Organization. Unfortunately, it's not something that comes naturally to me, but when it comes to sneaking in tight to a buck's core area, I've learned the hard way being unorganized isn't an option. When mobile hunting, having a well-thought-out approach to packing your gear is the foundation for success in the woods.
Let's look at four guys who have fine-tuned their packs through years of trial and error and have come to a process that works for them. These guys are big buck killers who have a passion for the details and enjoy consistent success as a result of their systematic approach to mobile hunting.
Andy May I use the Tethrd Fas Pack. I like how compact it is and the pocket layout. It comes with a modular compression kit, so you can set it up in a way that works best for you. It holds my climbing sticks and saddle platform perfectly.
Tony Peterson My go-to pack is the First Lite Transfer Pack. I carry a lot of camera gear with my mobile hunting equipment, so I need a lot of space. I also like having several spots on the exterior of my packs to strap climbing sticks and extra clothes. Small daypacks don't cut it for me.
Aaron Bleise In the past, my approach was if it had 100 pockets, I was filling them. I was an "I'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it" kind of hunter. About five years ago, I started dipping my toes into being more tactical and having a purpose in everything I did. So I needed to cut some weight. My approach now is very much a minimalist approach. The Eberlestock Bandit is currently the best pack for me.
Tyler Jones I've been using the Transfer Pack from First Lite, and I like the pack for several reasons. I like its boxy design that allows ease of getting your gear out and holds a ton of clothing for late-season hunts. I've even hauled a few whitetails out in the pack. The external straps are great for holding sticks and my saddle platform on the pack.
Andy May My pack is very organized. Every item has its spot, so I can quickly find whatever I need. After using something, it goes right back into its original location.
Externally, I have a hand saw and small clippers for small vines or tiny branches. My bow rope stays in the other outside pocket. I carry a compass, headlamp, and bow holder in the top pocket. Internally, I store a grunt call that and a small rattle pack. Sometimes I carry a small camera arm if I'm going to film. I have binos, rangefinder, wind checker, and milkweed on my person.
These are my essentials. Depending on the hunt, I may take a few other things, but I like to stay with just the essentials as often as possible.
Tony Peterson My pack is my support system for mobile hunting. I need everything at my disposal for short sits or all-day hunts. Weight only plays a factor for me as far as stealth is concerned. The lighter my gear is, the quieter I can be. When I elk hunt, I worry about the overall weight of my pack, but not when I'm deer hunting.
I don't change packs throughout the season. Every time I hunt, I use a pack that's big enough for all of my gear, food, clothes, etc., because I have a system with my pack. I know where everything is, and it can handle everything I need for a sit regardless of the seasonal timing or how long I plan to hunt.
Aaron Bleise Every pocket in my pack has a purpose. Being a mobile hunter, you need to be able to access gear with your eyes closed; it has to be second nature.
My pack has a big main compartment with three internal side pockets. The main compartment holds extra clothing layers, usually a lightweight coat or vest. The first internal pocket is where my camera arm slides into. The second inner pocket is for a hand saw and grunt tube. The third internal pocket is for a sandwich and snacks for all-day sits and a phone charger.
The top lid pocket holds my camera with lens, extra batteries, headlamp, tags, and Primos can call. There are two external side pockets; one has my Doyles gear hoist, and the other holds a water bottle. I attach my climbing sticks and saddle platform on the outside of the pack with the external lashing straps.
Tyler Jones I'm not super organized, but I do operate in a way where I know where most of my stuff is. Top storage is for odds and ends like flashlights, gear hangers, and calls for easy access. Inside the pack's main compartment are clothing layers and extra climbing aiders in case I need to get higher or start my first step higher due to too large a tree at the base. I also keep power sources and extra charging cords in the main compartment.
I pack in a way that keeps me from pulling out unnecessary items to get to others. Think about the order in which you build your set and pack the last things you'll use first. My essentials are things that typically have to do with my hunting setup and my ability to stay warm. I carry a top layer more than I think I need. It’s not a popular opinion among bow hunters, but I love a puffy jacket for warmth.
I also always have two headlamps with two sets of batteries. Nothing is worse than walking out in the dark with no flashlight. I usually keep a spare pocket knife and water bottle. Weight is not a big factor, but I'm not a small dude. I pack what I need and a couple extras, so I typically know that it's what I must carry to make a successful hunt.
Andy May My pack is essential to my mobile process. I used to use a small fanny pack around the waist when I was using a hang-on and sticks, but lately, I've been running the Tethrd Fas pack because of how modular it is and its ability to pack everything I need. The Tethrd Fas pack marries up with the Tethrd Predator pack.
This allows me to carry my saddle platform in the Predator pack and turns that pack into a compression panel on the Fas pack. I can carry my platform and sticks, and even extra layers, very tight and secure. My climbing method typically consists of The Tethrd One Sticks. I use a rubber gear tie on the back of my saddle to carry my platform while ascending the tree. It allows me to easily reach back and untwist, releasing the platform to place at hunting height. My pack is zipped up, secure and quiet. It will not make any noise during transport. This is important because I often try to sneak in tightly to bedded deer.
Tony Peterson For some hunts, I use a saddle and sticks. For others, I use a lightweight hang-on and sticks. Carrying a saddle and platform is easier than a stand, but with the Transfer Pack, I can strap a lightweight stand to the back and sticks on the side. In either case, I'm not carrying much weight, so it's more about keeping everything in place and super quiet.
I use quick straps to quiet everything down on my stands and sticks. The tighter gear is, the quieter it'll be. When I leave my truck, everything is cinched down and in its proper place. The first pieces I'll need are on the outside, my stand or saddle and sticks. Everything I'll need to set up, like saws, pruners, and a tow rope, is in easily accessible pockets. The stuff I won't need immediately, like an extra layer of clothing or food, is packed away. I organize my pack so it contains everything I need, in order of how I intend to use it to keep me from digging around for gear.
Aaron Bleise Weight is a massive thing for me. I try and stay around the 20- to 25-pound range. I like to feel lean. I don't want to have whatever's on my back making noise and banging off the thick brush. I'm strictly a saddle hunter, so I use three mini-climbing sticks and a Latitude X wing platform. I typically stack the sticks on the outside of the pack and then put the platform on those.
The best thing about the bandit pack is its built-in batwing strap that cinches everything to the pack. I use bungees and quick-connect straps to attach any clothing over top of everything securely. My pack is set up where everything comes out as I need it, and you don't have to dig. It’s important to be dialed with your pack so you're efficient and not wasting time.
Tyler Jones Weight is not a significant factor to me, but I'm not a small dude. I pack what I need and a couple extras to make a successful hunt. I'm also pretty practical and don't fancy myself the type to try to life-hack my way into a tree. The right tree is about the most important part of a successful hunting scenario. I would rather be uncomfortable all afternoon sitting low in a tree than have to make a 40-yard shot from a more comfortable tree or better hiding spot.
I typically use the Muddy Pro sticks or the Timber Ninja carbon sticks. The Timber Ninja sticks are super light but don’t have the best traction and can be a bit loud when I'm not careful enough or in a hurry. The Muddy Pros are heavier but very functional. My sticks strap in on the wings of my pack, and my platform is strapped in by the lid, dead center on the back of the pack. I use rubber wire on my saddle to hang sticks or bundled ropes off my hips as I climb and set up.
Want to learn more about mobile hunting? Check out these articles: 3 Mods That Will Improve Your Mobile Hunting Setup, 5 Most Common Mistakes Whitetail Hunters Makes, and The 3 Most Common Questions About Saddle Hunting.
Feature image via Captured Creative.