September 18, 2018
No one takes gear choice more seriously than the bowhunter who is planning a high-country hunt. The reasons are many, but the most obvious is to level off some of the misery by having the right equipment in order to stay as comfortable as possible. Naturally, the desire for comfort comes with the caveat that any gear choice had better be truly lightweight and as durable as hunting equipment can be.
This means, unfortunately, that the bargain-shopping mountain hunter is usually out of luck. Good gear costs good money, but if you’re going to spend time at elevation with elk or other critters in your sights, you’d better consider buying the right stuff for the job.
Here are several options that should suit you just fine.
ALPS OutdoorZ Commander X+ Pack
For bivy hunts or meat retrieval missions, the Commander X+ Pack from ALPS is an excellent choice. It offers 4,000 cubic inches of storage space, loads of features, and functions as two separate pack styles. The first is for the multi-day trips that take a bowhunter deep into the backcountry, and the second is for the times when that same hunter has to pack out enough protein to feed his (or her) family for a year. This is made possible by the detachable pack bag and the Commander X frame, which is built with dual aluminum stays and high-density polyethylene.
Browning Camping Granite Creek Tent
Offered in one- or two-person models, the Granite Creek Tent from Browning is an ideal choice for weight-conscious hunters who still want to get a good night’s sleep and stay comfortable no matter where their feet take them throughout the day. This tent is built with vertical walls to offer increased interior space, features large vestibules for gear storage, and is designed with a factory-sealed fly and floor seams for added weather insurance.
Danner has churned out some awesome boots over the years, and their latest – the full-grain leather Alsea – is no exception. These boots are a no-brainer choice for backcountry bowhunts due to their outsoles, which features large perimeter lugs to offer up serious traction no matter how vertical you get. The uppers are lined with 100-percent waterproof yet breathable GORE-TEX, and the Alseas are offered in three different Primaloft insulation options depending on seasonal timing and individual needs.
Kenetrek Boots Hiking Gaiter
Last year my elk-hunting partner and I were hiking through a high-country meadow at sunrise when I started to complain about the lack of bugles and the amount of dew that was not only soaking my legs, but leaking into my boots. He just pointed at his shins and said, “Get a pair of these.” He was, of course, wearing the Hiking Gaiters from Kenetrek Boots. They use a Stormblocker waterproof membrane to shed water and are adjustable to fit snugly on anyone who chooses shorter-in-height boots for their hunts.
Montana Decoy Spike Elk
Carrying decoys into the places elk call home is usually not worth it due to the extra weight. This isn’t the case with the Spike Elk from Montana Decoy, which weighs only a shade over two pounds. There are few better ways to seal the deal on a bull than to show him that his challenger is sporting a pair of over-sized pencils on his head. Montana Decoy has really stepped up their game as far as mobility and the overall look of their offerings, and the Spike Elk is a killer choice for anyone looking to add some realism to their calling sessions.
onX Hunt App
If you’re not using the onX Hunt app to find mule deer and elk hideaways on public ground, you’re missing out. This app is hard to beat for gathering killer information on hunting spots, and each year the minds behind it find new layers to add that help in your quest to dominate the backcountry. For example, this year they’ve added a layer that shows the latest wildfires and just where the flames traveled. It gets updated often, which allows users the chance to make informed decisions on dead zones or those areas that might feature the right, fresh growth that mountain dwellers love to feast on.
Outdoor Edge ChowPal
I don’t know how I ever lived in the backcountry in the days before Outdoor Edge released their ChowPal on the world. It’s so simple, so lightweight, and so welcome that I cringe thinking about how I use to operate utensil-wise before. In addition to a knife, fork and spoon, it contains a bunch of useful tools and the whole thing is packed into a tiny package that weighs 2.4 ounces. If you routinely leave the trailhead and hike straight up for hours at a time in your bowhunting endeavors, you could find far worse ways to spend $27.50 than picking up a ChowPal.
Sitka Gear Apex Pack
The Apex Pack from Sitka is a seriously streamlined daypack. It offers 1,800 cubic inches of storage, includes multiple pockets, and is perfect for dark-to-dark missions where you’re trying to call in a bull or slip into range of a bedded mule deer. Pair it with the Apex Pant and the Apex Hoody and you’ve got a system that is not only covered in Subalpine camouflage, but is as lightweight and articulated as any mountain hunting clothing you’ll find anywhere.
YETI TUNDRA 350
If you’re interested in the biggest cooler YETI will sell you, then look no further than the TUNDRA 350. This is an elk hunter’s dream, and while it’s not cheap, it’s a great way to get several elk quarters cold in a hurry – and keep them that way. It’s also nearly bomb-proof due to its construction and attention to the smallest details like the NEVERFAIL HINGE SYSTEM. If the 350 is too big or too spendy, don’t fret. YETI has several smaller, less expensive options that will work for any base camp you can imagine.