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Steven Drake | 6.22.2021

Backcountry Essentials

Steven Drake has logged more time than most backpack hunting in remote mountain ranges and prairie. As we all know, the lessons and niche information we glean from experience is invaluable. Information on layering and camping gear is pretty simple to find – but those small, unpredictable items that are worth their weight in gold in your pack are typically discovered after a bad experience. Through hard-earned mistakes, Steven has dialed in a list of obscure gear that he carries in his pack on every hunt. Here’s his full list:

  • SOL Emergency Bivvy
  • Wetfire Cubes
  • Pepto Bismil
  • Paracord
  • Backup Headlamp
  • Leatherman Squirt
  • Toilet paper
  • Outdoor Edge Razorlite + Blades
  • Quick Clot Sponge
  • Bic Lighter
  • Storm Proof Matches
  • Bandaids, Salve, Ibuprofen
  • Whistle
  • Duct Tape, Flagging Tape
  • Iodine Tablets
  • Allen keys that fit your equipment
  • Cotton Camera Carrier
  • Satellite Messenger
  • Outdoor Edge Flip N' Zip Saw
  • Phoneskope
  • $20 bill

Steven’s breakdown of key items:

1. Backup Headlamp

This Petzel e+Lite lives in my emergency kit and goes with me everywhere. Weighing in at one ounce means there's minimal weight consequence. This headlamp acts as a backup to my primary, the Fenix HL60R, but gets used most often by hunting partners who forget theirs or had their batteries die.

2. Satellite Messenger

Satellite texting devices allow you to communicate via text with anyone from anywhere in the world, as long as you have a clear view of the sky. I've carried one since 2012. They give peace of mind to friends and family back home, they also provide a sense of security allowing me to pursue animals farther than I ever have before. On plane/heli access hunts I've used them to coordinate extractions with pilots, you can check the weather with them, stay in touch with your hunting partners while afield, and you can even contact Search and Rescue by activating the SOS feature. I use the ZOLEO satellite messenger.

3. Outdoor Edge Flip N' Zip Saw

I carry this compact saw for cutting shoot lanes in ground blinds, removing antlers from skulls, clearing branches for trail cameras and cutting down sticks for my tent stove. It's super light at 2.5 ounces. When I want to go ultra light, and get a serious arm workout, I'll bring a wire saw instead.

4. Phone Skope Case

Packing a super telephoto lens like a 600mm just doesn't make sense on most hunts because of the weight, space and price. Instead, A majority of my 'long-lens' wildlife shots are taken with my iPhone through a spotting scope via a Phone Skope case. In addition to capturing wildlife footage you can film your shots to help verify placement and you can get close up photos and video of rams to help verify their age. If you're not carrying a spotting scope, you can also record through your binoculars by simply swapping out adapters.

5. 5,000 mHa Battery Brick

Between navigating with the onX app and filming wildlife my iPhone eats up battery quick! On day hunts I always pack a battery brick with a minimum of 5,000 mHa. With one 5,000 mHa brick I can charge my phone at least once. For extended hunts I'll bring at least one 20,000 mHa brick. I'll bring a small solar charger to keep the bricks charged IF there's going to be lots of sun and I'll have a base camp where I can leave the solar panels out all day. If I'm constantly moving or the weather forecast looks cloudy or wet, solar loses it's advantage and I'll just bring more fully-charged batteries. And don't forget charging cords for your devices!

6. Cotton Carrier

My cameras go with me everywhere and I need them instantly accessible because, in my line of work, moments happen fast! Instead of carrying my cameras around my neck with standard neck straps, I use the Cotton Carrier harness system which allows me to mount cameras to a shoulder strap, my bino harness, waist belt or use their chest harness system when I'm not carrying binoculars. A circular base-plate, that sits next to your tripod's base plate, locks into a receiver allowing me to run, hike, or climb with multiple cameras attached and with a simple 90 degree twist the camera comes out of the receiver and I can shoot images or record video. The Cotton Carrier system is silent so you don't spook game.

7. $20

From catching a lift back to your truck to offering $20 to a wrangler to help you pack out an elk, you just never know when a little cash might come in handy!