Michael's 3-Day Spring Bear Kit

Posted by Michael E. on May 4th 2021

Michael's 3-Day Spring Bear Kit

Spring hunting season is here in Montana, the snow is melting off the mountains and it's time to find a bruin. Here's my set up for quick weekend trips into the mountains. 

A little backstory, my gear doesn't change much from hunt to hunt. I have my system more or less ready to go, no matter if it's elk in September or mule deer in November. All that aside, I'm going to Alaska in September for inland griz and moose, so Spring bear is going to be a trial run of most of my kit for AK, pending a few items I still need to grab. But more-or-less, here's a list of everything in my pack and my layer system for two night trips looking for bears. 


  • Beartooth 200g - Trying to break these bad boys in for Alaska, so everything I do in the foreseeable future will be in these. Based on the temperature ranges I expect to face here in Montana, I would otherwise be in my Timberlines. I don't love a super stiff boot, but at a Flex-2 the Beartooth is still somewhat flexible and I get a good range of motion when hiking through meadows or other flat areas. So far my only takeaway is how comfortable these are. The 200g of insulation also provides a little extra padding and it's like lacing up a cloud around your foot. They're going to be a great cold weather option for a long, long time. 


  • Duckworth Vapor Henley - Incredibly lightweight, high stretch, wicks moisture like a dream and dries fast. I prefer henley's or 1/4 zips if I can find them to help dump heat. I've used the Polaris Henley in the past and really liked it's ability to regulate temperature and trap heat when the temperature drops, but it has an unfortunate tendency to stretch out if you pull your sleeves up, which I do a lot. The Vapor Henley fits looser on the arms, so I find it's a little more consistent in how it fits. Plus, Spring temperatures here are pretty mild and if I need to bundle up I can rely on my insulations pieces, gloves and a beanie. 
  • Schnee's Medium Trekking Crew - What I like the most about these socks is the wool content. Most socks hover around a 50-50 blend of merino and synthetics, these socks are 75% merino. If you've read any of my posts in the past, I'm a big wool guy. More wool means better performance in regulating your temperature and they don't stink as much after multiple days. On shorter hunts like this, I usually go with just one pair of socks because typically most of my hiking comes Friday and Sunday when I'm getting to and coming out of my spot. 


  • Duckworth Comet Snorkel - To my dismay, this is a discontinued product. But the Vapor Snorkel and Comet Hoody kind of paint the picture if you can image them mating and what their offspring would look like. I wear the Vapor Snorkel during archery season, and Summer scouting, but since I'm going with a thin baselayer I wanted a little more warmth out of midlayer. I love snorkel hoodies. The thumbholes and hood are great when you need to bundle up fast, the 1/4 zip helps dump heat, and the hood doesn't bulk up behind your neck when you have several other layers on over it. This thing is just a beast and I really hope it comes back somewhere down the road. 


  • Duckworth Wool Cloud Jacket - No surprise here, more wool. This jacket is actually really unique in the sense that it's the only "puffy" jacket that uses wool instead of down or synthetics. The wool doesn't pack down quite as well as down, but it's close enough to not matter in my opinion. The main benefit is how it performs in water. Since Duckworth fills this jacket with wool, if you get rained on this jacket will still keep you warm even if it's soaking wet. That's huge to me, because in a light rain you're not scrambling to put your rain shell on, which tends to trap a lot of heat. It also holds it's loft better than wool, and if it packs down overtime all you have to do is get it went and the wool will re-crimp. I've worn this jacket as an outerwear piece on several occasions, but find it's best served as an insulation layer. 


  • Sitka Jetstream Jacket - My favorite jacket for just about everything. It's really water repellent for anything aside from a true downpour, it has massive armpit zippers to dump heat, and honestly it just fits really well. I wear most of my stuff about as skin-tight as I comfortably can, and the Jetstream Jacket has tapered sleeves that fit well over my other layers, and I can wear a rain jacket that's not overly baggy. Honestly my favorite thing about this jacket might be the arm pocket on the left sleeve, it's great for chapstick, contacts, and a lens cloth and you don't even notice them. I think a lot of people would agree the Jetstream is kind of Sitka's flagship jacket, and it only gets better with each version. 
  • Sitka Timberline Pant - The ying to my Jetstream Jacket's yang. It's extremely rare I will go on any hunt without these. They're probably overkill for some of my hunts, but I just really like how comfortable they are. Personally, I don't like a "lightweight" type of pant. I prefer them to have a little bulk and trust that I can be pretty hard on them. All that aside, I'm getting close to trying out some different pants for 1 reason--the lack of leg vents. Again, this pant is overkill and I could get away with something lighter, but Sitka in general is really late to the party on leg zippers. They do a lot of mesh-backed pockets you can unzip, but who really want's to walk around with there zippers open? Time will tell, I still love these pants but I really like what I'm seeing on First Lite's Foundry line.
  • Sitka's Vapor Shake Dry Jacket - This jacket is light, so light it's tough to believe it's waterproof until you put it to the test. I won't be taking this to AK as I'm a little concerned on how it would hold up for days on days of rain (looking at Sitka's Dewpoint or Stormfront system for that), but for off and on rain or a flash storm, I think it's perfect. It can pack up to fit into a carbo pocket, jacket pocket, and it weighs 5.6oz so you don't really notice you've got it. Because of how light it is, it's super easy to shake off and get dry before you put it back in your pack, credit to the name I suppose.
  • Outdoor Research Crocodile Expedition Gaiters - I'm pretty new to the gaiter train, I used the Sitka Stormfront Gaiters last season and liked them, I just think the OR ones are a little better. There's some give and take between the OR ones being tougher, but they're definitely heavier. I just think since they will be going through brush and over deadfall I might as well have ones I'm a little more confident in long term. 

Backpack and Miscellaneous Gear

  • Mystery Ranch Sawtooth 45 - This thing is brand new so I don't have much to report yet, but my initial impression is that I really like it. I've been using an old MR Cabinet for years, and the Sawtooth is my first go with MR's new Guide Lite frame. The main difference I've found is how much more padding there is on the belt and no surprise, it's really comfortable. Also the molle attachment points on the belt are a nice touch. My range finder holster sits nicely there, and Mystery Ranch has a million other accessories that are compatible. I run a Daypack Lid with this pack, as 45 liters gets a little crowded for a 2 day drip on its own. The lid makes it a true "backpack hunting" system. 
  • Zoleo Satellite Communicator - Everyone needs a safety blanket. I prefer the Zoleo over an inReach since all my maps are already on my phone, and the texting function will automatically detect if you have service so you aren't reaching your monthly allotment quicker than you have to. The SOS function is easy, I haven't had to use it (knock on wood) but you can set up several contacts for it to reach out to on top of Search and Rescue. 
  • Quick Draw Bino Harness - Another recent addition. I mostly picked this up for my EL 12X50 binos, so I have a  size large. It's a lot to have strapped to your chest at first, buy I got used to it quickly. One thing I noticed is these bino harness's are a little wider from the chest out, which works for me because I have a bino adapter and plate on my binos at all times. I could see this being overkill without them, but I also prefer things to fit as snug as possible. My big dislike on these are the closure strap. Not the magnet, but the tag end. After I adjusted mine to be snug, I had about 5 inches on the tag, longer than the magnet piece. So I cut it off  it's been fine ever since. 
  • Western Mountaineering Versalite - I think Western Mountaineering make the best sleeping bags in the world. The warmth to weight ratio is insane, this is a 20ºF bag and I've never come close to being cold. Plus they are made in the USA which is always a big bonus in my eyes.
  • Swarovski ATX 95mm - Probably overkill for a lot of people, but I spend a lot of time behind glass and when I find something I always film it using a phone scope. Above all else, I'm able to know what I'm looking at from miles away. Bear specifically, I'm able to find cubs from a ways out before I commit to hiking over to what ends up being a sow. Again, probably more than most people need, but I think the extra weight is well worth it. I run this on an old Swarovski tripod, which you can read all about on here:
  • Geier Deerskin Gloves - Just a trusty pair of leather gloves with pile lining for warmth. I always have them with me on every hunt. I keep them well conditioned so they are plenty waterproof for my purposes. I have some Blizzard GTX mitts I am bringing to AK, and the shell of those works great with these gloves when I need something truly waterproof.
  • Schnee's Topo Trucker -  I think this is some of our finest graphic design work yet. Montana also requires you to wear orange for Spring bear, so a little extra never hurts.
  • Duckworth Watchman Beanie - Nothing fancy here, just more wool. I seriously believe this is the best beanie in the world, I have one in every color. They are super warm, stretch enough to go over a hat comfortably. Everyone should own one of these. 
  • Argali Game Bags - I have the high country pack, which fit a mule deer bone-in no problem, so I'm sure a bear will too. These plus my Havalon and an old bone saw are my whole kill kit. Theres bags are super light and easy to throw in the washer once you get home. 
  • Steripen - My dad turned me onto these, I think it's a pretty slick way of purifying water. The only drawback is it's meant for 1L bottles, perfect for the standard Nalgene or 1L bladder but that's about it. The Steripen works great for a quick trip where you know you'll have access to water. 
  • Black Diamond Trekking Poles - These are the Distance Carbon Z trekking poles. Pro, they are crazy lightweight. Con, they aren't adjustable. So far the pros outweigh the cons, but I think I'd prefer to have adjustable ones somewhere down the road.
  • Jetboil - Something everyone needs in their pack, or at least something comparable. Great for cooking or melting snow. I take a small fuel canister for weekend rips and it's more than enough for 2 or 3 meals and plenty of coffee. The GSI Java Drip is a my go to for a cup of joe. 

That's just about it, at least as far as the essentials go. The tent I run is so old I can't even see the logo on it anymore, I'm quite keen on the Seek Outside Eolus but haven't pulled the trigger yet. I also pack a Hilleburg tarp to get out of the rain during glassing sessions, or add over my tent since I'm not entirely confident on my tent's waterproofness. Plus, I bring a bunch of paracord, electrical tape, a camera, camera batteries, battery cells, and a Goalzero solar panel to charge everything. For food, I have a medley of mixed nuts, salami, jerky, bars and Mountain House or Backpacker's Pantry, and of course plenty of coffee. I can't recommend it enough, but bringing extra snacks and coffee on a bear hunt is really nice. Most days are spent sitting down staring at the same hillside for hours, and eating food or sipping coffee is probably a better way to pass the time than some other, more nicotine-heavy options.