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The ultimate backcountry hunting gear list breakdown

The ultimate backcountry hunting gear list breakdown

When it comes to gear, I guess you could say that I'm pretty obsessive about what items make it into my backpack. I’ve built plenty of gear lists over the years — most pretty simple, some slightly hard to understand, but one thing remains true, building those lists over the years has helped me see what I need (and don't need) in my personalized gear list.

My current gear list that I created in Excel supports a timberline backcountry hunt 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.

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). This list will be revised periodically to remain an up-to-date backpacking gear list of the best and lightest gear on the market that I personally feel are essential for the hunt. If I don't trust an item, it will not make this list. I understand the balance between ultralight, safety and success.

Below you will find a downloadable Excel link for my perfected 2016 gear list:

Brady-Miller-2016-Backcountry-Hunting-Gear-List-V1.xls

This Excel spreadsheet breaks down every category of gear: the ounces, pounds and even price per item. I feel these three items are very important for budgeting which areas I could spend or save more money on in order to shave weight if needed. The pie charts in the Excel 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 46.77 lbs and my full pack at the trailhead (weapon and water added) weighs 61.21 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.

I definitely have areas I want to improve on, I just have to save up some extra cash before I make any changes to this gear list.

So why develop and follow a gear list?
 

Calibrated weight scale for checking backcountry hunting gear
A scale with a calibration weight is essential for mountain hunting gear lists.

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.

Trust me when I say this; no matter how fit you are, the mountains will always beat your body up. I’ve taken a quote I heard back in the day and modified it. Shooting skills and physical conditioning are very important, but almost more so is proper backpack gear weight to ensure you can hunt hard every day like it is your first day on the mountain. I feel this perfectly describes any backcountry hunt.

Brady Miller mountain hunting quote
To me that describes all the rollercoaster rides one will experience on the hunt. No matter how prepared you are, the mountain is always in charge. This is why I feel you need have your gear and nutrition dialed before you go on a hunt. When I told my dad about my desire to move to Montana he told me this based on his experience on hunting in the mountains: "Grams equal ounces, ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain… so choose your pain wisely!"

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 on social media 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. A lot of us do not have access to horses, llamas or pack goats and most do not want to pay the extra fee to hire someone to come in to pack out their animal they just shot, because that bill from the packer could have just paid for your new deer mount.

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

Also, it is worth noting that I am a huge fan of Amazon Prime. Most of the links below when I describe each section of my gear list are Amazon links. That free two day shipping is perfect for last minute food or gear items you forgot about.

Podcast episodes where I describe my gear list

I recently recording a two part podcast with Jay Scott Outdoors that breaks down my entire backcountry gear list. Those episodes are a great supplement to this article. You can find the podcast index for all of Jay Scott Outdoors' episodes on iTunes and on PodBean. I provided the iTunes link and the Podbean player link below for part one and part two of the gear list episodes.

Episode 173 - Part 1 - What’s in Brady Miller’s Backpack for High Country Archery Hunt

Episode 174 - Part 2 - What’s in Brady Miller’s Backpack for High Country Archery Hunt


 

A to Z Backcountry Hunting Gear List

Backpack

Brady Miller backpack setup for backcountry hunting

There are a lot of great backpack companies out there these days, but this is still an area I feel people struggle with. I personally like using a backpack that is lightweight, yet can handle the weight of packing out meat at the end of a successful hunt. 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. My favorite backpack the past few seasons is made by Exo Mountain Gear. I've beat this backpack up and it keeps going!

Function Description Ounces Price
Pack Exo Mountain Gear K² 5500 84.00 $599.99
Rain
Cover
KUIU Pack Rain Cover 4.99 $44.99
Subtotal 88.99 oz $644.98

 


 

Sleeping Gear

Camp and sleep gear for backcountry hunting
I kept the trekking poles in this photos because they are used to support my tent.

A lot of unnecessary pack weight 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. The biggest change I made in this area was switching to a TarpTent in 2015 instead of my small one man tent.

I’ve used my fair share of tent stakes. Most people might think that a tent stake is a tent stake. Well… I’ve had plenty of stakes fail over the years, not fail in strength, but pull out of the ground on windy days. There’s nothing worse than returning to your camp to find that your tent has been demolished by wind due to your stakes pulling out. I now run tent stakes make by Ruta Locura that have a carbon fiber body, with aluminum heads and tips. These stakes are ultra light and also have enough surface area to grip the soil.

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

Function Description Ounces Price
Shelter TarpTent ProTrail w/guylines 26.45 $225.00
Ground Cloth Polycryo Ground Sheet 1.60 $9.95
Sleeping Pad Thermarest NeoAir Xlite 12.59 $189.95
Tent Pole Easton 24" Tent Pole 1.04 $5.00
Tent Stakes Ruta Locura 6" Sorex Stakes 2.27 $32.50
Sleeping Bag Feathered Friends Kestrel
Nano 30° Bag
28.72 $385.00
Stuff Sack Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil 2.28 $29.95
  Subtotal 74.95 oz $877.35

 


 

Clothing (Packed)

Packed clothing for backcountry hunting

My clothing list seems to always be evolving. Back in the day I had really bad insulation layers (at one point I even used cotton sweatshirts). With the release of new and innovating products the past few years, I've drastically cut weight in this section. An example of this would be soft shell jackets. I used to pack a KUIU Guide Jacket on all my hunts. Last year with the release of the KUIU Peloton line, I have been 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 is the KUIU Super Down Hooded jacket. This item can compress really small if needed, and is the perfect item to cram into the small air pockets in your backpack.

I really love the warmth to weight ratio of down and I’ve been a huge fan of Super Down since my moose and mountain goat bowhunt in British Columbia back in 2013. When the temperatures drop, the Super Down Jacket also becomes an essential part of my sleeping system by adding a lot of warmth rating to my 30° Feathered Friends sleeping bag.

Function Description Ounces Price
Top
(Wicking)
KUIU ULTRA Merino
125 Crew T
7.03 $64.99
Bottoms
(Insulating)
KUIU ULTRA Merino
145 Zip Off
6.42 $79.99
Socks
(Stalking)
KUIU ULTRA
Merino Crew
3.33 $29.99
Hat
(Insulating)
KUIU Peloton
240 Beanie
1.47 $29.99
Hat
(Sun)
KUIU Boonie 1.91 $24.99
Belt KUIU Climbing Belt 3.72 $19.99
Gloves KUIU Peloton 200 Glove 1.42 $29.99
Top
(Insulating)
KUIU Peloton 200
Zip T Hoodie
12.21 $99.99
Top
(Insulating)
KUIU Superdown
Hooded
11.77 $249.99
Top
(Rain)
KUIU ULTRA
NX Rain Jacket
8.70 $299.99
Bottoms
(Rain)
KUIU ULTRA
NX Rain Pant
7.73 $249.99
Subtotal 65.71 oz $1,179.90


Continued below.

goHUNT INSIDER equals better hunting research


 

Clothing/Gear (Worn)

Gear worn for backcountry hunting

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 (long sleeve merino or short sleeve merino) and use it for only stalking in close on animals. Depending on the weather or the amount of sun I may switch and hike around in my long sleeve t-shirt each day and then when I stalk I will switch to my merino t-shirt and add the arm sleeves.

Most people know that I am a huge promoter of shoes for hunting. I can’t stand wearing boots during the early season. On August hunts I will wear a non Gore-Tex Salomon Speedcross 3 shoes and if I am hunting in September or a state that might have a lot of morning dew, I’ll use a Gore-Tex version of that same shoe. No matter the season I always wear a gaiter over my shoes which helps keep rocks, debris and moisture out.

Function Description Ounces Price
Top
(Wicking)
KUIU ULTRA
Merino 125 T
5.67 $54.99
Arm Sleeves KUIU Peloton 130
Arm Warmers
1.65 $19.99
Bottoms
(Outer)
KUIU Tiburon Pants 12.70 $139.99
Sunglasses Smith 1.60 $170.00
Hat
(Hiking)
goHUNT Mesh 3.12 $20.00
Footwear Salomon Speedcross 3 25.10 $90.93
Socks
(Hiking)
KUIU ULTRA
Merino Crew
3.33 $29.99
Leg Gaiter Outdoor Research
Endurance Gaiter
7.16 $87.00
Watch Suunto Core 2.24 $319.00
Underwear First Lite Red Desert
Merino Boxers
3.73 $50.00
Poles Black Diamond
Trail Ergo Cork
19.56 $119.95
Subtotal 85.86 oz $1,101.84

 


 

Optics

Brady Miller optics setup for backcountry hunting

This section is my heaviest area, but one of the most important. You can 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. In the past I left certain optics at home to save weight. But a few trips later, and a few dozen wasted miles hiking to check out bucks that looked decent in my 10 power binos (only to find out they were small), I now carry all of these on every mule deer hunt. I love having 10x42 binos on my chest for making stalks on bucks. Plus sometimes it's nice to have that extra field of view when glassing a basin for the first time in the morning. If I can find some extra cash, I might purchase a pair of 8x binos for backpack hunts to save some weight over carrying my 10x. I really love digiscoping bucks so an extra camera and a Tines Up Scope(cam adapter are worth it for scouting and keeping tabs on bucks you have found throughout the years. You can check out this recent article on digiscoping setups that I helped write here.

Function Description Ounces Price
Spotting
Scope
Zeiss Victory DiaScope
85mm T*FL

w/20-75x eyepiece
72.29 $3,399.98
Binoculars Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 in
KUIU bino case
34.23 $2,899.99
Binoculars Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56 48.03 $1,649.99
Rangefinder Leupold RX-1000i TBR 7.92 $399.99
Bino
Adapter
Outdoorsmans
Bino Adapter

w/tripod plate
2.77 $59.99
Lens Cloth KUIU Spudz 0.30 $5.95
Tripod Slik 624 Pro CF w/
Vanguard PH 111V
2-Way Pan Head
41.86 $319.98
Digiscope
Camera
Olympus Tough TG-3 w/
Tines Up Scope(cam adapter
9.99 $409.99
Subtotal 217.39 oz $9,145.86

 


 

Weapon

Bow setup for backcountry bowhunting

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 Price
Bow Hoyt Nitrum 34 LD $950.00
String Vaportrail VTX $95.00
Front
Stabilizer
BeeStinger Premier Plus 12" V-Bar
w/ 2 oz Pro Hunter Maxx weight
$96.98
Back
Stabilizer
BeeStinger Premier Plus 10" V-Bar
w/ 16 oz Freestyle weights
$164.96
Arrows Black Eagle X-Impact 250 Spine w/
Q2i 4 Fletch vanes
$200.00
Quiver TightSpot 5 Arrow $162.95
Rest Vaportrail Limb Driver Micro Elite w/
Hamskea Overdraw
$234.98
Sight Pure Driven 75 Single Pin
w/ 6" dovetail
$307.95
Broadheads Rage Hypodermic +P x 5 $83.32
Release Hot Shot 4 Finger Eclipse $196.59
Bow Sleeve Bad Medicine Archery NA
Subtotal $2,492.73

 


 

Gear

Brady Miller gear list setup for backcountry hunting

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 still like the idea of a stand alone GPS unit. I’m also a waypoint junky. I mark so much data on my GPS when I am in the field. Plus as of now I feel using a GPS and transferring waypoints to my computer for looking at on Google Earth is super easy.

Delorme inReach for backcountry hunting safety

The Delorme inReach is one of my favorite gear items! I use it for sending updates to my fiancé that I’m still alive. I wouldn't classify the Delorme as a GPS, rather a survival tool if I get hurt and a satellite messenger for safety updates. I could also use that inReach if I ever hired a packer to text him that I got an animal down and where to meet me to pick up my animal. Just make sure you turn off the location services if you like to update people about your hunt on social media. You can read this article for more information about sharing hunting location with the world. I've gone back and forth with game bag companies over the years and right now I am settling on TAG Game Bags. They are very light and durable and also have lasted several wash cycles. I might try out KUIU game bags in the future, but it's hard to justify spening money on a gear item that I already have several different brands of.

Function Description Ounces Price
Glassing
Pad
Z Rest cut into small section 2.00 NA
Archery
Backups
Release, D-loop cord, nock,
sight tape, Allen wrenches
4.89 NA
Stuff Sack Mini ZPacks Cuben Fiber 0.13 $10.00
GPS Garmin GPSMAP 64s 7.21 $299.99
Chapstick LipLipz Lip Balm 0.52 $2.99
Wind Check Smoke in a Bottle 0.60 $4.00
Knife Kestrel Knives Slim Caper 0.96 $149.99
Facepaint Camo Compac 1.60 $6.93
Hunting License License 0.28  
Game Bags Tag Game Bags BOMB 8.13 $54.99
Water
Purification
Aquamira in UL Mini Dropper 1.50 $14.95
Water Container MSR DromLite 6L 4.64 $32.95
Satellite Messenger Delorme inReach Explorer 6.67 $299.95
Extra Batteries 4 AA Energizer
Ultimate Lithium
2.09 $7.94
Protein Shaker Blender Bottle 2.3 $8.00
Cell Phone iPhone 6 w/ Lifeproof Case 5.72 $628.99
Subtotal 49.24 oz $1,521.67

 


 

Cook Kit

Brady Miller Cooking gear for backcountry hunting

Once again, my cook kit is pretty simple, but advanced. The cook pot is a titanium JetBoil cup that I made cuts into to allow a smaller and more fuel effient BRS-3000T stove to go into. There are lots of ways to customize a Jetboil and I feel this one is the best. Customizing an already lightweight JetBoil setup can save you a good chunk of weight. You can buy all of the parts as a kit from Ruta Locura. An advanced JetBoil Flash Lite system weighs 11 oz. and my custom setup weighs in at 5.8 oz for a total weight savings of 5.2 oz! If you have the regular JetBoil Flash that weighs 14 oz, this custom setup will save you 8.2 oz! It just comes down to if the cost of creating this custom kit is worth it.

Ruta Locura custom Jetboil stove kit for hunting

The Ruta Locura Kit comes with four parts: titanium heat exchanger support ring (upper left), titanium heat reflector disk (upper right), carbon fiber lid (lower left) and the BST-3000T stove burner (lower right). If there there was one piece of gear I would hate to be without, it's this custom JetBoil kit.

Function Description Ounces Price
Cook Pot JetBoil Sol Ti 4.96 $89.99
Stove Ruta Locura Kit w/
BRS-3000T
0.89 $50.00
Utensil Sea to Summit
Titanium Spork
0.30 $11.90
Fuel Snow Peak Giga Power
Pro iso 110g
7.40 $4.50
Ignition Small Bic Lighter 0.40 $1.00
Subtotal 13.95 oz $157.39

 


 

Safety Gear

Safety gear for backcountry hunting

Both of these flashlights produce a ton of light. The handheld Browning Alpha Max is really starting to grow on me. It is a powerful light at a decent weight. My first aid kit is very basic: Advil, gauze pads, bandage netting, mole skin, toothbrush cut in half, toothpaste in eye contact container, band-aids, tampon (in case of giant puncture), and a suture. I also have electrical tape and Gorilla Tape on my trecking poles for emergencies or for gear repair. 

Function Description Ounces Price
Headlamp Browning Epic 3V 3.32 $39.99
Flashlight Browning Alpha Max 2.16 $37.99
First Aid Assorted First Aid Kit
in aLOKSAK bag
2.14 NA
Toilet Paper Toilet Paper in ZipLoc Bag 0.55 NA
Subtotal 8.17 oz $77.98

 


 

Food

Brady Miller food items for backcountry hunting

Food is something that I am constantly working to improve for a backcountry hunt. Right now I shoot for high calories per ounce; I prefer to be at least 160 calories per ounce. I recently switched up my food choices to allow for more of a variety so I don’t get burned out eating the same thing each day. But I may switch back to just packing the best item and eating that each day because in the end, food in the backcountry is just calories and it’s main purpose it keep my going. Again, my main consideration is calories per ounce.

I also feel like I might be carrying too many calories per day right now on my hunts. I understand I need the calories in the backcountry… but carrying that extra weight and forcing myself to eat all of the food can be difficult. On my recent Nevada hunt it seemed that I'd go through the day with leftover food, but I never felt hungry or energy deficient. So I might make some changes here and keep my benchmark at 160 calories-per-ounce, but switch to 2,000 calories per day. 

Right now I’m at 3,102 calories per day for the backcountry.

You’ll notice that my food list is mainly snack items. Throughout a hunt I feel it's hard to have dedicated “meals.” I feel like I’m struggling to force food in my body throughout a day of hunting due to glassing, making a stalk or waiting out a buck. This is why my items are fairly simple and quick to eat and really pack on the calories. This also seems to be a more consistent source of energy for me having lots of small "meal" throughout the day. Remember: It’s very important to adjust your macros for your specific eating habits.

A quick, easy and lightweight way to add fat calories to your backcountry diet is to carry a small water bottle full of flax seed and MCT oil to keep your fat intake up. An alternative would be olive oil at 251 calories per ounce. I will either add these items to my protein shake, freeze dried meals, or suck it up and just drink them. There are a lot of great options for ways to carry these fat calorie oils in the backcountry, you can either use a collapsible water bottle like a small Platypus, or my favorite, small water bottles.

Function Description Quantity Calories
(per one
serving)
Ounces
(per one)
Consume
(oz)
Breakfast Protein Shake Mix 9 550 5.00 45.00
Breakfast
(Fat Content)
MCT Oil 10 200 1.00 10.00
Breakfast Starbucks VIA
Italian Roast
9 8 0.14 1.26
Mid-morning
Snack
RX Bar
Coffee Chocolate
9 200 1.96 17.64
Lunch Pro Bar Meal
Peanut Butter
Chocolate Chip
9 390 2.94 26.46
Lunch Pro Bar Base
Peanut Butter Chocolate
9 290 2.62 23.58
Late Afternoon
Snack
Honey Stinger
Honey Waffle
9 150 1.15 10.35
Late Afternoon
Snack
Justin's Chocolate
Hazelnut Butter
9 180 1.22 10.98
Late Afternoon
Snack
Justin's Maple
Almond Butter
9 190 1.25 11.25
Dinner Macadamia Nuts 10 204 1.00 10.00
Dinner Mountain House Mix 9 540 5.35 48.15
Dinner
(Fat Content)
Flaxseed Oil 10 130 1.00 10.00
Electrolyte Mix GU Hydration Drink Mix 9 70 0.70 6.30
Subtotal 3,102.00 25.33 oz 230.97 oz
  1.58 lb 14.44 lb

 

Organizing and building backcountry meals

Breakfast items
 

Brady Miller breakfast items for backcountry hunting
All of the items I blend together for the protein shake.

My breakfast items are premade, ahead of time by mixing all the items into a blender and then vacuum sealing. My breakfast is a combination of quick oatmeal, cinnamon, peanut butter powder, hemp seeds, protein powder and chia seeds. Special thanks goes out to my friend Jeff who helped me fine tune my breakfast meals for hunting.
 

Brady Miller preparing protein shakes for backcountry hunting
Having a blender is key to creating backcountry food. Purchase well spent this year.

Breakfast protein shake
 

Protein shake in the backcountry
Here I'm about to enjoy a protein shake in the backcountry while glassing for mule deer.

All of these items are blended together at home.

  • Protein powder - 1.5 scoops - 200 calories - 36g protein
  • Hemp seeds - 2 tablespoons - 80 calories - 10.6g protein
  • Peanut butter powder - PB2 - 2 tablespoons  - 45 calories - 10g protein
  • Quick oats - 3/4 cup - 225 calories - 7.5g protein
  • Chia Seeds - 1 tablespoon - 68.5 calories - 4.0g protein

In the field I will add some water and then 1 oz of MCT oil which adds another 200 calories.
 

Vacuum sealing meals for backcountry hunting
Protein shakes and freeze dried meals are all vacuum sealed to conserve space and save weight.

Snack items throughout the day

Backcountry hunting snack food items

Mid-morning snacks

Lunch

Late afternoon snack

This is by far my ultimate snack by combining Justin’s Hazelnut and Almond butter on a Honey Stinger waffle. I crave these in the backcountry! This combination packs in 520 calories at 3.62 oz. These Justin’s packets are the perfect size and you don’t have the bulk of larger plastic tubes of peanut butter which can cause you to overeat.

Dinner

Preparing freeze dried mountain house meals for backcountry hunting

Mountain House Chicken and Rice -  2 cups = 540 calories
MCT oil - 1 oz = 200 calories
Roasted Macadamia nuts = 213 calories per ounce and also 19 grams of fat.

Another option for some high calorie nuts would be roasted pili nuts = 216 calories per ounce and also 24 grams of fat.


 

Water

Water container for backcountry hunting

Function Description Ounces Price
Water Platypus 2L
Hoser
with neoprene sleeve
78.00 $22.99
Subtotal 78.00 oz $22.99

 

So once you get to your hunting spot, how do you stay light?

You really have three options. Move camp each day and follow the animals, stay out of one base camp where you will return to that camp each night, or establish a spike camp. 

So, beyond the trailhead weight of your gear, also keep in mind your daily backpack weight. If I don't need certain gear items for a day hunt from my backcountry camp spot, I'll leave the extras in the tent. This keeps my day-hunt pack weight as minimal as possible. Note: overtime the gear items you leave back at camp will be few to none. This is because if you have to leave something at camp for a hunt, then why are you really taking it on the hunt?

An example of something I might leave back at the tent would be my Merino 145 zip off leggings or even a down jacket if the daily weather is nice. I normally never leave my down jacket at camp for safety reasons if I get caught out on the mountain and need to spend the night away from my camp.

Simple areas to cut weight

  • Rain gear
  • Backpack
  • Camp gear
  • Optics
  • Your body

Cutting total weight from your gear list can seem like a daunting task. I call them the Big Five: rain gear, backpack, camp gear, optics and your body. A little money goes a long way here in here in getting gear that is lighter. If you really want to cut weight from miscellaneous areas in your backpack, consider buying titanium items. Pretty much every piece of gear that can be made out of titanium, I will find it and purchase it for the weight savings. The downside… you could spend 25-35 dollars more for a product that is made out of titanium to save you 3-5 ounces. Also, there are a few reports out there that titanium cook pots are a little less efficient when boiling water.

What I’d change in my current backpacking system

If I can find some extra cash laying around, I’d probably like to switch to a 40° Zpacks sleeping bag. For $395.00 I could have a sleeping bag that weighs 13.2 oz for a size X-Long. That would be a weight savings of 15.52 oz! This is substantial weight that would be great to lose out of my setup.

Klymit Inertia Xlite sleeping pad
I am also considering downgrading my sleeping pad. Right now I use a Thermarest NeoAir Xlite that weighs 12.59 oz. For 2017 I am going to switch to a Klymit Inertia X Lite sleeping pad that weighs 6.1 oz. Upgrading my sleeping bag and my pad will save me 22.01 oz but will cost another $443.95.

I'm also considering adding a cell phone/GPS battery charger. The one I am looking at is the Dark Energy Poseidon. I'm not sure the overall weight it will add, but I am sure I can either fit it in or remove a different item from my pack.

Like I said in the food section, I'm considering lowering my calorie intake per day while on the mountain hunting. On my recent Nevada hunt it seemed that I'd go through the day with leftover food, but I never felt hungry or energy deficient. If I make any changes, I'll keep my benchmark at 160 calories-per-ounce, but switch to 2,000 or 2,500 calories per day. I'm also going back to just having the best (nutrition wise) of every food item, rather than switching things up for a variety of flavors.

If I was in bear country I would add my 1.4mm Z-Line Slick Dyneema p-cord and a ZPacks Roll Top Blast Food bag. Those two products would only add 2.05 oz. 

Summary





Overall I'm very happy with my current backcountry hunting gear list. You now know everything I carry on my back from the brands I use, to the calories of food and even down to me only taking one pair of boxers for nine days. The great thing about gear lists is they are a living and breathing document and always changing. The scary thing I have noticed by building this detailed of a great list, is the price of all my gear not including food...
 

Old backpack hunting photo of Brady Miller
Old backpack hunting photo I took of myself back in Montana. Gear has definitely changed!

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.

TS Eliot quote
Best of luck to everyone this year. Remember to capture all the moments on your hunt, there’s nothing like reliving your hunt through photos.

21 Comments

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steven s. - posted 3 months ago on 02-09-2018 11:48:31 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

As all have said before excellent article..... A little bit of a different a question please. how do you deal with transporting the meat when your 10 15 miles in? Please give me a break down like you did in your article step by step, it really helps a new back country hunter.

thanks Steven

Stewart H. - posted 9 months ago on 08-14-2017 03:07:33 am

I am starting to plan a elk hunt out west next year, probably Colorado next year. Thank you for such a great article and spread sheet. I think the same way about weight and utilization. Thanks again

Andy M. - posted 9 months ago on 08-08-2017 08:12:40 pm

Brady, this is fantastic and so insightful. Super grateful! One question: have you written (or seen others write about) strategies concerning how to organize / load your pack? Knowing all the right gear to bring is super helpful...but I find myself getting super frustrated when I don't know where an item is, it's at the bottom of a pack, or when I wish I would have placed it somewhere else. Would love any insight or pack "blueprints"!

Todd B. - posted 1 year ago on 02-21-2017 03:26:12 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

All the figures it appears you are a CPA. So the one number i want to see is how much is an ounce of meat costing to harvest through way of a mule deer hunt. I am only having fun but wow it sure isn't for cheap meat however what would you pay to experience that high mountain hunt, and the memories that go with it. At 52 they are running out and looking to add to the memory bank and experience creation as it was designed. Thanks for all your articles. they make sense to me. I have always weighed my pack in every little piece and fuel is the one i am always wanting to decrease. Thinking of the biolite. Have you ever experienced those? They also charge usb.

Chuck C. - posted 1 year ago on 12-10-2016 08:01:15 pm

Brandy, I just found your spreadsheet and great write up on your gear list. It's nice to read about pack weights. I have been elk hunting with a backpack (use to actually look even heavier than the picture you shared of one of your earlier hunts). But, I realize in retirement now my pack weight has to drop in half and I also take in an additional quarter bag.

I find your list very insightful and I have picked up several good ideas for fine tuning my list. I'm looking for a new tent and will research the Tarptent. My current tarp/Bivy ain't the best on a windy ridge! My hunts in the backcountry are usually not as long as yours (6 days-5 nights) which help me with 5 or 6 pounds and I don't count calories so my meals are a bit spartan compared to yours but you make a excellent point about eating enough.

A couple things I have discovered that you might be interested in. I have carried every name in stoves and fuel, each a little lighter than the next including the Jetboil. I never heard of the customizing Jetboil kits before you covered it (great read). But I have cut my stove down to .5 oz DIY alcohol stove plus a Snow Peak titanium cup (DIY lid) to hold it in, doubling as my drinking cup. The alcohol stove works better when temperatures drop in the teens and boil times never change. Best fuel ends up being Heat (gas line treatment) and I figure 2 oz per day-the 12oz bottle of Heat is a nice size for me and I don't need to repackage.

Your picture of TP in a sandwich bag doesn't appear to be enough for nine days (at least not for me) but that being said I learned a while ago that Kleenex packets are the only way to go (they make a double folding pack that holds 10 tissues). I will also buy wet wipes in small individual packs and but one on each side of the Kleenex packet pockets and slip it into my back pocket. I figure one Kleenex packet for two days, so I wear one and have two packed in my personal kit. One packet is about .5 inch thick-don't even know you have it until you need it.

Another breakfast meal that ends up being my favorite is cereal in a large sandwich bag with two table spoons of dry milk (get Nido brand dry milk sold in the Hispanic isle because it has fat). Just add cold water and my Raisin Bran never taste better. Super light and I do well on a big helping-easy in the morning.

I also take my iPhone because it has a better screen to view GPS maps. I also take an InReach but opted for one of the original ones because it was cheaper, lighter, a bit smaller plus I find the texting easier on my iPhone that this allows. I take two extra AA Littiums. This combination has allowed me to communicate with the outside world about up coming severe weather approaching on a trip in Idaho and same thing on a Caribou trip in Alaska-picked up a day early and just got out in time. On the Alaska trip my wife was the go between after I would text she would call the pilot on a land line.

Here is one more thought. I just picked up a small LED (seemingly water resistant) flashlight at Walmart for $1-one of those ozark branded items they had in a rack. It's less than an oz and is a nice blaze red color. I am thinking it will replace my Black Diamond headlamp Xmas present from a few years ago and the extra flashlight I always feel important to stash in at the last minute.

Really consider what the iPhone is capable of especially in a Red Pepper waterproof case. It's a excellent emergency flashlight. it's a outstanding camera/video recorder, best compass with altitude, map replacement and GPS with better maps and a better screen, a book, a movie, a log book-and maintains a log of the 7 day/night weather forecast, a medical reference with a Red Criss App, can even take your pulse, and provide a strobe light for a rescue air flight. There are hunting apps like Thimble, slope and range finding apps I'm finding the iPhone may be the best 5oz I have on board because it's allowing me to eliminate so much and make solo trips possible with communication through an InReach. If I keep it in the air plane mode I find about 3 days of battery life keeping it turned on. I take a 4oz battery jumper and can get two complete charges-more than enough. I guess what I'm saying is you could eliminate your separate GPS because you have better capability with Earthmate and other iPhone GPS apps.

Thanks again. I will follow your posts and wish you good hunting.
Chuck

Christine W. - posted 1 year ago on 09-01-2016 06:19:12 pm

This post makes a data nerd like me so happy! And I've added a few things to my wish list... I hope you will follow up with a late/cold season post.

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 year ago on 08-30-2016 09:50:48 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Thanks, bornintherut d.! Well said. Very well said. Haha... I don't think I've ever heard the term Jungle Money for TP, but I'm probably going to borrow that now :) Makes perfect sense too, especially after the trading that went on a few weeks ago on a mule deer hunt. My friend forgot his TP and didn't realize it until we were in the middle of nowhere. Best of luck to you as well.

bornintherut d. - posted 1 year ago on 08-30-2016 03:18:23 am

I noticed your price of TP rated as N/A...I have found it to be priceless. Jungle money. Great list too. Good luck this year.

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 year ago on 08-28-2016 02:32:39 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hi Pete. Thanks... I guess :) I used to work for the USGS doing fisheries research work in Glacier National Park, so hiking and backpacking every week were part of my job. Really gave me the chance to test backpacking gear and figure out my backpacking system. I agree I can go lighter and even mentioned this in the article (or the podcast I was on recently) that I have gone way lighter in the past... but paid the price on my body when I got back from hauling meat. There is a fine line to cross on hunting and ultralight (I like balancing on that line and will continue to dip below my comfort zone to test things out). Some areas I could go lighter on (optics and food), but it might be awhile until I change my optic setup. My mentality is I'd rather find more animals than sacrifice weight on my optics. Wouldn't say I couldn't get it done with less optics... but I'd rather not risk it. I feel right now that for 9 days, my pack is pretty dialed. Like I mentioned in the article, I really want to upgrade a few areas of my sleep system, but that will cost a bunch more money. That is why I feel a gear list like this is so important. Gives you ideas for ways to save more weight if needed or adjust your food intake. I'm just glad I purchased a lot of these items back in the day and even found some on sale.

Too bad you don't KUIU. I've slowly added to my KUIU line since Jason started the company and I really love the clothing/gear, fit and pattern. What is your clothing line of choice?

Pete C. - posted 1 year ago on 08-28-2016 12:38:09 pm

Wow, this is the most ridiculous, brand-whoreish, yuppie gear list I've ever seen! But, except for the Kuiu (which is absolute garbage), I FREAKING LOVE it! You'll definitely look the part of the thru-hiking, 21st Century, social media loving urban-hunter! I can picture your Instagram account now! I'm sure there will definitely be a LOAD of sunset framed "jealousy" shots of this 15K (on the light side) gear list! Kidding aside, it is nice to see so many hunters finally starting to at least flirt with the idea of "ultralite" hiking/hunting. I wouldn't call the gear list ultralite by any means, but you're at least on the right track (just ditch all that damn Kuiu)!

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 year ago on 08-25-2016 10:49:38 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Lewis. Thanks for the link. I'll check that site out.

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 year ago on 08-25-2016 09:58:35 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hi Derek. I have used individual Ziplock bags in the past. But for some reason I just hate having extra bags in my backpack or at camp at the end of the week.

I also used to use some medium 7-9 L stuff sacks to bring my food into the backcountry... but again, they were kind of a waste of weight. Reason being, I am already carrying game bags for my hunt, so now I use my game bags to store the majority of my food on my hike into my hunting area. Since I am vacuum sealing everything, other small items like the protein shake mix or my freeze dried meals may get shoved in small spaces in my pack when I am packing to help fill voids. I really hate when I pack my bag and have unfilled spots because my pack won't be as compact.

Once I get to camp I place all my food in my game bag. Then when I am at camp in the morning, I will reach into my game bag and grab out today's food which is only seven items (Protein shake mix, Rx Bar , ProBar, ProBar Base, Justin's Maple Almond Butter, Justin's Hazelnut Butter and the Honey Stinger Honey Waffle).

The protein shake mix is a breeze to mix. I do bring the shaker ball, but a few mornings I forgot the ball (I also use the blender bottle for drinking my hydration mix packets in the evening) and while it was a little chunky... it was easy to consume the protein mix because I blended up the mix back at home.

When I rinse my shaker bottle, I will just use a little water from my Platypus bladder. I do not carry a Nalgene in the field (I used the shaker bottle like a Nalgene to make it a double purpose item to save weight) but you could substitute the shaker bottle for a Nalgene if you like drinking out a Nalgene while you're hiking.

Hope that helps. Let me know if you ever have any other questions.

Derek W. - posted 1 year ago on 08-25-2016 09:01:30 am
Midland, Texas

As you mentioned you snack rather than have a meal during the day. How are you storing/organizing each days worth of food? Are you leaving all the snacks floating in your pack or in ziplocks bags?

If you have them in a individual bags do you then consolidate into a larger bag (say a 35 liter stuff sack) that you leave at camp?

How "hard" is it to get your protein shake mixture to mix in the field? Do you bring the shaker ball or do you have to chew it? Are you bringing the shaker bottle with the ball and a Nalgene or can you substitute the shaker with just the Nalgene and rinse the leftovers after breakfast?

Lewis Martin_10157314239300557
Lewis M. - posted 1 year ago on 08-25-2016 08:39:18 am

You guys should check out https://lighterpack.com/ It's a great way to store organize our gear lists.

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 year ago on 08-23-2016 02:17:13 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hi Clink. I just add any filtered water I have on hand for the breakfast protein mix. That is why I love the protein mix so much... you can consume it while glassing in the morning and don't need to burn extra fuel heating up water. Cold water or warm water will work just fine. I like to leave the water in there for a bit to help soften up any oatmeal bits that didn't get crushed from the blender.

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 year ago on 08-23-2016 02:13:35 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Thanks you Andrew, and Scot.

@Andrew, please let me know if you ever have any questions. Be happy to help you out.

@Scot - Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the article and gear list breakdown. Actually the Feathered Friends bag seems to fit me pretty well. I have the long length which they say fits a guy up to 6'6". I'm 6'5" and it works great. Probably wouldn't want to be any tall though. I've had this bag for 5 or 6 years and it is still going strong. I really like the looks of the Zpacks bags... but I haven't personally tested them.

Clink Andrewingbeard_10210017107401591
Clink A. - posted 1 year ago on 08-23-2016 02:01:59 pm

Do you just add hot water to the b-fast mix in your blender bottle?

Scot S. - posted 1 year ago on 08-23-2016 01:17:59 pm
goHUNT INSIDER

This is one of the most epic gear articles I have ever read, thanks! As a tall guy, how does the Feathered Friends back fit you? I'm 6'4' and was wondering if it would be too tight.

Andrew M. - posted 1 year ago on 08-23-2016 11:20:18 am

This is an awesome article and spreadsheet. I am just getting into backpack hunting and find this extremely valuable. Thanks for putting together.

Brady Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 year ago on 08-22-2016 10:13:15 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Thanks, Eric! It's fun manipulating gear data to find the perfect setup for each hunt. Thanks for sharing that formula. Good old concatenate... I used concatenate a ton when I worked on Excel sheets for fisheries reports back in the day. Seems I forgot about it until you brought it up again. I'm definitely going to add that into the cells. I like seeing my weight mainly as ounces, but it is nice to see that total at the end that is easier to understand. I'll be posting some updates in the coming months on changes I make. I have some ideas floating in my head of other things I want to do with the data. Just need to make some time to get it taken care of.

Eric A. - posted 1 year ago on 08-22-2016 09:48:52 pm

Nice spreadsheet, nice article. I've been using a similar spreadsheet for a couple years and its easy to see what you need & what you don't. If you wanted to display the weight in "lbs""oz" Example (3.5lbs would be 3lbs 8oz) you would use the following formula. =CONCATENATE(INT(I6),"lb",((I6-INT(I6))*16),"oz").