Elk hunting gear is an important topic for DIY backpack hunters; not quite as much for the wall tent/outfitter camp types. So what should an elk hunter pack? It certainly varies based on the season. A bowhunter in the 2nd week of September should expect to pack a different shelter and layering system as a rifle hunter in the 2nd week of October. Last season our group did a rifle hunt, complete with almost a foot of snow throughout the trip. To see the gear list for that hunt along with desired improvements, check out this link: 2014 Elk Hunting Gear List for Rifle Season The following gear list and review is specific to the more mild temperature September hunts of bow and muzzleloader season, at moderate to high altitude.
I made a few nice improvements to last year’s elk hunting gear list, particularly in the area of the pack system and shelter. As you watch the video, you’ll notice only one item that I really wish I had brought. Then of course, there are potential upgrades to shelter and sleep system I could make in the future for more versatility and comfort throughout the seasons. Backpack hunting truly is something that is full of compromises. One of the big compromises is size/weight vs comfort. For a base camp setup, you can generally lean towards more of a “comfort” set-up, affording you more luxuries throughout the trip. Your initial pack in and pack out will just suck a little more. A couple of the guys in our group were definitely of that mindset. They held up the initial pack in a bit with grossly heavy and filled packs with extra gear strapped and clipped all over the outside. However, once set up, they had roomier tents, more comfortable sleeping arrangements, faster water filters, etc.
My own mindset tends to waver more on the lightweight/mobile side of the spectrum. I’m generally willing to give up the comforts of a luxurious camp in order to give myself a better opportunity of getting into elk. After all, one of the biggest goals of the trip is to come home with some meat. I can sleep like a king once I’m home again. That being said, there’s plenty of gear on the market that can give you the best of both worlds… relative luxury in some incredibly small and lightweight packages. That introduces a second tradeoff – COST. With a few thousand dollars you can assemble a pack list of the best gear materials and designs (cuben fiber shelters, highest fill-weight down, space age sleeping pads, etc). Going up the mountain with a pack list put together at Wal-Mart will almost certainly have you exhausted and at the mercy of the elements. Most people arrive somewhere in the middle; and generally, you learn something new each time you’re out in the mountains.