Hunting Clothes and Gear: How Much Is Enough?
By V. Paul Reynolds

What you wear on your back as a hunter, and what you carry in your day pack, can make the difference between a comfortable day in the woods and a downright miserable day. For the deer hunter who gets "turned around" and is forced to spend a night in the woods, clothing and gear can spell the difference between misery and comfort, or even life and death.

Of course, when it comes to clothing and gear, climate and weather are determining factors. For Maine deer hunters, especially those who hunt the aborreal forests of the North Woods, the old Boy Scout motto applies: "Be Prepared." That means, dress and gear up as though you expect the worst. In November in Maine, Mother Nature is as unpredictable as a sow bear with cubs. Mornings can start out sunny and mild and, by afternoon, turn to driving rain and plummeting temperatures. Then, just when you think that the weather is as bad as it can get, it gets worse. If you have ever been miles from your truck in a cedar swamp at 3 p.m.when the downpour transforms itself into a Nor'easter with fine, wind-driven snow and whiteout conditions, you know the puckery feeling. I have. But the warm clothing on my back, and the day-pack I carried loaded to the gunwales with survival neccessities, offered some comfort.

Every hunter has a different take on what it means to be prepared when spending a day in the woods. Knowing what "survival stuff" to take and what not to take is every hunter's challenge.
(Photo by V. Paul Reynolds)

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Yes, there is a trade off. The more gear you carry the heavier the pack, which can make for a tiring day for the hunter who covers a lot of ground.Each of us has different tolerance levels for discomfort and risk. As a young hunter, I travelled light. A lighter, a candy bar, and an extra compass constituted my "survival gear." In those days, when we were immortal, the prospect of getting lost and spending a night in the woods was just not part of the equation. But time and experience has a way of "rounding out" most outdoorsmen. Some humility sets in. You soon learn how easily even the most adept deer hunter can get confused and lost in the woods.

When it comes to clothing and gear for Maine deer hunters, I have found that there are three hunter types: a) Tarzan b) Davey Crockett c) Kitchen Sink

It's a personal thing, depending upon how badly you want to be comfortable and how spleeny you about cold feet and an empty stomach. When it comes to hunting clothes and gear, I am a Kitchen Sink kind of guy. About 20 years ago, I outgrew the Davey Crockett phase, and began loading up my day-pack with everything survival-wise but the Kitchen Sink. Yes, the guys I hunt with mock my hunt preparation "excesses," but I don't care. For my money, creature comforts trump pride and hunter image every time.

Here's my take on how to be a well-equipped deer hunter, especially in the woods of Maine.


1. A good quality fanny seat, preferably the kind that inflates and deflates.

2. Rubber pacs with some insulation. Spend the money for good ones that have inner sole support. (Too much water in the Maine woods to wear leather boots.)

3. Long underwear. Wickaway is good, but pricey. In cold weather, I wear two sets, A light longjohn against my skin under a heavier longjohn outside.

4. Woolen trousers. Buy a waist size larger and the good ones with big pockets and inner buttons for suspenders. (Suspenders help keep your trousers from giving in to the weight of knives and ammo belts).

5. A light woolen jacket at least an extra size larger than you would normally wear..

6. A fleece liner for under the jacket on colder days.

7. Compact rain gear (for your day-pack).

8. Woolen gloves and an orange woolen stocking cap for your pack.

9. Hunter orange vest, hat , and large hankerchief.

10. Extra pair of woolen socks for the day pack.

Day Pack

1. Two compasses

2. GPS

3. Leatherman/ knife

4. Water

5.Flashlight/ Extra batteries

6. Disposable lighter/matches


8. T-paper or Baby Wipes in Ziploc bag.

9. Piece of 3 X 6 ' plastic

10. Tin Cup

11. Mountain stove with butane cannister

12. Rain gear

13. Extra socks

14. Extra ammo

15. Ziploc bag of tinder

16. Small survival kit

Of course, a survival kit can be as large or small as you are willing to carry. Mine contains matches, aspirin, fish hook and line, small mirror, whistle, instant soup,energy bars, tea bags, bandaids, gauze, burn ointment, tweezers, 4 large nails wrapped in duct tape, pad of paper and pencil, and chemical hand warmers. If there is space, I may add some safety glasses. Leeds trophy hunter Ralph Norris carries these for his Western muley hunts. They can come in handy if you wind up trying to find your way out of the woods after dark (protection from unseen branches).

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program "Maine Outdoors" heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is

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