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3 tips to help you on your first backpack hunt

3 tips to help you on your first backpack hunt

Photo credit: Jake Kirchner

Another year, another hunting season! Oh, yeah it is in full swing as we speak and I have been loving every second of it. I hope you have been, too! With any luck, you’ve already even filled a tag or two! This season is far from over though and there are still many adventures to be had. The elk rut is in full swing right now and the deer rut is right around the corner. And don’t forget about fall bear! Many of us will be backpack hunting in the near future and, for some, it will be their first time doing so. This can be slightly daunting in the beginning. A sort of nervous excitement builds around it. First, let me say that I am stoked for you. Hunting the backcountry offers an experience like no other and is something that will change you for the better. From the true quiet that it offers to the character-building that comes with it, you’re definitely in for an adventure. However, I thought now might be a good time to lay out some quick tips for the first time backpack hunter.

Don’t overthink it

Josh Kirchner hunting

In the beginning, it is really easy to overcomplicate backpack hunting. I think this is because many of us are not familiar with it and want reassurance that we’ll have a good experience. It is natural to be a bit apprehensive of it and to even be intimidated. We are used to a life of convenience and safety. Taking yourself out of that bubble can be difficult for some. Doing research is great and I’m a huge fan of it. The more prepared you are, the better. However, let’s not make this more complicated than it is. The goal is to load up a backpack, spend some nights out in the backcountry and hunt. There isn’t a massive difference between you setting up a truck camp and hunting from it or setting up a backcountry camp. The only difference is all of your gear is on your back and the vehicle isn’t right next to you. If an animal is taken, there is a bit more work involved as well in order to get it back to the vehicle. Everything else is very similar.

Gear, gear, gear

Gear, gear and more gear!

I am a fully admitted gear junkie. Every year I try out new stuff for my kit and am excited to do so. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new water filter or a new shelter, I get stoked. As someone goes through the process of learning to backpack hunt, I think it’s hard not to get addicted to gear. We’re always striving to get our packs lighter and systems more efficient.

Gear Shop bar

That involves a lot of gear testing along with trial and error in the field. However, right in the beginning? It isn’t necessary. By all means, if you want to really get nerdy about gear, then go for it. The truth is, though, you don’t need the latest and greatest of every piece of gear out there. Sure, your pack might be a bit heavier, but the important part is that you are out there. The fanciest gear in the world is no replacement for the experience and knowledge you will gain from being in the field. So, if it comes down to you buying a heavier shelter or waiting until next year to go backpack hunting, carry the extra weight. You’ll be glad that you did in the end.

Make it happen

Make it happen

The last tip — and probably the most important — is to actually make this happen. I talk to a lot of folks each and every year that express interest in trying this backpack hunting thing out. They’ll dive deep into the topic, buy all of the gear and even make a scouting trip or two. After watching videos and reading books about it, they are more than inspired and ready for action. At least they think they are. When it actually comes time to make it actually happen, some throw in the towel and end up not going through with it. I’ve heard a multitude of excuses for not getting out there and have even used a few myself. Just like when you might come home early from a hunt, regret always sets in here. To not pull the trigger and go is to do yourself a disservice if you ask me. After all of the preparation, research and money spent? Don’t just talk the talk. Walk the walk and make it happen.


Backcountry hunts

Backpack hunting holds so much meaning to me as I sit here and write this. It really is the full experience out there that gets me. Just the whole process and anticipation of it all. From hiking into camp to sitting behind the glass eating dinner; it captivates me — so much so that I often find myself smiling from ear to ear on the way back to the truck. This happens even if I don’t see one single animal on my hunt. Imagine that. When you are in the backcountry on your first backpack hunt, soak it in. Enjoy what is in front of you and appreciate the opportunity that you have to do such things. Backpack hunting can definitely be difficult, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be wishing you were out there living in the dirt again soon after getting home.



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Josh K. - posted 3 weeks ago on 03-07-2020 03:08:21 pm

@Brian C.

Dude! That is so killer! Way to get after it and have a good hunt. Colorado is amazing isn't it? Best of luck in the future!

Josh K. - posted 3 weeks ago on 03-07-2020 03:07:06 pm

@Isaac W.

I've ran Exo packs for years and they are pretty darn good at what you're talking about.

Josh K. - posted 3 weeks ago on 03-07-2020 03:05:35 pm

@jerry m.

That's a great idea Jerry! I actually run merino as base layers all year long down here in cactus country.

Bendrix B. - posted 3 weeks ago on 03-03-2020 04:03:39 pm
Rochester, MA

I put on a Kuiu 1850 loaded with 30lb, or a 3600 loaded with 40lb every morning and hike 2.5 miles. It’s awesome exercise and gets me outside every day which I really value cause my work keeps me inside. I know those aren’t impressive weights, but the idea is to build solid muscle and acclimate to the pack so when I put it on for a hunt, or a multi-day hike, my body is already adjusted to it. My goal for pack in weight is less than 30lb anyway, so though this is not training for the heavy pack out, it takes care of the rest.

I’m happy to see GoHunt carrying Crispi boots cause that’s what I put 900 or so miles on each year. It’s fairly flat here, so the Monaco suits those daily hikes just fine. In steep country there are other options.

Hunters should not ignore the non-hunting hikes and backcountry camping available all year long. I do love to hunt, and you won’t find me doing otherwise in an open season, but hey, we all like to get outdoors and into the hills. Hiking and camping spring and summer sure do keep you in shape and fill in those months with some great vistas and maybe a bit of scouting. It’s also a nice way to test drive that gear.

Rob G. - posted 3 weeks ago on 03-03-2020 09:44:36 am

Isaac W.- Ive used the K3 3200..absolutely loved it. Used for 5 day spike camp and packed out a 5 pt bull!! Mark H. @ Exo Mtn Gear is awesome source and exemplifies what customer service should be!

Taylor W. - posted 1 month ago on 02-27-2020 08:56:29 am
Edmonds, WA

Check out The KUIU series. They are not cheap at all. They are sold in 3 separate parts (Suspension, Frame, and Pack) but sent to you already put together. This is awesome because then you can but additional packs of different sizes for different types/lengths of hunts. I have 1 frame, 1 Suspension, and 3 different packs of varies sizes. I switch them out depending on trip such as an overnight hikes or a 7 day trip.

Rowdy F. - posted 1 month ago on 02-27-2020 04:49:25 am

Isaac W. - The Mystery Ranch Pop Up 28 and 38 is as good as it gets for an all around pack that can serve as a day pack, multi day pack and meat hauler. You absolutely do not need anything over a 40 liter pack for multi day hunts. Plus you can use the load shelf to carry in camping gear.

Isaac W. - posted 1 month ago on 02-25-2020 06:41:38 pm

Thanks for the feedback guys!

Brandon W. - posted 1 month ago on 02-25-2020 10:10:20 am
Carter ok

Isaac check out the stone glacier they can carry a heave load. I l
really like mine

Brian C. - posted 1 month ago on 02-23-2020 08:05:47 am

I went on my first solo 5 night backpack hunt in CO last fall. I walked out without a bull on my back, but I learned a ton! I saw two hunters the whole time and was into elk almost every day--on an OTC tag, btw. I can't wait to get back out there again and stay longer, go further, and hopefully hang a tag on a bull.

Isaac--I upgraded from my Mystery Ranch Pintler (perfect truck hunting pack) to the Selway 60. It was great for about 5 days, any more and you may need to go a little bigger.

Robert T. - posted 1 month ago on 02-23-2020 07:15:17 am

I have been using the EXO 5500 for three years now as a hauler and day pack and I love it. I have packed two elk out with it and it is very comfortable with heavy loads and cinches down very well for a day pack.

Shawn H. - posted 1 month ago on 02-22-2020 12:34:56 pm

Isaac, look into the mystery ranch Metcalf

Isaac W. - posted 1 month ago on 02-22-2020 12:14:55 pm

Do anyone have any all around hunting pack recommendations for a pack that can carry heavy loads to lot of gear for long backcountry hunts, and still be able to cinch down for a day pack?

jerry m. - posted 1 month ago on 02-21-2020 08:17:57 pm
Nipomo Ca

What do you do in hot weather hunting for gear? Can you do an article that talks about gear and water packing for a zone that is in the 90’s to 100 degree weather for most of the One in season?