What Are They Thinking?

I wrote this story back 2001 for the Alaska Professional Hunter’s Magazine.  Since I wrote the article there have been many new types of hunting clothing added to the market, all being somewhat expensive.  Many people swear by them so I wouldn’t tell you not to try them.  I personally know what works best for me and I still wear the same items that I wore when I retired in 2006.  I’m sure at two and three times the price some of these items may even work better.  I’m just not willing to waste my money to see.

Hope you find the article of interest.  Good hunting!!      

What Are They Thinking?

Please someone tell me, “Why do clients bring so much stuff?” What are they thinking?  I have been running guided hunts for the last 19 years and have threatened to write an article such as this for 15 of those years.  After the fall of 2001, when a 160-pound hunter brought more gear then he weighed, I felt compelled. This gentleman’s big bag was longer than he was tall.  You could have stuffed any 6’ man in it.  It was bigger than the Cabela’s body bag that all guides hate.  His second bag was the normal size duffel that would have accommodated all of his gear for his fifteen-day hunt.  Then there was his double bow case.  It would only fit in one of the three “Super Cubs” we were using to take the clients into camp.  That one cub (the one I was flying) had an oversized extended baggage area.  Last but not least there was his hand-carry with his valuable, but heavy optics.  He could have stayed for a month without wearing the same item of clothing more than once.  What goes through a client’s mind when packing for a hunt?”

I vent my frustrations as a “Super Cub” pilot.  Most of us know that a “Cub” is a one passenger aircraft with a limited baggage area.  I don’t want clients to feel that I don’t want them to have a great hunt and a good time, I just want them to think before they start stuffing what I feel are useless items in their baggage.  We, like most good outfitters, supply clients with a list of suggested items of clothing and gear to bring for their hunt.  We also stress the fact that they will be flown into spike camps in a small plane so they are to limit their gear to a 40# bag that will fit into a “Super Cub”.  Cabela’s “Super Cub” bag is the perfect fit.

Landing my “Super Cub” on a small mountain strip. Most guides use the “Super Cub” to take their clients into spike camps and some also use them to get their clients into base camp. Great plane but it has a limited baggage area so it is important to limit your gear.

Landing my “Super Cub” on a small mountain strip. Most guides use the “Super Cub” to take their clients into spike camps and some also use them to get their clients into base camp. Great plane but it has a limited baggage area so it is important to limit your gear.

Once in main camp I tell them to pare down for the trip to spike camp.  Coat, rain gear, hip boots, one change of clothes, spare underwear and plenty of socks.  Many just show up at the plane with the same bag they came in with.  One guy told me he needed everything he brought with him.  I asked to look into his hundred pound bag.  He had a spare “new” pair of cowboy boots, two or three jackets plus double of everything.  I told him there wasn’t going to be a dance at spike camp so he wouldn’t need the extra cowboy boots and got him to leave a few more items behind.  When he returned from spike camp he apologized and said, “I never changed clothes the whole time or used any of the extra stuff.”  That was normal.  If only they would listen.

Below is my list of what I feel is the maximum for a 10-day hunt in Alaska for any animal except polar bear which of course we can’t hunt.

First, a client needs travel clothes to and from Alaska.  Upon arrival they should change into their hunting clothes.  For August and September hunts, the new Microtex or Worsterlon materials or even very light weight wool shirts and pants work great.  Two sets total - one could be heavier than the other but for the months of August and September it’s not necessary.  The second set of clothing would mainly be used only as a spare in case the first set gets wet.  Two sets of long underwear, light to medium weight.  They should be only the new materials that have the wicking action such as polypro, Thermax, etc.  Sock combinations should be a light poly type and a light to medium weight wool, bringing a minimum of 6 to 8 pairs.  Changing underwear is important to most of us so one pair a day is adequate if they so choose.  One pair of camp shoes or boots.  Boots are vitally important, so the client should try to bring the type recommended by the guide or outfitter for the animal and terrain being hunted, i.e., hip boots (Alaska tennis shoes), mountain boots, etc.

Now for the outer wear.  You should always carry a good warm hat either wool or, my choice is a type of fleece with a Goretex outer shell with ear flaps.  A balaclava also works well.  Two pair of gloves, one light wool or poly and the other with some type of waterproof shell.  A good light weight jacket or coat made from the new materials such as Berber, fleece, etc. with some type of wind stopper.  The most important is a waterproof outer shell or rain gear.  From my years of hunting in Alaska, nothing works perfect.  If it breathes it leaks, but these types still are the best.

This is all that’s needed for the early hunts.  If you are hunting in October or spring bear hunting, one change of clothing should be at least medium weight wool.  Two sets of long underwear, one set of medium and the other set heavy weight.  One pair of gloves should also be heavier.  The Balaclava pull over hat is great for those cold late fall and early spring bear hunts where you sit a lot in the cold wind.

This is a maximum list the way I see it as a hunter and a guide who has hunted in Alaska for 35 years.  Limiting what is brought on a guided hunt is being nice to the guide or outfitter and saving themselves (the client) the hassle of carrying around all that “unused” clothing they thought they might need.  99% of the time it never comes out of their bag.

Hopefully this will help clients in packing for their next hunt.  Guides and outfitters always appreciate clients adhering to their suggested baggage size and weight.  Good hunting!