With the 2024 big game hunting application season upon us, I figured I would revisit some of my favorite hunting gear from the 2023 season while also discussing some items I'm looking at switching up this year.
Let's dive right into it.
I have to give the number 1 spot to my rifle, the Springfield Armory 2020 Waypoint in .308 Winchester. I absolutely LOVE this rifle and it continues to treat me well. I've killed every animal I've taken a shot at with one bullet. While it seems like there is some hot new cartridge coming out every month, the ol' 308 remains tried and true with virtually unlimited ammo availability. I expect to keep this rifle for the rest of my life. Of course, the entire rifle system needs a shout out here so that includes:
- Tract Toric UHD 3-15x50 BDC rifle scope
- Spartan Precision Javelin Pro Hunt Tac Bipod
- Rugged Ridge Outdoor Gear extreme rear support system
- Beartooth Products Comb Raising kit
- CGS Hyperion K suppressor
- Nosler Trophy Grade 165gr Accubond
Another item that's been with me on every hunt (and even simple camping trips) that I enjoyed using and will continue to use is the ZenBivy 10º Light Quilt. I find that quilts are a lot more comfortable for me as a side sleeper as they don't restrict my leg movement or position. Also, the fact that you can completely open it up and use it as a simple blanket means it's versatile enough for virtually year-round use.
Three other staples of my hunting kit that aren't going anywhere are the Peax Backcountry Elite trekking poles, their Backcountry Duo headlamp, and their Storm Castle gaiters. The trekking poles are a lightweight, yet strong combination of a carbon fiber upper with aluminum lower section. The new version with cork handles is perhaps the perfect trekking pole. Their headlamp also crushes every single other headlamp I've used. The ratio of weight to brightness to duration is unmatched in my opinion. It's not 100% perfect, but it's close. The Storm Castle gaiters were my first set ever, and likely my last. They're incredibly tough, waterproof, and keep the thorny Oregon brush I'm constantly in at bay (not to mention the ticks).
One other item that ended up being a favorite that was actually new for 2023 is the Worksharp Guided Field Sharpener. This little item saved me a lot of headache while field dressing both my spring bear and my blacktail buck. It will most definitely remain in my kill kit in 2024.
Finally I have to give a shout out to the MEAT 1hp grinder that I picked up. This thing made super quick work of 40lbs of venison burger. Easy to use, cleans up quick, and just really powered through the meat. I still have some sausage to make and I know the grinder will make it an easy task. The only note here is that I would say buy the biggest version you can comfortably afford and definitely consider the dual grind model. You won't ever regret having more power and needing to do less passes.
There is a ton more gear that I love and used in 2023, but these were a few of the highlights. If a product really stands out, I like to list it in the Products We Love collection so feel free to check that out for more gear.
Honestly, there is not a ton I'm thinking about changing that's a 100% certainty. But I am going to be trying some new things and have some thoughts bouncing around about different gear directions.
For 2022 and 2023 I was using the Crispi Nevada non-insulated in conjunction with Sheep Feet custom orthotics. They worked fine but I can't say I understand the Crispi hype. Lowa Boots was kind enough to send over their Tibet GTX hunting boots so I'll be giving those a go in 2024. I'll do a follow up post with my thoughts once I have some time in the field with them.
During the past couple seasons I haven't done a ton of hunts where I needed a tent outside of the rooftop ten on my truck. But I did use my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 shelter (that I bought for backpacking before I got into hunting) a couple of times. Unfortunately, the last time I used it during spring bear I ended up poking a decent size hole through it trying to use a stick as a tent pole. Totally my fault. My main challenge with this shelter though is that it's just slightly too small for me. My head touches one side and my feet touch the other and this results in a decent amount of condensation getting my quilt wet. Not great. I'm strongly considering picking up the Peax Solitude tipi. I've been trying to hold out to see if they'd release a dyneema version for lighter weight but they've stated that is not coming in 2024. I'm hoping to do more backcountry hunts as I get into better shape so this is likely moving up my list soon.
I know I put the ZenBivy Quilt on my favorite items, and it definitely deserves to be there. That being said, Peax just released their Solace 15 sleeping bag and it's packed with features that are very intriguing... including the ability to convert it to a quilt. It's hard not to be a Peax fanboy with the quality and innovation in their products. If I end up picking up a late season tag somewhere, this may be jumping up the priority list to try out.
Truck / Basecamp
The more I hunt the more I'm feeling the pain of space limitations in my current vehicle setup. While I absolutely love the Lexus GX460 and how I have it set up, I have to pack that thing TO THE BRIM to bring everything I need (ok, everything I WANT) to bring. I've been tempted to make the move to a full-size truck but what I'd like is beyond the capabilities of my wallet at the moment. So I'm thinking about building out a dedicated hunting trailer that will allow me to move the gear out of the GX, and have a cozy basecamp sleeping setup. I'm also thinking about making half the trailer a mobile refrigerator using a Coolbot.
It's easy to put too much emphasis on gear. You should never let not having the newest, fanciest thing ever keep you from going on a hunt, but of course having the right gear to keep you safe and be successful is important. Do I actually NEED to change anything in 2024. No. Do I want to? Sure. Will I? I guess we'll see how the budget works out :-)