Kentucky Elk Hunt: The Gear

As you know, I’m a gear junky! I love my gear and I love trying out new stuff and abusing stuff that I find works to make sure it keeps working. For this trip we were able to get deep into the property by truck so we didn’t have to carry camp on our backs. I love backpacking just as much as the next guy but backpacking just for the sake of backpacking when there is a hunt involved isn’t worth it. Having camp by the truck kept us well fed and well rested to hunt hard each day. For that reason I’ve divided up the gear from this hunt into two groups HUNTING and COMFORT. The hunting gear that I used all day covering ground and the comfort gear I used back at camp. Some of it is backpacking gear some of it isn’t but I’m going to run through all of the gear that impressed me on this trip!

HUNTING

Hawke

First up under hunting is my KUIU Gear. I talk about it a lot but that’s because it’s that good. Each new adventure is a new test and so far it’s made each adventure much more enjoyable because it simply functions better than anything I’ve used. On this trip I primarily used the KUIU Guide Pants, Guide Jacket, Guide Beanie, Merino Neck Gaiter and Bino Harness. I’ve reviewed the Guide Jacket and Pants previously so I’ll simply say that they continue to impress me in the areas of fit, function and durability. We walked, fell and crawled through some tough areas and the Guide gear did GREAT! The new piece that I used a lot on this trip is the Bino Harness. I’ll do a full review shortly but it is the best bino system I’ve used. The lack of elastic makes it super comfortable and keeps it from flopping around while moving. Using elastic bino straps I’ve about knocked myself out jumping down from a small legde and having the binoculars load the elastic and come flying back in my face.

Next up is the glass that went in the Bino Harness, the Hawke Optics Frontier ED 10×43. The glass is unreal. The Extra Low Dispersion glass means these things work amazingly well in low light and are immensely clear when there’s plenty of light. I’m not sure what else to say about them other than they work amazingly well with a fair price tag. They embody the value and quality I’ve come to expect from Hawke.

Since this hunt didn’t require us to pack camp in I wasn’t sure if my Outdoormans Optics Hunter Pack would be necessary aside from packing the elk out to the road to load it into the truck. So I brought it and on the first day used a different day pack that performs well to use until we get an elk down. After day one I decided to go ahead and switch over to the Outdoorsmans pack for my day hikes and I’m glad I did! The lightweight frame made it hardly heavier than my day pack and it’s comfort and ease of use made covering a lot of miles a lot more comfortable. This is definitely one of the most versatile packs. I’ve used it to pack in food plot supplies for whitetails, backpack in for a turkey hunt and as an day pack for elk. I also use it for hunt prep by hiking around some of the local hiking trails with 60 or so pounds in it. It’s yet to disappoint me. Full and much more detailed review coming soon!

Getting me sure of where I was on this trip was my Magellan eXplorist 350H. This is a new addition to their GPS line up that is designed specifically for hunters. It comes preloaded with most state GMU borders programed in. It’s small and easy to carry and it works really well. It has hunt specific features that can log your hunt and allow you to mark hunting specific way points along the way such as rubs, scrapes, scat and game cameras.

What it all comes down to is the boots. They ultimately control how your hunt goes. You have some really crappy gear and have a decent hunt but if you have sucky boots well you’re not hunting. For this hunt I grabbed a pair of Wolverine Bobwhite boots. What interested me most on these was how astonishingly lightweight they were but they still offered some insulation and they are waterproof. These boots were tested well beyond what they were designed for. They’re designed for covering some miles but not necessarily miles of climbing. While on some surfaces I wished I had a little more heavy duty boot overall I would have still stuck with the bobwhites because of the comfort and how light they are.

COMFORT

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What’s a camp without light? Dark, I guess but having reliable light when cooking and preparing for a hunt in the dark add quite a bit of comfort. For this trip I brought along two Zippo Rugged Lanterns. A lot of companies market products as rugged when they really just look rugged. Not the case with this lantern. It’s waterproof, it even floats if you toss it in a body of water. We tested this out in the rain/sleet and there were no issues. It can also withstand some impact. I dropped it from about 6 feet or so on a rocky mountainside at our first campsite and aside from a little scuff on the rubberized bottom it was just fine. The lantern has 3 brightness settings and an SOS setting. So it’s great no matter how much light you need. It runs off an internal lithium ion battery and comes with wall and car chargers. I don’t know exactly how long the batteries last but I used them for several hours each night for 4 nights and didn’t notice any signs of the light diminishing. If weight and space aren’t an issue you need a Rugged Lantern.

Now for some more portable light, the Noxx Explorer headlamp. I’ve been very impressed with Noxx products as they are great lights and they aren’t crazy expensive. The headlamp provides tons of light and like all Noxx products it has a slide focusing head that concentrates the beam to illuminate out to 200 yards. Plus it runs on regular AA batteries no searching for odd size batteries at the store. This light stays in my pack weather it’s backpacking for elk or day hunts for whitetail.

Our other source of light at the campsite was a nice campfire. For some reason someone had left a decent amount of cut wood near our camp so we had plenty of stuff to burn but we didn’t necessarily need full on logs. Luckily I had the Zippo 4-in-1 Woodsman. It offers a bow saw, hatchet, hammer and tent stake puller. We didn’t have a need for the bow saw but having all 4 tools handy in one item is great on a campsite. We used the hammer and tent stake puller for pitching our tents on rocky ground the first night and the hatchet made easy work of making reasonably sized fire wood.

There isn’t much out there that is more comforting than hot coffee when you crawl out of a tent and it’s in the low 20’s. I brought along some Nature’s Coffee Kettle products and they proved to be great! The taste of freshly brewed coffee is so much better than instant and with their brewing system being basically a plastic bag you can have that fresh coffee with very little bulk or weight in your gear. Plus, they roast all their own coffee and it just straight up tastes good. They’re definitely worth a look for some delicious and affordable coffee while camping.

Last but not least the Teton Sport Tracker +5 Sleeping Bag. The night time lows during our trip varied from about 40 to the upper teens so I was a little worried as to how the Tracker would perform with the colder temperatures. However, I had nothing to worry about because performed great! The Tracker isn’t super small or super light but it’s a great bag at an awesome price.

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  • eklumb

    I have an outdoorsman optics Hunter pack and have been very happy with it. This year I packed 70 lbs in over 4 miles and climbed roughly 1000 feet of elevation to elk camp. 3 days later I made 3 very heavy trips out. The pack preformed flawlessly and was comfortable throughout.

    • TheWilltoHunt

      Thanks for taking the comment on the post and glad you’re liking the Optics Hunter, Just a great pack!