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Basic gear for high country cold weather elk hunting.

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by H&Hhunter, Jun 1, 2012.

  1. H&Hhunter

    H&Hhunter Moderator

    Two sets off good moisture whicking base layers tops and bottoms.

    At least three pair of good wool socks accompanied by good moisture whicking sock liners.

    Two pair wool pants.
    I prefer the Swedish wool ski trooper pants that you can buy surplus for like $15.00 a pair. Cabelas usually has them on sale in the early fall. I've got two pair that have lasted me over ten season and they are WWI issue! Tough gear to say the least!

    Top end I wear a good base layer and then I'll have at least two layers usually a light weight synthetic fleece topped by either a light wool sweater or a fleece vest and a shell. Gore tex or wool. I have both and find that a good Gore tex light weight shell is about the finest protection there is.

    If adaptability is the key to airpower layering is the key to staying warm and dry in the winter in blizzard conditions. DO NOT bring one gynormus parka for a jacket you'll be hating it shortly after beginning your first hard climb.

    Gloves two pair
    One heavy duty gore tex and one lighter duty warm glove. I think I've tried them all and this is the best I've found for the money. If you want to do better you've got to get into the high dollar mountaineering stuff.. http://www.cabelas.com/product/Cloth...3Bcat104128380
    I carry two heavy pair and one light. I hate cold hands!

    whatever works for you I've started to wear a fleece beanie with a stretch fit Under Armour hunters orange cap over the top of it. I also have a Charhart fleece in hunters orange that has a fold out face mask for really crappy days. One thing to keep in mind is that one needs to be comfortable enough to wear at night while sleeping in the tent.

    sorry guys but you HAVE to have two pairs. One dry land hiking boot and set of snow packs. The very best hunting/hiking snow pack I've ever used are the Schnee's 13" pack boot BUT you can get away a lot cheaper with a pair of regular old pack boots they just don't have the support that the Schnee's have. As far as the hiking boot well I've tried lots of them and my two recommendations are either a Danner or a Kenetrek Mt Extreme. But the Kennetreks are EXPENSIVE!

    Why two pairs? Because it can be 50 or 60 deg and dry as bone one day and have 3' of snow on the ground the next. There never has been and there never will be a pair of leather boots that can stay dry in the snow with hard use for multiple days. I've had guys argue it with me but they all have to quit hunting after several days of hard use in heavy snow with leather Gore tex boots. Visa Versa pack boots are miserable suckers on loose dry steep ground.

    The last yet most important item for long term comfort and essential warmth for deep snow hunting. I use O.R. Goretex gaiters that come up to my knee. When you buy your gaiters MAKE SURE you are getting snow gaiters and NOT summer time hiking gaiters which are designed to keep grass seeds out of your socks. BIG DIFFERENCE

    Other essential gear;
    Two knives
    One that you wear or in your pocket one back up in your pack.
    (Ask Gaiudo about this one.)I carry a hunting knife my favorite is Wegner drop point pro hunter folder and my back up is a Leatherman Skeletool. It's a crappy knife but an invaluable tool.

    Knife sharpener.
    I have a good one for fixing a knife at base camp and carry diamond stick or ceramic stick with me while hunting for dressing an edge while field dressing.

    Fire starter.
    Any survival expert will tell you to have at least two fire starting systems. I carry a Swedish fire stick and two bic lighters with a quart sized zip lock bag full of petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls.

    Micro camp stove
    I've recently started carrying a tiny little guy that fold up into the space about the size of a pack of playing cards and weighs less. It fires up instantly and boils water/melts snow in your metal water bottle in a matter of minutes. It sure is nice to put some hot coffee or chocolate down your gullet during a rest break. To me it's a serious morale booster. There are lots of them available go to a camping store and figure out the one that works for you if you think you'll want this luxury item along.

    Water bottle.
    I use the aluminum hikers bottles not painted. You can stuff them full of snow and put the bottle on a fire to melt it, that's why I use aluminum or steel bottles that aren't painted. Also carry a dropper full of bleach with you. that way you can dip into a river or even a lake drop two drops of bleach into your water wait 20 minutes and safely drink from local water sources. Lot of beavers up there DON'T DRINK with out purifying the local water.

    50 feet of 550 para cord.
    Para cord holds the world together.

    GPS if you want. I don't generally use one.

    Day Pack. I've got to where I like a good fanny pack.

    High energy snacks.

    High viz marker tape.

    Toilet paper, when you gotta go you gotta go. Decent fire starter too.

    First aid kit. You can't do any better for pre prepared first aid kit than the NOLS wilderness first responder or the ultra light first aid kit. The one and only thing you need to add to it is mole skin for blisters. That has saved my buttock more than once on a high country hunt.

    Light weight micro shelter tarp.
    Will save you butt in a blizzard if you have to over night. One of those cheap survival blankets will work in a pinch.

    Flash light or head lamp with extra batteries. I carry both.

    If you wear glasses bring dry cloth and cleaner

    Carry the rifle you shoot best use good controlled expansion bullets and don't get stupid with long range shots on elk. I know the guy who wears eye liner and is selling his long range shooting system on TV does it every week but you don't wear eye liner and they don't show his screw ups on TV.

    Extra shells.
    I use one of those cheap Cabelas nylon floppy ten round shell holders that go on your belt they cost like 5 or 10 bucks. I've found nothing that works better. Do not stuff rounds in your pockets loose and then jingle when you walk. You might as well be walking through the woods with a amplifier yelling ROCK N ROLL BABY! Elk hear that stuff.

    Buttler Creek scope covers, or other scope covers.
    You will NOT be hunting very long in the snow without scope covers! Trust me on this one.

    Electrical tape or barrel condoms.
    You'll need it to cover your muzzle same as above. Once your bore becomes filled with ice and snow repeat shots become unreliable after your barrel bulges or splits. As above trust me on this one. Cover those muzzles in the snow!

    Camping gear

    Good sleeping pad or a cot depending on your tent.
    I use a Synpad 9 but there are multiple good pads out there for cheaper. I am at the age where I'll pay extra for some comfort and the Syn Pad is best I've found. It's like sleeping on a bed. (Almost)

    A good sleeping bag.

    If you don't have a really warm sleeping bag you can make it warmer by simply getting a fleece sleeping bag liner or doubling up two light weight bags. I use the Cabelas guide bag which is supper warm but it's HEAVY AND it's got a cotton blend fill which makes it a BASE CAMP ONLY BAG if it gets wet you're up the creek. If you want light, packable and warm they exist it just depends on how much money you want to spend. See sleeping bag liner above. If you are spike camping you'll need a good expedition type cold weather synthetic fill bag.


    Nothing beats a good wall tent with a wood burning stove but if you don't have one get something with some room and a good vestibule that is solid and no kidding water proof.

    Gear to absolutely stay away from;

    Anything branded "Red Head" from Bass Pro. It is the cheapest non functioning crapolla available and it will get you killed in the high country. It might work just fine out on the deer lease but at 11,000 feet in the Rockies during a blinding blizzard it's going to fail on you.

    Sitka Mt Light gear. Expensive, lightly constructed, and it doesn't last. Sitka gear should be ashamed of themselves for even putting their name on it. I bought some for my solo Goat hunt last year and was happy with it at first. It lasted exactly two hunts the goat hunt and then it started coming apart during deer season. :fire::fire:

    Charhart canvas/wool lined gear. Works great in the flat lands but anything cotton will get your butt killed in the high country. Charhart does make some very useable gear in synthetics now days but stay away from the bubba canavs/cotton gear in the mountains.

    Primo Brothers = Cheap, gonna fail gear. I've never had a Primos brothers product survive a whole season nuff said.

    Cheap scopes. Sooner or later they are going to either fog or loose zero during tough conditions. Usually right when you need them most.

    Cotton. Wear jeans and die in the high country. You can get away with it maybe forever but the one time you get soaked in the snow and have to sit over night you might not make it. My search and rescue team pulls a couple of dead frozen bodies out of the high country every year and they are usually wearing an ice encrusted tomb of cotton clothing.


    This list is geared towards a drive in or ride in base camp and the hunting being conducted on foot from camp or driving from camp each day to the hunting areas IE a series of day hunts from a base camp. If you are hiking in the gear needs will be different and much more specific to ultra light weight high tech gear.
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2012
  2. LeonCarr

    LeonCarr Well-Known Member

    Excellent post with alot of good advice.

    Just my .02,
  3. kbbailey

    kbbailey Well-Known Member

    good advice...sounds like experience talking
  4. elkdomBC

    elkdomBC Well-Known Member

    excellent Elk hunting supply list !
    and personally I would add to that list, a couple of rolls of "Bright colored Surveyor's Tape" and a good quality lightweight Bone Saw",,,,,,
  5. jmr40

    jmr40 Well-Known Member

    Good advice. Absolutely nothing about that I'd change, but I'll add 1 thing. When shopping for deals on good hunting gear I do better at stores that cater to backpackers than hunters. I'm a REI member and there are several independent backpack stores near home where I often find good deals.

    Most of those stores are seasonal and start marking winter gear down in the summer. One store near home has all their winter clothing 50% off right now and buy July 1 it always goes to 70% off. It won't be in camo, but lots of greens, browns, black, and gray. I have several clothing items and jackets made by Marmont, Northface, and Mountain Hardware that were only slightly more expensive than the cheap stuff sold at Walmart.

    +1 on the Danner boots. They are expensive, but are cheaper in the long run. Several of my hunting buddies thought I was crazy when I paid $160 for a pair back in 1989 when they were paying $60 or so for Rocky's. I finally threw them away in 2001 while my hunting buddies had gone through 4-5 pairs of cheaper boots in the same time.

    Gaiters are great, and often overlooked as well.

    I've found that the secret to staying warm is to keep my head warm. I usually wear a wool baseball cap when walking. This is the best I've found.

    http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/51414?feat=sr&term=wool ball cap

    But when sitting I double up on face masks and watchcaps. If I can keep my head and neck warm I've found that I rarely use insulated boots in temps down into single digits and can get by with a much lighter jacket and gloves.
  6. H&Hhunter

    H&Hhunter Moderator

    Good add on! I also carry a roll of bright orange surveyors tape always I just forgot to mention it. I also carry a light weight compass which I forgot to mention.

    Bone saw. I used to carry one but have found that the one and only thing I ever need a bone saw for is separating the ribs from the spine and splitting the brisket I can do everything else with a knife and some anatomy knowledge. If I need to pack out an elk I bone it out so there is no need for a bone saw for me. HOWEVER I've been contemplating carrying a micro light hatchet which will do a very nice job of splitting a rib cage. mainly just because I want one cuz they're really cool!:D

    I'd have one of these if my wife wasn't so mean. After she saw the price I'm afraid she'd use it on me! I already tried to convince her. "But honey I could use it to chop down trees to make a cabin, and build a wagon, and do surgery, and repulse attacks, and change tires, and and and." She just gave me "that" look end of story.:rolleyes:

    Last edited: Jun 1, 2012
  7. H&Hhunter

    H&Hhunter Moderator

    OH a couple of last minute add ons that I'd forgotten to mention.

    A small basic first aide kit to include some Carmex and sun block and some basic pain killers like Advil.

    If you are not familiar with an area a good topo map is essential.
  8. ZeroJunk

    ZeroJunk Well-Known Member

    I have found that masking tape sticks to a steel barrel better than elecrical tape.

    A few years ago I had to walk out about 19 miles due to a mishap with the horses, they got tired of being there before we did.:)

    Anyhow, I was bow hunting in early Sept. so cold wasn't an issue and my socks were whatever I took out of the drawer. When I got to the airport in Salt Lake City I had to take a cart for the handicapped because my feet were so blistered. That is when I discovered Thorlo socks.

    Take good socks and change them often if you can.

    I don't mind skid marks in my whitey tighties, but I hate crusty socks.
  9. GJgo

    GJgo Well-Known Member

    Excellent post! I've figured some of this out from reading, but over the years I've figured out a bunch of it the hard way too.

    One thing I'll add. One of the hunts I do, I know where the Elk will be & roughly when they'll be there, so I sit & wait for them to show up. Works pretty well. After a few years of freezing my arse off sitting on hard / wet / cold / snowy ground I started packing in a simple foam seat / butt-pad. It is awesome, makes a huge difference when I'm pretending to be a rock for 3-4 hours in freezing temps.

    Also, eating re-constituted freeze dried camp meals for a week straight will tear you up! Think real hard about what food you're taking with you, some real food here & there is good for morale as well.

    I usually try to take spare everything & leave lots of supplies in the truck. After hunting 4-5 days I'll hike out, drive to a spot where I can take a shower, get fresh clothes / supplies & hit the reset button. The extra miles walking isn't much fun but it's worth it in the big picture.
  10. elkdomBC

    elkdomBC Well-Known Member

    something good for packing along to help from "freezin your arse off or solid to the ground is a piece of that "tinfoil covered/plastic-air-bubble insulation",,,
    a piece of that 24 inches wide and roughly your own body length makes a remarkably warm ground mat to sleep on if you get stuck out in cold weather and also a good seat to insulate your hind-quarters from freezing to the ground when folded a couple of times,
    a piece of this tinfoil covered air-bubble insulation 24 inches by 5 feet long weight about 1 ounce and is almost indestructible , except from flame.

    where I hunt Elk in Northern Canada some of our Elk seasons are open when it is minus - 45 ,,, a warm seat is priceless

    and for extreme cold weather, I prefer the Ol'd ZIPPO liquid fueled ,Flint-sparked lighters,,,

    BIC lighters are useless after minus -10 or -15 ,,,,,or if WET !

    included a pic of myself with an antler-less elk taken on a recent January hunt, when the sun came up that morning at about 9;30 am, it was minus -45 Celsius,,,,, after -40 below, Fahrenheit or Celsius don't make much difference ! brrrrrrrrrrrrr

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 2, 2012
  11. kbbailey

    kbbailey Well-Known Member

    One thing I could add: Zip-ties. They weigh nothing and have so many uses, even emergency boot laces. No first aid kit/ daypack should be without them.
  12. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Administrator Staff Member

    Lightweight hatchet? First, buy a reasonably decent hatchet. Then, find a machine shop with a bandsaw. Cut as desired to lighten it.

    I keep Darvon and 5mg Valium in my base-camp med kit. When I went to the doc for a prescription, he asked why I wanted them. I explained that if I took him quail hunting and he fell and broke a leg, I didn't want to hear him scream during the two hours it took to drive over a rough jeep trail to the pavement. :D It's amazing how fast some docs can write, given motivation!
  13. blarby

    blarby Well-Known Member

    Very, very good thread.

  14. Flintknapper

    Flintknapper Well-Known Member

    Excellent list and advice.

    Two very important points (among many) were made that everyone should heed.

    The need for two pair of boots (Snowpacs being essential) and NO COTTON in the high country. COTTON KILLS, no joke.
  15. Flintknapper

    Flintknapper Well-Known Member

    It is also a good idea to have 'chains' for vehicle tires and at least a couple of folding camp shovels.

    We were hunting (and had our camp site) near Star Mountain (Taylor Park area Colorado) one year...and had an unexpected snow storm nearly make it impossible for us to get out.

    We had to shovel snow the width of our vehicles for about 500 yds. to get them on the lee side of the mountain to get out.

    If you plan on camping much above 10,000 ft. be prepared for snow (it can happen).
  16. elkdomBC

    elkdomBC Well-Known Member

    one year on August 20, hunting the foothills in Northern BC Canada, for moose and elk during the earliest part of season, we were awakened by our tent crashing down on the 4 of us, almost suffocating in the big canvas tent under hundreds of pounds of wet snow, we got out OK, but our whole camp was a shambles, we awoke to 20 inches of new, wet, heavy snow.

    then trying to negotiate trails and forestry access roads back was a 2 day marathon of cutting downed large trees, from the tremendous weight of the early season wet snow, luckily we had a dependable chainsaw and plenty of fuel,

    2 days of hard work for 4 men to cut hundreds, if not thousands of fallen trees to allow us to get back to a main road,

    the drive in with 4x4 trucks took us 1 1/2 hours, the DRIVE OUT, took us 2 full DAYS,,,,,,,,,

    in remote areas, a dependable power saw and plenty of fuel is an absolute necessity, not an option,,,,,
  17. Mosbyranger

    Mosbyranger Well-Known Member

    A couple of other things...

    Excellent advice in this thread. I would observe, and have experienced that toilet paper is flimsy, and should it get wet, useless. We carry several rolls of shop towels(not standard kitchen towels) in the trailer. They are soft and absorbent, stand up to being in a pocket much better and each towel can be torn in half to double your supply. They also do a much better job of cleaning your hands should you be lucky or good enough to get an animal.

    A fleece balclava is an invaluable piece of equipment for me. Howling winds in Colorado in November at 11000 feet can be a little harsh.

    Gojo hand cleaner- or other brand. Takes the blood off, works well with the shop towels.

    Immodium- as previously mentioned a change of diet, elevation etc can wreck havoc on your bowels. Be prepared. Or be sorry.
  18. Casefull

    Casefull Well-Known Member

    Lots of good advice. I believe most hunters take way too much stuff...lots of items are nice to have but if you hike the places I go you would leave most of the stuff suggested at home or in your truck. If you think it through you do not need many of the items deemed nice to have along. I have decieided over time that I like hunting better than packing or taking care of my horses in the backcountry.
  19. H&Hhunter

    H&Hhunter Moderator

    A couple of things to add..

    Something to add here that I completely passed over. DO NOT SHOW UP in elk camp without binoculars and preferably a range a finder. Binos are one of the most important things a person can have on an elk hunt even more important than your rifle in most cases.

    A range finder has become essential equipment for me there are lots of folks that think they can accurately estimate range with the naked eye. But it simply isn't true and a range finder will teach you just how wrong you are most of the time.

    With that in mind the better the glass you can afford the better off you'll be. However if a hunter can get into a quality pair of glass in the 7 to 10 power range with an objective lens from 32 to 42 mm they'll be in the right ball park. For better low end glass in the $300 to $600 range I'd look towards leupold Vortex Nikon and Stiener stay away from Bushnell or anything made in China including and bottom end Leupold stuff or any bottom end stuff for that matter.

    As far as range finders go I use a Lieca CRF 1200 and it's an awesome little tool however you can get into a decent range finder for much less from Leupold or Nikon, I'd skip Bushnell or any off brand cheapo stuff given the choice.

    One other thing make sure and bring something to cover your muzzle with those little rubber barrel "condomes" or some electrical tape, masking tape will not hold up in wet conditions. I don't care how careful you think you are, sooner or latter you are either going to fall or drop your rifle and there is a good chance that you will pack your muzzle full of snow or mud. Later after you've forgotten about it you'll get a shot at that bull and if you're lucky all that happens is that you blow the end of your barrel open or severely bulge it and your hunt is over. If you are unlucky you lose an eye or worse you blow part of your face off. It's just too simple to just put a piece of tape over your muzzle and avoid all that risk and hassle.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2012
  20. Robert

    Robert Moderator

    Osprey makes awesome day packs that can haul all you need in comfort. And hey, I like my cloudy 1960s era binos...

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