With hunting seasons around the West wrapping up and the holiday season approaching, now is a good time to go through gear, take stock and think of any improvements you’re wanting to make for next fall and add them to your Christmas wish list. Outdoor companies are starting sales and promotions on equipment and clothing to take advantage of the holiday season, offering up some deep discounts on quality gear as well as introducing the coming year’s lineup of innovations and improvements. Here’s a list of a few things that I got to try out this year or am hoping to next year. Feel free to add or subtract from it to meet your own needs or hunting style.
The Big Investments
Tipi and Woodstove
There are several companies that are making tipis or shelters that are woodstove compatible these days. They’re designed with the backcountry hunter in mind, being made from durable yet lightweight material and weighing less than your average rifle. All different sizes mean there should be one to fit your budget as well as your pack. With a stove in the mix, again made of lightweight material (usually titanium) that weighs in from 1 ½ to 4 pounds, you have a warm place to dry gear and sleep in whatever kind of weather Mother Nature throws your way. Price Range- $700.00-$1500.00
Most of us plan all year for one or two big hunts that oftentimes require a large financial outlay in an area that may have only been scouted by a friend of a friend or a mapping program like Onyx or Google Earth. All that to say, I’m a believer in putting the odds in my favor as much as possible when it’s time to hunt. One thing that shouldn’t be scrimped on is raingear. It can keep you hunting instead of burning up precious field days sitting in a tent waiting for the weather to change. Numerous companies make quality, durable pieces that can act as a windbreaker layer as well as shedding water. Price Range $500.00-$1300.00
Everyone has a pack that has hopefully worked well for them and their specific needs. With all of the options out there these days it can be overwhelming. My suggestion is to try it on before you buy, make sure it fits your torso length, and have the store employee put some weight in it before you get out the credit card. Most stores don’t have a problem with you “taking it for a test drive” so to speak as a pack is a significant investment. Price Range $350.00-$750.00
In the same vein as the raingear, “puffy” clothes can be a lifesaver on a hunt you’ve planned for all year. Made of synthetic material or down, they are lightweight but add a tremendous amount of insulation factor for long morning or evening sits, as well as a degree of safety in case you find yourself out overnight. For a hunter that finds themselves putting on lots of miles from base camp, these should be a requirement in their pack, right next to the water bottle and extra shells. Price Range $300.00-$700.00
Think of your body as a battery that uses up its charge during a day of hard hunting. The only way to recharge it is to rest, put nutrients back and get some solid sleep. I have shared camps with hunters who have scrimped on sleeping gear and paid the price two or three days into the hunt after not getting any quality rest due to sleeping bags that weren’t cut out for the conditions of mountain hunting. A quality sleeping set up is vitally important to keeping your body recovering after days of hard hunting. Price Range $300.00-$800.00
I started using these several years ago and immediately wondered what took me so long to add them to my gear list. They are inexpensive, lightweight and have several uses, a perfect combination for someone who is budget and weight conscious. I use a small one for my ditty bag, holding my knives, tags, etc. as well as a larger one with my puffy clothes in it. They make a great pillow, can be used as a game bag in a pinch, a storage bag around camp or sat on if the ground is wet or cold. Price Range $15.00-$60.00
Another piece of gear that is critical yet doesn’t have to break the bank. A headlamp is an everyday tool for most guys and gals when we’re hunting hard. From saddling horses in the dark, hiking into camp after a day at work or working up a game animal long after the sun went down, a hands-free light source is worth its weight in gold. I keep one handy in a jacket pocket and a spare in my pack ever since I had one quit me with a long way to go to the trailhead, but that’s another story. Price Range $20.00-$100.00
Replaceable Blade Knife
Having been out for several years now you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have at least one kind of these. With several manufacturers making them, there are numerous options for different sized hands and uses. I carry a fixed blade knife that I’ve had since I was a kid but I also carry at least one of these for skinning and caping. I think it’s important for an outdoorsman to know how to sharpen his or her own blade but the role a replaceable blade knife can play in someone’s hunting season is difficult to ignore. Price Range $25.00-$65.00
With the myriad of gear and equipment these days, made to make hunters lives easier in the field, I’ve tried to touch on a few important items that could be of use to the average person who has some field time in the West planned for next year. This is the tip of the iceberg. Use your own experiences to enhance this list and enjoy some quality gift giving and receiving this year for yourself, your friends and your family. Merry Christmas!