Howdy folks, welcome to another edition of CIBTC’s gear guides! Today’s guide: the absolute essentials you need to take hiking in the backcountry. There are a million guides like this out there, but basically none of them have things you actually need. They’re just places for companies to stuff new gadgets they want to sell, which you aren’t actually going to use. So, we experienced hunters came up with the real must-haves that you can’t do without. They won’t cost you an arm and a leg, but they’ll get you through a good hunting trip without any mishaps or discomfort.
First up is a good pack. Frame packs are the obvious thing to use, because you can tie up your meat to it pretty easily to get it out of the bush. Get something with big pockets for all your weather gear and provisions, and plenty of places to attach the kill when you get the money shot.
Next up is shelter. You can go two ways with this: a tent, or a tarp. Tents are obviously more comfortable, but you have to haul a lot more material and the poles as well. It’s a lot of bulk, especially if there’s only one or two of you. If you go the tarp route, you can either use parachute cord to tie it between trees for a flat roof, or make a simple lean-to against a rock face. Depends how much you want to rough it, what the weather’s going to be, and how long you’re going to be in the woods. Either way you go, make sure whatever you’re using is waterproof, rip-stop, and lightweight.
Regardless of what you’re sleeping under, you’re going to need a warm sleeping bag rated to at least the worst temperatures you can expect where you’re going and a waterproof bag to carry it in so it doesn’t get soaked if you’re hiking in the rain.
You need a good water bottle to stay hydrated wherever you are. We’ve used water packs before, but they’re hard to clean and they’re hard to gauge as far as how much water you have left. It’s easier to ration with a bottle, and it’s really easy to refill a bottle in the rain at your campsite for some fresh, clean water. If you’re going to have to refill and can’t use rainwater, you should also keep a few iodine tabs in your pack to purify stream water.
Bring a few pairs of socks, at least two pairs to rotate through. Wearing the same socks day after day is basically asking for an infection or trench foot to start, which is going to put you out of action possibly in a dangerous spot. It’s really easy to avoid if you get moisture-wicking socks instead of cotton and cycle through them every day. Let them dry on your pack if you have somewhere to secure them.
A first aid kit is an obvious thing to bring, so don’t forget it. Other good gear everyone should bring is a multitool, a headlamp with some extra batteries, and a map or gps. That’s really all you need, unless you think you’re going to be cooking in the woods.
Bring these things, and you’ll be good as gold. And don’t forget your hunting gear: rifle, bow, or crossbow, with ammo, and bring a rangefinder. Wear good boots, and don’t take chances in the woods, because there’s not a lot of wiggle room when things go wrong. Good luck out there.
It’s a wide world out there, and yet finding a great hunting spot is somehow still a struggle a lot of the time. All the spots that are recommended in big hunting magazines and online are overrun with tourists and hunted out, so it’s always a balancing act between finding a recommendation and ending up somewhere that’s empty of game. Here’s the CIBTC guide to finding the best places to have a successful hunt:
The easiest thing to do, and the best way to find somewhere that’s relatively off the grid is to ask around your network. Post on Facebook, or call your hunter friends for their secret spots. One cool trick you can do to find people you might not necessarily think of is to search Facebook for your friends who “like” hunting, so you can see who to send messages to. You can also start groups to share with a few trusty friends who want to share spots but don’t want to let the whole world know about them.
You can also check your state hunting and fishing site, official wildlife page, or whatever it’s called in your state. It’s the site you’d go to for hunting season dates, licenses, and all that sort of thing. They also have maps of public and protected land that you can hunt on, which is a good place to start. A pretty sizable number of state and national parks can be hunted with the right permits, so doing some poking around can be really fruitful. The National Wildlife Refuge System has a good database for the whole country, if you’re looking to take a hunting trip out of state but still in the US.
Open hunt leases are another good place to look on the internet. They’re on Craigslist, although that tends to be sketchier than other sites, but you can also look on classified sections in local papers, or on twitter and other social media around where you live. Or just search “hunting lease” with your zip code and you should find a few options.
Of course, it’s better to find something that’s not advertised for everybody under the sun. So joining a hunting forum can be really productive. Don’t just hop on a bunch and assume you’ll get invites, though. Pick one forum that seems good, make a few comments, start some conversations, and then you’ll start having options left and right for places to hunt. It’s all about who you know in this world.
Last up, for folks who have some money to spare, you can also buy a plot of land somewhere really good for hunting, like in the Rockies or Appalachians, and keep it between you and your hunting buddies. It’s expensive, but it’s a surefire way to get control over a spot and make sure you always have a fruitful place to shoot. So, get started searching, pack your bags, and don’t forget your hunting rangefinder!
If you’re any kind of serious about hunting, which we know you are, you absolutely need to be using a rangefinder! Especially if you’re traveling to hunt, you don’t want to take all that effort to bring a gun across the world, spending hours of your time and hundreds of your dollars to come back empty-handed. We know. But there are a lot of optics out there, so we decided to make our very own CIBTC buying guide for all you gun-totin’ globetrotters!
So, no beating around the bush, what do we want out of our rangefinder? Number one has to be accuracy. It doesn’t matter how many features your rangefinder has if it can’t give you an accurate reading. On to number two, then. Number two is ease of use. Rangefinders are all about convenience. You don’t want to be fiddling around with some stupid setting while the game is getting away. We want our rangefinder to be simple and straightforward. Last up, we want it to be ready for the road in every possible way. So, no wiggly parts, no delicate knobs sticking. We only buy rugged little rangefinders that can take a beating, because you never know what you’re going to run into in the bush, not even mentioning the baggage check, right? Recapping: accurate, easy, and rugged. The three things we look for when we’re picking distance gauges.
Our current favorite between all of us is a Leupold, which also tends to be our favorite brand for scopes. They make great glass, plain and simple. The RX1000I is a fantastic rangefinder for just about everybody. It has really clear, crisp glass, just like their scopes, and it’s super defined out to the edge of the range, which tops out around 1000 yards. It uses their DNA software to get readings, and when we’ve tested it/used it in the field, it’s dead-on every damn time. Our top feature on this one is the TBR, which is a ballistic range calculator tool that works like a BDC reticle, telling you how to compensate for slope, winds, and all that stuff that can throw you off. You can turn it on and off as needed. Oh, and it’s rugged as hell. It’s not the absolute best out there, and it’s nowhere near the cheapest, but it hits our sweet spot, dead-on.
If you’re one of those hunters who has to have the absolute, hands-down most accurate tool, and good on you, you want to get the Leica Rangemaster CRF 1600-B, which is as far as we know the only rangefinder made today that can beat the Leupold head to head in accuracy. It scores better in any rangefinder reviews, including ours. It’s also more powerful, out to 1600 yards, and it’s loaded with even better ballistic software that measures everything from slope to air pressure and every other minute detail. It works in dusk lighting, it works accurately even past the 1600 yard range, and it’s not just drop-proof but waterproof. Phew. It’s overkill, for pretty much everybody, but if you’re an expert going for the big kill or someone who really likes his gear, you might be able to justify the cost. In general, though, the Leupold is more than good enough.
Nikon’s Aculon series is currently the best budget tool we know of, and that’s the last one we’re including in this buying guide. It’s not the best thing out there by any stretch, but it keeps it simple, stupid. The AL11 has a range out to 500 yards, and even though it comes with basically no features, it does what it actually does very well. One feature that really makes this one better than any of the other <$200’s that we’ve used is the grouping processor. It basically takes a group of targets and automatically calculates to the last one. So, if there’s a deer behind a tree, it’ll give you the deer, not the tree that’s in your line of sight. Not as fancy as a Leupold, but it has clear glass, it’s solid enough, and we don’t think anybody who’s not fussy will have anything to complain about.
So grab your rangefinder and pack your bags, your ideal takings await.