Archery is the best sport ever, of course, but you won’t realize that fact without a few essentials to get started.
Beyond holding your first bow and arrows, you’ll need to buy some basic gear to start shooting. To save time, money and frustration, ask an experienced archer for advice, or visit a local archery shop to get the sight, arrow rest and release-aid that best fits your needs.
Once you have everything needed to actually shoot arrows, what else will you need? What follows is the real-deal list of absolute essentials for your bow case, with a focus on keeping things light and practical.
Archery equipment is held together by a few dozen bolts and screws, which can loosen from all the energy that’s constantly unleashed through your bow. Rather than carrying multiple tools in your bow case – and constantly misplacing them when you need them most – buy an archery multi-tool to handle every size of bolt and screw on your bow and accessories. Multi-tools also have a screwdriver, and some have a small pliers. If yours doesn’t have a pliers, pick up a small pair. They’re useful.
Archery is one of the few sports in which equipment often uses a mix of metric and imperial sizes. Fortunately, archery stores sell tools to handle such diverse needs.
Where to buy: A local archery store.
2. Surgical Tape
Sometimes called “medical tape,” this microporous self-adhesive tape handles the small scrapes, calluses and blisters that archery inflicts on your hands. Beyond that, it can be used to make temporary nocking points on bowstrings, make sweaty bow grips easier to handle, or hold down score sheets on windy days. In other words, this is the duct tape of archery! And even if you don’t need it, someone else on the range might. Be their hero. Keep a roll handy.
Where to buy: A pharmacy.
3. Exercise Band
Sometimes called “resistance bands,” exercise bands are essential for archers. Use one to warm up without fear of injury, to exercise difficult-to-reach muscles, and to practice your shot and release without actually shooting a bow.
These latex bands come in different strengths. Choose something in the middle. You’ll need about a 5-foot band, depending on your height. Online videos demonstrate archery’s best warm-up exercises, or ask an experienced archer to show you what to do. Keep one in the bow case and one at your home.
Where to buy: Sports suppliers, pharmacies and archery stores.
4. Water Bottle
It’s important to stay hydrated when exercising or playing sports, and archery is no exception. Archery isn’t known for making people heart-racing sweaty, but archers must still take care to stay hydrated, especially when shooting outdoors in summer. Buy a reusable bottle of food-grade plastic or aluminum, fill it with cold-filtered water or a sports drink, and drink often. If shooting outdoors in colder temperatures, consider carrying a thermos of hot caffeine-free tea. Remember: You’re an athlete, and you must think like one.
Where to buy: sports store, pharmacy.
5. Spare Tab, Glove or Release-aid
This is one piece of archery equipment – besides arrows –that requires a spare. Once you find one you like, get another one that’s identical and rotate using them so they’re equally worn-in. In crucial situations like tournaments, don’t count on borrowing a spare from another archer if a piece of your gear breaks. And for something as personal and “custom-fit” as a release-aid or worn-in tab, you’ll likely sink without your own spare. Also, because they’re small, and constantly removed and reattached, they can get lost more easily than other archery gear. And when flying to tournaments, put the spare in your carry-on bag.
Once you’ve got two, mark them so you can tell which is which. And for release-aids, regularly check all bolts and screws for tightness.
Where to buy: An archery store.
6. Scoring App
Sometimes it’s good to just relax and pop arrows at a blank bale for an afternoon. But to get good at archery, it’s essential to regularly score your shooting. Elite archers score almost every session. It’s a good habit. You can keep score with pen and paper, but a smartphone with a dedicated app makes scoring much easier. Some apps have a target-face display that you tap. They can also record your groups, and most can keep track of your sight marks, too.
These apps range from free to a few dollars for Android and iOS. The better ones display your progress over time in various useful ways. You can read more about them here.
Where to buy: An app store.
7. Notebook with List of Goals
A notebook is one of archery’s most essential – yet overlooked – pieces of gear for recording and reminding yourself of your goals. If you want to be an Olympic champion in 2024, you’ll need to make the national team within a few years. And if you’re going to be on top at the national team trials, you must hit some top scores and win some local tournaments next year. And to do that, you need a great coach to get you there. List all these things and read them regularly to keep your goals fresh in your mind.
Read up on goal-setting and how to “chunk down” a big, scary goal into manageable pieces. It’s best to enter archery sessions with specific goals, whether it’s working on an aspect of your form, a total number of arrows to shoot, or just relaxing and having fun. Top compound shooter – and now recurve archer – Crystal Gauvin wrote a great piece about setting goals here.
You can also use a small notebook to keep track of how many arrows you shot, how many rounds you scored, how your bow was set up, how you felt while competing, and what you learned for next time. Write your sight marks in the back, too!
I don’t have to tell you to remember a pen, too, do I?
Where to buy: A stationery or office-supply store.
Do you have something you consider a bow-case essential? Let us know! To gear up with these and other essentials, visit a local archery store.