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Originally posted on

Article by Beau Martonik

After my first year of backpack hunting in Colorado, it was evident on where the weak points were in my gear choices. If something could break or annoy you, it will after seven days in the backcountry. This past year, my system seemed to be dialed for me with very little that went wrong or that I want to change. Within this latest system are 5 gear choices that stood out as top performers and could be an asset to anyone backpack hunting or hiking.


Adding a stove to my sleeping set up was such a mood booster when the temperatures dropped below freezing and your gear was wet from the latest hail storm. With the stove and pipe weighing at less than 3 pounds, it was well worth the additional weight. The stove itself packs flat, and the stove pipe rolls up for easy carrying.

The Seek Outside Cimmaron/Stove combo kept us warm and out of the weather at treeline in the high country.


After experiencing a year of joining the ultralight backpack community with multiple buckle and material failures, I broke down and bought a Kifaru pack. This was single handedly the best decision I could’ve made. It hauled the 72 pounds that I packed in without problem, and tested it with over 100 pounds during training. The pack is as solid as it gets and well worth the weight penalty over my lightweight pack. In addition, the USA made Kifaru packs are completely customizable allowing you to run as many or as little external pockets as you’d like.

Kifaru is known for their bombproof pack, and the Reckoning lived up to their legacy.


Is it a mid layer? Is it a puffy jacket? No, it’s a mixture of the two. Sitka’s new Kelvin Active Jacket uses 80grams of Polartec Alpha Insulation which retains body heat when you need it, but will breathe extremely well while racking up the vertical miles. I wore this piece directly over my base layer 90% of the time. It worked as an outer layer with its DWR coating when the weather was cool and as an insulating layer underneath my rain shell or puffy jacket when the temperature was below freezing.

The Sitka Gear Kelvin Active Jacket packs into it's own pocket making it unnoticeable in your pack.


Dark Timber is a company that I found out about less than a month before the trip. I had been looking for an instant coffee that tasted better than my Starbucks VIA packets. Dark Timber Ascent Packs are great tasting, and are a big supporter of conservation. They donate 10% of the sales to your choice of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership or the Wild Steelhead Coalition.

There's not many things I enjoy more than watching the backcountry come alive through the binoculars with a hot cup of coffee.


You can’t hunt what you can’t see. After a year of using cheaper optics, I upgraded to a set of Maven B.2’s in 9x45. Their high end ED glass is the best in the business and their no fault warranty makes you feel better about spending your hard earned money on a set of binoculars. I set them up on the tripod for hours of glassing without ever feeling eye strain. The design creates maximum light transmission allowing you to see further and longer during the early morning and evening.  Additionally, I hated getting hit in the chin with my binoculars using a regular elastic binocular harness. After a lot of research, I settled on a company that was completely made in the USA called Marsupial Gear. Since I like to know a little bit about the company before I make a purchase, I called the owner to ask him some questions. He was extremely helpful and made me want to give his product a try. They not only protected my Mavens, the additional rangefinder pocket on the side kept my rangefinder close to me at all times (I didn’t lose it on top off the mountain this year)…

I would consider the Maven B.2 9x45 binoculars paired with the Marsupial Gear bino harness the ultimate elk hunting chest rig.

Although my system worked well together, I am already planning on making some little tweaks for the upcoming year. I love trying out different gear and systems completely custom for me. With that being said, if you are like me and are looking to change up your system for the upcoming year, take a hard look at the options above.

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