Eberlestock Halftrack - 2008 Coues Deer Hunting Backpack Trip - Gear List

I am putting the finishing touches on my Footwear Evaluation Wrap Up article but since hunting season is upon us in so many areas I thought I would go ahead and jump into my next big subject, packs.  I apologize for being a little late on this.  I had hoped to be well into this subject by now but, as Burns said, the best laid schemes o'mice an' men...

My brother has an Arizona bull elk hunt (bow) starting this week.  He has waited 11 years to be drawn for this particular tag and it is a good one so we are all pretty fired up.  On top of testing some new
Danner boots and Cabelas clothing it was decided that I would be the designated camera man.  Frankly, I think there is more pressure on me than Cody.  All he has to do is hit something roughly the size of a truck.  I have to capture it and the scene on film taking great care to make sure that it is in focus.  Trust me, there will be hell to pay if I screw this up.  While I don't expect that we will be doing the remote cold camp bivy backpack thing on this hunt, which is the way I like to do it, I do have a Coues deer rifle hunt in October so I have been working hard to get my pack squared away.

Now, I want you to remember a few things as you look at my pack and it's contents.  First, this is set up for Central Arizona mountain country in October.  Second, it is for a Coues deer hunt which means a heavy reliance on high end optics as these are not big animals.  Third, my preferred style of hunting is to get out there, as remote as possible, up high in difficult terrain and stay put for a few days at a time.  Becoming an inconspicuous part of the landscape is the priority, comfort is not, so my gear list might seem austere to some.

The pack that I am going to use for this Coues deer hunt is the Halftrack from 
Eberlestock.  It is a heavy duty, panel loader built for military and tactical use but it carries like a high end recreational pack and has a very good external pocket layout.        

Eberlestock's Halftrack in coyote brown is rated at 2300 cubic inches which is just enough space for my three day gear list.  The addition of an external padded bino case from Blackhawk allows quick access to my 10 to 15s and range finder.

So, what goes in the Halftrack?  Well, it depends on the trip and every trip is unique.  My trail running or quail hunting set up is very different from my elk hunting or mountaineering outfit, but over the years I have developed a routine that works pretty well for me.  I take my basic gear list and modify it based on the answers to four questions.  1.  What am I going to be doing?  2.  How long do I intend to be in the field?  3.  What is the terrain?  4.  What are the historic weather records and conditions for that area at that time of the year? 

When I am satisfied with the answers to those questions, I finalize my gear list and put it all together.  Then I choose what pack I am going to use.  This is an important point that should not be missed.

My gear list for each trip dictates what pack I use not the other way around.  Like
George Carlin said in one of his bits, you have too much stuff so you get a bigger place and then you end up filling it up with more stuff so you have to get an even bigger place which you fill up with even more stuff and so on and so on.  It is the same with packs.  People buy a pack and then are compelled by some uncontrollable deep seated Freudian urge to fill it up.  They just can't stand a pack with room left over in it so they throw in extra stuff to fill the void.  Don't fall into this trap.  Develop your gear list first then pick your pack.  Oh, I know what you are thinking gentle reader, this means that you will need more than one pack.  Yes, that's right.

I have been at this for some time so for me it is not so much a question of what to carry but which one.  I know what I need to cover all the bases, my challenge is to figure out which model of a particular component to choose.  It's simple really.  I want the best.  To me that means lightweight, dependable, durable, multi-purpose, quiet and in the right color.  The hard part is figuring out, from everything that is available on the market, which are the best, exactly.  Fortunately for you, I am a list maker and I have provided you a link to the gear list that I am using for this Coues deer hunt. 

The Halftrack is thin and compact which makes a big difference in steep, nasty terrain.  It is also scalable and offers a high degree of access.  I give it high marks for mission flexibility and convenience.   

OK, so why the Eberlestock Halftrack.  Well, as I said, it is a panel loader not a top loader and to an anal retentive obsessive compulsive neat freak "A" shift type like me, that is important.  The pack opens up like a piece of luggage and it's contents are laid out in front of you.  I find that everything stays organized which makes it easier and quicker for me to find and retrieve what I want.  And, it just looks nice and tidy.

Next, it is built for hard use.  I spend a lot of time looking for the right gear and when I find it, I want it to last.  Yes, heavy duty gear weighs more and costs more but I don't care about that when I am deep in the suck.  I depend on my gear and I can't afford to have it fail me at the worst possible time in the worst possible place and I have had good, normal duty gear do just that too many times.  I will take the spec ops grade gear and it's weight and dollar penalties 99 times out of 100, thank you very much.

The other main reason I like this pack is the pocket layout.  It has a main compartment with adjustable dividers, full length pockets on each side of the pack, and a lid pocket on top of the pack.  I put my tripod in one long pocket, a 100 ounce Camelbak Hydroguard bladder in the other and small items in the top pocket.  That leaves the main compartment for larger things like insulation pieces, sleeping pad, cook kit and food bags.  I do have one gripe about this pack though and it is something I have already talked with Glenn Eberlestock about.  The top pocket is the perfect size for a pair of 10 or 15 power binoculars but the zipper is way too short to get them in and out easily.  My suggestion was to extend the zipper to one of the sides so that two sides of the square pocket could be unzipped.  Some padding on the lid would also help.   

As you can see from the pictures, I have attached a number of external pockets.  The extensive use of PALS straps all over the pack makes it easy.  I normally don't like a bunch of crap hanging off of me, it is an old habit from years of getting in and out of helicopters in less than ideal conditions, but the way these are set up, it is not a problem.  There is no flopping or bouncing and they are securely attached.  

The big one on the back is a padded bino case from
Blackhawk and it gives me quick access my glasses.  The two pockets on top of the lid are from Blackwater.  One holds my iCom VHF radio and the other is for the SPOT Satellite Messenger.  Putting them on top provides best possible line of sight and keeps them handy but out of the way.  There are two hard plastic cases from Tactical Tailor attached with Malice Straps to each side of the harness belt.  They are as far back on the belt as they will go so as not to interfere with arm swing or the butt of my rifle.  These crushproof, lined boxes protect my sunglasses (Maui Jims so I can maintain my supercool groove in the boonies) and the now mandatory digital camera (Olympus Stylus 850SW) because 8 megapixels are the next best thing to being there for my peeps around the world. 

Attention to detail, quality workmanship and intuitive design based on practical experience are the hallmarks of outstanding gear.  Nowhere is that more evident than in the superstructure of a high-end backpack.  The Halftrack soaks up the bumps and rides like an H2 with the Adventure package.  It is very nice.

That is my rig for this Arizona Whitetail hunt.  Hope the list helps you with some of your decisions but again, this is set up for a particular area, at a particular time of the year and for my style of hunting.  Here is an example.  There is no sleeping bag.  I don't need one.  The gear I am carrying will safely handle rain, snow and temps into the twentys.  I won't be feather bed comfy but I will be operational.  I don't want to go to a bigger pack just so I can carry a bunch of snivel gear.  Besides, comfort is a state of mind.  If
John McCain can do 5 years in the Hanoi Hilton, I can certainly handle a few rough nights in the Sierra Anchas. 

Click on the blue link below to access the gear list.  By the way, the pack as currently configured, loaded out with everything, including food and water, weighs 33.5 lbs but I am still hoping to trim that down a little.

Coues Deer Hunt Pack Gear List revised 9/30/08

Wade Nelson

Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.

Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who can't or won't turn back.


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