Great Backcountry Gear—Part 1

September 12, 2012

The name is familiar, but a whole new product line awaits customers of Easton Mountain Products (801-539-1400; www.EastonMountainProducts.com)—a distinctly separate, sister company of arrow giant Easton Hunting. Like its name would suggest, EMP offers premium ultralight tents, trekking poles, and snowshoes aimed at smart backcountry hunters everywhere.

But oh, those tents. Last spring and fall I was lucky enough to test the incredible Kilo 2P (two-person) tent ($399). I’m still shocked at the convenience of this tent’s extreme compactness (like a 4-pack of tennis balls) and back-saving weight (just 2 pounds, 3 ounces, due mostly to its groundbreaking carbon poles—while still providing plenty of room to stretch out and sleep comfortably). A bonus is it’s speedy pitching and ultra-silent breakdown—which on at least one occasion I was able to perform without spooking a bugling bull just a few hundred yards away. I may never use a bivy bag again.

New for 2012 is the even more-compact Kilo 1P ($349), a one-person, one-pole model weighing a feather-like 1 pound, 14 ounces, and the Kilo 3P ($499), a three-person model weighing just 3 pounds even. It’s important to note Easton didn’t simply “jump into” tent design. For nearly 30 years, the company has been a part of the mountain products industry as an OEM supplier of carbon fiber and aluminum tent poles and snowshoe frames for the segment’s most-renowned brands. Easton’s proprietary precision-manufacturing techniques simply made it wise to take the next step. My advice with this line? If your backcountry customers see these products up close a sales pitch will likely be unnecessary.

Soon after its introduction several years ago I became a serious fan of the inexpensive, easy-to-operate BackTrack gps from Bushnell (www.bushnell.com) —which offered ultra-simplistic “mark it and get back” operation for those of us who are largely electronically challenged. The good news is the latest version—the new-for-2012 Bushnell HuntTrack—retains the same ease of operation but adds a whole bunch of hunter-friendly features. With five standard and 20 additional storable locations, it easily gets you back to treestands or blind locations, a downed animal, vehicle, and camp with a simple directional arrow and distance of travel. And at the end of the day, its helpful “breadcrumbs” tracking feature logs exactly the trail you’ve taken—a huge improvement—so you can literally retrace your steps when on a winding bloodtrail—or when picking through difficult terrain.

The HuntTrack also enables you to accurately predict periods of peak game movement, based on a variety of factors. With just a glance you can plan your hunt, with times for sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset, as well as barometric pressure available as an independent data point.

Another 2012 Bushnell backcountry gem is the Legend Ultra HD 10x25 compact binos. This ultralight, waterproof model was tailor made for the “less is more” crowd—where every ounce counts. You’ll also find crisp, clear viewing reminiscent of full-size models, courtesy of ED prime glass and fully multi-coated optics, and lightweight yet durable magnesium chassis.

More ultra-compact optics include Bushnell’s G Force 1300 ARC laser rangefinder ($399). Plenty of cool features include a 6X magnification eyepiece with adjustable diopter, bright red readout, and rugged waterproof metal housing with rubber armor coating. You’ll also find angle compensation, and a turbo processor that greatly reduces target acquisition times. Accuracy is +/- 0.10 yard at 5 to 125 yards, and max range is 1,300 yards.

Customers who can benefit from compact laser rangefinders (everyone) should also be shown the tiny (3.8x2.8 inches) but powerful RX-1000i TBR with DNA Digital Laser Rangefinder from Leupold (www.leupold.com). True Ballistic Ranging (TBR) technology accounts for incline, range to target, and your ballistics information, and the next-generation electronics featuring DNA (Digitally eNhanced Accuracy) is designed to deliver increased accuracy, speed, and range—out to 1,000 yards. High-performance optics deliver a brighter picture for accurate ranging in low-light conditions, and the 6x magnification offers welcome power, while maintaining a wide field of view. Especially bowhunter-friendly is the advanced OLED technology that’s user-adjustable to match display intensity for changing light conditions, with your choice of three different reticles.

Originally designed for military and tactical purposes, the Recon Rangefinder ($360) from Opti-Logic (888-678-4564; www.opti-logic.com) sports real hunter-friendly features. The Recon has an olive drab, rubberized housing with 6X magnification optics and easy to use LCD display. The LCD gives true distance (10-1100 yards) with +/- 1 yard resolution plus shot angle to 1 degree. It weighs 8 ounces and measures 4.3x3x1.7 inches and is powered by a CR123A battery which provides up to 2,500 “shots.”

Nikon (800-645-6687; www.nikonhunting.com) has a great-looking new binocular in the Monarch 3—8x42mm ($230) and 10x42mm ($250). The Monarch 3 provides bright, high-contrast, high-resolution optics in a rugged, waterproof and fog proof body. Lenses and prisms are fully multicoated and phase-corrected for best light transmission and resolution, dawn to dusk. These fully rubber armored binoculars weigh about 24.5 ounces and come with a 25-year limited warranty and No-Fault Repair/Replacement Policy.

Among the many new-for-2012 offerings from Brunton Hunting (307-857-4700; www.bruntonhunting.com) are its great-looking line of high-end full-size Icon binos ($2,700) designed to compete with the best glass available anywhere. Brunton built the Icon to deliver the brightest, clearest long-distance image in any situation—helped along by SK nano-coated prism glass, ED objective lens, and super-fast focus. They’re also shock-, water-, and fog-resistant, with a rubber-coated magnesium alloy frame that eases long hours of glassing, lightens the load, and withstands scrapes and bumps of constant use. Icons (8x44 and 11x44 models) are available in both gray and brown, and come with a unique Halo lifetime warranty.