Elk Hunting Gear List for Beginners — What Would We Change?

In what specific ways do new backcountry hunters tend to carry more gear than they need? Where is the greatest opportunity to simplify and lighten the load?

We see it over and over again. New hunters tend to overpack clothing and other "just in case" items. As Andrew Skurka said on one of our podcast episodes, we tend to "pack our fears". When you are new to backpacking and backcountry hunting, it is natural to think, "Well, this is only a few ounces. And that is only a few ounces. So I should probably just throw them in the bag." Those ounces become pounds, and as the saying goes... pounds become pain. On Episode 136 of the Hunt Backcountry Podcast we had the opportunity to speak with Chad from Backcountry Rookies. Chad is going on his first backcountry elk hunt this fall. On the podcast, Mark and Steve go through Chad's gear list, item-by-item, to ask questions and make suggestions that can help Chad lighten his load.

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Remember, the goal of a lighter pack isn't being able to flaunt how smart you are and great your gear is; the goal is to be able to hike lighter and longer, with more comfort, and therefore hunt harder.

Free Gear List Spreadsheet

Chad's Gear List

Take a look at Chad's original gear list below, which was discussed on the show, and then look at the specific bullet-point suggestions from Mark and Steve. (Chad's updated gear list is also included at the end of this article.) With some simple changes this year and affordable upgrades in gear over the next year or two, Chad will easily be able to shed over 10 pounds from his pack. It is also important to keep in mind that context matters a great deal. What might not be necessary for one hunt may be critical for another hunt, based upon a change in location, time of year, etc.

Chad's Elk Hunting Gear List

Changes to Consider

  1. With three merino tops included in the list, we'd suggest leaving out the short-sleeve merino top and relying solely on the First Lite Aerowool 1/2 zip and Chama Hoody. The half-zip will vent well enough that a short-sleeve shouldn't be needed.
  2. Currently there are two base layer bottoms on the list, which should definitely be reduced to one at the most. A base layer bottom may not be needed at all, depending upon the weather forecast.
  3. We would suggest leaving the vest out of the pack. The two merino tops on the list, paired with the puffy jacket, will be more than suitable for September. (Not to mention the rain jacket as an additional layer, if needed.)
  4. Two pairs of gloves is overkill. The fingerless merino gloves, such as the First Lite Talus, are perfect for September. We love them. The Shale Hybrid gloves, though, are overkill for archery season and won't be necessary.
  5. There's nothing wrong with using what you have, and budget is obviously limited for us all. Keep in mind, though, that upgrading shelter and sleeping bag will provide a significant weight savings. Your entire sleep system (shelter, sleeping bag or quilt, and sleeping pad) should easily be under 5.0lbs, which is the weight of this tent alone.
  6. Whenever purchasing out of state tags when you arrive in that state for the hunt, be 1,000% sure that you have everything you need to obtain that tag. In this case, Colorado requires hunter education identification/number, which some might overlook.
  7. There's nothing wrong with using these 12x50s if they are what you have already, but in general they're probably a bit much glass if archery elk will be your main pursuit. They'll definitely work though.
  8. Unless you're hunting super open country, and/or have specific trophy quality standards in mind which require you to finely judge the score of bulls from a distance, then leave the spotter and tripod at home. Dropping the spotter setup will also allow you to leave the Phoneskope out of the pack. A big total weight savings here.
  9. Packing both a solar charger and an external back-up battery is overkill. Leave one at the truck as a back-up. On shorter trips (less than a week), we recommend leaving the solar charger.
  10. We all have a list of gear we want. What's important is to prioritize the limited amount of money we have available for upgrades to make sure that we get the most benefit from those upgrades. Something like the communications device (Garmin InReach) should be at the top of the list. An upgraded quilt or sleeping bag will provide great weight savings and comfort. The Cirrus puffy would likely be overkill for the specific application of archery hunting, and we'd suggest the First Lite Uncompahgre instead; although the Cirrus does have its place for other conditions. Other items listed on the "want list" should take less priority.
  11. As discussed on the podcast, there are a few items missing on this list, which just happened to be oversight — stove/fuel, water treatment/storage, fire starter, etc. Always strive to have all of the necessary items on your gear/packing list so that you can cross reference your list as you pack for a trip and make sure nothing is forgotten.

After the show and our suggestions, Chad sent us an updated gear list, which you can view/download here...

Chad's Updated Gear List

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