Even from the isolation of our north of 60 towns, one is able to equip themselves without reaching onto internet shelving any more than necessary.

With so many amazing, new, big-ticket items, some of the things that have really changed the way I pack – and, subsequently, the way I hunt – are often under appreciated.

With my little brother getting his first license this year I’ve had a chance to look at my pack in detail while helping him build his own – and here are the five essential items as I see them.

Now before we go any further I know that there are several very close products out there (WhisperLite vs. Jetboil, Kenetrek vs. Danner, so on and so on) and personal preference will really finalize each person’s decision. The following is advice I would readily give anyone looking to make a backcountry pack, but as with anything else it’s important to trial your own equipment to get a feel for it.

MSR WhisperLite Stove

This is my all-time, go-to, won’t-leave-the-house-without-it piece of equipment.

You must provide your own cup and it’s a little labour-intensive, but it is the definition of a workhorse.

Various fuel cells will allow you to shed weight depending on how long you plan to be away from your refill. The one-tool maintenance is genius, but to be fair in five years with the one I have currently, knocking it against a rock has been more than enough to keep it operating at maximum efficiency.

Although it may not be quite as compact as the Jetboil, when you factor in the separate cup and fuel supply, the main selling point for this stove in my mind is that you can do more than boil water. I mean, if you leave the pan on the burner, it will burn. But with a little attention I have heard of people even cooking pancakes with these rigs.

Havalon knife

I might keep other knives on my quad or with main camp, but this is the only hunting knife you really need. Last winter my group of three even dressed an entire bison using only these little devils.

It takes a little caution, but was totally doable and left us with an incredibly clean kill site.

This knife features a replaceable scalpel blade that comes in a number of shapes and sizes to handle the task at hand. I understand that there is even one that will take a bone saw blade, but I stick with the original.

New blades come in a wrapper that can be used to pack old ones out, but I recommend an old aspirin bottle to prevent cutting holes in your pack/back. There is a great little plastic tool sold separately for removing blades which works perfectly but then again, so does a Leatherman.

Leatherman Multi-Tool

And speaking of which, if this tool cannot do it, it either cannot be done or isn’t worth doing.

I have had a few different models and have tried out the Victorinox ones, as well. I am partial to the Leatherman Wave for weight vs. versatility

SealLine dry bags

All of them. Big ones for your clothes, small ones for isolating important items in a large pack. These bags are lighter than a lot of their competitors and equally durable. With some pre-planning you can fit your sleeping bag and mattress in one as well. I currently have a therm-a-rest jammed into a 5-litre dry bag.

RAB Siltarp

Ever sleep under a tree in the rain? Better yet, ever look for a tree in the rain and not find one? Pack a damn tarp! Mountain Equipment Co-op makes them, The North Face makes them… (Canadian Tire even has one if you’re not worried about space).

Mine happens to be a RAB 2-person and a hideous shade of yellow. It weighs next to nothing and beats the hell out of looking for shelter over tree line without it.


I have 1,000 gloves. I have big ones and little ones. Every brand and every style. Looks aside, for one emergency pair I always keep a pair of raw wool work gloves in my bag. Wet or dry they will keep your hands warm and aside from sticking to literally everything they will fit in a pocket and never let you down.

And that’s where I would start. Essentially all I have really done here is lay out the groundwork for a pretty serious argument between anyone who really lives for this stuff. Good luck out there everyone!