If you are headed out on your first backcountry elk hunting trip, you are probably wondering what gear you need. Knowing what gear to pack into camp versus the gear you need to carry on you daily are two very different things. What you pack in for use at camp is going to be a lot more supplies and a lot heavier than what you take out with you daily.
Here is a daily pack dump for a backcountry elk hunting trip.
Obviously, you are going to need to make sure that you have what you are planning on harvesting your elk with on you. If you are hunting with a rifle or muzzleloader, you also need to make sure that you have any additional supplies like ammunition and/or powder. If you are archery hunting, make sure that you have your release, bow, arrows, and broad heads ready to go.
To make packing around your gear easier, you want to make sure you have a comfortable sling for your rifle or muzzleloader. They also make slings for bows, however, we have found that a BowSpider bow packing system has worked well for archery. It can ride on your back, is easy to take on and off, and is pretty hands-free.
If you aren't used to backcountry hiking, you will find pretty quickly that your feet, legs, back, hips, and....well....everything is going to start to ache after a while. This is going to be magnified if you don't have a good gear bag to carry your stuff. It is critical to find a gear back that works with you and not against you.
One of our favorite packs is the Initial Ascent IA2K pack with a pannier for additional storage. This pack is awesome because it comes with a frame that helps distribute the weight of your pack, helping minimize soreness.
The first thing as far as "supplies" that you want to make sure that you have on you is water. Whether you are packing a water bottle or your pack has a bladder incorporated into it, you won't make it far without a good water source.
Now in camp, you want to make sure that you have good filtration to fill up your water before heading out, however, it is also a really good idea to have some type of water purifying system to carry with you in case you drink all your water and need to refill from a stream or other water source.
Even if the water looks clean, you never know what kind of bacteria and germs may be in there and the last thing you want to get is giardia or dysentery. There are lots of methods to sterilize water and on this trip: tablets, filters, or a SteriPen.
You are going to be doing a lot of hiking, which means you are going to be using up your energy supplies in your body. Having high-calorie, high-energy, lightweight snacks are critical to keeping up the energy needed for hiking and potentially packing out that big bull.
- gummy bears
- protein bars
- dehydrated meals
- trail mix
When you are hunting elk, there is a high likelihood that you could encounter some less-than-favorable weather. And when you get back to camp after a day of hunting, you are going to be tired. You want to get some food, relax, and recover. The last thing you are going to want to do is to worry about getting all your gear dried out in time for the next day.
Not only do we carry the Skre Nebo Rain gear in our bag to be prepared for inclement weather, but we also wear gaiters daily. Even if there isn't rain, there is always morning dew. Not only do gaiters keep pants, shoes, and socks dryer, but they also keep them cleaner and easier to tend to in general.
We recommend looking into a rain cover for your pack to help keep your pack dry as well. Being able to keep your gear dry decreases the amount of gear maintenance between hunts and takes a lot of pressure off.
There are going to be times when you get far enough away from camp that you are hiking back in the dark. You need to make sure that you have some kind of light source on you for those late-night hikes back to camp. We recommend using a headlamp to keep your hands free if needed.
GPS or Map
You have got to be able to navigate in the woods. Even if you are familiar with the area, seeing things in the daylight versus night-time can change how the whole area looks to you. You have GOT to have a resource for navigation, whether that is a GPS or a good old-fashioned map. This is a survival tip - DO NOT get caught without one of these.
Along with the electronics that you have, you need to either have a way to recharge those rechargeable batteries or pack in fresh ones. We recommend looking into the rechargeable options since packing in a bunch of disposable batteries adds extra weight and waste.
We've found that having a rechargeable battery pack can be extremely useful. We have used the Dark Energy Poseidon charger with the three-way cable, that allowed us to charge GPS, phone, headlamp, or anything else. You can use bigger chargers at camp to keep this charged for a lightweight battery source away from camp.
Some other items that we have on our gear checklist are:
- Knife: this is a survival tool as well as necessary if you do tag out and need to get your animal out of the woods.
- Gloves and Beanie: Temperatures can change daily. Pack some gloves and a beanie to help keep you warm if temperatures drop.
- Calls: Unless you have an outfitter that is doing your calling for you, don't forget your elk bulge and a cow call.
- Binoculars/Bino Harness: We have found the Marsupial Bino harness worked well if you add the extra pouch to it to store more gear, like your range finder, and it rides comfortably.
- Wipes: For obvious reasons.
- Oxygen Cans: We live in a cool world where they are always coming up with neat gadgets to help boost performance, like oxygen in a can. And while this isn't a huge game-changer for rehab, it can help you quickly catch your breath after a tough ascent. We've also found this helpful for those who aren't used to hunting in higher altitudes.
And last but not least...
Have you ever been with someone who forgot their tag at home? We have. And it would be a massive disappointment to get all the way into the backcountry before realizing that you forgot your tag at home. Don't be that person. Remember your tag!
Quality Gear Matters
Hunting in the backcountry is a completely different hunting experience. If you are a whitetail hunter, sure you have to pack your gear to the stand and sit for several hours. But then you get to go back to a lodge that has electricity and all the conveniences to take care of your gear for the next day. And the same goes with any type of hunting that isn't out in the woods.
So having high-quality hunting clothing is critical for those backcountry hunting experiences. Not only do you need lightweight hunting clothes, but you also need them to be durable and comfortable as well.