Off Grid Gear Must-Haves
What tests your gear more than a long trip off-grid? Nothing. If you’re like me, you spend most of the year choosing, acquiring, and packing your hunting gear. Heck, you probably start hitting it 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.
Since my first backcountry hunt in Idaho and subsequent treks into the Alaska bush, I’ve come to learn, gear can make or break a trip. And if it doesn’t come to that extreme, it can at least help make the journey easier and more comfortable. If you have the right gear, that is.
Here is a list of what I‘ve learned, what I love, and what I won’t leave home without.
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, including hip surgery, 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. If you don’t have a second pillow, you can get resourceful and use extra gear stuffed into a dry bag or a puffy layer you aren’t using.
KIFARU Lost Park Parka - Having the proper 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. The idea of facing big temperature swings and possible mountain storms is always a possibility.
My well seasoned Lost Park Parka is a puffy Godsend. This top layer is my go-to for bitterly cold days, cooling night temps, and some added comfort at night while I sleep.
Garmin InReach - This is a newer piece for me, and once I got it a few years back, I've never left home without it. I find comfort in keeping in touch with my family while I'm away, enjoy sending my location with my texts, and the security of having the SOS button if anything ever were to go wrong. I was also super impressed with moderate use the battery can last an entire 10-day hunt without a recharge!
I also sleep with my electronics and batteries in my sleeping bag at night so that the cool temps don’t drain my battery - maybe that's a myth, I don't know but it makes me feel better.
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. When I find myself crawling into range through rugged country, I’m particularly happy to have some extra protection for my knees. I've had success with the SITKA Women's line and confidently recommend it if you're looking for a women's specific fit.
Crispi Briksdal Boots - I’m always a little worried about how my feet and lower legs will feel with constant elevation changes, rugged terrain, and loose scree crossings. No matter what I do, I always experience a lot of swelling and fluid retention in the backcountry, which of course, can make my feet uncomfortable. Before settling on boots, I made a point to try on many different brands and research my options. After some definite no’s and a couple of maybes, I settled on the Briksdal’s from Crispi. Complimented for their rugged capabilities in technical terrain and 100% waterproofness, they do not disappoint. In some of our nastiest adventures, my feet stay drier longer than anyone else's. The stiffness of the boot also prevented a lot of achilles and calf strain on grueling climbs.
PEAX Storm Castle Gaiter - I’m going to be real honest here, NOT all gaiters are created equal. Over the years, I have tried a ton of different brands and styles. Although this is my first season with the PEAX brand gaiters, I already love what I'm seeing, feeling, and the quality. With many of our hunts bringing us to water crossings, gaiters can come in handy for a quick crossing when you want to keep your boots dry - make sure they are correctly fitted to your boots and leg.
Inflatable Lantern - I saw this little gadget while wandering the floor of the Salt Lake City Sportman’s Show years ago. I wish 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 want 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 its super lightweight construction gives you zero reason to leave it behind. I haven’t been able to find the exact one again, but this is a comparable lantern for around the same price.
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 challenging. Although your dehydrated food bag can be an excellent hand warmer (don't burn your hands), the Hyperlite bag does a great job of keeping your food hot longer and helping rehydrate your goods. Weighing only 1.4 oz, this is worth packing along.
Klein Kanteen or stainless cup - It seems like a popular choice for many backcountry thrill seekers is a Nalgene bottle, but you may want to rethink your choice. A non-insulated, single wall stainless cup or bottle is an excellent backup to boil water if needed. On top of being lightweight, it can serve as a way to warm yourself, add heat to your sleeping bag (add hot water), or even make backcountry popcorn! Keep in mind if you choose to add hot liquid in your stainless cup or bottle, it could burn you, so be mindful or handle it with hot liquid inside.
PEAX Sissy Stix - Big climbs, descents, and rugged terrain navigation wouldn’t even be possible without having good trekking poles. Many times I’ve 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.
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 crucial consideration for your gear picks. Many things may work universally, but it’s always a good idea to research different brands and styles to know what will serve you best.
Before we go, can we have a quick chat about backcountry food, snacks, and supplement essentials? Join me here for a short rundown of my favorite backcountry snacks!
Want to see my detailed Gear Checklist? Click here to download it, and feel free to use the printable version for your next hunt.