Which 51 items are in Len's backpack?
By Len Backus
A couple weeks ago I had my hunting stuff spread out on the floor in front of me as I organized for an upcoming annual DIY mule deer hunt in eastern Montana. I get so many questions from LRH members about what’s a good widget to use for whatever. Plus we have a constantly growing number of members who are learning about how to get into western state DIY hunting. So I decided then and there that when I returned from the hunt I would write up the looooong list of gear that I had along with me.
What's In Len's Backpack?
When I completed the list I challenged Andy to a guessing game. “Andy, how many items will I have in my pockets and in or attached to my backpack?”
“Well, you like to have lots of stuff along so I will guess 50.” Since the correct answer was incredibly close at 51 -- I felt my sense of fun with the challenging quiz was totally crushed by my spoilsport son. But I guess he knows me too well.
Normally he would be hunting with me but family and our business were keeping him home this time. So I would be hunting solo. The hunt is done on a private ranch in Montana that is enrolled in the Montana Block Management Program giving access to the public. There are many such ranches totalling 7 million acres available and perhaps you should find one you like and start hunting there.
This ranch has some of the most interesting and challenging terrain that I always enjoy. I seem to lean toward the areas that are farthest from the public roads and which have the highest elevations. There is about a 700 foot elevation gain from where I park my vehicle to the top of the tallest ridges that I hunt.
A great piece of land!
I was referred to it by an LRH friend. Thanks, Ryan! In the years just before I started hunting there the deer population was strong and good sized bucks were often taken. In recent years the deer population is struggling with a comeback after a couple of severe winters which decimated the herd.
I still go there because it is such a great piece of land and I love the boots-on-the ground experience. This year I passed on a couple "meat" bucks but saw nothing larger to interest me.
But let’s switch over to my gear list. On this type of solo hunt I will hike in from one to one and a half hours from my vehicle in the pre-dawn dark. I’ll set up on a high point just before first light. And during the day I may wander another mile or two off in the distance before returning -- again in the dark -- to my vehicle.
So safety is a concern and I want to be prepared for an unplanned overnight stay on the mountain. And of course if successful there is the need to debone the meat and haul it out. In that case I first do a gutless deboning on the spot. I place the meat into ziplock bags and leave most of it on the kill site while I return to my Jeep with some of it and drop off all my unnecessary gear. Then I head back out with an almost empty pack for the remainder of the meat.
Here is my list with links to web pages that have more detailed product descriptions and in most cases the ability to purchase -- whether in the LRH Store or at another web store. I hike in to my starting point wearing only a couple light layers in temps as low as 15 or 20. I lash to my pack or carry inside of it my other layers to change into after the sweaty hike is over.
Total weight of my pack plus its contents including clothing lashed to or inside of it, things in pants pockets plus my rifle was 39 pounds.
G7 BR2 Rangefinder
An amazing LRH tool!
Vortex Razor HD 10x42 Binos
Three years of satisfaction so far.
BinoBib protective cover by Scopecoat
Much less bulky than the pouch type carriers. I also like that when I take my binos off my neck and set them down where I am shooting prone, they are still covered and protected. Seven years of use so far.
Ultra-Light Bino Harness
My binos, rangefinder and camera each utilize this wonder of simple design and versatile function. Look how little bulk there is. I never feel the thin elastic cord is pinching my skin.
Great for glassing with binos on a trip when you don’t want to carry a spotter.
Vortex Bino doubler
Ok to substitute when glassing with binos on tripod.
Vortex Razor 11-33 spotter in sock
The sock is less bulky and lighter than the included case. Glass is very good and perfect choice out to a mile or two.
Vortex Summit SS tripod
Super lightweight. Versatile positions, even flat for prone use.
Ultrec saddle rest for tripod
One of my preferred field position rests when installed on a tripod QR plate attachment. Very effective at longer seated shots. Works well as front or rear rest.
Weatherhawk SM-28 Windmeter
LRH Rear Shooting Bag
Fits in a pocket or hangs from a carabiner.
Primos Pole Cat Magnum Steady Sticks
What a game changer these sticks are if you are used to being restricted to only prone shots with attached bipod for longer shots.
Saddle rest on tripod in rear, shooting sticks in front
Ammo carrier with 6.5 SAUM reloads.
Sitka Gear puffy jacket
I pull this out of my pack when I complete my sweaty hikes in. Makes a huge difference in the ability to tough out bad weather and thereby stay in the field instead of giving up.
Sitka Gear Kelvin Lite puffy pants
Ditto what I just said above for use on really cold days.
Sitka Gear Jetstream jacket
This is my primary hunting jacket out west. I usually lash this jacket to my pack while hiking long distances so I don’t get too sweaty.
Sitka Gear Rain Top and Pants
I bring this even if no rain is forecast. Things change plus it provides a great wind barrier or just one more layer for warmth.
SoundGear Hearing Protection
Insert them after breakfast, remove at night. Never worry about my ears any more while hunting.
Mack’s Ear Seals
REDUNDANT - Plugs on a string. Fit and seal very well.
Tiny LED flash on cord
For 10 years on whitetail stands at home I would hang one like this on my neck. For reading the scope’s MOA setting in the pre-dawn darkness, etc. Or find stuff in my pack without lighting up the entire mountain.
Compass On A String
Sure you know the way in daylight, but how about a cloudy day or dark, dark night.
Garmin Oregon 300 GPS with OnX GPS maps
Stay off neighbor's land with this combo. Find your way home. Follow a track back to your kill spot. I broke mine just like this and ended up replacing it with a refurbished one from Amazon. This model has a plenty big enough screen and is light and compact. Accepts memory cards so you can load maps onto it.
Great for gutless deboning in the field. Weighs almost nothing.
Sony A6000 camera
Amazing quality in a 14 ounce camera. Great controls and features. Serious photographic capabilities
Water & Lunch
Pre-filled bottles from a store are the lightest weight method of carrying water. Your empties can be crushed to gain space in your pack. Missing from the group photo was my 2 Hershey bars.
Streamlight Argo HP Headlamp
My favorite one. Like an aircraft landing light in its brightness. But always carry two when you may be one to two hours away from your vehicle in the dark and your ONLY headlamp fails or is lost.
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
For protecting end of barrel, repairing stuff.
Gazillions of possible uses.
Fire Kit - Fatwood plus 2 lighters
This stuff is natural, no added chemicals and it burns a long time. Scraping the edges with a knife makes them even easier to light with a match or lighter. (REDUNDANT)
Zip lock meat bags
If I have to hang meat left in the field, overnight.coyotes, etc.
Use to lay out meat during deboning.
EMO Rain Tarp
I spent seven or eight hours under this tarp on my first day of the Montana hunt. It started spitting wet stuff not too long after I got to my spot high up on the ridge. At one point I looked at the water dripping off its edge and saw icicles forming. Later there was a little snow falling. I remember tapping the underside of the roof and watching a bunch of snow slide off the edge. The plan was to wait out the forecasted break in weather on the ridge top and to be there when it cleared and the deer started moving again. But there was no break that day! Makes a nice wind break on a cold day too.
Seven or eight hours in the rain
Often you can lash the tarp to trees and use rocks as ballast and no stakes. But not always. A few of these weigh only a couple ounces.
Z Seat by Thermarest
This cushion weighs 2 ounces, folds up very small and can make a long sit more bearable. This one is amazing. Get the coyote/gray color. I lash mine to my pack for quick and easy access.
Sticks and Z-rest lashed to sides
Often I’ll use a dry bag inside my pack for stuffing my puffy jacket and pants, spare gloves into. Keeps them dry and saves space. (also can be used as front or rear shooting rest)
Kifaru gun carrier
When hiking lighter than an Eberlestock pack. Allows me quicker access to my rifle.
Badlands Sacrifice pack
Weighs 4.5 pounds, much lighter than with my Eberlestock Gunslinger pack with gun scabbard. Still can carry 50 plus pounds when needed.
Very durable, high quality.
Atlas BT-10, LW17 bipod
Fabulous addition to my gear. The QD feature is essential when hunting horseback.
Hunting License for Montana General Deer
SPOT satellite phone
I pre-program the local medical emergency call number plus a local towing service. This makes my wife -- and me -- more at ease about solo hunts in the hills and mountains
My only time source, Shooter app, redundant camera. I was going to rely on Robb’s camera for the hoped for trophy shot on my recent elk hunt. But his battery was dead! So my Galaxy S6 phone’s excellent camera took the shot that ended up being the magazine cover last month.
Sitka Gear orange vest
LRR Mountain Rifle in 6.5 SAUM
Eight pounds with optics.
Amazing accuracy in such a lightweight long range package
Huskemaw 4-16x42 rifle scope
Great glass and adjustment repeatability
Holland scope level
Offset to the side for best visibility without needing to lift your cheek off the rifle. Eliminates horizontal error due to unknowingly canting the rifle to one side.