Wherever I roam, I like to check out what the guides are wearing to see if I’m missing any good ideas. I’ve been at this long enough that I don’t just walk into an outdoor gear shop and pull gear off the rack at the salesman or the manufacturer’s suggestions. Some of my gear does come from the big name retailers, some of it I buy military surplus, some of it comes from yard sales and second hand stores and some of it from non-hunting stores like R.E.I. I don’t care where it comes from as long as it works well, lasts and I’m not getting ripped off.
My best deal ever? I still use five camo t-shirts I bought six years ago off a clearance rack at Reed’s in Brainerd, MN. My favorite down vest came from Goodwill there.
Two things I won’t go cheap on are raingear and boots. My Sitka rain jacket and pants retail for more than my last car was worth and my Kenetrek boots cost more than a decent set of snow tires. But, there are certain hunts, particularly chamois, where I’ve seen bad boots bring climbing to a screeching halt. Crappy raingear can be one of the most dangerous equipment failures in the field. In my vocation, going cheap on either of these pieces of gear can halt production. Stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime.
My number one best deal recommendation from the last few years are Swedish Military Wool Whipcord Cargo Pants from Billings Army Navy Surplus. I was on a cougar hunt with Mike Schoby and Alice Poluchova when I spotted Trent Snyder wearing these pants. Snyder is the owner of Silver Spur Outfitters in Colorado and seems to know a thing or two about staying on the move in mountain snow.
I’ve used these pants for the past two years on a number of mountain hunts and I like them. I’ve also used them backcountry skiing and on overnight snow cave jaunts in the mountains. They wear like iron. They’re comfortable enough to sleep in on the mountain. They are wool, so they insulate when wet. The pockets are really well designed including a nice flap with button on the front pockets to keep snow out and my roll of hundred dollar bills in. The pockets are also placed higher above the knees than most cargo pants. This means if you carry heavy items in the pockets they don’t beat the hell out of your kneecaps when you hike. They have the buttons for suspenders. Since I have the body of a bullfrog, suspenders are essential for mountain hunting pants, otherwise I look like a gangsta’ with half my ass hanging out.
But the best part of these pants are the built in gators. In deep or wet snow, I put a pair of nylon gators over the pants to keep them from getting heavy, but most of the time I don’t even bother with nylon gators. Did I say that was the best part? I’m mistaken. The best part is a new pair costs $39.95 and used they are $29.95. I nearly always pack these pants for mountain hunts, as they are the most versatile pair I own. If you really want to make the perfect cold weather combo, use silk thermals underneath. Not only will you be toasty, you’ll feel dead sexy.
Here’s a tip from a turbo thrifty Dutchman; get on the site, buy the pants and suspenders then get the hell out. Impulse buys are the death of a budget. If you didn’t need a gizmo when you entered the store (virtual or brick and mortar) you don’t need it just because it’s a good deal. Say it with me, “No impulse buys”.