5 backcountry essentials for your next hunt
More and more often I get asked how to get started backpacking, what gear they need, what is too much and so on. Although there are a lot of resources out there, I would like to outline my five top items needed for a backpack hunting trip. This will come from a perspective of overall comfort, effectiveness and ease of use.
1.) Sawyer Mini-Filter water filter and purification system
This item has hands-down changed my life in the backcountry. Not only is it easier, it's quicker and just less of a hassle than pumps of latter years. For instance, if any of you have every used pumps in the past, you almost always have to dig into your pack to retrieve your water bladder, which takes time to unpack what needs unpacking, fish your hose through holes that don't necessarily warrant the ease of fishing said drinking hoses through, and then repacking back into your pack when you're done.
With this Sawyer mini-filter and the required “quick-disconnect” fittings, you can fill your bladder without even taking off your pack if you are so equipped. You simply fill your “squeeze” bags with dirty water, attach the filter and squeeze that dirty water through the filter into your drinking hose that you have attached the female quick connect fitting to. Done. Gone are my days of packing around a pump.
2.) Lightweight Game Bags
Night and day dedicated game bags are better than the typical older and heavier canvas game socks or even the pillow method. There are several great options on the market, some will allow a full quarter to be carried out and others are for de-boned meat only. A great lightweight option is Caribou Gear Game Bags. They are strong, pack down extremely small, keep bugs and dirt off better than the "other options" and fit into a perfect sized bag that can become your entire “kill kit.” This small package of wonder is where I keep my Havalon, along with extra blades, a small sheet of visqueen (polyethylene plastic sheeting) and a small roll of tape to put the tag on. All of this is, for the most part, all I need to quarter, de-bone, and pack out an entire elk. You can get their lightweight "backcountry" version in three sizes: The Carnivore III, Muley Meat on Bone and the Wapiti Meat on Bone.
3.) Portable solar panels and charge packs
I've fallen in love with the Goal Zero Nomad solar panels. These are lightweight, easy to use solar panels that fold up to about half the size of a regular magazine. What I have seen done is simply lash the solar panel to the top or back of your pack when you're on a hike or moving glassing locations. This keeps to the age old idea of killing two birds with one stone. Another advantage is that even after a few charges, your not going to be carrying around dead weight, it will still be usable to charge other devices such as a GPS or cell phone, so you no longer have to worry about whether or not you can play solitaire during the heat of the day and if you'll have enough charge to take pictures or call your significant other later. The only downside is cloud cover will severely decrease the effectiveness of a solar panel.
Another great option is a rechargeable battery pack like the Poseidon by Dark Energy. For a short weekend trip, these are all you need to keep all your electronic devices running. Plus, you can combine a battery pack with a solar panel to keep your battery packed charged.
4) Lightweight tripod
A lot of guys still don't understand the importance of using a tripod to glass. I know I'm not the first to cover this subject, but having your binoculars on a tripod to glass is hands-down the single best tip for glassing, or hunting for that matter, I have ever received. I've tested out a few options, but if you're the lightweight type, the Vortex Uni-Daptor at 1.0 ounces is a great option. Not only is a tripod important for glassing with binoculars, spotting scopes and such, it also works great for your camera to snap pictures, especially if you're by yourself. You can easily attach a camera, set it up on a timer and get good quality pictures. Not to mention, you can use your tripod to pry large boulders off your legs in time of need. That one comes from experience...
5.) Layering system of clothing
I'm not going to go into which ones I prefer, simply because I have heard enough on the war of whose product is better and why. I will simply name a few that I know work, and work well. Its up to the individual to decide what they like better. I will tell you that I have used a couple and had experience with a few others. Ones I like a lot are KUIU, First Lite and the disenfranchised Core4Element. If you can get your hands on a set of clothing from these companies you're making good choices. I have used their products and i trust their gear in the backcountry to keep me warm, dry and ultimately safe. Another company I know makes good gear is Sitka, however I have no experience using them. I know there are also a few more I'm leaving out, that does not make them bad choices.
What I do like about each of these, is that they offer a layering system. Base layers are key for me, merino wool, which most know about by now is a staple in my pack. it keeps you warm when it's cool out and dry when it's hot and wicks sweat and moisture from your skin. then you get the outer layers, or insulation layers, the outer shells, and rain gear to top it off.
While there are many different types of gear you can bring on a backcountry hunt, these five quick sections are ones I keep returning to time and time again.