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Brady Miller's backcountry hunting gear list breakdown - revisited for 2017

Brady Miller backcountry hunting gear list for 2017

Gear lists. They are something I obsess over and try to evolve each season. What makes it into my backpack are tools that I feel will help me succeed. From the clothing to the footwear, and all the way through the optics, weapon and food list. Just like all the gear lists I've built over the years, each one helps me see the bigger picture of what I'm carrying on my back and what I can and can't live without. Everyone has some form of a gear list, some might be chicken scratch on a notebook, others use charts on a computer, and then there is the throw everything on the floor and see what will or will not fit in a backpack method. Without a gear list, items will either get overlooked, or you will take more than you need.

My current 2017 gear list that I created is what I would carry for an above timberline mule deer bowhunt in August and September. Even though this gear list nails down everything I need on a hunt, weather ultimately plays a huge part in what I take. So, at the last minute I might need to add an item to ensure I am safe on the mountain. I like to say that I never carry extra gear or clothing that I'll not use. This can only be learned from experience. To do this, it’s best to utilize a quality weather service that you trust before heading out for a week or more of backcountry hunting. Keep in mind, that your clothing is a layering system, you can always add or subtract layers when you are hunting.

Even though the main purpose of my gear list is focused around ultralight gear, I still carry a minimum amount of safety items and gear that ensures I can survive in pretty much anything that Mother Nature throws at me. I do carry a few backups, and over the years, even those are starting to get smaller and smaller.

I have stated this before on other articles and podcasts, but my gear list is and always will be a living and breathing document. I have modified my gear list so many times over the years (and the pile of gear I no longer use is stacking up). My personal gear list archives are revised periodically when I find new gear that I feel are essential for the hunt. If I don't trust a piece of gear, it will not make this list. I understand the balance between ultralight, safety and success. I also have several versions of my gear list for different hunting situations: early, mid and late seasons. Along with that I also create truck/hotel camping versions too. That way I know what I'm carrying and know what I'm packing.

I'm going to try to keep the text down in this article, but if you want to hear more on my gear philosophies, you can check out my 2016 gear list article here.

Below you will find a downloadable Excel link for my perfected 2017 gear list:

Office spreadsheet icon Brady-Miller-2017-Backcountry-Hunting-Gear-List-V1.xls

Just like last year, this Excel spreadsheet breaks down every category of gear: the ounces, pounds and even price per item. What I expanded on this season was an area where you can get even more detailed information on your food.

The price per item...

I list the price per item due to managing my personal hunting budget. I want to know what areas I could spend or save more money on in order to shave weight if needed. Yes, if you're starting from scratch, a gear list for a backcountry hunt can be very expensive, or relatively cheaper. That is the beauty of backpacking. You can get by with any amount of gear, it's up to you as the hunter to to figure out what works best for you. Backpack hunting is my favorite style of hunting... so my hunting budget goes toward this.

Expanding on gear related data

The pie charts in the Excel gear sheet also provide a great visual to see what category are your heaviest, which is helpful for cutting weight. Everything you enter in the spreadsheet will be automatically added to the summary tables and the pie charts. I highly suggest saving a backup copy just in case you make a mistake and erase some formulas. It's also a great idea to make multiple copies of this gear list; one for the early season, one for October hunts, and one for November hunts. Or maybe even a mule deer gear list and an elk gear list because they are totally different beasts in terms of gear.

You will also notice a section on my gear list under the " Function" column in each gear section. I use the letter "p" to know that I have that item ready to place in my backpack. That is sort of my checklist section. I've also kept the spreadsheet unlocked so you can edit the entire document. I'm very proud at how my gear list charts have evolved over the years. It seems each year I find something else to add to this Excel spreadsheet. 

Currently my full backpack weighs 45.42 lbs and my full pack at the trailhead (weapon and water added) weighs 60.89 lbs. That total is for a nine day, eight night hunt. I do not like hiking with my binoculars on my neck when I am starting out on a hunt because I am normally hiking at night. So, if I wore those, my pack weight would be almost two pounds lighter.

Like every year, I definitely have areas I'd like to improve on. But... those changes will have to be made after I save up some more money.

Article quote about ounces in the backcountry
Quote from my dad after I told him I was moving to Montana back in the day.

How do I determine what makes it into my backpack?

I look for the best lightweight backpacking/hunting gear and if it will make me a better hunter or lighten my backpack without sacrificing something, then I might consider using it. A lot of lightweight gear nowadays is just as functional as the traditional heavy backpacking gear that might weigh double. So why carry more weight if less will do?

So what benefit does weighing out all of your hunting gear have?

If you were to ask me if I’m obsessed with ounce counting, I would probably say yes, but you will notice that in my list, some things I will sacrifice cutting weight to carry some items that I feel will increase my chances of success.

A lot of people will say that weighing out every piece of gear doesn’t matter. All they want is a gear list and if their pack is a little heavier, then they should just get stronger to handle the increased weight. I can slightly agree with that, but each step you're taking you are carrying that weight. Where counting ounces really comes into play is once you have an animal down.

I feel my gear list is a huge helping hand for someone just starting out, or looking to change up their setup.

Facebook Live video on my gear list

On Thursday August 31 I did a Facebook Live video on my 2017 backcountry gear list. You can check out that video below.


My 2017 A to Z Backcountry Hunting Gear List

Brady Miller backcountry hunting gear list 2017

You'll notice that my gear list is mainly focused around a mule deer hunter, but all of this can easily be adapted for elk hunters. Our gear needs might be slightly different, but you'll see similar patterns of necessities.


Brady Miller backcountry hunting pack category 2017

For me, a backpack needs to be lightweight, but at the same time it needs to handle weight very well and be able to take a beating. Lots of backpacks might “feel great” with lightweight loads, but when push comes to shove, they will destroy your body when you add an entire boned out deer. Keep that in mind when testing out new backpacks.

Function Description Ounces
Pack Stone Glacier Sky Archer 6200
w/Xcurve frame
Stone Glacier Pack Rain Cover 3.50
Subtotal (ounces) 87.48 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 5.47 lb



Sleeping Gear

Brady Miller backcountry hunting sleeping category 2017

For 2017 this is one of the areas I made huge improvements on. I went from a 4.68 pound sleeping kit to a 3.74 pound kit. I cut this weight by switching to a Sea to Summit Ember EB I Quilt (19.06 oz. for a large) and switching to a Klymit Inertia X Lite (6.10 oz.). I believe I can cut a little more weight here, especially if I can get ahold of a 950 fill down quilt and maybe even running a tarp and floorless system and maybe even ditching my Polycryo ground cloth. But at 3.74 pounds with everything in the photo above. I'm very happy with the setup.

A lot of unnecessary pack weight can comes from this section. I feel people are overkill on carrying extra cold weather items. I’ve seen a lot of people pack 0° and even 10° sleeping bags in the backcountry for August or September hunts. Those sleeping bags are not only heavy, but can cause you to sweat at night. My philosophy is I already carry a down jacket and other layers, so if I get cold I can just wear extra base layers. If you’re going on a September hunt and the weather is looking pretty rough, you could always add a silk sleeping bag liner. Most weigh under 5 oz and can add roughly 9 to 10° of warmth.

My entire camp kit is pretty basic. I’m sure I could go a little lighter if I ran just a tarp. But I like to be prepared for a little more weather. This camp kit has served me very well for multiple 9-day backcountry hunts where I've faced weather from extreme heat, to rain, to hail, and finally to snow.

Overall, this whole kit still weighs less than most two person tents.

Function Description Ounces
Shelter TarpTent ProTrail w/guylines 26.45
Stuff Sack Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil XS
Compression Sack
Ground Cloth Polycryo Ground Sheet 1.60
Sleeping Pad Klymit Inertia X Lite 6.10
Tent Pole Easton 24" Tent Pole 1.04
Tent Stakes Ruta Locura 6" Sorex Stakes 2.27
Sleeping Bag Sea to Summit Ember EB I Quilt 19.06
Stuff Sack Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil XXS
Compression Sack
Subtotal (ounces) 59.87 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 3.74



Clothing (Packed)

Brady Miller backcountry hunting clothing packed category 2017

Clothing section is something that constantly gets modified. It might be due to weather, or a certain type of mountain environment. If you remember last year, I mentioned completely eliminating soft shell jackets from my system. Being able to eliminate the softshells and use these synthetic layers with a combination of my other layers that I am already taking and still be warm and comfortable.

My primary insulation piece for my this season is the SITKA Kelvin Active Jacket or the SITKA Kelvin Lite Hoody. My decision on which to run all comes down to what weather I'll be expecting. Both of these insulation layers can compress really small if needed due to the PrimaLoft synthetic insulation, which also gives incredible warmth without a ton of weight.

When I'm running my ultralight sleep system and the temperatures drop, the Kelvin jacket series becomes an essential part of my sleeping system by adding a lot of warmth rating to my Sea to Summit Ember EB I Quilt.

Function Description Ounces
SITKA Core Lightweight
Hoody Subalpine
SITKA Mountain
Jacket Subalpine
Stalking Rimrock Stalkers 12.85
SITKA Jetsream Beanie
SITKA Ascent Cap
Arm Sleeves Under Armour Arm Sleeve 0.55
SITKA Ascent Glove
SITKA Traverse Glove
SITKA Core Midweight
Zip Subalpine
SITKA Kelvin Active
Jacket Subalpine
SITKA Flash Pullover
SITKA Dewpoint Pant
Open Country
Subtotal (ounces) 84.45 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 5.28 lb

goHUNT Gear Shop


Clothing/Gear (Worn)

Brady Miller backcountry hunting clothing worn category 2017

I like to keep the clothing/gear I wear pretty simple. The biggest thing for me is to keep one shirt as scent free as possible. What I mean by that is to save one of your shirts and use it for only stalking in close on animals.

Function Description Ounces
SITKA Ascent Shirt
SITKA Ascent Pant
Belt SITKA Stealth Belt 2.40
goHUNT Mesh 3.12
Footwear Lathrop & Sons Mountain Hunter
Elite w/Synergy Footbeds
Darn Tough Merino Hunter
Boot Full Cushion
Leg Gaiter Outdoor Research
Endurance Gaiter
Watch Suunto Core 2.24
Underwear SITKA Core Silk Boxer
Poles Black Diamond
Trail Ergo Cork
Subtotal (ounces) 129.01 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 8.06 lb




Brady Miller backcountry hunting optics category 2017

This section is my heaviest area, but one of the most important. You can't kill a buck unless you find a buck. So packing 10x, 15x and an 85mm spotting scope is well worth the added weight in my opinion. This is alway why I'm an ounce counter. I can cut weight in other areas... so I can pack more weight in others. If you want to dive into more on the subject of what combination of optics to carry on a hunt, you can check out my recent article here: Why carrying multiple are essential for locating more deer.

Function Description Ounces
Zeiss Victory DiaScope
85mm T*FL

w/20-75x eyepiece
Binoculars Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 in
Marsupial bino case
Binoculars Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56 48.03
Rangefinder Leupold RX-1000i TBR 7.92
Bino Adapter

w/tripod plate
Lens Cloth goHUNT Spudz 0.30
Tripod Slik 624 Pro CF w/
Vanguard PH 111V
2-Way Pan Head
iPhone 7 plus w/Phoneskope 10.14
Subtotal (ounces) 223.42 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 13.96 lb




Brady Miller backcountry hunting weapon category 2017

For all general purposes, I am going to be talking about the items I need for a bowhunt. I’ve talked about my setup before, but basically, I take the precision side of target archery and turn it into tools for bowhunting. My entire bowhunting setup is listed in the table below. My total bow setup weighs 9.56 pounds. I'd prefer to add more weight to my bow if it will help me to be a better shot. So I do not sacrifice weight here.

Function Description Ounces
Bow Mathews Halon X -
String Vaportrail VTX -
BeeStinger Premier Plus 12" V-Bar
w/ 2 oz Pro Hunter Maxx weight
BeeStinger Premier Plus 10" V-Bar
w/ 16 oz Freestyle weights
Arrows Black Eagle X-Impact 250 Spine w/
Q2i 4 Fletch vanes
Quiver TightSpot 5 Arrow -
Rest Hamskea Hybrid Hunter Pro Microtune
w/Versa Overdraw
Sight Pure Driven 75 Single Pin
w/ 6" dovetail
Broadheads Muzzy Trocar x 5 -
Release Hot Shot 4 Finger Eclipse 3.47
Bow Sleeve goHUNT Bow Slicker Bow Sling 6.40
Subtotal (ounces) 163.20 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 10.20 lb




Brady Miller backcountry hunting gear category 2017

This gear section is pretty bare bones. It encompasses my water purification, kill kit, GPS, satellite messenger, cell phone, glassing pad and a few archery backups. I know I could probably get rid of the GPS unit and use my phone as a GPS while utilizing various apps, but I'm still uncomfortable with the idea of using a phone as a stand alone GPS unit.

Function Description Ounces
Z Rest cut into small section 2.00
Release, D-loop cord, nock,
sight tape, Allen wrenches
Stuff Sack Mini ZPacks Cuben Fiber 0.13
GPS Garmin GPSMAP 64s 7.21
Battery Pack goHUNT Dark Energy
Chapstick LipLipz Lip Balm 0.52
Wind Check Smoke in a Bottle 0.60
Knife Kestrel Knives Mountain Caper 1.02
Facepaint Camo Compac 1.60
Hunting License License 0.28
Game Bags Tag Game Bags BOMB 8.13
Aquamira in UL Mini Dropper 1.14
Water Container MSR DromLite 6L 4.64
Satellite Messenger Delorme inReach Explorer 6.67
Charge Cord iPhone Charge Cord 0.65
Charge Cord Cord for headlamp & sat messenger 0.44
Extra Batteries 4 AA Energizer
Ultimate Lithium
Food Hanging Z Packs Z Line
Slick Cord
Subtotal (ounces) 48.28 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 3.02 lb



Cook Kit

Brady Miller backcountry hunting cooking category 2017

For 2017... this section of my gear list is only one item long. My blender bottle. By getting rid of my cook kit, I saved a total of 13.25 ounces! You can read more about that here.

Function Description Ounces
Blender Bottle 5.30
Subtotal (ounces) 5.30 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 0.33 lb



Safety Gear

Brady Miller backcountry hunting safety gear category 2017

My first aid kit is very basic: Advil, gauze pads, bandage netting, moleskin, toothbrush cut in half, ultralight toothpaste bottle, band-aids, tampon (in case of giant puncture), and a suture. I also have electrical tape and Gorilla Tape on my trekking poles for emergencies or for gear repair. Also, this gear list is based off an area that has bears. So I'm going to be carrying pepper spray which adds some weight to my pack. A weight that I'm happy to carry for safety. 

Function Description Ounces
Headlamp Petzl Reactik+ 3.97
Petzl e+Lite 1.04
Bear Spray Counter Assault
Tooth Brush
& Paste
Z Packs Ultralight
Travel Tooth Brush
First Aid Assorted First Aid Kit
in aLOKSAK bag
Toilet Paper Toilet Paper in Ziploc Bag 0.52
Subtotal (ounces) 20.09 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 1.26 lb




The stoveless backcountry hunting food list
The stoveless backcountry hunting food list.

A food list is something I probably work on the most. To save some space, I dedicated a full article to my food list as well as a bunch of thoughts on my new food method for 2017, the stoveless method. You can check out that article by clicking the button below. But for a quick summary, I am at 3,222 calories 

Read 2017 Stoveless Backcountry Food List Here



Brady Miller backcountry hunting water category 2017
Function Description Ounces
Water Platypus 2L
with neoprene sleeve
GU Hydration Mix 6.3
Subtotal (ounces) 84.30 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 5.27 lb

What I changed from 2016 to 2017 in my backpacking system

The biggest change from 2016 to 2017 was switching to a quilt, going stoveless for my food and the switch to SITKA Gear. Other than that I made small tweaks to different categories and some I even added a few pieces of gear.

Category by category comparison from 2016 to 2017

Pack: -1.51 oz in 2017
Sleep system: -15.08 oz in 2017
Clothing packed: +6.38 oz in 2017
Clothing/gear worn: + 43.15 oz in 2017
Optics: +6.03 oz in 2017
Weapon: +10.24 oz in 2017
Gear: +1.34 oz in 2017
Cook kit: -13.95 oz in 2017
Safety gear: +11.92
Food: -20.81 oz in 2017
Water: +6.30 oz in 2017


Note: That for the full pack trailhead weight this includes my bow. I prefer to start my hike by having my bow on my backpack. So I didn't want to confuse anyone by having my bow weight removed from that total. If you're the person who carries your weapon in your hand. Then just eliminate that weight from the Excel spreadsheet.

Overall I'm very happy with my current backcountry hunting gear list. The great thing about gear lists is they are a living and breathing document and always changing.

What I have developed over the years for my gear list has worked very well. Some items I've had since day one, others have slowly been upgraded. It’s amazing to look back and see what I used to hunt with and what I hunt with now. Technology has definitely changed.

goHUNT INSIDER equals better hunting research


Log in or register to post comments.

Nathaniel E. - posted 2 years ago on 09-18-2017 11:00:54 pm

Great gear list Brady. I see why in the youtube videos the other guys at GoHunt joke that you could sleep on a rock, haha. I'm jealous, as I pick up a lot more weight in my sleep system, I even pack a thermarest UL cot. For me, its worth every ounce for a great night sleep.

I actually had a couple of questions about your bow setup. At 6'4, how do you run a Halon X? I'm 6'3 and my DL is 31.5. You look tall and lanky like me, I would have guessed you were easily as long a DL as me, if not longer. Also, how many different arrows did you test before you settled on the Black Eagles? I want to switch to a smaller diameter arrow (from Gold Tip Pro Hunters) and was wondering if you had any general comments about arrow setup and selection.


Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 2 years ago on 09-11-2017 05:09:58 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hey Cody. Sorry for the late reply. I just got back from Idaho last night. I am sticking with my Slik really because it's a bomb proof tripod that I've ran for a few years and I'm trying to be a little cheap and not spend any more money on something else at this time. I've really beat these tripod legs and they keep on kicking. I've used it all the way up in BC to the deserts of AZ, NV and Mexico and the dust doesn't bother them either. I did just remove the foam deals on my tripod and I shaved the handle off my pan head to save some weight. I still need to update that in the article.

I've ran the Siriu T-024x a bunch of times this summer. It's a solid, solid system. I really enjoyed how quick it was to change the angle of the legs if I was glassing in a weird location. The ballhead might take some time to get used too for me, but you can swap it out for a pan head. The 10S ball head is super smooth, I just prefer a pan head for my long distance glassing. The Sirui will be a little lighter setup... so it's still something I am looking hard at switching too. But at this time I'm still loving my Slik.

We are actually going to be carrying the Slik 624, 634, and the Lite CF 522 tripods in our Gear Shop. The Lite CF 522 should be in stock on our site next week. But, the 624 and 634 are backordered from Slik until end of October.

So if you're on the fence, either would be phenomenal in my opinion.

Cody R. - posted 2 years ago on 09-06-2017 12:25:39 pm

I see you're sticking with your Slik tripod this year. I'm considering purchasing either the 624 or 634 myself, through S&S. I assume you're satisfied with its durability? You prefer it over the Siriu T-024X that you're now carrying in the gear shop? Any chance you'll be carrying Slik tripods in the gear shop in the near future? I noticed that you just got some Slik heads up for sale. Thanks Brady!

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 2 years ago on 09-05-2017 07:28:39 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Thanks everyone! I'll dive into more of your questions when I get back from my hunt. It's dark now and I'm at a peak with a little cell signal.

@Nick - No worries at all I'm happy to explain my pack weight for you. I'm actually gone for 9 days. Several times in the article I mention different weight sections for my pack. I don't try to sugar coat my weight. What that 60 pounds equals is a total weight of everything I carry once I leave the trailhead. I normally have an eight to 12 mile hike ahead of me so my trailhead weight is 60 pounds. That includes strapping my 10 pound bow on there (I hike with trekking poles) plus 2 liters of water (5 pounds) and three pairs of optics in my pack. I also don't start my hike into the mountains with my 10x42 binos on my chest. I don't want to get them drenched in sweat. I know my optics section is heavy also... but I'm fine going overkill here because glassing is everything to me. Too many times in the past I'd waste energy going after a buck I thought looked big... but my spotter wasn't powerful enough to dissect the rack from a long ways away. And going after him I buggered up other basins in the process. So now I take my giant spotter and 15s wherever I go. Or maybe I'll get rid of the 15s and 10s when I save up money and just go with 12s for backcountry hunts.

So... if I wanted to manipulate my pack weight. It's actually 43 pounds roughly with no food, no water, no bow added and my 10x42s removed since most hike with them on for a nine day backcountry mule deer hunt. I feel a lot of people say that as their pack weight... when in reality it's heavier when you add food, water and in my case strapping my bow to the pack.

Best of luck to you this season!

Stefan Wilson
Stefan W. - posted 2 years ago on 09-05-2017 07:41:47 am
Gilbert, AZ

Brady, phenomenal breakdown. I really appreciate the detail here.

For anyone thinking this is too much weight, when you consider the fact that he is carrying a spotter, 15's and 10's in his pack, it makes sense that it would weigh that much when you factor everything else in. He also has everything you could need for a given scenario, which I would argue is super important. If he can carry the weight and be totally prepared, why not carry it?

Nick M. - posted 2 years ago on 09-04-2017 02:28:54 pm

What is so monumental about this gear list? 60lbs for 8 days is crazy...

Kenneth B. - posted 2 years ago on 09-04-2017 02:55:02 am

Many thanks Brady; really comprehensive gear breakdown.
Good luck and good hunting

Alexander K. - posted 2 years ago on 09-03-2017 01:00:32 pm
Denver, CO

I am only 6' but I use a down jacket partnered with the Vireo to keep me warm. Have you tried the Patagonia 1/2 bag or spoken with someone who has? I'll check out the Western Mountaineering quilt when it's released. How are you liking the Lathrop & Sons boots? Mine are the finest boots I have worn.

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 2 years ago on 09-02-2017 10:19:17 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

I used to run a Feathered Friends sleeping bag all the time. I upgraded my current quilt from a Feathered Friends Kestrel bag. That Vireo UL looks right up my style! Thanks for sharing that. I haven't seen that one before. The only probably is my height. I'm 6'4" so even the 74" long bag will be a little short. But then again... I could probably deal with that for a true ultralight setup. Western Mountaineering is coming out with an amazing quilt in the spring of 2018. Can't remember the name off the top of my head.

I'm definitely losing some warmth with the short pad. But like you said, I will take my pack at night and place it under my legs to get my feet off the ground. I'll also wear some of my clothing layers at night.

Alexander K. - posted 2 years ago on 09-02-2017 07:43:37 pm
Denver, CO


Great article. I would recommend the Feathered Friend Vireo UL as and lighter alternative to the your current bag. I have been super pleased with mine. The 68" bag is only 14.4 oz. Also do you find you are losing warmth by using the small profile of the Klymit Inertia? Do you use your pack to insulate your legs?