At the Journal, we firmly believe that the gear does not make the hunter and should never be a barrier to entry, especially when you are starting out. That said, it is our experience that through careful selection, gear can make you more comfortable. Comfort can be a curse, but it can also aid in your ability to stay out longer. Some hunts also require specific gear pieces to traverse difficult terrain or achieve specific goals. Additionally, we know that many of you are like rabid dogs when it comes to gear. Eager to consume anything on the subject. Don’t worry, we are too.
Not unlike the 2018 Gear of the Year article we ran, we have asked some of our team, as well as some friends of the Journal what gear items in their arsenal really stand out for them. There were no rules to follow or specific brands that they were asked to mention — we wanted an honest take on gear from some hard using mountain hunters.
Nolan Osborne – British Columbia
Petzl Reactik + & Petzl Bindi
I’ve been a big fan of Petzl rechargeable headlamps since I first started using them in 2014. Running with the “one is none, two is one” mentality, I try to keep all of my electronics to lithium-ion USB rechargeable these days. This not only eliminates the need for dozens of batteries of different sizes but as well allows me to use the same battery packs for every device I need, as well as charge them with solar. As well, I like to keep two headlamps in my gear rotation, with one serving as a backup in case mine, or a clients goes down.
As the main headlamp for my guiding season, I use a Petzl Reactik +. The Reactik line features reactive lighting that automatically adapts to your surroundings. If you are looking at things up close, it auto dims and brightens for objects further away. The battery life on these are great, and I only find I have to charge one over the duration of a hunt if I have been riding or hiking for hours with it on. 300 lumens is plenty for most of my needs, and the headlamp is compact enough that it’s not obtrusive or uncomfortable.
Recently I replaced my old Petzl Tikka RXP backup headlamp with a Petzl Bindi. The Bindi is an ultralight, compact headlamp designed for the active minimalist. This headlamp was intended for running, with a shorter battery life and reflective headband, and weight savings the ultimate goal. Coming it at 1.2oz (35 grams) it certainly delivers, making it a great option for a backup or secondary headlamp for those who carry them.
Casio G-Shock – GW9400-1 Rangeman
Though I do appreciate aesthetic beauty, I’m a large proponent of utility over looks when it comes to anything gear related. After continuous problems, multiple warranties, and the eventual failure of my last “outdoors” watch — Suunto Core All-Black — I was on the market for a replacement.
There are a lot of high tech watches currently aimed at the outdoors enthusiasts, however, my main criteria were durability and battery life, followed by reasonable cost, altimeter, compass etc. GPS watches were disqualified based on their battery life and cost, as I have no interest in recharging a watch throughout the guiding season. The GW9400-1 from Casio/G-Shock fit the bill, despite its chunky looks. G-Shock watches have been incredibly durable from my past experiences, and provide high value/dollar.
It is worth noting that this is the older model of their “Rangeman” watch and that the new one has various GPS features, as well as a price tag that has tripled.
Adam Smith – Alaska
Ultralight 30-06 & Atlas Bipod
Number one piece of gear I am excited about this year has to be my new custom rifle build.
It started its life as a Barrett Fieldcraft Sport, chambered in 30-06. I’ve swapped to a Lilja barrel and a Bell & Carlson stock. The barrel and bolt will be custom fluted, with a skeletonized bolt handle, and the barreled action cerakoted. The stock is bedded, and it will see Talley Light Weight rings with a Leupold scope — All in we’ll be under 6lbs.
These weight savings will allow me to use a new piece I’m excited about, the Atlas bipod. It’s a bit heavy, but the function and rigidity it brings to the table set it high above the competition. I’ve looked into ultralights like the Spartan, but they feel too flimsy for me. I treat my gear exactly as it is: a tool. It bumps up the total weight of my gun almost a pound, but for the stability and features it brings to the table it’s worth it to me. I shave ounces where I can, to put those ounces into practical, meaningful places.
Swarovski 10×42 Binoculars
Another piece I’m pumped about is my new swaro 10x42s. The clarity it brings to the table is second to none. Good glass is underrated until you own it, then it’s the best money you ever spent. I’m excited to use them for sheep and goats this year. Best purchase of the off-season I’ve made.
Also super pumped about my enlightened equipment (EE) synthetic quilt. I used to run a EE 950 fill down quilt (revelation 950 fill Zero deg) with a bivy to protect it from the elements. My problem was condensation between the quilt and the bivy sack. I stayed warm, but moisture management was a royal pain in the ass. Basically It was doing more harm than good. Living in SE AK I don’t trust to go without something to protect the down from getting soaked. Soooooooo I’ve decided to run a little but heavier synthetic quilt (revelation APEX quilt- 20 deg), sacrifice a bit of temp rating in the process, however I can leave the bivy sack at home now and know that even if I get into a wet bag, I’ll stay warm. It’ll be fun testing this new theory out and seeing how comfy I really can be. TUH-MATOS TOE-MATOS. Its a preference thing for sure, but it’s one less thing I think I’ll have to worry about when I wake up in the morning in the backcountry.
This one isn’t actually a new piece of gear, just a new concept. I’ll be ditching the inner to my Hilleberg tents and running it like a floorless shelter, just the fly. It’ll add a bunch of room in those Hilleberg shelters, and really lighten things up. The pound I’ll save will allow me to bring my Helinox lightweight cot. Which I think will elevate my sleep game in the backcountry, which means I’ll be able to go farther, longer. I think those will be useful oz. as well.
Scott Reidy – British Columbia
Hilleberg Akto 1P
I wanted to move away from a two-person tent after the last couple years of sharing tents with partners that SNORE, and having a bad nights sleep because of it. Being that I am a very light sleeper I have gone back to a solo tent, I am willing to sacrifice the weight penalty to have my own tent and space where i can have a good nights sleep.
First Lite Chamberlin Puffy
I like to mount my binos on a tripod when I glass, and I get really cold easily once I stop moving, I searched for the warmest coat I could find and like to support hunting companies when I can. It’s a blend of down and synthetic insulation, it fits perfect and I can’t wait to put this jacket to the test this fall.
MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe stove & Toaks Ti Pot
Usually, I use an MSR windburner style stove, but switching to this canister stove setup with titanium pot will come in at 5.9 oz and will save me just over half a pound in the pack. And also packs smaller which takes up less room in my pack. The MSR windburner stove would still come with me if I did a winter hunt.
Marmot Lithium Down Bag
A couple of years ago I switched from a lower quality down sleeping bag to a down quilt, I found the quilt to be cold and drafty when the temps dropped. It was super lightweight which was nice, but being cold at night sucks. This will be my first high-end sleeping bag and am pretty excited to be warm and comfortable.
Dallas Cota – Alberta
Kimber Mountain Ascent – 6.5 Creedmoor
Dipped in VIAS, topped with a Leupold 2.5-8×36 – M1 turret. This will make an excellent lightweight combo for chasing sheep in the Rocky Mountains.
KUIU Kutana Stretch Woven pant
I have been a huge fan and advocate of the Tiburon pant, the Kutana Stretch Woven pant is basically the Tiburon pant on steroids with only light reduction in breathability compared to the Tiburon pant. A truly lightweight, breathable and durable pant perfect for early to mid season hunts.
|Kutana Stretch Woven Pant – KUIU
A remarkably durable and lightweight pant designed to withstand formidable terrain. Toray Primeflex Nylon fabric provides abrasion and pick resistance unmatched in its weight class, with two-way spandex-free stretch. Ideal for early-to-mid-season hunts in rugged conditions where durability is just as crucial as performance and mobility.
KUIU Peloton Strong Fleece
In only a couple months of testing this piece in the field it has easily found its way into my kit. A body mapped insulation mid layer is long over due.
|StrongFleece Hybrid 260 Zip-T Hoodie – KUIU
Our warmest synthetic fleece mid-layer features a hybrid design for added functionality—hard faced polyester outer throughout for durability with lighter fleece on the underarm and back for breathability. DWR treated for water resistance. High-loft inner fleece provides warmth as a mid-layer in colder temperatures or as an outer-layer in moderate temperatures. 13.8 oz / 320 Toray 100% polyester hard faced Karuishi Fleece. Quiet, durable and wind resistance; Toray DWR treatment for water resistance; Body-mapped Hybrid fabrics for durability and breathability; Full pass through zippered front pocket; Fitted hood for warmth and sun protection.
Sea to Summit Aeros pillow
As I’ve gotten older I’ve found a solid sleep is worth its weight in gold. At only ounces, this pillow is exponentially worth its weight!
Pristine water Purification tablets
Where I hunt the water is typically safe but after having ingested two water born viruses years ago, I take no chances! I’d rather have a broken leg in the backcountry than areomonas or giardia.
Stevenson Knives – Custom lightweight fixed-blade with carbon scales
My Havalon is used for breaking down and processing my quarry, however, there’s something to be said for a fixed blade knife in camp. This one is made by Don Stevenson, a British Columbia knifemaker. (Stevenson Knives)
Starbucks VIA Instant – French Roast
Don’t judge! As far as instant coffee goes these are a step above the old bottle of Nescafe as far as flavour is concerned and come in a convenient lightweight single-use packet.
A backpack always works, but many sheep hunts (not all) boil down to waiting for a ram to stand up. In most cases, there’s plenty of time to get setup. At 5.22oz the Spartan bipod is a no brainer.
Steve Opat – Alaska
First and Foremost:
Don’t obsess over your gear. Gear does not generate success. Your brain and its ability to use tools are ultimately what generates success. I recommend hunters spend notable time researching their craft. Here are some suggestions for YouTube research:
- How to properly flesh and salt your hides.
- How to field dress an animal via the “gutless method”
- How to take better scenery and trophy photos.
- How to properly load and shoulder a backpack.
- How to apply face paint for optimal concealment.
The list goes on…
There’s no reason not to be a YouTube expert in everything we do in the field.
Replacement Item: Cold Steel Knife
I’m not claiming that this knife is the best for everybody. For the hunting that I do and for the way I pack and prepare, a knife like this is ideal; I need a full tang blade. This one knife can chop firewood, dismember joints, hack limbs, flesh hides, and perform most of the tasks that a good woodsman requires of his blade. Bring along a small file to re-hone it when needed.
I lost mine while bear hunting this year and now have to replace it. It’s a shame too, I think that knife helped me process over 100 animals.
*I don’t use them as throwing knives. A wise woodsman knows to never throw his blade.
Top Tested Item 2018: Kuiu Solids
For all my mountain escapes, I now use a mix of solid colors to break up my profile instead of wearing camo patterns. In doing so, I’ve extracted much more value from the technical clothes I buy because now I can wear them year-round. “Kuiu Solids” have taken care of me nearly every day since last July.. I have some items from Sitka that I’m testing this year and have also been impressed with.
Exciting New Gear: Initial Ascent IAK6 pack.
I’m excited about a pack that has a built-in hook to sling my rifle over. I love the thought of having my rifle accessible again. I’ve watched this company grow and genuinely believe they are creating superior packs. They just released the 6K cu. in model which will suit my backcountry needs here in Alaska.
*Disclosure: I am now an Initial Ascent athlete. I sought that opportunity because of my conviction in their product.
Trek Pole Tents/shelters: Gaining maximum functionality from an item you carry is a key to reducing your pack weight. As such, I’m a huge proponent of trek pole tents. I have an amazing relationship with my ZPaks Duplex cuban fiber tent and it’s about the start its third hunting season.
Thermarest Z-Lite closed-cell foam pad: You’ll never hear me stop promoting the functionality of closed-cell foam in the backcountry. Carry it with you EVERYWHERE.