The complete packing guide for frontcountry elk camps

Elk hunting gear list - everything you need and more

Stephen Spurlock

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All photo credits: Stephen Spurlock

Cool mountain mornings and hot rutting action is right around the corner. Archery elk seasons are finally open across the West. While some of us will be packing deep into the backcountry in search of bugling bulls, many of us will find ourselves in well-roaded units. The packing list from the backcountry to the frontcountry can vary greatly. In part one of this series we examined the shelter options for frontcountry camps. Below we will go through a comprehensive frontcountry packing list. If you want to take a detailed look at a backcountry gear list, you can check out Brady Miller's recent article here.

Your packing list will vary based on what type of camp you like to maintain. The list below reflects my approach to frontcountry camping. This isn't a "what brand" type of gear list, rather this is a "what is needed" gear list for frontcountry elk hunting. My camp consists of a Jumping Jack trailer. This allows me to take a fairly minimalist approach so that I can remain mobile if need be. I typically do my hunts alone or with one other person (so my list reflects the needs of one person).

The first step in successful packing is always making a list. The lists found below are my packing list for any frontcountry camping hunt. As I get things packed, I keep track of my progress via these lists.

Truck Organization

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Your vehicle will serve as your launch pad for your trip. Keeping the wheels rolling should be your first priority when you began assessing your truck packing. Organizing the interior is also key during the packing period. Nothing is worse than knowing you packed something and not being able to find it! Below is a general packing list I use to ensure I have the things I need in my truck for the hunt. I organize things the same way for every hunt.

What to Pack in the Center Console

  • Maps

  • Flashlights (1 headlamp/ 1 handheld)

  • 1 pack of AA batteries

  • 1 pack of AAA batteries

  • Chargers (cell phone, GPS, radio, camera)

  • 2 packs of Armor All Car Cleaning Wipes

  • 1 roll of toilet paper

  • 1 packet of wet wipes

  • 1 tube of chapstick

  • 1 spare set of sunglasses

  • 1 sewing kit

Truck Box/storage

  • 1 cot

  • 1 10'x10' tarp

  • 50’ of parachute cord

  • 2 rachet straps (for misc. use)

  • 1 heavy chain

  • 1 tire plug kit

  • 2 cans of Fix-a-Flat

  • 2 cans of WD-40

  • 1 small air compressor (runs off truck battery)

  • 1 floor jack

  • 1 bottle jack

  • 1 roll of Duct tape

  • 2 10” sections of 2x4 boards

  • 1 spare truck tire

  • 1 spare trailer tire (if needed)

  • 1 ATV/ UTV spare tire (if needed)

  • 1 large tire iron

  • 1 socket/ wrench set

  • 1 large ratchet set

  • 1 tow rope

  • 2 folding camp chairs

Other Things to Keep in the Truck

  • Shower kit (soap, shampoo, deodorant, shave kit, towel)

  • 1 spare sleeping set (spare sleeping bag, pillow, cot)

  • Laundry kit (1 travel size laundry detergent)

  • 1 two man backpacking tent

Gear Organization

Hunting gear for early season isn’t overly comprehensive. Warm temperatures and mild weather in comparison to other hunts make these easy to pack for. The rigors of early season hunts demand comfortable reliable footwear and clothing that will help you thermoregulate in warm weather. High quality packable rain gear is another essential item. Organization going into the hunt is key. I divide my packing into three categories for gear: my hunting pack, a large waterproof duffel, and small travel bag.

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Hunting Pack

  • All optics

  • All cameras

  • 1 set of rain gear

  • 1 quilted insulation top layer (very packable and serves as insulation if needed as well as padding for packing optics)

  • Headlamp (with 1 set of spare batteries)

  • 1 mobile charging unit

  • Digiscoping equipment

  • 1 glassing stool

  • 1 small first aid kit (band aids, gauze, dressing, Neosporin, aspirin)

  • Tripod (attached to tripod legs 4’ Duct tape, 4’ electrical tape, 1 spare bootlace)

  • Small fire starting kit

  • 1 small lighter

  • 1 small tarp

  • 1 pack raincover

  • 1 extra pair socks

  • Glove/gaiter set

  • 1 Gerber multi-tool

  • 1 small set of Allen wrenches

  • 1 knife kit

  • 1 small pack of wet wipes

  • 1 complete set of gamebags

  • 1 set of elk calls

Clothing to Pack

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Packing clothing for the hunt is all about locating items in such a way that you will be able to easily find them once you get there. For this reason, I go with a highly compartmentalized packing approach for my hunting clothing. Here is the general outline for packing your hunting clothing.

Continued Below.

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Large Duffle Containing:

  • 1 dry bag (20 liter) containing shirts (one shirt per two to three days)

  • 1 dry bag (5 liter) containing socks (one pair per two days)

  • 1 dry bag (20 liter) containing pants (one pair per three to four days)

  • 1 dry bag (5 liter) containing underwear (one pair per day)

  • 1 dry bag (5 liter) containing additional hunting clothing (not in hunting pack like spare jackets, etc.)

  • 1 pair of hunting boots/ sneakers (one pair of heavy boots, one pair of trail running type sneaker)

  • 2 pairs of camp shoes

Small Travel Bag Containing:

  • Several changes of cloths for the drive

  • Camp clothing (shorts, camp shoes, camp shirts, etc.)

  • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving kit, etc.)

Camping Accessories

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The frontcountry camp can come in many shapes and sizes. Your choice of frontcountry camp will dictate your packing list of camp accessories. I take a minimalist approach when it comes to camp accessories as it is always my hope that I won’t be spending much time in camp and that if I need to move camp, I won’t have much to pack. Below is my list of camping supplies.

In One Large Plastic Container I Place the Following:

  • 2 rolls of paper towels

  • 75 paper plates

  • 1 box of large outdoor trash bag

  • 1 box of plastic utensils

  • 2 rolls of Lysol cleaning wipes

  • 1 box of 50 Ziploc bags

  • 1 outdoor lantern (3 bottles fuel)

  • 1 large sleeping bag

  • 1 large pillow

  • 2 pillowcases

  • 2 large towels

  • 3 magnetic lights (run off AA batteries)

  • 1 large laundry bag

  • 5 rolls of toilet paper

  • 5 packs of wet wipes

  • 2 packs of AA batteries

  • 100 plastic Solo cups

  • 1 roll of aluminum foil

  • 1 roll of shrink wrap

  • 1 box of 75 quart size plastic bags

  • 3 Nalgene bottles

  • 3 sets of Tupperware

  • 1 large Jetboil (4 cans fuel)

  • 2 medium cooking pots

  • 1 skillet

These Supplies Go in the Bed of the Truck for Transport:

  • 1 two burner propane stove (4 bottles propane)

  • 1 small camp table

  • 3 five gallon water jugs

  • 2 five gallon gas cans

  • 2 five gallon diesel cans

  • 1 40 qt cooler (with 4 freezer packs to use in cooler bag)

  • 1 cooler bag

  • 1 broadhead archery target

Packing Food for Elk Camp

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Packing food is another process that will be highly dependent on your camp choice and personal preference. Your hunt diet will depend on the cooking supplies and the food storage systems.

The most important thing is sticking to a diet that is consistent with what you normally eat. Varying your diet greatly for the hunt runs the risk of causing upset stomach, poor in field performance, and other issues that you really don’t want to deal with on the hunt. More information on hunt diets and nutrition can be found here.

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When preparing for the hunt, I focus on pre-packaging my breakfasts and lunch so that I can focus on hunting while eating on the go. Dinners on the other hand are a large meal to help unwind from a long day of hunting. Below is my basic meal plan and how I like to go about prepping for the hunt.


Making breakfast “packs” before the hunt can help streamline your morning prep. I put these items in individual plastic baggies before the hunt to ensure that I can quickly make breakfast every day.

  • 2 packs of oatmeal

  • 1 protein bar

  • 1 Kind Bar

Calories: 700 +/-


For lunch, I try to incorporate a little more variety.

  • 3 packs of almonds

  • 1 protein bar

  • 1 peanut butter sandwich

  • 1 turkey sandwich

Calories: 760 +/-


Dinner meals will vary according to how much time you spend in camp and what cooking supplies and storage systems you have available. I like to make dinner a big sit down meal if possible. Always a nice way to unwind from the rigors of the hunt with a nice meal. I hold off on grocery shopping for dinners until I get to the last major town before the hunting area as many dinner items are perishable.

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I also always pack five to seven days of dehydrated meals for dinner options should making it all the back to base camp for dinner become difficult. Also, packing some dehydrated food options can also be very valuable as at any time your hunt could turn from a frontcountry camping ordeal to a more backpack-based affair.


Supplementing your diet with products designed to optimize performance can help keep you feeling good during the hunt. While I cannot speak to specific benefits of nutritional aids, I can say they have a small place in my packing. There are two products I like to utilized on the hunt.

Wilderness Athlete Hydrate and Recover: As the name suggests, this product is aid in re-hydration. A 60 serving jug or a box of single serve pouches serve to not only aid in hydration, but also provides a much needed break from the monotony of drinking plain water.

Wilderness Athlete Green Infusion: This product offers six servings worth of fruits and vegetables per scoop. On hunts where greens and fruits may be hard to keep fresh due to refrigeration limitations, this product can help keep your diet balanced.

There are a lot of supplement options out there. Carefully research and try any product you select pre-hunt.


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Packing for your frontcountry camp elk hunt can be a daunting task. Careful planning and starting early can help make this process less stressful. Hopefully the lists above help some of you with this process. Please share your packing tips below!

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