Get the inside track on gear that will better your performance
On the mountain, your body is already being challenged. The last thing you want to do is experiment with how far you can push your health and fitness, which could lead to a major health catastrophe. Any hunt, whether it be sitting in a tree stand, carrying a daypack, or an extended backpack hunt, our body needs to be up to task. This is where we fall back on our level of physical training, proper gear planning, and preparation.
In order to be successful, we don’t necessarily need to be a competitive-level athlete, but training in advance brings out the best in us for each hunt. Taking your workouts outdoors can break up the monotony of the gym and take you out of your comfort zone, intensifying your training and making it more realistic for your next backcountry hunt.
You can maximize the benefits of your outdoor training by adding realistic training methods. Most importantly, you are conditioning both your mind and body in tandem while having a fun outdoor adventure.
The basic addition of a weighted backpack will increase your cardiovascular endurance as well as your hip and leg strength. The more frequently you train under the same conditions that you are going to hunt, the better. Wear the same boots you plan on wearing on the hunt and perhaps train with the exact same gear that you’ll be taking onto the mountain. For ruck training, check out the following backpacks:
Kifaru Muskeg: New from Kifaru, the Muskeg series is a waterproof, lightweight bag that is available in three sizes – 2800 c.i. (2 lbs., 5.6oz), 5000 c.i. (2 lbs., 8.8 oz.), and 7000 c.i. (2 lbs., 11 oz.). The bag is extremely versatile with the optional accessory pouches. The frame is sold separately, but the Muskeg bags will fit on existing Kifaru pack frames.
If you’re in the market for a new frame, check out the new Kifaru Duplex Lite/Ultralite Frame, available in 24” (2 lbs., 10 oz.) and 26” (2 lbs. 12 oz.). The bag retails at $365 and the frame is $350 (made in USA).
Atlas Trainer Frame System: The Atlas Trainer by Outdoorsmans (www.outdoorsmans.com) is designed to simulate a fully loaded pack, with the important added bonus of a proper weight distribution to minimize lower back strain. This is the Outdoorsmans frame-only design that allows you to simply attach an Olympic-style plate and hit the trail.
It has a 90-lb. load capacity, perfect for simulating an elk quarter or similar load. This frame is convenient in that you can easily add or remove weight as you gain strength or change your daily training plan.
Add versatility to the Atlas Trainer with the addition of the Atlas Bladder System – designed to carry up to a 3-liter water bladder. The Atlas Trainer retails for $299. The Atlas Bladder retails for $59. Both are made in the USA.
Brute Force Sand Bags: If you’re looking for an artificial way to fill your existing pack for training purposes, this is a great option. The weight that can be added to these bags varies from 5-125 lbs. depending on the model. These add weight to your pack, but they are also designed for functional strength and conditioning. Price varies from $89-$269. Go to www.bruteforcetraining.com for more info. Made in USA.
Tracking your changes in both speed and endurance will help track your fitness level. With most western big game hunts lasting five days or longer, being able to maintain a specific distance or pace for consecutive days is a great way to track the preparedness of your body. Here are a couple of great options for GPS watches, both available at Cabela’s online.
Suunto Traverse Alpha: The Alpha is truly state of the art and is uniquely designed for hikers, hunters, and anglers. Not only will this watch keep track of sunrise and sunset to ensure legal shooting hours, it also has the bonus of a moon phase calendar.
A new enhancement is the shot record locator, which will record your location when you fire a shot, tracking both distance and elevation. All of that is in addition to standard GPS and route navigation. You can even set a bread crumb trail that allows you to follow your exact track either off of the mountain or to a stand pre-dawn.
There are a ton of features packed into this watch: compass, altimeter, barometer and weather alerts. If you’re using the watch for physical training, it will track speed, distance traveled, and calories burned over the day, week, month, or year. Cost: $499.
Garmin Forerunner 15: Garmin is an industry leader in GPS technology, and with constant advancements, Garmin makes getting into a this type of watch more affordable each year. If you’re looking for an entry-level GPS running/hiking watch that will track distance, pace and calories, check out the Garmin Forerunner 15. This watch maintains records of your training regimen that can be downloaded directly to your computer to help you better track your progress. You can purchase this watch for around $65.
Boots & Trail Running
Boots are one of the most important components of successful backcountry hunting. Selecting a pair of boots requires consideration of weather conditions and terrain. Here are a few great choices:
Meindl Denali: Meindl has been in the boot business for decades, and in my ten years of using them, I know they measure up to my expectations. The Denali mountaineering boot provides ample ankle support and stability while being rigid enough for packing the heaviest loads in steep terrain. The Vibram rubber outsoles keep you sure-footed in rough terrain and the Gore-Tex lining keeps your feet dry through rainstorms and shallow creek crossings. These boots are designed to last, with rubber rock rand brushes that protect the boots from rocks. Out of the box comfort and great fit. Men’s (9”, 3.6 lbs./pair): 8-12, 13, 14D and 9-12, 13,14EE widths. Women’s (7”, 3 lbs./pair): sizes 6-10. Cost: $299. Available exclusively at Cabela’s. Made in Germany.
Salomon Women’s X-Mission 3 Trail Running Shoes: When it comes to speeding up the trail, a good trail running shoe is a must. Selection will depend on what you prefer – level of cushion, consideration of weather conditions, etc.
Salomon is a trusted and respected brand. X-Mission 3 is designed to provide ground-gripping traction and comfort on the trail on nearly every surface you can imagine. The breathable mesh uppers allow your feet to breath and dry out fast on muddy trails. The friction-free lace eyelets are easy on and off while providing a secure fit. Weight: 1.1lbs/pair. Sizes: 6-10. Cost: $115.
Altra Timp Men’s: The Altra is designed to provide a more natural foot strike that will help improve your running form and provide a full cushion foot bed. The Altra Timp is specifically designed for trail running, hiking, fast packing, and trail racing. Weight: 11.1 oz. Sizing guide available for both men and women. Available at www.wildernessathlete.com for around $130.
Alexo Athletica Signature Pant: When it comes to hitting the trail for a run, women don’t have to compromise personal safety if they wear apparel designed to carry a firearm, mace, or knife with comfort and confidence.
The Alexo leggings are designed for the trail, but are fashion forward enough to wear to nearly any event. Throw on your favorite pair of cowboy boots and go! With nine pockets on the legs and waistband, you can carry all of your essentials – including your firearm – without detection. Your firearm will remain secure while hiking or jogging.Designed for both stretch and breathability, the high waistband gives the bonus of tummy control. Sizes XS-XXL. Available at www.alexoathletica.com for $99.
As an NRA-certified Pistol and “Refuse to be a Victim” instructor, I often get asked by women what pistol I choose for concealed carry while I’m active on the trail. My answer for that is simple: it depends. Following are two different models of pistols I carry either while running trails or on the hunt.
Ruger LCP II 380: The compact, lightweight design is ideal for concealed carry and it fits a variety of holsters. It also features a best-in-class, single-action trigger and easy rack slide. The slightly wider grip with deep texturing allows you to really grip the pistol for recoil control, even with sweaty palms. The low-profile sights are designed for quick access out of pockets and purses. The LCP II ships with a pocket holster to be used within a coat pocket or purse. Available models with 6+1 round count weigh in at 10.6 oz. and 11.4 oz. Cost: $299 to $369.
Ruger Security 9mm: The mid-sized Security 9 is compact enough for concealment. The same best-in-class trigger goes into the Security 9 as is found in the LCP II. The mid-sized frame gives confident handling, with a textured grip that ensures a solid grip in a variety of conditions. This pistol is very comparable in dimension and size to the Glock 19. Available in models with 10+1 and 15+1 round count. Weight: 24 oz. Cost: $329.
Heading out for a high country backpack hunt requires a good deal of meal preparation as we exchange luxuries for necessities. Finding the latest and greatest meals and snacks to fuel your next hunt has been made easy.
Backcountry Fuel Box: The beauty of this box is that with subscription, every month you will receive an assortment of snacks, meals, and bars shipped right to your door. Enjoy the freedom to taste test a large variety of the latest and greatest snacks on your next adventure or while training at home. The monthly box makes identifying your favorite backcountry meals and snacks easy so that you can stock up on what you like and pass on what you don’t. Delivered monthly with up to a $50 value, you can subscribe online at www.backcountryfuelbox.com for $33.30 per month.
Wilderness Athlete Hydrate & Recover: On a regular day without exercise, our body needs at least three quarts of water. On days when we’re taxing our body with high intensity workouts or climbing a mountain, double that amount. Dehydration can be downright dangerous to our health, and combating it is critical while on the mountain or in the gym.
Designed to replenish lost fluids, Hydrate & Recover also replaces lost electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, glucosamine, antioxidants, and metabolic cofactors. This provides a precisely balanced mineral and electrolyte composition to replenish these vital elements and maintain peak muscle physiology. H&R is available in trail-convenient packets or tubs in a variety of flavors, including the new Kiwi Pineapple.