packing for tracking

Tracking seems to have become a whole ‘genre’ in itself. But we should not lose sight of the fact that, at its heart, it belongs within the larger pantheon of outdoor skills and was originally borne out of a necessity to identify opportunity or threat.

You can of course track at any time. You do not specifically have to ‘go tracking’ and many of its skills are reflected in other aspects of getting close up, moving through and being in nature. You do not need equipment to track…in fact just yourself and your wits are all you need.

Having said that, many trackers have developed a range of equipment that they may take, whole or in part, to enhance their tracking experience. Below is a guide to a fairly comprehensive but by no means exhaustive tracking pack all packed into versatile (and one of the best value) tracking back-packs on the market.

click on image to enlarge

This list of kit is not definitive by any means or obligatory to take along – and not all of it is just for tracking but for a day (and at a push) a night out on the trail. This is really a guide to what you might consider taking out tracking.

  1. ID field guides. Slim enough to take with you for quick reference.
  2. Camera to record sign and sightings – possibly for later ID
  3. Catapult (useful for creating a diversion at a distance when stalking alert prey). This is pretty optional – I find it useful and it does not take up much space.
  4. Fire-starting kit (for the campfire or cooking at the end of the tracking day)
  5. Plaster of Paris for making plaster casts of tracks
  6. Plastic strips (30cm x 8cm) – hard to see in this picture – but using the paper clip can be formed into a circular cast to place over the print for the liquid plaster to be poured into it. Alternatively you can use cardboard strips / rings or even make a more durable wooden frame.
  7. Utility knife (Svord Peasant, reground to make it a UK legal carry)
  8. Chalk puffer – useful to puff a cloud of chalk into the air to detect wind direction (especially useful in light winds) in order to stay downwind of prey
  9. Chalk – useful to mark things on the trail – usually hard surfaces (rock, hard substrate or trees) can be used to help a return journey (like blazing a trail) or to mark out some tracking sign.
  10. Marking strips to mark out a series of prints (similarly you can use lolly sticks) so you can see spacing etc. Can be used to visibly mark other sign when photographing it
  11. Oopps forgot this one! But in the fire starting kit there is some face-cam creme to help disguise my bright face (and hands)
  12. Lamb docking rings – also useful to use as spacers on your tracking stick – to help gauge stride length and where the next track may lie in relation to the last one.
  13. Paracord – useful item  – always take some! Can be used to rig up a poncho/tarp or space blanket for shelter. 1001 other uses
  14. Ooops forgot this one aswell! But you could add ‘trail cams’ and night vision equipment if you so wished
  15. Magnifying glass for looking at fine detail
  16. Small ‘pick’ for using on a track to remove debris or expose fine detail from within the track without disturbing other sign.
  17. A small waterproof container with some emergency money in it – that is worn around neck. You never know when you may need it for negotiating your way home!
  18. Micro light sticks – useful for marking a route or something after dark.
  19. Tape measure for measuring larger distances than a ruler
  20. Mirror for using reflecting light to throw a print into relief for better viewing
  21. Water bottle and cup – not only for hydration but also for the Plaster of Paris
  22. Waterproof notebook, pencil and notebook wallet for recording notes and tracking journal
  23. Whistle (for alert or distress calls) or substitue this for an animal/bird call decoy whistle
  24. Ruler to measure the dimension of prints
  25. Utility roll to hold various bits and pieces
  26. Mesh net – useful as a mosquito head net, as face camoflage or as a bag to carry specimens.
  27. Sample bottle to carry delicate and small samples or remains (scat, fine bones etc)
  28. Rubber gloves for hygiene when touching scat, feeding debris or animal remains
  29. Small collapsible cup (useful) and a spoon!
  30. Bright LED light (nitecore) and also a multi-filter torch (gerber recon) with red, green, blue and white). Spare battery. Filters are useful – red does not ruin night vision (or spook game), green is also good for night vision and creates contrast when looking through foliage, blue is good to highlight blood trails. The bright white LED is useful to throw prints into sharp relief for better viewing.
  31. Universal head band to hold various small hand-torches and convert them into head torches
  32. Binoculars
  33. Various bags for specimens collected on the trail
  34. Tick-key for removing ticks. There is much crawling with tracking and stalking so best take a tick removal kit with you. This is one of the best, most durable and easy to use
  35. First-aid kit
  36. Map, compass and compass case
  37. Waterproof container for mobile phone and other small electronics or valuables
  38. Water-bladder
  39. Sit-mat for insulating you from the cold ground (you can spend alot of time sitting in one spot observing prey)

click on image to enlarge

40. Artkis Flecktarn Camo Windshirt. One of the best, most packable, water and wind resistant camo shirts available. Takes up as much space as an orange when packed
41. Watch cap – not only to keep warm but to help disguise head
42. Tracking stick with docking ring (see above) spacers for gauging stride length
43. Space blanket for emergency shelter / warmth or as a heat reflector or emergency signal
44. Gloves – important to disguise hands when stalking as they are sometime bright, white and move alot!
45. Scrim netting  – helps disguise head and shoulders, breaks up profile – can be used to make camoflage. Very versatile
46. Small poncho for rain protection or as a shelter/bivi
47. Snacks, drink and meal – can be eaten hot or cold

All of the above items fit into a Kombat.uk 28 litre Small Assault Pack. The quality of this has clearly been overhauled and equals packs of much higher price.

It is made from 1000 denier pu lined Cordura. It has chunky, silky smooth zips with zip-pulls, the buckles and other fixtures are of good quality. It has molle attachments all over it for extra kit and even a compartment for a water-bladder. Inside there are two sets of tie-offs that I used for my water-bladder. It has a waist belt to secure it when fully laden and you are moving through the bush. Its narrow profile and mid-back placement means it is less likely to snag than a bulkier bag. It also has compression straps that allows it to ‘concertina’ down in depth for smaller loads.

There are a range of sized pockets, some of them stacked and most have mesh panels, sub-dividers or zipped pouches within them  – allowing for a whole range of different items to be compartmentalised, organised and securely stored.

It is available in a range of colours including this multicam and tactical black (aswell as olive green). The back system is a basic foam with mesh (could be the only negative point I would make that a foam could be a bit better quality – but understandable and pretty standard for this price). Most of the internal fabric edges (but not all) have been edged with webbing material and the stitching looks robust and accurate.

I struggle to see why you may pay tw0 or three times the price for a ‘premium brand’ or equivalent. This is a hugely versatile and very accomplished budget piece of ‘grab’ kit with a wide range of uses. At under £30 its a steal. It really is. This is available from Endicotts (www.endicotts.co.uk – or click here).

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