Ultralight backpacking and hunting gear is expensive, right? The “Big 3” in regard to ultralight consists of your shelter, sleeping system, and pack. These are usually the biggest and heaviest items that you will be taking with you, and will usually yield the biggest weight savings when you upgrade. But they also usually come with the heftiest price tags. What if you just got geared up a year or two ago? Are you going to abandon perfectly good gear in favor of the new product line? It can be tough to accept the steep cost-benefit ratio of dropping hundreds of dollars to upgrade to a new sleeping system just to gain a couple of free ounces over your old reliable bag. But, if you want to drop some serious weight from you pack, the Big 3 are going to yield the most impactful upgrades.
So if you are not yet ready to pull a full Big 3 upgrade, or maybe you already have the top of the line bag, tent, and pack and you want to trim a couple more ounces, keep reading for some tips to get how to shed a little more weight from that hunting pack for a price of next to nothin’.
Consolidate your electronics, consolidate your batteries. Like an ever-evolving beast, my cell phone has devoured and absorbed a multitude of my other devices. I no longer need a backup flashlight or collapsible lantern, because my cell phone has a sustaining camera flash that can fill both their functions. I haven’t carried a camera in years. I no longer carry a GPS because my phone has apps like OnX Hunt. I no longer carry a book because I have an e-reader app with books stored on my phone electronically (including valuable hunting reference guides and other pdfs). Giving up other devices for the phone may seem pretty obvious, but my recent weight saving has been in batteries. To power my phone, I carry an extra battery pack (I’ve found the Anker PowerCore 10000 to have the best charge to weight ratio). It gets me about four full charges, which is usually more than I need. Since I’ve now got a universal USB power bank, I can also power up my rechargeable headlamp, reducing my need for any backup AAA’s (It also charges my watch and Steripen if needed).
You call that a knife? If you’re like me, you find yourself accumulating knives without even trying. I’ve got a full box of knives that I’ve received as gifts, or were door prizes from hunting banquets, or I may have bought just because I liked the feel of it. Some are great knives, some are decent. I don’t know where the impulse came from, but I always seemed compelled to try and get some sort of use out of each of them. I had one that I would use for elk, one for deer, one for skinning, one for caping, and so one. I’m not saying that I would take all those knives with me into the backcountry, but I did have a fairly large elk knife (9.2 oz, 9.5″ overall length, wood handle, full tang) that I would regularly pack deep in the woods. I’ve since come to the conclusion that one of my smaller knives (2.6 oz, 7.5″ overall length, rubber handle, full tang) is completely adequate in the field, and I am more than comfortable using it to take apart an elk. Since losing a knife would be pretty much a game-ender for a hunt, I usually bring a smaller backup knife as well. From my random collection I’ve found a Buck Paklite Caper that weighs in at 1.4 oz. Those two knives combined are still over a quarter-pound savings over my larger elk knife.
Speaking of quarter-pounders, cut out the snacks. This can be a tough one, initially. But in reality, you probably don’t need snacks. You’ll be more efficient while hunting and less distracted if you don’t bring snacks. How many times have you sat down to glass, and impulsively began pawing through your day bag for something to eat. Many times we are using snacks as a distraction to boredom rather than as a means to restore energy. This isn’t a recommendation to cut down your daily calorie intake, but rather consider putting all those calories in your main meals. Many times, snack foods are less calorie dense, or are lower quality fuel (i.e. sweets), or are in smaller portions with more packaging than your meals. Be aware of how you pack your food. I’ve been guilty of neglecting to include the calories of my snacks in my food plan, throwing them in last after I’ve already accounted for all my necessary fuel in meals. This has resulted in extra weight I don’t need, and I regularly those snacks uneaten when I unload at the end of a trip. If you don’t want to get rid of your snacks completely, you can front-load them in your trip. The hike in is likely going to be one of the most physically strenuous days of your hunt, so you can use that first day to chow through your junk food.
You’re gonna stink, cuz you nasty. You may be able to reduce some of your scent, but you’re not going to be able to eliminate it…not even close. Once you come to terms that you are trying to manage scent, not eliminate it, you can get rid of a lot of gear. Extra undies, extra socks, deodorant, bathing wipes, scent concealer spray, soap, and shampoo are all either ineffective or impractical to take into the backcountry. The soap and shampoo are probably the most effective at reducing your scent trail, but I’m not interested in bathing in a high country lake during September (especially at the sacrifice of daylight hunting hours). The bathing wipes are nice to have, but I have found them to be much heavier than they need to be. They are thicker than shop towels and drenched in de-scenting solution. If you feel you must utilize some method of bathing, I’ve found baby wipes to be a much better alternative, which are still unscented and are much thinner and lighter. Extra clothes are going to help manage scent, but I usually only bring one extra pair of socks and undies for a week-long trip. I can always give one set a rinse in the stream and an air dry if thing get too ripe. Or, if the bike/hike in is going to be strenuous and I know I’m going to be pretty brutal on that first day’s clothes, I’ll consider that first set of clothing to be sacrificial, and cache them somewhere where I can collect it out my way out.