I couldn’t manage a horseback hunt without my pet backpack, an Eberlestock X2. I’ve been hunting out of this pack for three seasons because it’s like Goldilocks—not too big, not too small. Just right. It fits the overhead bins on commercial flights, yet holds essential gear for a serious hunt plus survival gear in case of a bivouac. Long, roomy, zippered side pockets fit spotting scopes and big telephoto lenses or rolled-up jackets. Two external pouch pockets hold water bottles, the butt of a rifle or legs of a tripod. The main pocket is about 12 inches wide by 20 inches high and about 7 inches deep. An extension collar raises that another 5 inches. That’s enough space for all the hunting tools I need plus food and extra clothing. Zippered slash pockets let me isolate small items and maps, and a top lid pocket swallows all sorts of odds and ends.
Several compression straps cinch everything tight, and extend to take in extra coats, and a sleeping pad and sleeping bag if necessary. And professional, padded waist and shoulder straps distribute the weight beautifully whether I’m walking or riding. The X2 is like the bed of my Ram 4x4. It hauls the stuff I need on a hunt.
A solid night’s sleep makes every hunt better, and I get it with my Mont-Bell UltraLight Down Hugger 1 sleeping bag atop a 1-pound Therm A Rest pad. The 2-pound, 3-ounce bag compresses into a space hardly larger than a loaf of bread, yet its 800-Fill Power goose down keeps me toasty well below freezing. It’s rated to 15 degrees.
I can’t imagine any hunt without a binocular in hand. But I don’t enjoy an albatross swinging ’round my neck. Swarovski’s 18-ounce 8x30 CL Companion binocular was the perfect compromise—plenty powerful and bright enough for moose hunting, but light enough that I could keep it slung for instant use. Close-up views of grizzlies, ptarmigan, songbirds—even suspicious tracks on a distant mudflat—make every hunt richer.