Rokstaff Favorite Gear

Rokstaff Favorite Gear
Rokslide staff and Moderator favorite gear picks for 2023. Only things the Rokstaff love more than hunting is testing out gear. With over 365 combined days in the field, you can rest assured that anything you see recommended here has been through the ringer. When I have a gear question these are the guys, I personally call for advice. What’s your favorite staffers go-to piece of gear for 2023? Let’s find out-

Robby Denning-

Robby might be best known for his love of big mule deer. You can’t kill what you can’t see so Robby’s top recommendation shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Swarovski ATC 17-40x56mm spotter. This spotting scope punches way above its compact size, and Robby found himself reaching for it on every occasion rendering the rest of his optics collecting dust in the safe. Only “upgrade” he might make is switching to the straight version in 2024. Review here- Swarovski ATC Compact Spotting Scope Review – Rokslide

SafriFlex 15 Tenttipi- Amazing the amount of interior space created by pitching this 20’ diameter 15-man Tipi, best of all, even a solo guy can get it setup in less than 15 minutes. The Safriflex is made of lightweight canvas so warm in the winter without any condensation while also staying cooler during the summer months. One feature that really adds versatility is the ability to lift the sides and the tent can shelter over 500 square feet. Check out the review here- Tentipi Safirflex 15 Review – Rokslide  and the video here- Tentipi Safirflex 15 Man Review (

Robby’s failure this season was a Moultrie mobile edge trail camera. While the edge was replaced hassle free under warranty, Robby upgraded the new Edge pro while waiting. Wow, the features of the pro include FTE false trigger elimination where you can remove objects from trigger the cameras even when they are within the field of view. Live aim, you can pair your smart phone to the camera and see through the lens real time when setting it up to ensure the best field of view to capture your images. Species recognition, artificial intelligence can recognize the difference between bucks and does and only trigger the camera on bucks. This saves battery life and saves your time sorting through the pictures you are most interested in.

Favorite snack is Jodi’s homemade mix of chocolate chips, chopped dates, and honey roasted peanuts. Salty, sweet, and full of calories.

Kyle Virgin moderator SLDMNT

Kyle’s top pick was the First Lite Brooks Range sweater. While skeptical at first of the sweater Kyle found that he put it in pack every single trip this season. Wearing it either as an outer layer or layered under a hard shell, this lite weight piece has become a staple in the high country.

Something else that became a staple was the Stone Glacier Cirque vest. This soft-shell vest was the perfect amount of insulation under a set of rain gear when exerting a lot of energy climbing Alaska’s steepest mountain ranges.

For an honorable mention is the Alpine Hunter Knife made by BAC Knives out of Canada. Replacing Kyle’s havlon style capers with this hardened CPM M4 steel blade, made short work of a sheep this season without needing to be touched up for the next hunt.

Favorite meal/snack is Alpine Fuel Caramel Apple. Eat with cold water on hot day or warmed up like a hot piece of apple pie on a frosty morning, this never disappoints.

Jordan Budd

Jordan’s favorite upgrade this year was the Outdoorsman’s gen 2 pan head. The same amazing features of the original Outdoorsman pan head but with additional functionality of Arca Swiss compatibility while still retaining the ability to accept Outdoorsman plates. The gen 2 pan head now has a load capacity 20lbs.

Jordan’s been using the Crispi Brikstal boots for many years (review here- Crispi Briksdal GTX Review – Rokslide) so when she found out Crispi released a pro version, it was a no brainer to try them out. With an added 200-gram insulation and 2” more height (10” total) Jordan found the Pro’s to be the perfect boot from mid-October to the end of her season in late December.

The Primos trigger stick came in as another top item used by Jordan this season. While it might sound gimmicky these just work. With the above average height of the grass this year on the ranch it prone off the pack and even kneeling made it hard to see the deer during stalks. It was an essential shooting aid for standing shots and I liked it so much I even bought the bipod version for predator hunting.

Jordan’s new favorite snack is Reese peanut butter sticks.

Tony Crumley moderator fngtony

Tony’s favorite pick for 2023 is the Zoleo Satellite Communicator. Hunting solo without cell coverage was stressful for Tony’s family, so when a Zoleo came up for sale in the Rokslide classifieds (link classifieds- Rokslide Classifieds | Rokslide Forum), he was quick to snatch it up. Small size, long battery life, and reliable communication will keep the Zoleo in Tony’s pack this hunting season too.

Tony typically raids the kid’s cupboard for his snacks but found the Welch’s fruit snacks are what he reaches for most.

Brock Ackers moderator Brock A

After the boot Brock had been wearing for the last 6 years was discontinued, he turned to the Crispi and their Shimek boot. Brock has really enjoyed going back to an all-leather boot, and the Shimek’s GTX liner was impressive with zero leaks the entire season. The Shimek has 400 grams of insulation but Brock hasn’t ever noticed his feet overheating during the 150 miles or so he wore them this past year. (Review coming soon.)

Born Primitive Quiver Half Zip Hoodie is another of Brocks favorites. The Quiver Hoodie is a synthetic grid fleece hoodie that breathes well enough and has adequate insulation to be used year-round. This piece is so versatile that Brock has picked several more in different color option for everyday use. (review- Born Primitive Quiver Half Zip Hoodie Review – Rokslide)

While not a big game item, the Final Rise Summit XT vest is yet another way Rokslide members can extend their hunting seasons. Few things Brock loves more than watching his dog flush a few birds. The Final Rise Summit XT vest is built around a concept that is familiar to anyone who’s backpacked- your hips can carry more weight comfortably than your shoulders. Final Rise is building the Summit as a system incorporating a waist belt/shoulder strap/yoke combo, along with molle webbing proving endless pouch and pocket attachment options. Find out more about it in my review here- Final Rise Summit XT Vest System Review – Rokslide

Favorite backpacking meal is Peak Refuel Chicken Alfredo Pasta, favorite base camp meal is the amazing enchiladas my wife makes.


Zach Harold

After doing a head-to-head bow review, the Elite Omnia bow was Zach’s pick. Omnia just shot well, held well, and just seemed to fit the best. Next was the CBE Trek pro V2 bow sight, and to complete the archery package Zach loved the Tooth of the Arrow broadheads. It was just an amazing combo that put a bunch of game down this season. Video’s here-2023 Head-to-Head Bow Test – Rokslide – Elite, Hoyt, Mathews, Gearhead ( Head to Head Bow Test: Part 2 – Rokslide

M7 set from Stone Glacier. Zach used the M7 pants a ton this season and they proved to be extremely durable. Any time there was moisture be it misting to driving rain, or snow covered sage and post holing for miles the pants keep Zach dry. Video here- Stone Glacier M7 Set – More Than Just Rain Gear – Rokslide Gear Review ( 

Wrapping up Zach’s picks is the finalist from the backpack head-to-head comparison. The EXO K4 with 5000 bag checked a lot boxes. The K4 was an intuitive design that carried weight extremely well, with a simple designed pack bag that had storage for those special items yet remained minimalist. Video here 2023 Head-to-Head Backpack Test – Part 1 – Rokslide (

Favorite snack is string cheese, or any type of easily packed cheese. Some times I leave the cheese in my pack way past the recommended time unrefrigerated and still been fine snacking on it.

Randy Gehrke moderator mtnwrunner

Top of my choices is the Rokslide special, Tikka 223 shooting 77 grain TMK bullets. It’s a proven combo you can research Here- .223 for bear, deer, elk and moose. | Rokslide Forum

Next is the Stone Glacier Chilkoot 15* sleeping bag. Really roomy, super warm, and craftmanship is first class, finally the treated down packs into a small compact package. Stone Glacier Chilkoot 15° Sleeping Bag Review – Rokslide

Leica Geovid R 10×42 range-finding binoculars. Simple to use rangefinder button, ranges up to 2000 yards and still has amazing battery life. Meopta Optika LR VS Leica Geovid R Binoculars – Rokslide

Argali Owyhee 1 person tent. Randy found this perfect for backpacking. Impressively roomy for 1-person, amazing wind resistance because of the hybrid tipi shape, all in a 2-pound package. Review HereArgali Owyhee 1P Tent Review – Rokslide

Honorable mention is HydraPak Stow 500ml flak. Bombproof, leak free, container that folds to nothing when empty. No plastic taste to dis-flavor my Pendleton Whiskey.

Failure was a Sea to Summit Ether Lite XT sleeping pad. After a lot of research, I ended up with a sleeping pad that checked all the boxes, that was until I found myself on the hard ground 4 mornings in a row. I patched it 3 other times on a weeklong hunt, and it was on top of my ground trap. Made for some extremely long sleepless nights.

Favorite meals are Peak refuel and new favorite snack is individual packaged Rice crispy treats covered with squeeze tube peanut butter packets. Yum

Joe Witt- moderator philos

Joe has found one of the hidden gems still left at Cabela’s, the instinct clothing line. He has used most of the line up between hunting whitetail deer in South Carlina to chasing bugles in Wyoming, and everything in between. The Gortex barrier rain suit is a little noisy and bit heavy but always manages to keep him dry. The cost to performance ratio is extremely high in Joe’s experience. Check it out next time you’re at Cabela’s.

Tract 10×42 Binoculars- These optics are simply amazing and surprisingly punch way above their price point. Joe knows the importance of quality optics and Tract’s will remain his go to for many seasons to come. In fact, he was so impressed with his binoculars, Joe mounted a Tract scope on his rifle.

Honorable mention goes out to Crispi boots. Joe has three pairs (Idaho’s, Summits, Wyoming’s Crispi Wyoming II GTX Boot Review – Rokslide Crispi Review) and rotates them depending on temperature and terrain. I don’t even know I have them on, they fit so well.

Favorite snacks are Honey Stinger Waffles for that sweet tooth and Canned smoked Oysters for a tasty backcountry treat.

Josh Boyd

Bergara B14 Squared Crest Rifle- Compact and light weight this Bergara rifle is a true tack driver. Josh added a 5” suppressor to the Crest’s 20” barrel and that combo felt like a normal rifle. It is a quick pointing and handy rifle making an easy choice when hunting those thick pine covered north slopes. Josh had this Bergara chambered in 6.5 PRC but the B14 Crest is offered in plenty of popular chamberings. (review coming)

PEAX Solitude 4 Tipi- Josh used this tipi all year, summer, spring, fall, and into some moderate snow loads. The Solitude is a feature rich design with two zippered doors, plenty of guy outs to handle the wind and floor has zip out stove location it a true 4 season offering. The PEAX Tipi is priced very competitively and is definitely worth a look if you’re in the market. See Josh’s full review HERE- PEAX Solitude 4 Tipi Review – Rokslide

Exo K4 Pack-Simply put it’s the best pack I’ve used to date carrying heavy weight, just something about how the waist belt transfers the load to the hips really worked with my body. The bag was well thought out and not too strappy, with just the right amount of organization. You can read the review HERE- Exo Mountain Gear K4 Pack Review – Rokslide

Stika Intercept pant- These were a new mid-season pant replacing the Apex pants. These have merino blended lining that is super comfortable, and a nylon face fabric to add durability, these also offer Hip zips for another added layer of versatility. I found myself wearing these pants a ton, mid-September to late October this year. Just a great pair of pants. Review Here- Sitka Intercept Pant and Hoody Review – Rokslide

Favorite snack/meal this season was Gastro Gnome peach cobbler. Simply amazing to eat as breakfast for a quick 600 cal. or as a warm snack on a cold day. Josh also found that Gastro Gnome makes excellent entrees as well, all of them are worth trying but his favorite is- Italian Fennel Sausage Rigatoni

Glendon Mullins

Ruger American cambered in 450 Bushmaster. The Ruger American is a sweet little rifle with a 16” barrel making it super maneuverable in the southern thickets Glendon hunts. The rifle was amazingly accurate, and the straight walled 450 Bushmaster knocks deer down, which is important when hunting smaller sized properties often found in the south. Glendon found his single draw back to the Ruger American is that the bolt doesn’t lock when in the safe position. On long hikes Glendon had to continually check that the bolt hadn’t worked its way open.

One new purchase was a battery pack and solar panel combo. While Glendon hasn’t had a hunt where he has needed the full capacity of the components, it is an inclusive system. He is looking forward to using and testing its capabilities more and will be reporting.

Favorite meal/snack is the West Virgina Pepperoni roll. Well known there as a coal miners’ complete meal, the combination of the Pepperoni baked inside the bread makes for a handy shelf stable hardy meal that will last a very long time in the field.

Tony Trietch

Option Archery Canyon Pounder bow sight-This sight covers all the bases for Tony when choosing a moveable sight. Like all the Option Archery choices the canyon pounder lets you decide between multiple pins or a single pin slider. The biggest difference with canyon pounder is the single pin stays centered in the housing and the entire housing moves when adjusting for yardage. Having a centered pin really improved my shooting.

Sitka Intercept Pant- The Intercept pant has become Tony’s go to midseason pant replacing the older more fragile Apex version. With the added addition of hip zips Tony was able to wear these durable wool nylon blended pants hunting elk, starting in early September, and continued to wear them though out the fall. Read the review HERE- Sitka Intercept Pant and Hoody Review – Rokslide

Tony’s biggest tip is for guys that must wear contacts or glasses. Go talk to your Optometrist about 30-day contacts. Yes, they are more expensive but save so much time and headaches from not worrying about having to change contacts often. Just wake up and go, have been hassle free since getting these prescribed years ago.

Goal Zero battery and Nomad 50 solar panel- When you’re constantly on the go for 3 or 4 weeks at a time in the middle of nowhere, keeping your electronics charged can become a daunting issue. Since starting self-filming his hunts, Tony’s batteries and power requirements have steadily increased. He found that rather than hiking back to base camp and charging everything while running his truck, instead he uses the Goal Zero battery bank and then simply hooks it up to the Nomad solar panel and it recharges while he’s out hunting for the day.

Tony’s been testing unreleased, and prototype gear all season and some of the release dates are coming up so we should see some new exciting reviews soon.

Tony’s favorite treats are the smoked deer and elk snack sticks he makes on the Traeger. After a couple weeks on the road Tony has to shake it a little and turns to eating dehydrated breakfast eggs on tortillas.

Ross Russell

The tried-and-true Tikka 7mm topped with Leupold 4.5×14 scope. Ross is a believer in the KISS principle (keep it simple stupid) and when something is working well doesn’t go out of his way to find something to replace it. Ross has been using this same combo for all his hunting for the last 20 years.

Ross’s next pick has also been put though the ringer by hiking hundreds of miles a year. Ross first tested the Crispi Nevada boots for Rokslide 6 years ago (review HERE- Crispi Nevada GTX Hunting Boot – Rokslide) and they continue to fit his feet well, so he just keeps using them. Ross has been impressed with the waterproofness and the amount of ankle support Nevada’s offered his feet. The only downside is Ross can wear them out after a couple of hard seasons of use. This year Ross bought a pair of Crispi Wildrocks with 800 grams of insulation Crispi Wild Rock GTX Insulated Boot Review – Rokslide  to keep his feet warm during the late season.

KUIU Axis pants- Ross purchased the Axis pants for its waterproof panels on the lower legs and butt for mid to late season when the weather turns nasty. Ross used the Axis pants down into the 20’s with varying levels of precipitation during North Idaho’s deer and elk seasons and found that the pants performed above expectations. Ross could sit in the snow without having the seat leak though, the Axis also dried quickly where the pants brushed against wet vegetation.

Honorable Mention- Cory Jacobsen Challenger elk calls. These calls have worked exceptionally well for Ross and when he heard they might become obsolete he stocked up buying as many as he could find.

Favorite snack is a snickers bar extra-large size to give that extra boost of energy when he finds himself running low.


Les Welch

Top gear pick is Option Archery Canyon Pounder bow sight. Les had the opportunity to test a dozen or more bow sights and the Canyon Pounder is the sight that ended on his hunting bow. He build a custom 5 pin setup but found that the sliding housing and centered pin is so innovative that a 3 pin would have been sufficient. Les installed the Bridge-Lock version on his Mathews bow and found that it balances out very easily.

G5 Megameat broadheads- after shooting a fix blade broadheads for the last few years, Les decided to test a bunch of new heads in 2023. Les found that the Megameat heads flew excellent but was worried about their large cutting diameter. After shooting 5 deer with them in 2023 Les became a believer in how great of a blood trail they created. Shoot where you aim them and easy to follow blood trails make continuing to shoot the G5’s a no-brainer.

Mathews Lift bow- The review of Mathews newest bow the Lift is in the works, but Les says it’s the best he’s shot, and Les has shot every model made since 1992. While you’re waiting on the 2024 Lift review to publish, you can check out 2023 review of the Mathews Phase 4 HERE- Mathews Phase 4 Bow Review – Rokslide

Favorite snack is summer sausage and Peper jack cheese on crackers. While there are defiantly lighter options to carry while backpacking for a week none are nearly as rewarding. Sometimes you just pack the extra weight so you can enjoy the entire experience that much more.

Micheal Moore moderator mtwarden

Mike has been using the Stika Ambient 60 UL jacket since he picked it up in early September. Like the original Ambient the UL uses the same insulating material, just less of it. The Ambient UL also has the added features of body mapping and additional grid fleece to help this jacket breathe even better. This is kind of a niche piece in that the original Ambient fills most of the same roles but is just warmer. The Ambient UL should really appeal to those a bit further south or those that deal with less extreme cold weather temperatures during their seasons. The UL weighs around 8oz and packs up super small. You should see Mike’s Stika Ambient 60 UL review on the home page soon. Sitka Ambient UL 60 Hoody | Rokslide Forum

Hilleburg Niak 2 tent- After tons of research Mike bought the Niak for his Brooks Range Dall sheep hunt. While not an Ultralight option the Niak comes in around 4lbs from the factory, which is respectable for a two-person tent. While you can fit two 20” sleeping pads side by side, Mike chooses to use this as a spacious solo tent. Mike beefed it up with heavier guy lines, and longer stakes adding to the weight penalty but also his confidence knowing this truly is a bombproof shelter. If a guy was going to only have one tent this would be a great pick. Read Mike’s review here. Hilleberg Niak Review – Rokslide 

Favorite meal is any of the Peak Refuels. Mike is always conscious of calorie and protein intake and the Peak Refuels always seem to check that box while still tasting pretty darn good. This year Mike tried some of the breakfast offerings and Biscuits and gravy is a must try if you have the time in the morning.

Another morning routine is Mike’s coffee, he’s been adding Coconut oil powder along with powdered butter to his instant coffee for years. Packing calories into the least amount of weight, the tradeoff being not the best tasting coffee. Mike’s latest discovery is prepacked Keto coffee that really simplifies morning coffee making. He’s using the Fat Fuel Instant Keto Coffee.

Dave Cameron moderator Team4LongGun

Really Right Stuff 24 Lima Tripod with Anvil 30 head- Rock solid tripod legs and when articulating the anvil 30 has zero slop. Really Right Stuff is made in the USA with the best carbon fiber materials and the craftmanship is impressive. Pricey but the top-of-the-line setup.

Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket- Semi-custom cottage shop offering, you pick your fabric weights, color, and hood style. The Torrid jacket feels almost weightless but has amazing loft even after being compressed in your backpack for long periods. Super warm and packed into a tiny package, what else could you ask for from a puffy jacket?

Kowa 66A spotting scope- Dave got the 66A during the first week it shipped out, so he’s had the chance to get behind it a lot this season. After using spotting scopes for over 20 years, this is the finest one he’s ever put his eye on. Zero regrets paying full price for this Kowa spotting scope. Review here- Kowa Prominar 66A Review – Rokslide

Honorable mention is the Vanguard Endeavor carbon shooting tripod he’s been testing for Rokslide. The Vanguard has rock solid legs, and the rifle clamping head is useful at the range sighting in rifles and in many coyote hunting scenarios. At 1\3 the cost of the Really Right Stuff, it is a lot of tripod for the money. Review thread here- Vanguard shooting tripods review | Rokslide Forum

Favorite snack is a spicy soppressata salami, crackers or Triscuits, and pepper jack cheese. When you’re grinding up that steep vertical climb in the dark it’s definitely the thing Dave looks forward to most at the top.

Matt Cashell

Kowa 66A- After having the opportunity to use the 66A entire season Matt had plenty of time to thoroughly evaluate this spotting scope. Matt’s opinion is that the Kowa 66A sets the standard for 65mm spotting scopes. Matt used the Kowa 66A with both the wide angle zoom and the 35 power ultra-wide fixed eye pieces. While Matt prefers the zoom for hunting, both eye pieces performed above average on the resolution chart. The 66A clarity is impressive and it’s just amazing Kowa could get it packed into a smaller lighter package. Read Matt’s full review HERE- Kowa Prominar 66A Review – Rokslide

Outdoorsman Gen2 Carbon Innegra Tripod- Not only is that mouthful to say but reading the price tag might make you a bit tongue twisted too. Matt always says you tend to get what you pay for in Optics and Tripods, so it should not be a shocker that the Innegra is top of its class. Matt also heard rumors that there are more accessories are in the works to complement the Gen2 series of tripods, so Rokslide stay tuned for that. Matt’s review of the Carbon Innegera HERE- Outdoorsmans G2 Carbon Innegra Tripod and G2 Pan Head Review – Rokslid

Sthealtyhunter glassing pad- sounds simple and it is. The glassing pad comes in a bunch of different colors but has blaze orange on one side which just adds to safety during general rifle seasons. Matt says it’s just a really nice glassing pad and something that he finds himself using from summer scouting seasons and all through the year. At 6.5 oz its not super light but it’s made from USA sourced Cordura and has straps that will attach it to the outside of most packs.

Matt’s one stinker was the Kowa 1.6 extender. It just restricted the usable light way to much to be useful during hunting scenarios. Matt did find it useful turning his spotting scope into a telescope and viewing the celestial images in the sky.

Favorite snack- If you open Matt’s pack right now, you’ll no doubt find multiple favors of Costco Black Forest Stretch Island Fruit leathers. The fruit leather does a good job feeling you up and giving that extra boost of energy and Matt never gets tired of them.

Howard Mee

Howard shot a lot of bows this season before deciding on the Hoyt RX7 Ultra. He just wanted his confidence to be high and the Ultra was the bow that did that for him. Howard says he’ll be keeping this bow for the foreseeable future. Read his review here- Hoyt RX-7 Ultra Review – Rokslide .

Option Archery’s Canyon Pounder- complex but not complicated Howard’s 5 pin sight really impressed him though out the season. Can use the single pin for antelope when hunting in the blind and fixed 5 pins for elk when it highly likely there won’t be time to dial for distance. Just a great sight.

Everyone needs to carry their arrows in a quiver and Howard picked up the Option Archery Quivalizer. What else can I say it works and is solid design. Can run as a stabilizer, regular position quiver or quickly detach it.

Born primitive clothing- Howard had the opportunity to run a bunch of this new clothing line. Just so many good things to say about the frontier pants, durable, comfortable, and hip zips for extra versatility, you can read his Review here- Born Primitive Outdoors Review – Rokslide . One of his other favorites was the quiver half zip hoodie that review is Here- Born Primitive Quiver Half Zip Hoodie Review – Rokslide .

Howards favorite meal this year was frozen hamburger patties on the grill. Good food is what base camp is all about and nothing is better than coming back to the wall tent and a double cheeseburger!

Justin Crossley

Exo K4 pack- Justin used the K4 during day hunts and extended backcountry trips, the K4 is just super comfortable in all its configurations. Justins only gripe about the K4 is the side pockets, where he prefers an open top vs the zippered pockets in the production model. Simple bag layout but able to have everything where I need it. Read Justins Review Here- Exo Mountain Gear K4 Pack Review – Rokslide

Swarovski EL range TA- Amazing glass but the true value is not having to switch to another device to range and possibly losing track of your target animal. Justin uses these EL range TA for everything including shooting competitions where they can be a big advantage due to the time savings during a stage. Click the button once and get instant range and ballistic correction. Range finding binoculars are expensive, that’s why Justin picked up a slightly used pair from the Rokslide optics Classifieds here- Optics Classifieds | Rokslide Forum .

LS Wild Hunter ¾ Scoped Rifle Armor- Rifle cover that covers the barrel, scope, and wraps around action. The wrap around feature is super nice if your rifle has a detachable magazine as it prevents accidental release keeping the magazine fully contained. Justin used in all kinds of inclement weather and the rifle armor proved itself to be invaluable keeping the rifle ready to go at a moment’s notice. Review here- LS Wild Rifle Armor Review | Rokslide Forum

Justin always finds himself reaching for Nerd Clusters whether in the backcountry or just the long drive to hunting camp. ** Note Ryan Avery has been known to search out and eat these Nerd Clusters also so pack accordingly if he’ll be in camp with you**

William Hansen

Fenix HM65R-T Headlamp- This lamp comes in a touch heavy at 5.1 ounces with battery but has 3 different settings for spot or flood. 1300 lumens on the highest spot setting and down to a mere 5 lumens on the lowest flood setting. While this is a rechargeable lamp it has great battery life when used on moderate lumen settings. William has been impressed with the durability and versatility of the Fenix HMR65-T over the last couple years he has owned it.

For the last few seasons William has been using the UGQ Outdoors Bandit quilt. The UGQ has a lot of customization options to choose from. William chose the Bandit 0* quilt with overstuffed and zippered footbox. It’s a bit heavy at 2 pounds 5 ounces but he’s been impressed with the warmth to weight ratio of the quilt. When you’re a restless sleeper like William the quilt has been a game changer for avoiding tossing and turning all night. William uses the Bandit quilt all season, warmer weather he uses it more like blanket and as it gets colder at night, he tends to wrap up in it more, even his kids use it for early morning sits. Lots of value in this high quality UGQ Bandit Quilt.

Kifaru ma duce pack- This is Williams do everything pack from whitetails to elk and everything in-between. The Ma Duce is a bit heavier than comparable sized packs, but the durability and the customization made that trade off a small consideration. The bag has a simple layout, and the meat shelf is often utilized for carrying other things like tree stands. Just been a super solid pack. Review here- Kifaru Ma Deuce Review – Rokslide Backpack Review

The First Lite Solitude Bibs and Jacket- since first getting this set in 2020 William used the heck out of it. It is the warmest for weight cold weather clothing he’s worn, and it is still keeping him warm this late season. Plenty of features designed for stand hunting in the cold weather. Review here- First Lite Solitude Bibs And Jacket Review – Rokslide

Favorite meal is little foil chicken packets with Idahoan instant potatoes. Simple, cheap, and packs a lot of favor. William will also shake it up with stovetop stuffing or the Idahoan three cheese with the chicken packets.

Travis Bertrand

This year’s top pick is easily the Vortex Razor 13-39 x56mm. This spotting scope is sub 2 pounds and takes up so little physical space it is always in my pack no matter what Travis chasing or where he’s chasing it. Read Travis’ review here- Vortex Razor HD 13-39x56mm Spotting Scope Review – Rokslide

The other big upgrade for Travis is the Ollin digiscope adaptor. This thing is just so easy to use, lines up his phone every time and is lighting quick. Travis always used to worry about being too slow and not capturing a photo of that big buck or bull. Now it never even crosses his mind.

Two honorable mentions this year- both are shooting tripods.

Vortex light weight shooting tripod- Travis used this tripod a bunch including some shooting matches. Light weight for a shooting tripod but still offers plenty of stability.

Vanguard Endeavor series- This is a great tripod to experience the benefits of the extra stability shooting off a tripod without breaking the bank. The Endeavor series comes with a rifle clamp head that fits most makes and models of rifles. You can also change the head out later on if you find a different mounting system and want to attach it to your rifle. Review here- Vanguard Endeavor RL 303C6M Tripod Review – Rokslide

Travis’ favorite snack is the Perfect Bar. Packed with peanuts and chocolate chips this meal replacement bar is always along on backpacking trips.

John Skaanland moderator Jskaanland

This year John pulled the trigger on an AB Raptor 8 suppressor. Biggest thing is shooting with the kids, and they just love it. For me it’s been less stressful without having to double check that everyone is wearing their hearing protection when we are in the field hunting together. John noticed a slight impact change after adding the Raptor 8 but nothing drastic. This suppressor does add 14oz to the rifle but still balances nicely and really isn’t something noticeable when using the rifle.

Also, this season John made the jump into quilts. It started off with borrowing a buddy’s quilt during a bear hunt and ended up with John coming home and ordering a 30* and a 20* quilt of his very own. The 30* is an Enlightened Equipment Revelation with Apex fill (synthetic for wetter climates) and a 20* El Coyote down filled quilt. Now John’s entire sleep system weighs less than just his old sleeping bag. Being able to move around and having that extra space makes for a much more restful sleep.

John loves Thai food and the Pad Thai from Good to Go is excellent. The Pad Thai is dehydrated instead of freeze dried so does take longer to rehydrate and it also takes 17 ounces of water. Simply adding a tear open bag of peanuts and a small packet of powdered lime make for an impressive back country dining experience. When available water sources are scarcer Peak Refuels are the standard evening meal.

Jared Bloomgren

Jared has been shooting PSE bows for the last 35 years and they still just keep getting better and better every year. In 2023 Jared used both the PSE Fortis and the Omen.

The Omen was set to 70-pound draw and Jared used when hunting the open plains as it’s just a faster bow making a touch more forgiving on those longer shots, simply because its flatter shooting.

Fortis 30 is shorter axle to axle and the cams mod is slightly less aggressive making it easier to draw but giving up a bit of energy. Use the Fortis when sitting in tree stands, ground blinds, as well as elk hunting in that thicker country. The shorter axle to axle just really shines in those scenarios.

AKEK packs- Jared had an opportunity to use the generation 1 AKEK 3200 pack (Review here- AKEK Alpha 3200 Pack Review – Rokslide ) in the field. AKEK took that feedback and incorporated a lot of it into the Generation 2 models. This year Jared got his hands on the Climax 5400 pack and used it on many extended elk hunts packing some heavy weight over gnarly terrain. To date the Akek Climax has been the most comfortable pa

ck Jared has worn and he really appreciates being able to go further knowing he has the tools for an extended pack out if necessary. Review here- Akek Climax 5400 Backpack Review – Rokslide

Jared has been using the Vortex Razor binoculars for many years. Three seasons ago Jared moved to pair of new UHD Razors and must admit he was a bit surprised how the new coatings seemed to give those UHD’s that extra pop people always talk about with high end optics. Jared believes high quality binoculars do make a difference in your hunt if you’re spending a lot of hours behind the glass and the Vortex UHD Razors will not disappoint, plus they are reasonably priced. Review Here- Vortex Razor UHD 18×56 Review – Rokslide

Lathrop & Sons Boots- If your feet aren’t happy or worse get torn up on a hunt, you can really diminish your ability to hunt hard. Jared has used Lathrop’s custom fitting option, where you send in an imprint of your feet and Lathrop & Sons finds a boot well suited to your foot. Review here- Lathrop & Sons Custom Boot System Review – Rokslide . Jared has been using the Lathrop Mountain hunter elites for the last couple of seasons and from the plains of South Dakota to the mountains of Montana his feet have never been happier. Review here Lathrop & Sons Mountain Hunter Boot Review – Rokslide.

Though out the season Jared is using Kryptek clothing. No matter if it’s early, mid or late season Kryptek has the lineup to layer with the agility to remain comfortable without having to bulk up. Some of Jared’s go to pieces are the Alaios pants, Cronus half zip hoodie, and the Cadog vest and seem to go on every hunt with him. Reviews Here- Kryptek Cadog Review – Rokslide

Favorite snack is the Jerky that Jared makes at home with his family. Another favorite is peanut butter, honey and bacon sandwiches, while they may not look appealing after being smashed in the pack for a few days, they always seem to hit the spot and are huge boost of energy.

Sam Weaver Moderator Realunlucky

I’m going to start out with the Kifaru 357 mag pack. The 357 checked several criteria boxes-

  1. ability to comfortable carry deboned deer or half an elk
  2. enough space for one or two nights in the back country
  3. slim profile to allow slipping through thick cover & drawing my bow quietly.
  4. Side benefit was the pocket configuration played perfectly into holding my optics while hunting or scouting-

You can see my review here Kifaru 357 Mag Pack Review – Rokslide.

For 2023 I also got a new bow- PSE MACH34.

This was an amazing upgrade from my previous carbon bow. The first thing I noticed was the shipping carboard box was heavier than the entire bare bow when I lifted it up the first time. Total weight is 3.6lbs.Mach 34 riser

I’m using the EC cams and the MACH34 draws buttery smooth. PSE redesigned the limb pockets making them wider and this bow holds rock steady with minimal effort. Also new was the centerline arrow rest I mounted up the Hamskea Epsilon. This bow is shooting a respectable 290fps using a 447-grain arrow drawing a lowly 65 pounds at a 31 1/2-inch draw length. This bow is a dream to carry around and to shoot.

Lastly, I want to mention the Kowa 99 spotting scope. Simply put, this is the best optic I’ve ever used. With a 99mm fluorite crystal prism objective lens and 30-70 zoom. A 105-foot field of view at 30 power makes finding moving critters possible and then can zoom into 70 power for a better look and still have a 60-foot field of view at 1000 yards. It’s a big boy weighing 82.6 ounces and 18 inches long no doubt you notice the real estate it takes over in your pack. That being said I packed on every single hunt this year. After a couple trips it was unnoticeable and just part of my everyday pack weight.

When looking through the Kowa 99 all the blood, sweat & tears getting it to the top of the mountain seems like such a tiny sacrifice. In my comparisons over the summer against the Swarovski 95mm and 115mm; everyone agreed that the 99 just resolved better. If you’re in the market for the best optic in the world do yourself a favor and check out the Kowa 99 before purchasing anything. If you can’t find Kowa locally you can rent one from our friends at Rent Outdoor Gear in Boise, Idaho. To find out more check out the Kowa reviews on the home page.

Honorable mention is SKRE Gear- I’ve been using SKRE Extreme Mountain Gear for many years and have taken it on hunts all across the west. SKRE Gear has an extensive clothing line up that has a well-suited choice no matter if it’s early, mid and late season. I’m always comfortable and the offerings are responsibly priced, leaving a little more money in my wallet for an extra tag or two. Review hereSKRE Clothing System Review – RokslideSKRE Nebo Raingear Review – Rokslide

Closing out with one of my favorite meals this year- a Peak Refuel- Chicken Pesto Pasta- yep it was a surprise to me too. I’ll be for sure packing one of these along on those special trips next year. For midday snack I enjoyed Bobo’s P&J Sandwich snack packs.

Ryan Avery

The 6UM cartridge- Basically it’s about as powerful of 6mm bullet that will fit into a short action. A 6.5 SUAM necked down to 6mm and improved. Simply magnum performance out to 1200 yards without the recoil. Ryan killed an elk at 710 yards this year with 6UM. One shot, one kill. Linked thread here-(1) The 6UM | Rokslide Forum

Many people may be shocked to learn that Ryan Didn’t carry a lighter into the field this season. A few years ago, Ryan fell into the water during negative temperatures and nearly died after struggling to start a fire to warm himself up. After much research Ryan found the Lightning Strike Firestarter (Lightning Strike Fire Starter – Rokslide) was so vastly superior nothing else even comes close for fire starting. This is a dummy proof flint and steel that carries its own tinder, throws the biggest spark Ryan has ever experienced using flint and steel.

Vivo barefoot forest trackers are the most comfortable boot Ryan has ever worn. These zero drop shoes are the most comfortable shoes Ryan has ever worn. Be aware that you must build up your foot strength before just jumping into a pair of these. Lots of training hikes easing into zero drop.

Fail well maybe not but a popular gear choice that just didn’t work for Ryan- Active insulation. After giving both the Sitka Ambient and the Arrowhead an extended try out Ryan always found himself too hot or too cold. Not sure if it’s just his body type or if people just over hype how well these pieces work, Ryan won’t be bringing either into the woods in the foreseeable future.

Ryan’s go to snack is a huge packet of Gummy Bears

Tanya Avery

Tanya sometimes feels her gear choices are a little boring. Due to limited selection of female offerings sometimes it can just be hard to try new things.

First Lite Chamberlin Jacket- Tanya wore this deer hunting this year at 23*. Tanya gets cold easily even with multiple layers on. The Chamberlin is a great outer layer that’s super warm without the added bulk.

Hoffman Pac boots- Often plagued by cold feet during a hunt, Tanya turned to the professionals at Hoffmans boots to keep her feet warm. The double layered felt liners of the Pac boots are impressively warm but extremely heavy. Not for hiking long distances but Tanya feet have never been cold while wearing these boots. Reviewed hereHoffman Mountaineer Pac Boot Review – Rokslide

Stone Glacier Grummen Down pants- Great warmth and easy to pack. Not moving around in the cold really is a testament to what pieces will truly keep you warm. The Stone Glacier Grummen pants are a must have for late season glassing. Link to Zach Herolds review video- Stone Glacier Grumman Down Set – Rokslide

Tanya’s fail was one of Ryan’s favorite picks- the Vivo barefoot forest trackers. If nothing else these extremely ugly shoes make Ryan look ridiculous when he wears them into the public. Tanya would much rather be seen with Ryan wearing his hideous Croc’s then the Vivo’s.

Tanya won’t be found in the woods without Starbucks via coffee packets. Sacrifices have to sometimes be made for a good tasting cup of coffee.

Jim Carr

Jim’s number upgrade this season was the rifle he bought from Ryan Avery- a 6.5 Suam built by Lane precision rifles. This rifle is light weight at 6.5 pounds but more importantly the rifle’s timid recoils so Jim’s daughters can shoot it without discomfort. Jim mounted it with a Zeiss V4 4×16 power scope (Review- Zeiss Conquest V4 4-16×44 Riflescope Review – Rokslide ) After sighting it in at 100 yards Jim dialed it up to 1700 yards and was money. This Rifle is a laser beam shooting the Unknown Munitions loaded 147 eld M bullets.

Getting a lighter weight bipod for this lite weight rifle was a top priority for Jim. He settled on the Spartan Precision Equipment’s Javelin Pro Hunt Tac. The ability to quickly disconnect the Pro Hunt Tac from the rifle was a huge benefit by removing it from his field of view while carrying it his Kifaru gun bearer. The 9-12 inch model allowed his daughters the stability and versatility to kill multiple animals in challenging terrain. This is an amazingly innovative Bipod, and you can find Jim’s review on the Homepage soon. You do have to have a place to store the Bipod when not in use and still access it quickly and Jim keeps his in the Pack with a rear shooting bag. Only downside is Jim is afraid he might take it off and set it down somewhere and forget it.

Hoffman 6” Explorer Light boots- Jim has a long history of foot problems. Over the last few years, he’s spent several thousand dollars on custom insoles without much relief. During a visit with a physical therapist, they recommended he try the Hoffmans Explorer Light boots. These boot lasts have a slight rocker installed which takes the pressure off the front of your foot. A true game changer for Jim to have pain-free feet in the back country now. Jim simply loves these boots and encourages others to give them a try if nothing else seems to help your feet.

Jim focus has always been on getting his daughters on game. Getting to these game rich areas tends to require backpacking in. Western Edge Long X pack provided the capabilities for these young women to carry their camp in and help Jim to pack meat back to the truck. Jim has always had trouble finding the girls a pack that had the volume necessary for extended trips and yet fit well enough to handle moderate weight. These Western Edge packs, while designed for shorter toros will handle as much weight as a kid or small adult can pack. Jim’s daughters finally had the equipment to help dad pack those big elk out of the mountains. Review- Western Edge Gear Long X 22 Youth Pack Review – Rokslide.

Western Engineering Badger 15* sleeping bag- Jim had this bag well past its comfort rating and stayed warm. High quality craftsmanship with a very generous cut to fit those with wider shoulders and not feel like an actual mummy. The only downside to the Badger is getting up in the morning is way more difficult since the bag is so comfortable.

Tying Jim’s entire shooting system together is the Sig Kilo 2400 rangefinder (Review Here- Sig Sauer Kilo 2400 ABS Rangefinder Review – Rokslide). Always been perfect even when having to range quickly at moving animals. The best way Jim can describe it is “Dead Nuts Accurate” at all reasonable ranges and has been extremely reliable for the last couple seasons. Great complement to anyone who’s shooting longer distances.

Jim’s favorite backcountry snack is good old salami and cheese. Sometimes Jim will even pack along some rice crackers for the prefect snack combination. After hours of grinding up and down North Idaho steep canyons, that meat and cheese just seems to refresh his energy meter.

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