What tests your gear more than a long trip off the grid? Nothing. If you’re like me you spend most of the year choosing, acquiring, and packing your hunting gear. Heck, maybe you start hitting the mountains early to scout, train for the mountain and secretly test out your new shelter, sleeping pad, or the latest backcountry meals. Either way, having the right gear and being prepared for whatever the elements may bring is a motivation for us as hunters.
After trekking into the Alaska bush earlier this Fall for a 10-day dall sheep hunt I had every chance possible to thoroughly test out everything that made the pack list. Although I went into the 60-mile death march a little heavier than I wanted to (64 pounds) I felt like I had just what I needed for the elements, and to keep myself happy and fed. Here is what I would have done differently, and what I won’t leave home without.
Top Gear Picks:
Klymit Pillows & Sleeping Pad - I know some may think I’m crazy but I bring a minimum of two inflatable pillows on my backcountry hunts. One for obvious reasons, my head, and then second for between my knees. I am a side sleeper, and with a history of lower back and hip issues, the pillow between my knees helps my body stay in alignment. It’s a literal game-changer for me. Between the insulated sleeping pad, and the pillows, I sleep like a baby and recover from the day better.
KIFARU int Lost Park Parka - Having the right clothing layers is a huge part of the preseason decision-making process and something that has to be taken seriously when you head into the backcountry. Knowing I was going to be facing big temperatures swings and some possible mountain storms I threw in my well seasoned Lost Park Parka. This top puffy layer is my go-to for bitter cold days, cooling night temps, and some added comfort at night while I sleep.
Garmin Inreach - This was a new tool in my belt this year, and a special gift from my family before I took off to hunt the Alaska bush. I found comfort in being able to keep in touch with my family while I was away, enjoyed being able to send my location with my texts, and the security of having the SOS button if anything were to go wrong. I was also super impressed that with moderate use the battery lasted my entire 10-day hunt without a recharge!
Sitka Women’s Timberline Pant - Let me start with this, knee pads. Not only are these pants extremely functional and comfortable, but they have a reinforced waterproof seat and knees for additional durability. In the moments I found myself crawling into range through the rugged country I was particularly happy to have some extra protection for my knees. I've had success with all of the SITKA Women's line I've tried and confidently recommend their line if you're looking for a women's specific line.
Inflatable Lantern - I saw this little gadget while wandering the floor of the Salt Lake City Sportman’s Show last year. I wish that I could remember the name of the storefront selling them, but what I do know is this little solar-powered lantern came in handy so many times. In fact, if you ever to shack up in a mountainside cave, bring this along it makes you feel right at home. (true story, see it here.) I think I remember paying under $10 for it, and it’s super lightweight construction gives you zero reason to leave it behind.
Crispi Briksdal Boots - I was a little concerned going into this trip about how my feet and lower legs would feel with the constant elevation gain, rugged terrain, and loose scree crossings. I made a point to try on many different boots, and research my options. After some definite no’s, and a couple of maybes I confidently settled on the Briksdal’s from Crispi. Complimented for their rugged capabilities in technical terrain, and 100% waterproofness, they did not disappoint. My feet stayed drier longer than anyone else's’ on the trip, and I came home with happy feet. The rigidness of the boot also prevented a lot of Achilles, and calf strain on the grueling climbs.
Hyperlite Food Bag - Truth be told, I didn’t even know that I needed this until I was stocking up on some last-minute meals at the Heather’s Choice store in Anchorage. Cold temperatures can make heating your dehydrated meals tough. Although it can be a nice handwarmer (just don't burn your hands) the Hyperlite bag does a great job at keeping your food hot longer and helping rehydrate your goods. Weighing only 1.4 oz this is worth packing along.
Trekking Poles - This trip, and terrain navigation wouldn’t even be possible without having good trekking poles. Many times on this hunt I stopped to appreciate the help each well-placed pole gave me. On several occasions digging my pole into the ground kept me on course, and from a grim outcome. The set I have are old Copper River poles that aren’t even sold anymore, so in place of that I would recommend getting some with carbide, and rubber tip attachment. Make sure they are adjustable - this is a lifesaver when you are covering a wide variety of habitats and terrain. Getting a set of carbon fiber poles will also save you a little arm work in the backcountry.
Although these are my tried and true gear picks, I want to remind you that knowing your needs, and what lies ahead on your adventure, is the most important consideration for your gear picks. Many things may work universally, but it’s always a good idea to do your research, try different brands and styles to know what will serve you best.
Want to see my detailed Gear Checklist? Click here to download it, and feel free to use the printable version for your next hunt.