While most of the pieces of gear in this section are not completely mandatory or among the very basics for hunting, they are clearly great quality-of-life improvements while also highly increasing your chances of success. On top of that, they’re generally really affordable so you get a lot of value for a small investment. As you likely know, many times the difference between bagging the game and going home empty handed boils down to minor things and small details, so you should take any added advantage you can get, no matter how minute. In the end, it all adds up! Not to mention many of the items listed below are also about comfort which is a great counterweight for the effort and tiredness that come with this sport. So much so, that actually most of the professional hunters we’ve discussed with or interviewed over the years already consider the vast majority of these as must-haves and can no longer imagine doing without them. We’ve looked over the top performers and best offers for each of these products and selected the cream of the crop for you:
Best Hunting Laundry Detergent
OK, so obviously this is not part of the equipment you’ll be actually bringing along on your trips but it is still a crucial step in prepping your gear before leaving for the actual hunt. It should come as no surprise that most wildlife animals have exceedingly good sense of smell that they use to detect potential threats from long distances. Thus it is of utmost importance to do your best to eliminate any smell that could tip off the game of your presence, even when moving upwind. For this purpose, Primos® Control Freak scent removal detergent does a mighty fine job: it can be used to remove any kind of smells from clothing, be it body odors, cooking smells, smoke, deodorants and perfumes, pet smells or even the fabric’s own scent (think of rubber or plastic smell) that most new gear has and keeps for a long time.
In addition to removing any unwanted scent, it also prevents the fabric from acquiring new ones for up to 24h, which makes it ideal even for longer hunting trips. Couple that with the fact that it can be used on virtually any fabric and the very low price and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Hunting Duffle Bag
One of the most important aspects of a good hunting trip is actually getting all your gear out there in perfect condition and then being able to unpack and find everything you need quickly. There’s nothing more frustrating than wasting a lot of time searching through a dozen small bags and packs to find that one item you need. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have a lot of spare time and can only afford relatively short hunting trips, so anything that can help with speeding up the set-up process and allowing more time for the actual hunt is a great bonus. To this end, the Outback® Cotton Canvas Duffle Bag will be your best friend!
It comes in a wide range of sizes, from Medium (24” x 16” or 60cm x 40cm) to Colossal (72” x 22” or 182cm x 55cm), or as we like to call it, “it-can-fit-an-adult” large, so you will definitely find one to contain all your gear. It’s made out of medium-heavy fabric that can really take a beating without tearing or puncturing but at the same time it is surprisingly lightweight. The stitching is generally sturdy and the metal zipper is high-quality.
Best Hunting Fanny Pack
We discussed earlier about packing and bringing all your gear from home to the hunting site, but now that you’re actually there and ready to go do some scouting, settle in your stand or go stealth hunting, you need to bring along only the essentials. You obviously cannot lug around a full-size backpack or duffle bag and many times pants pockets are not enough or would become too stuffed to remain practical. The solution comes in the form of ALPS OutdoorZ Little Bear Fanny Hunting Pack which serves as the perfect middle-ground between a backpack and clothes pockets. It comes with a detachable shoulder harness that is excellent for the times you want to carry some extra stuff but at the same time don’t want the larger main or front pockets to sag and impede movement. There’s also a chest strap for extra support or simply for attaching some extra items to it. All the straps are of course adjustable so the fanny pack can be worn over varying amounts of layers and equipment.
The four pockets (main, front and two sides) amount to a whooping 8L/500 cu. in. volume which should provide ample storage for your basics such as knife, compass, matches, gloves, protein bars, maps, GPS, cell phone, water bottle, extra ammo, etc. The fanny pack is also very sturdy and can really take a beating as many hunters have had excellent experience with it even in harsh environments such as marshes, swamps or large briar patches.
Hunting First Aid Kit
In our opinion this type of product is almost a must-have for any hunter. We say “almost” because, while the necessity of a first aid kit is not debatable, we know that most hunters will generally have a makeshift kit, made of bits and pieces that they had lying around in their medicine cabinets and unfortunately more often than not some crucial items are missing. The Swiss Safe 2-in-1 First Aid Kit has been designed by trained medical professionals and has been FDA approved. It contains over 150 items, including a wide range of bandages, antiseptic wipes, disposable PVC gloves, sterile pads, emergency blanket, instant ice pack and many many others. But what is likely one of the most important pieces is an 18-pages first aid guide which will provide clear instructions on how to correctly and efficiently administer first aid in a multitude of situations. Even for people which have taken first aid courses, it is great to have it as a backup or a reference to double-check certain methods.
The entire kit weighs only 1.2 pounds or 0.54 kg and is 9 inches or 23 cm wide, so it can be easily carried around and fit in virtually any kind of luggage. While the bag is made out of a highly water resistant material, it is however not 100% waterproof. Since we’re on the subject of the bag itself, it surprised us with a very useful feature: on the back side, the entire list of items is printed. While this might not seem like a big deal at first, you will realize that once you’ve used a few items from the kit, it becomes really easy to determine what you need to add back inside in order to have the complete kit again, which is of crucial importance. The list will help you quickly review the contents of the kit before leaving on your hunting trips and will make it really easy to replenish the supplies with any missing item.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that apart from the first aid/medical kit, in order to be fully prepared you should really consider adding a survival kit to your standard hunting gear. While some of the items in such a kit will overlap slightly with the first aid kit and some other bits and pieces of your regular gear, you can never have too many safety nets and useful tools in an emergency situation. To this extend, we highly recommend you to check the following kit:
Camo Face Paint for Hunting
We’ve all probably had those awesome days when everything just lined up perfectly and you could possibly shoot your limit while standing in the open field. However, most days are not like that and the rule of thumb is that you need to take any little advantage you can. One such seemingly small thing is camouflage face paint, especially for waterfowl or turkey hunters. It came as quite a surprise for us when we realized that while many hunters spend a lot of time, effort and money to camouflage their bodies, the blinds and boats and even guns, usually there’s a clear and shiny face that peers above the blind. Thus in order to complement and enhance the rest of the camouflage efforts, we strongly suggest considering using camo face paint for optimal results. While there are generally some valid concerns related to using this type of product, we’ve done some thorough research and field testing to provide you with the overall best available face paint: Carbomask® three-pack camo face paint. If you had some previous experience with other face paints, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that Carbomask is not oil-based but it’s instead using charcoal which allows your skin to breathe normally. Not only that, but in fact it allows you to properly sweat through the paint, thus preventing many skin complications such as acne or rashes. Another big advantage of this particular paint is that it has absolutely no glare, shine or smell so it doesn’t come with any handicap that would in fact defeat the purpose of the product.
There are multiple color options to chose from, depending on the color scheme you want to achieve so it should be easy to find the combination you need. We were also very pleasantly surprised when it came to actually removing the paint at the end of the day: simply using a damp cloth or just water and a towel took care of the job in a few seconds. There’s no staining or stuck fragments, not even on facial hair.
Hunting Camo Hoodie
Even if hunting is not generally a cozy affair, it doesn’t mean that you should not treat yourself with a bit of extra comfort whenever possible. There are few things that can make your hunting trip a miserable experience, with one of the most prevalent being bad weather and in particular, cold. Being cold will make you lose focus, it will drastically affect your dexterity and mobility, it will ruin your aim and so on. It is then of utmost importance that you are wearing proper clothes that will fend off the cold and the wind. However the conundrum here is that when you’re out hunting, you cannot just pile on dozens of layers or wear very thick clothes as these would restrict your movement and mobility is crucial to this sport’s success. An optimal solution presents itself with Legendary Whitetails Men’s Camo Outfitter Hoodie.
It provides excellent wind protection and warmth, while at the same time allowing your skin to breathe and sweat to evaporate. It comes in a very wide range of sizes, from S (small) to 5X-L so you will surely find one to fit you. There’s also a decent selection of camouflage patterns to choose from, as well as regular colors for casual wearing, not only when actually going hunting. Please note that while there is an “Inferno” orange option, it is not certified Hunter Orange, so you should not use it as such.
Hunting Mosquito Repellent
By far one of hunters’ greatest enemies are the tiny predators: insects. At best, they are a constant nuisance which can make you lose focus, cripple your aim or even scare off your prey when you suddenly need to swath off some nasty flying devil that is trying to bite you. At worst, they can carry and cause diseases such as Yellow Fever, Lyme disease, avian influenza (bird flu), even the dreaded Plague, among numerous others. As consequence you should take this threat quite seriously and ensure you get the best protection you can against insects. Luckily, we’ve got you covered: after extensive research and field tests, as well as discussions with other hunters, we consider that the best insect repellent you can get is Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent. In fact it not only repels over 60 types of insects, but actually kills them, including mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, mites or fleas.
The product is used by applying it on any clothing piece, as well as tents, sleeping bags, chairs, blinds, hammocks, backpacks or any other outdoor equipment. It does not leave any kind of stains on any fabric type or material and it is completely odorless after drying. Not only is this repellent EPA registered but it has been in fact used by both U.S. and Canada military for their uniforms for almost 30 years now. On top of that, it will actually last on fabrics through up to 6 washing cycles, but we’d recommend reapplying after about 3 or 4.
Oh yeah, let’s not forget about the bonus perk: it is completely safe to be used on dogs and will protect our four legged buddies from ticks, fleas and other nasty insects that would otherwise pest them.
One of hunters’ best friends has to be the multipurpose and reliable machete. Either used to clear paths and trails, clear areas for the campsite, build shelters, chop firewood or cut tree limbs to craft various items, the machete is an absolute necessity for most outdoor activities. In a pickle, it could also serve as defense against wildlife. The SOGfari 18″ Machete is one of the best such tools out there: made out of professional grade stainless steel, it will keep an edge for a long time and the blade intact as long as you don’t use it to chop actual trees or thick wood. The back of the blade is an actual working saw that comes very sharp out of the box and ready to use.
The handle is made out of non-slip rubber and feels very comfortable to grip. The machete is overall lightweight and well balanced and you should not feel any weird cramping or soreness that usually come with poorly balanced cutting utensils. It also comes with a nylon sheath that has a belt-loop as well. However, overall both the sheath and the loop could be a bit more durable and sturdy.
Now, if you’re more interested in something to cut down small trees or thicker branches or logs, the machete is not exactly the right tool for those jobs and you should be looking at a hatchet. We’ve reviewed the best ones out there and you can find them here:
Winter is for many of us the best and most expected hunting season. Personal preferences aside, it does come with a series of advantages that are unique to it: prey is much easier to track, less competition as fewer hunters will venture out, the water and mud are frozen making those areas much easier to traverse than the usual struggle, animals are slower and have more predictable patterns and so on. But it does come with a major downside as well: the cold can affect your hunting abilities to such an extent that you might even go home empty handed unless you prepare adequately. It’s no secret that when it comes to heat loss, the extremities (hands, feet, head) are the first ones to suffer, so it follows that your focus should be on protecting these areas first and foremost.
Now ask any hunter out there which is worse: cold feet or cold hands? I’m positive that 9 out of 10 will confirm that warm hands are a top priority and that’s for a very simple reason: cold or frozen hands will completely ruin your aim and that means missing those crucial shots for which you prepared and trained so much. The dilemma here is how can you keep your hands warm but at the same time maintain their much needed dexterity, precision and stability? The answer comes in the simple yet incredibly efficient Igloos Men’s the Sentry Mittens. When needed, the top cover can be very quickly pulled back, allowing free movement and grip for the fingers while at the same time not exposing your entire hand to the cold.
The mittens come with a small velcro patch to which the top cover will attach when retracted, so there’s no risk of it accidentally covering your fingers when not needed. They also come with a split leather palm patch which provides extra durability for the area under most pressure. The interior is lined with a very soft and snug “3M Thinsulate” insulation making them ultra comfortable and able to keep cold and wind at bay. The mittens work equally fine for bows as well as firearms, making them a versatile addition to your hunting arsenal.
Best Compass for Hunting
In the digital age of smart devices and Internet it might seem odd that we’re even talking about something such as compasses, practically a centuries-old device, but there’s a very good reason for that: the more complex an item is, the more potential points of failure it has. Smartphones and tablets are clearly such highly complicated devices which can fail in a multitude of ways. The more we’re relying on them, the more helpless we’ll feel and truly be when something like that happens. Hunting trips can easily generate such situations when we cannot rely on our “smart companions”: they can discharge faster than expected, they can get wet and stop working, very low temperatures during winter can shut them down, the GPS signal can be lost (this happens even in cities!) and so on. The point is, it’s not a good practice to rely on a single, failure-prone, item for a crucial thing such as orientation.
Hunting trips, by their own nature, dictate the need to orient yourself at all times, to always know your location and how to go from point A to point B effectively (e.g. avoiding difficult or dangerous terrain). Due to the paramount importance of these aspects, you need reliable tools to do so and here comes into play the excellent Eyeskey Military Compass.
This compact and lightweight compass comes bundled with luminous (fluorescent) marching line and dial making them easy to read in low-light conditions. Even if you don’t plan on traveling during nighttime, unforeseen events can happen and this feature might make a huge difference. Sometimes, in thick forests, a sudden storm can darken the sky so much that it might as well seem like proper night. The compass’ case is made out of military grade aluminum alloy, providing it enhanced durability while not increasing its weight considerably. Being a lensatic compass, it boasts excellent accuracy, truly in the military-grade range. A nice surprise came when we flipped it over and found that an useful conversion chart for distance, angles and gradient is printed on the back plate. Lastly, if you’re traversing uneven terrain, the slope scale will come in handy in order to determine the actual slope of the trail.