Author Nick Watson lives in Island Park, ID and works for a small electric utility in the area as an Electrical Engineer.  He grew up in Western Washington spending his free time fishing for Steelhead & Salmon and hunting in the local area.  His love for the “backpack style” of hunting started at a young age hunting black bears in the Olympic Mountains with his brother.  What started out as a 65-70lb pack with cans of chili, a Wal-Mart tent, and external frame pack board has now evolved into a fast efficient system.  Now Nick’s free time is spent hunting a variety of big game animals around the western states. 

Backcountry Gear Sneak Peek

At Muley Freak we are suckers for gear, especially backcountry hunting gear.  The contents of our backpacks have evolved over the years and continues to evolve.  We’re kinda gear junkies always looking for the next great thing to make us more comfortable, save weight, and be more efficient hunters.  Our good friend and accomplished backcountry hunter Nick Watson agreed to let us take a sneak peek into his early season backpack for this article.  Take a few minutes to read what he takes as he methodically dissects and weighs the contents of his gear.  This gear list focuses on a 3 day early season mule deer pack in hunt.  In his opinion if you go for an extended trip the only thing that should change would be a few days extra food.  The contents of this hunting backpack aren’t gospel but rather a self primer to dissect and refine your own backcountry packs and share ideas.  Here is Nick’s breakdown.
Archery Equipment
  • Bow: Obsession Defcon m6z draw length 29.5″
  • Broadheads: G5 Montec 100 gr
  • Arrows: Victory VAP Gamer 0.166
  • Release: Nock On Nock 2 Thumb Release
  • Sight: Spot Hogg Fast Eddie XL 2-pin
  • Quiver: TightSpot 5 arrow
  • Stabilizer: B-stinger Pro-Hunter Maxx
  • Rest: Hamskea Hybrid Hunter Pro


Pack List

Base Gear – 251.48oz / 15.71 lbs

  • Pack: Stone Glacier 5900 (88oz)
  • Stone Glacier Swing-Out Pocket (1.02oz)
  • Stone Glacier Camp Pocket x2 (3.66oz)
  • Tent: Jimmy Tarps Granite Mtn (18oz) or Hilleberg Niak (62.18oz)
  • Sleeping pad: Klymit Inertia Ozone (13.26oz)
  • Sleeping Bag: Enlightened Equipment 20 degree,950 down fill, regular width & length (18.12oz)
  • Stove: MSR WindBurner (15.96oz)
  • Fuel Canister (7.12oz)
  • Utensil: Sea to Summit Alpha light Spoon (Long handle great for Mountain House meals) (0.38oz)
  • Water Filter: Saywer Squeeze with 32 oz squeeze container (3.48oz)
  • Water Storage: 1x Platypus 2l (1.26oz) and 32 oz Plastic Bottle(IE Powerade Bottle) (1.62oz)
  • Water (typically carry 32oz)
  • Headlamp: Petzl Tactikka (3.44oz)
  • Camera: Nikon d5500 with Quick Release Tripod Adapter (23.72oz)
  • Extra Batteries: AAA x3 (1.12oz)
  • Extra SD Cards
  • Iphone 6s with LifeProof Case (6.52oz)
  • RimRock Stalkers (12.8oz)

Clothes – 39.78oz / 2.49lbs

  • Socks: Smart Wool Mid-Weight (2oz)
  • Mid Layer: Kuiu Peleton Hoody (10.92oz)
  • Insualtion layer Top: Kuiu Super Down with Hood (10.86oz)
  • Insulation layer Bottom: Peleton 130 Zip-Off (5.8oz)
  • Beanie: Kuiu Guide (1.18oz)
  • Gloves: Buff with cutoff fingers (2.46oz)
  • Rain Jacket: Outdoor Research Helium (6.56oz)

First Aid / Personal – 4oz

  • Anti-bacterial Oitment
  • Cleaning Wipes (Alcohol Based)
  • Duct Tape
  • Baby Wipes and TP
  • Lighter
  • Water Tablets
  • Extra set of contacts (0.1oz)

Kill Kit – 7.78oz

  • Game Bags: Homemade Ripstop Breathable x2 (2.52oz)
  • Knife: Havalon Piranta with 4 blades (2.78oz)
  • Parachute Cord: 25’ Ultralight Dyneema Cord (1.4oz)
  • Garbage Bag (0.56oz)
  • Kuiu Zip Pouch (0.52oz)

Optics – 108.1oz / 6.76lbs

  • Spotting Scope: Swarovski STS 80mm with Stay-On cover & tripod adapter (67.04oz)
  • Bino Tripod Adapter: Field Optics Research (1oz)
  • Tripod: Slik 624 with Vanguard ph111v Pan Head (40.06)

Total Base Weight: 411.14 oz or 25.7lbs

watson-gear_optFood – 1.2 to 1.5 lbs/day and 2500 to 3000 calories/day

  • Ramen 3.1oz
  • Flat Bread
  • Spam Single 2.64 oz
  • Homemade Cookies
  • WA Hydrate and Recover x2 (1.16oz)
  • Mountain House Beef Stroganoff 5.78oz
  • Mountain House Scramble Eggs with Bacon
  • Homemade Deer Jerky
  • Cliff Bar
  • Storage Pouch (0.48oz)
Gear on me
  • Shoes: Salomon Quest 4D GTX
  • Gaiters: Kuiu Lightweight (4.4oz)
  • Sock: Smart Wool Mid-Weight
  • Neck Gaiter: Kuiu Merino Wool (1.02oz)
  • Shirt: Kuiu Quarter Zip Merino Wool (8.66oz)
  • Boxers: Under Armour
  • Pants: Kuiu Tiburon (11.48oz)
  • Binoculars: Swarovski SLC 10x42mm HD
  • Rangefinder: Sig Sauer Kilo 2000
  • Bino Harness: Muley Freak Ranger Green (50.64oz with Binos,rangefinder,wind checker,rain fly, tags, & thumb release)
  • Muley Freak Wind Checker
  • Trekking Pole x1 (8.69oz)


Given the above gear list my typical 3 day trip (2 nights & 3 days) would put my pack at 28-30 lbs including water.  I would say that in most cases I will be carrying around 32oz of water (included in the stated weight) at any given time.  This is the first time I looked into my gear in this much detail, my goal this year will be to lower my base weight gear.  Through the summer I will try to look at items that I can either eliminate from packing or replace with a lighter counterpart.  My gear before this spring has remained pretty consistent but this year I decided to change some major items (there was no particular reason I did this besides I am a gear freak) including my pack, sleep system (shelter, pad, & bag), and bino harness.  Hopefully this is a good place for new backcountry hunters to start or offer new suggestions for people that have been around the block, Enjoy!

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