Ben Blakeley

  1. Our Favorite Multi Use gear

    Good, quality gear is supposed to make our outdoor pursuits more comfortable, easier, and more efficient.  Most hunting gear is designed with a specific use case in mind, so as we embark on different adventures and our needs vary slightly (or drastically) from one trip to the next, we’re going to accumulate lots of different types, brands, sizes, and weights of gear items.  One of the huge benefits of modern gear is that it does what it is designed to do very well, but it may only be good for accomplishing that one task or filling that specific niche.  Finding gear that can be useful in multiple scenarios for different situations and tasks can save you money, space, and weight in your pack. Continue reading →
  2. Down vs. Synthetic

    When it comes to choosing how to keep warm in the outdoors, we’re lucky to have so many options.  When choosing gear to take on a hunt, or any outdoor excursion, the question of down or synthetic may have crossed your mind before.  Down insulation is the fluffy undercoat feathers that come from ducks, geese and other waterfowl.  Synthetic insulation is man-made and is made up of fine polyester filaments that are designed to create pockets of air between the fibers.  If you’re like me, you may have more than one option from each category.     Continue reading →
  3. How to Get the Most Out of Your Glass

    Optics have become one of the essential pieces of gear for just about any big game hunt.  They can save us many miles of hiking in order to assess game, and they allow us to look at animals without having to be very close and risk spooking them.  Optics are one of the biggest advantages we have on a hunt.  In order to get the most out of your glass there’s several easy things you can do. Continue reading →
  4. Important, But Often Forgotten Gear

    We have so much information at the tips of our fingers.  Within seconds, you can search online for pretty much anything and start learning about it.  When it comes to hunting and the outdoor related topics, you can quickly and easily find information online.  From gear reviews and tactics to how-to articles and trip recaps, it’s all just a click away.  But there are certain lessons that we will inevitably end up learning on our own the hard way.  Maybe we simply never stumbled onto the right article or bit of information that would have helped us be better prepared for a certain situation.  I know I have learned a lot from reading reviews, articles, and forum posts about all sorts of different topics, and I also feel like I’ve learned quite a bit through personal experience.  The purpose of this article is to go over some items that can be easily overlooked, but be invaluable in the field in the right situation.  Alexander Graham Bell once said ‘before anything else, preparation is the key to success.’  Preparation can also be the key to comfort, and more importantly, safety.  Here are some items that I will usually have with me on all day trips, and I never head into the backcountry for any extended period of time without. Continue reading →
  5. What to Consider When Choosing a Hunting Pack

    Hunting backpacks have come a long way in recent years.  They are stronger, lighter, and more customizable than ever before.  A good pack is one of my most utilized and important pieces of gear, second only to a quality pair of boots that fit me well.  Packs these days come in all sorts of varieties and sizes, from day packs to expedition packs.  You can go ultralight, or with a stouter, heavier pack.  The world is your oyster when it comes to choosing a hunting pack.  But what you need to decide first and foremost is what am I looking for in a pack?  What will your main use cases be: day hunts?  Extended backpack hunts?  Any and all of the above?  Also, what criteria must the pack satisfy to meet your needs (and not anyone else’s)? Continue reading →
  6. Briksdal SF GTX Boot Review

    I’ve owned and been using the updated Crispi Briksdal SF boots since they came out in May 2020.  I’ve used them on all my adventures so far this year: summer scouting, sheep hunting in Alaska, elk and mule deer hunting, and hiking through 10” of snow to pick up some moose sheds I’d found while hunting before the canyon closed for the winter.  I’ve been able to use them in a wide variety of terrain and temperatures, and they’ve yet to let me down.  I’ve been very impressed with them, and for me they are the ideal boot. Continue reading →
  7. Hilleberg - The Tentmaker

    Hilleberg has been a top name in the tent making industry for over 45 years.  Their mission is to produce the highest quality lightweight tents available.  Hilleberg was founded in Sweden and has expanded to the US.   I first heard about Hilleberg tents years ago, but didn’t purchase one of my own until last year. In all the trip reports and gear reviews that I’ve read about them, if I had to choose one word that is commonly used to describe them, it would be ‘bombproof’.  They are on the expensive side, but it’s with good reason, and you get what you pay for with a Hilleberg tent. Continue reading →
  8. Why I Chose Kifaru

    I’ve owned my Kifaru pack since 2014.  I’ve taken it on many adventures, from scouting the high country for mule deer to hunting Dall sheep in Alaska, and it has never let me down.  It’s been able to handle everything I’ve thrown into it.  I always feel confident taking it on trips with me, whether it’s a day trip or a week long hunt.   Continue reading →
  9. How to Select the Right Sleeping Bag

    A sleeping bag that helps you sleep well can be a game-changer while spending time in the outdoors. If you don’t get some quality sack time at night, not only will you not be at peak performance the next day, you could end up pretty miserable. But not just any old sleeping bag will fit the bill; you need the right sleeping bag for you based on how you sleep and the conditions you plan to encounter (climate, weather, available shelter, etc.). It’s not a one-size-fits-all formula for selecting one of your most important pieces of gear; there’s several factors that you should take in to account as you look for the right bag for you. Often times, finding the right sleeping bag can be a trial and error process. I can tell you from experience that it is worth the time, effort and money spent finding the right bag that lets you sleep your best at night in the mountains. There are several styles of sleeping bags: rectangular, mummy, quilt, hybrid, etc. And within each of those categories, you can usually get down or synthetic in most models, left or right side zippers, extra length and/or width, wide vs narrow foot boxes, hood styles, and the list of options goes on and on. While I do own and use a very plush and roomy rectangular style bag that gets paired with a cot and foam pad when the occasion allows, the bag weighs something like 14 pounds and only gets used if I’m sleeping in a trailer or driving right to where I make camp. Since these situations are very uncommon for back country hunters, this article will be geared more towards how to pick the right sleeping bag based on backpack hunting/back country intended use where weight and size are at a premium. Continue reading →
  10. Midweight Merino Base Layer Comparison

    If you love spending time outdoors, I’m sure you’ve come to realize how vital your base layers are to the quality of your overall experience. Base layers provide warmth and comfort, and a good base layer is probably one of the most underrated pieces of equipment we have at our disposal as outdoorsmen. When the guys at BlackOvis mentioned to me that they were interested in comparing their BlackOvis brand of base layer with one of the industry leaders in merino base layers - First Lite - I was all over the idea. I don’t think you can have enough base layers, because as the temps drop you can just throw one on over top of the other and layer to keep warm. From late October on, if I’m out in the field, I almost always have at least 2 light to midweight base layers on. Continue reading →

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