Backcountry Shed Hunting System

Hunting for fresh elk sheds is a time-honored spring tradition in the West, and it's a great opportunity to cure acute cabin fever. While it's not rocket science, having the right shed hunting gear can go a long way towards increasing your odds. With a light and fast kit that can get you to quiet corners of the backcountry comfortably and confidently, you can separate yourself from the pack and hopefully put yourself into the spring haunts of big bulls.

Backcountry shed hunting systemPhoto by David Frame.

Our complete shed hunting system prioritizes keeping your pack weight low without compromising performance during inclement spring conditions. The weather can change drastically in mere minutes in the mountains. Even if you get a perfect high-pressure window, you're likely to deal with significant snowpack, ice, and mud if you're looking in the right places.

There is a ton of room for customization and personal preferences in a backcountry shed system, but going in as lean as possible will help you to come out heavy with a pack full of brown gold.


Choosing the right shed hunting pack is critical for a few reasons. First, if you're heading into the backcountry, you need a pack with the capacity to carry all your gear. Second, you're going to want a light and comfortable pack to carry with you when you scour the hills after dropping camp. Lastly, if you pick a pile of mature antlers — and we hope you do — you're going to need a pack that can handle the weight when you have to carry your haul and camp back to the truck.

Terminus 7000 hunting pack with elk shedsThe Terminus 7000 carrying a full day's worth of fresh elk sheds. Photo by Lyle Hebel.

The Terminus 7000 is a perfect shed hunting pack. It has enough capacity to get you into the woods for a week, it's tough as nails and highly water-resistant, and it's ultralight (3 lbs. 15 oz.) while still being more than up to the task of carrying a heavy load due to its bomber internal frame system featuring four carbon stays.

Either our Krux Frame or Xcurve Frame will crush any shed packout. When it comes to the bag, it just depends on the length of your trip and the packability of components going into your bag. The lean-and-mean system we're outlining here can fit in our Col 4800. If you're expecting colder temps and will be packing warmer and bulkier gear, you might step up to the Sky 5900 or Sky Archer 6400. It goes without saying that any of our Expedition Hunting Packs will be more than capable of handling a backcountry shed hunting trip.

Like always, you'll want to make sure you're staying hydrated out there. If you're a bladder guy, you can't beat the one-two punch of the Platypus Big Zip Evo 3L water bladder carried in the SG Hydro Sleeve, both of which integrate with SG Packs. If you're more of a water bottle, run a Nalgene water bottle in our Hydro Holster, which integrates on the outside of SG Packs.

Shelter System

The modular SkyAir ULT is an absolutely perfect shelter for shed hunting season.

SkyAir ULT hunting shelterThe SkyAir ULT serves as an exceptional backcountry base camp during shed hunting season. Photo by David Frame.

Weighing in at a mere eight ounces and virtually undetectable in your pack, the SkyAir ULT is a one-person shelter designed to pitch with two trekking poles. We always carry our trekking poles with us shed hunting, so you're essentially eliminating the extra weight of tent poles. Even on day trips, trekking poles are clutch for crossing creeks, busting through snow banks, and helping to shoulder the load of a heavy pack full of horns.

Because bugs aren't typically out during shed hunting season, running the SkyAir ULT with only the fly means you can get rid of even more weight by not carrying a mesh insert. If you think you'll encounter bugs or just prefer an enclosed shelter, the SkyAir ULT Mesh Insert weighs 10 oz. and easily integrates with the fly.

The SkyAir is a three-season shelter and can definitely stand up to an impressive amount of nasty weather. If you're expecting significant precipitation and wind, you can also consider the Sky Solus 1P or Skyscraper 2P.

Sleep System

The Chilkoot 32° Quilt can save you significant weight while still keeping you plenty warm in early spring for a solid night's sleep.

Chilkoot 32 QuiltThe Chilkoot 32° Quilt under the SkyAir ULT. Photo by Zack Boughton.

At 1 lb. 6.6 oz., the Chilkoot Quilt is substantially lighter than traditional sleeping bags and packs down to the size of a water bottle. This space savings allows you to potentially take a smaller and lighter pack, and it also will help to mitigate fatigue due to your overall lower system weight.

Chilkoot 32 QuiltWhen carried inside a compression sack, the Chilkoot Quilt can save significant space inside a pack. Photo by Zack Boughton.

The unique construction of the Chilkoot Quilt features an open bottom to eliminate unnecessary weight in milder conditions. Like our traditional Chilkoot Sleeping Bags, the Quilt features a Pertex® Quantum shell for water and wind resistance to protect the 850+ Fill power goose down HyperDRY™ insulation.

The Quilt boasts an articulated foot box and a differential cut to provide warmth and maintain loft around the body regardless of sleeping position. A snap closure on the collar help to hold in your body heat on chilly nights. Four adjustable straps on the bottom of the quilt allow you to regulate your body temperature and keep the quilt secured to your sleeping pad. During colder nights, fully tighten these straps to maximize heat retention.

The Chilkoot Quilt is designed to use with a sleeping pad. Use an ultralight sleeping pad like the Thermarest Neoair XLite NXT in mild conditions, or add a few ounces by packing a pad with a higher thermal value like the Thermarest Neoair XTherm.


Shed hunting systemCrossing a creek under a solid load of brown gold. Photo by David Frame.

This system is made for early spring conditions on the mountain. It could be 70° and sunny one day then 30° and sleeting the next. The idea is to know the forecast and then be as light as possible without sacrificing protection from the elements. You're going to be very active covering ground to get into good zones, but you're also going to experience long static periods as you sit stationary glassing for antlers. Pack accordingly.

  • Chinook Merino Boxer: Lightweight, stretchy, comfortable and odor-resistant.
  • De Havilland LITE Pant: A super versatile and durable pant with our  Stratum™ Layered Zipper System for instant ventilation.
  • Avro Synthetic Hoody or Chinook Merino Hoody
  • Helio Hoody: A must-have mid-layer that can keep your core warm while moving moisture like nobody's business so you can stay dry all day long.
  • Cirque LITE Vest: Quick-drying, active insulation perfect for the morning push to the ridge.
  • Grumman LITE Down Jacket: Our lightest down insulation jacket is sufficient for most spring conditions, and weighs in at a featherlight 11.1 oz. (size large) while providing substantial warmth and weather resistance.
  • Grumman Down Pant: While it may seem like overkill, you won't regret bringing 12.7 oz. of packable warmth for glassing sessions and static time at camp. If temps dip into the single digits at night, wear your Grumman layers to bed to boost the thermal value of your sleep system.
  • M5 Jacket: It's downright irresponsible to go into the mountains in any season without a quality rain shell. The M5 is lightweight (17.6 oz. in a large), breathable, and features two zippered hand pockets that can be accessed while wearing a pack as well as dual pit zips for dumping heat.
  • M5 Pant: Whether you're hiking through a sudden squall or busting through two feet of wet snow, the M5 Pant will give you waterproof protection while offering easy ventilation and layering via the generously large side zips.

Misc. SG Gear Essentials

SQ2 Alpine GaitersThe SQ2 Alpine Gaiters are indispensable tools for springtime shed hunting. Photo by Zack Boughton.

  • Graupel Gloves: Our most versatile gloves punch above their weight for warmth and weather resistance while providing plenty of grip.
  • SQ2 Alpine Gaiters: You can shed hunt without gaiters, but we don't recommend it. If you're in the right country, you're going to encounter creeks, snow banks, and plenty of mud. The SQ2 Alpine Gaiters will help to keep your boots dry while cutting through crusty snow like a warm knife through butter.
  • Skyline Bino Harness: Ultralight, weatherproof protection for your binoculars with Patented OptikFit™ Technology that enables a custom fit so you can easily scour the hills as you hike without your optics flopping around or getting wet.
  • Skyline Bear Spray Holster: Elk country is often grizzly country, and this harness conveniently carries a bear spray canister on the bottom of the Skyline Bino Harness or on your hip belt for instant access and engagement.
  • SG First Aid Kit: 11 oz. of life-saving essentials packed conveniently in an SG Swing Out Pocket that connects to the tri-slides inside SG Packs.

Other Essential Gear

Shed hunting packPhoto by David Frame.