The Best Elk Hunting Gear of 2023

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I’ve chased elk across the West for over 20 years. During that tenure, I’ve learned a lot about the best gear for elk. Elk hunting often occurs in remote, unforgiving landscapes. The gear you decide on can mean the difference between staying on the mountain and punching out early. And, not to get dramatic, but gear can mean the difference between life and death. 

There was the tent I was sleeping in that golf ball-sized hail destroyed while I was inside. That made for a painful, exciting night. I took a beating and had to come off the mountain early. I had a small cook stove that wouldn’t ignite above the timberline, which meant a mix of trail mix and granola bars for a week. I’ve had boots rub my feet raw, and trekking poles snap, backpack zippers fail, and the list of gear failures goes on. 

Today, I have a proven system of gear that I know won’t fail me, from the cedar-choked canyons of the southwest to the foothills to the awe-inspiring Rockies. My picks for the best elk hunting gear have proved their worth time and time again.

Best Boots: Kenetrek Mountain Extreme 400

Best Backpack: ALPS Elite Frame + 3800 Pack 

Best Clothing: Sitka Kelvin Lite Down Jacket and Ascent Pant

Best Tent: Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 2-Person

Best Knife: Benchmade Raghorn Carbon Fiber

Best Calls: Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls Wapiti Whacker Bugle Tube and Black Magic GTP Diaphragm

Best Decoy: Ultimate Predator Stalker Elk Decoy

How I Chose the Best Elk Hunting Gear

None of what you’re about to read is snake oil. I didn’t use this gear in my backyard and slug it with a “Best” label. That would be gross. This gear is battle-tested in extreme elk environments and always wins. 

I know how serious elk hunters are, and I want to recommend gear that I have used and abused, and that’s what you’ll find in this article. If I mention it, you can trust it. 

However, it’s essential to explore. Talk to as many elk gurus as you can. Watch gear tutorials on Youtube, and reach out to wapiti kingpins on social media—not the celebs, but the elk hunters that get it done on public dirt on their own every year. Once you get a gear arsenal that you know is second to none, you’ll gain more confidence to wander further and hunt longer. 

Best Elk Hunting Gear: Reviews & Recommendations 

Best Boots: Kenetrek Mountain Extreme 400



Key Features

Sizes: Men’s 8 to 13

Wide, narrow, and medium widths

10-inch tall leather uppers

2.8 mm premium full grain leather

One-piece vamp construction

7mm nylon midsoles

Anti-corrosion hardware 

400 gram Thinsulate 



No seams down the tongue for abrasion resistance and waterproofness

Reinforced double and triple stitching in high-wear areas

Reinforced rubber sole guard 

Windtex waterproof breathable membrane


A little on the heavy side


I start with boots, and so should you. Please don’t skimp on quality elk hunting boots because of the sticker shock. You’ll pay for excellent boots, but they keep you on the mountain and make your feet feel like they’re in a top-tier pair of running shoes. My top boot go-to is Kenetrek’s Mountain Extreme 400. 

Though I recommend you put some miles on them before your hunt, the Mountain Extreme 400s require no break-in period. I’ve never had a hotspot or a blister, and I love the aggressive K-Talon outsoles. The outsoles grab any terrain, and the 7 mm nylon midsoles give extra support when you’re toting a heavy load on your back.

I have also found that 400 grams of Thinsulate is ideal for most elk hunts, even those that stretch into late October. The boots breathe well and are waterproof. Best of all, though, is their durability. If you treat the boots a couple of times each year with Kenetrek’s waterproofing boot wax, these boots will serve you well for many seasons. 

Best Backpack: Alps Elite Frame + 3800 Pack 



Key Features

Capacity: 63 liters (3,800 cubic inches)

Frame Dimensions: 24 inches x 12.5 inches

Main Compartment Dimensions: 27 inches tall x 12.5 inches wide x 9.5 inches deep

Torso Range: 14 to 20 inches

Waist Belt Range: 31 to 55 inches

Weight: 5 pounds 13 ounces

PU coated 500D 

Waist belt MOLLE system with removable hip pockets

Rifle and bow drop-down pocket

Hydration compatible with two side-outlet ports

Rain cover is stowed in a zippered pocket on the bottom of the pack 



Remarkably strong and durable


Adjustable lashing system

Six-position torso adjustment

Load lifters and anti-sway belt straps

Easy to take pack on/off the Elite frame


Zippers along both sides for right-now access


Would like to see a larger pack made available

This one will surprise many of you, but please remember that I’ve used Mystery Ranch, Stone Glacier, and other top-tier packs. While Mystery Ranch and Stone Glacier make remarkable packs, Alps’ Elite Frame + 3800 Pack is my number one elk pack. 

Coming in at around 6 pounds, this pack offers infinite adjustment, and whether the pack is light or loaded down with elk meat and horns, it travels well with the hunter. The waist belt doesn’t rub on the hips, the 3D air mesh suspension lets the back breathe, and the anti-slip lumbar pad provides extra support. 

The main compartment has zippers along both sides that run the full length of the main bag, which allows me to get the gear I need when I need it without having to perform a bag dump. I love the waist-belt pockets, and the lightweight PU-coated material dries quickly.

The bag separates off the pack frame in seconds, which makes adding meat to the frame and then pulling the pack up over the meat and reattaching very easy.

Read Next: Best Hunting Backpacks 

Best Clothing: Sitka Kelvin Lite Down Jacket and Ascent Pant



Key Features (Kelvin Lite down jacket)

Weight: 17 ounces (large)

Sizes: Medium to XXL

Down Weight: 110 grams

Insulation: 900 fill PrimaLoft Gold Down Blend

Arms and Lower Back Insulation: 60 grams of PrimaLoft Gold Active Synthetic.

Two-way stretch nylon face

Two zippered hand pockets

Zippered chest pocket

Colors: Optifade Subalpine, Optifade Open Country, and solids 



Extremely durable

Polygiene odor control technology



Purposeful pockets

Hold up in any weather in any environment



I’ve tested lots of different elk hunting garbs, and for me, nothing trumps Sitka. My elk go-to is the Kelvin Lite down jacket and Ascent pant. This combo provides an athletic fit, a warm but breathable feel, and second-to-none durability. I also love that both garments feature Polygiene odor control technology, which is engineered to neutralize odor caused by sweat. 

Sitka’s Kelvin down packet and Ascent pants are durable and breathable for long hunts. Jace Bauserman

From the early season through October, the 17-ounce jacket is my number one go-to item. I layer with one of Sitka’s Core Midweight items and use the Kelvin as my outer layer. You can’t beat its comfort and warmth, and when I need to shed it, the Kelvin stuffs into my backpack with ease and takes up very little room. The pants have zero insulation, but I wear Sitka’s Heavyweight Bottoms under my Ascent Pants when insulation is needed. The pants have four-way stretch synthetic material, which moves with the body and feels remarkable against the skin. The pants resist moisture and dry in seconds. All of the pockets are purposeful. You can’t go wrong with this dynamic duo. 

Read Next: Sitka Women’s Ambient Review

Best Tent: Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 2-Person



Key Features

Base Size: 7 feet, 8 inches long x 5 feet, 2 inches wide

Center Height: 3 feet, 10 inches

Vestibule Depth: 2 feet, 11 inches

Tent Area: 34.5 square feet

Vestibule Area: 13 square feet

Total Weight: 7 pounds, 15 ounces

Packed Size: 1 foot, 9 inches long x 6.5 inches wide

Pole Diameter 8.5 mm aluminum

Four-season tent

75D 185T polyester fly with 1500mm coating

75D 185T poly taffeta floor with 5000mm coating


Durable poles

Resists UV damage

Free-standing pole system

Rapid assembly

Keeps all weather out

Two vestibules provide extra storage and added weather protection


 I can’t even make one up

Your sleep shelter needs to be a good one. I’ve had miserable nights in the elk woods because my tent was garbage. Today, my number one elk tent for backcountry elk hunting is the Tasmanian 2-Person from Alps Mountaineering. The shelter goes up in seconds, and its four-season build stands up against snow, rain, hail, and violent winds.

The Tasmanian 2-person is roomy and weather-proof in any season. Jace Bauserman

I will take a two-person tent over a one-person or bivy sack any day of the week. Comfort and rest are essential on a backcountry hunt, and I don’t want to feel like I’m in a coffin. With this tent, I have room for my gear and it fits easily in my backpack. Over the years, the tent has withstood extreme winds, torrential downpours, and an overnight September snow that dropped 3 feet of white. The tent is as durable as the day is long, and it will be with me on every elk excursion for years to come. 

Read Next: Best Ultralight Tents 

Best Knife: Benchmade Raghorn Carbon Fiber



Key Features

Overall Length: 8.88 inches

Blade Length: 4 inches

Cutting Edge: 4.125 inches

Blade Thickness: 0.07 inch

Blade Material: CPM Cru-wear

Blade Style: Drop Point

Blade Grind: Flat

Handle Material: Carbon Fiber

Weight: 1.67 ounces


Drop-point style blade

Air-hardenable, non-stainless steel that’s tough as nails

Sheath included

Hand-assembled and razor-sharp



When you get a bull on the ground, you’ll appreciate a good hunting knife more than ever. I don’t haul a saw in my pack, so I rely on my fixed-blade knife from Benchmade to get the job done. I prefer any make from Benchmade, but I’m a massive fan of their Raghorn Carbon Fiber. 

Benchmade’s Raghorn Carbon Fiber is lightweight, reliable, and razor-sharp. Jace Bauserman

There is some sticker shock, but I promise, this is the last elk knife you’ll ever have to buy. This knife does everything from skinning to de-boning to caping and everything in between. The Raghorn is laser cut from CPM Cru-wear sheets, and you’ll love the lightweight and highly gripable carbon fiber handle. The blade holds its edge and sharpens quickly. This season, I broke down a pair of bulls with the knife, which still shaved the hair off my arm when I was done. 

Best Calls: Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls Wapiti Whacker Bugle Tube and Black Magic GTP Diaphragm

Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls


Key Features (Bugle Tube)

Weight: 1.5 ounces

Length: 20 inches

Mouth Opening: 1 inch

Made in USA

Includes camo cover and lanyard

V.E.T.T. Mouthpiece enlargement ring included for optional 1 1/2 inch mouthpiece opening


Versatile calls 

Produce realistic elk tones

Bugle tube has a fabric-wrapped cover to reduce game-spooking noise in transit

Diaphragm features a Golden Plate Dome that ensures proper mouth positioning and ease-of-use


The durability of the rubber rand on the bugle is sub-par

One of the many things that make elk such an addictive quarry is their vocality. I love calling elk, and for the past four years, I’ve had excellent success using the Wapiti Whacker Bugle Tube and Black Magic GTP diaphragm from Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls. The Black Magic is extremely versatile; I can create deafening challenge bulges, soft cow mews, and chirps. The Wapiti Whacker is easy to use, and if you take time to master your diaphragm calls, it will help you lure a love-sick bull into range.

The Rocky Mountain Wapiti Whacker Bugle comes with a fabric cover to avoid spooking game. Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls

If I had only two elk calls to conquer the Rockies, it would be the Black Magic GTP and Wapiti Whacker Bugle. While I am a fan of changing tone and pitch by switching between diaphragms, I’ve had excellent success mastering a single diaphragm that allows me to make cow and bull talk. With this combo, I can rip a locator bugle, hit a challenge bugle, make a guttural glunk, or sound like a ready-to-breed cow. When you find a combo like this, buy multiple reeds and a replacement tube. 

Read Next: Best Elk Calls

Best Decoy: Ultimate Predator Stalker Elk Decoy 

Ultimate Predator


Key Features

Built in shooting window

Durable, UV free, quick drying, micro suede fabric

Total weight is less than 10 ounces

Collapses to a 10-inch diameter disc

Built-in orange safety strap


Attaches to the top and bottom limbs of your compound bow

Actual printed image of a cow elk


Links to the bow in seconds


Difficult to use in the wind

The Ultimate Predator Stalker elk decoy is lightweight and easy to attach. Jace Bauserman

I’m a decoy nut, and a decoy is a must-have item when hunting elk solo. Elk, even young bulls with limited rut experience, are savvy. They get to a point when they feel like they should see the elk they are coming to investigate. When elk don’t get visual confirmation, the game is usually over. When you can give that bull visual confirmation by adding a Stalker elk decoy to your bow, chances are good he’ll keep coming, and you can seal the deal.

The Stalker features a built-in orange safety strap. Jace Bauserman

Mostly because I’ve killed a handful of bulls using the decoy. It’s something every elk hunter should have in their backpack. While I don’t recommend use during rifle or muzzleloader season on public land, this durable, UV-free, quick-drying, micro suede fabric elk fake attaches to the top and bottom limb of your bow via Velcro straps or other attachment systems sold by Ultimate Predator. The shoot-through window means you can hold your bow out in front of you and shoot right through the decoy’s middle. The decoy works remarkably well, and I don’t go into the elk woods without it.

Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Elk Hunting Gear

The best elk hunting gear is crucial for safety and success. Jace Bauserman

Why Trust Outdoor Life?

Since 1898, OL has been a leading authority in testing and reviewing hunting gear, fishing tackle, guns and shooting equipment, and much more. We have more than a century-long history of evaluating products, and we’re now bringing that expertise to online reviews. Our editors are experienced outdoorsmen and women, and most importantly, we’re trained journalists. We prioritize field testing and objective data when reviewing products. We conduct interviews with gear manufacturers and engineers as well as outdoor experts so that our readers have an understanding of how and why a product works—or doesn’t.

Advertising does not influence our gear reviews and it never will. While we always focus our coverage on standout products—because we want our readers to be aware of the latest and greatest gear—we also cover the flaws and quirks of any given product.

Final Thoughts on the Best Elk Hunting Gear

The best elk gear will fluctuate from hunter to hunter, but make no mistake, the items mentioned above are excellent adds to any elk gear arsenal. Remember, in the world of top-end hunt gear, you get what you pay for. We train and work all year for one opportunity to take down a bull elk. One bad gear decision could make the difference between success and failure—between staying on the mountain for ten days or being forced off after three. Save your pennies, do your research, and build the best elk gear arsenal that you possibly can for the upcoming season. 

Best Boots: Kenetrek Mountain Extreme 400

Best Backpack: ALPS Elite Frame + 3800 Pack 

Best Clothing: Sitka Kelvin Lite Down Jacket and Ascent Pant

Best Tent: Alps Mountaineering Tasmanian 2-Person

Best Knife: Benchmade Raghorn Carbon Fiber

Best Calls: Rocky Mountain Hunting Calls Wapiti Whacker Bugle Tube and Black Magic GTP Diaphragm

Best Decoy: Ultimate Predator Stalker Elk Decoy

The post The Best Elk Hunting Gear of 2023 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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