My 2014 Elk Hunting Gear List

In just a few short weeks I’ll be headed West, toward the Colorado backcountry.  This “style” of this year’s will hunt will be much like I planned last year – we are going to backpack into the wilderness with a week’s worth of gear, and have no intentions of leaving the backcountry unless we are loaded down with elk meat.  We will establish a “backcountry basecamp”, but will move to a different area of the wilderness if needed.

Gear selection is obviously critical for this type of hunt, and I get a ton of questions about what I bring for this type of trip.  I have posted my list for this year below, but to learn more detail about the philosophy behind much of this gear, please refer to these previous posts…

My 2014 Gear List

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Mark Huelsing is a regular guy with an irregular passion for bowhunting and the outdoors. Learn more about Sole Adventure or get in touch with Mark...

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  • Rob McConnell

    Our lists are almost exactly the same, only i have mostly Kuiu clothing. Quick comment. Last year i found that the Havalon was great for most of the field dressing, but found that when breaking joints and other less delicate tasks i needed another solid blade knife. Are you planning on bringing another? Also, why no scope? Are you going to hunt elk and deer? Cant wait man!!

    • SoleAdventure

      I’m on the fence about another knife. I use the gutless method, so there isn’t do much “heavy” knife work involved. I don’t have a spotter for this trip (which is elk only) for a few reasons… a) the area is relatively thick and doesn’t provide a ton of glassing opportunity, b) we are going a bit later in the season, so the bulls are more likely to be in rut-type of behavior instead of just hanging out high and on a feed-bed pattern, c) trophy quality isn’t all that important to me, so long-range judging isn’t critical.

      • Tucker

        Nate Simmons Youtube ‘Gutless Method’. LoneWolf Drop Point for me.

  • Tucker

    I’ll be in GMU 81 for 8 days. I’m at 51.8 lbs now but considering the extra set of cloths I’m taking. I also read some reviews where a fuel canister is only good for about 16 burns for water, and I’m planning on eating the Mountain House breakfast skillets for a hot breakfast, that’s 8×2, so I packed an extra one. I’m also bringing a 4L Playtpus along to my spike camp. Anxious, nervous, excited, ready.

    • SoleAdventure

      Fuel usage can vary in a lot of ways (elevation, temperature, etc.), so if you’ll be close to the estimated limit it’s always best to carry the extra canister. I only have one because I don’t heat breakfast (except quickly warming coffee on some days), and my hunting partner will have an extra can; so between the two of us we’ll have three cans, which will be plenty. “Anxious, nervous, excited, ready…” Same here!

  • Tucker

    Any thoughts on a handgun? I’ve been told that once you hike in Colorado, ‘You’ve been stalked by a cat’. I’m probably bringing a 9mm, but a compact model.

    • SoleAdventure

      I’m always torn on bringing a handgun or not. I consider it mainly for bears, although I think spray is actually a better route (and my partner will have some). If you’re being stalked by a lion you won’t know it, and a handgun will be useless.

  • Donnie

    I’ve been looking at the Exo Mountain packs as well (thanks to you!!!). :) Anyway, I’m planning a similar type hunt for next year but I was thinking I’d need the bigger 5500 bag. Any insight?

    • SoleAdventure

      The 3500’s capacity is probably closer to 4500 when you factor in the lid and side pockets. I can fit a week’s worth of food/gear in there, but it is pretty full. You’ll see it in the soon-coming video. If you’re taking trips longer than a week, or don’t have lightweight/compressible gear, then the 5500 might be a better option. The weight difference between the packs is pretty negligible, and they both compress down really well.

      • adirondak5

        The 3500’s total is about 5000ci Mark , here’s a quote from Steve Speck on it ;

        ” Lid and main bag 3500, each side sleeve about 500 and then the stretchy fabric you can stuff pretty full to get another 500.”

        It is a lot of pack for the money and has been getting really good reviews , hope you get to carry some meat in yours this year .

      • Donnie

        Eagerly awaiting your video review!

  • Andy Bohnhoff

    If you are setting up a basecamp a few miles (or more) into the backcountry, thoughts on bringing a main gear pack and also a smaller hunting pack? 2 backpacks, espeically when one is fairly large, seems like a daunting task. But not sure I would want to be hunting each day with my large overnight bag.

    • SoleAdventure

      I’ve thought about carrying in an extra lightweight backpack for day hunts, but I don’t feel like it is worthwhile. The most important reason I can’t justify it is that I want to be able to start hauling meat as soon as I have an elk down. If I am miles from camp on a day hunt, and only have a lightweight pack with me, I’m not going to be able to pack much elk back to the camp (or trailhead), thus requiring an extra trip to go get my main pack. That’s a waste of time and effort. The Exo is under 5lbs, but can handle incredibly heavy loads, and the bulk of the back itself can be compressed down to nearly nothing.

  • Pete S

    I see you are using the Platypus Gravityworks. I’m thinking of getting one of those for my upcoming elk hunt but saw that you have to be careful not to let the filter unit freeze. I’m hesitant since below freezing temps are common overnight. Have you had any issues with that or do you take any precautions to prevent the filter from freezing?

    • SoleAdventure

      One option is to throw the filter element itself (which disconnects very easily) into a ziploc bag and bring it into your tent with you…or, if it’s really cold, you can keep it in the bottom of your sleeping bag.

    • Dave

      There’s two solution for freezing temperatures:

      Use a wide-mouth Nalgene bottle I have two 48 oz soft-bottles from them for winter-camping purposes. Just keep them in-between your legs. Why the wide mouth? If it freezes while you’re backpacking, at least it’s possible to get some liquid out of it. It kind of sucks to have a frozen Platypus bottle which has water at the bottom, but the lip completely froze over. Chemical filters such as MIcropur are often better than mechanical filters. The only problem with chemical is that they take several hours to kill even the nastiest viruses.

      The other option is to keep the filter in-between your legs in the sleeping bag. Pretty much mandatory in spring and autumn when temperatures drop below freezing at night.

      In the winter, it’s best to leave the filter behind altogether and just rely on boiling to kill any microorganism. Usually I start leaving my filters behind at home around mid-October until about May when the weather becomes reliable enough that I don’t have to worry about the filter being destroyed by forgetfulness in taking care of it.

  • ChadH

    Love the list. Just about the same as mine. I’m running the EXO 3500 pack as well, so is a friend. He figured out that our kill kits fit perfectly in the zippered access to the frame on the frame panel. I just take 5 TAGS bags and my Havalon knife, and stuff them down inside the frame. Works like a charm and frees up just that much more space, while making sure an item you won’t need until “the end” is for sure handy but not in the way.

    • SoleAdventure

      That’s a fantastic idea, Chad. I’ll have to try it out and see how it works for me. Thanks for sharing!

  • Kevin Washburn

    Just want to say I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your videos and commentary so thank you. They really lit a fire within me to get out of the camper and into the field more with some dispersed backcountry hunting. I wonder if you could recommend a pack that’s got size and functionality for around $200? Thanks again.

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Kevin. There’s isn’t really a “do it all” elk hunting pack for $200. Are you looking for something more for backpacking (hauling your gear in/out)?…If so, I would look for a good, used backpacking pack like REI, Osprey, etc. If you’re looking more for packing out an elk on that pack budget, then I would look at a simple, solid external pack frame.

    • Dave

      Within that budget range, only an antique Kelty frame could do the job. If you look around, you might get lucky and find an old packboard from Bergans– Alpinist model. It’s what elk-hunters used about 50 to 70 years ago. Makes no sense to buy it brand new since there are better models with more updated construction.

      Otherwise, one can find a used Arc’teryx Bora for that price. Popular in Alaska.

  • Dave

    Very nice list.

    For cooking, Kovea Spider and FireMaple 118T are bees’ knee of the moment in alpinist and winter-camping world. They are lighter than self-contained boilers and have a remote canister so they can be flipped upside down to work well down to about -25 F. I stopped using a JetBoil when I realized that remote canisters can be pushed into the minus grades with less weight.

    One can even make a simple hanging kit for the remote canisters too. Just get a simple 400mL, 600mL or 900 mL pot for autumn use and a 2L pot for winter use. Hell, a simple beer can (the lightest pot in the world) can be turned into a pot if one doesn’t mind “freezer-bag cooking.” Not a fan of FBC, since I like to have liquids in my system in autumn and winter.

    I would suggest using aluminium pot for melting snow though. Titanium is only really good for boiling water really quickly at a low weight-strength ratio, but since the heat distribution is uneven. melting snow will take longer with Ti compared to Al. Think my snow-melting pot is by Open Country and only costs $10.

  • Matt

    Hey Mark… Long time backpacker and backcountry hunter. Like many on here, I’ve enjoyed the detailed gear list – both for 2013 and 2014. Looking forward to seeing what you have on the 2015 list. I noticed a few changes between the 2013 and 2014 setup and had a few questions.

    1. I noticed you went from a Primos Micron to a Jetboil (and ditched the pot/cup). How’d you like this setup? Why the change? Plans for 2015?

    2. Are you sticking with the Sierra Designs Lightning 2 UL for 2015? Likes/dislikes about it?

    3. What “extras” did you add to the .7 ultralight Adventure Medical Kit?

    Thanks for all the posts, videos, and knowledge.

    Matt

    • SoleAdventure

      1) The Jetboil was faster and more convenient to pack/use. Wasn’t a massive change…the stove/pot/cup worked fine. I’ll continue to use the Jetboil going forward.

      2) Not sure. Might go back to the Mtn Smith tarp/tent that I reveiwed previously. The Lightning 2 is nice, but not perfect. I’m always wrestling with shelters…haven’t found my “ideal” yet.

      3) I removed some of what came in the AMK and added some little things like blister patches, meds, iodine tabs, etc.