What’s in my bag?

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I was recently asked what I take along on an overnight trip whether it be for hunting, fishing, hiking or photographing the outdoors. It mostly depends on where and what I will be doing. There are several “what’s in my bag” types of stories and videos along the internet that helps in establishing a foundation for what others may use on similar expeditions.

I will be going on an overnight stay in one of the parks in North Carolina next week as a precursor to my trip to the West. This trip is mainly to see that I have all I need and to help lessen the loads of things I will not need.

While this trip will be focused more on photography than anything, as it will serve as both an opportunity to capture images for a currently running photo competition as well as test my setups, I will not bore you all with my camera equipment, for the most part. If you do wonder what I will be taking along camera wise, feel free to contact me at billhowardoutoors@gmail.com and I will be happy to share information.

Also, because this is a photography hike, my camera gear will consist of a good portion on the weight in my backpack. So I felt I really needed to get the pack down as one of the priorities in order to make the trip work.

First of all, as this column is carried by several outlets, I need to add a disclaimer that I live in Eastern North Carolina. This results in low-altitude areas. It also results in high-altitude fatigue. Again, this makes a good reason to get the weight of the pack down as much as possible.

Primarily being a hunter and not a hiker, I have an abundance of hunting backpacks. They are designed differently than hiking packs and tend to be a little more robust in both material and weight. I am not purchasing another pack and will be using one of my hunting backpacks, specifically the Hunter-to-Hunter Markhor Hunting Elk Mountain backpack.

Other than camera gear, the next concern is camping overnight. The temperatures in North Carolina will mirror the expected and historical temperatures on the trip west, so this will let me know whether the comfort level is there. Typically, I would carry a tent. When I hunt on overnight trips, I use a tent. When hunting or fishing, the tent makes a nice base camp as I tend to camp near where I will hunt.

Hiking trips are a bit different. Hiking by its very nature is nomadic, meaning you have to pack and go after each night’s stay. For this I will be doing something a little different in order to save a small bit of time and much weight. I will be using a hammock system in which my camp is my hammock. It consists of a mummy sleeping bag, an underquilt and overquilt, a rainfly, two spikes with cords for the rainfly and two tree straps to hold the hammock and rainfly off the ground. This sounds like a lot, but the weight is roughly a quarter of what I would need even with a lightweight hiking tent. The space required is less than half.

I also need food and water on the trip. This entails a small two-cup sized foldable pot, a pocket rocket single burner, a small can of butane/propane mixed fuel, two spoons and two forks, and a water filter. For actual food, rather than purchasing the expensive dry foods, I tone it down a little and have portion bags for eight servings of mashed potatoes, some turkey jerky, some granola bars and a very small container of peanut butter. I know, not the most appetizing meals, but I am not going there to eat at a four-star restaurant. I just need some extra energy while on the trails. I will begin with water in a water bladder for the hike but can and will use the water filter along the way on the streams located there.

For extra clothes, I will only have an extra T-shirt, an extra pair of wool socks and an extra pair of underwear along with a lightweight rainsuit, specifically Frogg Toggs brand. I can make it on these and the food I bring for at least one extra day, in case of emergency.

As for what I call survival items, the list seems long but takes up very little weight or room, and are all important. A head torch and flashlight are a must, and I will have an extra set of AAA batteries for the head torch. Also, a knife and paracord are part of the ‘always have’ items. Because I am of the age where aches and pains set in, a bottle of pain relievers just in case, and a small packet of bandages. I use my cell phone glass as a survival mirror, which works rather well, and I carry a map of the area and a compass in case the cell phone battery dies leaving me without GPS. To round out the survival items, I pack a small wire saw, a lighter and several packs of hand and feet warmers.

While this is what I pack for a one-night trip, if something unfortunate were to happen, I could actually make it for several days with a little rationing. And that is what is in my bag.

Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.