The Best Backcountry Hunting, Fishing, and Camping Gear of the Year
Whether your packing in for elk or trekking for trout, here's the gear you need
There’s nothing like walking far enough into the backcountry to leave everything else behind. But if you want to walk out, especially with a load of mountain meat, you need the right gear. Not much on this list is cheap, but there’s a reason for that: The hinterlands can switch from serene to downright dangerous in a matter of hours. By all means go, but go prepared.
LOWA Innox Pro GTX Mid
It’s tempting to bargain-shop for boots, but a quality pair that fits well is always worth the investment. That’s how I justified my new Innox Pros from Lowa, a lightweight (1.5 to 2 pounds per pair) version of the company’s existing GTX Mid boots. They’re nimble and comfortable enough to remind me of my running shoes while still providing the ankle support I need. The Pro isn’t a burly boot for packing out huge loads. It’s built for covering lots of rugged terrain quickly. —Natalie Krebs
Big Agnes Tiger Wall Tent 2 Platinum
It’s hard to know what to praise most about this tent: Its superlight 2-pound 4-ounce weight is a back saver. Even the most instructionally challenged camper can set it up easily. It’s large and comes with two doors and two vestibules that keep the rain, mud, and snow at bay. And its reflective guy-lines and webbing make it easy to find in the dark after a long day’s hunt in the mountains. —John B. Snow
Klymit Pillow X
A backcountry pillow is a luxury few want to pack, but Klymit’s new inflatable headrest is so insanely small and light, there’s no reason not to bring one along. It will inflate with just a couple of breaths to a 15-by-11-inch rectangle with 4 inches of cushion. An ingenious X pleating in the pillow helps keep your head centered instead of sliding off during the night. It packs down to a roll barely larger than a wallet and weighs less than 2 ounces. —T. Edward Nickens
Leki Micro Variant Carbon AS Trekking Poles
With carbon shafts and a new external locking system for superfast length adjustments, these lightweight trekking poles have a spring-loaded anti-shock tip that noticeably reduces impact force. Your wrists, elbows, and shoulders will thank you. Each pole weighs just half a pound and folds into a 15-inch three-section package small enough to stash in a fishing vest. Snap them back together for a full-size, full-strength pole to leverage on steep climbs, keep you steady on descents, and make stream crossings a breeze. —T.E.N.
FHF Gear Bino Harness Pro-M
My buddy Miles Fedinec, a longtime Western big-game guide, was wearing this harness while we were turkey hunting last spring. “What the hell is that?” I asked. “It’s the best bino harness I’ve ever used,” he said. And he’s used a bunch. Streamlined for easy on and off, this smartly designed modular harness can be fitted with a variety of attachments, including a pack-suspension system and holsters for a handgun, rangefinder, and bear spray. I’ll be wearing one this fall. —Will Brantley
Hoyt Carbon RX-3 Ultra
Backcountry bowhunters love Hoyt bows. Why? Because the company has long been the leader in carbon-riser compounds, which keeps weight at a minimum. Plus, Hoyt always offers these bows in a long axle-to-axle model, which adds stability for the longer shots common in the West and smooths out the draw cycle when you need to ease back to full draw on a wary bull. The new Carbon RX-3 Ultra is a perfect example—a 34-inch bow that weighs just 4.1 pounds, has an IBO of 334 fps, and is built to last, which brings us to the last reason: a proven reputation for durability. —Dave Hurteau
Mystery Ranch Metcalf
If you think this is a lot to drop on a pack, just spend a few days in the mountains with a bargain model on your back. The Metcalf’s rigid Guide Light Frame is constructed from lightweight carbon-fiber stays that flex with your body to make hauling heavy loads easier. The Futura Yoke adjusts to your exact torso length for all-day comfort. Empty, the Metcalf weighs 6.1 pounds and offers 4,333 cubic inches of storage space. The Overload system, located between the pack and the frame, can take extra gear, as well as the meat you worked so hard for. —Jace Bauserman
A chipmunk dinner sounds good if you’ve been lost in the mountains for two days. The new Wrangler is basically Ruger’s classic Single Six rimfire, but with a frame that incorporates aluminum alloy and die-cast zinc to save on cost and weight. At 1 pound 14 ounces, the gun is Cerakoted with fixed sights, making it mostly weather- and horse-proof. At this price, you won’t mind leaving it in your elk pack all season. —W.B.
Forget that it was designed by a saltwater kayak fisherman. The 9.5-inch Waterway makes a great mountain knife. The 4.44-inch blade is made of a new LC200N alloy, which is ultra-corrosion-resistant, hard, and tough. The drop point is perfect for camp cooking and breaking down game, and the textured G-10 handle won’t slip in bloody hands. —Michael R. Shea
Slumberjack Big Cot
At 35 pounds, you don’t want to hike one of these too far. But if you’re home-basing in a wall tent or doing a fly-in drop camp, this cot is just the thing. It sets up in seconds and sure beats sleeping on rocks. Plus, it’s roomy enough that you’re free to actually shift positions during the night, and it has a 500-pound capacity, in case you’re the type who mostly hunts close to camp. —W.B.
Nosler Mountain Carbon
Weighing just 6 pounds 9 ounces, thanks to its carbon-fiber barrel and stock, the new Mountain Carbon makes slogging up a scree slope less of a chore. The rifle’s balance is spot-on, and it handles like a fine shotgun. My test rifle, chambered in 6mm Creedmoor, turned in great accuracy with a variety of factory ammo. The solid two-lug M48 action is dead reliable, and the rifle’s elegant looks are enhanced by a high level of fit and finish. —J.B.S.
Most conventional flasks are too cumbersome for packing booze into the backcountry. Enter the foldable Flask2Go, a reasonably durable pouch that weighs next to nothing once you drain it. It holds 8 ounces (or five shots) of your favorite hooch. Which, you might argue, isn’t enough to last you a week in the wilderness. But worry not: That’s why they’re sold in pairs. —N.K.
MSR PocketRocket Deluxe Stove
The newest iteration of the trusty PocketRocket packs plenty of features without sacrificing the essence of the original stove: It remains compact and ultralight. And it’s handier than ever. For an extra .3 ounces (2.9 ounces total), you get a one-push igniter, a wider burner with a lip to block the wind, and a pressure regulator. Translation: You can light the stove with one hand—no need to pull out your Bic or set down your beer—and boil water faster in colder, windier conditions than ever before. —N.K.
Nikon Monarch 82ED-A Fieldscope
Serious backcountry hunters need serious optics, and the new Nikon Monarch 82ED-A Fieldscope is just that. The spotter’s extra-low-dispersion glass provides razor-sharp images with exceptional contrast, and the Field Flattener lens system ensures edge-to-edge clarity. Multiple layers of anti-reflective coating on all air-to-glass surfaces boost light transmission for spotting animals at the edges of daylight, and the long eye relief means you can stay behind the glass-etched reticle for hours. —J.B.
Alpacka Raft Mule
If you think pack rafts are just pricey pool floats, you’ve never tried one. Mine has gotten me into more adventures than any other piece of gear I own. I’ve used it to navigate everything from bass ponds to unexpected rapids during turkey season, but it really shines for big-game hunting. The raft is light, inflates in minutes, is customizable (e.g., dry cargo storage inside the tubes), and is the only boat I know of that’s suitable for backcountry scouting and hunting, and hauling out meat—besides a canoe, that is, but you can’t roll up one of those and stuff it in your pack. The company just introduced a new line with camo prints and hunting configurations—all made in the USA. —N.K.
Echo River Glass Fly Rods
Echo is making it easy to pack in an old-school soft-casting stick with its recent River Glass line. Each of these three- and four-piece fiberglass models is handmade, which is impressive considering the reasonable price. Measuring only 6 feet 9 inches, the 2- and 3-weight rods are perfect for making delicate presentations on everything from trickles you can jump across to sizable boulder-strewn pocket water. Bonus: The action of glass makes even small mountain trout feel huge. —Joe Cermele
Sitka Thunderhead Jacket and Pant
Mountain squalls can leave you soaked, cold, and miserable if you don’t have the right rain gear. The Thunderhead jacket and pant, part of Sitka’s spot-and-stalk line, are made with Gore-Tex laminate to keep moisture out, while the brushed polyester knit face keeps the garments quiet while you’re trying to slip in to bow range. A lot of “packable” rain gear is either flimsy or not that packable. This is just right; the jacket and pant combined weigh just 48 ounces and are sturdy enough to hold up to serious mountain weather. —J.B.
Garmin inReach Mini
Let’s hope you never need it, but if you do find yourself crawling through bear country with a broken leg, you’ll be very glad you sprung for an inReach Mini. This small, rugged satellite communicator allows for two-way text messaging via a global Iridium satellite network. In other words, no matter how far off the grid you wander, you can stay in touch with civilization. The unit also has an interactive SOS trigger, which will summon help and send emergency personnel to your exact location. Other features include downloadable maps, U.S. NOAA charts, and color aerial imagery. Data plans are sold separately. —J.B.
Simms Flyweight Wading Boots
For longer treks, you don’t want to hike in your wading boots, but you won’t think twice about carrying in these full-featured water kicks. A pair in size 11 weighs only 40 ounces. Synthetic uppers dry quickly and are abrasion resistant, and the stud-compatible Vibram Idrogrip sole is made of rubber specifically designed to grip when wet. —T.E.N.