After factoring in turkey season, western bowhunts, and a couple of states for public-land whitetails, I average 30-some days a year living out of a tent. When you spend a month inside the canvas, you learn a lot about what makes the experience worthwhile (or just barely worth it).
When it comes to camping, the goal is to tamp down the misery as much as possible. This is harder to do when hitting up the backcountry, because you're limited to what you can personally haul up the mountainside. You're going to be somewhat miserable in the backcountry, but the experience is usually worth it.
When it comes to whitetails, you usually don't have to be all that miserable because you can simply stock your camp with more — and better — stuff. This translates to being drier, warmer, better fed and more well-rested. All of which, when taken in aggregate, translates to a happier hunter. And this happiness, at least partially, can be bought one amenity at a time.
Bass Pro Shops Rogue Expedition Upslope 6-Person Base Camp Tent
Is a six-man tent too big for a whitetail hunter? No. I say this after just recently camping in a six-person tent in South Dakota for public-land whitetails. It rained hard for most of the trip, so my tent was in a constant state of housing wet camouflage and other gear. Go big when it comes to tents — you won't regret it. This BPS offering is waterproof, breathable and outfitted with a host of interior gear pockets. It's designed with ultra-strong yet lightweight aluminum poles and features a large single door with a zippered window.
Browning Big Horn
This tent is a beast and is ideal for a pair of hunters and all of their whitetail gear. It features a wall divider to create two rooms and is tall enough to allow hunters to fully stand up in it. Large doors on each side provide easy access and the overall, straight-walled design creates an opportunity for better efficiency, especially if you're using cots because they can be pushed up tight against the walls. Even though the Big Horn is a monster of a tent, it sets up easily and quickly.
ALPS OutdoorZ Redwood Sleeping Bag
Two descriptors I like when it comes to sleeping bags are 'over-sized' and 'heavy-duty.' The Redwood boasts both, and is the perfect option for chilly nights in whitetail camp with its Techloft Insulation and 100-percent cotton flannel liner. To eliminate cold spots, the Redwood is designed with two-layer construction. It may seem like a non-issue, but if you've ever slept in a mummy bag and then slept in an good-sized sleeping bag like the Redwood, you know which provides a better night's sleep.
GSM Outdoors Cyclops Titan XP Headlamp
Right next to my cot I keep two types of lights — a headlamp and a flashlight. In the former category, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than the Titan XP, which is found in the Cyclops lineup from GSM Outdoors. It's powered by three AAA batteries, is water-resistant, and is constructed with a rugged, shock-resistant housing. Dual LED sources provide two types of beams for long-range looking, or immediate area usage. A better idea than buying one of these for in-tent and in-camp use is to buy two, so you can stuff one in your daypack as well.
Pelican 7000 Tactical Flashlight
This flashlight is overkill for in-camp tasks, but is too awesome to not include. You can blind your hunting partners with it (probably) so don't shine it into their eyes to wake them up. The 7000 does feature four light modes, so you can choose the Low option and save your buddy's vision. You can also blood trail with this light, which is capable of producing up to 774 lumens. It weighs only 5.6 ounces and measures a shade over five inches long.
Gerber Gear Center-Drive
Speaking of useful tools, I always have a multi-tool in camp. It lives in my tent, or in my truck and these days it tends to be the Center-Drive from Gerber. If you get your hands on this sucker and don't think it's cool, we probably won't be friends. The Center-Drive weighs 9.5 ounces and features spring-loaded needlenose pliers, carbide wire cutters, a serrated blade, a full-size fine-edge blade and a bunch of other handy stuff. It's also designed for one-thumb opening and is made right here in the best country on the planet.
Outdoor Edge 7" Flip n' Saw
Every deer camp needs a saw. I tend to opt for folding saws that can also be stuffed into a daypack for trimming up stand sites. That's one of the reasons I like the 7" Flip n' Saw so much. It functions perfectly in camp for rounding up some firewood, but is also ideal for carrying on any hunt with its spring-steel blade and triple ground tooth pattern that eats through wood with ease. It also does a number on bone as well, meaning that once you're successful, you can use it to piece apart your antlered prize.
Cabela's Polar Cap Equalizer Cooler
If you were to spin 360 degrees in my whitetail camp, you'd notice an awful lot of stuff that sports the Cabela's logo, which makes it difficult to pick one of their products to feature. Fortunately, their Polar Cap Equalizer Coolers make the task much easier considering they provide up to 12 days of ice retention, are certified bear-resistant and are offered in models ranging from 25 quarts to the elk-friendly 100-quart option. A sweet-spot for whitetail hunters is the 60-quart cooler that weighs 30.1 pounds and promises a full week of ice retention.
YETI 64 OZ Rambler
If my wife ever bails on our marriage, I wouldn't be surprised if my addiction to YETI products comes up in the divorce proceedings as the leading cause of our irreconcilable differences. Their products are killer, and one that I've come to lean on heavily is the 64-ounce Rambler. I fill it with ice water at the beginning of most days in camp and use it to avoid dehydration, which causes an awful lot of physical stress and can stealthily rob us of our hunting enjoyment. It's amazing what having ice water at your hands all day long does for your ability to feel better, and this Rambler is the shortest route to get there. Naturally, you can put whatever hot or cold liquids you want in the Rambler and once you do, you can rest assured that through some weird YETI voodoo magic, those liquids will be the same temperature hours and hours later.
BLOCK Targets Block 6x6
No whitetail camp is complete without a camp target and a great option to fill this role is the BLOCK 6x6. As you can probably guess, this target can be shot on all sides as well as the top and bottom, which provides a serious amount of target longevity. The BLOCK 6x6 also provides easy arrow removal and can be shot with both field points and broadheads. It measures 18x18x16 inches and weighs next to nothing, making it the perfect target to throw in the back of the truck and then set at the edge of camp on day one of any hunt.