by Brady Raymond
Gearing up is all part of the fun right? It’s also the smart thing to do if you have any common sense. Aside from the random mushroom find, you usually have to put some thought and at least a little bit of physical effort into the endeavor. You don’t want to get out to the woods and find the mother load only to realize you forgot a knife, and yes I have seen this happen to people, no knife. “What are they thinking” I always wonder to myself, I carry a knife ninety percent of the time I do anything, and if it’s not on me it’s almost always within reach. Well, maybe they didn’t have a handy article like this to read, hence I’m writing it.
Insider tip, carry a knife, always. The next logical thing would be something to contain your quarry e.g. basket, or sack of some sort (no plastic bags). You can clean up pretty good with these couple of items alone but for longer treks it is advisable to pack a bit more.
Lets start with the knife in the above photo, very important, and then the basket, it is the next logical thing to bring. I also carry a small brush for cleaning edibles (save yourself a headache and clean in the field as much as possible). I wear a watch with an altimeter and I also carry a hand lens for examining minute details when trying to ID specimens. For the smaller specimens I bring a parts organizer to keep them separated, avoiding confusion later.
Below is an example of what I would pack for a day of hunting in the woods.
Always carry a whistle and compass. The whistle cuts very well through brush for simple communication with members in your group, with that said avoid hunting alone, bring a buddy. The compass is old technology but still pulls its weight especially when your GPS batteries die. I do however carry a GPS and radios, they are convenient when fully charged. Also pictured is a flashlight (between the radio and GPS) pencils and a marker. Don’t overlook toilet paper (zip locked) which tucks in nicely behind these things and can be a godsend if needed.
In the next compartment I carry gloves, I have a lighter pair I carry in the warmer months but remember it is always good to have some warmth for your digits. The black things draped over the back are arm warmers, these are very handy when you want to wear a t-shirt but your arms are a little chilly. They are popular among bicyclists but I think there is a market among our kind as well. And don’t forget plenty of paper bags, they are really good for separating larger specimens for ID. You can then keep them contained and safe in your basket (collect the whole mushroom for ID, including below the surface and including a bit of duff. Edibles should be cut just above ground and field cleaned).
In the main compartment of my pack I carry the very important bottle of water, or two depending on how far I plan to go. I also have a water filter that is compatible with these water bottles but remember, there has to be water to be filtered for a water filter to work and why you should always research your destination. Also, it is tough to see but it’s there a detailed map of my hunting grounds, very important in understanding your environment. Along with the map is a pamphlet of common PNW mushrooms and tree pamphlet too, light weight and good for a quick reference. Lastly, there is a nice internal zippered pocket where I keep my keys and a lighter.
Personally, I prefer to keep my pack well organized, knowing exactly what is in there and where it’s at. This is my mushrooming pack and is all that it is used for. If the hike in is a long one, I would pack a basic first aid kit and snacks or a lunch but for the most part those items stay in the car. On average we do not stray to far from the car, not out of fear but because often times the mushrooms are quite abundant in close proximity.
You don’t have to spend a fortune either. Keep your eyes peeled for baskets at second hand stores and yard sales. Almost everybody has some kind of pack and if you hike or do much traveling you probably already have a few maps that could be useful too. Investing in an altimeter early on is a wise choice, smart phones and GPS have them but I’m a fan of my watch. It reads barometric pressure to calculate your elevation and as long as you’ve calibrated it the day you set out it is accurate to 20ft. +/-.
Of course you don’t really need much to hunt mushrooms. I would imagine you could find them in your birthday suit alone but alas where would you put them. A little planning will save you a lot of grief in the field and maybe your life. Don’t just wander aimlessly, know what your looking for (in the case of edibles), know where you are going and familiarize yourself with that location beforehand on a map. Use common sense, if you don’t know something get an answer from a qualified person before you are faced with that question in the woods with no way to get an answer.
Be smart, be safe and good hunting.