Bear Gear: Do you have the gear you need? - Initial Ascent

Bear Gear: Do you have the gear you need?

Photo May 16, 7 25 49 AM

Hi, my name is Dennis and I'm a backpack hunting gear fanatic and avid bear hunter.

I love gear and gear organization when it comes to backcountry backpack hunting. I love going through it and constantly tweaking my pack and all that resides within it.

Every time I get ready for a hunt, I have to grab a printout of my packing list for whatever style of hunt I'm going on and the quarry I'll be after. This one will focus on my bear hunting gear list. One would think that after years of doing this, I would've memorized the gear list by now, but I always find myself having to refer back to my checklist so I don't forget anything. I don't risk it and I recommend you not risk it either. Always get into the habit of going through your detailed hunting gear list several days prior to heading out. This will allow you to pick up any last-minute items needed for your trip as well. You'll be glad you did!

So, you are going to get two key items out of this post:

1. You will get a copy of my personal bear hunting gear list (pdf) that you'll be able to download which might guide you to making your own.

2. I will detail my entire gear list in this blog post along with specific recommendations for most items.

I will essentially bring you into my hunting room and show you what you'll need for a 5 day backcountry backpack bear hunt.


Before you get ready for that hunt, be sure to download my 2022 bear hunting gear list to get a glimpse at what I use personally and recommend for the trip. My philosophy on gear is that I want the lightest, most durable equipment because ounces matter on the mountain. However, to have certain comforts, I will bend this rule. Discover some of those comforts in the printable pdf below. Plus, it's great to have a copy to keep in your gear closet for each type of hunt so you know exactly what to grab. Download the pdf by clicking the link below.

2022 Bear Hunting Gear List


On this trip, being a 5-day bear hunt, I'm going to bring my Initial Ascent IA4k Pack System with Pannier Load Carrier. The system is about 4700 cubic inches and everything I pack will be comfortable in this setup. I will be packing in about 7 miles. On my hipbelt, I will attach an IA Hipbelt Pouch, an IA Water Bottle Holder, and my 40 cal pistol.

Shelter/Sleep System

On this trip, I will be taking my Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 Dyneema Tent with nest (47 oz w/stakes). It is supported by 1 trekking pole (Peax Equipment is my preferred pole) and the nest has a floor keeping out ticks and other critters. The nest is extremely light and protects your sleeping pad from getting punctured while staying dry. Speaking of sleeping pads, I like the ThermaRest Neo Air XTherm Insulated sleeping pad. It has an R-value of 6.9 and weighs 15 oz. In conjunction with this pad, I'm using the Enlightened Equipment 20-degree Enigma Quilt. It weighs just over a pound (17.94 oz) and keeps me warm to just under freezing temps. I usually put my puffy jacket on if I get too cold. Last but not least, I do take a pillow in the form of the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow (2.1 oz).


For cooking, I essentially bring something to boil water/heat up dehydrated meals. For me, I use the Jetboil MicroMo (12 oz). It has a variable temperature/simmer mode so I can gradually heat up my homemade dehydrated meals, Peak Refuel, or Heather's Choice meals. That slow rolling boil tends to heat my meals faster and more thorough for some reason. I can bring one small fuel cannister to get me by for this length of trip. For an eating utensil, I use the Sea to Summit Titanium (0.2 oz).


Water is the most important nutrient you can put in your body. For this reason, we make sure it will be plentiful and we can make it safe to consume. I will be carrying a GSI Microlite 1000 Water Bottle. It holds 1 liter of liquid and weighs 13 oz. With this, I will carry a 3 liter collapsible Hydrapak Seeker Water reservoir (3.3 oz). I prefer to filter my water with a Katadyn BeFree 1 liter water filter (2.4 oz). I also carry some Portable Aqua Iodine Tabs for backup. There are times when I'll use a bladder and filter but in colder temps, one could get into trouble.

Survival/First Aid

Most of this category will be housed in a Medium Initial Ascent Pack Sack.


You must know how to accurately navigate in the backcountry. I always carry a waterproof topo map of the area in which I'll be. In the days of GPS now, things can and will happen unfortunately with your electronics. That's why I also recommend bringing a compass, but only if you learn how to use it. There are tons of classes on basic backcountry navigation as well as lots of YouTube videos on the subject. Do yourself a favor and get educated.

I really like using the GPS mapping apps on your phone. There are two main platforms that I am familiar with in OnXMaps and BaseMap. Both give you the all-important private land boundaries among many other features. However, you must have phone service in order to use these fully unless you download the maps of your area ahead of time. You should preload a 10-mile radius of the area you'll be hunting at a minimum. I recommend preloading 4 of those to be safe in case of relocation. Again, there are lots of videos available on how to use both.

I always carry a satellite communicator as well in the form of the Garmin InReach Mini. This pairs to your cell phone via Bluetooth and utilizing it's own app, you can text anyone in your contact list. It only weighs 3.5 oz so that is definitely a plus. It also has an SOS button that will contact emergency personnel. This is another "piece of mind" item for you and your loved ones.

Light and Electronics

I always carry a headlamp that is rechargeable such as the Peax Backcountry Duo Headlamp. It's a great lamp that lasts a long time on a single charge.  I also carry a backup headlamp called the Petzl e-Lite. It weighs less than an ounce and produces 50 lumens.

I will also bring a small powerbank and solar charger. I prefer the Goal Zero Venture 30 and the Goal Zero Nomad 10 Solar Panel. This is more than enough for me personally but there's always someone in camp that needs a way to charge electronics. I've been that guy before.

First Aid/Personal Hygiene

In the backcountry, I want to be prepared for things that might come up and I want to continue to practice decent personal hygiene. I always carry a basic first aid kit that includes an assortment of bandages, Quick Clot, Windless Tourniquet, leukotape wrapped around my tooth brush, toothpaste, antibacterial ointment, and a variety of medications from Benadryl to Ibuprofen. I also carry a small microfleece rag and soap you can use without water. Wet wipes and toilet paper are mandatory as well as contacts and a small bottle of solution for me.

Extra survival gear that I usual bring and always use is some Gorilla Tape and/or electrical tape. I typically wrap 5 feet of each on one of my trekking poles so I don't bring the rolls.

Fire Starting

This is an essential that can keep you comfortable and most importantly, alive. It will keep you warm, allow you to purify water, and allow you to cook food. Basic, right? Well, you will have to have a way to start the fire. I always recommend a waterproof butane lighter or my new favorite, the Pyro Putty Dual Arc Plasma Lighter, and waterproof matches in a watertight container for backup. These lighters may not work well at higher elevations so a backup source is essential.

Next, you must have a substrate to light that burns long enough to get tinder and small twigs going. My choice for this is Pyro Putty. It is waterproof, it floats, and a nickel-sized piece burns for 10 minutes producing a 4-6 inch flame. You can also use Rem Oil wipes as a backup in case you lose or run out of Pyro Putty. Rem Oil Wipes are lightweight and simple to light. This will all be kept in a Small Initial Ascent Pack Sack.


Optics are a key element to success on spot and stalk hunts. You want to let your optics "do the walking". Often times it means spending hours high on a master vantage point looking across a ton of country. For this, you must have the highest quality optics that you can afford.

I've been using the Vortex UHD 10x42 binos with a Slik 634 Pro Carbon Fiber Tripod and Outdoorsman Micro Pan Head. For a spotter, I picked up a Kowa TSN-553 15-45x55mm last summer. It is very lightweight and the optics are off the charts.

Field Dress Kit

The field dress kit or kill kit is an essential part of any hunter's gear. Once you get the animal on the ground, the real work begins. For a bear hunt, I keep this kit in a Large Initial Ascent Pack Sack. It includes a Goat Knives Capra Hunter Ti replaceable blade knife (1.5 oz) with 2 extra Size 60 blades. I always carry 25 ft of paracord, 1 pair of latex gloves, and my hunting license/tags. For game bags on this trip, I'm using 4 VIAM Outdoors Ultralight Gamebags that can easily hold the quarters of a bear.  I do bring one large heavy-duty contractor bag for the hide and head provided I am so fortunate. I'll also bring the Goat Knives Nitro TUR (1.8 oz) and carry it on paracord around my neck.


For this length of trip and the weather expected, I won't be bringing much for extra clothing. I will not bring extra pants as I'll be fine with the ones I have on (Pana Stretch Zion). I will be bringing one extra merino long-sleeved shirt by First Lite or Mtn Ops, 2 pairs of Farm to Feet Wool S Socks (not including the ones I wear in), and 1 pair of First Lite Red Desert Merino boxer briefs (not including the ones worn in). The clothes that I will wear in include a First Lite Merino base layer shirt, Kryptek Cronos Hoodie, Peax Equipment Gaiters, and Zamberlan Baltoro Lite GTX Boots. It's also good to bring a beanie and a pair of merino gloves. Mine will be both made by First Lite. For jackets, you'll need two types: a rain jacket and a puffy (insulated) jacket. The puffy jacket is a must-have for chilly nights at camp and early morning/late evening glassing sessions from master vantage points. Currently, I'm using the Kryptek Citius Down Jacket.


We won't get into food in detail in this article, but I typically figure on food that has a good balance of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. I typically carry about 1.5-2 lb of food per day and 3000 calories. Most foods I eat will average a calorie-dense 100 calories/ounce.


For this trip, I'll be taking my Gunwerks rifle chambered in 7LRM. I have a Nightforce 5.5-22x50 scope with a custom yardage turret. The rifle is equipped for longe range with a muzzle velocity of 3005 f/s and fires a 180 gn Berger Hybrid. It packs a pretty good punch. It's also armed with an Atlas Bipod.

So in conclusion, do your homework, put in the time and effort, and raise the bar on your gear list and overall backcountry experience. Your body will thank you, and you too will be better prepared for each hunt.

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