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Simple ways to cut weight on your hunting setup

Simple ways to cut weight on your hunting setup

Scouting trip with a Stone Glacier Sky 5900 backpack. All photo credits: Brady Miller

Weight savings

When a large airline needed to save money, someone suggested they simply remove one olive per salad served in First Class. This tiny change saved the airline $40,000 in one year. Little changes lead to big changes in the big picture. When you throw your pack on your shoulders, you become very aware of the amount of weight you are carrying. The longer you carry it, the more aware of it you become. If you have ever had a heavy load, you know the feeling of being willing to give just about anything to save a few pounds. Well, in this article, we are going to talk about a few ways to save a good amount of weight by making some small changes.

Less power optics in your setup

Glassing with 15 power Zeiss binoculars

Glassing off a tripod with Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56 binoculars.

Optics are crucial for a successful hunt; that is not up for debate. If you have optics (especially quality optics) you will have more success than if you don't. However, while many people think that more power means seeing more animals, that is not necessarily the case. In fact, higher quality optics in lower powers will usually be more effective than lower quality with a higher power. Additionally, less Xs (power) means less weight. For example, a common setup for western hunters is carrying 10x42 binos and 15x56 binos in their pack. Don't get me wrong: This is a great setup! But, as Brady wrote recently, 12s can be a great option - you can check out his article here. One of the drawbacks of 12s, though, is using them one-handed while stalking in close. This is where some quality 8x42 binos would be great. Not only would they be brighter with a wider field of view than the 10s, but they would also be easier to use one-handed. Running 8s and 12s rather than 10s and 15s would not only result in less weight in your backpack, but less overall cost and a wider field of view. For another view of this subject, you can check out another article on multiple binocular and spotting scope setups here. Even with the table below, you could save even more by just running 8 power binoculars.

Binocular size

Bino size 8s 12s   10s 15s
Binocular model Vortex Razor 8x42 Vortex Razor 12x50   Vortex Razor 10x42 Vortex Kaibab 15x56
Weight 1 lb. 8 oz. 1 lb. 13 oz.   1 lb. 8 oz. 2 lb. 11 oz.
Field of view @
100, yards
388' 285'   362' 215'
Cost $1,279.99* $1,099.99   $999.99 $1,049
Total weight 3 lb. 5 oz.   4 lb. 3 oz.
Total weight
savings
13 oz.**

* Cost for the 8x42s was using MSRP.
** You could save even more by just running 12 power binoculars or just running 10s.

When it comes to spotters, not everyone takes one with them. However, if you like having an optics arsenal at your disposal, the less Xs principal still applies (or smaller objective lens). Here are two examples: The weight savings between the 22-48x65 mm and the 27-60x85 mm Vortex Razor is 9 oz. With the Swarovski ATS, the Xs stay the same, but the objective lens is smaller and the savings of going with the 65 mm over the 85 mm is 10.5 oz.

Aluminum vs. carbon tripod

Glassing with a Sirui carbon fiber tripod

Glassing with a Sirui T-024x carbon fiber tripod.

The foundation of your larger optics is important so you don't want to buy low quality only to save some money. However, there are some great carbon tripods available that work just as good—if not better—than their aluminum counterparts and are a great way to skim some weight off your pack. Here’s a comparison of a commonly used aluminum tripod versus a comparative carbon tripod that illustrates how much weight you can shave off of your pack simply by picking a different tripod.

Carbon vs. aluminum tripod

Tripod Sirui
T-1205X
Manfrotto
055XPro3
Weight 2 lb. 5 lb. 8 oz.
Max height 51.2" 66.93"
Cost $280.94 $264.99
Total weight
savings
3 lb. 8 oz.

Glassing with an aluminum Manfrotto tripod

Glassing with an aluminum Manfrotto tripod setup. Photo credit: Brady Miller

Weapon choice

Simulated hunting practice with a Browning rifle

Simulated off-season hunting practice with a Browning rifle.

If you haven't purchased your chosen weapon for this fall yet or if you are looking to upgrade, some careful consideration can have a big impact on your pack weight.

Bow

Aluminum bows weigh over 4 lbs nearly across the board now. Carbon bows, by comparison, weigh under 4 lbs (For example, the Hoyt RX-1 is 3.9 lbs and the PSE Carbon Stealth is 3.4 lbs). Carbon also offers many other benefits. It is quieter, less prone to vibration, and warmer to the touch on those cold late season mornings. You can expect to save anywhere from 4 to 8 oz by using a carbon bow instead of an aluminum bow.

Rifle

When it comes to a rifle, there are some ways to drastically reduce weight like buying a custom carbon fiber barrel; however, this is out of reach for most hunters because it can be expensive. Regardless, if you are in the market for a rifle, there are a couple of ways to save weight no matter what your budget is.

The first option is to go with a short-action cartridge (6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08, 308, 300 WSM, etc.) rather than a long-action cartridge (270, 30-06, 7mm Rem Mag, 300 Win Mag). The shorter cartridge uses a shorter bolt and a shorter action, which results in a weight savings of 4 to 5 oz.

Another option is to use a non-magnum cartridge instead of a magnum. There are a few reasons for this (like less muzzle blast, less noise and cheaper cost of ammo), but, when it comes to weight, magnum cartridges require longer barrels to burn the extra powder. Additionally, many rifle manufacturers use slightly heavier barrels on magnums than on their non-magnum counterparts. Going with a non-magnum rather than a magnum will reasonably save you about 4 to 5 oz or more, depending on the rifle.

Food choice

Food makes up a huge portion of your pack weight during your hunt. Food is one of those things that you really can't go without, but, if you change things up a bit, you can shave some weight.

Stoveless

Brady Miller stoveless backcountry food method

One great way to save weight is by using Brady Miller's stoveless method. By foregoing the stove and bringing only foods that could be consumed without cooking, he was able to save 28.86 oz!

Fats vs carbs

If you don't want to go that far, you can change your diet up by consuming more fats and less carbs. While you need both when hunting, fats take longer to burn than carbs and provide more calories per gram than carbs (9 cal/g for fat vs 4 cal/g for carbs). By consuming more fats, you will be satisfied longer and will carry less weight.

Yourself

What if I told you that the cheapest and most effective way to reduce the weight you carry into the backcountry is to start by looking in the mirror. We could all stand to lose a few pounds and by simply being more strict with your diet and exercising for 60 minutes a day for five days each week, you could reasonably expect to lose 5 lbs. I recently eliminated all added sugars and all processed food from my diet and I lost 5 lbs. That was it, just those two small changes and 5 lbs were gone. The added benefit from losing weight around your midsection is that it is cheaper (you don't have to buy new gear) and it results in you being healthier and in better physical shape.

In conclusion

When we put all of this together, it becomes clear that a few minor changes will go a long way in saving you a ton of weight (figuratively speaking). Another great way to save weight is on your sleep system. You do not have to do all of these, but doing even just one or two will help you to feel less weight and go further this season.

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