Those in the self-defense world are very serious about their Every-Day Carry (EDC). It’s the tools they have with them every time they venture into the world. The basics are usually a handgun, a reload and a knife. Often EDC tools include a small flashlight. The very hard-core among them have a saying: “Two is one and one is none,” meaning they carry a backup for the important things.
Hunters should carry an EDC kit, along with backup. The dangers of the field are probably a bit different and actually more extensive. While some worry about criminals, we hunters must deal with the most dangerous adversary of all: Mother Nature. There are some things I take every time I venture into the woods, usually including backup.
Don’t think you won’t ever get lost, even on your own property. I have seen a storm or fog come in quickly and change everything. That’s EDC No. 1. I never go hunting without compasses. My primary compass is the mirror-style Brunton TruArk 15. I like this compass a lot because it glows in the dark. That way I don’t have to turn on a light at night and destroy my night vision.
If you hunt in the Northeast where deer hunters penetrate deep into the thick North Woods, you will most likely see a ball compass pinned on every jacket. Several I have tried were junk and rarely lasted a full hunting season. I recently replaced mine with a higher quality Brunton Globe compass as my backup, even though it will probably get more use than the one in my pocket.
A compass and a GPS are not the same thing and, while they complement each other, I think it’s important to have both. A lot of folks use their phone for a GPS. My app only works with service, so that’s a problem. Plus, the battery dies pretty fast. So I carry a Bushnell BackTrack Mini GPS. It’s a simple GPS that weighs nearly nothing. It will get you back to the truck or mark the big-game animal you want to come back and recover. It’s so small that it goes unnoticed in my pocket until I need it.
Every hunter should have a belt knife. I recently picked up a WOOX brand Rock 62 knife. This is a slightly larger straight blade than I normally use and is made in the bushcraft style. I carried it all last hunting season. We all have our favorite knives—right now this is mine. I like a fixed blade and found that this one can do much more than just field-dress a deer. It can be used to clear brush from a blind or even help to start a fire.
Knives get dull or lost, so I often have a backup in my backpack. In this case it’s a Cold Steel clip-point Double Safe Hunter folding knife. If you have ever cut up a moose or elk with a single knife and no sharpener, you understand.
I always carry a Super Tinker Swiss Army knife in my left-front pocket. From processing a deer to clipping my nails, this is the most essential EDC I have.
If you are going hunting, take a flashlight! I don’t care if you are planning to be done well before dark, you can’t predict the future. I have seen guys who should know better attempt to track deer with their phones. Take a real flashlight. In fact, take two. They get lost, bulbs burn out and batteries go dead. If you have ever tried to change a bulb in total darkness you will understand. Take two lights.
The light will help you in and out of the woods in the dark. It will let you sweep your stand for snakes or wasps. A flashlight can be critical for the walk out and it adds a level of safety, as it tells everybody you are a human. I can’t tell you how many deer shot at last light that I have tracked with a flashlight. In most places these days, if you leave deer in the field, the coyotes will find them before morning.
Today’s flashlights are incredible. One small enough to carry in a pocket does more than those giant clubs we had in the past. My pocket carry is a 500-lumen LEDlenser P5R Core. The slightly bigger 2,000-lumen P7R Signature comes with a leather belt case. One or the other is my primary light. For my backup I carry the tiny P2R that clips onto my shirt pocket within easy reach. My backup to the backup is the tiny 400-lumen K6R on my keychain. Of course, they are all rechargeable.
Most of us carry a bottle of water, but we should also carry a way to replenish that water. It’s not safe to drink from any water source these days, no matter how remote. I now double up with a way to purify the water. Hikers love two-part Aquamira chlorine dioxide drops because they weigh almost nothing. Mix them up, put them in your water and wait 15 minutes. You must wait. I once mixed up some on a sheep hunt and drank it too soon. I paid for days. I often carry a rechargeable SteriPEN that emits UV light, which switches off all the little bugs and makes water safe to drink. It works fast and leaves no chemicals or taste. Both of these options are light and easy to carry.
Finally, always have at least two ways to make a fire. I carry three. I bring a Bic lighter that also works to check wind direction. I have a waterproof case filled with strike-anywhere matches, and I always have a metal ferro stick fire starter of some kind.
These simple tools (and a backup) will make any day of hunting safer and more enjoyable.