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Contents of a Lightweight Backcountry Pack

Andrew McKean Avatar

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Could you survive for a week with just the gear you carry on your back?

That’s the premise for a lot of backcountry hunting, and the promise of a lot of lightweight gear that we do-it-yourself hunters rely on.

So this year, I decided to test the limits of my pack and my endurance. A Wyoming sheep tag was all the motivation I needed, and as you can see from this video, I decided to go minimal, keeping my payload to under 35 pounds.

I’m curious what’s in your pack – please comment below – but here’s a detailed list of my gear, and the weight for each piece:

1. Pack
This is Badland’s Sacrifice ( It weighs 4 pounds but features 3,800 cubic inches of capacity in an easy-toting steel frame.

2. Tent
I opted for a pair of tents this year. In the video, you’ll see MSR’s Solo Reflex ( It weighs slightly just under 2.5 pounds and is a great 3-season tent. But it’s also just a little too cozy for extended backcountry tenting, so I also used Easton’s Kilo tent ( At 2 pounds, 11 ounces, I didn’t give up much weight, but the 2-person design and expansive vestibule make this a great choice for hardcore hunting, especially if the weather turns and you have to spend extended sessions under nylon.

3. Sleeping Bag
My go-to early season bag is a 15-degree down bag by Brooks Range. Specifically, I like the Alpini. Total weight: 2 pounds

4. Sleeping Pad
One of the most remarkable lightweight pieces of gear in recent years is this NeoAir mattress from ThermARest ( It packs to the size of a Coke can. Total weight: 12 ounces

5. Clothes
Because I’d be hunting in early September, I went pretty Spartan on layers. In my cotton game bag (which triples as a pillow), I have two poly-prop shirts, long johns, a vest, and rain gear. Lots of Sitka layers here. Total weight: 4.9 pounds

6. Stove
I simply don’t think you can do better than the JetBoil (, specifically the self-contained Flash cooking system. A 1-liter pot and stove weighs 14 ounces, and with a fuel canister (another 8 ounces), you can boil 16 ounces of water in 2.5 minutes. Total Weight: 22 ounces

7. Food
I opted for freeze-dried vittles, specifically Backpackers Pantry meals. I’m a big fan of the shepherd’s pie and the chili mac with beef is pretty good, too. Each pack is about 10 ounces, and I packed 5 dinners, plus 5 lunches (ramen noodles, crackers, granola bars). Total weight: 4.3 pounds

8. Water
Here, I skimped just a little, knowing that I’d be camping in the glacial-watered high country. I packed only enough water that would fit in my 2-liter hydration bladder, and packed a filter for on-the-go refills. Weight: 4.4 pounds

9. Optics
I just can’t hunt effectively without a spotting scope, and even my slimmed-down 15-45x60mm Bushnell Elite ( weighs 26 ounces. I also packed a 10-power bino, for another 20 ounces. Total Weight: 46 ounces

10. Tripod
I’m a huge believer in the lightweight tripod system from Outdoorsmans in Phoenix ( I use the medium tripod with the pistol-grip head. Weight: 45 ounces

11. First Aid Kit
Just the basics, but included in here is a headlamp, batteries, firestarter, some rope, my water filter, a spare knife, and a roll of electrical tape. Weight: 23 ounces

12. Hunting Gear
Here’s where I struggled with weight. I like to take lots of elective gear, but I pared it down to the basics: a knife and sharpener, phone, satellite phone, camera, a GPS, and maps. Total weight: 30 ounces

Total Weight: 32.8 pounds

However, you may notice that I haven’t included either a bow and accessories or my rifle. When I shot this video, I fully intended to bowhunt my ram. But as I got closer to the season, I had a reckoning. Because this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime hunting opportunity, I wanted to give myself my best chance of success. So, to the above, add this:

13. Rifle
Forbes Rifle in .30/06 with Leupold VX-III scope. Rifle weight: 5.5 pounds. Scope weight: 14 ounces. 20 rounds of Federal 165-grain Trophy Copper: 22 ounces. Total weight of arms and armament_: 7.75 pounds_