Is every piece of hunting gear a “must-have?” No, but here are five that are.
When it comes to gear, there are a lot of opinions out there about what the BEST is. Many will label something as a must-have item due to financial backing from the manufacturer. Others bang away at the keyboard and include gear that hits an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to get the product more clicks. Some do it for social media likes. After all, if it’s hot on Instagram, it must be the best product since sliced bread.
When did we get so far removed from reality? How do snake oil products get labeled as “must-haves?” If you stop and think for a moment, you’re throwing hard-earned long greenbacks at gear that will help you be more successful, comfortable, safer, etc., in the field. Life is too expensive to buy crap!
The world’s best hunter, I am not. I have been blessed, however, to make a living penning outdoor articles for the past 15 years, and during my hunting tenure, I’ve made DIY hunting my niche. I’ve done a lot of hunting, from waterfowl with a semi-auto 12-gauge to Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep with a bow to elk with a rifle.
During my time afield, I’ve tested and tinkered with piles of gear. Some of the equipment I’ve tried has become part of my gear arsenal from time to time, depending on the animal I’m hunting, the time of year I’m hunting, and the terrain I’m hunting in. Some (lots) gear items got tossed in the trash and hauled to the local dump. Then, there are those pieces of gear I NEVER leave home without — tried-and-true equipment that has proven worthy time and time again — equipment that has earned a place in my must-always-have gear arsenal.
Guess what? None of these items are new for 2023. I need more experience with a new bow, rifle, shotgun, backpack, tent, etc., to promise you, our trusted reader, undeniable performance. These are gear items I put 100 percent of my trust in.
You can head out the door, purchase these five items, and enjoy immediate benefits.
Here we go.
Kenetrek Mountain Extreme 400
I’m not going to regurgitate a press release for you. Click on the link above, and you can read more ink about these top-tier boots on Kenetrek’s website. The Mountain Extreme 400 provides enough but not too much insulation for early and mid-season mountain hunting. When the snow falls and the temps drop, add a pair of gaiters and thick wool socks, and you’ll be fine. The 10-inch tall boots provide remarkable ankle support, and zero break-in period is required. The boots are waterproof and breathable, and you don’t feel like you’re hauling cement blocks on your feet across the landscape.
These boots, or another Kenetrek build, are on my feet from the mountains to the foothills. When it comes to price, I will gladly pay $520 for a pair of boots that will last me for years, keep my feet in great shape, and keep me on the mountain and not nursing blisters back at camp. You can buy a $120 pair of boots every season and fight blisters, wet feet, and the like, or you can spend the money and buy a quality set of hunting boots that will last you for years to come.
Marsupial Gear Binocular Chest Pack
This will be the best $95 you’ve ever spent. During my time afield, I’ve tested over 15 binocular harnesses, and not one holds a candle to the Marsupial Gear Binocular Chest Pack. Offered in a pile of solid and camo colors, this binocular chest pack holds your binos tight to the chest, is fully adjustable, uber-quiet, and has a purposeful front zippered pocket and open, elastic back pocket.
A trio of magnets lines the top of the frame, holding the magnetic flap in place and allowing immediate, quick, and silent access to your glass. The harness is built like a tank, and the elastic side pouches make great spots of wind detection powder, handheld releases, and other need-right-now items.
Garmin inReach Mini
When I was 21 years old, full of piss, vinegar, and bulletproof, I never told a soul where I was hunting. No one would miss me other than my parents if something terrible happened. That was not only awful thinking, but it paved the way for an idiotic mindset. It wasn’t until I got married and had my first son that I realized horrific things could happen in the woods, and God forbid if something happens to me, I need to be able to get help and get it right now. Garmin’s inReach Mini ($349.99) is a compact satellite communicator fitted with an SOS button that, when unlocked and pressed, sends an SOS message to the Garmin IERCC, which is a staffed 24/7/365 emergency response center.
I can’t describe my peace of mind when toting this small unit. The inReach Mini also allows you to share your location with loved ones, lets those you want “in” track your daily movements, and so much more. This device is with me whether I’m heading a mile across the road to my deer lease to check trail cameras or heading deep into the heart of the Rockies.
Outdoor Edge RazorPro Saw Combo
There are multitudes of replaceable-blade knives on the market, but this is the one in my pack, no matter what. Why? The orange, no-slip rubberized handle has some bulk, so I can apply pressure around joints and sockets without snapping blades. I also applaud the incorporated gut hook, and the nearly 4.5-inch (folded) saw is lightweight but carves through bone quickly.
The case is bulletproof, and thanks to Outdoor Edge’s innovative blade-release button, swapping out a dull or broken blade for another sharp surgical blade takes seconds. The combo pack comes with six replaceable blades, and most big-box and brick-and-mortar stores carry replaceable blades when you need to restock. Not to mention, the RazorPro Saw Combo will only set you back $69.95.
Mountain Research Gear WindBurner Personal Stove System
Whether boiling water to make a dehydrated meal come to life or cooking it because my water purifier went on the fritz, I do it with my WindBurner Personal Stove System ($127.46). Ideal for backcountry adventures or camping from your truck, this stove, pot, cup, lid, and bracket support system is everything you need and nothing you don’t. I have used the same MSR WindBurner for six seasons and never had a glitch. The unit provides regulated pressure for consistent performance. The 1.0 L hard-anodized aluminum pot with integrated heat exchanger is fitted with a handle-as-soon-as-it-comes-off-the-burner insulated cozy handle. Best of all, the average boil time is between 4 and 4.5 minutes for a full liter.
There you have it; a genuine review of 5 pieces of gear that range in price and purpose you need in your hunting arsenal.