As backpack bowhunters, our obsession with gear will always border on fanatical. Whether packing for the hunt of a lifetime or just a weekend trip, being prepared can make the difference between cutting a tag or going home empty handed. The correct gear choices will keep you more comfortable, hunting harder and could even save your life.
Below are my tips and a basic pack list. My goal with this article is to shed some light on what’s worked for me in the past and hopefully get you thinking about how you could potentially refine your own system. Keep in mind, a pack list can rarely be written in stone. I’m always learning from other hunters and ultralight backpackers, so even with all the agonizing analysis I’ve done over the years – pouring over specs, estimating calories-per-ounce, and warm-to-weight ratios – my list is almost always in flux.
With this in mind, I’ll be coming back on the Beyond the Kill podcast in the coming weeks and I’d love to take that opportunity to field some questions from the JOMH audience and get your thoughts and ideas on how I might refine my own list. Especially if you know of something that’s going to save me some weight!
Send your questions and/or pack list ideas to BTK host and JOMH Editor in Chief Adam Janke at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll dive in on these questions and ideas in my next podcast episode.
Adam Foss’ 5 Gear Tips For Better Backpack Bowhunting
1) LESS IS MORE: You’ve probably heard that “ounces makes pounds”, but truly keep this mantra in the back of your mind when developing your mountain hunting gear list. Scrutinize everything. Apart from emergency gear, if it’s not used every day, ditch it.
2) DOUBLE DUTY: Lightweight, packable items that have more than one use should earn a coveted spot in your pack over items that don’t. The more items that serve double duty, the more value they bring to the comfort and success of your hunt.
3) PACK SMART: Items should be positioned in your pack efficiently. For example, I try to keep my rain jacket rolled in its hood, and lightweight, “puffy” insulation layers stuffed into their own sleeve when not in use. That way, they take up less space but can be quickly deployed when an afternoon storm hits or when I start cooling off during a glassing break.
4) NUTRITION, NUTRITION, NUTRITION: This is probably the hardest lesson I’ve learned in the field, and I hope you don’t have to. A good rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t contain 160 calories per ounce, leave it at home. Of course, every rule is meant to be broken, which is true with freeze-dried meals or quick burning items life Clif Shot Blocks. Included in the list and image below is all the food I’d bring for one full day in the mountains. For extended trips, I’d simply multiply all food items by the number of expected days.
Hydration is obviously even more critical as proper fuel. I prefer using electrolyte supplements in my water bottle.
Editor’s Note: Adam’s calories per ounce rule highlights one of the reasons Heather’s Choice meals should be on your list to test this season. They’re smaller and pack more calories per ounce than most mainstream freeze-dried options. And they taste way better!
5) IT’S PERSONAL: The best person to tell you what to bring on a mountain bowhunt is you. Make your list your own and don’t be afraid to include or banish any items that don’t work for you, your hunting style or hunting area.
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the all-new 2016 Mathews Annual. Featuring a selection of the year’s best photos, expert insights and the full 2016 Mathews lineup, this is a resource you’ll want on your bookshelf. Order your own free print copy by completing the form here. Alternatively you can view it digitally here.
*Starting from top left of the photo and working down and across in the categories.
Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiter
Crocs (super lightweight and perfect for river crossings and kicking around camp)
La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX
Custom Camo Cover (string, sight and quiver cover)
Easton Arrow Tube w/ Custom Camo Sleeve (with 8 back up arrows)
Mathews Arrow Web HD Series Quiver + 6 Easton Axis 400s (tipped with 125 gr. Grim Reaper Razortip Broadheads)
Mathews Halon 5
Carter Quickie Release
Orange Fabric Patch (for signaling/flagging a hunting partner on a stalk)
Grizz Targets Travel Target (mountain bowhunting is rough on your bow, a target and extra arrows confirms you’re still “on” if you bump your bow or take a fall)
Mountain House Freeze Dried Meal
Clif Shot Block
Pro Bar Meal Replacement Bar
Clif Shot Gel
Justin’s Peanut Butter
Clif Mojo Bar
Nuun Active Hydration Tablets
2x Honey Stinger Organic Honey Waffle
Emergen-C Dietary Supplement
Starbucks Via Instant Coffee
Garmin Oregon 600
Delorme InReach 2-way Satellite Communicator
Goal Zero Venture 30 Battery Pack and Phone Charging Cable
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
Slik Pro 634CF Carbon Fiber Tripod
Gitzo Series 1 Two Way Birding Head
Swarovski Binoculars (15×56 SLC pictured) – Note: I’ll bring 8.5×42, 10×50 or 15×56 depending on the hunt
Outdoorsmans Binocular Adapter
Leupold RX-1200i TBR rangefinder (angle compensation a must for long, steep shots encountered while mountain hunting)
Swarovski ATX 30-70×95 Spotting Scope
Sitka Dewpoint Rain Jacket and Pant (all rolled into jacket hood)
Sitka Jetstream Jacket (rolled into hood)
Sitka Core Heavyweight Hoody (rolled into hood)
Sitka Ascent Pants
Sitka Kelvin Down Ultralight Jacket (stuffed into sleeve)
Sitka Merino Glove
Sitka Mountain Glove
Sitka Merino Beanie
Sitka Merino Zip-T
2x pair of Darn Tough Socks (slide sock inside matching sock, rather than rolling to reduce bulk)
Sitka Merino underwear
GSI Outdoors Halulite Minimalist Pot/Mug
110g MSR Fuel canister
Sea to Summit X-Mug
GSI Outdoors Folding Spork
Silicon Pot Gripper
Snow Peak GigaPower Stove
Wet Ones + Toilet paper
Gerber Gator Premium Folder Clip Point
Gerber Vital Pocket Folder + Replacement Blades
Lighter + Emergency Fire Starter
2x AA Batteries (for GPS and headlamp)
CR2 Battery (for rangefinder)
Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, contact lenses)
SOL Emergency Bivy
3x Dry Bags (small, medium and large sizes)
3L Platypus Hydration Bladder
QuikClot, Band-Aids, Cold/Flu Medicine and superglue (for patching sleeping pads, gear and small cuts)
SMC Gear 100cm Capra Ice Axe
Black Diamond Traverse Ski Pole
Outdoor Research Bug Net
Snow Peak Ultralight Umbrella
Pack and Sleep System
Sitka Waterproof Pack Cover
Stone Glacier Sky Archer 6200
Hilleberg Tarp 5 (works as a rain, snow and sun shelter and aids in keeping meat clean when game processing)
Cocoon Camp Pillow
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm Sleeping Pad
Hilleberg Enan 1-Person Tent
Valandre Mirage 23F Sleeping Bag in Granite Gear Compression Sac
Sitting Pad (Therm-a-Rest Ridge Rest sleeping pad cut in half) – all items in sleep system are on top of the black sitting pad)