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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.

Backpack

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
84.00
Rain
Cover
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
1.98
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
1.37
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
Top
(Wicking)
SITKA Core Lightweight
Hoody Subalpine
7.15
Top
(Wind)
SITKA Mountain
Jacket Subalpine
12.36
Stalking Rimrock Stalkers 12.85
Hat
(Insulating)
SITKA Jetsream Beanie
Subalpine
1.57
Hat
(Sun)
SITKA Ascent Cap
Subalpine
1.50
Arm Sleeves Under Armour Arm Sleeve 0.55
Gloves
(Base)
SITKA Ascent Glove
Subalpine
1.54
Gloves
(Insulating)
SITKA Traverse Glove
Subalpine
2.10
Top
(Insulating)
SITKA Core Midweight
Zip Subalpine
10.19
Top
(Insulating)
SITKA Kelvin Active
Jacket Subalpine
14.86
Top
(Rain)
SITKA Flash Pullover
Subalpine
8.54
Bottoms
(Rain)
SITKA Dewpoint Pant
Open Country
11.24
Subtotal (ounces) 84.45 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 5.28 lb


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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
Top
(Wicking)
SITKA Ascent Shirt
Subalpine
4.94
Bottoms
(Outer)
SITKA Ascent Pant
Subalpine
12.08
Belt SITKA Stealth Belt 2.40
Hat
(Hiking)
goHUNT Mesh 3.12
Footwear Lathrop & Sons Mountain Hunter
Elite w/Synergy Footbeds
71.00
Socks
(Hiking)
Darn Tough Merino Hunter
Boot Full Cushion
3.67
Leg Gaiter Outdoor Research
Endurance Gaiter
7.16
Watch Suunto Core 2.24
Underwear SITKA Core Silk Boxer
Pyrite
2.84
Poles Black Diamond
Trail Ergo Cork
19.56
Subtotal (ounces) 129.01 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 8.06 lb

 


 

Optics

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
Spotting
Scope
Zeiss Victory DiaScope
85mm T*FL

w/20-75x eyepiece
72.29
Binoculars Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 in
Marsupial bino case
39.70
Binoculars Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56 48.03
Rangefinder Leupold RX-1000i TBR 7.92
Bino
Adapter
Outdoorsmans
Bino Adapter

w/tripod plate
2.77
Lens Cloth goHUNT Spudz 0.30
Tripod Slik 624 Pro CF w/
Vanguard PH 111V
2-Way Pan Head
41.86
Digiscope
Setup
iPhone 7 plus w/Phoneskope 10.14
Subtotal (ounces) 223.42 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 13.96 lb

 


 

Weapon

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 -
Front
Stabilizer
BeeStinger Premier Plus 12" V-Bar
w/ 2 oz Pro Hunter Maxx weight
-
Back
Stabilizer
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

 


 

Gear

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
Glassing
Pad
Z Rest cut into small section 2.00
Archery
Backups
Release, D-loop cord, nock,
sight tape, Allen wrenches
0.53
Stuff Sack Mini ZPacks Cuben Fiber 0.13
GPS Garmin GPSMAP 64s 7.21
Battery Pack goHUNT Dark Energy
Poseidon
8.87
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
Water
Purification
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
2.09
Food Hanging Z Packs Z Line
Slick Cord
1.76
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
Breakfast
Container
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
Headlamp
(Spare)
Petzl e+Lite 1.04
Bear Spray Counter Assault
w/Holster
12.12
Tooth Brush
& Paste
Z Packs Ultralight
Travel Tooth Brush
0.28
First Aid Assorted First Aid Kit
in aLOKSAK bag
2.16
Toilet Paper Toilet Paper in Ziploc Bag 0.52
Subtotal (ounces) 20.09 oz
Subtotal (pounds) 1.26 lb

 


 

Food

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


 

Water

Brady Miller backcountry hunting water category 2017
Function Description Ounces
Water Platypus 2L
Hoser
with neoprene sleeve
78.00
Electrolyte
Mix
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

Summary

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.

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