Our lifestyle demands the best of gear, and we’ve seen the best and worst. We’ve just started this from Fall 2014, so check back for evals on more gear.
Guide & Owner, Shawn Welder
Guide Pants. I started wearing guide pants from Kuiu a few years ago. Although I have had good outdoor pants and even wool, the guide pants I use today make my rain pants much more effective. The material is hydrophobic. That might be their biggest asset.
Rain or weather-resistant outer pants. I like my Kuiu and Sitka pants but there are others. They work best with a good hydrophobic pant and base layer like Smartwool.
Smartwool. It’s the sock I choose first from my drawer.
For hiking in temps above 20, I like my wide Salomon hiking boots but, there are other good boots out there. In recent years I’ve been using Schnee’s. They eliminate the need for gaiters and are very weather resistant. My pair are insulated and 13 inches high. With toe warmers they are heaven.
Jet boil or similar stove like MSR with cup, fuel, stove, and all fitting easily in my pack.
I use a Kuiu a 3000 cubic pack. It’s a very good pack but, yes there are others. 3,000 cubic inches is plenty of room for a big day or even an overnighter. The frame I use allows me to use larger or smaller packs, which is pretty cool.
Guide: Karl Maser
I am going to start with boots, if they are not right, the rest is just details…
Alico. Italian leather, no gore-tex. a pretty simple boot really, heavy leather, Vibram soles, and well built. add lots of water sealant, and I have found my perfect early-season hunting boot. I use the Alico Tahoe, it takes some breaking in, but it should last and is great in our mountains.
Obenaufs boot dressing. Great for leather boots.
I am still searching for the best-insulated boot…
Cabela’s Predator 1000 gram Thinsulate boot has been my go-to in the late seasons. It is warm and hikes ok, it is big, heavy, and sloppy to walk in, but did I mention warm?!
Shell, Gotta stay dry…
Sitka, Yeah it’s expensive, but it works, I use the Stormfront pants and coat, they will keep you dry, in fact, I waded across the white river (thigh deep) and stayed dry by cinching the pants over my boots. I have put holes in the Sitka gear by hunting oak scrub this fall, but with a little sewing and Tenacious Tape, they are as good as new.
There are a lot of choices here, but polypropylene or merino wool are mine. Smartwool has a great line of merino wool. but there is lots of competition now… Kuyu, Sitka, 33 below, as well as Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops. Just as long as you DON’T WEAR COTTON!! After a recent frigid dip in the river (and not getting hypothermia) I can attest to these life-saving fabrics; they breathe and are warm when wet.
Here again, I am all about synthetic or down or both, but I will also throw in electric. Sitka again makes a great insulating layer, it is also light. There are so many inexpensive down options I won’t mention any makers, but a high dollar and low dollar both keep you warm. Gerbings Core Heat vest is my insurance policy in the late seasons, when you are chilled and you can turn on a heated vest, it keeps you in the woods.
I wear Bass Pro Shops Ultimate Hunter Merino socks. They are warm, durable, and reasonably priced.
Kifaru: I led backpacking trips in my youth, and fell in love with Mountain Smith packs, when my MS pack bit the dust I followed Patrick Smith to his new company Kifaru. Besides being a major supplier to the military, they make the best hunting pack I have found, and they are all made in the USA.