Gift Guide 2015: What to Buy Backcountry Hunters for the Holidays

Read on for a dozen spot-on products that will answer any backcountry hunter’s hardcore gear requirements.

Backcountry hunters have high expectations of their gear. It must be light enough to carry for miles over rough country. It must be strong and versatile to endure for multiple trips. And it must be dead-nuts dependable, because there are no outlet stores above treeline. Most backcountry hunters are so particular about their gear that shopping for them can be a nightmare. Many spouses and friends spring for a gift certificate instead of a specific product. But if that’s not your style, here are a dozen spot-on products that will answer a backcountry hunter’s specific, hardcore gear requirements. Photograph by Matt Arkins
Lowa Tibet GTX boot / $380 Waterproof, breathable, and supremely comfortable, this mid-height boot will take the scuffing of alpine granite and the grind of off-trail trekking and barely look used. The wrap-around rubber rand protects the breathable Nubuck leather, and the lacing system allows for a variety of cinching options. The Vibram Masai sole is grippy and durable.
Camp Chef Stryker 100 Isobutane Stove / $68 Weighing just a bit over a pound, this high-output burner, insulated cooking pot, stand, and lid answers the question about how to cook at elevation: simply boil water. The unit will boil a half liter of water in about two minutes, and the whole package (including fuel canister) fits into the 1.3-liter pot. Add dehydrated food, and you can easily carry multiple days’ worth of meals and scarcely notice the weight, though you may be jonesing for a ribeye when you reach the trailhead.


<strong>Superfeet Trail insoles</strong><br /> <em><a href=""></a> / $30</em> Backpacking hunters should use these insoles for the same reason distance runners do: for their shock absorption. The Trail model has a couple other purpose-built features for hunters: moisture-wicking synthetics, integrated charcoal that promises to neutralize your feet’s game-scaring stench, and light weight that won’t weigh you down on the trail.


<strong>Capture Bino Optics Holster</strong><br /> <em><a href=""></a> / $70</em> Get rid of all those elastic straps and trusses, and carry your binocular with this lightweight, compact, strong, rigid docking station. The bayonet mount screws into the tripod mounting screw hole (typically found in the front of a binocular’s hinge), and then clicks into the holster, which can be attached to any backpack strap, waist belt, or other strap up to three inches wide. Unlock the optic with the push of a button and your bino is in your hands, free to glass at will. This strong, smart unit is the future of optics carriage.
Mystery Ranch Pintler Pack / $400* Montana-based Mystery Ranch is getting set to introduce a new line of packs, all built around the company’s Guide Light frame and weight-hauling Overload Shelf. The 5.2-pound, 2,500-cubic-inch Pintler isn’t the biggest pack, but it’s sized right for 2-3-day trips, and the frame and shelf allow successful hunters to pack out a prodigious amount of meat and antlers. * New product; pricing is estimated


<strong>SPOT Gen3 Emergency Beacon [Sponsored]</strong><br /><em><a href=""></a> / Unit is free with either $100 or $150 annual service subscription</em> All the gear and success in the backcountry doesn't amount to spit if you never return. This satellite-connected beacon is designed to allow users to communicate with loved ones back home (to tell them you are fine) and with search-and-rescue teams (to tell them you are not fine). The SPOT unit is customizable, allowing users to detail messages that recipients will receive with the touch of a button. And premium packages allow for step-by-step tracking so you (or anyone you designate) can follow your trip in real time or when you return. The 4-ounce unit packs into a small pocket, but will bring rescuers to your specific coordinates when you summon them.


<strong>Sitka Kelvin Down Ultralight Jacket</strong><br /> <em><a href=""></a> / $289</em> Backcountry hunters prepare to move, but the reality of hunting the high country is that you’ll spend more time on your butt and behind your optics as you glass and assess distant game. You need clothes that won’t slow you down as you move, but that keep you cozy as you sit, and this light, packable, warm jacket from Sitka answers both needs. The piece weighs only 10.5 ounces, and thanks to 70 percent moisture-resistant goose down (the remaining 30 percent is PrimaLoft synthetic down), it compresses into a tiny package inside its own breast pocket. Worn alone, it’s toasty, but under a wind-stopping rain jacket, it becomes a core-heating furnace.
Kuiu Super Down Glassing Mitts / $100 Winter in the backcountry is ignorant of the calendar. Sub-zero conditions can come as easily in July as in November, and your extremities feel the cold long before the rest of your body. That’s why Kuiu’s Glassing Mitts are essential gear in my backcountry pack. Filled with Toray Quixdown, the mittens will keep hunters’ hands and fingers toasty even in the frigid wind that strafes the alpine basins where wild sheep, mountain goats, and adventure live. The treated water-repellant fill will keep its loft and continue to warm even if it gets wet.


<strong>Voormi Alpine Terra Baselayer</strong><br /> <em><a href=""> </a>/ $129</em> You know two things: that wool is the super fabric for hunters because of its durability and scent- and wear-resistance. And that camouflage is required to get eyelash-close to animals in the wilderness. Problem is, most camo patterns are printed, and the process that lays down the hunter-hiding pattern can be overly bright. This wool product from a new Colorado company weaves the pattern into the material, muting its visual signature but retaining all the hard-wearing qualities of the material. I’ve been wearing this base layer for two months of hard hunting, and it’s held up to all the abuse I heap on it.
Knife Art Quick Draw Knife and Sheath / $225 Backcountry hunters come in two flavors: those who carry a light knife for every purpose, and those who carry a single do-it-all blade. This clip-point sheath knife is for the latter group. It features a 3-1/4-inch blade of D2 steel, a green Micarta handle, and a versatile Kydex sheath. The 5mm blade can handle hacking, digging, and other camp chores, and still quarter and bone out an animal.
Illustrated National Parks Posters Book / $50 Your love of the backcountry may revolve around the animals you can hunt there, but there’s more to wilderness than hunting. This new coffee-table book by Nashville-based Anderson Design Group is the title of the season for those of us who love America’s most special places: its national parks. Designers re-imagined classic posters of 59 iconic parks, and most feature the animals we pursue: bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, caribou, elk. Full disclosure: I contributed a sweet blurb to this book’s back cover.
New Ultra Light Arms Model 28 / $2,900 The 28 in the model name refers to the weight, in ounces, of the action of this durable lightweight rifle. For Melvin Forbes, the godfather of the mountain rifle who makes actions as light as 20 ounces, this is a heavy gun, but I will sacrifice a few ounces (the unscoped gun weight right at 6 pounds) for the reliability and handling of this rifle. I have it in .30/06, and it’s accurate, balanced, and a delight to shoot. It’s pricey, but given all of Forbes’ work on every model that ships out of his factory, this amounts to a custom rifle.

Read on for a dozen spot-on products that will answer any backcountry hunter’s hardcore gear requirements.