Versatile Gear I Like

Great gear makes all the difference, and these tried-and-true items fall in the “Best” category. If you want your outdoor ventures to be safe, comfortable, and produce results, this six pack should be atop your to-buy gear list.

by Scott Haugen

“Why are you still wearing those clothes? Aren’t they like 10 years old,” asked a buddy when I showed up to spend a day in the woods with him running trail cameras. 

“They’re 12 years old, and I’ve found nothing better,” I fired back.

“Have you tried anything else lately?” he came back.

 He had a point.

That hunting season, I picked up some Sitka clothes. I loved them and kept getting more. My friend was right.

When I find a piece of gear I like, I stick with it — sometimes to a fault. However, when it comes to versatile gear I use year-round in a range of applications, I get picky.

Gear/Ammo Crates

About a year ago, I got a couple of very pricey cargo boxes. The latches failed me. Desperate, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought some cheap cargo boxes to get me by. Their hinges broke on the first day. Then, I picked up an MTM ACDC30 Ammo Crate. It was perfect for holding a mix of shotgun shells, and the three dividers made it even better for organizing and holding shells in place. I liked it so much I got another one. Now I have one for 12-gauge shells and one for 20-gauge shells.

The ACDC crates held up so well that a couple of months later, I got The Mule, a larger version. This mobile gear crate was perfect for holding a couple of dozen trail cameras, solar panels, and all my trail camera accessories. It’s covered hundreds of miles on country roads, in ATVs, and strapped to four-wheelers. 

The Mule holds all of my dog training gear during spring and summer dog training sessions. I’ve stowed clothes, camping gear, and more in The Mule and removed the dividers in the ACDCs to do the same. Never once have they failed me. Both are affordable and durable, and have a great latching system. I depend on them year-round.

Trail Cams

Speaking of trail cameras, I run a lot of them. At the time of this writing, I have 58 set out, and I will get close to doubling that by the end of spring. I use them all year to scout and learn all I can about deer, elk, bear, cougar, predators, waterfowl, turkeys, squirrels and more.

Over the years, I’ve tried several brands of cellular cameras but didn’t like them. Last fall, I got my hands on three Moultrie Mobile Edge trail cameras. They impressed me, so I got more. Over 30 of the trail cameras I have out now are Moultrie Mobile Edge Pros. The fact that these cameras automatically perform their own software updates means I don’t have to visit them.

About half of my Edge Pros have solar panels, so I don’t have to change batteries. I set up some of these last fall and have not been to them once since. They’re sending me images all the time. If you want an affordable way to scout all year and take your hunting knowledge to another level, the Moultrie Mobile Edge Pros can help.

Boots

Boots are one piece of gear I always focus on, and I am always searching for one pair that trumps another. In high school, I was a four-sport athlete and played some D1 ball. Later in life, I made my living hosting TV shows and hunting big game around the world, where I often went on over 50 hunts a year. A common thread in all of these was my feet. 

You can be wet, cold, hot, and uncomfortable all over, but if your feet fail you, the hunt can come to a sudden halt. I’ve worn some incredible boots, but the new LaCrosse Ursa ES GTX could be the show-stopper. When I looked at them in the box, I thought they were the wrong size because they were so streamlined. I was sure something was wrong when I pulled them from the box because they were so light. I put them on, wore them around the house, and instantly loved them. They’re like a high-top tennis shoe on steroids. I’m not a fan of big, bulky, stiff boots.

I like a boot with a narrow pad, rigid outsoles, and a sturdy upper, but not so stiff it compromises dexterity. I put the boots on the next day to test them out. After nine hours of falling and cutting trees, my feet were happy. I wore them six hours the next day, clearing roads and game trails from a massive ice storm that had swept through the area. Then, five hours the next day, doing the same thing. I’ve logged over 20 more hours in these boots running trail cameras in rugged mountains, muddy trails, through creeks, across rock, and in ice and snow. They’re waterproof, breathable, agile, and comfortable, and the ankle support is outstanding. I’ll take the Ursa ES boots to Africa and Alaska this season.

A Better Knife

I don’t skimp on guns, scopes, optics, and knives. They’re a major part of how I make my living, and I’ve learned that high-quality gear can cost more, but it performs better and lasts longer. Such is the case with Benchmade’s OM knife.

This winter, I had a small knife on my duck call lanyard open up and poke a hole in my waders. It was the second time that had happened over the years. I got tired of them opening in my pockets and packs, too. The little, cheap blades I used to rely on would quickly rust and turn dull fast. It was my fault for settling for cheap knives. It’s not cheap, but Benchmade’s OM is tops. Closed, the tiny knife is less than 3.5 inches long and weighs only 1.5 oz. The mechanism on this double-action OTF (out the front) knife is relatively tight to open and has a safety feature, so the blade will pop off the tracks if deployed into an object. It’s easy to reset by retracting the blade. With the OM, you get quick, one-handed access for immediate work. I clip it on my duck call and dog training lanyards and trail camera pack and use the clip to secure it inside a pant pocket. It’s sharp, fast, convenient, durable, and versatile.

A Tote Bag

A piece of gear you’ll find in the back of my truck pretty much every day of the year is Yeti’s Camino 50 Carryall Tote Bag. It’s not cheap, but again, it’s quality that lasts. I used to toss my extra clothes on the backseat floor. However, my dogs got them wet, dirty, and tangled up in them. I went for a duffel bag with a zipper, but it was inconvenient. I tried a tote, but it was too bulky. Enter the Camino. Whatever the season, whatever I’m doing, wherever I’m going, I can now stuff layers and layers of clothes into the bag that I can quickly grab to meet the ever-changing conditions. Base layers, mid layers, hoodies, and even rain gear are kept organized and clean in the Camino Tote Bag, and the dividers, hitch points, and interior zippers are convenient. 

Get A Hunt App

A game changer for me in the past nine months has been the onX Hunt app. I’m likely the last person in the outdoor industry to get this app. In college in the 1980s, I got into cartography and always preferred paper maps. Then, I succumbed to peer pressure and now regret not getting onX sooner. The waypoints, tracking, and offline ability the app provides are worth the price of admission alone. The 3-D satellite imagery, private and public ground boundaries, and topographic base maps take the experience to another level. When my ATV broke down 26 miles from camp last fall, onX saved me hours of walking time. I also use it to mark all trail camera locations, which are forever changing. If you hunt out of state, the Elite package is the only way to go.

There you have it, gear I’ve used, will keep using, and rely on year-round no matter what I’m doing. 

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Born Hunting