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All about the gear: Equipment can make hunting camp paradise

by Bryan Hendricks | November 28, 2021 at 2:34 a.m.


Deer camp is about friendship and camaraderie, but it's also about gear.

For these few precious weeks in November and December, deer hunters get to dust off all the stuff in our garages that we don't use any other time, except maybe for turkey hunting camp.

Experienced campers have everything they need, but never everything they want. If you are looking for items to add to your kit or if you are a newcomer to the world of hunt camping, here is a list of some can't-do-without items.

Shelter

First and foremost, you need a dry place to sleep. A tent is the most basic, most portable shelter, and it is amazingly versatile. Todd Craighead, host of the "Outdoor Oklahoma" television show, keeps a big wall tent erected on his place during the muzzleloader and modern weapons portions of Oklahoma's deer seasons. It usually doesn't come down until it rots, and then Craighead replaces it with an identical one.

For those with more spartan needs, there are plenty of smaller tents that are a lot cheaper and easier to handle. For years, I used a three-person dome tent with an air mattress and sleeping bag. I upgraded to a teardrop camper that I park beneath a large canopy that's large enough to shelter my four-wheeler and other gear.

Rough hunting camp roads take a toll on campers, so most hunters use worn models that won't be badly hurt by additional abuse.

Elite campers build mobile cabins. There are a couple on my lease, including a new one that Mike Romine built from random materials he's acquired over the years. We all know guys like that. They bring home a pile of junk lumber or discarded metal roofing with the intent of doing something with it someday, and there it sits until they die.

Romine actually uses his accumulated jetsam. His now-grown grandson's sandbox forms the cabin's foundation of what is essentially a miniature tiny house. It has electrical outlets galore. As camp cabins go, it is a palace.

When deer season is over, Romine can put it on a trailer and take it home.

Stoves

A stove is a staple. You need it for cooking, for brewing coffee and to heat water for washing hair, body and cookware.

Without question, a dual-burner propane stove is the most user friendly and most efficient version. Simply insert the propane fitting into the stove, attach a bottle of propane, turn on a valve and light. It is utterly trouble free.

There are also single-burner butane stoves, but butane doesn't flow well when it's cold. If you don't have a warm place to store your butane canisters, it will barely make a flame.

Traditionalists prefer stoves that burn white fuel. These come in 5,000- and 10,000 BTUs per burner models. You have to fill the tank, pressurize the tank, light and regulate the burners. Over time, seals must be replaced, and varnish removed from the lines. Still, they work great, and we love them. Modern versions also run on unleaded gasoline.

If you have access to electricity, an electric hot plate is another alternative.

Lighting

Artificial lighting brightens the mood of a hunting camp and allows you to walk around without tripping over stuff.

Lanterns are the traditional means for camp lighting. White gas lanterns are the most traditional, and they'll burn all night on one tank of fuel.

Propane lanterns are easier to use. A bottle of propane generally lasts me two nights.

If you have access to electricity, LED lighting is an excellent alternative. LEDs require very little power, so you can run them for a long minute without running down a deep cycle battery. If you have a generator, so much the better.

Light hangers

Hanging lanterns is a challenge at remote, primitive hunting camps. There are no lantern posts like there are in formal campgrounds, so you have to improvise. Chain hangers are limited to how high you can get up a tree. I use Coleman retractable lantern poles. You can raise them above eye level, which eliminates glare.

After use, it reduces to a compact unit that fits in a small bag.

Power

You don't need a generator, but you do want one. You know you do.

For camping, you want an inverter generator. It is small and quiet enough that you can hold a conversation in a normal voice beside one.

Inverters are available from many manufacturers at many outlets, including Honda, Yamaha, Polaris, and Predator. Mine is a 2,200-watt Westinghouse unit that will run a refrigerator or a 5,000-BTU heating and air unit. Much larger and much smaller models are available.

With an inverter, you can power all of your sensitive electronic devices. A conventional generator is subject to surges that can fry sensitive electronics, and they are also very loud.

Cutters

No camp kit is complete without a hatchet. It's useful for stripping tinder from logs, and also as a hammer for pounding tent stakes and for other blunt force chores.

Another indispensable piece of my kit is shears. I use them for cutting saplings and limbs.

A machete is good for chores too small for shears and hatchets, such as removing briars from the camp area, or for making a trail to a privy area in a thicket.

Cookware

A cast iron skillet is necessary for breakfasts and stir fry dinners. I also have a stainless steel pot and skillet set with copper bottoms for cooking beans, corn on the cob, boiling seafood and making sauces.

For dining, enameled metal plates are ideal campware. They are durable and easy to clean.

For utensils, I use a Coleman stainless steel service set for four that rolls up into a neat little package. For backcountry hunting and canoe camping, I use a Case Hobo -- a knife, fork, and spoon that forms a fat pocketknife. I got mine from the NAPA store in Malvern.

Rope

Rope is an essential camp item. A camp kit should have a generous length of braided climbing rope and a coil of small diameter braid. These are useful for lashings, clothesline and hoists.

Rope is cheap and reusable for as long as you take care of it.


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