Backcountry Basics

By Jace Bauserman

silohette of a man walking on a hill

Something has stirred your adventurous soul. It might have been a social post, YouTube video or an outdoor television show. It doesn't matter. You're planning a DIY road-trip to a far-flung locale in hopes of bringing home the bacon. You're going after a new species, and the plan is to go wild—tents, sleeping bags and a heavy pack filled with gear.

First, good thinking. It's a great idea, and nothing fills the hunting soul with more memories than a road trip hunt. However, you want to make sure those memories are ones your hunting mind wants to call on often and not ones you'd just as soon forget. The fact is, blacktop-burning missions require a litany of gear, and often the key to winning on the road equipping yourself with the right basic gear and fueling your body with good food. Here's what you need to know as you start prepping for your fall adventure.

The Essentials

First, your whitetail daypack isn't going to cut the mustard. A solid adventure-hunting pack will be pricey, but your shoulders and hips thank you for saving them the abuse. Look for a pack with adjustable shoulder straps as well as an adjustable waist belt. In addition, you want something that can tote a load. You want a pack that offers a volume of more than 3,000 cubic inches and has a load-bearing frame that allows you to haul your gear and meat once the job is done. Two of my favorites are Stone Glacier's XCurve Frame with Sky 5900 pack and the 4,335 cubic-inch Metcalf from Mystery Ranch. Load your pack and unload it multiple times before your hunt. Develop a system of what goes where, and learn how all the strap and adjustment systems work.

Next up: A quality tent and sleeping bag. Like packs, you get what you pay for. I've gone the super low-budget route. The result was frigid, sleepless nights and a tent that leaked and eventually collapsed in the wind. Look to quality tentmakers like Kelty, Kifaru and Stone Glacier, to name a few. When it comes to bags, do your research. The options are endless. You want some lightweight, but one that will keep you warm in the temps you expect to encounter.

PWhen you have that quality tent, practice setting it up in your backyard and sleeping in it a few nights. The more efficient you are with your gear, the better off you'll be.

If possible, gain a little elevation. It doesn’t take much. A small hill or mound will do. Snuggle into some sage, cactus, tumbleweeds, a cedar trunk or whatever’s handy, and make your stand.

Fuel Up

Another must-have is a quality, lightweight stove that runs off a small propane bottle. You'll need to fuel your body, and beef jerky and a PB&J sandwich won't cut it night in and night out. The better food you give your body, the better it will hold up and answer the hunting call each morning.

Dehydrated meals are worth their weight in gold. There are multitudes of brands on the market like Mountain House, Backpacker's Pantry and Ready Wise that provide plenty of calories, protein and carbohydrates. Buy more than you think you'll need, and experiment with a few types and flavors before you hunt. Find what settles well after a good run or a lifting session at the gym.

man walking on a rocky hill

In addition to your dehydrated meals, you'll want to have a pre-made snack bag ready for each day of the hunt. Creating these bags isn't rocket science, so don't overthink it. Find a few good bars like those from Primed Nutrition, Cliff, and put a couple in each bag. Beef jerky, trail mix with plenty of nuts, and dehydrated fruit should also be in your snack bag. Of course, you can add lots of other items. You want to make sure each bag has between 1,500 and 2,000 calories. You'll be burning lots of fuel, and you'll need to replace spent calories. A drink mix like those from Wilderness Athlete and Mountain Ops are also solid good bag items. Yes, you'll need lots of water, but rewarding your efforts with something that has taste and added nutrients is an excellent idea.


Naturally, you'll need several smaller backcountry items like a water purifier, dry bags, first aid kit and more, and those can be gathered over time. I also recommend a pair of quality trekking poles. Nothing will help you navigate daunting terrain, especially when making steep ascents and descents with a heavy pack like a good pair of sticks. They help with balance and keep you moving forward.

All you need to do know is further your research and continue to prepare. Fall will be here before you know it.

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