Skip to main content

15 Essentials When Hunting the West

Come prepared for what Western bowhunting can throw at you.

15 Essentials When Hunting the West

When hunting country like this, there's no room for inferior gear.

Affiliate Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. We earn from qualifying purchases.

Although it was 25 years ago this season, I remember my first Western bowhunt like it was yesterday. Not only was I greeted by a bugling bull elk on opening morning and got a crack at him, but four days later I was able to switch gears and put a sneak on a bedded, velvet-racked buck.

Seeing that arrow arc over the brush and bury into his chest set the stage for many Western bowhunting seasons to come.

The pack-out on that hunt is also something that is still burned into my mind. My secondhand, metal-framed pack dug into my back like daggers, and the average boots I chose to wear had my feet on fire. Sometimes you need to learn things the hard way, and it was on that hunt that I quickly learned how much quality gear really matters — especially in the West.

Obviously, having a finely tuned rig for the backcountry should be your first priority, but a close second would certainly have to be picking a quality pack. Twenty-five years ago, those options were relatively slim…but that’s no longer true.

Strickland-Hunt-West-MysteryRanch-1200x800.jpg
Mystery Ranch Marshall

Mystery Ranch is an obvious candidate for the shortlist. Frankly, they make some of the best packs today, and it’s hard to beat their Marshall ($649). With over 6,400 cu. in. of space, you won’t run out of room, and because it’s built around Mystery’s Guide Light MT Frame, it can handle as much as you can carry. This top-loader is constructed from 500D fabrics, and like all of Mystery’s packs, the Marshall has a Futura Yoke for micro-adjusting torso length. Various zippers allow access to the main and lower compartments, and there’s no shortage of organizational pockets and pouches. To further reduce volume for quick trips, the Marshall is also equipped with a removable daypack lid.

Strickland-Hunt-West-StoneGlacier-1200x800.jpg
Stone Glacier Sky 5900

Stone Glacier’s Sky 5900 ($695) is another beast designed for extended wilderness hunts. At 5,900 cu. in., it expands to 8,000 cu. in. with the meat-shelf loaded and can also be minimized to 4,300 cu. in. With an overall weight of just over 5 lbs., it’s a great lightweight pack that incorporates a vertical pocket for spotters and anything else you need quick access to. Several attachment points in the main compartment are designed for adding organizer Swing Out Pockets, plus full-panel access to the main compartment.

Strickland-Hunt-West-ALPS-1200x800.jpg
ALPS OutdoorZ Commander X

For three decades, ALPS OutdoorZ has been raising the bar, and one of their mainstays is the Commander X ($499.99). Doubling as a meat-hauler/multi-daypack, it’s constructed from reinforced fabrics and offers over 4,000 cu. in. of storage. Several internal/external pockets organize your gear, and a fleece-lined pocket for protecting your optics. A removable lid doubles as a fanny pack. The backbone of this pack is the Commander X frame, which can serve as a standalone meat-hauler. The molded design features two aluminum stays with a channeled, high-density ABS frame that incorporates a compressed wing system and a lower shelf for hauling game.

Strickland-Hunt-West-Badlands-1200x800.jpg
Badlands MRK 6 Pack

Combining versatility, durability, and the ability to carry heavy loads is the MRK 6 Pack ($499.99) from Badlands. MRK is short for “Mountain Range Killer,” and it gives you 6,100 cu. in. of storage space. The new MRK line has a split-pack design with an integrated meat-shelf that’s built around a strong magnesium-alloy frame. Its Strata Suspension System, which is touted as their most comfortable and adjustable system to date, can be adjusted for a fine-tuned fit.




Strickland-Hunt-West-Kifaru-1200x800.jpg
Kifaru Sawtooth

It’s no secret that Kifaru makes some of our favorite packs, but you’ll need shelter as well, and their Sawtooth ($930) is an exceptional choice. Combining the weight/efficiency of a lightweight tarp with the standing room of a tipi-style tent, the 6'T Sawtooth provides plenty of headroom. At just over 4 lbs., it won’t slow you down or take up much pack space, either. Battle-tested in sustained winds of 50 mph and gusts to 70, it also can be equipped with one of Kifaru’s stoves for the late season. Couple this one with Kifaru’s Slick Bag 20 ($430), which offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio of any sleeping bag on the market, and you can’t go wrong.

Strickland-Hunt-West-<a href='https://www.kuiu.com/?utm_source=bowhunter&utm_medium=in-page-link&utm_term=KUIU&utm_content=482476' alt='KUIU' title='KUIU' target='_blank'>KUIU</a>-1200x800.jpg
KUIU Storm Star 2 & Super Down 30

If you’re not into tipi-style tents, then KUIU’s Storm Star 2 ($599) is the next-best option. The four-season, all-weather design w/dual vestibules keeps gear dry. It weighs 5.5 lbs. and sports an asymmetrical floor for additional room. The poles connect to the exterior of the fly for struggle-free set-up in high winds. To complete the package, add the Super Down 30 ($459) sleeping bag to the mix. It is KUIU’s lightest option, and it's insulated with water-resistant Quixdown.

Strickland-Hunt-West-Browning-1200x800.jpg
Browning Camping Talon 1-Person

For the soloist, Browning Camping offers the Talon 1-Person ($279) tent to their long list of successes. With a footprint of nearly 7' x 4' and a center height of 43" it has solid room. At just over 6 lbs., it’s not the lightest tent on this list, but it will save you money while providing a durable, weatherproof shelter when you need one.

Recommended


Strickland-Hunt-West-Sitka-1200x800.jpg
Sitka Gear Kelvin Aerolite 30

More than just a sleeping bag, Sitka’s multifunctional Kelvin Aerolite 30 ($429) is more like a sleeping system that’s designed to be an extension of Sitka’s legendary clothing performance. Its PrimaLoft Gold Insulation w/Cross Core technology replicates the performance of down but with warm-when-wet qualities. With a 30-degree comfort rating, it makes a great standalone bag for those warmer hunts, and with features like armholes, contoured shoulders, a hood, and a center-front two-way zipper, it transforms into another warming layer when needed most.

Strickland-Hunt-West-LaCrosse-1200x800.jpg
LaCrosse Ursa MS

After five years on the drawing board, and countless backcountry excursions putting them to the test, iconic bootmaker LaCrosse brings the waterproof Ursa MS ($300) to the table. These backcountry machines are designed with TecTuff PU-infused leather uppers w/breathable SuperFabric quarter panels and gussets that have proven time and again to be extremely abrasion-resistant and durable. Adding to this gem is the Vibram MONT outsole for optimized traction and a large, Hexguard rubber rand that has been cemented and double-stitched.

Strickland-Hunt-West-Kenetrek-1200x800.jpg
Kenetrek Mountain Extreme Series

The Mountain Extreme Series ($500–$540) from Kenetrek has earned a reputation as a lifesaver in the wilds of the West. It sports a 7mm polyurethane midsole to ensure torsional rigidity and a proprietary K-Talon outsole for stability in sketchy terrain. The 2.8mm-thick leather uppers w/one-piece vamp construction have an abrasion-resistant rubber sole guard. And with the no-seam tongue and waterproof/breathable Windtex membrane, the only moisture your feet will see is what they produce.

Strickland-Hunt-West-Schnees-1200x800.jpg
Schnee’s Kestrel

Light, fast, and durable are the trademarks of the Kestrel ($389) boot from Schnee’s. These non-insulated gems feature top-grain leather uppers for durability, while the trim and tongue are composed of a high-performance stretch fabric to provide a more athletic feel for enhanced mobility. Gobbling up those mountain miles is an aggressive Vibram outsole, and the lightweight polyurethane midsole provides solid support and shock absorption.

Strickland-Hunt-West-Rocky-1200x800.jpg
Rocky MTN Stalker Pro

The MTN Stalker Pro ($248) from Rocky sports full-grain, waterproof leather uppers with protective rands around the bottom for durability. Rocky’s Vapor Pass technology sheds moisture without trapping perspiration. After long miles on the trail, you’ll appreciate the rebound footbed and fiberglass shanks that provide additional cushioning and support. These boots also feature aggressive Vibram Mountaineering outsoles.

Strickland-Hunt-West-Garmin-1200x800.jpg
Garmin inReach Mini 2 Satellite Communicator

Garmin’s inReach Mini 2 Satellite Communicator ($349.99) is a must-have tool for safety and connectivity in the backcountry. Compact, rugged, and lightweight, it enables two-way texting through the global Iridium satellite network and can also be triggered to send an interactive SOS message 24/7 to the Search and Rescue monitoring center — when the worst has happened. It can also access downloadable maps, has a digital compass, and the TracBack feature helps with navigation while also allowing others to track your movements.

Strickland-Hunt-West-PyroPutty-1200x800.jpg
Pyro Putty Elite Dual-Arc Lighter

When you’re in a pinch and need guaranteed flame fast, the Elite Dual-Arc Lighter ($29.99) from Pyro Putty is your answer. Fully water-resistant and windproof, it features a rechargeable battery that provides up to 300 strikes on a single charge and can hold an ample supply of Pyro Putty for starting a fire in virtually any conditions.

Strickland-Hunt-West-SOL-1200x800.jpg
SOL Escape Bivy

The Escape Bivy ($68.99) from SOL provides peace of mind when planning a solo excursion. Crafted from proprietary fabric, it's moisture-wicking and waterproof and reflects up to 70% of radiated body heat to help you stay warm. Lightweight and packable, it’s a must-have for any bowhunter planning to adventure into the backcountry.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

APX — The Newest Pattern From Realtree

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

Buck Commander Releases New Buk Ops Technology

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

Easton's Sonic 6.0 a Versatile Arrow Shaft

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

Easton Introduces the Match Grade Pro Series Arrow

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

Primos Double Bull Delivers New Raised Hunting Ground Blind

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

Primos Delivers Steady Shooting With Edge Tripod System

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

The QAD Ultrarest Gets Better

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

A QAD Ultrarest For Everyone

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

Primos Legacy Grows With Icon Call Series

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

Going Light With Dryshod Boots

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

Tactical Bowhunting from T.R.U. Ball and Axcel

Trophyline is following up on the success of its Venatic tree saddle with a new-for-2024 model featuring First Lite Spec...
Gear

Trophyline Venatic Specter

Bowhunter Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Bowhunter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Bowhunter stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now