The gear you pack into the backcountry can make or break your hunt. Far too many hunts are ruined by lack of preparedness on the part of the hunter. The gear you use before, during, and after your hunt are the tools that make the difference in opportunity for success, comfort, and going home with meat in the truck.
Below you’ll find a look at some of the best gear for backcountry bowhunting this season.
Mystery Ranch Metcalf – The Metcalf is one of my favorite packs for its ability to pack whatever load I need, whether for an overnighter, or a week-long hunt. It even compresses down tight enough to use it as a meat hauling day pack. The pack is built onto Mystery Ranch’s Guide Light MT Frame for heavyweight hauling. You’ll also find a detachable lid, dual stretch-woven side pockets, and full-length side zip access.
6lb / 4335 cu in. / Price – $549
Kifaru Stryker XL – The Stryker XL is a favorite pack among backcountry pros like Clay Hayes. Hayes spends much of his life in the backcountry each year and this pack is his go-to option. “It’s compact enough for a day pack, but it’s more than capable of packing out an elk quarter,” says Hayes. “I’ve even done week-long trips out of the pack as well.” You’ll find dual water bottle pockets sized to hold 32oz. Nalgene bottles, but it’s bladder compatible as well, with dual upper hose ports to make staying hydrated easy. The Stryker XL pack must be paired with Kifaru’s Duplex Frame Pack ($450).
2.75lb / 1900 cu. in. / Price – $355 (does not include external frame)
Stone Glacier Sky Solus – Compact design and durability are the name of the game when it comes to your backcountry shelter. You want options that help lighten the load on your back for the pack in and out, but can also handle any weather you’ll encounter throughout your hunt. One of the best to meet those demands is the Stone Glacier Sky Solus.
Backcountry bowhunter and outdoor writer, Brady Miller, refers to his Stone Glacier tent as his, “summer mountain home.” But his tent also gets plenty of use and abuse during hunting season. That’s because it’s built to handle whatever the elements throw your way, no matter the season.
This ultralight, four-season, freestanding shelter was built for the tight confines of the backcountry and the weather that comes with it. It’s built with a really slick WebTruss construction design that can handle all the wind and rain that comes your way. Despite its small size, the Solus maximizes usable space to provide ample room inside the tent for gear, sleeping, and sitting up to change layers. The two side vestibules provide additional space to store gear and cook, or they can easily be cinched underneath the fly when space is limited.
Capacity – 1 Person / Trail Weight – 3lbs 11oz / Price – $545
Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 – My buddy, Clayton Holmes, is an avid bowhunter and photographer that annually makes a cross-country road trip out west to hunt elk and mule deer. He’s a big fan of this 3-season tent with plenty of room and functionality in a lightweight design. It’s available in 1, 2, or 3-person design, but the 2-person setup provides ample room for comfort, plus all your gear, in a really light package. The tent is built with proprietary materials that are lighter, stronger, and equipped with hardware that makes getting set up super easy.
The tent was built to maximize space and keep you organized. You’ll find strategically placed pockets to stash all your gear and essentials without cramping your sleeping space or ability to sit up inside. The awning-style vestibule is a nice addition that will expand living space and provides a nice hide from the rain or sun.
Capacity – 2-person / Trail Weight – 2lbs 11 oz / Price – $549.95
Stone Glacier Chilkoot – When it comes to sleeping bags, one of my favorites for warmth, comfort, and packability is the Stone Glacier Chilkoot. The Chilkoot series of sleeping bags includes options in 32, 15, and 0 degree bags to keep you comfortable, whether you’re hunting the early season, or the late season. The bags are built with a focus on warmth to weight ratio and packability. They’re built with a Pertex Quantum shell that adds water and wind resistance to protect the 850+ Fill power goose down HyperDRY insulation. The bags are designed with an articulated footbox and differential cut to provide warmth and maintain loft around the body regardless of sleeping position. The articulated hood delivers a uniquely designed insulated neck cuff with an elastic and magnetic closure to seal in heat.
Chilkoot 15 – 2lbs 3oz / Price – $549
SITKA Kelvin Aerolite 30 – Another great bag with a unique design that provides function like no other is the SITKA Kelvin Aerolite 30. This bag is super handy when it comes to its user-friendly design that allows you to get in and out with ease. In fact, its unique side zipper design allows you to get your arms and hands out of the bag without having to unzip the main body of the bag. The bag packs tight in your pack, making it a great option when traveling light for your backcountry hunts.
Kelvin Aerolite 30 – 2lb 4oz / Price – $429
Big Agnes Torchlight UL 20 – Clayton Holmes is a big fan of the Torchlight UL 20 when it comes his bag of choice for the backcountry. The bag features 2 expandable panels from shoulders to footbox, increasing sleep space up to 10 extra inches. Depending on your sleep style and body shape, you can adjust the bag for customized comfort. The bag is insulated with 850 fill power DownTek water-repellent down, and baffle construction that provides more efficient heat distribution with zero heat loss, even when the bag is expanded.
Torchlight UL 20 – 2lb 4oz / Price – $449.95
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Sleeping Pad
The crew at Therm-a-Rest have been making killer sleeping pads for longer than most backcountry hunters have been alive. They make some really good stuff. Their NeoAir XLite is one of the best options for your backcountry hunts with it’s ability to pack down light, yet offer plenty of comfort with a its 3″ profile. It’s built with improved warmth and comfort to deliver the finest ultralight air sleeping pad for years of backcountry adventure.
Weight – 13 oz / 4-Season / 4.5 R-value / Price – $199
Big Agnes Zoom UL
Another great mattress built for your ultralight backcountry hunt, the Zoom UL from Big Agnes eliminates the need to compromise between comfort and weight savings. It’s built with a generous 4.3 R-Value for three-season use, sustainably sourced materials, and aviation-grade lamination for ultimate reliability.
Weight – 14 oz / 3-Season / 4.3 R-value / Price – $229
MSR Pocket Rocket 2 – The Pocket Rocket has been a favorite among backcountry hunters and outdoorsmen for decades. Their 2.0 version of this incredibly compact stove delivers an even lighter and more compact option to lighten the load in your pack. The 2.6 oz. backpacking stove combines a focused burner design and protective WindClip windshield to deliver consistent heat when you want it. The stove’s flame control makes it easy to find just the right cooking temperature, from simmer to torch. The stove boils 1 liter of water in 3.5 minutes.
Weight – 2.6 oz / Price – $59.95
Camp Chef Stryker – If you’re looking for an all-in-one stove option for your hunt, the Camp Chef Stryker is hard to beat. It’s a multi-fuel stove that packs down tight and sets up quick so you can get food cooking fast, whether before, or after the hunt. All components, including the three-legged stand, 1.3-liter pot, unit, and lid all fit into one mesh carry bag. With its Heat Ring technology, you can heat half a liter of water in only two minutes.
Weight – 19.4 oz / Price – $149
Grayl UltraPress Water Filter
My good friend and backcountry bowhunter, Cody Marshall, brought this next product to my attention as one of the best new backcountry products to ever hit the market. The Grayl UltraPress is touted as the most versatile water purifier ever built. It’s the world’s first titanium filter bottle, providing unparalleled strength to weight ratio and meets the most challenging rigors of the outdoors. It’s drink-mix ready, and the Outer Ti Cup can be used to heat water and cook food near a fire or on a camp stove. The .5L UltraPress Titanium Water Filter & Purifier Bottle provides complete global protection from virus, protozoa, bacteria, particulates, chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals.
Weight – 14.1 oz / Capacity – 16.9 oz / Price $199
Aquamira Water Treatment
If you want to shave a little more weight off your pack, you can ditch your water filter system and add Aquamira Water Treatment drops to your kit. Jared Larsen of onX put me on these drops as a serious weight saving option for clean and tasty water in the backcountry. “I’ve come to love Aquamira drops,” says Larsen. “They are chlorine dioxide drops and weigh just 1oz. If I’m on a solo trip, this is all I bring.”
These drops kill odor causing bacteria and enhance the taste of stored potable water. They have a 4-year shelf life and treat up to 30 gallons. They are super easy to use and won’t leave you with a nasty after taste like iodine or other water treatments.
Price – $14.99
Crispi Altitude GTX – Backcountry bowhunters across the country have grown to love Crispi boots over the years, regardless of whether they’re hunting in the north, south, east, or west. Breathability and technical fit come standard in their Altitude GTX boots designed for long lasting comfort and support. The Crispi team has added features like the ultra soft leather and synthetic upper, the Crispi Thermo Wire Technology, and a full PU coated leather rand to ensure the Altitude GTX can handle whatever your hunt throws your way.
Height – 8″ / Weight – 2.9lb / Price $365
Meindl Vakuum Hunter – Meindl were the boots I first stomped around the mountains of Idaho with over 20 years ago. And they’re still some of my favorite boots for hiking deep into the backcountry today. Their Vakuum Hunter boots feature a boot-within-a-boot design to wrap your feet in stabilizing comfort and support. You’ll find full grain nubuck leather uppers, MFS Vakuum foam panels that form to the shape of your feet, ensuring a perfect fit without uncomfortably tights pressure points common in other boots.
Height – 9″ / Weight – 3.87lb / Price – $330
Lowa Trek Evo GTX Mid – When the backcountry doesn’t demand a super stiff mountain boot, the Lowa Trek Evo GTX Mid boots are a great option. These boots are nearly as comfortable as your favorite running shoe, yet provide ample ankle support to keep you safe getting in and out of the backcountry. Built for fast hiking, these boots make a great run-n-gun hunting boot option for moving in on game. The boots also feature a waterproof/breathable GORE-TEX lining to protect your feet from the elements.
Weight – 2.74lbs / Price – $340
The Argali High Country Pack is an ultralight and compact set of game bags made for backcountry hunters. They were designed with backpack hunters in mind, weighing in at just 9 ounces. They are made from a durable, breathable and re-usable nylon blend material that breathes to allow your meat to cool quickly while also keeping flies off your meat.
The High Country pack will hold an entire boned-out bull elk or caribou, or meat-on-bone for deer, pronghorn, sheep or any other similar size game.
Price – $71.99
Cyclops Poseidon – The Cyclops Poseidon delivers all the light you could possibly need for navigating your way through the backcountry at night, or recovering game after hours. It has multiple lighting settings with up to 2000 lumens to help you light up the night, and runs consecutively for 5 hours.
Price – $64.99
Fenix HM65R – A rechargeable headlamp option that I’ve grown to love over the last few years is the Fenix HM65R. The headlamp features both an independently controlled spotlight and a floodlight for a combined maximum 1400 lumens of neutral and white light. The HM65R can spotlight and floodlight independently, or combined. Powered by the included 18650 battery, this headlamp is USB-C rechargeable and includes a battery level indicator. It’s completely dustproof and waterproof to 2m.
Price – $99
If things go south, and you find yourself in a backcountry emergency, you better have the means of contacting the help of emergency personnel. Sure, your phone might have a signal. But more than likely, it won’t. That’s why the Garmin inReach is must-have gear when you’re going in deep where cell service is not an option. This compact satellite communicator helps you keep in touch with family and friends back home, as well as connect with SOS emergency support if things get ugly. The device is tiny, so there’s really no excuse for not having it with you on your backcountry adventures.
Price – $399
When your backcountry hunt takes you into steep and sketchy terrain, a pair of trekking poles might be a good idea to add to your gear list. The Argali Carbon X Trekking Poles are a great option with a carbon fiber design built for rugged mountain conditions. They are the perfect solution for heavy packouts, uneven terrain, or pole support for a tent or shelter. The Carbon X trekking poles feature a comfortable EVA foam grip and sleeve, carbide tip, 3 piece telescoping adjustable legs and the Argali Grip-Adapt Handle that turns your trekking poles into a multi-use product for glassing or shooting.
Price – $173.99
Cold Steel Ultimate Hunter – The Ultimate Hunter is made from American S35VN Steel and hand-ground to a razor edge that’s made to last. The knife is built with a super-strong Tri-Ad locking mechanism for extra safety, making it a great fit for your every day carry, or the backcountry. The knife has a 3 1/2″ blade and weighs in at 4.9 ounces.
Price – $189
MKC Blackfoot – The Blackfoot knife by Montana Knife Company is made in the small town of Frenchtown, Montana. It’s the same tiny town in western Montana where I first began my western adventures decades ago. Nostalgia aside, this Blackfoot knife is as beefy as it is beautiful, easily breaking down any buck or bull you wrap your tag around. It was built to be the ultimate do-it-all knife, in a small and light package that’s perfectly suited for any hunt, big or small. The knife has a 3.5″ blade and weighs in at just 3.6 ounces.
Price – $300
HME Archery Tool
Backcountry bow emergencies will happen from time to time, and when they do, you better be prepared. Big or small, do you have the tools to make the fix? The HME Archery Tool is a nice additiion to the pack to keep things tight throughout your hunt. It comes with 8 Allen Wrench sizes, 2 screwdrivers, broahead blade sharpener, broadhead wrench, nock wrench and storage compartment.
Price – $19.99
Leatherman Free P4
Another tool backcountry hunters shouldn’t leave home without is a Leatherman tool. Over and over, it will find its way into your daily chores while on the hunt. It can truly save you when you find yourself in a pinch. Clay Hayes says the Leatherman you’ll find in his pocket is the Leatherman Free P4. It’s built for one-hand operation and tool access and includes locking features throughout the tool.
Price – $149.95
Preparing for the hunt can be nearly as exciting as the hunt itself. Make sure you’re ready for your upcoming hunt by adding some of the gear mentioned above to your kit this season.
Also, be sure to comment below and let us know what gear you like and recommend us adding to our list.