Prep Now for Your Backcountry Hunts!

With early archery seasons coming in August, Karen Mehall Phillips decided it was time to get serious are her preparation. The result? A trip to Magpul's Backcountry Hunter's course in Yakima, Wash.

While I stay physically fit and like to think I have a grasp on survival skills, fortunately I’ve never faced a true emergency, and I’ve never been alone in the backcountry. But what if the unexpected happens on my next hunt? With early archery seasons coming in August—and plans to head for high-country mule deer and elk—I’m catching a plane to Yakima, Wash., tomorrow to attend Magpul’s Backcountry Hunter’s Course, July 26-30.

This course is designed specifically for the wilderness hunter. After two days on the range, we’ll spend three days and two nights in Washington’s Cascade Mountains learning the skills needed for a do-it-yourself backcountry hunt. In addition to covering navigation, first aid, camp-site selection and proper hiking techniques, we’ll review personal equipment and clothing selection as extra pounds add up in a hurry when you’re packing everything on your back.

Backcountry hunters take note: One of my biggest finds for this trip is Thermarest’s new-for-2014 Women’s Mira down sleeping bag and sleeping pad. Pictured above, it’s ideal for ultralight three-season backcountry adventures.  Features like ultralight and compressible 750-plus-fill goose down and reflective ThermaCapture lining mean you’ll stay warmer, have less to carry and go farther. SynergyLink Connectors attach the sleeping bag to the pad. For some trivia, the model name Mira refers to a giant red star 200-400 light years away in the constellation Cetus. I’d say the name fits considering the Mira bag is light years ahead of my other sleeping bags! Do yourself a favor and check out Thermarest. You’ll find men’s and women’s bags designed for all temperature ranges.

In search of survival gear? Brownells has you covered. Need a lightweight packable hoodie? Companies like Arcteryx specialize in synthetic, insulated, lightweight layers with wind and moisture resistance. Need all-around performance clothing for your adventure? Cabela’s Guidewear for both women and men gets my vote. Breathable, soft, ultratough 80-gram nylon is quick drying and stain resistant. Visit Cabela’s for everything from clothing to your tripod and trekking poles.

Now check this out! I’m naturally bringing longjohns, but I’m also trying something new: Vapor Wool by Duckworth. While we must stay warm as temperatures drop, when hiking we want to stay cool. My “cool wool” T-shirt will do the trick as I start to perspire—despite being made of Helle Rambouillet fine wool. Believe it or not, the fabric is knitted to work like blotting paper!

I’ll burn serious calories on my treks so a Jetboil stove and Mountain House freeze-dried foods will keep my stomach from grumbling. My Stone Glacier pack will tote my gear and supplies, including my Easton Outfitters tent, which weighs less than 3 pounds packed! Last but not least, when hiking the road less traveled, I never take a step without my Kenetrek mountain boots. Kenetreks have thick leather uppers, heavy-duty midsoles and lightweight construction with high-traction outsoles, including Traction Teeth for multi-directional grip.

With gear like this, I’m ready for the challenge. Either way, I’ll soon find out!

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