backcountry hunting gift guide

Are all the trout—and deer and bears and turkeys—bigger in the backcountry? Maybe. Or, maybe it’s just that going off the grid makes everything seem bigger than life. Putting in the hard work, not to mention the long hours of planning, seasons a hunting or fishing trip in a way that rolling out of the truck for a quick walk to the blind just can’t match. But hunting and fishing far from the pavement requires light, uncompromising gear, with backcountry-specific design details. You can’t be rummaging through your gear, looking for a spotting scope, when a bull elk is about to cross the far ridgeline. You don’t want to shoulder a back-breaking pack, but neither do you want to wake up wet in a mountain downburst. Going light can’t mean skimping on toughness. Here’s a backcountry gear wish list that will make your adventure easier and more enjoyable. Just don’t blame us when you have to hump all that meat out of the wilds.

The HV stands for “high volume,” which relates to the increased interior tent space from the tent’s steep wall design. That’s a luxury when you want to sit up in the tent and pull on your camo. Even though the 3-season UL2 is billed as a two-person tent, it weighs but a wispy 3 pounds, 1 ounce, which is light enough to carry solo if you want to sleep with all of your gear inside. And getting it all in and out is a snap, thanks to large dual-zipper doors and double vestibules.

It’s a 2-in-1, really: A 5,250-cubic-inch gear hauler married to a freighter frame for humping out heavy heads and meat quarters. The pack bag wears multiple pockets for a spotting scope and other gear you’d want to get to in a hurry, plus a rifle holder so you can hike with both hands free. The Commander is a bit heavier than other packs in its class, but it’s a heckuva lighter on the wallet.

Even if you don’t want to hear about your niece’s new boyfriend on InstaFace, staying connected while you’re off the cell-service grid can give your family comfort about your safety. And if things really do turn south, the SPOT X will put you in touch with people who do things like fly helicopters and stem the bleeding in a sucking chest wound—good folks to have on speed dial. This device has a full keyboard and the ability to exchange messages with any cell phone or email address, with dedicated S.O.S. messaging. And thankfully, with SPOT X, month-to-month data deals mean you don’t have to sign an annual contract.

I’ve used the Go bottle to filter a drink from clear mountain streams and South Georgia blackwater creeks that gather their water from dark, dank swamps. This thing works. Fill it. Drink it. It’s that simple. The filter is rated to 0.2 microns, which takes care of giardia, cryptosporidium, and E. coli nasties, and the replaceable activated carbon capsule cuts down on funky tastes and organic chemical gunk.

You simply will not believe the cutting power of this 14.2-inch long folding saw, so don’t even ask if it’s worth the extra cost and the piddly one pound of added weight to your pack. Stuff it in the bag or strap it to the outside. It is light, unobtrusive, and works through wood like a pack of trained beavers. The saw comes in four different tooth designs, but go with the curved blade with extra-large teeth. And stand back.

Weighing just a few ounces more than a PBR tall boy, these backpack-friendly breathable waders still sport a 4-ply construction for toughness and features you’d likely find on full-weight waders. The waders roll down to dump summer heat, and there’s an external storage pocket, low profile seams for sneak-crawling along quiet waters, and an integrated tool dock and fly patch so you don’t have to tote a vest or sling a pack every time you want to hit a pool before breakfast.

The backcountry is just the sort of place where some folks might not want to lug a $900 rod. Think about it: Your pack raft flips… You take a tumble on a knife edge trail… You’re forced to beat raccoons off your food bag… This do-it-all rod does things a bit better on the heavier side of the fly ledger: It’s stiff enough to punch thumb-sized hoppers through a summer breeze and chuck heavy nymphs. You might opt for a softer rod if you’re only fishing headwater trickles, but for backcountry floats and larger streams, it hits a sweet cost-to-performance ratio for backcountry work.

onX • $0 to $120 onX

No wireless service is no problem with onX’s smartphone-based GPS navigation and mapping system, in which you can download maps with all your data—tracks, waypoints, the works—and access them anywhere you can get a satellite fix. The program is designed specifically for hunters in mind, with public/private land boundaries, names of private landowners, and a full vocabulary of hunting- and fishing-specific icons for map customization. And you can synch it across platforms, so plan your hunt on your home desktop, download to your phone, and you won’t miss a single honey hole.

For more Holiday Gift Ideas, see our Holiday Gift Guide.

Ultralight bolt-action rifles are all the rage these days, but the extreme weight savings frequently comes with a heavy price tag. Not so with the Kimber Hunter Black. It uses the same action and barrel as higher-priced Kimbers, with the same guaranteed sub-MOA accuracy, but it weighs a backpack-friendly 5 pounds, 7 ounces. The Hunter Black stainless-steel barrel and receiver is clad in a proprietary matte black finish, and comes laid in a brown synthetic stock. Pretty it ain’t. But it is a deadly rifle, and a super choice for going into the boulders, brambles, and big unknown of the backcountry.