ever try tracking a blood trail or hiking back to camp once the sun disappears? Not fun. That’s why a solid flashlight is a must-have.

Hands-free headlamps from Black Diamond allow you to keep both hands on your knife while field dressing critters after dark. For seeing farther, I like the SureFire Defender Series for their durability and blinding 1,000 lumen output. And don’t forget extra batteries! Running out of light in bear country is not ideal.


In the deer hunting world, binoculars are important, especially if your hunting spot is out in the open. Scoping the landscape for hidden animals and faraway details can help you spot that big buck you may have missed otherwise. 

If I’m bowhunting, I’m partial to Swarovski EL 10×42 binos. They deliver crazy HD clarity to spot twitching ears or shaking antlers at 400 yards. When picking binos, make sure to get the magnification and objective lens size you need for your style of hunting.

Utility Knife

Your multi-tool might get all the glory, but a simple utility knife is secretly the MVP on a deer hunt. I always have a folding utility knife like the Gerber EAB Pocket Knife tucked in my pack. The replaceable razor blades mean I always have a scalpel-sharp edge to slice gear, prep food, or quarter meat.

I’m also a fan of the Gerber Gear Folding Knife with Fire Starter – being able to spark a fire using the built-in ferro rod could save your bacon if you get stranded. Moral of the story: A quality utility knife punches above its weight in usefulness. Don’t leave home without it.


Cold hands suck. They make your fingers stiff and clumsy. Every hunter knows this. Yet it’s easy to forget gloves once you’re out in the field. Don’t be that guy with frozen fingers fumbling your rifle. That’s straight up dangerous.

Quality gloves like Seirus Innovation Heatwave Gloves will keep your paws toasty in frigid conditions. Add in some hand warmers and your hands will thank you when it’s time to take those clutch shots.

For bow hunters, fitted gloves from Sitka Gear provide warmth while allowing full dexterity to draw and release with accuracy. Don’t risk your hunt to frostbite – come prepared with good gloves.


“That buck looks about 30 yards away.” How many times has a hunter uttered these fateful words before taking a wild guess of a shot? Too many. Don’t bet your hunt on eyesight alone.

Invest in a quality rangefinder like the Simmons LRF 600 to prevent unethical shots. Laser rangefinders take the uncertainty out of judging distances and give you the concrete data needed to make clean, effective shots. And for bow hunters, correctly gauging the distance is even more critical before you release that arrow. Save your eyesight for watching sunsets and use a rangefinder for range.

Haul Rope

Dragging your gear up a tree sucks. But with a good haul rope, you can haul it up easily instead.

haul rope

A sturdy rope with a 150 lb limit like the SafZone Climbing Lifeline makes hoisting your pack and stand effortlessly up your tree a cinch. No more awkward shimmying up and down to incrementally inch your stuff upwards. Simple pulley physics takes the drudgery out of getting your gear in position. Plus a high viz orange rope helps avoid tragic mishaps with unobservant fellow hunters. Don’t head to deer camp without one.

Rain Cover

Hunting in the rain can give you an edge. It helps hide your noise and keeps your scent from being detected by game.

Don’t head into the woods without some sort of rain protection. This is one of those cheap items you will kick yourself for not picking up. They are small and compressible, so they will fit almost anywhere in your hunting day pack. 

Water Bladder

Don’t let running out of water ruin a perfectly good hunting trip. Once you get thirsty, the hunt is basically over. Lugging around clunky water bottles just doesn’t cut it.

That’s why every seasoned hunter packs a water bladder like the Platypus Big Zip LP 3L Reservoir. Hands-free hydration allows you to silently sip water on demand without losing focus watching for prey. No more debating if you should abandon your spot just to re-fill. Plus you can throw some Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix in your bladder for energy and electrolytes.

Proper hydration is a game changer. Don’t leave home without it.

Folding Saw

The folding saw is a stealth MVP that belongs in every hunter’s kit. It takes care of odd jobs like clearing shooting lanes, snipping annoying branches, or gathering firewood without attracting attention.

I keep a Sven Saw in my backpack for quiet wood cutting on demand. The tri-cut teeth rip through limbs and saplings with barely a whisper. Beats noisily hacking away with your hunting knife.

When stealth is key, the folding saw allows you to woodwork like a ninja.

Mobile Battery Pack

Getting lost in the backcountry with a dead phone is bad news. Avoid potential disasters by packing extra battery power. I keep my phone juiced with the Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 Portable Charger. Its 10,000 mAh capacity recharges my phone multiple times. The slim size easily fits in my pack without adding bulk.

For longer trips, the BigBlue 28W Solar Charger folds up into a portable solar panel to recharge USB devices off-grid.

Don’t let dead batteries cut your hunt short. Come prepared with backup power.

Grunt Call

A grunt call is an essential tool for deer hunters facing close encounters. It serves as a defense option when using a scoped rifle might be challenging. The grunt call mimics the sounds made by deer, attracting them closer to your location.

This can provide you with better shooting opportunities and increase your chances of a successful hunt. By using a grunt call strategically, you can effectively communicate with deer and enhance your hunting experience in the field.


Hand-warmers are essential gear for any deer hunting pack list, especially in November and December, when the mornings can be uncomfortably cold. Cold hands can reduce dexterity, which can negatively impact your ability to set up gear and shoot your game.

By maintaining warmth in the hands, hand-warmers ensure that hunters can make well-placed shots with dexterity. Whether using disposable or reusable hand-warmers, these small items greatly impact both comfort and performance while out on the hunt.

Ozone Generator

Smelling human odors is a surefire way to send whitetail deer running. That’s why serious hunters use scent elimination systems like the Hunters Specialties Ozone Go portable ozone generator. It pumps out ozone to oxidize and neutralize odors before deer catch a whiff.

I also pack Scent Crusher ozone gear bags to zap smells on my clothes and gear. Multiple scent control measures working together mean more bucks within range.

Basic First Aid Kit

first aid kit

Accidents happen, even on routine hunts. That’s why every backpack needs a basic first aid kit.

Having critical medical supplies on hand could save your hide if you take a tumble from your tree stand or get a nasty cut butchering meat. A compact kit like the Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series has the essentials – gauze, bandages, ointment, etc. If you’re miles from civilization, that tiny kit could make a big difference.

Don’t test fate – a first-aid kit is an absolute necessity in your pack.


Cold, damp, hungry. As daylight fades, a hunter’s optimism fades too. If you are on a multi-day hunting camp trip, a roaring fire turns despair into delight real fast. That’s why carrying a lighter, waterproof matches, or flint fire starter is non-negotiable.

I keep an Überleben Zünden fire starter in my pack – its ferrocerium rod throws a fountain of sparks to ignite even wet tinder. With fire, you gain warmth, security from animals, and a way to cook morale-boosting meals. Don’t get caught fireless in the wilderness. Come prepared to spark.

Shooting Sticks

Rifle tremors and scope jitters make hitting targets a pain. Shooting sticks solve that. They provide a rock solid monopod for steadier aim.

I use the ALPS OutdoorZ Steady Stick to deaden movement for long range shots. The bipod legs brace the sticks on uneven terrain.

For run ‘n gun hunts, the Primos Trigger Stick Gen 3 folds down slim. Shooting sticks are like tripods for your rifle – they take uncertainties out of the shot equation. Don’t leave home without ‘em.

Extra SD Cards

Catching that big buck bounding through the pines on video would make any hunter’s day. But running out of memory mid-clip is a nightmare. Avoid devastating SD card shortages by packing extras.

I carry multiple 64GB SanDisk Extreme Pro cards. That amount of backup storage means I never miss an epic moment worrying about space. Once your card fills up, simply pop in a fresh one.

SD cards are stupid light – there’s no reason not to bring multiples. Don’t let recorded memories disappear for lack of memory!

Additional Hunting Gear for Your Whitetail Hunt

A few optional items include stand prep gear such as brush-cutting shears, garden pruners for clearing shooting lanes, as well as zip ties and paracord for securing equipment. You can also pack camo gloves, leather gloves, canvas work gloves, or field-dressing gloves depending on your specific needs.

Don’t forget to bring hunting calls like grunt calls, rattling horns, and a fawn bleat call to attract deer.

Hunting takes energy – both physical and mental. That’s why smart hunters come prepared with hydration and nutrition to go the distance. I pack electrolyte powders from companies like Liquid IV to keep my energy and hydration levels up. And for quick calories, I stash power snacks like EPIC bars, offline trail mix and Matador meat bars.

With proper sustenance, you’ll have the nutrients needed to keep alert and energized from dawn to dusk. Don’t let hunger or thirst hijack your success!


We’ve covered a ton of gear and tactics in this guide to take your hunt to the next level. The key takeaway is that preparation and having the right equipment for the job will set you up for an awesome, successful hunt.

Don’t head into the backcountry unprepared. Use this guide as your checklist, and you’ll be ready for whatever the wilderness throws your way.

Now grab your pack and get out there! Wishing you a safe, exciting hunting season.

Frequently Asked Questions About Deer Hunting Gear

1: Do I really need a rangefinder or can I just estimate distance?

Guesswork gets you gut piles, not trophy mounts. Investing in a quality rangefinder like the Simmons LRF 600 ensures ethical shots. Lasers don’t lie.

2: What should I look for when choosing a backpack for deer hunting?

Look for a pack with sufficient storage, durability, and comfort. The ALPS OutdoorZ Pursuit Pack is a great choice. It has room for all your gear and a frame to distribute weight. Trying it on loaded up is a must.

3: Is a hang-on treestand better than a climbing treestand?

For mobility and simplicity, I like a climbing deer stand. They allow you to hunt multiple spots and are quicker to set up. With a hang-on stand, you’re committed to one tree but gain more space. Evaluate your style.

4: Do you have any tips for staying comfortable in cold weather?

Layering is key. Use a merino wool or synthetic base layer to wick moisture. Insulated bibs and jackets add warmth without bulk. Don’t forget hand and toe warmers for extremities. Staying dry and blocking wind prevents the chill.

5: How do you prevent rain from ruining your hunt?

Quality rain gear ensures soggy hunts don’t end your season. Use waterproof boots like Muck Boots and top layers from Sitka Gear. Carry a pack cover like the Matador Beast28. Stay high and dry from head to toe.

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