Ask MeatEater: What’s on your backcountry pack list?

Every day fellow MeatEaters send us over 100 emails about hunting, fishing, cooking, conservation and more. So we decided to publish a series dedicated to our favorite FAQs. Ask MeatEater is powered by onX, makers of the best digital mapping tool for hunters and anglers.

I go crazy over hunting equipment lists, especially field hunting ones. I made sure to save some good spreadsheets that I found over the years, including one by Nate Simmons from western hunter in 2015, one for the Barney’s Sports Chalet Dall Sheep Hunt in Anchorage, and I’ve also referenced team lists in Cameron Hanes’ book “Backcountry Bowhunting.” It’s not only entertaining for me to see how other backcountry hunters pack their gear, but it’s also educational and usually sparks ideas on how to improve my gear. In this case, “better” means higher quality equipment, lighter equipment, and less team.

I’m heading out on my first, and possibly only, bighorn sheep hunt in September. For such an important and once-in-a-lifetime hunt, I thought I should write down a list of equipment so I don’t forget a crucial item. I created a spreadsheet, weighed the items and uploaded all the information. Like all team rosters, it can and will be refined.

I added a list of gear at the bottom of the spreadsheet that is my backup/inclement weather gear. If a snowstorm hits or my water filtration system fails, I’m covered. I did not add my truck camping kit or truck food list to the spreadsheet. I’ll talk about that another time, but I want to mention the importance of having a stock of high-calorie salty food and beer waiting for you after a long period in the mountains. I’m usually starving for calories and ready for a non-dehydrated meal. I’ll have brats and smoked buns, some bags of chips, beer, and a cold pizza waiting for me this time.

What’s interesting to me is how my team roster has changed, even after only three or four years. On the one hand, my cooking system has become lighter and more efficient. I have lost almost a pound in that category. My water filtration and transport system is another category in which I have reduced weight. By switching to the soft sided filter water bottle instead of the Steripen and just soft plastic reservoirs instead of a Nalgene bottle, I lose almost a pound more. Plus, because of First Lite’s advances in clothing technology, I can pack less and still stay warm and comfortable.

Another big change is the lack of a handheld GPS unit or camera in my backpack. My iPhone has replaced both. Trust me, I was a late adopter, thinking there was simply no way the smartphone could be a reliable option. But I can tell you that I am now going into my fourth drop without carrying a handheld GPS or camera. OnX maps, functions and features make my phone ten times bigger than the GPS unit I used to carry. Even in the field with no service, I can use offline maps in the app and navigate mountains with ease.

Finally, especially in clothing, the biggest change is simply in quantity. What used to be necessities like camping shoes, a pillow, and a change of under layers, I now leave behind. Everything has to be carried, and the less I carry, the happier I am.

Although I am hunting bighorn sheep this trip, this gear list is only a few changes away from being ready for an archery moose hunt, or any September hunt for that matter. The obvious variable would be the weapon. I’d also pack elk calls, a bugle pipe, and maybe larger game bags. And if you were packing a bow, a simple archery repair kit would also come with it.

Click here to read the full list of equipment. Happy hunting!