The list changes all the time. At one point, I was salivating over the Marlin 1895 for bear defence purposes, but eventually came to my sense the Remington 870 is more practical for other users; and then came to the conclusion, without combat training in high stress situation, UDAP bear-spray is more reliable. Similarly, the Enfield .303 was coveted for its rability iin cold weather and as bear defence. Likewise, I went through a phase of deciding between Black Diamond Firstlight and Stephensson’s Warmlite and ordered in a Locus Gear Khufu instead.
Aside from First Lite or Ibex, there is not exactly a whole lots of clothes which are “must-have.” Most of them are obtained on discount.
So, let see what is on my mind for 2014:
GoLite Jam 70L
One of the criterias I have is the pack must be light and durable, and withstand bushwhacking. Also, everything must be stored inside the pack instead of hanging outside it. This means looking for one without mesh or relying on extensive use of bungee or shock cords.
This by no mean light for a frameless pack, but half of the weight can be shaved off by removing features such as the hydration sleeve. The huge volume is moreso for the type of clothes and bulky sleeping bag which are demanded during hunting and winter.
If 70L is too much, then one can downsize to a 50L. The only issue here is they are bright blue or bright yellow. Whether or not this makes a difference during hunting season is up to debate, and one can always leave the backpack behind a few hundred meters behind to do a proper stalk.
Kifaru Bikini Frame + High Camp
Ever since abandoning larger, heavier backpacks for smarter methods, at 2.23 kg, it is a bit difficult to justify keeping the Osprey Aerial 65L since it can only carry 50 to 70 lbs comfortably with an internal frame when Kifaru offers a pack which can haul 100+ lbs for 2.04kg for 115L or 1.95 kg for 80L. The only deterrent is the steep price tag of $225 USD for the bag plus $376 USD for the frame. Since it is only anticipated a framed backpack will be use for hunting big-game, it is safe to assume Kifaru would perform better in this area, especially one is hauling meat out of the bush
Other potential competitors to consider would include Paradox and Stone Glacier.
Ultralight Adventure Equipment CDT
While it more practical to use the GoLite Jam all year around, the volume is too much and one is tempted into stuffing in more. A smaller pack reduces the temptation and carries better with lighter loads. Also, a smaller pack also contribute to the overall weight reduction. It makes no sense to use any other pack during the summer.
Additionally, the weight can be further reduced to 19 ounce from the original weight of 24 upon manufacturer’s recommendation. After-market alternations can reduce it even further.
Other potential competitors include Osprey, ZPack, Elemental Designs, Zimmerlite, Mountain Laurel Design, Hyperlite Mountain Gear and Gossamer Gear.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
While researching, I have not come across a winter pad which has a better warmth-to-weight ratio than the NeoAir XTherm. Ideally, this would be paired with the a full-length RidgeRest Solar pad from the same manufacturer to increase the overall R-value. However, the SOLite pads are easier to come by.
At some point, alcohol stops being efficient, and it is time to switch to a canister. There is no way around it. Technically, canister gas is more fuel-efficient than alcohol, but the latter is easier to find. While white-gas is more fuel efficient and some of the MYOG projects weigh less than an remote stove, the canister is nicer to cook with in low temperature inside the shelter. A white-gas stove on the other hand is best kept outside. At below -35, however, the performance becomes shaky, and LPG becomes more reliable. Which at this point, it is probably better to depend on the trusty XGK.
However, not any canister stove will do. To optimize performance, one must always keep the canister warm and keeps the can inverted with a remote stove and a pre-heated tube. The biggest con for canister stove is that they are not easily refilled and are essentially disposable. However, for $52 USD, the Kovea is a killer deal for only 186 g weight.
Kimber Model 84M Mountain Ascent
To be honest, I have a nice SAKO L579 Forester which I don’t want to ding or wreck dragging up and down the mountain. It’s old as heck, and it is considered as a family heirloom. It is best as a moose-rifle for the swamps. It’s preferable to have a different rifle for harsher conditions.
Kimber is the most readily-available mountain rifle weighing only 2.18kg They accomplished this by porting the barrel, fluting the bolt, skeletonizing the handle and utilizing aluminum instead for the trigger-guard. To go any lighter, one would have to start investing into specialized gunsmiths, which at this point if one has to ask, they can’t afford it. In other word, budget for at least $3 000. However, some have manged to do custom jobs which weigh less and costs less iin total than the lighest stock model.
Other potential competitors include Remington 700 Mountain Rifle, Winchester 0Stainless Featherweight, Blaser K95, Sauer 303, Ruger 77 All-Weather, Weatherby Mark V Ultra Lightweight, SAKO with the 85 Finnlight and Tikka T3 Lite Stainless. For more specialized works, New Ultra Light Arms, Weaver, Rocky Mountain, Montana Mountain Company, Rifles Inc., Christensen Arms and many others.
One of the problem is pursuing lighter rifle is a fortunate which the quality of the experience diminishes as durability becomes questionable and perceived recoil increases. Knowing my budget constraints, the Tikka T3 Lite might be the best option. For a custom job, I have had excellent service at Corlane’s in the past, and wouldn’t mind dropping a few grands with them versus being sold one sight unseen.
Benelli Ultra Light
It’s difficult to get any lighter than a single-shot 20-gauge. For this, there is the Baikal MP18 Youth 20-gauage at 2.44kg. The recoil is a killer, and with a recoil pad from LimbSaver, it brings up the total weight to 2.54kg. Benelli resolved the recoil issue by using a gas-operated system which reduces recoil at 2.36kg with the Ultra Light.
However, its hefty price tag at $1 669, it is a bit difficult to justify a weight saving of 180 grams, especially when semi-auto are more difficult to clean in the field. If I know someone who own one and lets me try it at the local shooting range, I might change my mind if the performance is worth the price-tag.
The CZ 452 is considered to be the gold standard in hunting-quality rimfires. There are certainly more accurate bench-guns out there. However, the CZ also commands a high price-tag for something only needed for target-practice in preparation for hunting season. After reading a few reviews, the TOZ 78 is considered to be slightly better than the CZ. Since it’s Russian-made, naturally the price is lower. Unfortunately, the 78 is not easy to find and the other common model is a semi-automatic and not bolt-action.
When in Moscow, do what the Russians do.
At the moment, I have a SAKO L46 in .222 which is lighter than the Finnlight at 2.6kg versus 2.8kg. The L46 is highly regarded as one of the best bird-rifle manufactured for grouse-hunting. It is also one of the most highly sought out rifle for coyote-shooting in North America and for foxes in Australia.
However, to shoot a grouse with a rifle is considered the epitome of marksmanship as well the highest form of fair-chase and ethical hunting. However, it is more common to see inexperienced hunters use combination guns and shotguns.
Technically, there is no need for such a rifle as the Vixen is the pinnacle of small-game rifles. However, I have lived in British Columbia long enough to be a little paranoid of the constant changing weather and includes stainless steel and synthetic in my requirement. Hence the SAKO Finnlight. Since I am left-eye dominant, purchasing a better-fitting rifle makes sense. Knowing my budget constraints, I probably will jump on a Tikka T3 Lite Stainless instead.
Other highly regarded brands amongst Scandinavian bird-hunters include Anschütz, CZ and Weihrauch. However, none of these offer stainless steel barrel or synthetic stock.
Any rifle can be used and calibres from .22 WMR to .30-06 are used; and even 7.52x54R. However, the .22 Hornet, .222 Remington and 7×33 Sako are considered to be the best bird-hunting calibres. Due to the declining availablity, it is more common to see .223 Remington, .22-250, 6.5x55mm Swede and .308 Winchester.
On the hierarchy of wants, this is down toward the bottom since many British Columbians and Albertan hunters as well the ones in Montana and Idaho gotten away with chasing blue grouses the good three-ought-six.
Haenel JAEGER 8.10
Many North Americans have a disdain for combination guns. The main reason for this is the Savage 42 or Stevens Model 24. Some of my European hunting acquaintances made the comment quality of the American voyage into the world of combination guns and drillings make their Baikals look like handcrafted guns. However, Tikka lines of 512, M-07 and M-77 as well as the Valmet 412 did not leave a lasting impression on American sharpshooters either.
Unfortunately, high-quality combination guns are expensive. Any under a grand feels like a half-assed attempt of making a compromise between a shotgun and a rifle. It should be no surprise German workmanship such as the Merkel B3, Steyr Mannlicher Duett, Krieghoff Ultra, Heym 55 BF and Blaser BBF95 are highly coveted. However, such quality command €2 250 price tag.
On the other hand, I could never afford a proper drilling such as Krieghoff Optima. At best, one can find a decent-quality used one such as Sauer 3000 at an affordable cost but they are highly prized and are quickly seized.
For many, Italian and Russian products such as Marocchi, TOZ, Baikal, Antonio Zoli, Sabatti as well as East European manufacturers such CZ Brno are considered to be within accessible price range, however for the quality, one might prefer a rifle or shotgun which does a better job for the same price. They are not considered sportsmen’s gun, but rather working man’s.
At time, it is rather frustrating not to have both a shotgun and a rifle; and the weight penalty of carrying both render the trip impractical. So, a true combination gun is appealing.
Electro BearGuard UltraLite
Normally, this is not required in smarter backpacking during normal seasons. However, I do have friends in the Kootenays who had close bear encounters while packing out an elk. Some bears are smart enough to charge through the fence to knock out the system. But any deterrent means being able to hike back and forward to haul all the meat out of the bush. At 1.1kg, one would be hard-pressed to find a lighter proven system.
This kind of thing is almost mandatory in the barrens if one wants to co-exist with the polar bears. However, plans to go hiking in Nunavut and the coastal Northwest Territories is far in the future.
Other competitors include: Hallman Deter 200, Gallagher B11, UDAP Bear Shock® Ultra Lightweight and YELLOW JACKET Back Packer/Hunter,
GoPro HERO 3+
There is absolutely no need to have a camera like this. However, with more and more people staging pictures with their dogs with no evidence of hunting; and many are using such photographs as proof that their dogs can hunt, which eventually uncovered to be fraudulent. It eventually got to the point. where filming a dog’s ability becomes integral to “Proof or it didn’t happen.” The advantage the GoPro is that it stays flush to the body with a chest-harness.
Other contenders include Replay, Contour, Garmin Virb, Sony AS-series and Drift.
Bearskin Dogvest V2
Along with the ongoing theme with the previously-mentioned product, Bearskin allows the option to mount a camera to the dog. It costs only 650 kr. It’s also compatible wiith Garmin DC30 and 40. However, GoPro cannot be mounted and instead Contour or Drift are recommended instead. However, an after-market basket would need to be purchased. Although it would not be difficult to do an alteration to accept any kind of camera through with access to a shop and some fabrication.
Other competitors also extend to KNP. However, one of my Norwegian Facebook friends advised against using vests with metal buckles.
SnowClaw Guide Snow Shovel
There is a bit of a learning curve how to use it, and many of those who adhere to the traditional snow shovel, it is rather awkward to use since to get any efficiency out of it, it requires having both hands on the device. There are avalance professionals who use the SnowClaw for emergency and building shelters, while others struggle and gets much more use out of a a full-length snow shovel, so one’s mileage may vary. For most people, they won’t use it for much more for landscaping and clearing. The SnowClaw just makes sense for lightweight winter-backpacking.
For travelling in high-risk avalanche areas, an aluminum shovel would be wiser to carry.