Wilderness areas are scenic, serene, and awe-striking in their presence, but at the same time they can be mountainous, will-testing, and thin on game. Deep wilderness and backcountry hunting has become all but the norm with half of the gear manufacturers out there these days, but when it boils down to it, none of it easy. Products that improve comfort and ease of travel often look enticing, but many of them may prove to be just the opposite when they are being lugged around on your back for miles at a time.
I have come to notice that the biggest enemy of all when it comes to hunting deep in the backcountry is fear. I see few people as it is, but the few I do see are afraid of many small things that cost them to a very large extent. Afraid of things like being without a tent, of camping away from the comfort of a trail or stream, afraid of leaving those few extra layers behind, afraid of being hungry during the middle of the day, and afraid of being alone. All these things add up… between a tent traded for a bivy, a couple layers left at the truck, and reduction of 500-1000 calories a day, a guy could easily be saving 10-15 lbs off of his pack weight. 15 lbs really adds up over the course of a 75-150 mile season depending on how much hiking you do.
Here is the way I see it, and the way I like to approach things when it comes to hunt preparation and packing. The things that find their place in my pack or even on my body for that matter, must be worth the commitment. Its like the old adage that says “everything has its price.” Never has that rang more true than in this instance here, but the price is paid in calories burned and energy wasted. All things have their price and their performance must justify the means to get them there.
Minimalism is a thing of beauty when it is practiced and well refined. When ultralight basic items that seemingly are all but useless are found in ways that turn them into a swiss army knife, that is when ultralight hunting is at its best. Gear is great, and you won’t get far without some of it, but at the same time you wont get far with too much of it either. Similar to your body type, muscle is good, and you can’t get far without a good healthy body, but too much bulk just renders you a calorie burning inferno that requires more food to live and operate a heavier body. Balance is key.
I am leery to publish my pack list just yet, as it is my baby that holds many of the secrets of how I function during backcountry hunts. However I will say this, you won’t find many luxury items floating inside the walls of my pack. A knife, sleeping bag, bivy, jacket, and bottle of iodine tablets gets me a long ways in life during September.
I could probably write a cover to cover book on this topic if I were to go into detail, but I will hold off for now. I do however, indulge on one heavy item… my backpack. While it tips the scales at 8 pounds when empty, it is the single most worn item I have with me, even more so than any one piece of clothing is worn. Even with an eight pound pack, I have found it possible to pack for 8-10 days while still limboing under the 30 lb mark.
Practice makes perfect when it comes to the backcountry, and the more you try to go without things, the more the fear will subside and replace its feelings with comfort. The more you go without, the more your focus will also follow, allowing you to more fully play your role as a predator. Pack Lite.