The 10 Essentials Every Upland Hunter Should Have in Their Bag

Hunters are no strangers to preparation. Long before ever setting foot in the field, a successful hunter spends plenty of time scouting, monitoring rainfall, reading bird forecasts and reviewing roadside surveys. But beyond knowing where to hunt, a good hunter also needs to be prepared for unexpected situations that can arise when you’re out in the field. While many of the items on this list are things you’ll hopefully never need, when it comes to dealing with an emergency, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

My Ten Essentials

  1. Water
  2. Navigation
  3. Communication
  4. Flash light
  5. Knife or Multi-tool
  6. First-Aid Kit
  7. Food
  8. Fire
  9. Space Blanket
  10. Whistle 


This is number one on my list for a reason. If you forget everything else, you need to be sure to bring enough water with you into the field, and that includes water for your dog if you have one. The general rule of thumb is you need about a half-liter of water for yourself per hour of moderate activity in moderate weather. You can adjust this up or down if you’re going to be hunting in hot weather or hunting birds through rough terrain (chukar chasers, I’m looking at you). My general rule of thumb is to carry about two liters of water in a camelback and another liter in a squeeze-bottle for my dog. I’m a big believer in using a squeeze-bottle for your dog. When my dog is feeling birdy, she has no interest in something as mundane as drinking water. Having a squeeze-bottle on hand is a good way to force some water into your dog’s mouth and keep ‘em cool and hydrated. 


This one is another no-brainer. Between cell phones and smartwatches, you’ve probably got a navigation system built into a device you already take with you into the field. That being said, if you’re going to be hunting in an area big enough to get lost in, you should always bring a compass and waterproof map with you if you’re trekking into the wilderness. It’s a simple thing, but you’ll appreciate it if you ever need it. Regardless, no matter what navigation system you use, make sure you’ve tried it before you set foot into the field. The time to learn how to turn on your GPS is not when you’re lost and it’s getting dark fast. I personally use the Garmin Fenix 5’s TracBack feature, so I can see exactly where I am in the field and how to retrace my steps if I need to. 


Let’s be honest—for most of us, this is going to be a cell phone. Just make sure that your phone is fully charged before you head out and someone knows what fields your hunting other than your dog. 

Flash Light

I’m a big believer in headlamps over handheld flashlights. They’re hands free, easy to use, and take up less space in your pack than a handheld flashlight.

Knife or Multi-tool

I know you already have a knife or multi-tool. Just bring it with you. They’re useful. And you’re gonna need it to clean all those birds. 

First-Aid Kit

There are plenty of affordable first aid kits that are prepackaged for hunters. But I personally like to assemble my own because I’ve never found one that had everything I wanted in it without a bunch of stuff that I didn’t. In my kit, I keep sterile gauze, athletic wrap, saline spray, neosporin, moleskin, liquid benadryl, butterfly strips, a tourniquet, biodegradable wet wipes, and Quikclot sponges. I also toss a small thing of sunscreen in there if the weather warrants it. 


We’ve all heard the old-saying that a hungry dog hunts best, and while that may be true, it won’t kill you to bring something to eat for you and your dog in case you end up spending longer in the field chasing a covey of quail than you expected.


I’m a big fan of survival matches. They’re cheap, strike anywhere, and I trust them more than a lighter. 

Space Blanket/Emergency Bivy

On a pound per pound basis, space blankets are probably the single most useful piece of gear you can toss in your pack and forget about. They’re practically weightless, and they can literally save your life if you have to spend a night out in the cold or build a shelter to get out of the sun. The reflective side can also be used to signal for help in a pinch. I keep two in my car all year around and always put one in my pack whenever I go hunting without exception. 


If you work with a dog, you likely already bring a whistle into the field. However, even if you don’t have a dog, you should still bring a whistle. This is another useful tool that, in the event you need to get found, it’s better to have one and be able to blast out a simple S.O.S. in the event of an emergency.

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