Unless you have a late season elk tag burning a hole in your pocket, the 2012 hunting season is pretty much in the books. This is a depressing time of year for most elk hunters, myself included. Snow has covered much of the landscape and we long to be in the mountains again during the magical month of September. Look at the bright side; it’s a great time to take a hard look at the gear you used this past fall, to see what worked and what needs to be replaced or added. I go through this process every year so I can continually improve my gear.
I always tell myself before I leave for a hunt, if I have my archery tackle and my tag, then I can make do. Over the years, however, I have created a comprehensive checklist of gear that I take afield, depending on which type of hunt I am going on. Obviously, a base camp hunt will require slightly different gear than a backcountry bivy hunt. I’m sure many of you have created a similar list that you rely on to make your hunt successful. I currently use an Eberlestock J34 internal frame pack and have created a key to remind myself where to stow my gear for the most efficient use of space and load balance. There are two gear items on my list that I consider “MUST HAVE” because they have made such a huge difference on my hunts.
The first is my boots. I log a ton of miles scouting and hunting elk, so it is imperative that my boots fit well and can take a beating. I have worn a fair number of boots over the years, but the last five years, I have used Hanwag boots from Lathrop & Sons. I use the Mountain Light GTX boot for early season hunts and the Trapper Elite GTX boots for colder late season hunts. They fit like a glove right out of the box and are well-built. I love the stability of these boots when I am hauling a heavy load. Hanwag also has a do-everything boot in their lineup called the Alaska GTX. Elk101 has a special offer currently running where you can get $100 off the Alaska GTX boots and receive a free one-year subscription to Extreme Elk Magazine, while supplies last. Visit www.lathropandsons.com for more details. I bought a pair of the Alaska GTX’s at this great price and will start breaking them in this spring in time for serious business come September.
The second item I won’t leave home without is my lightweight puffy jacket made by Mont-bell. The actual model is the U.L. Down Jacket. The thing that makes this jacket so awesome is its warmth-to-weight ratio. The jacket only weighs 8 ounces and packs down to almost nothing. The 800 fill power goose down makes for an unbeatable insulation layer. There has been many a cool September afternoon that I have slipped on my “puffy” and it has made a world of difference as I patiently wait for the sun to set and elk to appear. http://www.montbell.us
One of several items I am researching for next season is the new Suunto watch called the Ambit. I have been wearing Suunto watches for the past several years because of their altimeter, barometer, and compass features. It has typically been a backup solution in case my Garmin GPS fails me. The new Ambit has all of these features, but also has a full function GPS with route and waypoint navigation. This new Suunto Ambit provides most of the functions of my GPS at a fraction of the weight. Additionally, it has advanced training functions like a heart rate monitor, so it can also be used for off-season workouts as well. The Battery is rechargeable and run time is advertised at 15 to 50 hours depending on the mode functions being used. Pricey bugger at $500 retail, but certainly one to keep an eye on. http://www.suunto.com
Most of the time, I travel to and from my elk hunting areas in the dark, so a reliable headlamp is a must. I have had good luck with the Princeton Tec EOS. This is an 80 lumen lamp with a burn time of 121 hours using 3 AAA batteries. Weight on the EOS is 105 grams. It has been bullet proof so far.
Recently, I was also looking at Princeton Tec’s new lineup of headlamps. They have a new model called the Remix, advertised to pump out an impressive 100 lumens and 200 hours of burn time using the same 3 AAA batteries. This headlamp weighs in at 83 grams. It appears this new model is brighter, lighter, and lasts longer than my old EOS standby. I like the fact that the Remix has one Maxbright LED for longer range spotting and 3 smaller Ultrabrite LEDs for shorter-range tasks such as setting up a tent or cooking. All Princeton Tec headlamps come with a 5-year warranty. http://www.princetontec.com