If you’ve decided to expand your horizons and see a bit of the world, you’re going to need more than just a passport and a good set of rifles. Traveling the world will certainly take you out of your comfort zone, though if you can accumulate a set of tools and necessary gear, your time abroad will be much more comfortable. I’ve made some assumptions over the years—that certain gear is going to be in each and every camp, no matter the country or continent—and that simply isn’t the case.
Those bits of gear we take for granted here in the U.S. may be either unavailable or unaffordable in those countries you intend to hunt, therefore the only option may be to bring it along yourself. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a set of tools and other assorted gear that has come to the rescue many times, in the strangest of places. Let’s take a look at my personal traveling ‘toolbox’ to get a feel for how to combat serious problems when hunting abroad.
I remember we were in Tanzania, tracking buffalo, when my Dad tapped me on the shoulder and nodded down at the Winchester Model 70 .458 he was carrying. In spite of hundreds of rounds at the bench during both load development and practice, the bases chose the worst moment to come loose. I did have the proper tool to tighten the bases, but we had to zero the rifle again; I was happy that he noticed it before settling the crosshairs on a buffalo’s shoulder. Without bringing a range bag in the field with me, I carry a few select tools which have made life much easier. I really like the Leupold Fix-It Sticks; they come in a convenient little pouch and have the necessary bits to adjust nearly anything. They even have a 25 in.-lb. and 65 in.-lb torque limiter for putting the proper amount of torque on base and action screws. Combine this light and handy setup with a multi-tool and/or a Swiss Army knife (I still carry one in my hunting bag) and there isn’t too awful much you can’t fix or adjust.
I also like to carry an appropriately-sized Hoppe’s BoreSnake in my bag, as it’s much smaller than a cleaning rod, and has come to the rescue on several continents. I once plugged the muzzle of my .300 when I fell into an Adirondack stream, and while a small stick removed most of the sand and debris, the BoreSnake made the rifle operational again. In my gun case, I keep a small bottle of M-Pro 7 gun oil and a soft rag for routine cleaning in camp. I also keep a few paper targets in the bottom of my gun case for checking zero; many times a circular smudge on a piece of cardboard is the best you’ll be offered.
Let There Be Light
A good flashlight with extra batteries can be a life-saver, especially when things don’t go as planned. While this seems quite obvious, I’m amazed at how many times I've found myself—even among fellow hunters—in a pinch, and no one has a flashlight. While any light is a blessing in a pinch, I've come to appreciate the Pelican lights, especially the 7000 Tactical Flashlight and the 2750 Headlamp, which is excellent when you need both hands. I’ve taken the pair on safari, where they came in very handy, whether taking photos of an animal taken at dusk or helping change a tire, or even walking around camp.
The ability to start a fire is also paramount, especially on those rugged, do-it-yourself hunts, in addition to a bunch of matches and a butane lighter or two, I like the magnesium fire starters. I’ve been soaked in the Adirondack freezing rain, and a magnesium fire starter helped get a fire going quickly.
It doesn’t have to be huge, but it does need to be on your person should something terrible happen. In a small tin, I carry a dozen Band-Aids, some surgical tape, a few ibuprofen and some antibiotic ointment. If you or your partners have allergies, some antihistamine pills like Benadryl may prove to be very useful. But because this will be carried, the ability to stop bleeding is paramount here; a bigger kit can be carried in your luggage and kept in camp, with the items you feel will serve best, like moleskin for blisters and sunscreen for warmer climates. If your hunt requires a prescription medication—such as a malarial prophylaxis while on safari—make sure you include it and all other necessary meds in your kit.
Odds and Ends
A compass—and the ability to use it—is a very important item in your kit; I’ve relied upon my compass more than a few times while in the wild, even with good trackers and professional hunters. In the midst of Graham Williams’ huge Arnhemland concession, a late evening water buffalo and a flat tire saw us steering back toward a river bed—using the compass to guide us through the trackless area. In my bag I also carry a small magnifying glass, and sometimes a pair of reading glasses. Even if you have young eyes and can read small print—I do not, and require magnification—these items come in handy for removing small splinters or taking debris out of someone’s eye (this happens often). They’re wonderful for seeing tiny screws on rifles, GPS units or whatever else, and can even start a fire if you have good sunlight. I also keep a small notepad—I like Rite in the Rain—to leave a note, or take down vital information.
A good gun or bow case is an important investment, as you’re going to subject your hunting implement to the tortures of the airline baggage handlers. I’ve seen them wreak havoc on the best of them, bending and denting them in ways I still can’t make sense of. I’ve had very good luck with the Pelican 1750 Protector rifle case, as well as their new Vault V800 case and their cable locks; I advise using cable locks, as they don’t break your case when they get ripped off (and they will be), and they’re light and small, so extras can be carried in your bag. I like to put my rifles in a small soft case, and put that soft case inside the hard case, maximizing space.
You’ll also need a lockable ammo case for your checked bag (airlines are rapidly changing regulations). I have a small Plano box and a larger Pelican Ammo Vault. I’d also recommend a good case for your cameras and/or video gear, as travel can be very hard on fragile electronics. A good backpack can double as a carry on for the flight—just be sure and remove all your ammunition and knives before going through TSA checkpoints.
Boots and Binos
There are a couple of items you’ll want to carry with you on a plane if you can. Some hunts require specialized footwear—I'm thinking cold-weather Pac boots or mountain hiking boots, but if at all possible, I’ll wear my hunting boots on the plane. I’ve got a couple pairs of Courteney Safari boots that have been on several continents with me, yet are presentable enough to wear for travel. Regarding your binos, I recommend placing them in your carry-on, as the extra binos in camp may result in temporary blindness, or at least blurry vision. As hunters, we glass much more than we think we do, and I’m sure you’re used to your own set.