I field test the daylights out of equipment, sometimes for years, before I put my stamp of approval on it. Or not. The following list runs the gammet, from hunting gear to clothes to camping equipment. In each category, I have tested a number of other alternatives before I picked the one I am recommending. Some gear I get free but most of it I buy. I have rated my picks with one to five stars, five being the highest rating. This is the good stuff, so get ready:
Lone Wolf Alpha Hang On Tree Stands – 4.5 STARS http://www.lonewolfstands.com/
Lone Wolf Step Stix - 5 STARS http://www.lonewolfstands.com/climb_sticks.asp
Non-typical Hang On Tree Stands - 4.5 STARS (.5 is for swivel seat)
*These two tree stands are a toss up for my favorite status. They are both lightweight, high tech, easy to carry with other gear, with easy put up and take down. I leave them up year round and even camo them myself. They are sturdy, last through many years of tough weather and hard use. There are some differences between the two, and I like some of the features of each and I dislike a minor few things about each. I like the cast aluminum platform of the Lone Wolf because its pattern makes it nearly invisible from the ground. I also like the Versa Button feature where the strap can be put on from either the left or right size depending on your tree setup. It also has an adjustable platform for tree lean and it’s always totally quiet. Combined with the Lone Wolf Step Stix, you have the ideal system. I don’t like the Lone Wolf seat pad and I would like to see Lone Wolf offer a swivel seat on their stand. I have found their seat to be a butt buster for long haul hunts. The Nontypical stand has the huge advantage of a silent swivel flip up seat. It also has a receiver for left or right side mounting of accessories like a bow holder, gear holder, camera mount, safety bar or blind. The quiet swivel flip up seat has a thick foam pad and is very comfortable. The platform of the Nontypical stand has parallel bars making it more visible in the tree, but still compact enough to effectively blend in. If Lone Wolf and Non-typical joined forces, they would put every other tree stand company out of business, in my opinion.
Coleman Camp coffee maker – 5 STARS http://www.coleman.com/
*Go to this link for my previous review: click here I wrote that review one year ago. My Coleman Camp Coffeemaker gets a work out and still makes the best coffee on earth, and at camp no less!
Coleman Camp Oven - 5 STARS
*This is my new favorite "how’d I ever live without it" device. I wanted a way to make a pizza or biscuits at camp so I bought the wee oven. Now I’m hooked! It heats fast, has a consistent temperature, adjustable racks, oven thermometer & cooks nearly as well as my home oven. It fits nicely on my propane gas stove at the cabin, or on my Coleman Camp stove when tent camping. It also folds flat for storage but I never store it because I use it so much.
Smartwool - 5 STARS https://www.smartwool.com/
*Smartwool is totally non-itch merino wool made into everything from thermal underwear, to hats, socks and gloves. My discovery of Smartwool ten years ago completely changed my hunting experience from freezing my butt off all the time, to staying toasty warm all the time. I wear Smartwool year round. The lightweight socks and liners can be worn in summer and keep feet nice and cool. The lightweight underwear is wonderful for Fall and Spring hunting when it is chilly at dawn and dusk, but warm during the day. In winter, I layer first with a Smartwool tank and lightweight bottoms, covered with their zip neck T and mid-weight bottoms. This system is lightweight and non-bulky, keeps you warm even if you get wet and never feels clammy against your skin. I use Smartwool hiking weight sox for summer and fall outdoor use, and hunting weight sox for winter. Put a toe warmer on the Smartwool sox and you can hunt in 20 below zero weather and stay warm. I also have Smartwool glove liners for an unbeatable way to keep hands warm. For everyday use, I have Smartwool neck gators, scarves, gloves and pointelle winter underwear for ice-skating, and other winter outdoor sports.
Jacob Ash gloves for women - 5 STARS
*Three years ago, Jacob Ash provided women’s gloves for the WomenHunters Prostaff. I have constantly used their lightweight camo suede palmed glove, their insulated camo glove and their insulated camo Glo-Mitt. Not only do these gloves perfectly fit a woman’s hand, they are indestructible. I beat them up hunting and have washed them scores of times. They look and perform like new.
Women’s Hunting Clothes
*This is probably the toughest product to find: quality women’s hunt clothes that fit. After years of trying lots of things, I have found my "system" of brands and sizes that work. I will highlight them, noting that I am a true size 6, but in vanity sizing I wear a size 2 or 4. I am 5’8" tall and weigh 118 pounds. Adjust those sizes and measures to your own in selecting gear.
**Bass Pro – 3.5 STARS http://www.basspro.com/
Their online and catalogue has a modest selection of women’s clothing. Their size Small is too big in the butt, too short in the legs and sleeves for me unless I am layering under it which I don’t do for early season hunting. For a shorter woman, their legs and sleeve length would be fine. The clothing quality and features do not match that of men’s hunt clothing.
**Cabelas – 4 STARS http://www.cabelas.com/
Cabelas has a better selection than most for women’s hunting clothes, but again, their size small and size 6 are both huge on me. I wish they would make a Small or Size 4 because I’m not into "sagging" like a teenage boy. The pant legs are too short and the shirt sleeves too big in the body and too short in the arm. The quality is very good however and features compare to Men’s hunt clothing. Cabelas DOES have many items in Men’s Small, which is a perfect fit for me. I have also found Men’s small in the top line Browning insulated bibs and jackets, as well as the Cabelas brand rain gear.
**Gander Mountain – 3 STARS http://www.gandermountain.com
I found an extremely limited supply of women’s hunting clothes at Gander, but what I did find was superb quality, was a true fit meaning the size small actually fit me, and had good features similar to men’s clothing. I also found that Gander Guide Gear in men’s small was a perfect fit for me like the Cabelas brand men’s small.
**Other – Browning (4 STARS) For Her(click here) came out with women’s camo three years ago, and while it is hard to find, the quality, features and sizing are superb. Years ago, us girls had the now defunct Suzy Smith brand of clothing, but its performance was lacking even though it had unique styling. I have visited the Tomboy women’s hunting clothes web site but when I saw a jacket advertised as having a beard guard, I was skeptical if those clothes were even made for women. Robinson Outdoors (4.5 STARS)click here for link makes a men’s small that fits most women very well and many of their scent control clothes come in men’s small. Scent Lock (2 STARS)click here for link on the other hand does not offer men’s small at all and if you see ScentLok on a woman, the company had it custom made for promotion purposes because it is not available to the buying public otherwise. Gamehide makes a line of women’s clothes, but they were unavailable at the time I was writing this article. However, the clothing I tried at their Minnesota showroom had great quality, but again, the sizing was short in the legs and arms and big in the body. I tried their Youth Large and XL and the fit was off. There are a number of other brands but because of their lack of availability, they are beyond the scope of this article.
**Footwear – I swear by the following: Rocky (all boots, 5 STARS)click here for link 400 gram thinsulate hunting boots for year round wear; Rocky snow stalker pak boots for extreme cold; Lacrosse Burly 1200 gram rubber boots; Proline Hunter (4.5 STARS) thinsulate camo cordura hunting boot. Combine these boots with Smartwool socks and chemical toe warmers and you will never again have cold feet.
Balcom Bowsling – 5 STARS
*I credit my Balcom Sling for nearly all all the animals I have harvested in the last seven years. Using the sling, I am able to have my bow at the ready and with little movement to bring it to full draw. It is lightweight, high tech and performs as well in warm weather conditions as it does in subzero weather. My only complaint is that Balcom has not as yet developed a Sling retrofit for the Mathews Switchback. They have a sling for the Legacy and Outback however, and any other bow with a protruding cable guard. Other benefits of the sling, are being able to carry your bow hands free for transport to your stand, arm relief when hunting, or for hands free use of game calls or binoculars.
Buckman Leg Pack – (4.5 STARS)
*I only knocked off a half star, because they don’t make this pack any more. I don’t know why I bothered putting it on my list, but it is my favorite pack for day hunts. The Myles Keller series Buckman has many exterior pockets in both camo and black mesh, as well as pockets inside. It attaches around the waist with an adjustable snap closure belt and I added camo ties to tie the lower part of the pack to tie it to my leg so it doesn’t swing while walking. This pack is ideal for people with back problems since it puts little or no strain on your back no matter how much stuff you cram into it. I have washed it countless times and it’s still like new. Another huge benefit to me, is the pack’s small size for the big capacity it can carry. I just wish they would start making them again is all.
Ledhedz flashlights – 4.5 STARS
*Ledhedz are small ‘pinch lights’ that clip to the brim of your hat. They come in either a spot or flood configuration and have a long life. Even for their small lightweight size, they put out enough millecandellas of light to illuminate trails and trailer markers from great distances. I have tried many other petite size LED pinch lights and these are without a doubt, the best. They last a long time, perform perfectly and cost less than $10.00. I trimmed a half star off the rating because I would like to see replaceable batteries in the lights.
Streamlight Scorpion Flashlight – 5.0 STARS http://streamlight-flashlights.com/scorpion.html
*I love this flashlight. It’s my "get lost" and "blood trail" flashlight. If I get off trail in the dark, my waterproof Scorpion will pick up trail markers ¼ mile away! It is also the BEST flashlight on earth for blood trailing. Period. You might lose a blood trail with other flashlights, and I have, but not with the Scorpion. When constantly on it will burn through its spendy lithium batteries in about an hour however, so best have spare batteries on you at all times.
PALights m- 4.5 STARS http://www.palights.com/
*This is a unique little rubber cased waterproof flashlight that runs on a nine volt battery and last forever it seems. It has red, blue, green and white lights available, but I use the red for finding my way to tree stands. The blue and green cancel out the reflectivity of some colored trail makers, and white is too bright for my taste. I like a low impact way to get into the woods, and my red PALight is the ticket. Its push button has a low setting, high setting, and an emergency flash setting. I would like to see the lights turn off completely which is why I cut a half point off the rating. They have a constant on feature at very low battery use granted, but when I’ve had the lights in a black mesh pouch on my pack, it can be seen at night when it’s turned off. Best to keep it in a pocket.
Kershaw Knives - 5 STARS http://www.kershawknives.com/
*I have both the plain and anodized rainbow color version of this knife. I must admit, what first attracted me to the knife was Cabelas’ employees opening cases of arrows at a grand opening event I attended several years ago. The knife has a tension spring opening mechanism that resembled a switchblade, and well, it was just cool how the knife flicked open with very little effort. Beware however, this knife is so sharp it will draw blood with very little provocation. I field dressed four deer before having to sharpen mine. It is lightweight, compact, and deadly sharp.
Dead Downwind mouth spray - 4 STARS http://www.deaddownwind.com/
*I was so glad to see this product, after years of enduring baking soda for toothpaste before I hunt. I want my breathe neutralized as much as possible before hunting, and this product is the first effective one I have seen that doesn’t taste like battery acid. It comes in a handy pocket sized pump spray. The spray did not seem to last as long as baking soda which is why I knocked off a star from the rating, but it was very convenient to carry.
Scent Free Cream Rinse from Hunter Specialties - 5 STARS
*FINALLY! I have searched for years for scent free cream rinse. Men don’t need their hair conditioned, but anyone with any amount of hair DOES need it. I have had unfavorable results with the Shampoo/Cream rinse combo products that most hunting companies make. My hair ends up stringy and flyaway. My only complaint about the Hunter Specialties scent free cream rinse, is that I could only find it in a tiny bottle affixed to their shampoo. I have shampoo coming out of my ears. I want cream rinse in a BIG bottle!
Biore cleansing cloths - 4.0 STARS
*It seems with every hunt, I end up getting a zit or two because I have sensitive skin and I don’t take care of it while hunting. Add to that, I often wear face camo paint, and my poor complexion takes a beating in the field. Three years ago I started taking Biore wipes on my hunts and this solved the skin problem. You can be hunting primitive with no running water, and still be able to clean up your face at the end of the day. I have tried many other brands, but I have gotten the best results with Biore, either the Pore Perfect or the Blemish Fighting clothes. They are a bit drying so I deducted a star from the rating.
Alpen Optics Pro Compact binocular - 4 STARS http://www.alpenoutdoor.com/
*For value and quality, this is a top choice. They are lightweight and very compact. I could pick other compact binos that cost 3-4 times as much, by why? The Alpens provide a crystal clear image good enough for any hunting situation. They have long eye relief so you do not have to remove glasses or sunglasses and they have twist-up eye cups to fit individual eye position.
Bushnell Yardage Pro range finder - 5 STARS
I have used the yardage pro for ten years so off course mine is gray and not the camo I would prefer since camo wasn’t made back then. However, the yardage pro is still my favorite archery accessory and I carry it every time I hunt. If performs in all weather and a deadly accurate. My older model does not do well in fog however, and I do go through quite a number of batteries since I use it so much. For the price and quality… and hey, you can’t beat ten years… the Yardage Pro is my number one choice.
© January 2006