eastern hunter whitetail

While I’m admittedly a redneck from Kentucky with little time spent west of the Mississippi, I have come across gear with Rocky Mountain origins that translates to my lifestyle in the woods, on the water, or even at a golf course. The following gear, born largely from the demanding needs of people who rely on it to save their lives, can be useful back east too.


Although a broad topic, the 10,000-foot view of using tripods, bipods, and monopods is that a great deal of western gear exists because of its versatility. Depending on your pursuit, tripods can serve as an all-day glassing station, shooting rest for rifles and cameras, or spotting scope platform in the field or on the range. Trekking poles can serve dozens of purposes, such as pitching an emergency shelter or using them as a shooting rest. Tripods are also great for taking quality post-harvest photos or propping up a whitetail’s back leg to make it easier to field dress when you are by yourself. The point is that lots of western gear can work great in other environments because of sheer versatility.

Tarps/Emergency Shelter

Anyone who frequents the great outdoors has likely hunkered under a tarp waiting for a storm to pass. Western hunters lean heavily on tarps, and they aren’t your grandfather’s old tarpaulin either. Companies like 6AM Outdoors have perfected lightweight, durable, waterproof tarps that can fit in your pocket and save your life in some scenarios. I use both the 6AM ground cloth (waterproof version) and their Switch Back tarp all the time. In my daily life, I have found that their uses are endless. A couple of weeks ago, the ground cloth saved me on the golf course during a rain shower. No wet grips here! The next day I rode out another squall while turkey hunting, and my camera equipment stayed bone dry. Once you use a packable tarp, you may wonder how you ever survived without one. I keep one in my truck and boat at all times now.

Packable Quilt 

Nothing sucks the fun out of being outside like freezing digits and chattering teeth. Lightweight, packable quilts can be compressed into a very small package, yet they carry an unmatched warmth-to-weight ratio. Again, 6AM Outdoors out of Bozeman, Montana makes many great pieces of kit, and their quilts are no exception. They are made of one continuous piece of climashield APEX synthetic insulation, which makes baffling unnecessary. You can get this quilt soaking wet, ring it out, and still have R-value – AKA, warmth. These quilts can be used in a hammock as a top or under quilt, or you can use the built-in drawstring on the foot box and shoulders to cinch down and lock in the heat. Mine resides 50/50 either in my truck or boat and has been worth its weight in gold. I take many kids and older folks hunting and fishing every year and keeping them dry and warm is crucial to their enjoyment and ultimately their safety. 


Plenty of quality gear is on the market made for and by eastern hunters. To this redneck hunter, it seems that western hunters or people who frequently hunt both sides of the continent first adopted higher-performance clothing born from Rocky Mountain necessity and a need for better-performing base layers and outerwear. I am guessing that much of the technical clothing we use in hunting today was heavily inspired by extreme thrill seekers climbing big huge mountains in pursuit of something grand. Indeed, trophy sheep, bull moose, or just a chance to summit to 12,000 feet are all worthy pursuits among a thousand more. The point is that merino wools, synthetics, and outerwear are lighter and warmer than ever and can give you a leg up when conditions grow demanding. Many eastern hunters use merino, for instance, but wear it only when the mercury plummets. Merino isn’t as quick drying as many synthetic base layers, but in the heat, that can be a great thing and actually help regulate your body temperature. In hot weather or when washing clothes isn’t an option, merino is my go-to. A big bonus is merino’s natural antimicrobial nature, which keeps it from stinking after a day or even much longer. Conversely, synthetics that dry quickly can shine in frigid temps because they wick away moisture quickly and dry fast. Rain gear is another piece of this puzzle. But in the spirit of brevity, I would advise hunters to give some western brands a look next time you replace some of your old outdoor garments. Or you can smoke a big buck in granddad’s old flannel. Either way will lead to a full freezer and campfire stories if we hunters do our part.   

Hunting Packs   

Hunting packs have been a huge help in my own personal style of chasing whitetails, turkeys, and other critters. Being a self-filmer and borderline over-packer and often carrying a mobile stand in and out, the load-carrying benefits of a western pack with a frame, quality belt, and lumbar support are extremely handy. On top of that, having meat hauling capabilities if an easier option fails to materialize can save hours. Don’t get me wrong, grandad’s old fanny pack or surplus backpack still gets the job done, but if you’re looking for more load capacity and comfort, western packs can be money well spent. Exo Mountain, Kifaru, Mystery Ranch, Stone Glacier, and many more fantastic pack companies exist. They aren’t cheap, but most have excellent warranties and quality customer service, making owning and getting properly fit worth the expense. 

Good Optics Understanding  

If ever I were  called an early adopter of anything, it would be binoculars. From the time I was six years old, I don’t recall ever hunting without binoculars. My grandfather on my mom’s side, a World War II veteran, got me into hunting, and he understood how useful optics were even when they weren’t very well made. He was and still is one of my heroes, and if Granddad said it was so, then it was. Even the lower price point options today are far superior than the 1970s variants that I carried as a kid. You don’t have to spend a fortune but spend a little so that you don’t outgrow them quickly. Even if dense woods or Mountain Laurels choke out the view, I still won’t hunt without binoculars. For example, binoculars often save the day if I see a tail flicker but can’t Identify the deer because of vegetation. Usually, I can quickly identify the animal, which means knowing if that tail twitch belongs to a fat doe or maybe the buck that I am after. Not only do western hunters use quality optics, often with a tripod or other rest, they know how to efficiently cover ground with them and have a glassing system in which to do so. They often use hunting apps like Camospace to share their outdoor adventures, seamlessly integrating modern technology with traditional hunting methods. I heard it said one time that binoculars are the closest thing hunters have to a superpower, so we might as well use them. Whether binoculars provide me with superpowers or not, it doesn’t matter to me much because my granddad carried binos, and I’m gonna too. 


Some irony exists with this next topic, but I will digress anyway. Here is the disclaimer, however.  I have dealt with a minor foot issue for the last couple of years. Before the latest whitetail that I harvested last year in 32 degrees and rain, I harvested the previous five bucks while I was wearing tennis shoes. That said, boot companies have pushed the envelope by developing boots for specific reasons and pursuits. They are technically superior in design, comfort, and materials to the boots of yesteryear. In addition, many custom options are now available and can be tailor-made for your feet and personal needs.

Many More

So, gear up for your next adventure, old-school or new-age outdoorsman. You can consider using some outdoor activity apps to plan, track, and share your adventure without breaking the bank. Just a little prep and some creativity will help you have a fun experience exploring the outdoors.

There is a pile of other gear, clothing, and kit, which at the very least are western hunting and mountain inspired, that translate to the eastern outdoorsmen and women. Is it critical to have expensive camo, high-dollar boots, and a pack with a frame in order to arrow a deer this fall? Not at all, but then does a better mousetrap exist? Usually so.

Article By: John Kirby