As indoor season is finishing up, a lot of people will be attending outdoor tournaments for the first time in their archery career. I decided that makes now a perfect time to share with you the answer to a question I’m often asked, “how do you pack for a tournament?”
So if you have been to a million tournaments, you can stop reading right here…unless you want to leave a comment about something I missed. Just like you need to be prepared physically to shoot the tournament, it is just as important to make sure you have everything you might need, as you never know what the weather will be like, etc.
Here is how I go about packing. I LOVE lists, so I try to make a list at the beginning of the year (a note page on your phone is a great way to do this). Then when I go to the first outdoor tournament of the year and inevitably forget something, I can easily add it to the list, so it is not forgotten again. If you are REALLY good, you will have your list from the previous year to start the next year off right.
The first thing is to consider all the things that are likely to wear or break with your equipment. For compound shooters, think dloop, blade, etc. You will want to have at least one spare for each of these on you at the tournament, so if they need replaced you can easily do it. Other items like serving material, lighter, razor blade, and super glue that can be used for a variety of applications are great to have with you.
You also want to have a backup of anything vital to your shooting. For recurve shooters that is going to be things like your finger tab, while for compound that will be your release. Now obviously if money is no object, you will have a complete backup bow, with sight, stabilizer, etc but I know this is not feasible for everyone, so the smaller, more affordable things are the place to start.
All of the previous examples are the same things you will want to have whether it is an indoor tournament or an outdoor tournament. However, for outdoor we need to add considerably to the list. Look at the weather forecast in advance, but be prepared for ANYTHING. This not only means when packing clothing for you (shorts, pants, rain gear, etc), but also when thinking about your equipment. Your best option for clothing is items that are easily layered on and off, as you may find the weather conditions changing drastically in the middle of the tournament, so being able to add or remove layers quickly between ends is important.
As for your equipment, you will need ways to keep the most important aspects of your bow dry. For a compound shooter, how will you keep your scope from getting wet and/or fogging up? What about your peep sight (q-tips work great for drying both). What about your spotting scope? Do you have a case/cover for it? What about if it is really windy, will your tripod hold up without tipping over (if not is there a way to better anchor the tripod by hanging a water bottle or some weights from it)?
I’ve talked about this in a previous post, but pack your own food and water, so you are not dependent on the tournament. Sometimes they provide these items, sometimes there are concessions, but you don’t want to be at someone else’s mercy.
Other things to think about, do your hands get sweaty when it is hot out? If so, make sure you have some type of towel to “dry” them off before you go up to the line to shoot each time. Do you wear a hat or visor? If so, will it stay on your head in the wind? What about your hair, if it gets windy, is it going to be hard for you to keep it out of your face while shooting? If so, have a plan for how to handle and any needed supplies.
Next up is lighting conditions. Make sure you test your equipment outdoors under varying light conditions; full sun, shade, morning sunrise, evening sunset, sun directly overhead, etc. You may find one or more of these situations can give you unexpected issues (can’t see your level, reflection off riser in scope, etc). Make sure you adjust your equipment (changing the lens color for example) or be prepared to make modifications under those conditions (adding a sunshade to your scope, etc).
Finally, are the little things that are often overlooked but can make our break your tournament weekend.
Sunscreen: you are going to be out under the sun all day and you will burn if you don’t put sunscreen on. Do you want to have to shoot day 2 with burns all over your skin…it’s not fun. Plus, sunscreen can help protect yourself in the long run from getting skin cancer. USE IT!!!
Bugspray: if you’ve ever been on a 3d course in the middle of the summer, you know what I am talking about. Mosquitoes particularly love me, and I find it VERY distracting to my shooting if I’m trying to kill them non stop.
Release: pack this in your carry on if you are flying. In many ways, it is easier to borrow a bow then a release, which is customized to fit and shoot just the way you like it. Your release is small and lightweight, which makes it a perfect item to throw in your carry on.
And my final packing tip, shoot just before you pack your equipment in your bow bag. Then go directly to your bag and pack everything up. This way you know you have all essentials for shooting (bow, arrows, sight, stabilizers, etc).