o Spotting Scope: Consider both weight and performance of the optics. A heavier spotting scope may be worth it for superior visual performance.
o Weapon: This could be a bow or a rifle. Either way, take a weapon that you are confident using and have practiced with.
o Binoculars: Coupled with your spotting scope these are invaluable and will save you hours and miles of walking. I recommend at least 10x42. This will give you enough magnification and a good size field of view. Binoculars are worth their weight in gold. If you are looking to save some money this is NOT the area to do it.
o Rangefinder: The distance you plan on shooting is the deciding factor on how much you spend on a rangefinder. The farther you want your range finder to accurately judge distances, the more you will spend. You can get a great range finder for $350-$600 as long as you are ok with a maximum accurate range of 600 to 800 yards.
o Tripod: The tripod makes the spotting scope a useful tool. A spotting scope without a solid base is almost useless. You can choose a full-length tripod that can be used at standing height, or a smaller and lighter backpacking tripod meant to be used at sitting height. Manfrotto, Vortex, Vanguard, and The Outdoorsman all have great tripods.
o Diaphragm Calls: I carry three or more diaphragm calls. This will allow me to make different sounds and have back up calls if one breaks or gets lost.
o Grunt tube: Aids in making bull elk sounds.
o Knife: I carry two knives with me. Both are interchangeable blades because I am terrible at sharpening knives and I don’t like carrying a knife sharpener. I carry an Outdoor Edge interchangeable blade and a Havalon interchangeable blade. They are both extremely light, compact, and the blades are easy to pack and change.
o Saw: There are a ton of saw choices. A lightweight one is good for packing, but make sure it is still capable of sawing through bone.
o Game Bags: I choose Kifaru game bags. These bags surprise me with how much they can hold and how tough they are. Take whatever game bag you are comfortable with because they are a necessity.
o 20’ of Para Cord or Other Rope
o 2 Carabiner Clips
o Plastic or Latex Gloves
o Wet Ones Wipes
o Backpack: A frame pack (either internal or external frame) is best for its added support and weight distribution capabilities. Framed packs allow you to carry much more weight than non-framed packs.
o Bottle: Nalgene Bottle, Shaker Bottle, or Plastic Water Bottle That Can Be Compressed.
o Sleeping Bag: There are a lot of good sleeping bags on the market. I currently use a Big Agnes 15-degree bag. I like this bag because instead of a bottom, it has a sleeve for you to insert your sleeping pad. This allows you to pack the sleeping bag tighter, and prevents you from slipping off your sleeping pad in the middle of the night. Do your research and get the bag that fits your style, the season you hunt, and your budget.
o Sleeping Pad: There are a lot of good sleeping pads on the market. I currently use a Big Agnes down-filled pad. This pad fits perfectly in my sleeping bag sleeve and provides great insulation from the ground. It also packs down into a small size great for throwing in your pack. Do your research and get the bag that fits your style, the season you hunt, and your budget.
o Tent: The tent market for back packers is exploding. Among the top brands are Hilleberg, Kifaru, Easton, Kuiu, and many others. I currently use an Easton Kilo 3-person tent. It is very light for the size and offers enough room for my gear. Kifaru offers many selections one of which is a “tarp style” tent. Tarp tents provide flexibility of using it as a tarp or a tent, and are extremely lightweight.
o 2 Trash Bags
o Cook Stove: Cook stoves come is all different sizes and shapes. One of the most common ones is a JetBoil, and from my personal experience, it works great. In fact, I used it to cook broccoli for a girl, then dropped the broccoli in the dirt, then fed that dirt broccoli to the girl, and she STILL married me. That’s how great the JetBoil is. But anyways…There are lots of options for any budget. Do your research and get the stove that will work best for you.
o Spork or Utensil Set: The added weight of an actual utensil set compared to a plastic spork is so small that it is well worth it. It makes eating much easier and saves time and frustration.
o Matches and Lighter
o Toothbrush: Small and cheap for a backpacking trip.
o Toothpaste: Bring a small travel size tube or none at all.
o Toilet Paper: ½ roll is usually enough.
o Pain Medication: This is great to have for anything as minor as a headache to an unforeseen accident.
o Small Bar of Soap: Soap is always nice to have to stay somewhat clean. Not that bathing in a frigid stream or pond is enjoyable, but the feeling of being clean will rejuvenate you, raise your energy levels, and keep you working for that high-country monster bull or buck.
o Camo Face Paint: Face paint is critical to getting close to an animal. It helps cut down on the shine of your skin, and helps fully conceal your body along with your camo.
The clothing that you take on your hunt will be dependent on the time of year and the geographic location. I focus my hunting in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Montana. This clothing list will be geared towards a high country hunt in one of those states. NOTE: I prefer Sitka Gear. It is as tough as iron and as comfortable as your birthday suit. I suggest you invest in your life, your future, and your gear. You never know when your clothing will save your life.
o Socks: I use high quality wool socks such as Under Armor or Smart Wool. Unlike cotton, wool socks don’t hold moisture, they dry quickly, have cushion, and provide great warmth.
o Underwear: For a 5 day hunt I would bring 1 pair, 8 days 2 pair, and 12 days 3 pair. Just like with socks, it’s best to avoid cotton material.
o Base Layer: I am a big believer in Merino Wool. It keeps you warm when it’s cold, and cool when it’s hot. It wicks moisture away extremely well, doesn’t hold smell, and dries very quick. There are other base layers out there, some of which are not as expensive, but in my opinion it is well worth it.
o Insulation Layer: I use Sitka Gear. My insulation layer of choice is the Primaloft filled jacket and pants. I use the Kelvin Lite Hoody and Kelvin Lite Pant. They provide amazing heat to weight ratio and can literally be stuffed down into one of the pockets. They have proven to work excellent as an outer layer if necessary, and are as close to wind proof as you can get without calling it wind proof.
o Outer Layer: I use Sitka Gear. My preferred jacket is the Jetstream Jacket. This jacket is wind proof, has excellent pockets, pit zips, and much more. My go to pants are the Mountain Pants. These have removable knee pads, suspenders, great pocket choice, and a built in belt.
o Rain Gear: I use Sitka Gear. Sitka offers several different systems to keep you dry in the worst of storms. The more expensive you go, the tougher the gear will be and the dryer you will stay for extended periods of time. I recommend picking the rain gear that fits your style of hunting and your budget. You never want to have an entire hunt that you have been planning for years be ruined because you are soaking wet.
o Hat: I bring both a baseball cap and a Wind Stop Beanie from Sitka.
o Gloves: It’s a good idea to bring both a light weight glove, and a heavy weight.
o Boots: Your boot selection depends on how much weight you’re carrying, the terrain you’re hunting, and the distance you’re hiking. Most of the time a boot with a very stiff sole is best for rough terrain and heavy pack weight,and a boot with a softer sole is good for quick movement and little weight. Buy your boots early and walk your ass off in the pre-season. Test both stiff- and soft-soled boots, and determine which allows you to perform the best.
o Hydration Bladder: Hydration bladders allow you to maintain hydration on the go and don’t take up extra room in your pack once you’ve depleted the water.
o Water Filtration: There are lots of water filtration kits for backpacking. Some are manual pumps, some are electric pens. I suggest going to a store or doing research online to find one that will work for you. However, even if you carry a water filtration system, ALWAYS carry iodine pills – your filtration system could fail and without iodine, you would be without clean water.
o Iodine Pills: Iodine pills make water safe to drink. Some people don’t like the taste of iodine, so I take drink mix to add some flavor.
o GPS: This is an awesome tool. Couple it with an “OnX Hunt Map” and you have landowner boundaries, topographical lines, trails, roads, and tons of other important info.
o Delorme InReach: This is a great device that could save your life. It allows you to send text message to loved ones in areas where you may not have cells service, as well as send a distress beacon in an emergency.
o Headlamp: A must have. There are lots out there so get one that has a good reputation, is powerful, and will last you. NOTE: make sure it can’t turn on when it’s in your pack or pocket and drain all the battery life.
o Meal Replacement Bar: A great treat to have in your pocket for easy access so you can battle your hunger before it wears you out. I prefer Isalean Bars.
o Energy Gel: I prefer Isa Fuel. These are great carb boosts to give you more energy and help you stay focused.
o Wind Checker: A great tool to have is a wind checker. This tells you which way the wind is blowing so you don’t bust your stalk with your scent.
o Garmin Virb: This small action camera will allow you to capture different angles of your hunt and can even be mounted on your bow.
o Camera: Preferably a DSLR camera of the best quality that you can afford. These cameras can take both still pictures and video. In addition to the camera, you may want accessories such as wireless mics, multiple lenses, and a tripod.
Survival and Emergency Gear:
o Small ¼ Roll Electricians Tape: This will come in handy when you need to secure a load on your pack, make a repair, or more.
o 25’ Parachute Cord: Great for securing your load, packing out animals, or even building a shelter.
o Flashlight: Always good to have more than one light in case your headlamp dies.
o External Charger: The Dark Energy Tech Poseidon Is a virtually indestructible charger for your power needs. This allows you to recharge your cellphone or GPS on the go.
o Solar Panel Charger: In addition to a portable external charger, a small solar panel charger can help power your electronics for the longer hunts.
o Spare Batteries: Pack extra batteries for all electronic equipment.
o Waterproof Container of Strike Anywhere Matches: Always good to have extra matches in a waterproof container just in case.
o Vaseline Soaked Cotton Balls: These will help you start a fire in almost any weather condition.
o Small Basic First Aid Kit: Adventure Medical Kits-Ultralight and Water Tight .3 Kit is a great starter. If you don’t have it, a few band aids, gauze, and maybe some athletics tape or mole skin.
o Magnesium Strike Stick, Matches, and Lighter
o Space Blanket: Great to keep on you at all times so that in case you’re away from camp and a big storm hits, you get hurt, or just need to stay warm.
o Glow Stick: When all electrical gear fails, a glow stick will still provide light.
o Technu First Aid Gel: Great for treating burns and poison ivy.
o R.A.T.S Tourniquet: For extreme wounds in the backcountry.
o Hot Hands: A few of these will help you stay warm, especially when coupled with a space blanket.
o Satellite Phone (Optional): They may be expensive, but your life is worth it. This will allow you to call, check in, and stay in contact with anyone you need.