When you're all alone in the middle of nowhere, the right gear can mean the difference between enjoying your time in the wilderness or enduring it.
I have selected a number of items that I took along on a solo drop hunt on Kodiak Island, Alaska. Some of this gear truly saved my bacon, some others failed and cost me dearly.
I took two separate tents with me, one for gear, one for sleeping.
The first was my sleeping tent. Big Agnes 2 person Ultralight 3 season tent that weighs just over 2 lbs. You can't beat it for the weigh and it would be a smart, compact backup system. For what is was, it was excellent at keping me dry and out of the constant 25mph winds. It held up well under those conditions, however I am certain that if I had stayed in the field longer, the increasing winds would have ultimately destroyed it. It is an exceptional tent but I would not recommend bringing into an area of intense winds without a backup plan.
The second tent is the Kelty Salida. Also a two person 3 season tent weighing in at a little over 4 lbs. More or less, I feel the same way about this tent as I do about the Big Agnes. The difference being that it would have been more spacious to sleep in and has a more robust aluminum pole setup. Again, great tent, just not for those winds. I would not recommend bringing any 3 season tent into an environment like this.
I brought a 15 degree Marmot down sleeping bag. I love this bag! The catch is that it must be kept dry. Down does not insulate well when wet.
I coupled my bag with a Sea to Summit Thermolite extreme liner and I was warm and comfortable all night long. This sleeping bag liner is a MUST HAVE when in cold environments!
My sleeping pad is a Therm-a-rest NeoAir. It is rated for 4 seasons and does a great job at keeping the cold ground from sapping my body heat. Also, it happens to be extraordinarily comfortable, especially on uneven terrain.
If you expect to be in a cold, rainy environment, buy a set of Helly Hanson Impertech rain gear. I am certain that this layer is why I did not suffer from hypothermia. Unbelievably effective, durable and comfortable. If I were to select one piece of my gear as the very BEST item to bring, it would be this rain gear, hands down. Undoubtedly, priceless.
Additional layers included a lot of merino wool and fleece synthetics. They do the trick and keep you out of dangerously low temps.
Boots and Waders:
I wear Keen Targhee II boots. They claim to be "waterproof". Nope. They are the most comfortable boot I've ever worn, but waterproof, they are not. These were new boots that I triple treated with extra waterproofing and they still failed. Thumbs up for comfort, thumbs down for keeping my feet dry.
Oh boy, do I have some colorful words to describe the epic and total failure of Hodgmans Ultralight hip waders. Granted, I should have packed beefier waders, and I will next time but these behaved like they were made of paper! Only two hours of walking around while setting up camp and these things were torn, punctured and USELESS. Do not think you can depend on these pieces of junk, even as a backup plan!
I wore Sealskinz as well. They are "waterproof" neoprene socks. These too are not waterproof and are in effect, useless. It's always a bummer when your backup, backup fails.
I use a SPOT gen 3 to send pre-programmed "I'm all good here." messages to loved ones back home. It's also used to call in the Calvary and local rescue when I hit the SOS button. It offers great piece of mind on solo trips, only, call the company to make sure that you will have coverage in very remote areas before heading into the field.
MyTopo.com is where I get my printed maps. I bring printed maps because batteries die, plain and simple. They are waterproof and super durable, not to mention, clear and effective. The folks at MyTopo will actually help you create the map that you need in the area you plan to be. In fact, they rushed delivered my printed maps for me when my trip plans changed last minute and I got them in two days. Priceless.
I also have an offline sat nav app on my phone called, Trimble Outdoor Navigator. It's my understanding that MyTopo and Trimble Outdoor is actually the same company, one deals with hard copy, the other digital. This too was awesome. I just downloaded the "map pack" of Kodiak Island and had a portable topomap of the whole island on my phone, no cell signal required. It was pretty awesome to see the tiny speck of my camp location against the great wilderness that surrounded me. Very easy, effective and apps don't weigh anything! No brainer, priceless.
I use the Black Diamond Z poles. Ultralight, aluminum, tough as nails and essential to moving around on the Tundra.
For my rifle and ammo, I took a Savage Hunter XP in a .243 caliber and ran Barnes Vor-Tx full copper ammo through it. Indeed it was a winning combination.
For field dressing there are three primary tools I never go in the field without:
Buck Knife Packlite Gut hook and
Caribou Gear Game Bags.
The knife and guthook are lightweight and crazy sharp. Be extra careful with the Havalon. A tiny slip with one can easily cut you to the bone.
As for my game bags, meat care is my absolute top priority. I am a meat hunter, so the meat is my trophy. Naturally, it makes sense to get a bag designed to give me the best possible way to let the meat breathe, protect it from spoilage, keep it clean and stand up to my beating the hell out of it. If you are new to hunting or have just gotten into the habit of using cheap, crappy game bags from Wallyworld (I am guilty of having done this before I knew better), then you may want to consider investing in a set of bags that you can use for MANY YEARS. They really are excellent, they rinse out to looking brand new and I never leave them behind when I go hunting for my next meal. These last three, totally priceless!
There are countless other items that I packed, most of which worked out sufficiently well for me to make it out alive and fully functioning. My hunting gear was flawless, my reain gear was priceless and my foot protection was useless.
Knowing what I know now, I will be better equipped in the future to hunt harder, farther and longer. In my view, that is the most priceless of all.