• Aznealz

    I got nervous when I read the title of this piece. Turns out, it was unfounded. Good insights into the whole, way deep in, lightweight, multi day hunting experience. This is from another gram geek, OCD list maker. There’s a popular axiom amongst ultralight backpack hunters – Price, Quality, Weight. Pick any two – that by and large, holds up. I’ve had my share of good and bad gear choices and they usually reveal their performance with actual personal field experience.

    • SoleAdventure

      Ha ha! Yeah, the title is a bit misleading, but really I think most people underestimate the complexity and cost that can be involved with this type of hunting, and I wanted to shed some light on the gear issues.

  • Another post I really got into reading. It’s amazing how much weight you can shave off by spending tons of cash (or running from your wife when you tell her how much you spent). In all seriousness, you are right on. It does take careful planning and yes, i am like you – I like my lists… and revising them… and tweaking things and even when you go on the hunt there will be something you tweak. It isn’t a perfect science, but planning is fun!

  • Philip Peterson

    Question about those fuel canisters for the backpack stoves. I have wondered about how long they last? Been looking at getting one just does not seem like it would last very long.

    • SoleAdventure

      Good question, Philip. The conditions (elevation, temperature, and to some extent, wind) affect how much burn time you can get out of one canister. For a general estimate, some companies like JetBoil say that you can boil up to 12 liters of water one on canister. I’m confident I can make it through my trip with one canister, but I’ll probably be packing two just in case.

      • Rob Martin

        I get 4-5 days off the largest canisters. For ones that I take backpacking, I get 2-3 days. For a week long backpack hunt, I would take either 3 medium size or 2 medium and a small size canister. Yes it is extra weight and bulk. Disclaimer – I heat up a lot of water for coffee.

  • J Parkes

    Great advice, Most of us have budget constraints. I agree with Al, my wife would have a fit if I disregard the family budget to buy gear. My advice it to really do your research, shop smart, and purchase wisely.. Good equipment will last a long time, poor equipment wont last a season, even if it is in like new condition.

  • Matt

    I have a different view…being a backpack hunter. I agree its expensive and the endless gear will constantly entice you to buy more. However, outfit hunts even drop camps can cost more or the same. And if you have the gear…you can always do it again at a decreased cost…my suggested method for new comers is slowly get gear and do truck/guided hunts in the mean time. After all having good weather gear can work hunting whitetails in the east…big purchases like a pack can be saved for…and look for sales on others like tents and bags and stoves….your fitness will be the main thing to invest in…passed a lot of guys over the years with the best gear that makes you jealous but didn’t have the two feet and a heartbeat to make it deep and high to get it done.

    • SoleAdventure

      Actually, Matt, I don’t think we have a different view at all. I’m committed to backpack hunting as well, and I think that in the long run the “expensive” gear is a good investment. Which, as you mentioned, will allow you go at a decreased cost for years to come. I was just playing a bit of the Devil’s advocate with this piece, and making it very clear that someone who want to go an a (ie “single”) elk hunt, should consider paying up front for a guided hunt, or at least a drop-camp. Thanks for sharing your thoughts…good stuff there!

      • Matt

        OK, then I totally agree…yeah first time or one time only elk hunters will have a much better hunt with a guide…and safer too. BTW, lots of good stuff on your page.

  • Michael H

    I committed to a backpack hunt for my first elk hunt in SW CO about 9 months ago, thinking’ “yeah I can afford this, and yeah, I’ll have the time to get ready.” I was right, but literally, just barely. I leave next Sunday, and I’m just finishing up with my food list, and still tuning in the new bow. It’s as expensive and as time consuming as anything I’ve ever attempted. I wouldn’t change anything about it, but boy, the work is definitely up front.

  • Dave

    The biggest problem I have found with ultralight gears is:

    If it comes from a store, a) it is either not durable; b) expensive or c) it’s false advertising. For instance, Osprey advertise themselves to be lightweight, but when one looks at the specs, the weight haven’t really changed– the only thing which did change is the suspension system and “feels” lighter. Of course, such suspension is not necessary if someone manages to get their entire pack down to about 15 (summer) to 35 (winter) pounds including food and fuel.

    But I don’t see why a “lightweight” Asolo weighs 5lbs and costs $300 USD and tears easily, when a pyramid tent weighing only 12 ounces cost $150-$200 and stands up much better to the wind. The math doesn’t add up, especially when it comes to quality control. The problem with the latter is…

    If it is truly lightweight, it usually comes from a cottage industry and waiting list can be anywhere from minimum 4 weeks to about 3 years. Even then, the warranty is not always valid since some of those companies go out of business within a year or three after purchasing the product. KookaBay had this problem with their down-filled mattresses. It was supposed to polar-quality meant to be the lightest on the market while at the same time can be abused on expeditions. However, the whole operation was a one-man deal and the owner quickly got tired of doing everything himself and called it after a few years. He just couldn’t keep up with the orders and the the pressure. And there are stories like that all over– innovative ideas which fall into obscurity due to poor production-planning. I suspect this is a problem with most engineers: they have the smarts for designing a product, but they don’t necessarily know how to run a business or provide good customer service.

    A lot of the ultralight stuff are quite durable, and can stand up to abuse. Just ask Andrew Skurka who does long-distance wilderness treks after he got bored of trail-hunting. Most of his gears are much more heavily abused than the average backcountry-hunter, and they are affordable. The rumour is that he is taking up elk-hunting soon, and it would be interesting what his gear-list will be like and his critiques of some of the products on the market.

    To me, I don’t find ultralight gears to be expensive. Most of the popular mainstream products used by hunters are more expensive. But I think people are more eager to buy a Hilleberg Akto off the shelf than to wait a year and a half for a custom-made tent of the same quality which is a quarter of the price.

    Availability and customer-service is really what killing the cottage-industry. The other thing which is hindering the UL movement is people don’t like doing more with less. Like for instance, my girlfriend refuses to sleep in a floorless tent even though the Tyvek and polycro ground-sheets do a better job of preventing punctures and keeps the tent drier than the floored models. It’s too alien of a concept.

    She also doesn’t like the idea of replacing the packboard with a bikini external frame or even going frameless altogether and utilizing the closed-cell foam as a makeshift internal frame. She admits my backpacks are lighter, more comfortable and can carry heavier loads; but she think the stuff she can buy from North Face, Osprey, Eberstock and so on have more “solid construction”. Nevermind, there are bloggers out there who demonstrate those brands don’t stack up very well.

    • Dave

      TL;DR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) version:

      Most of the lightweight products don’t have staying powers, and most of the manufacturers are known to have nasty customer services. The vast majority of them are one-man or two-people operations. So, what is available today will no longer be available the year after. Most of them bankrupt themselves trying to stay competitive and being cheaper than the mainstream.

      The ones with staying powers (such as Stephensson’s) often have to increase their own prices after they realized they need to make a living too to stay in business, and can’t afford to hire more people or expand their production to bring the cost down.

      • Bill Macgeoghegan

        I think the biggest consideration is to focus on what allows you the best combo of proximity to Elk, ease of access, comfortable rest, and fun. I have camped out in winter conditions only to spend 90% of my energy camping not hunting. The focus should be on what gives you the best hunting experience and time to dedicate to it. That balance may be quite different for different people.