Alaska Sheep Season 2020: New Gear Review

B_Reynolds_AK

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Wasilla, Alaska
I also used the Zeiss Victory Pockets in 8x25 for my last sheep hunt this season. They are phenomenal glass and weigh nothing. Combined with a Kowa 553, they make for a super light and capable optics package.
Peak Refuel and Offgrid Food both made up my meals this season. Try the Offgrid Bison breakfast scramble!


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adventure907

adventure907

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I had a Leukotape First this year.. Now I've used the shit for several years, without fail. However, I found out that my wife is allergic to it and thankfully it didn't start to get bad until a day after, and we were home. Her entire foot swelled up and anywhere the tape touched had huge blisters/boils. She couldn't wear shoes for two weeks. Just be careful I guess.... That is the first and only time I've heard of anyone having a reaction to the tape...

Funny you should mention that Nick. A few days after I got done with my last sheep hunt, my feet started to get extremely itchy and irritated. It was impossible not to scratch and it was bad enough to the point it kept me awake at night.

At first I thought I was having some sort of first time eczema outbreak on my feet, now I am thinking I may have had some sort of reaction to the Leukotape as well. I guess I'll make this test scientific and use the hell out of it on Kodiak over the next few weeks and see what happens.
 
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adventure907

adventure907

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Call Aron, get a Kifaru sent to you, and do a review. Interested to get your take compared to the Barneys.

I would love to try a Kifaru and compare it to the Barney's pack. I've often thought using a different pack on three consecutive backpack hunts would be the ultimate test, I might have to try that next year.
 
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adventure907

adventure907

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I also used the Zeiss Victory Pockets in 8x25 for my last sheep hunt this season. They are phenomenal glass and weigh nothing. Combined with a Kowa 553, they make for a super light and capable optics package.
Peak Refuel and Offgrid Food both made up my meals this season. Try the Offgrid Bison breakfast scramble!


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They are great glass indeed and when combined with a quality spotter, they are all you really need in the way of binoculars on a sheep hunt.
 

chasewild

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San Juans
This is my opinion based on my experience so take it for what it’s worth. Went from a Barney’s to a Kifaru. There’s actually 4 of us in my group that have in the last few years.

Pick one of the following:

Comfort (Kifaru)
Strength (Barney’s)

Kifaru’s aren’t as durable, not even close. They’re the most durable comfortable pack.

Barney’s aren’t as comfortable, not even close. They’re the most comfortable durable pack.

Haha. Now that is a logical syllogism!

So, if you have to pack 100 lbs one time, which one would you prefer? (Imagine your "standard" miserable pack out).

If you had to pack 100 lbs 10 times for one year, which one would you prefer?
 

FishfinderAK

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Funny you should mention that Nick. A few days after I got done with my last sheep hunt, my feet started to get extremely itchy and irritated. It was impossible not to scratch and it was bad enough to the point it kept me awake at night.

At first I thought I was having some sort of first time eczema outbreak on my feet, now I am thinking I may have had some sort of reaction to the Leukotape as well. I guess I'll make this test scientific and use the hell out of it on Kodiak over the next few weeks and see what happens.

I used leukotape for years wo issues too. But the last 2x I’ve used it, a day after application my feet itch like crazy around the tape. Even a few days after removal.

Sux! I loved that stuff. Lemme know if you find an alternative.
 

SLDMTN

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Palmer, AK
Haha. Now that is a logical syllogism!

So, if you have to pack 100 lbs one time, which one would you prefer? (Imagine your "standard" miserable pack out).

If you had to pack 100 lbs 10 times for one year, which one would you prefer?

+100lbs one day at the end of each hunt - Kifaru 1,000x over.

+100lbs every day all season, a Barney’s strictly because of durability. If you were remote all season guiding without being able to come out and check your pack over, same answer. A guide can’t have his pack fail, clients can.

Before anyone gets their feelings hurt I have wrecked two waist-belts, three bags, a shoulder strap and bent several metal clips on my Kifaru’s since I switched in the summer of 2017. Kifaru has been good to deal with but it’s still a hassle. I now have two frames and I’ll always keep a “fresh one”. They’re comfortable enough I’ll deal with the issues.

If I’m knowingly packing a moose/bison/pen brown bear hide, I’m grabbing a Barney’s. I wish I had kept mine and I’ll likely buy another to have for heavy hauling.


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Russp17

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Aug 5, 2013
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I’m in agreement with sldmtn. I have a Barney’s and a stone glacier. The Barney’s is great at hauling a 100 lbs, the stone glacier is way more comfortable with 60 lbs or day loads for me. I do reach for the Barney’s every time if I’m packing a moose quarter or a bear hide, but for backpack hunts I choose the stone glacier every time. Packing 100 plus lbs is normally very little of a hunt and even with a Barney’s pack packing a 100 lbs sucks just a little less.


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SLDMTN

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Palmer, AK
Old style belt.



New style belt.



This is a primary point to check on Kifaru’s. Even with the updated style, this belt only has 1-1/2 seasons on it. I see it like boots though, in that it isn’t a lifetime item. I’m wearing it out, it’s not necessarily failing.



Another area to be careful with is the grab handles, they’re handy but not really stout enough. That’s where the metal frame of a Barney’s is money.



Always check your clips too.

Please don’t read ANY of this as me dogging on Kifaru. I’m a loyal customer and I’ll keep using them because they’re so comfortable.

Also to be fair, I had to replace the lumbar webbing on my Barney’s almost every season. It would start to rip out which lessened the lumbar support allowing the metal frame to ride against your spine. It’s still a useable pack but bone bruises take time to heal.


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19hunt92

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Mar 21, 2018
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Indiana
Great reviews Josh and will take some notes from this.
Out of curiosity, on the pack, i never did look close enough but with the barney pack, have you had any issues with the top of the frame fitting on the shoulders? The reason i went Mystery Ranch (internal frame) and as you call it "yard sale on feet" :ROFLMAO:, is that the few external frames i tried rubbed my shoulders way too much (blame the linebacker width i suppose)and Mystery Ranch rides down the dead center of the back. It does "shift or rock" around the center pad but not horrible enough for me to notice the wear on my lateralis muscles (outside of the thigh). Wondering if this is what you noticed on trials with other packs.

With the Swaro, with the reduced objective lens, light is a small issue in Alaska in early season. The improvement in clarity could be huge as i saw on our hunt last year. Could you tell the difference in judging age on rams as a significant change? Your line of work is way more important and curious if that is where you noticed the difference. I went large and got a Meostar S2 this past year for elk, for future mountain hunts i am throwing the idea around on glass and seeing what i may need in certain situations.

The one i am looking at now is a new sleeping bag and the slick bag was going to be a big contender for me. Weight and synthetic seemed to be your 2 constraints. I am curious if you looked at other things since those 2 limitations still leave huge amounts of options? I am poking at Marmot...expensive i know...but this sparked my interest since i also heard that regular length works well for you as we are close in height...gets old looking at specs and then realize you need a long model that is heavier

Hope all is well and happy hunting!
 

AK Troutbum

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Apr 22, 2012
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5,698
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Chugiak, Alaska
Swarovski STX 65mm Spotting Scope:

Wow, just WOW!!! My old scope is an STM 80mm HD. Before season, I had decided to look for a 65mm In the old style Swarovski scope with the intention to save weight. Well, I was faced with a deal I couldn't refuse and ended up buying a brand new STX with the 65mm objective instead of an STS 65. While I self defeated my purpose of saving weight as the new STX 65 is essentially the same weight as my old STM 80, it is a beautiful piece of glass. When testing it side by side against my old 80, I found it to be crisper and clearer, which is saying a lot because I've always been extremely happy with the old STM. I was very impressed with the STX and unfortunately for my wallet, I can see myself picking up a 95 or 115 objective in the future for my non backpack hunts.




Zeiss Victory 10x25 Pocket Binoculars:

While I have had these binoculars for quite a few years this was the first sheep season I have used them since 2015. The past few years I have been using 8x30 Swarovski's coupled with a Marsupial gear bino harness. In my never ending quest to save weight, I decided to go back to the Zeiss's this season and see how I liked it. This allowed me to ditch the bino harness, which I've never been a big fan of anyway, and it saved me a little weight. I carried the 10x25's in either a pant pocket (Fjallraven Keb trousers) or the new Barney's hip belt pouch on my pack. I very much preferred carrying my bino's this way and was glad not to have the cumbersome harness to deal with. It gets old taking the harness on and off every time you want to shed a layer of clothes so I was definitely glad to be without it. The Zeiss's did very well and they will be with me on my sheep hunts in the future. Since I am packing around a spotting scope, big binoculars aren't necessary on sheep hunts and the pocket binoculars are just fine.

Smith and Wesson M&P340, .357 Magnum:

Once again, this hard headed sheep guide is trying to save weight. I don't pack around a rifle when guiding sheep hunters, just a pistol. I have been carrying a lightweight .44 Smith and Wesson in a Diamond D leather chest holster. The past few years, between the sternum strap of my pack, my bino harness, and the Diamond D chest holster with pistol, things were pretty busy on my chest. I decided to start looking for a lightweight .357 and when one popped up on the classifieds last winter, I grabbed it. I was getting tired of the .44 and chest holster system, which when in the Alpine, ended up staying in the tent most of the time anyway while I was out hunting. A lot of good that would do me if I ran into an ornery bear. So I picked up the Smith 340 which saved quite a bit of weight between downsizing pistols and eliminating the chest holster all together. With a little good fortune, the new Smith just barely snugged into the new hip belt pouch of the Barneys pack which was a great way to carry the pistol. The pistol was now quickly accessible and I didn't have a reason to leave it in the tent while I was out hunting for the day.

I picked up some buffalo bore ammo for it, and while quite painful in recoil, I hope to never have to use it for it's intended purpose. I plan on picking up some .38 Special +P rounds in the future and testing those, hopefully making it a little more pleasant to shoot.


Peak Refuel:

Goodbye Mountain House....This season was the first that I tried these meals. They lived up to the hype. While they may be a few dollars more expensive than Mountain House I would say they are well worth the cost. First of all, they just tasted better. And while the portions seemed to be a little smaller than Mountain House, they packed more calories which is another great benefit. Between tasting better and more calories, they are a win win, but the biggest benefit I found was the fact that they use significantly less water than Mountain House. Often in the sheep hills, especially when you get up above brush line, water can be a hard commodity to find. We will often pack up a few days supply of water up the mountain when we know we won't be able to find any up high. With these Peak Refuel meals using less water, it's a no brainer. And did I mention, they taste wayyyyy better than Mountain House. Chicken Pesto Pasta for the win!!


Leukotape:


I wear plastic boots and while I haven't had many foot problems over the years with plastics, there is the occasion that I develop a hot spot or two. On my first hunt my feet/boots got wet while packing a heavy load down hill. The constant pounding of my big toe on the downhill led to a blister. Fortunately, I had a little time between hunts for it to heal up, but the biggest thing I learned from that blister was how well Leukotape works. My hunter had brought some along and let me try it out. It did a great job of alleviating the development of any other hot spots with the wet boots. On the last two hunts, I pre-taped up my feet in the area's I knew I might have issues and the leukotape worked great. I didn't have any problems the last two hunts and will be pre taping my feet on all my backpack hunts in the future.


Vortex 1800 Rangefinder:

When a hunter shows up, we go through their gear and eliminate anything they won't need in an effort to save weight. In order to avoid redundancy we also only bring one range finder. In the past, I usually like to let the hunter bring their own rangefinder, simply for the reason that they are familiar with it and hopefully knows how it works, and in this age of precision shooting (turrets, fancy scopes, etc), I figure it's best to let the hunter use what they are comfortable with.

I am re-thinking that policy. On my first hunt the hunter brought along his vortex rangefinder and I left my Sig behind. Bad idea. Simply put, the vortex sucked. I could barely get it to read, and when it did pick up a reading, anything over 400 yards wasn't happening. Not having a rangefinder that could reliably provide information while we attempted to close the distance on the rams almost cost us. Luckily it didn't and we were able to get close enough that a rangefinder was a moot point, but from here on out I am bringing along the Sig, weight savings be damned.


I think that may be all of the new gear I used this year, at least that I can think of at the moment. If I think of anything else I'll try to add it. There was a lot of new gear for me this year and I am mostly pleased how it all worked. It was a great yet demanding sheep season and as you guys know, having the right gear can make or break a hunt. I know I probably babbled on too much, but hopefully some of this will help out if you are in the market for anything new, and if you all have any questions on my experiences this sheep season, I am always happy too talk all things sheep.


Josh

Thanks for the detailed reviews Josh. Based on your recommendation, I went out yesterday and cleaned out a couple 3 Bears of their Peak Refuel meals. Really looking forward to trying these out next month, and the fact that they use so little water to rehydrate, I'm thinking that's going to cut my fuel consumption down considerably.
 

SLDMTN

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Palmer, AK
Thanks for the detailed reviews Josh. Based on your recommendation, I went out yesterday and cleaned out a couple 3 Bears of their Peak Refuel meals. Really looking forward to trying these out next month, and the fact that they use so little water to rehydrate, I'm thinking that's going to cut my fuel consumption down considerably.

I think you’ll like them as well, if you don’t I’ll take them off your hands for what you paid for them.

They’re still hard to wait for when you’re hangry




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Nick Muche

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Mar 21, 2012
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Alaska
Funny you should mention that Nick. A few days after I got done with my last sheep hunt, my feet started to get extremely itchy and irritated. It was impossible not to scratch and it was bad enough to the point it kept me awake at night.

At first I thought I was having some sort of first time eczema outbreak on my feet, now I am thinking I may have had some sort of reaction to the Leukotape as well. I guess I'll make this test scientific and use the hell out of it on Kodiak over the next few weeks and see what happens.

Itching was the first thing to happen, then a day later she broke out into boils all over her feet where the tape touched... it lasted a few weeks. I would not use the hell out of it on Kodiak unless you want to be sitting out! I can't imagine how bad it would be if we planned to stay a few more days.
 

Nick Muche

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The Peak Refuels are so much better than other items on the market, less water, better tasting and plenty of calories/protein! They are great...
 

NUGGET

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Oct 7, 2019
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@SLDMTN ’s replies to this thread should be complied and put as a sticky at the top of every forum. It’s refreshing to see an unbiased detailed review from someone who spends a lot of time out there. And honestly this is one of the best gear review threads I’ve read on here. A lot of experience in this thread. Thanks @adventure907 for starting this.
 
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adventure907

adventure907

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Good point Nick, I'll cool my jets on pre taping my feet. Hopefully I won't need the Leukoptape, but we shall see.

And Nugget, you are right, Kyle provides great insight on the Kifaru. You guys are bad for my bank account, now I am getting the bug to see what all this Kifaru praise is all about.
 

william schmaltz

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Nov 3, 2017
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AK
My wife is a PT so she always hooked me up with Kinesio tape and it’s worked great for years. We decided to try Leuko tape a few years ago on a hunt and she had the same allergic reaction described above.

Kinesio tape is cotton tape with hypoallergenic acrylic adhesive. Leuko has zinc oxide and latex which are pretty common allergens. Leuko tape gets all the air time, but Kinesio tape is where it’s at. You may get a few less days out of it, but no big deal. It’s heat activated so make sure you activate it by rubbing with hand and creating heat when applying.

I’d recommend bringing both the first time to make sure it’s right for you.
 
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adventure907

adventure907

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Great reviews Josh and will take some notes from this.
Out of curiosity, on the pack, i never did look close enough but with the barney pack, have you had any issues with the top of the frame fitting on the shoulders? The reason i went Mystery Ranch (internal frame) and as you call it "yard sale on feet" :ROFLMAO:, is that the few external frames i tried rubbed my shoulders way too much (blame the linebacker width i suppose)and Mystery Ranch rides down the dead center of the back. It does "shift or rock" around the center pad but not horrible enough for me to notice the wear on my lateralis muscles (outside of the thigh). Wondering if this is what you noticed on trials with other packs.

With the Swaro, with the reduced objective lens, light is a small issue in Alaska in early season. The improvement in clarity could be huge as i saw on our hunt last year. Could you tell the difference in judging age on rams as a significant change? Your line of work is way more important and curious if that is where you noticed the difference. I went large and got a Meostar S2 this past year for elk, for future mountain hunts i am throwing the idea around on glass and seeing what i may need in certain situations.

The one i am looking at now is a new sleeping bag and the slick bag was going to be a big contender for me. Weight and synthetic seemed to be your 2 constraints. I am curious if you looked at other things since those 2 limitations still leave huge amounts of options? I am poking at Marmot...expensive i know...but this sparked my interest since i also heard that regular length works well for you as we are close in height...gets old looking at specs and then realize you need a long model that is heavier

Hope all is well and happy hunting!

I've never had any issues with my shoulders rubbing the frame, but unlike yourself, I am not built like a linebacker, 😂.

The Barney's pack does have quite a bit of adjustment as to how high/low the suspension sits on the frame, so maybe there is something there that would alleviate or avoid the problem you have found with externals. Next time we get to chase some critters together you can give my Barney pack a go. The problem I found with the other packs, every step the weight seemed to shift a little to whichever side foot I was stepping with. Over long distances and or trying to climb heavy in some technical stuff, the weight shift could make things a little dicey.

As far as the spotter goes, it is great! When it comes to aging rams, I imagine the clarity of the new scope does help, but the old STM was great as well and I wouldn't say the difference is significant, but noticeable for sure when comparing both scopes side by side.

I was very happy with the slick bag. I did do some research on other brand synthetic bags, but nothing I found met my requirements like the Kifaru did. Just the fact it came in a wide version was a big seller for me as I can't stand tight mummy cut bags.

Good job on the elk Cragi! I just got home with a caribou I got yesterday, who says 2020 is all bad...
 

chasewild

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Mar 22, 2016
Messages
528
Location
San Juans
Thanks for the detailed reviews Josh. Based on your recommendation, I went out yesterday and cleaned out a couple 3 Bears of their Peak Refuel meals. Really looking forward to trying these out next month, and the fact that they use so little water to rehydrate, I'm thinking that's going to cut my fuel consumption down considerably.
YOu'll love them compared to other freeze drieds.
 
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