1. Eye and Ear Protection
Both of these will most likely be required, at least at any events I'd want to participate in. As far as eye protection, there are so many options: frame shapes, colors, lighter vs darker, polarized, not polarized. When starting out, don't over complicate it; bring what you have! Just make sure they are safety rated. As you shoot more often, you'll find out what works best for your eyes and the most common conditions you shoot in. In a future post, we'll go down the eye protection rabbit hole to help you to make sense of it all.
As far as ear protection, basic ear muffs or ear plugs will keep your hearing protected at any event, no rocket science here. However, as you become pro-level, you'll find what works best and which upgrades make the most sense for you.
Yeah, pretty obvious; however, if you're a new shooter and don't have a shotgun, you do have some options. Check with the shoot organizer or shooting range to see if they offer shotgun rentals. Be sure to mention you need it during the event because some rental services don't operate during events. If you're not going solo, ask your crew if anyone as a spare. If you're lucky, they might bring different options for you!
Another obvious item but, hey, let's cover all the bases. Many ranges have ammo for sale so don't worry too much if you forget. Keep the weight of the shot and speed the same to help with consistency. Using the same brand the entire shoot ensures greater consistency as well.
4. Shooting Vest or Shell Holder
Wearing a vest or a shell holder is pretty much a necessity. This is mostly for carrying around shells so you have them on you when it's your round to shoot. While the padding on the vest does help with recoil, it's definitely possible to shoot without one.
5. Shooting Bag
Now we're getting into the good stuff. An appropriate bag is absolutely worth the research. A bag without enough compartments to separate your gear or enough space for everything can turn any event into a logistical nightmare. However, if you're just starting out, keep it simple, bring something you already have until you know what you'll really need. I've used a standard backpack before. As you get more experienced, you'll figure out what gear is essential and was isn't. And as you read further down this list, you'll see the other necessary items that will give you an idea of what type and size of bag you might need.
6. Cleaning Kit
Don't go overboard here. Hauling a full-blown cleaning kit around isn't too much fun. A simple bore snake or a compact cleaning kit will work just fine for a few days of shooting. Waiting until after the event to give your gun a full cleaning is so much easier at home with all your tools at your disposal.
7. Appropriate Clothing
Yep, I've been unexpectedly affected by my choice in clothing in the past. Changing conditions, sun, wind, rain, snow, and HAIL! A long-sleeve sun blocking shirt is a must. My go-to long sleeve is the Columbia Terminal Tackle (linked below). Shorts, pants, raincoat, wide brim hat are all good to have handy. Before an event, you can research the climate and terrain; however, predicting the weather is never 100% accurate so always plan ahead with options for different possible conditions.
I've been burned (pun fully intended) by this as well. You never think you're out in the sun that long until it's too late. Not only does the sun burn you, it also zaps your energy and eyesight. If you're in a multi-day event in full sun and don't use sunscreen, hats, or long-sleeves, your day two will be smoked. Good luck being at the top of your game when you're fried. I believe sun exposure is the most underrated factor that can hinder anyone's performance. Cover up with UPF clothing and get the sunscreen on exposed skin. I'd recommend a stick or spray to help keep the sunscreen off your palms.
9. Snacks and Water
Nothing heavy, nothing high in carbs. Carbs will turn your energy level into a roller coaster ride. Try snacking on nuts, fruit, trail mix, protein bars... etc. Regulating your energy level is a real thing. Avoid the ups and downs by limiting carbs and sugars. Also, if you want to take it to another level, skip the heavy portions at lunch like burgers and fries unless you're not shooting in the afternoon.
10. Multi Tool
You don't need to bring the full tool box. A simple multi tool for making minor repairs and adjustments will always come in handy. A multi tool specifically for firearms will do the trick for most small issues you might have out on the range. Most of the issues I've experienced in the field or at a competition are loose screws, stuck chokes, lubrication or carbon buildup.