Brady Miller's backcountry hunting gear list breakdown - revisited for 2017
Gear lists. They are something I obsess over and try to evolve each season. What makes it into my backpack are tools that I feel will help me succeed. From the clothing to the footwear, and all the way through the optics, weapon and food list. Just like all the gear lists I've built over the years, each one helps me see the bigger picture of what I'm carrying on my back and what I can and can't live without. Everyone has some form of a gear list, some might be chicken scratch on a notebook, others use charts on a computer, and then there is the throw everything on the floor and see what will or will not fit in a backpack method. Without a gear list, items will either get overlooked, or you will take more than you need.
My current 2017 gear list that I created is what I would carry for an above timberline mule deer bowhunt in August and September. Even though this gear list nails down everything I need on a hunt, weather ultimately plays a huge part in what I take. So, at the last minute I might need to add an item to ensure I am safe on the mountain. I like to say that I never carry extra gear or clothing that I'll not use. This can only be learned from experience. To do this, it’s best to utilize a quality weather service that you trust before heading out for a week or more of backcountry hunting. Keep in mind, that your clothing is a layering system, you can always add or subtract layers when you are hunting.
Even though the main purpose of my gear list is focused around ultralight gear, I still carry a minimum amount of safety items and gear that ensures I can survive in pretty much anything that Mother Nature throws at me. I do carry a few backups, and over the years, even those are starting to get smaller and smaller.
I have stated this before on other articles and podcasts, but my gear list is and always will be a living and breathing document. I have modified my gear list so many times over the years (and the pile of gear I no longer use is stacking up). My personal gear list archives are revised periodically when I find new gear that I feel are essential for the hunt. If I don't trust a piece of gear, it will not make this list. I understand the balance between ultralight, safety and success. I also have several versions of my gear list for different hunting situations: early, mid and late seasons. Along with that I also create truck/hotel camping versions too. That way I know what I'm carrying and know what I'm packing.
I'm going to try to keep the text down in this article, but if you want to hear more on my gear philosophies, you can check out my 2016 gear list article here.
Below you will find a downloadable Excel link for my perfected 2017 gear list:
Just like last year, this Excel spreadsheet breaks down every category of gear: the ounces, pounds and even price per item. What I expanded on this season was an area where you can get even more detailed information on your food.
The price per item...
I list the price per item due to managing my personal hunting budget. I want to know what areas I could spend or save more money on in order to shave weight if needed. Yes, if you're starting from scratch, a gear list for a backcountry hunt can be very expensive, or relatively cheaper. That is the beauty of backpacking. You can get by with any amount of gear, it's up to you as the hunter to to figure out what works best for you. Backpack hunting is my favorite style of hunting... so my hunting budget goes toward this.
Expanding on gear related data
The pie charts in the Excel gear sheet also provide a great visual to see what category are your heaviest, which is helpful for cutting weight. Everything you enter in the spreadsheet will be automatically added to the summary tables and the pie charts. I highly suggest saving a backup copy just in case you make a mistake and erase some formulas. It's also a great idea to make multiple copies of this gear list; one for the early season, one for October hunts, and one for November hunts. Or maybe even a mule deer gear list and an elk gear list because they are totally different beasts in terms of gear.
You will also notice a section on my gear list under the " Function" column in each gear section. I use the letter "p" to know that I have that item ready to place in my backpack. That is sort of my checklist section. I've also kept the spreadsheet unlocked so you can edit the entire document. I'm very proud at how my gear list charts have evolved over the years. It seems each year I find something else to add to this Excel spreadsheet.
Currently my full backpack weighs 45.42 lbs and my full pack at the trailhead (weapon and water added) weighs 60.89 lbs. That total is for a nine day, eight night hunt. I do not like hiking with my binoculars on my neck when I am starting out on a hunt because I am normally hiking at night. So, if I wore those, my pack weight would be almost two pounds lighter.
Like every year, I definitely have areas I'd like to improve on. But... those changes will have to be made after I save up some more money.
How do I determine what makes it into my backpack?
I look for the best lightweight backpacking/hunting gear and if it will make me a better hunter or lighten my backpack without sacrificing something, then I might consider using it. A lot of lightweight gear nowadays is just as functional as the traditional heavy backpacking gear that might weigh double. So why carry more weight if less will do?
So what benefit does weighing out all of your hunting gear have?
If you were to ask me if I’m obsessed with ounce counting, I would probably say yes, but you will notice that in my list, some things I will sacrifice cutting weight to carry some items that I feel will increase my chances of success.
A lot of people will say that weighing out every piece of gear doesn’t matter. All they want is a gear list and if their pack is a little heavier, then they should just get stronger to handle the increased weight. I can slightly agree with that, but each step you're taking you are carrying that weight. Where counting ounces really comes into play is once you have an animal down.
I feel my gear list is a huge helping hand for someone just starting out, or looking to change up their setup.
Facebook Live video on my gear list
On Thursday August 31 I did a Facebook Live video on my 2017 backcountry gear list. You can check out that video below.
My 2017 A to Z Backcountry Hunting Gear List
You'll notice that my gear list is mainly focused around a mule deer hunter, but all of this can easily be adapted for elk hunters. Our gear needs might be slightly different, but you'll see similar patterns of necessities.
For me, a backpack needs to be lightweight, but at the same time it needs to handle weight very well and be able to take a beating. Lots of backpacks might “feel great” with lightweight loads, but when push comes to shove, they will destroy your body when you add an entire boned out deer. Keep that in mind when testing out new backpacks.
|Pack||Stone Glacier Sky Archer 6200|
|Stone Glacier Pack Rain Cover||3.50|
|Subtotal (ounces)||87.48 oz|
|Subtotal (pounds)||5.47 lb|
For 2017 this is one of the areas I made huge improvements on. I went from a 4.68 pound sleeping kit to a 3.74 pound kit. I cut this weight by switching to a Sea to Summit Ember EB I Quilt (19.06 oz. for a large) and switching to a Klymit Inertia X Lite (6.10 oz.). I believe I can cut a little more weight here, especially if I can get ahold of a 950 fill down quilt and maybe even running a tarp and floorless system and maybe even ditching my Polycryo ground cloth. But at 3.74 pounds with everything in the photo above. I'm very happy with the setup.
A lot of unnecessary pack weight can comes from this section. I feel people are overkill on carrying extra cold weather items. I’ve seen a lot of people pack 0° and even 10° sleeping bags in the backcountry for August or September hunts. Those sleeping bags are not only heavy, but can cause you to sweat at night. My philosophy is I already carry a down jacket and other layers, so if I get cold I can just wear extra base layers. If you’re going on a September hunt and the weather is looking pretty rough, you could always add a silk sleeping bag liner. Most weigh under 5 oz and can add roughly 9 to 10° of warmth.
My entire camp kit is pretty basic. I’m sure I could go a little lighter if I ran just a tarp. But I like to be prepared for a little more weather. This camp kit has served me very well for multiple 9-day backcountry hunts where I've faced weather from extreme heat, to rain, to hail, and finally to snow.
Overall, this whole kit still weighs less than most two person tents.
|Shelter||TarpTent ProTrail w/guylines||26.45|
|Stuff Sack||Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil XS|
|Ground Cloth||Polycryo Ground Sheet||1.60|
|Sleeping Pad||Klymit Inertia X Lite||6.10|
|Tent Pole||Easton 24" Tent Pole||1.04|
|Tent Stakes||Ruta Locura 6" Sorex Stakes||2.27|
|Sleeping Bag||Sea to Summit Ember EB I Quilt||19.06|
|Stuff Sack||Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil XXS|
|Subtotal (ounces)||59.87 oz|
Clothing section is something that constantly gets modified. It might be due to weather, or a certain type of mountain environment. If you remember last year, I mentioned completely eliminating soft shell jackets from my system. Being able to eliminate the softshells and use these synthetic layers with a combination of my other layers that I am already taking and still be warm and comfortable.
My primary insulation piece for my this season is the SITKA Kelvin Active Jacket or the SITKA Kelvin Lite Hoody. My decision on which to run all comes down to what weather I'll be expecting. Both of these insulation layers can compress really small if needed due to the PrimaLoft synthetic insulation, which also gives incredible warmth without a ton of weight.
When I'm running my ultralight sleep system and the temperatures drop, the Kelvin jacket series becomes an essential part of my sleeping system by adding a lot of warmth rating to my Sea to Summit Ember EB I Quilt.
|SITKA Core Lightweight|
|SITKA Jetsream Beanie|
|SITKA Ascent Cap|
|Arm Sleeves||Under Armour Arm Sleeve||0.55|
|SITKA Ascent Glove|
|SITKA Traverse Glove|
|SITKA Core Midweight|
|SITKA Kelvin Active|
|SITKA Flash Pullover|
|SITKA Dewpoint Pant|
|Subtotal (ounces)||84.45 oz|
|Subtotal (pounds)||5.28 lb|
I like to keep the clothing/gear I wear pretty simple. The biggest thing for me is to keep one shirt as scent free as possible. What I mean by that is to save one of your shirts and use it for only stalking in close on animals.
|SITKA Ascent Shirt|
|SITKA Ascent Pant|
|Belt||SITKA Stealth Belt||2.40|
|Footwear||Lathrop & Sons Mountain Hunter|
Elite w/Synergy Footbeds
|Darn Tough Merino Hunter|
Boot Full Cushion
|Leg Gaiter||Outdoor Research|
|Underwear||SITKA Core Silk Boxer|
Trail Ergo Cork
|Subtotal (ounces)||129.01 oz|
|Subtotal (pounds)||8.06 lb|
This section is my heaviest area, but one of the most important. You can't kill a buck unless you find a buck. So packing 10x, 15x and an 85mm spotting scope is well worth the added weight in my opinion. This is alway why I'm an ounce counter. I can cut weight in other areas... so I can pack more weight in others. If you want to dive into more on the subject of what combination of optics to carry on a hunt, you can check out my recent article here: Why carrying multiple are essential for locating more deer.
|Zeiss Victory DiaScope|
|Binoculars||Zeiss Victory SF 10x42 in|
Marsupial bino case
|Binoculars||Zeiss Conquest HD 15x56||48.03|
|Rangefinder||Leupold RX-1000i TBR||7.92|
|Lens Cloth||goHUNT Spudz||0.30|
|Tripod||Slik 624 Pro CF w/|
Vanguard PH 111V
2-Way Pan Head
|iPhone 7 plus w/Phoneskope||10.14|
|Subtotal (ounces)||223.42 oz|
|Subtotal (pounds)||13.96 lb|
For all general purposes, I am going to be talking about the items I need for a bowhunt. I’ve talked about my setup before, but basically, I take the precision side of target archery and turn it into tools for bowhunting. My entire bowhunting setup is listed in the table below. My total bow setup weighs 9.56 pounds. I'd prefer to add more weight to my bow if it will help me to be a better shot. So I do not sacrifice weight here.
|Bow||Mathews Halon X||-|
|BeeStinger Premier Plus 12" V-Bar|
w/ 2 oz Pro Hunter Maxx weight
|BeeStinger Premier Plus 10" V-Bar|
w/ 16 oz Freestyle weights
|Arrows||Black Eagle X-Impact 250 Spine w/|
Q2i 4 Fletch vanes
|Quiver||TightSpot 5 Arrow||-|
|Rest||Hamskea Hybrid Hunter Pro Microtune|
|Sight||Pure Driven 75 Single Pin|
w/ 6" dovetail
|Broadheads||Muzzy Trocar x 5||-|
|Release||Hot Shot 4 Finger Eclipse||3.47|
|Bow Sleeve||goHUNT Bow Slicker Bow Sling||6.40|
|Subtotal (ounces)||163.20 oz|
|Subtotal (pounds)||10.20 lb|
This gear section is pretty bare bones. It encompasses my water purification, kill kit, GPS, satellite messenger, cell phone, glassing pad and a few archery backups. I know I could probably get rid of the GPS unit and use my phone as a GPS while utilizing various apps, but I'm still uncomfortable with the idea of using a phone as a stand alone GPS unit.
|Z Rest cut into small section||2.00|
|Release, D-loop cord, nock,|
sight tape, Allen wrenches
|Stuff Sack||Mini ZPacks Cuben Fiber||0.13|
|GPS||Garmin GPSMAP 64s||7.21|
|Battery Pack||goHUNT Dark Energy|
|Chapstick||LipLipz Lip Balm||0.52|
|Wind Check||Smoke in a Bottle||0.60|
|Knife||Kestrel Knives Mountain Caper||1.02|
|Game Bags||Tag Game Bags BOMB||8.13|
|Aquamira in UL Mini Dropper||1.14|
|Water Container||MSR DromLite 6L||4.64|
|Satellite Messenger||Delorme inReach Explorer||6.67|
|Charge Cord||iPhone Charge Cord||0.65|
|Charge Cord||Cord for headlamp & sat messenger||0.44|
|Extra Batteries||4 AA Energizer|
|Food Hanging||Z Packs Z Line|
|Subtotal (ounces)||48.28 oz|
|Subtotal (pounds)||3.02 lb|
For 2017... this section of my gear list is only one item long. My blender bottle. By getting rid of my cook kit, I saved a total of 13.25 ounces! You can read more about that here.
|Subtotal (ounces)||5.30 oz|
|Subtotal (pounds)||0.33 lb|
My first aid kit is very basic: Advil, gauze pads, bandage netting, moleskin, toothbrush cut in half, ultralight toothpaste bottle, band-aids, tampon (in case of giant puncture), and a suture. I also have electrical tape and Gorilla Tape on my trekking poles for emergencies or for gear repair. Also, this gear list is based off an area that has bears. So I'm going to be carrying pepper spray which adds some weight to my pack. A weight that I'm happy to carry for safety.
|Bear Spray||Counter Assault|
|Z Packs Ultralight|
Travel Tooth Brush
|First Aid||Assorted First Aid Kit|
in aLOKSAK bag
|Toilet Paper||Toilet Paper in Ziploc Bag||0.52|
|Subtotal (ounces)||20.09 oz|
|Subtotal (pounds)||1.26 lb|
A food list is something I probably work on the most. To save some space, I dedicated a full article to my food list as well as a bunch of thoughts on my new food method for 2017, the stoveless method. You can check out that article by clicking the button below. But for a quick summary, I am at 3,222 calories
Hoser with neoprene sleeve
|GU Hydration Mix||6.3|
|Subtotal (ounces)||84.30 oz|
|Subtotal (pounds)||5.27 lb|
What I changed from 2016 to 2017 in my backpacking system
The biggest change from 2016 to 2017 was switching to a quilt, going stoveless for my food and the switch to SITKA Gear. Other than that I made small tweaks to different categories and some I even added a few pieces of gear.
Category by category comparison from 2016 to 2017
Pack: -1.51 oz in 2017
Sleep system: -15.08 oz in 2017
Clothing packed: +6.38 oz in 2017
Clothing/gear worn: + 43.15 oz in 2017
Optics: +6.03 oz in 2017
Weapon: +10.24 oz in 2017
Gear: +1.34 oz in 2017
Cook kit: -13.95 oz in 2017
Safety gear: +11.92
Food: -20.81 oz in 2017
Water: +6.30 oz in 2017
Note: That for the full pack trailhead weight this includes my bow. I prefer to start my hike by having my bow on my backpack. So I didn't want to confuse anyone by having my bow weight removed from that total. If you're the person who carries your weapon in your hand. Then just eliminate that weight from the Excel spreadsheet.
Overall I'm very happy with my current backcountry hunting gear list. The great thing about gear lists is they are a living and breathing document and always changing.
What I have developed over the years for my gear list has worked very well. Some items I've had since day one, others have slowly been upgraded. It’s amazing to look back and see what I used to hunt with and what I hunt with now. Technology has definitely changed.