It’s finally that fabled time of year again when most of us are crawling out of our skin to get out to bag a big mule deer or elk. We tested out a ton of gear so you didn’t have to and put together our top picks for hunting gear from clothing, tents, optics, knives, and more. Everything that you might need, and definitely want, for your upcoming hunt.
Best Big Game Hunting Gear
Mystery Ranch outdoes itself again with its Popup 38 Frame Pack, a true necessity for any big game hunter. They designed this pack for big game hunters who need the extra storage and durability that is required to pack out large kills. The Popup 38 doubles as a lightweight daypack and a sturdy, meat-hauling, 38L system for getting as much of your kill out of the field in one go as humanly possible.
What really sets this pack apart from others that we tested are its combination features. We consider this pack a 2-in-1 because of its telescoping frame that converts the Popup 38 from a daypack into a Mystery Ranch Frame Pack. It comes with an abundance of zippers for easy access and pockets for storing rifles, tripods, or water bottles. It even has the option to incorporate a hydration bladder to save some weight instead of using water bottles. All of its buckles and compression straps lock to prevent slipping out of size, which is especially helpful on long hikes.
The Mystery Ranch Popup 38 Backpack comes in as the best because it perfectly blends functionality, form, and features. It works great for carrying your equipment and water into the field, all while staying lightweight, and is burly enough to pack out loads of up to 80 lbs. This is a must-have pack for any serious deer or elk hunter that needs to cover a lot of ground in a small amount of time with a serious load on their back. Added bonus is the pack comes in Optifade subalpine colorway.
There is a reason that the name Gerber is synonymous with top-tier knives and blades, they really do make quality and long-lasting products, and they didn’t disappoint with their Randy Newberg Signature Series Knife. This knife would be better described as a multitool because that’s what Gerber had in mind when they designed it, they wanted an all-in-one knife that could break down an entire kill, instead of requiring the hunter to bring multiple knives into the field.
Some of the Gerber Randy Newberg DTS Knife features include its Dual Tool System (DTS) and Exchangeable Blade System (EBS). They include a tendon, hide, and joint cutting tool, made of tough D2 steel, that can be exchanged with a 440c main blade, which is great for tedious and precise processing tasks in cold weather. Its ambidextrous handle is reflective for cleaning a kill at night, and the pivoting locking system make clean up a breeze. It even comes with a carrying case and serrated, task, and backstrap blades included!
This Gerber Randy Newberg Knife is actually two incredible knives in one, what more could you ask for? No more fumbling around in the dark switching between saws, serrated blades, and parrying blades, this all-in-one game processing tool does it all. We loved the Exchangeable Blade System which makes switching between blades/tools seamless and simple. The high-grade steel that goes into making this tool really shows, if you are looking for a durable knife that does it all, then this is it.
Sitka is the cream of the crop when it comes to outerwear for hunting that is guaranteed to keep you warm and dry. It holds your heat in, yet breathes for maximum comfort, even when the elements decide to take a turn for the worse. It combines wind and water protection with durability, breathability, and warmth in a sleek design that will keep quiet when stalking your next kill. The Optifade Elevated II camo is high quality, and very similar to the pattern of the Mystery Ranch 38 Popup Pack, so you can be sure that your prey won’t see you coming.
The Jetstream Jacket from Sitka weighs in at only 26 oz despite its upgraded fleece interior, windproof GORE-TEX Windstopper technology on the exterior, and a water-repellent finish. This is even more impressive when you consider that it has zippered hand and chest pockets, as well as armpit zippers to release excess heat and moisture. Combine this with its extremely comfortable relaxed fit that promotes mobility and you have a top-tier jacket for a lower price than you would expect.
This jacket tested great, and we can’t recommend anything else for days in the field when wind and water protection are paramount. It felt like a perfect blend of warmth and breathability, not too hot or cold. It ended up being much quieter than other jackets, especially when hiking or laying in an awkward shooting position. As far as a softshell jacket goes, the Sitka Jetstream Jacket is unbeatable during active game pursuits while keeping the hunter warm, dry, and optimally comfortable.
There is a reason the Lacrosse Lodestar is such a popular boot, it can handle any terrain while keeping the wearer comfortable. A good pair of boots is one of the most important pieces of equipment in the field, especially when the terrain is unpredictable. This 7” boot is unrivaled when it comes to conquering climbing rocky outcroppings, traversing open fields, and jumping over uneven tree roots.
A few reasons you are going to want to get a pair of these boots include the GORE-TEX waterproof lining, which allows moisture to escape but not enter the boot, and the custom-made Vibram sole. The sole is designed to help distribute weight across your foot, making heavy loads seem lighter, which is a godsend on long treks. Top this off with the durable rubber heel cup that firmly, yet comfortably, holds your foot in place to prevent chaffing, and you can see why we chose this boot.
This new design of the Lacross Lodestar Hunting Boots really outshines its predecessor, the extra ankle support is warmly welcomed and surprisingly doesn’t add much to the overall weight of the boot. On top of our feet staying dry and warm we were quite surprised to notice how comfortable they were. They really take comfort to a new level, that we previously weren’t sure was possible, and make packing heavy loads in and out of the field much more tolerable. Do your feet and self a favor by getting a pair of the Lacrosse Lodestar Boots, your entire body will thank you.
Waking up in the field saves you precious hunting time and energy, and that is exactly what the White Duck Outdoors Regatta Bell Tent makes possible. It comes in 8’, 10’, 13’, and 16’ options so you can be sure White Duck has the perfect size waiting for you based on your particular needs. This canvas tent comes with a stove jack (except for the Mini 8’ version) and is both fire & water repellent.
What sets this tent apart from others you ask? First off, it is made of thick 8.5 oz DYNADUCK fabric which is water repellent, UV & mold resistant, and reinforced with double stitch seams and corners so you know this thing is tough. The frame is made of galvanized steel poles that won’t buckle under the weight of heavy snow, and the door and windows are lined in bug mesh to keep pesky critters out while you stay comfortable inside. White Duck even thought to incorporate electrical outlets for charging your phone and other gadgets in the field.
This tent really is the bee’s knees or cat’s pajamas, take your pick. It really takes spending nights in the field to the next level of comfort, glamping really is a great way to describe it. It only takes a few minutes to set up and break down, which is great after a long day of traversing the wilderness for deer and elk. It’ll keep you dry and warm when the elements try to sour your hunting experience, and frankly, sometimes it’s hard to leave the comfort of the tent in the morning. Save yourself some time and energy by checking out the Regatta Bell Tent, just because you are used to roughing it at elk camp doesn’t mean you should sacrifice a good night’s sleep.
Now a watch probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you fantasize about buying new hunting gear, but the Casio PRG340-3 adds an element of ease to your hunt, never rely on fumbling around with your phone again. Can do the majority of what the watch offers? Yes, but now you have the features that really matter strapped to your wrist, and they are set up in an intuitive way that makes collecting data about your surroundings as easy as glancing at your arm. Oh, and did we mention it was solar-powered?
There are too many software/hardwared features to list here but our favorites included a world clock, sunrise/sunset display, stopwatch, timer, alarm/hourly signal, backlight, calendar, mute button, low-power mode, battery display (including time left on current charge), altimeter, auto-log terrain data, barometer, atmospheric pressure graph, compass bearing memory, and thermometer, just to name a few. Its duplex LCD screen separates the compass and clock functions for easy reading in the field and the rotating bezel for saving important compass readings. Solar charging keeps the watch from dying when you are away from camp, the screen is made of reinforced mineral glass display for added durability, and it is water-resistant up to 100m. There is really not much that this watch can’t handle.
The PRG340-3 really is the oracle of hunting data when you are in the field, especially when you’re in unfamiliar territory. Not only is having this wealth of information strapped to your wrist convenient, but it also makes going out into the field without it seem unfathomable. What really stood out about this watch is all of the terrain information it provides you with, combine this with the way it automatically logs your treks and you never have to worry about getting turned around or lost ever again.
LEKI wasn’t kidding when they named these poles, the Makalu Lite Cor-Tec Trekking Poles give the user an added layer of stability and confidence while managing to feel light as a feather. They feel great in the hand and are as tough as a pole can come.
The lightweight grips are made of 80% cork for extra moisture absorption and are angled to keep wrists in a neutral position to avoid pain after a long hike. The shafts are easily adjustable and made of super strong 7075-series heat-treated aluminum. LEKI even went as far to guarantee their durability by equipping carbide tips that grip any groundcover and prevent excessive wearing. These things are so light and durable that you could probably use them in a self-defense situation if you had to (probably).
Not only were these poles loved on the hike up into the field, but they also made packing out our kill infinitely easier. Having an extra point of contact or two with significant weight on your back makes all the difference when it comes to not getting injured on the way back to the truck. Do yourself another favor and combine these poles with the Lacrosse Lodestar boot to prevent any unnecessary neck, shoulder, back, or knee pain. It’s not a coincidence we included these on our list of the best gear for 2021 as well.
Many hunters choose to skimp in their underwear/base layer selection, but this is unwise because comfort and safety are key when you are miles away from civilization in inclement conditions. The Ibex Indie Hoodie has a relaxed comfort-fit design that is made of 100% merino wool. It is versatile in almost any weather condition and keeps the wearer dry and warm on even the coldest days.
This comfortable layer combines comfort and durability to a T, it is made of 100% merino wool, has a quarter zip design to help regulate temperature and combat sweat, and even comes with reinforced flat stitching to prevent chafing. Hunters lose a lot of heat from the top of their heads and the back of their necks which makes the hood on this sweatshirt such a welcome feature. The Ibex hoody is tagless and comes equipped with thumbholes, so it can be worn as a base, or any other, layer comfortably.
This hoody is about as comfortable as a hunter could ask for a piece of clothing, plus the materials actually help hunters in clutch situations. Merino helps keep your scent contained while still being breathable. It is especially useful on those high-output hikes where you would normally be drenched in sweat. It comes in both men’s and women’s options, so it also makes a great gift idea for the upcoming holiday season.
As avid hunters, we can all appreciate an effective all-in-one system, whether it comes in the form of knives, tents, or clothing. Less is more when you are in the field and the Magellan Pro Hunt Convertible Pants/Bibs embody this idea better than any other outerwear that we tested this year. They are warm, and the bib conversion gives you that extra warmth you need on extra cold days.
The Pro Hunt Series clothing is made of 100% polyester for added durability, comes standard with wind and waterproof finishes, and Agion Active XL scent control technology. Throw in the reinforced knees, high-quality camo, and 6 pockets for storage and keeping your hands warm, and you won’t have to waste any time wondering why we selected these over all of the other options.
These pants/bibs are definitely the way to go, especially if your hunts take you well into the winter months. They are fleece-lined (including the pockets) for added warmth and you can wear them like a regular pair of jeans or switch them into bibs on days when it is especially cold or when extra support is needed on long hikes. They are slightly louder than we would have liked, so they aren’t ideal for stalking prey but they make a perfect option when sitting in a treestand or traveling by horseback.
A solid pair of specs for hunting is key, especially when tracking or stalking large herds of elk from a distance. Leupold really found the perfect balance between features and overcomplicating a perfectly good situation with the RX-1500i. These are about as user-friendly and accurate as optics can get.
This optics system is small, but it absolutely packs a big punch for how affordable it is. Weighing in at only 7 oz it’s almost impossible to notice you are even holding it, and with a 6x magnification, 23mm lens diameter, and 1,500-yard range you will be able to stalk and see herds of game like you never have before. It even comes with multiple modes including archery, rifle, and line-of-sight, what more could you ask for?
We chose this particular monocular over a set of binoculars because of their size, weight, and pinpoint accuracy when rangefinding. They won’t weigh down your pack like a pair of 20-year-old binoculars will, and they have a laser built in so you won’t ever have to guess at the distance of a shot again. They are super simple to use, come with multiple reticles, and even have an archery and rifle mode. Considering the small price tag that they are attached to, they were the clear winner in optics for 2022.