Just when I think my hunting equipment supply is complete, a trip like Kodiak Island comes along and all of a sudden I “need” more stuff. Here are most of my major new additions and what I thought about each of them.
Transitioning from last post, one more shout-out to the Helly Hansen Impertech rain jacket. I bought myself and Dad one last year for Christmas right as we were initially planning our Kodiak Island Sitka black-tailed deer hunting adventure. For the price ($70 versus the more expensive and supposedly better Kuiu/Sitka/fanboy brand options there that cost $250-$400), it is the best option. There is no debate to be had. Keeping an observant eye out walking around Kodiak City, we saw exponentially more Helly Hansen gear than any other brand on the market. The locals love it, I love it.
After 60+ nights of sleeping on it, my Peak A/C two-thirds length mat finally developed a slow leak. Not a bad enough leak to toss in the garbage, but slow enough that I had to wake up once or twice a night to put more air in it. Instead of dealing with that hassle, I took out my Klymit sleeping pad which is another two-thirds length model. Even though it is even thinner than the Peak A/C, I thought I slept just as well on it. Combined with my car windshield reflector, I was well enough insulated from the ground and I will carry the Klymit on my next hunt. For Dad, I bought a Big Agnes Insulated Double Z, definitely a deluxe sleeping pad and certainly in violation of the micro-light approach I typically employ. But boy, oh boy, that thing is comfortable! Dad slept great and that was a huge deal on an exhausting hunt like Kodiak.
I think I have said it a couple times already in other posts, but I’ll say it again here. It doesn’t matter how good a pillow, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, or any other sleeping aid you have while on Kodiak Island. If you don’t have a bear fence up and popping some hot voltage at night, you will not sleep well. We used Kodiak Kamps (link) to rent a fence and would do so again in a heartbeat.
I will not do a review on our Sea-to-Summit head nets or the 100% DEET bug dope we brought along. Thankfully, we never used either a single time, so I am proud to say I still no longer have an opinion on either of those 2 products. We had been warned of the horrors of early season bug swarms on the south end of Kodiak Island, but we were blessed to not experience that unpleasantness. A couple times when the breeze died down to a complete calm, a few biting gnats and mosquitoes would appear to harass us, but it was never any worse than an early season whitetail hunt back home.
We used a Delorme Inreach communication device to coordinate pick-up arrangements with our flight transporter, get the latest weather forecasts from the built-in NOAA weather app, and text back and forth with loved ones back in the Lower 48. It worked flawlessly every single time we turned it on (once or twice a day) and we still had over 50% battery life left when the pilot picked us up after 9 days in the interior. I have no bad things to say about the InReach system and it was a huge step-up from the SPOT communicator I have used in the past.
I will not do a full review on our shelter system. The Seek Outside Redcliff tipi/TiGoat titanium wood stove combo performed flawlessly in what could only be described as an intermittent 15-hour long F1 tornado. No joke. It was scary as &$%@! Other than the stovepipe getting turned into a pretzel on a particularly strong gust at 3 o’clock in the morning, the shelter and stove did everything I could have ever asked it to do and more. Even with specialized 12” stakes at each tie-down loop, we had a couple pop loose from the ground in the worst of the storm. Thankfully, the nearby lake contained a good number of 20-30 pound boulders that we fetched to weigh down the problem corners. Keeping a titanium wood stove going with wet wood is not the most efficient thing I have ever done, but with a little attentiveness and diligence to detail, it can be done and pay-off is huge. Dry gear, stove-top meals, and elevated morale. I am a huge fan of this system and I cannot wait until the next opportunity to spend a few nights in it. Now beware, this set-up is NOT inexpensive, but it is an A++ system with zero identifiable flaws. Visit this link for a fantastic review that I found helpful back when I was shopping for an expanded shelter system.
For an extended 2-man backcountry hunt, compact cribbage. ‘Nuff said.
As many backcountry wilderness hunts as I have done now, this was the first time that I “cheated” and took a fuel canister stove. In the past, I have always taken my ultralight DIY wood stove and found it sufficient to boil water for hot meals. At the recommendation of a local backpacking store, I picked up an Oilcamp Vector HD Stove for right at $30. With just 1, 16-ounce canister and 1, 8-ounce canister, we boiled 2-4 kettles of water daily for 9 days straight and still had a little bit of fuel leftover. In a wet, humid environment like Kodiak Island, I cannot imagine trying to make things work with my DIY wood stove. A fuel-based stove is the only option. I will still use my IKEA wood stove on future hunts, but it is nice to know I have a reliable back-up for more inhospitable environments.
I love my new Husqvarna hatchet. It was razor sharp out of the box and I primed the handle with 3 rubdowns of linseed oil before our trip to Alaska. It was invaluable for splitting alder in the tipi and the blunt hammer side was useful for pounding stakes into a few of the more stony areas around camp. It feels and looks sort of like an heirloom piece that will last generations and can be passed down through time. There are much cheaper options out there but I am glad to own this piece.
The last item I will highlight is my DIY Tyvek butchering/rain fly sheet. This was a great addition to the pack that sheltered us a couple times from hour-long downpours on top of the mountain, transformed into a protective sheet to keep flies off freshly quartered venison, and ultimately wound up as the flooring for our meat tent. The whole thing cost less than $20 but I did throw it away when we got back to Kodiak City. The Tyvek was already starting to break down a little. As a disposable, it was a great solution to a few potential challenges. I am not sure it is a long-term option though and I’ll be exploring some more expensive options that might last through years instead of just weeks of harsh abuse.