It’s showtime. You’ve done the work—prepared physically and mentally for the challenges that lie ahead. You’re seeing big bulls in your sleep and can hardly wait to point the 4×4 West.
Yep, there’s no question a backcountry elk hunt is a must-do adventure. Side of the logistics, however, stick-and-string elk sojourns require a litany of gear. Skimp on gear, and your dream adventure can quickly become a nightmare. To come are 10 must-have elk items that you’ll want on your to-come hunt. Some will keep you dry and comfortable while others will help coax a rut-crazed beast into range. Let’s dive in.
1. Browning Featherweight Classic Knife
Breaking down a bull is serious work, and Browning’s new-for-2019 Featherweight Classic Knife is up to the challenge. While I do love replaceable blade knives, few on the market can withstand the pressure required to slip around the joints of heavy-boned game and allow quarters to break free. Made from high-quality stainless steel and eye-pleasing zebrawood, the Featherweight Classic features a slender design and drop-point blade profile. With an overall length of 7 inches and a blade length of 3 1/8 inches, this razor-sharp rig is ideal for skinning, cutting, caping, and whittling around joints. The knife comes with a stitched leather belt sheath and anti-skid grooves on the blade spine.
2. Badlands Exo Jacket/Pant
Rain gear is a must for the backcountry wanderer. Too many times I’ve returned to camp wet and miserable. The night is spent drying clothes by a fire rather than replenishing spent calories and getting quality sleep. Avoid rain mishaps with Badlands’ Exo Jacket/Pant combo. Extremely lightweight, this combo rolls up easily into its own pockets and takes up little room in the pack. Both feature a waterproof outer shell and improved face fabric means garments function more like stealthy hunting apparel and less like typical game-spooking rainwear. The jacket boasts a compressible sleeve to reduce the chances of bow-string contact, and the pants feature a full-length side zipper for easy on-and-off and ultra-rapid venting. Badlands’ Heatwave Ceramic Print design traps in heat and keeps the core dry and toasty.
3. Therm-A-Rest NeoAir UberLite
Sleep is essential when roughing it in the backcountry but toting bulky sleeping pads and a cot isn’t an option. Enter the all-new NeoAir UberLite from Therm-A-Rest. Offered in lengths of Small, Regular and Large, this featherweight mattress tips the scales just a tad north of a half-pound and compresses down small enough to fit in your pocket. Branded with an R-value rating of 2.0, the NeoAir UberLite provides excellent insulation from the ground, and 2.5 inches of legendary NeoAir comfort help you get necessary rest. Setup is a matter of rolling the mattress out, unscrewing the valve and blowing air in.
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4. Mystery Ranch Beartooth 80
Engineered to provide quick access to essential gear and haul incredible load weights, the Beartooth 80 tips the scales at just 6.7 pounds and boasts a cubic-inch volume of 5,187. Fitted with Mystery Ranch’s new Guide Lite MT Frame, the Beartooth promises an ideal blend of strength and weight. Custom-developed SJ Auto-lock buckles are present throughout the pack and the 500D Light Plus fabric ensures high tensile and tear resistance. Access to gear is instant via the 270-degree duffel-style design, and the lid, complete with zippered pockets, is removable. Other must-note features include a pair of inner zipper pockets, side stretch outer pockets and the sure-to-create-a-custom-fit telescoping yoke.
5. Wilderness Athlete Altitude Advantage
A complex blend of vitamins and extracts from Reishi, Golden Root, Schisandra and Grape Seed, Altitude Advantage from Wilderness Athlete is formulated to keep you feeling great while on the mountain. Ideal for newbie and veteran mountain-goers alike, this supplement combats the devastating effects of altitude sickness while helping you acclimate faster by increasing overall oxygen delivery to the body. It’s a worthwhile investment in your mountain health.
6. LaCrosse Atlas
Protect your feet and navigate daunting terrain in comfort with the all-new Atlas boot from LaCrosse. Available in uninsulated models as well as those filled with 400-gram, 800-gram and 1,000-gram PrimaLoft insulation, elk hunters are never without options. The Atlas features a blend of premium rubber, leather, and textile to provide bowhunters with season-after-season of durability as well as a secure, blister-free fit. Delivering added performance when trekking across uneven terrain is the DuraFit molded rubber heel cup. Boosting durability and reinforcing the boot’s front is a rubber toe cap. In addition, every Atlas boot features Dry-Core waterproof lining and a LGX LaCrosse rubber compound that creates an outsole designed to grab even the slickest terrain.
7. Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls Select “A” Bull Elk Calling System
Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls Select “A” Bull Elk Calling System Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls
Many a bull has succumbed to the sweet-talking nature of Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls. Designed by those that dominate the woods and the competition stage, RM calls are engineered to do one thing: call elk in close. A bugling masterpiece, the Select “A” Bull Elk Calling System boasts RM’s Tone Selector—a dial that allows the hunter to select the desired (small, medium or large) tone by using true back pressure. Other notable features include the 23-inch expanded and 17-inch collapsed outside tube design. Collapse the tube when in transport and when it comes time to tickle some ears, stretch it out. The Tube Tamer coupled with the Conqueror external mouthpiece mean exceptional sound quality. The Conqueror mouthpiece is ideal for novice callers, while sage elk goers can easily remove the mouthpiece and use their favorite diaphragm to call bulls in close.
8. MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Tent
MSR knows few things are more important to the backcountry elk addict than their chosen shelter. That’s why this savvy manufacturer updated its popular Hubba Hubba NX Tent for 2019. Compact and lightweight, MSR boosted the tent’s overall durability while keeping the maximum space design that showcases a pair of side-entry vestibules ideal for storing gear. An Xtreme Shield Waterproof Coating has been specifically formulated to resist fabric stickiness and last up to three-times longer than other waterproof coatings. Because few know aluminum like Easton, MSR chose to go with Easton’s Syclone Poles, which are made from virtually indestructible aerospace composite materials. The Hubba Hubba NX is also available in solo, three- and four-person models.
9. Coast FL78R Headlamp
Treks up and down the mountain after the sun has traded places with the stars shouldn’t be a daunting task. Enter Coast’s FL78R Headlamp. In high-output mode, this lamp produces 530 lumens and posts a run time of two hours and 15 minutes (on high). Dual power means this headlamp can run on a charged battery pack or standard alkaline batteries. Impact- and weather-resistant, the FL78R is capable of producing a wide, white flood beam, which can quickly be altered via a twist of the bezel. Red LED and green LED modes can also be toggled between.
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10. Black Diamond Mountain Series Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I used to scoff at trekking poles. Now I won’t go into the woods without them. Part of Black Diamond’s Mountain Series, Ergo Cork Trail Trekking Poles measure 29 inches collapsed and quickly extended to a max length of 55 inches. The angled natural grip has been updated for 2019 and features a soft-touch top for better handling. The cork grip wicks away hand sweat as well as moisture provided by Mother Nature. Double FlickLock adjustability—easy to open and close buckles on the poles—makes adjustments quick, quiet, and ultra-smooth.
11. Garmin inReach
Yes, I know the goal: To come out of the mountains toting a meat-laden pack. It’s a great personal goal and one you should strive to fill, but truly, it shouldn’t be the most important one on your list. You have loved ones at home—family members and friends—counting on you to return. You can have the best the gear in the world and still end up in a life-threatening situation. The western mountains are no joke. They are awe-inspiring one minute and trying to kill you the next. When the unthinkable happens and you need to get out of the woods in a hurry, you’ll be thankful you heeded this advice and purchased Garmin’s inReach Mini ($350) before heading out on your backcountry excursion.
This small handheld device allows for two-way text messaging via a 100 percent global Iridium satellite network. In layman’s terms, no matter how far off the grid you get, this rugged, featherlight device will put you in contact with another human. Plus, at-home loved ones can track your daily movement patterns and know where you are at all times by logging into your account. The device is also fitted with an interactive SOS trigger, which can be pushed in the event of an emergency to have rescue personnel dispatched to your locale.