Very few of us are lucky enough to hunt for a living or hunt as frequently as we’d like; however, the theory of having your “possibles” along on every trip is still a good idea. Any student of Mountain Man lore has heard about possibles—a bag of essential survival items you carry for any possible emergency. An outdoorsman can grab his possibles and throw them into whatever pack he’s taking for a hunt and not worry about forgetting something. I even toss mine into the truck when I’m out driving around in the sticks for an afternoon.
My possibles, just like the rest of my backpacking and hunting gear, are constantly evolving. As a good rule of thumb, if I have gear in there that I never use, isn’t essential for survival, and weighs more than 3 ounces, I take it out. For example, I’ve never needed a Leatherman tool in the backcountry, so I don’t keep one in my kit. I have only needed First Aid twice in 25 years of hunting and fishing, but once it kept me from losing a lot of blood 95 miles from a hospital.
Although I recommend putting your own kit together, pre-made kits are available from more companies than I can list. The most well thought out ones are available from Adventure Medical Kits, which is now SOL (Survive Outside Longer).
Knowing what to carry and what you might need in any given season will come with experience and knowledge of the area where you live and hunt. I keep most of a Pocket Survival Pack in my possibles. It is also a good idea to keep paper and pencil in your kit for writing down items you could use in the future. I take a minimalist approach to what I carry these days, except for the channel locks (pliers with sliding jaws that can be locked into place, and used as pliers, wrenches or clamps) that Dick Robertson won’t quit teasing me about! My kit weighs 2 pounds 4 ounces.
One day last September I was chasing a particularly interesting mule deer buck up by the Canadian border. It got late enough that I decided to make a tent with my hatchet, a space blanket, and a few zip strips. I built a fire, ate a granola bar and got a couple cat naps before sunup. That buck was nowhere to be found at daybreak, but I walked off that mountain feeling like I won.