Here at Hunting Gear Outfitters, you will find unpaid, unsponsored, and unbiased gear assessments. This complete review of these featured products is the result of years of extensive use, trial and error, successes and failures of actual hands-on, in the field testing. So here it is folks, the straight truth about what you can expect when using these hunting and backcountry products.
Below, you may find reviews of two or more products made by different manufacturers. Although we may not offer the sale of each of these items, we do offer accurate, first-hand knowledge of each and every item featured on our website so you can confidently make an educated selection of the gear that best fits your hunting and outdoor needs.
It seems like there are just about as many boot manufacturers as people willing to buy them. That said, we have selected two of the industry-leading boot manufacturers: Meindl and Kenetrek. We are aware that there are many other brands out there but for these purposes, we’ll be reviewing the Pros and Cons of the popular brands of equipment that we have personally tested. These boots, for example were put through countless miles in some of the most rugged terrain of Alaska and the Rocky Mountains for weeks on end, year after year. These gear assessments are not based on brief experiences over a weekend hike, rather, extended use that allows us to understand where you can expect each item to succeed and fail. Meindl Boots After having owned a pair of these incredibly comfortable boots for two years, I can tell you that I fully expected to use and abuse them for another two years. During the boots’ third year, both rubber soles split apart while I was in the middle of a 10-day hunt! Perhaps it is possible that these particular boots were part of a faulty batch?
Upon my return, I contacted the company to learn more. Meindl Lifetime Warranty This “Lifetime Warranty” offers the customer cash for the damaged boot based on the boot’s pro-rated price (available in cash or store credit). Meindl Pros and Cons Meindl offers one of the least expensive boots among leading manufacturers and was very comfortable for a full two years of use. Cons - Regardless of how comfortable these may be, I would have a difficult time resting my trust in a pair of boots that literally came apart at the seams during a hunt. Boot weight can be a concern, I found the Meindl boot to be considerably heavier then Kenetrek.
After nearly four years of tough use on these boots, I found some interesting points of reflection. First, these boots are certainly more on the pricey side. Second, because of the support that these boots offer, they are initially very stiff and may feel a little strange when walking on flat, level ground. This is fine with me because I use them when I’m scaling my way up a mountain and that extra support is a real asset!
(from their website)
Warrantied to be free of manufacturing defects. If any Kenetrek product fails due to defective materials or poor workmanship within 12 months from the date of purchase or before the soles are worn 75%, they will be repaired or replaced by Kenetrek. Damages caused by improper care, alterations, accidents, or natural wear and tear are not covered.
Kenetrek- Pros and Cons ! As with any boot, it is important to break them in really well before you take them into the field to avoid excessive stiffness that can result in rubbing and blisters. Overall, they offer dependable, solid performance and are certainly worth the investment.
From backcountry to business meeting, this watch has proven to be accurate, dependable and nearly bombproof year after year. Because of its waterproof construction and glowing dial, I can confidently make it to a scheduled pickup point in the most remote areas of the Alaskan bush to the Rocky Mountains of the lower 48. It is so comfortable and designed to look great in the field or in a board meeting, it’s no wonder that my Luminox became my everyday watch.
onXmaps (Digital Maps) / My Topo (Printed Maps) Printed waterproof custom maps. MyTopo has amazing customer service, custom maps of the most remote areas, you can select the scale, grid, type and layers of any map you want. Paige at MyTopo is a champion at getting me any map I need whenever I head out to the field or backcountry. We can’t stress the importance of having dependable, easy to use navigation equipment enough. Most of us do not live in the remote hunting areas in which we hunt, making it easy to get lost out there. A reliable map, a good compass and GPS system with a little bit of knowledge in using them can without a doubt prove to be life-saving equipment.
A few key points:
Use the buddy system when hunting with two or more people. One person per pair of hunters should carry a GPS unit with them and all party members should be able to use that equipment proficiently. We recommend Garmin brand because it is easy to use, many of their models are waterproof and the battery life seems to last.
If you put all of your navigational eggs in one digital, battery-dependent basket, you may find yourself in deep trouble. Bring extra, long-life lithium batteries for your GPS.
onXmaps (Digital Maps) Additional offline navigation apps on your mobile device can serve as a great supplement to your GPS unit. onXmaps offers digital offline topo maps that can help make you even more comfortable exploring the Great Outdoors by pinpointing private property, hunting unit numbers, unit boundaries and valuable land owner names. If own and use a GPS onXmaps is a must have.
Get a good compass, a waterproof printed map and learn how to use them together. Let’s face it, batteries die and without a map and compass, you may not have any other way of knowing where you are or more importantly, how to get out. We are big fans of Brunton compasses and MyTopo custom waterproof printed maps. Navigating Alaska's Bush Country In addition to the value of the broad over view of myTopo. It is a good idea to set waypoints, for the visible progression on a trail or river. Seeing the terrain at ground level is greatly different from a birds eye view. By spending the time on the computer back home, studying the natural geographical feature of the terrain, pinpointing strategic hunt locations, such as hidden creeks ponds and lakes. This gives you the added advantage of effectively hunting an area you would otherwise by pass. In addition to having strategic hunting waypoints, it is recommend that you have progression waypoints set in 10 miles increments, along with your pickup waypoint. This gives you a way of tracking your needed ground coverage to your future pickup destination. Once you complete setting all of the waypoints on your computer, upload them to your GPS, and print a copy for you and someone back home monitoring your progression.
Never Solely Depend On Electronics Or You Will Get Lost!
Personal Tracker/ Rescue Locator Beacon and Satellite Communication In the event of an emergency, a rescue locator beacon or personal tracking device operates by sending your location coordinates via GPS to rescue authorities who can mobilize a rescue team and send them in to get you out. If you are seriously injured or lost and miles from nowhere, a device like this can really save your beacon…uh, bacon. Another great feature of these handy gadgets is that you can pre-program them with messages you can send to loved ones back home and they can track your location online. They both offer an “emergency” feature and a “help” feature. The “emergency” button will send a signal for emergency services to come and rescue you. The “help” button will send a signal to a predesignated person or group who can organize an extra food drop, early pick-up or other services that are planned and discussed ahead of time. We highly recommend either a Garmin or a SPOT brand device. Either brand you choose, be certain that your remote hunting location is within Garmin or SPOT satellite coverage. Additionally, because they utilize GPS, transmission signals may be weak during overcast weather days.
Satellite phones (more commonly called, Satphones) are absolutely essential on remote excursions into the wilderness. The most cases, when we head out to hunt, we venture deep into the woods, far atop the mountains or out along the Plains and almost certainly will not have cell phone service. On long excursions, having the ability in making contact with home, business, early or late bush plane pickup, can be beneficial and a peace of mind for the family.
If an emergency arises, your only ability to call for rescue will lie in the use of a satellite phone. Satphones do not rely on standard cellular networks, and instead, use GPS to transmit the phone call via satellite. Because of this, these types of phones can call out from the most remote locations but as with GPS personal locator beacons, its signal may be impeded during times of inclement or heavily clouded weather. Most major sporting goods stores have them available for purchase or to rent them, we recommend, Explorer Satellite Communications (Before you leave home) knowhow to effectively use a satphone and that it is working properly. Account for extra batteries, battery charging device and phone dry bag. Be sure to up load the necessary and very important, calling codes, and contact phone numbers. Keep a printed copy of the calling codes and contact numbers in your possession.
Hip Boots or Waders
Depending on the terrain in which you plan to hunt waders may be an important consideration. If you plan on going on a float trip, hike through the wet Tundra or across streams and bogs, they will become less of a consideration and more of a mandatory piece of equipment. And remember not to head into the field without the ever important, ankle straps or wader pant guards.
If you anticipate slogging around in the wet, soggy Tundra, perhaps you may only need hip boots. Hip boots come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and materials and there are pros and cons to each of them.
Below we will cover the basic difference between the three main materials commonly used: Gortex, Rubber and Neoprene, Neoprene has insulation value, but can get very hot quickly, especially if you are hiking hard and on the move. They can also become quite heavy as it holds water and it collects thorns from rose hips and briars. Rubber boots most often do not offer insulation so tend to be more comfortable while walking or hiking. Rubber tends to dry out overtime resulting in cracking, splitting and ultimately needing to be replaced. Leaky waders can ruin a trip fast. If you are using rubber waders, we discovered is that it is wise to replace them after each extended hunting trip to eliminate the risk that the next time you rely on your waders, they have cracked and begun to leak. It’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind that your well-functioning rubber waders will keep you dry. After many years experiencing the mistakes and successes of using both materials, we have found that the benefit of using rubber or Gortex waders far outweighs the drawbacks of neoprene ones. We do not recommend neoprene waders for the reasons outlined above.
Upate August 27th 2018 New Product Recommendations
Chota "Hippies" Waders
Sometimes you need a hip wader, sometimes you need a knee high wading sock and at other times you need “something in between.” Now you can have all in one with Chota’s New Camo “Hippies” Convertible Stocking Foot Hip Waders. The Hippies feature a 3mm neoprene stocking foot attached to a three-ply breathable laminate upper with an adjustable draw string at the top for a secure fit at any height. A built in cinch strap just below the knee to keeps the waders in place and helps to prevent flooding just in case you go in a little too deep. Built-in gravel guards are standard.
Every now and then we come across a product so unique we can't help but change our mind on how we use or recommend a product. With all of the costly problems in the former rubber hip boots. Our research and study and most importantly the recommendation from the guys that know...Alaska guides! And so for shear comfort and ease of use we must agree Chota Hippies are a must for bush pilot, hunters and fisherman.
For this system to work they also sell wadding boots. The neoprene stocking is a durable and fit nicely with wadding boot you may already have.
For added protection use a tall gator such as the Sitka Gear gator. When the full leg extention is not required simply fold it down and into the gator. Purchase here at HGO.
Wade With Caution. Always keep these two rules in mind when wading in any body of water. There are obvious and not so obvious dangers inherent with wading. Following these tips will help you experience a safe and enjoyable trip. Use a wading staff to feel the bottom before stepping. Never wade alone. Always wear hip boots that fit properly. Wear a wading belt to create a seal between your body and the wader. In rivers and streams, identify potential dangers down current such as waterfalls, log jams or undertows before entering the water. Walk slowly, smoothly and carefully. Wear a personal floatation device. Be aware of tides, currents and water level changes. If you fall, don't panic. Don’t fight the current, work with it. Allow the current to drift you downstream as you work your body towards the bank. Never continue wading if your waders are full of water.
Over the many years, we have had the opportunity to test many different types, styles, patterns and materials of hunting camo, but Sitka Gear is by far our preferred for pattern, comfort, warmth, and easy layering system use. A premium hunting clothing line that offers exceptional value. What sets them apart, aside from the obvious difference in camo pattern is a variety of options for terrain and weather.
Sitka Gear is sold at many major sporting and hunting supply stores. Sitka Gear was developed by mountaineering hunters and offer many technical synthetic fabrics that are designed to take a serious beating. They offer a variety of different camo color schemes, solid versions, merino wool base layers, killer rain gear and are available in a children’s sizes.
Note: Although Sitka Gear now has a specific women's line! A another good notable mention for women is Prois Hunting apparel. Whatever hunting clothing line you use, just make sure they are made of completely synthetic material or wool. Cotton can retains moisture and if you get wet and sweaty while you are hiking around with no way to dry out or warm up, it could contribute to a case of hypothermia.
Note: Overall your best choice is synthetic material, due to the added weight of wool and cotton, this can come into play when gear weight limitations are strictly enforced, such as bush planes and high elevation hunting.
Weather can be unpredictable and change quickly. For rainy, damp weather conditions, be sure that your sleeping bag is filled with a good quality synthetic. Down sleeping bags are delightful and toasty in snowy, dry weather but become completely useless if they get wet. But each have there need and use depending on your hunting style and location.
Pack-in - Base Camp, Sleeping Bags Depending on your hunting camp type, a base camp or a pack-in, there are a few variations and options, for a warm comfortable good nights sleep. For base camp and when weight isn't a factor, a comfortable roomier option is a rectangular style sleeping bag. A good choice is the Cabelas Magnum 44 and or the Western Hunters Sleeping System. Although these two are extremely big and bulking, they're comfortable with generous stretching room, over a mummy style sleeping bag. Synthetic September's big game hunting in the Rocky Mountains or Alaska have a variation of warm days of 55, and lower temperatures of 35 degrees, with a strong possibility of rain, with humid wet conditions, it's best to opt for a synthetic sleeping bags as mentioned above. A favorite is the North Face Dark Star.
Down Feather Sleeping Bag The Rocky Mountains can be extremely cold, during the big game season's of October and November. If your backing into the backcountry, weight is an obvious factor. A quality down mummy style sleeping bag is the best choice. A quality option is the Marmot -40.
Note: It's a good idea to hang and dry your sleeping bag after each night use, or at least open your sleeping bag to air out and dry, during the day. This allows the previous nights condensation to dry rather than continue to build. This added moisture will gradually reduce the thermal properties of the sleeping bags insulation and ultimately produce colder nights.
Sleeping Bag Storage After your return trip (wash if needed) thoroughly air out and dry your sleeping bag. Then store in a in a non-compressed storage bag, such as the Caribou Gears breathable synthetic (large) game bag. The breathable non-stretch, no cotton properties of the game bag allows for a dust free, bug free, secure and trusted storage.
Sleeping Pad A good 4-season insulated sleeping pad is a must for any sleep system that requires you to sleep directly on the ground but can also offer much added comfort and warmth when used with a cot. Therm-a-Rest makes a variety of great self-inflating sleep pads as well as a lighter-weight version with a thicker sleeping surface called the NeoAir. This version does not self-inflate but it does come with a very small battery operated inflation fan.
Meat Pack Frame If you are so fortunate to harvest an animal deep is some beautiful remote part of the wilderness, you’re going to have to find a way to get it out. A good option is a sturdy meat pack with a heavy weight capacity. They are available as internal frame pack or external frame pack and both styles have advantages. Personally, we recommend an external frame pack with sturdy shoulder and hip straps for carrying out large animals such as moose or elk. The external design allows you to carry large and oddly shaped items, like a moose rack. Have a look at the Cabelas Alaskan
Game Bags As we discuss in great length on the Game Bag page of our website, we highly recommend Caribou Gear Game Bags and any variation of their quality meat care products. Also available is a citric acid spray kit. This handy little number allows you to spray citric acid mix on your freshly harvested meat to retard bacterial growth and protect it against insects. It’s a pretty useful item to have when you are in the field without refrigeration and the weather unexpectedly shifts into warmer temperatures. For the ultimate meat care system use Caribou Gear Game Bags.
Meat Processing - Book
Western Hunting Magazine's - Meat Processing for the Western Hunter
Processing your own wild game can seem intimidating if you’ve never done it. What a hunter really needs is an easy-to-follow guide - something with ample step-by-step photos and large text that can be referenced as you cut. If only one existed. This book will give all the visual and basic instruction you need to be a competent meat cutter and meat recipe maker! Meat Processing for the Western Hunter is meant to be used as on-the-job training and “follow as you go”, so it’s spiral bound for easy page turning and printed on thick, glossy paper to help keep it clean. $14.99.
Parachute Cord & Rope
A staple in any outdoor tool kit, is prized for its multitude of uses and should be carried in everyone’s pack, no question. It is lightweight, incredibly strong and has an inner core usually made up of 5 to 7 individual strands (adding to its strength). Paracord, as it’s commonly called, can be used for securing shelters, as a clothes line, hanging food dry bags, tent tie-downs and the list goes on. In an emergency situation, you can even separate one of the thin, inner fibers from the main cord and use it as a fishing line. Paracord is really versatile and you may end up using it more than you think, so bring least a 50' length per person, for extended remote hunts 100 feet is optimal. Rope, on the other hand, is equally important for heavier tasks like hanging large food dry bags or securing rafts during an Alaskan float trip. We recommend that you bring at least 100 feet of rope per pair of hunters (50 feet carried by each person). If a boat or raft is your mode of hunting transportation, 100' of additional rope can be handy for tying of the boat to a hard to reach tree or rock.
Water Bottle and Water Filtration
Nalgene (water bottles) Aquamira, LifeStraw or Sawyer Squeeze Mini (personal water filtration) MSR, Katahdin (Pump-style water filter) If you plan on a boat or raft trip or plan to hunt on horseback, we recommend bringing TWO 32Oz. Nalgene bottles. One is to be used for clean, filtered water while the other can be used for a supplemental energy drink. For a Pack-In hunt, it is wise to first learn if there will be water readily available where you plan to hunt. Second, bring a water bottle with a personal filtration system or a filtration straw. If you know ahead of time that there will be no adequate water source where you plan to hunt, you must pack in all the water you’ll need for the duration of your hunt. Pump-style filters are great as long as they are easy to clean, have a high filter capacity and screw on to the mouth of your 32Oz. Nalgene bottle. Each person should carry a method of personal water filtration. Avoid “gravity filters” because they are heavy, bulky, slow and difficult to clean.
Flash Light & Head Lamp
Each person should have a head lamp and 1 handheld flash light, each with extra batteries. Count on at least 4 days of use per battery set, so pack accordingly. Also include a spare bulb (if required). Quality LED lights are recommended as they are less expensive, offer longer battery life and can have a higher lumens output (brighter). The hand-held flashlight should be a smaller version of your larger, primary one. This smaller backup flashlight is to be easily accessed and conveniently lightweight.
Knives and Sharpening
This is another one of those subjects where in many cases, the knife you carry into the bush of Alaska or deer and elk hunt.
It comes down to matters of personal preference and what you’ll need it for.
For Moose, a good knife that can easily handle prying and cutting through super thick hide is a beefy 6 inch knife such as the Knives of Alaska, Bush Camp Knife. It pulls dependably double duty as a backup self-defense weapon too.
Elk and Deer Knife
A three and half inch fixed blade is a preferred choice. They're much lighter in weight and a much safer option. Buck, Ka-Bar, Benchmade, Knife of Alaska, Havalon knives and the list on. The best hunting knife for one person may not be the best for another. There is no squabbling about the quality of a knife this over that, with so many options and price points. The overall satisfaction will depend on whether the specifications and price meet to your standards.
Folding knives can be dangerous, I have witnessed this a number of times, with a finger or two nearly chopped off during use.
For carefully caping an animal with effortless knife strokes, you can’t go wrong with the surgical sharp blade of the Havalon Barracuda. These light-weight knives are crazy sharp and should be used with caution. One tiny slip can lead to a really big injury.
When using any knives, it is advisable to bring band-aids, suture kits, Steri-strips and Quikclot in case of an accident.
Straight pencil Diamond blades sharpeners are a good choice. Be sure you know how to properly sharpen your knife blade.
Binoculars and Spotting Scopes Every hunter should have a pair of quality binoculars and buying a really good pair is money well spent. You may be spending many hours each day behind your glasses and quality optics permit longer viewing with less eye strain. Be sure your binoculars at least claim to be "waterproof". Glasses which only claim to be "water resistant" will fog. As with knives, there is no squabbling about the quality of a pair of binoculars this over that, with so many options and price points. The overall satisfaction will depend on whether the specifications and price meet to your standards. Here are some quality options - Swarovski, Zeizz, Leupold and Vortex. You’d probably be comfortable with a pair of 8x40mm binoculars or a pair of 10X50mm. Better still, a compact not too big or to small option is the 10x42mm by Leupold.
Spotting scopes may or may not be appropriate for your hunting destination or species being hunted. In most hunting destinations and conditions, your quality binoculars will be sufficient. Spotting scopes can be useful for high mountain ram, goat, elk, deer and flat plains/tundra antelope, caribou.
Rifle or Bow
The species you hunt is as unique as the weapon you choose to hunt it with. A bow over a rifle may mean a certain skill level or not, or simply your preference. It really boils down to what you enjoy over the other. For many it's the available time, for others they may prefer to use both. As for us we use and greatly enjoy both.
Alaska Rifle and Bow
Bow hunting in Alaska can offer a number of memorable shooting opportunities, with some of them just out of range. For situations like these, I bring a rifle to share with my hunting partner. We can each have our bows which are personally tuned to our own individual draw weights and preferences while we can easily share the use of a single rifle for longer range shots.
Rifle Short Gear List Rifle - w/scope cover Remember the rifle bolt if detached during travel. Rifle Case a hard case with lock for travel and soft for bush travel Rifle Cover(soft shell) 1 boxes of shells Shell Holder for belt or pack Cleaning Kit with cleaning fluid, oil, rods and cloth patches
Rifle - w/scope cover (Remember the rifle bolt if it was removed during travel.) Rifle Case (X2) - a hard-sided case with TSA approved lock for travel and soft case for bush travel 1 boxes of shells
Cleaning Kit with cleaning fluid, oil, rods and cloth patches
Bow Short Gear List
Bow and accessories Extra string and cable set, Armguard , Arrows 12-18, Arrow case, Field Bow Press , wrenches, tools, string wax. Broadheads w/extra blades and blade wrench, field tips and judo points .
Bone Saw A good quality bone saw and wood saw combo should be included each hunters pack. A pack saw for log jams, antler removal, and firewood is an indispensable tool in the Alaskan bush.
Camera and Film Take pictures and if possible, film your hunt! A big hunt like this is sure to be the trip of a lifetime and capturing it on film is something you’ll never regret! If you’re an avid or professional photographer, remember to pack your camera gear in the appropriate water and crush proof boxes. If you're not an avid or professional photographer, purchase the best camera you can afford, learn the basics, take extra cards, take lots of pictures and video. Note: never erase your sd cards.
Waterproof Gopro are great for Alaskan conditions and can offer good pictures, even in unskilled hands. Gopro camera also take great videos...get one! Waterproof cameras as backups for your larger camera in wet weather or risky wet conditions.
Canon EOS 70D Camera / Video Camera Sony or Canon are a good choice or simply use your dslr by Canon for taking picture and video, with that said a dedicated point & film with out having the problem of trying to focus is best for ease of use.
Camera Short List
Camera cards that fit both video and camera , waterproof bag , 6 high capacity cards, cleaning kit, Len(s) Lens Cover, Monopod - Tripod or Both , extra batteries Solar battery Charger? Note: Don't count on the sun to charge your batteries take extra batteries, we personally take 15 extra batteries for each devise.
Personal Toiletries and Medicines
Small Towel, Wash Cloth, Soap, Toothpaste, Tooth Brush, Package of Moist Towelettes, band-aids, prescriptions, Ibuprofen, moleskin, insect repellent, and Head Net – By September in Alaska, the mosquito season is largely over, well don't count on take at least a spray and roll on type with 100% deet. Though present, their numbers are not as overwhelming as they can be during their population peak in Mid-Summer. The Fall brings on the hatch of "white sox" in Alaska, a small biting black fly with white feet. A slight breeze will help keep these pests at bay, but if you find yourself out in the warm sun, windless afternoon, you will want a head net and insect spray. Small pump bottles are easier to pack around than large aerosol cans and the higher the DEET concentration varieties seem to work the best. In our opinion, go ahead and use the %100 DEET bug repellant while you wait for the late autumn frosts to finish them off for the year.