48 essential items for mountain hunting

Heading for the hunt of a lifetime? How do you get all the kit you need with you? Will O’Meara shows you how to make those choices

–Scroll down to see Will’s full kit set-up and how he fits it all in–

Gear, kit, equipment – call it what you will, but you had better choose it wisely. In mountain hunting your choice may make more of a difference than just between getting a shot and not – it may come down to a matter of survival.

I am a firm advocate of preparing well for expedition hunts. When my kit is well prepared, it allows me to focus my full attention on the hunt itself and enjoy the experience more. For me, hunting has never been about buying lots of expensive gear, but you do need to realise its importance – being poorly equipped may hamper your hunting success, especially when it comes to expedition hunts.

I have built up my kit over the years. Some of my most trusted items are almost 20 years old. I have found that while some kit, like insulation layers and sleeping bags, may last for years, the likes of boots and waterproofs last me about two seasons. This life span will depend on your mileage, use and abuse.

I have become a firm believer in quality gear and insist on researching before I buy. This means knowing what it is I need, listening to the experience of others, and looking at what other hunters, guides, athletes or military operators are using in similar environments around the world. I’ve spent many an hour comparing performance of gear with friends – it’s always good to get some real-world perspective and not rely completely on the internet.

Everyone will have their own preferences, shaped through experience and demands. The list below is my preference for a 10-day expedition tahr hunt in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s unforgiving west coast – though it would look much the same for a Norwegian reindeer hunt in September or a night in the mountains of Ireland in December (I could probably leave the shorts at home for that one, though). I hope it’s useful to you.

Our mission was to be fully prepared to battle the varying elements: snow, storm, rain, frost, high winds and sun, with a probable temperature range of -2C to +15C (it was late April – early May). While we planned to be heli-dropped into location, we recognised the likelihood of having to do a couple of days’ walk in and out with our full load. So our packs had to be light, yet we had to be fully prepared for our mission. Essential kit (safety and survival) always goes in the bag. After that, you need to ask yourself, “Do I really need this item?” If in doubt I remind myself of two sayings common in the military: “Travel light, freeze at night,” and, “Ounces make pounds and pounds mean pain.”

To hike into Base Camp, I use my Kuiu ICON 7200 pack, which has the capability to not only haul all my gear in, but also to transform into a light and compact day-hunting rucksack. To organise my kit I divide it into a series of ‘systems’: sleep system (sleeping bag, mat, tent); eat system (cooking kit and food); stalk system (bumbag, optics and rifle); rain gear; warm gear; spares (spare base layer and socks with foot powder in them for each day); medical/survival kit; navigation (map, compass, GPS); and communication (HF mountain radio, VHF radios, personal locator beacon and phone). Each of these systems is packed in its own bag, usually a waterproof ‘dry bag’ and has its own place in the pack, with the stuff you need quickly or regularly being easy to access. What’s in the system may vary depending on the type of hunt.

There is always a design trade-off with equipment – it’s usually weight versus comfort/performance. There is, however, a recent revolution of lightweight, high-performance hunting gear that could give you the best of both worlds. For example, my Kuiu pack is 3kg lighter than my old pack. I have also managed shave over a kilo off my rifle by fitting a carbon fibre stock by PSE Composites and a Hausken Moderator from JL Firearms.

WILL’S KIT IN FULL

Click to see the image full-size

1 Backpack – Kuiu Icon Pro 7000

2 Gaiters – Stoney Creek

3 Camp Shoes – Merrell Vapor

4 Water Bladder – CamelBak 3 Litre

5 Warm Waterproof Gloves – Kuiu Northstar

6 Meat Bags – Caribou Ultralight Game Bags

7 Spare Base Layer – Icebreaker, Smartwool – Merino

8 Heavy Insulated Jacket – Snugpak Sasquatch

9 Rain Pants – Arc’Teryx Alpha Light

10 Wash Kit – Soap, toothbrush/paste, packtowel

11 Mid-weight Sleeping Bag – Snugpac Softie 9 & Ortlieb Dry Bag

12 Camera – Canon Powershot SX60 HS

13 Sleeping Mat – Exped Inflatable Downmat

14 Tent – Kuiu Mountain Star

15 Water Purification – Steripen Adventurer

16 Tripod – Leupold

17 Torches – Petzl MYO & SureFire

18 Folding Mug – Foldamug

19 Bumbag – North Face

20 Ballcap – BGHNZ

21 Cooking Pot – Trangia Aluminium

22 Mini Gas Stove – Markill Devil

23 Weather Station – Kestrel 4000

24 GPS, Compass, Map – Garmin ETrek, Silva

25 Sunglasses – Stanley Safety Glasses

26 Fleece Beanie – Condor Watchcap

27 Folding Bowl & tinfoil – Sea to Summit

28 Lighter and Flint

29 Knife and Steel – Mora Kniv

30 Power Bank – Kreafunk 6000mAmp

31 Phone in dry-bag

32 Mini Rifle Tool Kit – Mostly Teng Tools bits

33 Neck Gaiter – Kuiu Merino

34 Camping Gas

35 Tissue & Lens Cloths in waterproof case

36 First Aid / Survival Kit

37 Spotting Scope – Leupold Goldring 12-40x

38 LRF Binos & Harness – Leica Geovid HDR & Kuiu Large

39 Water Bottle – Nalgene 0.5L

40 Light Gloves – Kuiu Guide

41 Putties – Swazi

42 Fleece Layer – Stoney Creek Fleece Tee

43 Base layer Top – Kuiu Ultra Merino 145 Zip-T

44 Long Pants – Kuiu Attack Pant

45 Waterproof Jacket – Arc’teryx Alpha Light

46 Light Insulated Jacket – Arc’teryx

47 Shorts – Stoney Creek

48 Boots – Meindl Island Pro GTX

Not pictured:

Rifle – Stiller Predator .270win by Dom’s Customs Rifles

Rations – Dehydrated meals, dried fruit and nuts, jelly snakes, protein/energy bars

Radios & Emergency Comms – HF Mountain Radio, VHF, PLB

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