There will always be hunting gear that we want, but what you need will be essential to hunting success and survival. We often forget that camping is just as much, if not more important in the gear department as the ‘hunting’ specific gear.
As a side note, there are some great apps and books out there for learning survival techniques like shelter building, fire making, water collection, and more.
Let’s see how your list and current gear stack up.
1. Rain Gear
Rain gear, in my opinion, is the most important piece of gear. This is what keeps you dry. You can be cold and dry or wet and cold. Ten times out of ten I choose cold and dry. This particular part of my gear I spare no expense. I have tested more than my fair share of rain gear and settled on the Kryptek Poseidon II Rain Jacket and Pants. These stood up tremendously to my shower test. I was able to stand in the shower and stay completely dry. The other thing I have about them is their breath-ability. With light layers underneath, I can actually get chilled if there’s a late fall breeze whipping through the material. So I can stay stay dry and not sweat to death underneath? Sign me up!
Based on the type of climate you’re most likely to find yourself in, this should reflect the thickness of rain gear you should purchase. Kryptek has a great line up of rain gear with or without insulation.
If you can’t see the game, you can’t shoot the game. Don’t get me wrong having a good rifle, bow, pack, sleeping bag (which we’ll get to) are essential, but plain and simple, if you can’t see it what’s the point of all this?!
My most important optics are my binoculars. Rifle scopes, spotting scopes, rangefinders, etc. all play an important roll, but binoculars are your most versatile optic you will use. Again, find a great pair because they will be your go to. Personally, I use Vortex Diamondback binoculars not just because I did not want to pay Swarovski’s hefty price tag, but because of their Lifetime VIP warranty. I just sent my pair in 8 weeks ago as I was having some left lens focus issues. Apparently they weren’t able to repair them and they sent me a brand new (2017) model! Service like this is so important for hunting gear as it gets used and abused.
I would recommend Vortex for all of my optics like rangefinders, spotting scopes, and rifle scopes. They are little more budget friendly without compromising on clarity or service.
The boots you chose needs to be based on a number of things, aesthetics being the least important. First, is the material they are constructed of. Gortex has made a pretty good name for themselves as well as a Vibram sole for shock absorption. The proper width, length and height are dimensions that need to be considered as well. Too wide and your foot will move side to side and can chaff the balls of the feet and reduce traction control Too long and the foot slides back and forth and can cause chaffing and blistering in the toes or heel (the worst). Too short and you will reduce ankle support, which will increase your chances of injury.
I have been wearing the Irish Setter brand which has a nice wide boot to accommodate my wide feet. They are light weight, waterproof, and breath well. But some other very reputable brands would be Kenetrek, Hanwag, Danner, and Lowa.
4. Mountain and Day Packs
How are you planning on carrying all your shiny, new awesome gear? There are a few tips to making sure you’re pack doesn’t just have the right amount of cubic inches. First off is the number of pockets and ease of getting to them. I love pockets. I’m a very organized person, so plenty of pockets suits me just fine. I hate digging around for stuff when it need it now. Tenzing does a real fine job of this. They use a unique zipper system for accessing outer pockets or just going straight into the main pocket from a small pocket. Second is the shoulder strap system. Packs have come a long way from non-padded, nylon straps, to tough material that face the elements and nice soft mesh material that contacts your shoulders. Having a good, comfortable hip strap and an adjustable sliding chest strap are two other important items. Lastly, is a good compression strap system. Compression straps are super important when packing your trophy out. They suck the weight of the pack closer to your body, which help improve load balance and reduce strain on your shoulders and low back. A few smaller features to look for are things like a rain cover, weapon carrying system, meat carrying storage etc.
For a day pack, look for something that is between 2000 – 3000 cubic inches. A lumbar pack of under 900 cubic inches may work for a blind or stand, but realistically a real pack isn’t going to be that much of a hindrance and drastically improve your ability to bring a few more things to improve comfort. The Tenzing 2220 day pack uses a great durable material and comes with a bow and/or gun carrying system which is sweet for the trek in and out of your hunting area.
A mountain pack may take some research, but again I’m looking for something in the north of 5000 cubic inches for those multi-day backcountry trips. The Tenzing TZ 5000 has everything you need to pack for days. It has a meat carrying compartment, loads of pockets, rain fly, weapon carrying system and even a detachable top for a small ridge pack to throw some optics and a snack in and get some glassing in. It also has a great torso adjustment capability to fit more of your ‘genetic’ needs.
5. Survival/ First Aid Kit
This is a little ways down the list, but could easily be at the top. But I’m consider hunting gear, not camping gear specifically. We need to remember that even if we feel completely in control, nature has a funny way of reminding us that we are at the bottom of the food chain in the vast domain of the wilderness. A few key items that you should pack with you are: survival blanket, 30ft of rope, pocket first aid fit, mirror, knife, Tylenol, sling, GPS or SPOT, flint and steel, waterproof matches, waterproof fire starter, and a compass. If you feel your pack is to full for this, make room, it could save your life.
6. Clothing Layers
How you layer will determine how comfortable you are from hiking to sitting and glassing. First, pack for what activities you’re expecting to do on your trip and what time of year it will be. For me, the Northern Rocky Mountains bring relentless wind on the ridges, frost at night, and hot sun during the day. So I need many layers at different times. I de-layer while hiking, and re-layer when I’m sitting glassing in the wind. Good wind breaking shells and rain shells are important. Hoods to break the wind for ears is nice as well. Breathable clothing will also help negate the sweat build up as well. Remember sweat contains salt, and salt build up will act like a sand paper wherever friction is; arm pits, groin, feet, and neck. Keeping these areas dry is important for comfort (and sanity). There are a few companies that offer great layering systems like Sitka, Kryptek, Cabelas (look for their Instinct clothing line), and Scent Lok.
7. Sleeping Bag/ Mat
Getting that all important recovery time will keep you going day after day in possibly some of the harshest environments on the planet. So don’t take sleep lightly. I’m generally a cool temperature person, so I like to get a sleeping bag that’s rated for a lower temperature. But there a few things to consider when looking at bag ratings.
First, The temperature rating usually have a low rating and a comfort rating. I tend to pay more attention to the latter because I’m a cold sleeper, REI does a great job explaining this (see link). Second is your insulation type. I think this comes down to personal preference, but a down type bag will offer better compression when stuffed in a
compression sack to save a bit more of precious pack space, however, when wet, down offers little heat and a long drying period. Synthetic on the other hand is less packable, but offers better warmth if the bag gets wet and has other features like being non-allergenic. Last, get a liner if you can. This can help in many ways like extra warmth and perhaps providing a dry barrier in damp conditions. Don’t skimp out on price, get the bag that’s going to keep you comfortable and warm.
When looking into a sleeping mat, I like using air instead of foam because they are more packable. I also prefer full length to a 3/4 length. With the technology today, full length mats are very packable and light to maximize your comfort out in the woods. I recently picked up a Klymit Static V mat on amazon because of its good rating. Boy was I glad! This is hands down the best mat I’ve laid on. Its unique design designates weight distribution perfectly because is not all one mat. Which means the air doesn’t move away from the heavy points like the hips and shoulders. And it only weighs 20oz! And for $80CAD you can’t beat it.
To add to the sleeping bag and mat, a shelter from the elements is also a good thing to have. Again, this item comes down to personal preference, season of hunting or hiking, and how many people you have on the trip. I’m a huge fan of the 3 and 4 season tents as they will offer superior wind and rain protection. They sometimes are tough to get great air flow through to prevent condensation, but on a nice day I just remove the rain fly and usually there are vents and screens for lots of air. A tent with a vestibule is also nice as you can keep your pack and boots out of the tent but under cover and dry; this creates more room inside the tent as well. The higher the seasonal rating, the more weight and material is involved, but it can be a small sacrifice to pay if the weather turns sour and your stuck in that tent for a few days. I use the Backside T-8 3 season tent. It’s cozy for two adults but it cuts down the weight and pack size for the long trips. The rain fly is excellent and comes all the way to the ground. I personally don’t use a tent footprint but it is recommended if the ground is hard or contains small rocks or sticks that can puncture the bottom of the tent.
9. Hiking Poles
Hiking poles are literally a life and joint saver. I had always thought that it was weak or unnecessary to use hiking poles until I went on my first stone sheep hunting up in the Northern Rocky Mountains. And oh man am I glad I bought some of those bad boys. Their tungsten tips grip virtually any surface on the planet, even loose shale, so footing becomes more effortless in unstable environments. Also, having adjustability is handy to make the poles longer on a decent and short on the ascent of the trip. It feels almost like an extra set of legs. And when you’re carrying a heavy pack, your knees, hips, and low back will thank you.
10. Field Dressing Tools
Last but not least, field dressing equipment. There are a few key parts this section. A good field dressing kit should include a skinning knife, caping knife, gut hook, and a short bone saw for the brisket and pelvis. Most of my tools I’ve found at Cabelas or my local Canadian Tire (Canada). The most important tool in the kit for me is the skinning knife. It’s the item that will get used the most and needs to have an excellent edge to it. Outdoot Edge is a company that has built their reputation around kits and knives like this. A caping knife should be fairly short for maneuverability, but maintain a good sharp edge for a clean cut. Depending and how good you are with a skinning knife, a gut hook is what I consider a glamour tool. If you’re accurate enough with a skinning knife, a gut hook isn’t all that necessary, but is better than puncturing the stomach on a hot day. Lastly, a bone saw is an essential tool for cutting through the brisket and pelvic bone. I’ve seen too many times people try and use their skinning knife and it’s painful to watch. I use a 4 inch saw with a blunt end so I don’t puncture any organs and it is awesome.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the read and learned a few things that can improve your success and increase your level up comfort on your next hunting adventure.