Off-Season Gear Upgrades
The pre-hunt gear layout photo and checklist has become synonymous with the beginning of every hunting season. It is impossible to scroll through social media without seeing at least ten of these pictures almost daily. These gear layouts are cool to see but they can also be a useful tool to help you see what you need to upgrade after last season. Instead of doing these trophy gear photos right before your next hunt, take this time now to start the upgrade process.
Depending on your budget, gear upgrades should go in order of most important to biggest want. We decided to put together a short list based on price point of the best upgrades you can make this off-season.
GEAR UPGRADES FOR UNDER $100
One of the easiest pieces of gear to upgrade this season is the way you attach your binoculars to your tripod. We provide several options to mount almost every binocular on the market to a tripod, making hours of glassing much more comfortable. Our studs will fit most binos, but for those few models that don’t accept the 1/4x20” threading, we make the Bino Hand or our Ring Adapters.
If you're already running our bino adapters, another handy addition to your arsenal would be our Digiscoping adapter. The universal design fits on the back of any smartphone making it a lifelong piece; once you buy the digiscoping body you will only have to purchase new ring adapters each time you get a new optic!
GEAR UPGRADES FOR UNDER $300
Is your current tripod head harder to use than an old rotary telephone? Sounds like you need an upgrade! Lucky for you, our best-selling heads fall within this price range. If you like to run binos primarily and are more of a power-glasser, then our Pistol Grip head is perfect for you. If weight is your deciding factor in your gear list, then our Micro Pan Head at 7.5oz would be the one to get.
Our Frame System is a great option for those successful pack-outs this fall. While you are at it, you can go with our Atlas Training System. It utilizes the same Outdoorsmans frame system, making it the perfect compliment to anyone's pack collection.
GEAR UPGRADES FOR UNDER $600
If new tripod legs are your biggest need we have you covered. From the lightweight and space conscious Compact Medium, to the versatile Tall Tripod legs, we can tailor to your needs! Simply having a lightweight but durable tripod designed with you in mind can sometimes make all of the difference.
The classic Pan Head is a great upgrade, especially if you plan on running both binoculars and heavier optics like the Swarovski BTX.
Both our Optics Hunter Pack and our Long Range Pack are welcomed upgrades for any hunters collection. We meticulously designed these packs based on our past experiences, so you know either of these packs will satisfy all of your needs. Check them out with all of the accessories so you can hunt longer and go deeper into the backcountry.
Make your gear layout the envy of everyone in your hunting community with just a few simple upgrades Everything on this list will help make your hunts this season go flawlessly and will keep you from cursing your outdated gear on a mountainside. Don’t go into this season wishing you would have tweaked your gear list, upgrade now to hunt more this fall!
Leupold Optics is storming back into the hunting optics world with all new offerings for this season, but did they ever go away? In the last few years the optics industry has seen trends come and go almost monthly. The desire of hunters to have the latest and greatest offering from the newest optics brand on the market has, in a way, left some of the best optics available forgotten about on the shelves. Thankfully the new offerings from your Grandfathers favorite optics company will bring them back to the top of many rifles going to the mountains this hunting season.
When hunters think of Leupold the first thing that comes to mind is the VX series of scopes. That classic streamlined scope with its high gloss paint topped some of the first sporterized Mausers that you can still find in the gun cabinet of many homes across the west. The new VX-HD series of scopes is a far cry from those classic offerings, but will hold up just as well. Leupold didn’t just give the new VX-HD a cosmetic make over, they gave hunters features many have been asking for very long time.
In the new VX-6HD and even newer VX-5HD hunters will notice an upgraded optical clarity only found in other higher end scope offerings. Easy ocular focus adjustments and a parallax adjustment allow for perfect target acquisition while allowing your cross hairs to always stay crystal clear. Leupold didn’t stop there though. They also upgraded there well known CDS turret system.
The new CDS-ZL2 will now allow hunters to get close to two full revolutions out of your turret with 75 MOA of adjustment in the 30mm scope tube. Thankfully Leupold is keeping their user friendly custom turret ordering system to allow you to just range, dial, and shoot in the field! Once the VX-HD of your choice is topped on your favorite rifle, you can get on Leupold’s website and order your CDS-ZL2 turret. The best part is you receive the first turret free with the purchase of the scope and each one after that is only $60!
The company once thought to be the pinnacle of hunting optics, has come back to the top of the hill with these two new offerings and that is only a taste of the new products to come this year! Hopefully the next review will be on the long awaited 15 power binos they are bringing to market later this year! Stay tuned!
Fad: an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object's qualities; a craze.
The fitness craze that has taken root in the hunting community has been labeled a “fad” by many hunters as of recently. But is it a fad or just an evolution of today’s hunter gatherer? It is without question that our current lifestyles have been designed to be as convenient as possible. Don’t feel like leaving work to get lunch? Simply click an app in your phone and order anything you want, delivered to your door. Tired of talking to sales people in a store? Just order what you need online and have it within a couple hours. The list of ways we have made our lives easier can go on forever, but one thing will always remain true; when you go out into nature to hunt your own food, it will never be as easy as just clicking on an app.
Generations of hunters before us relied on hunting and their vigorous lifestyle to stay in shape. In today’s world, working behind a computer ten hours a day, five or six days a week, makes staying in shape a much tougher feat. To continue to chase our quarry all over the mountains, we have adapted by trading in our hiking boots for gym shoes in the off season. The problem we are running into as hunters is that the fitness industry has not caught up with the demands of the hunting community. That changes now.
The hardest thing to train for in a gym is the weight of a full pack on your back. We have all tried to rig a weight system on our packs using sand bags, weights and even rocks, but these techniques have their drawbacks. The danger alone of weight continuously shifting on your back can spell disaster with one wrong move. For all of these reasons, we have decided to bring a weight frame to market now. This fitness product is designed by hunters for hunters.
When The Outdoorsmans and Evco Plastics originally designed our frame system, we incorporated multiple mounting holes for different uses and this was one of those “out of the box” ideas he had many years ago. It was before it’s time back then, but in the fitness-crazed hunting community today, it is perfect! The ability to quickly convert your hunting pack to a training pack, with the addition of our plate carrier is a dream come true for many hunters. This system also gives you the ability to customize your weight load for the type of training you are wanting to do. From 5 pound plates all the way up to two 45 pound weights, the system can be customized to your fitness level quickly and easily.
The Atlas Trainer is a machined aluminum attachment that fits into our frame with the predesigned mounting holes. The two plates sandwich onto the frame creating a firm mounting point for the knurled post that holds the weight securely in place. This is a far cry from our original prototype of a steel tube welded to a flat! In designing the weight carrier in this way, we have created a way to carry heavy weights without them moving or shifting as you walk, or climb.
Brushing off the new generation of fitness driven hunters as a “fad” is easy to do from the outside looking in, but in truth it is hunters adapting to another change in an ever-evolving modern hunting world. So this off season, add the new weight frame to your training arsenal and train for the success of a heavy pack out.
We have all had an experience in our lives where reality didn’t meet our expectation, from online dating to online shopping there is a chance what you encounter is far from what you had expected. Some times these difference are subtle and you accept them as a part of the experience and other times they are so drastic they make you question everything in life. That may be a little overdramatic when we are discussing optics, like we are today, but when your hard earned money is on the line you expect to get what you paid for.
In order to educate ourselves and also you, our customers we set out to test the Field of View (FOV) of the long range glassing setups currently available on the market today. FOV is always measured at 1000 yards and the measurement is given in feet. Was our test the most scientific, no. Our test was recorded in real world conditions and was designed to look at true perceived FOV of the optics we had available. Are our eyes different than yours, they are, but even with that factored into the equation we honestly believe this test was a true representation of perceived vs. reality.
In an undisclosed location in central Arizona we mapped out a vantage point that would allow us to look in a straight line out to 1000 yards, the typical distance FOV is measured at. With the optics set up on a good vantage point, Cody drove across the valley to the one thousand yard mark to set up our target. Using a vehicle as our constant and a 2x4 with orange marking tape as our moving sightline we effectively measured the true usable FOV of the optics we had for the test. Placing the right edge of the optic with the bumper of the truck in my far right view through the optic, I instructed Cody to walk away from the the truck until I could no longer see him in my sight picture, once there he would take short steps back toward the truck until he was barely visible on the far left of my sight picture. In doing the test in this manor we were able to accurately determine the perceived FOV and compare it to the claimed FOV from the manufacturer.
In this test we set out to compare all of the big glass offerings on the market today, and with the help of some of our friends that is exactly what we did! We had the newest Docter ED 40x80, the Kowa Highlander 32x82 Fluorite model, the Swarovski BTX 65, 85, and 95, the Twin Swarovski STS 25-50x65 HD spotters, and as a bonus the Swarovski STX 95. Having all this big glass in one spot at the same time allowed for us to accurately test them on an equal field.
At last what you have all been waiting for, the numbers!
FOV Claimed FOV Measured FOV Diff.
Docter ED 40x80 SWA- 126 ft. 87 ft. 39 ft.
Kowa Highlander 32x82- 116 ft. 108 ft . 8 ft
BTX 95 35x95- 96 ft. 87 ft. 9 ft.
BTX 85 30x85- 112 ft. 102 ft. 10 ft.
BTX 65 30x65- 112 ft. 102 ft. 10 ft.
Twin STS 65 25-50x65— 126 ft. 117 ft. 9 ft.
STX 95 30-70x95— 104 ft. 90 ft. 14 ft.
(We tested all of these optics at their lowest magnification.)
If you spend a lot of time behind big optics glassing the west you understand how important glassing at extended ranges is a normal part of the hunt, and being able to cover ground efficiently is a must! We weren’t surprised with our findings because after spending hours in the field behind all of this glass, we were expecting to see a difference in the claimed FOV vs reality. Stay tuned for further comparisons and we will go further in depth on all of these offerings in reference to clarity, light transmission, and ease of use in the field in later comparisons.
Training: the action of undertaking a course of exercise and diet in preparation for a sporting event.
The trend of training your body for the grueling demands of hunting season has been brought to the forefront of the hunting community in recent years, and for good reason. Being physically capable of climbing the mountains to fill your tag every year can make or break a hunting season. Lifting a couple weights in the off season or hiking mountains on the weekends is a great way to prepare your lungs and muscle for the fatigue experienced on a hunt. There is one skill however that most hunters don’t practice enough before going afield, seeing game.
Anyone that has been on a safari in Africa will tell stories of the trackers spotting game from a moving vehicle 200 yards off the road. Those guys spend their life in the field looking for animals, and that gives them the ability to see the difference between a tree leaf and kudu ear from outrageous distances. Your game eyes may never be as good as theirs but, you can train yours to be better!
Training your eyes to find more game isn’t as easy as just going out and scouting before the start of your hunting season. Our years of living in big cities and under fluorescent lighting have changed the way our eyes see things. So the only true way to train your game eyes is too spend more time in the field away from the bright retina damaging lights.
Spotting game just like any other skill can be honed with practice over time. The more time you spend in the woods, the quicker you will be able to distinguish between an antler tip or a low hanging twig when glassing for deer. This year while you are hiking those hills in the spring and summer bring your glass and tripod, to train your Game Eyes. I like to take a few hunting buddies out with me and make a day of glassing into small side competitions. First one to see game buys lunch, or first one to see antlers gets a dollar. Making it a true competition will give you added motivation even though a punched tag is not the end goal.
This year remember there is no off season in hunting, just certain times of the year where a successful hunt is just watching your quarry through binoculars instead of a rifle scope.