February 08, 2023
By Brad Fitzpatrick
Once hunting season ends many of us start making plans for the following fall, whether that’s booking a hunt, buying a new rifle or spending more time at the range. But making the shot is only half of the equation for success in the field: You must first get into position to make the shot, and once the animal is down, you’ll be faced with the task of removing the meat from the field. All of that requires the right equipment.
When I look back at the major failures in my hunting career only a handful boiled down to mistakes with equipment or failure to spend time on the range. More often my most miserable days in the field were a result of poor equipment choice or even total equipment failure. Being cold, uncomfortable and exhausted takes a toll on hunters, especially when you’re hunting in remote areas. Something as seemingly insignificant as a blister, leaking boots, clothes that don’t regulate heat and moisture correctly or even a sore back after an unpleasant night sleeping on rough ground can impact your odds of success. When all these things add up your dream hunt can turn into a miserable experience.
Don’t underestimate the value of proper hunting gear. Here’s a look at the best new hunting gear from SHOT 2023 that you’ll want to have with you this fall.
Montana Knife Company Stoned Goat
Why We Love It: A practical, lightweight, all-purpose field knife.
Combining features of the company’s Speedgoat and Stonewall Skinner knives, MKC has created a hunting knife that’s practical for a variety of applications. A paracord handle offers a very secure grip when skinning game, and the skeletonized metal frame reduces bulk for easy transport. Crafted from cryogenically treated, high-carbon ball-bearing steel, the Stoned Goat’s blade features a trailing point profile that offers superb control to avoid meat loss and punching holes in your cape. A Parkerized finish prevents rust and gives the Stoned Goat a nonglare matte finish. This is an ideal all-around knife that’s suitable for just about any hunting situation.
LaCrosse Ursa MS
Why We Love Them: LaCrosse’s new high-tech midseason hunting boot is waterproof, durable and comfortable.
LaCrosse spent five years developing the Ursa MS, and that attention to detail shines through on the finished product. The TecTuff PU-infused leather with PFC-free waterproof upper and SuperFabric quarter panel and gusset make these boots rugged and waterproof without adding a bunch of bulk. A Vibram MONT outsole offers superb traction while the molded PU footbed and lightweight EVA midsole cushion your feet during hard hikes. Available in either gunmetal/orange or brown/gold color combinations, these 7-inch boots are ideal for a variety of hunting situations including steep country with poor footing.
Primos Trigger Sticks Apex Spartan
Why We Love It: A lightweight tripod that offers benchrest-like stability in the field.
Modern rifles, optics and loads have allowed hunters to extend their maximum effective shooting range, but that’s only true when you have a stable platform from which to shoot. Unless you’re planning to drag a bench to the field, Primos’s new Trigger Sticks Apex carbon-fiber tripod with Spartan Davros quick-detach head. The Spartan system utilizes magnetic attachment that allows you to switch between rifle and optics adapters as needed, and the friction-adjustable ball joint design allows hunters to adjust for a shot at any angle. In addition, the carbon-fiber leg design is both light and sturdy, providing a secure shooting platform that won’t break your back—or your bank.
KUIU Axis Thermal Hooded Jacket and Vest
Why We Love Them: KUIU challenges the notion that serious hunting garments need to be bulky, heavy or noisy.
Traditionally, cold-weather hunting meant donning a windproof, waterproof outer layer that was bulky and loud. KUIU is changing that with the release of their Axis Thermal hooded jacket and vest which combine high-tech weatherproof materials with a comfortable, quiet design. These Primeflex fleece-lined polyester soft shells offer hybrid waterproofing thanks to the inclusion of a Dermizax waterproof membrane with extra protection on the shoulders and back. FiberBall body-mapped insulation provides outstanding warmth without hindering movement and the high-stretch design allows for a full range of motion. Best of all, the hooded jacket weighs just 23-ounces while the vest weighs just under 14-ounces. They aren’t cheap, but these high-tech hunting garments will serve you well in the worst conditions.
MSRP: $199 (Axis Thermal Vest), $349 (Axis Thermal Hooded Jacket) | Kuiu.com
Darn Tough Hunting Socks
Why We Love Them: Buy a pair of these and your old socks will find new life as gun rags.
The concept of “premium socks” struck me as a bit odd until I spent a season wearing Darn Toughs. These Vermont-made merino wool socks wick moisture and the performance-fit design eliminates uncomfortable bunching in your boots. The Men’s Boot Lightweight Hunting Sock is perfect for spring turkey season, summer scouting and hiking and early fall bow hunts. There’s also a new Women’s Boot Midweight Hunting Sock with insulation that’s perfect for both early and late-season pursuits. Darn Tough socks offer arch support, terry loops and added cushioning to protect against boot laces—features you won’t find on any other hunting sock. Darn Tough also offers a lifetime guarantee on their socks, something you won’t find from other manufacturers.
Why We Love Them: A practical way to protect your hearing on the range or in the field.
The Bluetooth-compatible Walker Disrupters are small, lightweight earbuds that can be adjusted via the Walker Link 2.0 app on your phone. With the app you can adjust volume, auto shutoff time and toggle between five preprogramed settings. There’s a Forward Focus Mode that’s perfect for ringing steel at the range, and the 360o Directional Sound mode that amplifies sound all around using four built-in microphones. New Rapid Impulse Cancellation technology provides instant reduction of harmful sounds like gunshots to reduce hearing damage.
Garmin inReach Messenger
Why We Love It: The inReach Messenger is a critical lifeline when lost or injured in the woods.
Hunting is a relatively safe sport, but when things go wrong, help can be hours or even days away. The Garmin inReach Messenger keeps you connected to the outside world thanks to a global satellite network that works where cell phones can’t. This allows you to send and receive messages and relay your exact location from anywhere on earth. There’s even an SOS button that sends an alert and the device’s location to Garmin’s 24/7 emergency monitoring service. At just four ounces the inReach Messenger is light enough to carry in your pocket, and with a maximum battery life up to 28 days, you won’t have to worry the unit will go dead. This is a must-have item for any serious hunter.
Streamlight PROTAC 2.0
Why We Love It: The long-lasting, high-intensity headlamp that’s perfect for any hunt.
A quality headlamp is the one piece of equipment that goes on every single hunt with me, and after spending last season using Streamlight’s new PROTAC 2.0, I think this lamp deserves a spot on our best-of-2023 list. The proprietary SL-B50 battery can be recharged inside or outside the light and runtime on the low setting is an incredible 25 hours. The low setting generates 110 lumens and 750 candela of light, the middle setting offers 650 lumens and 4,200 candela and on the high setting the PROTAC 2.0 generates a whopping 2,000 lumens and 14,500 candela. The PROTAC 2.0 is constructed of 6000-series aircraft-grade aluminum, it’s IP64 rated and drop tested to 2 meters.
Why We Love It: A knife that’s as useful in the kitchen as it is in the field.
The Meatcrafter looks suspiciously like a filet knife, and that’s exactly what it is. And a skinning knife. And a boning knife. In fact, with its design profile (6.08-inch trailing point blade, carbon fiber handle) this knife is suitable for just about any application in the field, but it’s one of the few hunting knives that’s equally at home in the kitchen. The CPM-545VN premium stainless-steel blade, which is available in orange Cerakote for 2023, allows you to make very precise cuts. Tuck this 4.5-ounce knife into the included Boltaron sheath and use it to field dress and quarter game, then cut and trim your meat when you’re back home.
Stone Glacier Cirque LITE Jacket
Why We Love It: A high-tech jacket that’s functional enough for every season.
The Cirque LITE jacket is one of those rare garments that is practical from opening day to the dead of winter. Synthetic insulation and weather-resistant face fabric protect from wind and weather while breathable microgrid side panels allow heat and moisture to escape. That’s vitally important for the mountain hunter who alternates between high-elevation hiking and long periods of stationary glassing. This jacket is particularly compelling because it can serve as an outer layer for most of the season, but as temperatures drop it doubles as a breathable, warm mid layer. Best of all, the flexible fabric design and athletic cut allow for a full range of motion.
Klymit Cedar Mesa Cot
Why We Love It: The Cedar Mesa folds into a briefcase-sized carry case but it’s easy to set up, comfortable and sturdy.
Spend a few nights sleeping on cold, uneven ground, and you’ll wish you had the Cedar Mesa cot from Klymit. Though it fits into a carry-on sized briefcase bag (just 18 x 13 x 7.5-inches for the large version) and weighs 17 pounds, the Cedar Mesa cot holds up to 400 pounds and sets up in a matter of minutes. Three aluminum trapezoid leg structures lock in place to tension the 300D PU backed polymer ripstop fabric on this cot. Rounded rubber feet on the legs also prevent the Cedar Mesa from damaging your tent and provide traction on uneven ground surfaces. I set this cot up in my office in less than five minutes and at 6-foot-2 I had room to spare and a pair of mesh pockets near the head of the cot secure loose items and make them easy to access. Combine the Cedar Mesa cot with Klymit’s Klymaloft foam/air pad ($159.99), and you’ll have a sleeping surface that’s more comfortable than most hotel beds. Now you can rest well in camp and be better prepared for a hard day’s hunt.
MSRP: $249 (Large), $299 (XL) | Klymit.com
QuietKat Ibex e-Bike
Why We Love It: The Ibex offers low-impact access to off-the-beaten-path hunting areas.
E-bikes are reinventing the way we hunt in the backcountry, and QuietKat’s Ibex is one of the best purpose-built hunting bikes on the market. It features an industry-leading Bafang 1000w unrestricted motor kit with 160nm of torque and a FireBar 4-Bar Suspension fork that allows for 140mm of travel and a rear suspension with 130mm of travel for traversing rough terrain. Improved four-piston hydraulic disc brakes allow you to stop on demand even on an incline while carrying a load, and the CST 26-inch x 4.8-inch fat tires allow you to navigate the most rugged off-road conditions. There are four mode settings (Eco, Sport, Throttle and Walk) and the 300-pound load capacity allows you to carry gear in and meat out without issue. Battery range is an impressive 63 miles, which allows you to get far off the beaten path.
The Essentials Gear Box.
Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.