I've been using the same gear for several seasons which makes my product highlight blogs seem redundant at times. I don’t need to reiterate the obvious items that you would never go without. I'd rather focus on a few items that were first-timers for me that may be overlooked or deemed unnecessary and therefore left behind. The following list made a huge difference and I couldn’t imagine not having every one with me. They're kind of like little nuggets of gold for your backcountry hunt.
Please note that we set up a base camp that we came back to each night. We moved this camp one time in the middle of the hunt to eliminate the 1 hour horseback ride we took several mornings in a row to get to the elk. With that being said, for those that like to keep camp on their back, some of these items shouldn’t be included for the sake of overall weight. If you’re going to have a base camp and pack in with horses, the little added weight will make a world of difference!
Luci Lights: inflatable, solar charged lights with 3 levels of brightness and a wonderful battery life. Lightweight, compact, & can be hung by either end. We used two in camp, but I’ll bring a third in the future!
Coin Towels: the size of a coin and more durable than a paper towel. Simply add a tiny bit of water and watch it grow, then pull apart and unroll. I used these to clean dishes, and as a replacement for toilet paper and tissues. They’re such a multi-use item and very affordable!
Soft-Lips Vaseline: my lips & knuckles were dry and cracking so I was thankful for this item, but it doubles as a fire starter too! Add some to the previously mentioned coin towels to get your fire started easily. Furthermore, don’t waste a new coin - dry out the used ones from washing dishes then burn them.
Hatchet: when my brother in law insisted that I take this, I had my doubts, but we used it for literally everything. Hammering tent stakes, breaking down firewood, digging a trench around your tent, making a ground blind, clearing the “floor” of your tent of any stumps, cow patties, etc, clearing trails for your horses, and if you’re fortunate enough to put an elk down, you can use it to break through the pelvic bone.
Goal Zero Solar Charger: we brought the Nomad 7 and the Nomad 7+ which each have their pros/cons, but if I had to pick one I’d recommend the 7+ for your next adventure - it seemed to charge quicker and it has 4 lights that indicate how much sun it’s getting in its current position. We were able to keep everything charged on these alone.
Platypus Water Filter: an awesome, efficient system that filters very quickly. Using a 2 liter filter, we kept our nalgenes & camelbacks full throughout our hunt. They offer different sizes depending on the consumer’s needs. I wish we would’ve had one additional big one to keep by our tent so we didn’t spend as much time filtering in smaller batches, but it certainly wasn’t a problem to have this size.
Sawyer Mini Water Filter: a great backup to put in your pack in case the camelback runs out and you’re further away from camp than you intended to be. It can be used in many ways, including the ability to attach it to your camelback as an in-line so you don’t have to filter the water going into the camelback in the first place.
Tarp: while this particular one is expensive, it’s multi-purpose and only weighs .5 lbs. Not all tarps are created equal. Many will stretch or the water will “sweat” through the material if you happen to touch the underside. This one does not do either. We created an A-frame for our gear & the horse saddles/blankets so that we weren’t crowding the tent. It can also be used as a floor or even to break down an animal. Tarps in general are a great tool, but do your research before purchasing one!
Cord: I cannot stress this one enough. We used the heck out of multiple thicknesses, from high lining horses to creating a pulley system for our food and trash (black bear preventive). We tied down gear on the horses and created the center line for the A-frame. Wayne even broke down some of the smallest chord he had to tie in his peep sight after it twisted on him. I’m no expert on brands, but Wayne has been training others for nearly 20 years in emergency rescue which heavily depends on quality. He recommends PMI. Again, while expensive, it’s incredibly dependable.
Bag liner: I’m not sure how something so light and thin can be such a game changer, but it’s definitely an overlooked item. Not only does it help to keep your sleeping bag clean, it can increase the degree rating significantly. Mine was for 25 degrees and I was so snug!