By Rob Shaul
My recreation of choice is hunting or fishing. Below is the list of my “10 Recreation Items Worth Every Penny” in no order of importance.
Add your list to the “Comments” below. Be sure to add your favorite mode of recreation – if you have one.
1. Jetboil Flash Stove
Jetboil revolutionized the backpacking world 20 years ago when it was first introduced in 2001. Finally, an easy-to-ignite, brainless stove that boiled water fast. Few, if any, backpackers make meals from scratch in the backcounty. We all eat freeze dried meals – and all you need for preparation is hot water.
Since Jetboil was introduced, many other stove companies have imitated the basic design and come out with similar products, but I’ve never moved from the Jetboil. My original jebtoil stove is 20 years old and I recently passed it on to my son. I replaced it with a Jetboil Flash stove, for around $70 during a spring sale. I actually have two of them – one in my backcountry/backpacking food kit, and another in my truck cabover camper. You can’t go wrong with a trusty jetboil.
2. GSI Long Handle Essential Spoon
The most recent addition to my backcountry kit, this $5 spoon has made eating backpacking meals so much more pleasant. Backpacking meal pouches are tall, which means that with a regular spoon, you have to reach your hand into the pouch …. your hand can’t help but touch the side of the pouch and as a result, you get a lot of your dinner smeared all over your knuckles. Kinda sucks.
Not so with this long handle spoon. Worth every penny!
3. Prime Logic Compound Bow
Bowhunting an immersive activity, but it’s one downside is how incredibly gear-intensive and technical it can be. It takes special equipment and technical expertise to work on compound bows. As well, the bowsite, release, rest, and arrows all come with their own technical specifications, learning curve, etc. For example, you can’t just go to the internet and purchase a bow. Each bow has to be “fitted” to the shooter, which if you don’t have the knowledge or equipment to do this yourself, means you have to find and visit a local bow shop.
When you first get into the sport, it’s nearly impossible not to fall down the rabbit hole into the gear. Of course all the bow, site, rest and release makers want you to do this, as new hunters are the primary focus of they and their celebrity hunter marketing efforts. This is compounded by the fact that each bow manufacturer has its own cliques, camps and zealots.
The result is many bowhunters purchase one of the newest and latest bows every hear, and for the first 3-4 years I hunted I was one of those guys. But, like everything else, I finally learned what was important, invested into my own bow press and other equipment and knowledge so I would not be at the mercy of the local bowshop.
I also found a bow that fit me well, that I shot well, and I liked … and I stopped buying a new bow every year. For me that was the Prime Logic, which is a 4-year old bow, now. It works for me, and not having to spend time and make gear decisions each off season means I can spend more time studying google earth, improving my marksmanship, and spending more time scouting and becoming a better woodsman.
4. Onx Map Hunting Application
This smartphone application is incredible. It shows land ownership, hunt areas, overhead satellite imagery, topo maps, etc. It allows me to set routes, waypoints, mark my position, – just about everything I could ever need. On one hand you might think that technology like this would inhibit your backcountry experience, but I found it enhances it. Using Onx I’m able to see and explore nooks and crannies in the terrain I would never find or go to. It’s helped me understand the landscape in ways that were off my radar before.
5. Salomon Quest 4D Gtx Boots
Hardly the most expensive hiking boots available, what makes these boots from Saloman special is their fit. They have a narrow heel and a wide forefoot, and overall “sneaker” like, out of the box fit, which is really amazing.
They’ve been my hunting boot choice for 2 years now and this year I put 45+ backcountry days on them without issue and I’ll be able to get another season out of them.
They are on sale this time of year – like $170. Worth every penny.
6. Benchmade Bugout
For years I used a $15 Kershaw Chill pocket knife for hunting. I thought it was awesome …. I’d just have to re-sharpen it 6 times every time I bowned out a deer or elk in the field.
I’d always wondered why people would spend $100+ dollars on a hunting knife, so in a moment of weakness a couple years ago, picked up a Blue Benchmade Bugout knife when I couldn’t find my trusty Chill.
Now I know … it’s the steel. This Benchmade knife has SV30 steel. And I’m not sure exactly what that means in the field it means I can bone out and entire bull elk without sharpening the knife once. The steel is amazing. I spray-painted mine bright orange so I could keep from losing it when processing game.
Since I’ve upgraded all our kitchen knives to better steel … trust me … the difference is worth paying for.
7. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4, Wide
While I hunt in the Salomon boots, I backpack, peak bag, scout and trail run in the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4’s.
Hoka One One exploded on running scene a few years ago soon after the minimalist running shoe craze ended. Hokas emphasize cushion … lots of it … and some of their shoes look like clown shoes. But boy are they comfortable!
The decrease in jaring joint impact has changed running for many.
Hoka first moved into road running, then began building shoes for trail running. Now they have several trail running styles – all with a focus on cushion. The Speedgoats are my favorite for all around. Other styles work really well and have more cushion for trail running, but are too unstable for anything off trail. The Speedgoats aren’t quite as cushy, but are more stable.
One downside of Speedgoats is they aren’t as durable as other trail runners. The EVA foam they use to give the shoes the great cushioning just gets chewed up. I’ll go through a 1-2 pairs a season. But my knees, hips and low back all thank me for it.
Also, Hokas are known for having a narrow forefoot. I buy the “wide” version.
8. 4-Wheel Campers Project M
This truck, cab-over camper is about as basic as it gets. No sink, heater, benches, table or creature comforts of any kind, except the top pops up, and makes into a queen size bed. Which is totally amazing. As well, you can stand up in the back – with the top up – which is also pretty amazing.
One of my hunting partners has a fancier version, which is finished inside. I almost got one of those until I saw this new, Project M. Model. His camper weights 1,800 pounds, and because it is finished inside, he needs to take it off if he’s going to haul anything.
The Project M weighs just 400 pounds, and I can haul dogs, garbage, lumber, firewood, etc. without taking it off. If fact, since having it installed on my Ram 2500 last year, it hasn’t moved.
I’m 52 and getting soft. For years I backpack hunted for both elk and deer. But, I mostly solo-hunt, and for elk, I can’t venture further than 2.5-3 miles from the truck or road, because of the pack out. With the Project M, now I hunt from the truck. It means I have to leave earlier in the morning, and headlamp back to the truck to sleep every night, but it also means my pack is lighter. Plus, I like walking in the woods, in the dark.
In mine, I installed some off-the-shelf Dewalt tool boxes, and now I pretty much keep all my cooking gear and bedding in the camper at all times – so all I need to go is a soft cooler with some food. I can head out alone or grab my 5-year old son and be gone headed to the hills in 20 minutes. This camper has gotten me out in the woods more.
Plus, I can tow a drift boat or lake boat behind the truck and still have a camper.
For what you get, it seems expensive, but its well designed, and built tough, and should last for years.
9. Exo Mountain Gear 3500 Pack
This is my hunting pack, and it was expensive – around $550. You don’t need a pack like this for backpacking – where it pays for itself is organization for backcountry hunting, and especially for meat packouts after you’ve downed game.
The pack has an innovative design where the “bag” portion separates from the frame of the pack, allowing you to carry heavy, boned out bags of meat, between the frame and the pack. If you have room, you can carry more meat in the “bag” portion of the pack.
I’ve packed out multiple antelope, deer and elk using this pack. Most recently, I carried out and entire boned out spike elk this fall using this pack in one trip. The pack weight was over 100 pounds, and the 2 mile pack out sucked ass …. but this pack was bomber, didn’t fail, and make it as comfortable as it could be.
A few years ago we tested 3 different hunting packs and this pack was the winner.
10. TFO 1 or 2-Weight Fly Rod
Flyfishing is another one of those sports that can overwhelm newcomers with gear shit. But, unlike bowhunting, much more of the gear emphasis is all about image and marketing, not about enjoying the sport and catching fish.
I’m a self taught fly-fisherman, who grew up spinner fishing for trout in small rivers and creeks with spin-casting rods. I didn’t start fly fishing until my late 20’s.
I quickly learned that I couldn’t tell the difference between a $500 rod and a $150 rod, and neither could the fish. As well, I could never understand why people needed to wear $300 gore-tex waders in the summer when it was 70-80 degrees outside.
Finally, I didn’t have the time or interest to learn the complexity of reading the hatch and carrying a flybox with 36 different types of flies.
I carry a small flybox and three flies: black wooly buggars, Parachute Adams and different sized bugmeisters or similar. I fish in shorts and a t-shirt, carry my smallf fly box, calipers, floatant and extra leader in a shorts pocket, and fish with a light, cheap, entry-level Temple Forks Outfitter 1 or 2 weight rod.
Temple Fork Outfitters is a rod making company focused on keeping things affordable and accessible. They sell expensive rods too, but I was attracted to them for their quality entry-level models, and especially for their 25-year no-fault guarantee. Fly rods are delicate, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve closed the truck door on my rod, stepped on it, or lost a section or had some other thing happen. I send it in to TFO and they send me a new one.
Size 1 or 2 is super light weight, which means a 8-inch fish feels like a 12-incher and a 14-inch fish takes talent to land. It makes flyfishing the small creeks I mostly wade a pure joy.
Bonus …. Garmin InReach Mini
There are lots of places I hunt and hike these days far away from any cell phone service. The Garmin InReach Mini is a satellite messaging device I can use anywhere with a clear view of the sky.
This means I can check in with my family everynight so they don’t worry. It also means if something happens I can call in help. This is a welcom peace of mind when I’m out alone, especially.
If you travel in the backcountry, an Inreach Mini, or something like it, is a must have.
We would love to hear about your favorite gear in the “Comments” below. Be sure to add your mode of recreation – if you have one.