Hunters are getting further into the backcountry and staying longer than ever before. This is in part due to extremely great quality lightweight equipment allowing backcountry hunters to lighten up their ‘system’. A friend recently told us how he was going to purchase a carbon fiber constructed bow in order to lighten up for the upcoming archery season. It got us thinking, how much lighter is this bow? What is the cost and are there alternative ways to lighten up cheaper?

The Sales Pitch

One of the biggest points for bow manufacturers selling carbon fiber constructed bows is how lightweight they are compared to similar bows constructed of more traditional material like aluminum. It’s really quite a compelling point too, who wouldn’t want a lighter bow to carry around the woods? For archery hunters who spend the day hiking around the mountainous backcountry of the West that weight savings sounds like a godsend.

Carbon constructed bows come at a financial cost though. Carbon fiber costs more and that cost gets passed onto the consumer. Serious backcountry hunters aren’t shy when spending money for premium lightweight gear. These carbon bows are part of many of those backcountry archers ultralight set-up.

Paralysis of Analysis

So here is what we decided to do. We compared a few flagship bows of similar specs to a carbon bow. We’ll use the Hoyt Carbon RX-3 bow since Hoyt has dominated the carbon bow market for a few years now and really is the go-to bow manufacturer when it comes to carbon. Plus it is the bow our friend was going to purchase to ‘lighten up’ as previously stated. This isn’t a knock on Hoyt but acknowledgement of how well they build a carbon bow.

Quick Observations

Mathews has the heaviest bow at 74.7 ounces with the Prime, Bowtech and Hoyt aluminum bows coming in at 68.8 ounces. The Hoyt Carbon RX-3 bow obviously comes in at the lightest. Added cost for the carbon bow is $500-$600 depending on the bow you get.

For an ultra light backpack hunter every ounce counts. We don’t want to discount that at all. But as you can see that’s what we’re talking about, ounces not pounds. Even compared to the heaviest bow we have in the chart, the Mathews, we’re still talking only ounces saved and not pounds. As you can see you might be paying as much almost $600 dollars more for a bow to save 6.4 ounces.

The chart below further breaks down those extra ounces and shows you what each ounce cost you if you were to upgrade from the aluminum bows to the Hoyt carbon. For example the Mathews Vertix is 12.3 ounces heavier than the Hoyt carbon. That’s $600 price difference. 600/12.3 = $48.78 per ounce saved if you upgraded to the Hoyt carbon bow. Being the weight difference between the Mathews Vertix and Hoyt carbon is the largest you’re getting more bang-for-your-buck per se because you’re making a bigger jump in weight savings. The Bowtech Realm has a smaller margin of weight difference from the Hoyt carbon so those fewer ounces saved if you bought the Hoyt carbon from the Bowtech are gonna cost you more.

Pay attention to that last column closely. Those dollars represent the cost of each ounce saved if you bought the carbon bow over the other non-carbon bows represented. They can cost you anywhere from almost $49 to $94 per ounce. Those seem like really expensive ounces to save when buying the carbon bow!

Here are few questions to dissect in your head as you read on: Does the weight savings justify the extra cost? Can I spend that extra money elsewhere and save more weight? What trade-offs am I accepting with a carbon bow?

Word about Bow Weight

A quick word about weight. Lighter doesn’t necessarily mean better. Heavier bows tend to hold on target a little steadier. Lighter bows also tend to exaggerate shooting flaws. On the other hand lighter bows might make a stalk easier in steep terrain. It all depends of course what you want from a bow and what you might do with it. Some hunters end up getting a super light carbon bow then turn around and add extra weight to the stabilizer so they can hold more steady on target. If this is the case then you’ve negated the weight savings and might as well as bought the cheaper bow and spent those few hundred dollars somewhere else. All this is relative to you, your goals, and your situation.

Can I Cut Weight Cheaper Somewhere Else

Instead of going out and buying that new carbon bow, there might be cheaper ounces to cut. Lets look at a couple alternatives to cutting ounces we’ve done.

Sleeping System

The sleep system is a way that many backcountry hunters (and anyone who backpacks) shave considerable amounts of ounces, even pounds. For an example lets look at my sleep system from 2 seasons ago and my sleep system this last season.

Wow! In just my sleep system from one year to the next I saved my back and legs from carrying 46 ounces (2.88 pounds) for $135, it came at a cost of under $3 per ounce. The cost-to-benefit ratio for ounces shaved off of my sleep system were extremely cheap compared to the carbon bow.

As you can see in the table above switching to these Enlightened Equipment down quilts have helped us cut weight in our sleeping system at a low cost. They have a variety of quilts with different temp ratings. We’ve used these down quilts on warm early season hunts down to late season hunts as pictured above.

Boots

Over the last couple years we’ve heard backcountry hunters switching up their footwear for something lighter when possible. It makes sense if you think about it. Boots are basically weights strapped onto the end of your leg and if you want to go anywhere you have to pick it up and set it down over and over. With that said lets look at my last seasons footwear versus what I just purchased for this upcoming season.

This is interesting. I saved 10 ounces and it didn’t cost me extra money per ounce. Now this is under the assumption that I had to buy new boots but you get the drift. This is also comparing apples to oranges somewhat because the Zamberlan boots are full grain leather while the Crispi boots have more synthetic material. Zamberlans will probably last longer so you might have to buy new boots sooner with the Crispi’s. The point is that if you’re going to spend some money there are alternative ways that are cheaper on a per ounce basis than the carbon bow.

These Crispi Summit boots are a tough lightweight alternative to some of the heavy mountain boots.

What Else

There are a lot more ways to cut weight in the backcountry than this article can fit. Take your backpack for instance. Investing in a lightweight modular pack system like the Exo Mountain Gear can help you cut ounces. Tossing out those cheap aluminum trekking poles for some light carbon poles will cut ounces. Upgrading to a super light cook stove or even going with a stove-less meal plan can shave weight. Hunters and backpackers can get creative and the limit is your imagination

So What’s the Answer

The answer to the question of whether the carbon bow is worth it in terms of cost-to-weight ratio is both yes and no. There are so many other factors that each hunter in their own situation has to consider there is no possible way to say if going carbon with a bow is worth it or not for everyone. Maybe you’re one of those hunters who’s cut weight in his backcountry system in almost every aspect and the carbon bow is the last piece of the puzzle, then that’s great. If you’re not one of those guys there might be a better way to spend your money to save that weight. For other hunters money might not be an issue. What you want to do is up to you based on your own situation.

*Specs for all products taken from manufacturers websites.

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