My Elk Hunting Gear List for Extended Backpack Hunts

Below you will find the gear lists for my 2013 and 2014 elk hunts. For some insight into what has changed, and why, please see this post.

My 2014 Gear List

If you don’t see the list above, please go here.

My 2013 Gear List

If you don’t see the list above, please go here.

  • How much and what kind of food are you packing in?

    • SoleAdventure

      Great question, Ben. In the list above I have simply set a rough weight estimate of 1.5lbs of food per day. I’ll be breaking it all down, but my food is built on Mountain House (and other dehydrated meals), Pro Bars, nuts, etc.

      • Hopefully you’ll be eating some fresh grilled elk steaks one night!

  • Wow, that is serious!!

    • SoleAdventure

      It has taken a lot of work to get things that light and simple; over-packing is far too easy. It’ll be interesting to see where the final list ends up.

  • Mark, I see where you have ‘lbs.’ listed. Are the other items you list in ounces?

    • SoleAdventure

      You got it, Al. I’ll add that designation to the list.

  • Philip Peterson

    Don’t forget your Wilderness Athlete drink mixes. After discovering them last hunting season, I will never go up without them again.

    • SoleAdventure

      They will be in the pack for sure, Philip!

  • What packs are you thinking of getting? I feel like that’s the hardest piece of gear to decide for myself – so many options and price ranges.

    • SoleAdventure

      I agree with you, Aaron – packs are one of the toughest decisions to make. There are many good options out there, but finding the right size, weight, price, and fit in one package is tough. For example, someone like Eberlestock makes some great packs but they just don’t fit me well. I was looking at the new Badlands Summit, but once I drop camp that would be a monster day pack. One of the best solutions for my needs would be the KUIU Icon, but it is spendy. I’ll definitely let you know what I end up going with.

      • Ya – I’m 6′-2″ and it’s difficult to find a “budget” hunting pack with functioning load lifters. I also have about a 30″ waist, so finding a pack that fits both my torso and waist is even more difficult. I’ll probably end up going the backpacking pack route like the REI XT 85, Osprey Xenith 88, or Gregory Baltoro 75, then switch out the waist belt. Do you know how much the Badlands Summit will be? Because I’m interested in it also. I’ve been told by many people on different forums to save up for a Kifaru Timberline, but it’s hard to dish out $600+ for a pack I’ll use maybe 7-10 days out of the year; it’s a little big for a whitetail day pack, and I love my Badlands Hybrid too much to give it up!

        • SoleAdventure

          I’m right there with you, Aaron. At 6′ 3″, so many of the packs just don’t fit me…at least not with functional load-lifter angles. I’ve thought about the REI XT 85, and it looks like a great pack. It is also a very good value when compared to many packs in the hunting market. I’m not sure what the Summit will be selling for, but I assume it will be in the neighborhood of the 4500, which was ~$400 MSRP. For a super-premium, do-it-all pack, I’m really liking the Icon system from KUIU, especially now that they have the interchangeable day pack option.

  • Aznealz

    Just read the list. All solid IMO. You’re almost more fastidious than I am, almost. Big fan of Lowa, it all starts with your feet. But everyone has different feet.

    Hopefully you’ll pack your backup release in with you rather than leave it in the truck. I learned, the hard way, that it can save a hunt. Is it an exact duplicate of your primary? Tough to readjust to different release times and configurations in the heat of the moment.

    Water. CamelBak or similar? CO and AZ ain’t MO. Water is your friend and essential companion. Stay hydrated. Especially at altitude.

    This is really exciting. I’m vicariously packing with you, although I wasn’t drawn for elk in AZ this time. Keep it up amigo. The Devil really is in the details.

    • SoleAdventure

      I’m extremely impressed with the Lowa boots! I may sneak the extra release in my pack…I’m pretty anal about keeping it safe and hanging on to it, but I guess you never know. I’ll be using Platypus bladders with a drinking tube kit, so it is kind of setup like a Camelbak. I’ll also have the Platypus gravity filter, which makes it easy to refill at any time. I’m honored to have you follow along for the trip, PLEASE feel free to keep adding tips and questions along the way!

  • Josh M

    Hey man, just wanted to say the list looks great! I’m a big Lowa boot fan myself. I have some older Renegades that are still my go-to shoe when it’s not super cold. One thing that makes a big difference with shoes that people don’t often think about is how light they are. Every ounce you can shed off your shoes is HUGE compared to other places when out backpacking.

    The only suggestion I can make at all is the sleeping pad. I have problems sleeping anywhere that’s not my bed, even motel rooms, so I also chose the Q-core since it was nice and thick. I’m a side sleeper too so it helps me not hit the ground. They just came out with an extra light version of the Q-core called the Super Light. I’m not sure what the weight savings would be off the top of my head, probably not enough to merit buying it if you already own the original and it’s in good shape. But, it would probably save .5-1 lb. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, I just got it in the mail a couple weeks ago…

    Did Steve recommend that Sony camera to you? He made me buy the same one ;)

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Josh! I’m absolutely loving the LOWA boots. I thought about trying to get away with something lighter, but I’m playing it safe and going for the support when packing loads in the mountains. Your point about footwear weight is extremely valid though, after all you are “lifting” that weight with each and every step.

      I love my Q-Core pad. I saw that they released the SL version, and from what I’ve seen, much of the weight savings is coming from lighter weight material. I’m a big dude…6′ 3″ and 200lbs, so I wonder if the SL would hold up over the long haul for me. I would love to hear your feedback on it, when you have a chance to test it out.

      I think Steve and John Abernathy are the guys that turned me on to that camera. It is a great little unit for sure!

      • Josh M

        Quick unrelated question about the camera, have you been shooting in the blue-ray mode or the mode right below it (can’t think of what it’s called off the top of my head)? I’m still playing with my settings so I was just curious..

        And I’ll let you know on the Q-core SL! I should put it to use a few times during the summer.. I’m 6′ 180 so I’m in your ballpark..

        • SoleAdventure

          I don’t think I’ve been shooting in the blue-ray mode…it must be the other one. Looking forward to hearing about the SL. I hope it works out great for you!

  • Josh M

    Hey Mark, did you get the Gravityworks kit with the clean bag or did you get the kit without one that hooks up straight to your bladder?

    • Sole Adventure

      I went ahead and got the full kit with the clean bag. Although I already owned some Platypus bladders, I got the clean bag to leave at camp for food prep/washing. When I’m out hunting during the day I’ll just have the dirty bag and filter with me, and run that straight into the drinking bladder in my pack, if necessary. I love how versatile the system is.

  • Just a few comments. Forget the toilet paper and take enough baby wipes (about 4 per dump). Like one of the other comments, do not forget to take a spare release that is identical to the one you are using. They can be lost or broken which would put a serious damper on your hunt. For a knife sharpener you really only need one with the ceramics for honing the blade if you don’t abuse your knife. You just hone the edge periodically as your skinning and deboning the animal.

    Rope or cord is not necessary for dressing an elk and you don’t even need to get in the internal cavities except to pull the tenderloins at the end. To dress an elk start by laying the animal on its side. Then make a small incision in the hide at the back of the neck just behind the ears. Next insert the point of your knife in the slit you made and turn the sharp edge of the knife out away from the flesh. Slice the hide open down the spine all the way to the tail. Peel the hide off one side down to the belly and just below the knees on both legs. Cut the meat off leg bones and put it in your game bag, then cut the meat off the neck and finally cut out the back strap. When you are done with the first side, lay the loose skin back over the carcass, and roll the animal over on its other side. Follow the steps above to remove the meat. The last thing you do is slit the flank right behind the last rib and stick your hand inside and pull out the tenderloins. I suggest adding 3-4 pairs of latex gloves to your list for field dressing.

    Get the largest memory card your camera accepts and forget the extras. 8×42 binos are ok, but 10×42 are better for western hunting. For a wind checker get a little squeeze bottle type with the fine white powder. If you can find any trioxane bars at an army surplus store that make the most awesome fire starters. The tinder you need to start a fire is all around you. Newspaper to crumple and put in your boots and suck out some moisture over night. You need a jacket, evenings will be cool/cold, you will get cold taking mid day naps, and mornings can be frosty, and I don’t see gloves on your list either.

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks for the feedback, John.

  • Lorie Hoffman

    I actually can’t see your list. Am I missing a plug in for my browser? I have tried viewing it on different browsers as well.

  • Aaron Avestruz

    Are you only bringing one base layer top? I think I’m going to take a Llano Crew (or QZ) and Short Sleeve, just so I’m able to change or layer them based on temps, and I could wash one if it gets too dirty/sweaty and let it dry while wearing the other.

    • SoleAdventure

      Great question, Aaron. I’m probably not going to bring another top, except for the Chama. The Chama, although it is a bit heavier, can also be used as a base layer. If I get back to camp at night and the Llano is soaked, then I’ll just sleep in the Chama – it’ll be cool enough to do so. The Llano/Chama combo is incredibly versatile. One thing you HAVE to love about the merino layers – smell is a non-factor, so you don’t have to worry about constantly having a “clean” layer.

      By the way, definitely go QZ on the Llano. Being able to open that zipper up on a long climb can make a huge difference in ventilation.

  • jim scaffido

    i just finished watching your youtube video with the Tenzing pack and all your gear in it. great video, i have been following all your posts about this elk hunt as i myself have been planning for one in the future. no trip scheduled yet but im getting all the gear together and weeding out good ideas from bad. i cant wait to hear how it all works out for you.
    are you doing this alone or will there be someone else with you? i ask because i read about people like Cameron Hanes who’s done this kind of hunt a number of times all alone. i would love to do this type of hunt the the idea of going into new country miles away from anybody alone kind of frightens me.
    im also from the midwest (s.e. wisconsin) and just dream about a backcountry elk trip but i dont have access to anyone who has done it or knows the country. i hope it all works out for you, good luck.

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Jim. I’m going to have a buddy with me, and then another guy along to film. I committed to going on this trip, even if I had to go alone, but I’m glad to have some company/help. It’s definitely possible solo, but you have to take a lot or precautions. All kinds of factors come in to play, such as emergency communication, how far from the trailhead and/or civilization you’ll be, contingencies for packing an elk out, etc. Keep planning and let me know if you have any other questions.

  • John Bray

    Mark, I’m already starting to prepare for my Montana backcountry hunt next year. And I’ve been relying on you and your site for all of my gear. I just purchased a pair of the Lowa Tibet boots from Amazon thanks to you and all the reviews I read about the boots. I’m looking forward to breaking them in on my upcoming late deer hunt December 26th through 31st. And of course on my Montana backcountry hunt next year. Keep doing what your doing, it really has been a helpful for me. Plus I’ve even spent a few bucks on the products you promote:-)

    Have a Merry Christmas and a Safe and Happy New Year!

    John Bray
    Washington State

    • SoleAdventure

      Hi John. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you as well. I’m excited to see how you Montana hunt unfolds, so please keep me updated.

      You will love those LOWA’s, assuming they fit your feet. That’s the tough part about boots – they could be the greatest boot in the world, but they don’t fit YOUR feet, then they’re not much good. That said, if you are wearing around the house and have any fit/adjustment questions, let me know, and I’ll try to help share my experience/advice. Feel free to shoot me an email any time.

  • Any changes from the 2013 to 2014 upcoming season???

    • SoleAdventure

      Hey Austin, everything worked out really well. I’ll be sharing a more detailed “debrief” and talking about some minor changes soon. Any specific questions?

      • Mainly just like to see how other people stack up gear and what gets cut or added each year. I had been watching your list for a while. Also did you feel 2L of water was enough at all times? I pack a 4L MSR hydromedary and am going to pack a smaller one to put my Wilderness Athlete mix into was curious if you ever had a lack of water issue….

        • SoleAdventure

          2L was enough, but a lot of that depends on the conditions and location that you’re hunting. It was really wet where we were, so we had no problem finding a spot to filter and fill-up where we were hunting. I used a 1L platypus for my flavored drinks, and I love the fact that you can roll it up when not in use. Carrying around an empty, bulky bottle is a waste.

          • Ya I hunt Utah archery which is August hunting. Hot weather hard to find water and fighting to stay hydrated the whole time so I decided to run the bigger one. As for my small flavored one I’m thinking just a small bladder with a hose, I’ve found a way to attach one to my kifaru where it is completely seperate from the pack so no worries about arranging, digging or anything like that just fill from the main bladder and go. Hoping to try it out scouting just gotta find one that fits my sleeve ive attached!

  • Jake Huff

    So after a full season of using this gear, is there anything that you will not be including in your next elk hunt?

    • SoleAdventure

      Great question, Jake. By and large, no – there isn’t anything that I wish I wouldn’t have taken, nor were there items that I didn’t have, but wish I did. I will be making a few changes this year, but that is mainly because I can, not because I feel like I need to. I will be covering more elk prep soon, including what gear will be on my back this year. Stand out items from this list were the First Lite gear, the Zissou sleeping bag, and the Tibet boots. For the most part everything was great though. I will be likely be adding gaiters and a lightweight decoy this year.

  • Al

    Mark, your elk list has been an invaluable tool in helping me pack for my first mule deer – elk hunt this fall in WY. It will be my first back country trip spanning 16 days with 3 companions whom are much more experienced than I. We will be setting up a spike camp 4 or 5 miles in, with the ability to return to vehicles/ base camp for additional supplies.

    I would appreciate your advice on clothing. I have assembled an all merino wool wardrobe, with wool and down insulating layers, and goretex rain/ wind protection if needed. I am afraid of packing too much and am curious what you would recommend for changes of clothing for such an extended time period.

    I am assuming I will be able to clean undergarments ( socks, underwear, base layers) as needed stream side… My thoughts then would be to have 4 pairs of socks and underwear, and one base layer set. Every 4 days I can give these articles a rinse to freshen them up.

    Does this seem logical?

    • SoleAdventure

      Hi, Al! The only duplication that I carry is socks and underwear; typically just one extra of each. A 16-day trip is obviously more demanding though. I would probably go with 3 skivvies, and 3-4 socks total. Are you guys planning on resupplying, or is that just an option on the books? If you’re planning on it, I would go with 1 extra of each, then swap for fresh stuff at the truck during a resupply.

  • Dave

    In my experience, the shelters hunter use accounts for 25-50% of the pack-weight. That is from looking at their gear-list.

    From what I can see, you can definitely lighten up with the tent– DuoMid (Mountain Laurel Designs), Lil Bug Out (Seek Outsiide) and Khufu (Locus Gear) are reasonably priced and is about half the weight with silnylon; and even more if one can afford cuben. Interestingly enough, Seek Outside is a hunting company, and they do offer cuben version of their gears. A after-market simple bug-net would only add about 2-3oz.

    Funnily enough, Therm-a-Rest offers the NeoAir XTherm for half the weight and for about $50-$100 less (depending on the retailer) than Big Agnes with an R-value of 5.9.

    What I find odd is that backpackers spend most of their money on downsizing their tents, pack and sleeping bag. Yet hunters are suckered into the hype of better clothes when the fiber technology haven’t improved much in the last half-century. The only thing which really changed is the prioritization and the mentality of what to pack.

    I guess the good thing for hunters is the UL movement is basically stagnant at the moment– and it has been since 2012. They already explored all the fibers out there and pushed them to the limit. Since the mainstream hiking industry complains the hunting sector lag behind by 20-30 years; and the ultralight industry complains the mainstream takes 10-20 years to catch up; at least the stagnation will give hunters time to catch up.

    • SoleAdventure

      There’s no doubt that the hunting market has historically lagged behind the larger outdoor/backpacking segment, but that gap has diminished dramatically. Another point worth considering is that many hunters wouldn’t consider themselves interested in ULTRAlight philosophy; myself included. Sure, I want my gear to be light, but there are certain sacrifices that I’m not willing to make, nor do I have the budget to consider ULTRA-everything (like a cuben shelter).

    • Dave

      Yes, but I am saying most of those really lightweight gears would be more economically accessible if certain “must-have gears” are acknowledged for their hype at face value.

      For instance, my stepfather could had bought himself a better slightly optics which is smaller and higher-quality glass for his rifle if he didn’t spend the money on a Thermacell which he never used once in the last two years. He got it based on reviews of hunters in the south, but forgot that there are no mosquitoes to worry about in September up north.

      Or in my case, I could had gotten an affordable custom-made lightweight elk rifle if I realized that in the last 5 hunting seasons, I never needed a GPS tracking collar for my dog since he was always easy to find.

      Or that I could had the money to buy a lighter shelter if I didn’t buy the the latest in “scent-locking” technology when merino does the same for less money.

  • tor carter

    how do you thing the first light kanab pant does vs the kuiu attack pant or the new first light corrugate pant?
    im also a taller guy at 6ft3in.

    • SoleAdventure


      I still prefer the Kanabs. They’re not perfect; the downside is the durability isn’t on-par with the Attack or Corrugate, but that is the nature of merino. I do like the Corrugates, but they’re not as quiet and the fit wasn’t as good for me. Specifically, I found this to be shorter than the Kanab, which could be an issue for you at 6’3″. However, pair them with the FL gaiter, and you’ll get full coverage even if they are a bit short.


  • Ian McCririe

    Thanks Mark, this was really helpful when putting together my trip. Unfortunately some of the equipment was out of my budget (I was also buying double, because I was hunting with my wife). I also could have used a msrp column. If you ever want a “budget pack list” I would be happy to provide what I bought and some comments on my gear. Thanks for showing everyone that an elk hunt is in reach.

    • Mark Johll

      I would love to see your budget pack list Ian.

  • Ty Morgan

    How bout a updated list?