Outdoor Life https://www.outdoorlife.com Expert hunting and fishing tips, new gear reviews, and everything else you need to know about outdoor adventure. This is Outdoor Life. Mon, 06 Feb 2023 23:27:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.1.1 https://www.outdoorlife.com/uploads/2021/04/28/cropped-OL.jpg?auto=webp&width=32&height=32 Outdoor Life https://www.outdoorlife.com 32 32 O.H. Ivie Lake Produces Two Dozen 13-Plus-Pound Bass in Two Years https://www.outdoorlife.com/fishing/oh-ivie-lake-giant-bass/ Mon, 06 Feb 2023 23:27:27 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=231457
kyle hall legacy lunker TX oh ivie, 1.29.23
Kyle Hall contributed a 13-plus-pound bass to the state's ShareLunker program for the second year in a row. Texas Parks and Wildlife

Pro angler Kyle Hall caught a 13-pounder this year on O.H. Ivie after landing a 16-pounder on the lake last year

The post O.H. Ivie Lake Produces Two Dozen 13-Plus-Pound Bass in Two Years appeared first on Outdoor Life.

kyle hall legacy lunker TX oh ivie, 1.29.23
Kyle Hall contributed a 13-plus-pound bass to the state's ShareLunker program for the second year in a row. Texas Parks and Wildlife

Professional bass angler Kyle Hall landed yet another lunker bass from Texas’ O.H. Ivie Lake on Jan. 29. The 13.58-pound largemouth was submitted to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s ShareLunker program, which collects huge bass (13-plus-pounders) caught by anglers between Jan. 1 and the end of March, spawns them in a hatchery, and stocks their offspring in water bodies throughout the state. With all the giants being pulled from O.H. Ivie recently, the lake is a major contributor to the program.

Hall’s fish is the fourth Legacy Class ShareLunker caught in Texas so far this season. All four of those bass have come from O.H Ivie Lake. It also gives the 24-year-old angler the rare distinction of contributing ShareLunker bass in back-to-back years, according to a TPWD press release. The 16.1-pound largemouth that he caught from O.H. Ivie last March was one of the three biggest fish submitted to TPWD in 2022. Hall, who lives in Granbury, returned to the lake this winter and his persistence paid off on the last day of his trip.

Read Next: East Texas Woman Lands 13-Pound Lunker Bass on a Last-Minute Trip to Lake Nacogdoches

“It’s pretty unreal to get a ShareLunker in back-to-back seasons,” Hall told TPWD last week. “I have spent a lot of time out on the lake the last three weeks and really wanted another Lunker. The last couple of days were slow but I finally got one to bite.”

Hall explained that he was using Garmin LiveScope to target structure edges in roughly 40 feet of water that day. He was fishing over a large hump on the lake bottom when he finally got the bite he was after.

“There was a whole school of 9- to 11-pound fish that came up following the swim jig I was throwing,” said Hall. “They probably followed the bait for 30–45 seconds. From out of nowhere, the fish came off the bottom, flew past the other fish and ate it.”

Hall’s continued success on O.H. Ivie is also a testament to the quality of fishing on the 20,000-acre reservoir, which lies an hour east of San Angelo. According to TPWD, the lake has given up more than two dozen 13-plus-pound largemouth bass over the last two years. This includes the 17.06-pound largemouth that was caught there in 2022, which was the biggest bass caught in Texas in the last 30 years and the seventh-largest largemouth bass ever verified in the state.

“O.H. Ivie continues to produce Lunker after Lunker, and this year is no exception,” said Natalie Goldstrohm, who coordinates the ShareLunker program. “Even pro anglers like Kyle are drawn to fish O.H. Ivie because of the quality bass fishery.”     

The post O.H. Ivie Lake Produces Two Dozen 13-Plus-Pound Bass in Two Years appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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The Best Solar Generators of 2023, Tested and Reviewed https://www.outdoorlife.com/gear/best-solar-generators/ Tue, 29 Mar 2022 16:55:00 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=183579
Laura Lancaster

We tested the top solar generators side by side to see which models pack the most punch

The post The Best Solar Generators of 2023, Tested and Reviewed appeared first on Outdoor Life.

Laura Lancaster

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Best Overall The Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Pro is the best for overlanding. Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Pro SEE IT
Best Value The Anker 555 is the best budget power station. Anker 555 Solar Generator SEE IT
Most Portable The BioLite BaseCharge 1500 and Solar Panel 100 are the most portable. BioLite BaseCharge 1500 + Solar Panel 100 SEE IT

Whether you are outfitting your home in case of an extended power outage or looking for a steady supply of off-grid power for your overlanding setup, it’s never been a better time to purchase a solar generator. But sifting through all the available options on the market—power stations that are lunchbox-sized to luggage-sized, solar panels that can pack in a backpack to multiple eight-foot long panels you chain together—can take a lot of time and effort. To help you choose the best solar generator for your purpose, we tested some of the most powerful models from Anker, Jackery, Goal Zero, and BioLite side by side to see how they stacked up.

How I Tested the Best Solar Generators

There are two components to a solar generator—a solar panel and a power station. To understand the performance of the overall package, I looked at each component and then also assessed how they worked in tandem. 

  • Solar Panels were tested in tandem (to ensure similar conditions) under clear skies. Testing was conducted in late fall, when the angle of the sun is less ideal than it would be at the peak of summer, affecting the potential of each panel to reach its claimed maximum output. Solar panels were tested using power stations of the same brand, but where possible, I also used different panels with different power stations to see if that affected the results. 
  • Power stations were evaluated on a number of criteria. After fully charging all the power stations, I left them in a climate-controlled room for three days and then outside for twenty-four hours in near-freezing temperatures—none of the power stations registered any loss of power during this test. Next, I plugged various appliances into all of the power stations to see how they handled the volume: a dehumidifier, a sunlamp, two laptops, one of the best power banks for camping, a pair of headphones, another power station, etc. Using these setups, I ran each power station down to half its estimated output. Finally, I considered how compatible each power station was with other solar panels, as well as additional features, such as Bluetooth-compatible apps, display panels, wireless charging, USB-C input ports, and more. 

Solar Panels Tested

I tested six solar panels rated for both 100W and 200W capacity from Goal Zero, Anker, Jackery, and BioLite.

Solar panels sitting in the grass.
The six solar panels in my test ranged in size and portability. Laura Lancaster

I checked that all the solar panels were pointed in the same direction and at the same angle when testing their measured output against their claimed output. 

ModelWeightSize (unfolded)Output PortsWarrantyClaimed outputMeasured output
Jackery SolarSaga 200W Solar Panel 18 lbs540 x 2320 x 25 mmDC1.5 years200W184W
Goal Zero Boulder 200W42 lbs40 x 53.5 x 1.75 inchesHigh Power Port (HPP)2 years200W145W
Anker 531 Solar Panel20 lbs23.75 x 83.75 x .75 inches XT-602 years200W158W
Goal Zero Boulder 100W20 lbs40 x 26.75 x 1.75 inchesHigh Power Port (HPP)2 years100W73W
Anker 625 Solar Panel11 lbs57 x 20.75 x 1.75 inchesXT-602 years100W94W
BioLite Solar Panel 10010 lbs20 x 57.5 x 1 inchesHigh Power Port (HPP)1 year100W52W

Power Stations Tested

The power stations I tested ranged in size from 1,002Wh to 2,048Wh, and were capable of either 110 volts or 120 volts (the latter is what you’ll need to run most major appliances).  

Solar generators sitting in the grass.
The five power stations in my test, from Anker, Goal Zero, Jackery, and BioLite. Laura Lancaster

All of the power stations were capable of holding a charge for extended periods of time, losing no power in either the three-day indoors test or the 24-hour outdoors test in subfreezing and near freezing temperatures. 

ModelWeightWhInput portsInput Max for SolarMax voltage for the AC outlet App? Warranty
Goal Zero Yeti 1500X45.5 lbs1,516USB-C, 8mm, high power port (HPP)600W120VYes2 years
Jackery Explorer 1000 Pro25.5 lbs1,002AC and DC800W120VNo3 years
Anker 767XX2,048AC and XT601000W120VYes5 years
Anker 55529.8 lbs1,024DC and USB-C200W110VNo5 years
BioLite BaseCharge 150026.51,521USB-C, high power port (HPP)400W110VNo2 years

Best Overall: Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Pro (Explorer 1000 Pro + Solar Saga 200W)



Key Features

  • Power station capacity: 1002 watt hours
  • Solar panels: four 200-watt solar panels
  • Energy created by one panel in direct sunlight: 184 watts 
  • Max AC output: 120 volts and 1000 watts
  • Also available with a 2000Wh power station 
  • Also available with two 80-watt panels


  • Powerful solar panel
  • Easy to use


  • Smaller power station than other models I tested

Along with the BioLite BaseCharge 1500 and Anker 555, the Jackery Explorer 1000 Pro had one of the more streamlined user interfaces. There are separate buttons to activate the USB outlets, AC outlets, and DC outlet, along with a button to turn on the power station’s light (in case you want to light up your camp or home) and one to turn on the display. The display here gives you the bare minimum of information—watts in, watts out, percent of the battery remaining, and the time to charge or deplete the battery based on the current conditions. 

The Explorer 1000 Pro has a max output of 1000W (peaking at 2000W), which is enough juice to power many modern refrigerators. But given that its battery life is only 1002Wh, it can only supply that power for about a day (assuming it’s not charging anything else) unless it’s also being supplied with fresh juice from a solar panel setup at the same time. For some, this won’t be an issue, as they’ll simply be using the battery to channel power to their other devices during the day while it’s charging, and then using the battery at night to power more low-key items like the best camping fans or maybe one high-energy device like a portable fridge. 

One of the most power-hungry appliances in my home is a dehumidifier, which was on track to take down a fully charged Explorer 1000 Pro in a couple of hours.
One of the most power-hungry appliances in my home is a dehumidifier, which was on track to take down a fully charged Explorer 1000 Pro in a couple of hours. Laura Lancaster

At over 25 pounds, the Jackery Explorer 1000 Pro, is one of the more transportable units I looked at, but it’s still not something that you’d want to lug more than a hundred feet or so at a time. 

The Solar Panel 

I originally tested the SolarSaga 200W solar panel as a full setup, with four panels plugged into a single power station. This test showed the full power of the array, which registered 650W of power generation on a sunny (albeit hazy) day. I retested a single panel in tandem with the rest of the units in this review more recently, and under completely clear skies, the panel was even more impressive: It registered 184W of energy coming from a single panel. If you don’t have much time to recharge your power station from the sun, then the full setup with all four panels is a no-brainer. 

It is, though, a little complicated. Each panel comes with a carrying case and a cable that connects back to the two DC ports on the Explorer 1000 Pro. If you see a math problem here, that’s correct: You’ll also need two of the Jackery Solar Panel Connectors, which, strangely, are not included in the purchase price. Two of these can be used to double the number of panels you can connect to the Explorer 1000 Pro. 

Each of the panels has three kickstands, which provided plenty of stability during testing.
Each of the panels has three kickstands, which provided plenty of stability during testing. Laura Lancaster

Setting up and taking down this many panels takes some time, but I was impressed by how easy and intuitive it was. That’s because Jackery streamlined the number of ports on each unit, making it that much clearer what cable connects to what unit in what port. 

Four cables from each of the panels connected to two solar panels hooked up to the battery makes for a big cable-y mess.
Four cables from each of the panels connected to two solar panels hooked up to the battery makes for a big cable-y mess. Laura Lancaster

While there might at first glance appear to be a disconnect between the charging time capabilities of this setup and its battery life, it’s worth keeping in mind that conditions are not always optimal. One of the things that impressed me most about these units is the panel’s ability to generate electricity in lowlight conditions. Even in complete shade—dusk fast approaching—a single SolarSaga was generating a 6W input. 

Best Budget: Anker 555 Solar Generator (555 PowerHouse with Two (2) 625 Solar Panels 100W)



Key Features

  • Power Station Capacity: 1024 watt hours
  • Solar Panels: two 100-watt solar panels
  • Energy Created By One Panel In Direct Sunlight: 94 watts
  • Max AC output: 110 volts and 1000 watts
  • Also available with a 1229Wh power station and three 100W solar panels


  • Highest performing solar panel in my test
  • Plenty of AC outlets for the whole family


  • Max power station  output is 110V
  • XT60 port on the solar panel needs an adapter to be compatible with the power station 

If your family has a bevy of devices that seemingly all need to be plugged in simultaneously, you are in luck with the Anker 555 PowerHouse. It was the only unit in my test that boasted six AC outlets, as well as three USB-C outlets and two USB-A outlets. There were so many outlets that it was actually hard to find enough things to plug into it in my home—I ended up with an air purifier, sun lamp, two fans, a laptop, and a battery pack plugged in. The 555 PowerHouse had no problem with this—it barely used a third of its total output power. If your family has a bunch of devices that simply must be charged at all times, then this is a great option. 

The Anker 555 sits in the grass.
The Anker 555 power station has plenty of AC and USB-C outlets for the entire family. Laura Lancaster

Note that this would not be the best choice for someone looking for backup power for their refrigerator, as its 1,024 watt hour capacity was on the smaller side in my test and only has up to 110-volt output.

The relatively compact Anker 555 Solar Generator is also a great value.
The relatively compact Anker 555 Solar Generator is also a great value. Laura Lancaster

Something else I liked about this unit was the utility—and comparative simplicity—of its charging abilities. It has one DC input port in the back and a USB-C 100W port that plays double duty with input and output. As someone who struggles to keep track of the sheer number and variety of cords that are always floating around, I appreciated the ability to recharge this unit without tracking down the original cord.

The Solar Panel

The Anker 625 was easily the best of the 100W panels I tested—it was one of the best solar panels for camping I tested back in the spring, and it’s still one of my favorite pieces of gear. It even beat out the 200W Jackery SolarSaga if you consider that this panel generated 94 percent of its claimed output, while the Jackery only managed 92 percent. Part of this is the inclusion of a sundial in the top center of the panel, which helped me align the panel correctly during setup. This sundial is such a useful feature, that after I had correctly aligned the Anker 625, I went back and adjusted all the other panels to match it—an instant uptick in power was measured. Two of these panels is a great choice for recharging a power station the size of the 555 PowerHouse. 

The sundial on the Anker 625 Solar Panel made it easy to ensure it was pointed in the right direction.
The sundial on the Anker 625 Solar Panel made it easy to ensure it was pointed in the right direction. Laura Lancaster

I’ve been testing this panel for a while—unlike some of the others in this test—and in that time I’ve noticed that it’s picked up a bit of scuffing along the edges of the fabric backing. While not ideal, this has not impacted the functionality of the unit in the slightest.  

Most Portable: BioLite BaseCharge 1500 + Solar Panel 100



Key Features

  • Power station Capacity: 1521 watt hours
  • Solar Panels: one 100-watt solar panel
  • Energy Created By One Panel In Direct Sunlight: 52 watts
  • Max AC output: 110 volts and 1200 watts
  • Also available with a 622Wh power station  


  • Lightest unit I tested
  • Power station is easy to use
  • Power station is compatible with the Goal Zero Boulder 200 (up to two)


  • No bundle option available
  • Solar panel was the weakest in my test

Like the Jackery Explorer 1000 Pro and the Anker 555 PowerHouse, the BioLite BaseCharge 1500 has a sleek and streamlined user interface that is easy to read and understand. The display panel shows the percentage of your battery left, the estimated number of hours it will take to either run through or finish charging the battery, the watts coming into your unit, and the watts going out. It also shows you the number of watt-hours the unit has used in total—watching that number was a bit like watching the odometer tick up on your car. Not super useful daily, but a nice thing to know in the aggregate. There are separate buttons to turn on the ports for USB, DC, and AC power, as well as a button to turn on the display. (A second button allows you to reset the display of how many watts you’ve used, useful if you are interested in getting an accurate read on your total power needs).  

The Biolite 1500 sits in the grass.
The sleek and streamlined BioLite BaseCharge 1500 was one of the easiest power station s to use out of the box. Laura Lancaster

There were three details that made the BioLite BaseCharge 1500 stand out next to the competition:

  1. A wireless charging option on top of the unit. (Unfortunately, I was not able to test this as I do not have a device with this capability.)
  2. The choice to put the input port on the front of the unit, as opposed to the back. During testing, I found that this configuration was easier when plugging in solar panels.
  3. This power station is surprisingly lightweight, especially compared to the Yeti 1500X, which has a comparable watt-hour capacity. If you plan to move your power station from room to room, this is a no-brainer. 

During testing, the BioLite BaseCharge 1500 was one of the few power stations where the “hours to empty” estimate kept jumping around. It probably accurately reflected the change in power needs of the bigger devices, but was confusing to look at and made the time estimates less useful than they would have otherwise been. (The percentage estimate of the amount of battery life remaining, however, stayed fairly consistent.) 

The Solar Panel 

While the BaseCharge 1500 ended up being one of my favorite power stations, the BioLite Solar Panel 100 was my least favorite solar panel. First off, two kickstands simply don’t provide enough support for the panels. This is partly because two just isn’t enough, but also because one of the kickstands is situated closer to the middle of the unit, rather than both being on the outer edges. I was able to use the BaseCharge 1500 to help prop it up a bit, but it wasn’t an ideal solution.

The Biolite 1500 props up the solar panels.
I ended up using the BaseCharge 1500 to help hold up the Solar Panel 100. Laura Lancaster

One thing that I did like about this unit is that, like the Anker 625, it incorporated a sundial, which helped me to situate the panel at the right angle to maximize the energy output. 

Like the Anker 625, the BioLite Solar Panel 100 had an easy-to-use sundial.
Like the Anker 625, the BioLite Solar Panel 100 had an easy-to-use sundial. Laura Lancaster

However, even with that advantage, this was by far the weakest panel in my test, only generating about half of its claimed output even on a clear day with sunny skies. If you choose to go with a BaseCharge 1500, it’s worth considering pairing it with a Goal Zero Boulder 200W, a pairing that proved successful during testing.

Best Customization: Goal Zero Yeti 1500X + Boulder 200 Briefcase Solar Generator

Goal Zero


Key Features

  • power station  capacity: 1516 watt hours
  • Solar panels: one 100-watt solar panel 
  • Energy created by one panel in direct sunlight: 73 watts
  • Max AC output: 120 volts and 2000 watts
  • Solar panels also available at 200-watt and 300-watt capacity
  • power station s available in sizes ranging from 187 watt hours to 6071 watt hours


  • Possible to monitor the power station  from another room using the app
  • The larger power station s could power major appliances for days without recharging


  • Heavy
  • Less intuitive than other power station s I looked at
  • Difficult to recharge if you lose the original cables

The Yeti 1500X was one of the most complicated user interfaces to navigate, and included several details that I have mixed feelings about. The most glaring one is that when the unit is plugged into a power source, a light blinks blue continuously until it is charged, when it switches to solid blue—if you are in the same space as this unit when it is charging, this is very distracting. Next is the three buttons above the display—which read “unit,” “light,” and “info.” Unit is fairly straightforward—it toggles the input and output measurements between volts, amperes, watts, etc. This is pretty handy if you’re curious about how much power a given device is chewing through. Next is light—on other power stations, this button turns on an actual light, which is useful if you’re trying to see what you’re doing in the evening hours. The Goal Zero, however, does not have a built-in light; what this button turns on and off is the display screen showing the power supply. The info button only seemed to turn on the display (not off)—it was unclear what other use this was meant to have.

The Goal Zero Yeti 1500X was not as intuitive to use as the Boulder 200W.
The Goal Zero Yeti 1500X was not as intuitive to use as the Boulder 200W. Laura Lancaster

Interestingly, despite having one of the most powerful AC ports in my test, there was only space for two plug-ins. Most of the time, I suspect this will be plenty for people (and it does help to cut down on the unnecessary juice being lost out of these ports), but others might find themselves digging out a powerstrip to make up for the lack fo ports. 

One of the more unusual features of the Yeti 1500X is a top lid, which has storage for charging cables, or anything else you want to throw in there. Underneath, it also has detailed descriptions of all of the power limitations of the various ports, plus evergreen reminders about not letting your power station get wet—all in semi-legible font. Surprisingly that can’t be said for any of the power stations in my test (including the Anker 767, which despite having the largest surface area strangely didn’t include this information at all). There is also a second 8mm port under the lid as well as a 12V HPP output port. 

A look inside the top lid of the Goal Zero Yeti 1500X.
A look inside the top lid of the Goal Zero Yeti 1500X. Laura Lancaster

The amount of power it was being charged with supplying—1385 watts through a single AC port (I had plugged it back into the Anker 767 unit) was higher than anything else I tested, due to this being the only combination where that was available—the maximum input capability of the Yeti 1500X is 150V from AC power). The icon showing how much power was remaining did, however, stay consistent. 

An output of 1362W was only a portion of the Yeti 1500X’s 2000W capacity.
An output of 1362W was only a portion of the Yeti 1500X’s 2000W capacity. Laura Lancaster

Like the Anker 767, the Yeti 1500X has an app that you can use to monitor the battery’s power usage. This app was not as intuitive to use as the Anker 767’s, requiring several more steps to get to the point where I could monitor the battery usage (it also asked me to upgrade its firmware seemingly every other time I opened it). However, once you have the whole thing set up, it provides just as much information and control as the Anker 767 app.  

The Solar Panel

I tested both the Boulder 100W and the Boulder 200W from Goal Zero. These are basically the same panels (although with different ports (HPP versus DC), affecting what other power stations you might be able to pair them with), just at a different size, so whether you choose one over the other will depend on your energy needs, and your personal strength.

The Boulder 100 and 200 sit in the grass.
The Boulder series of solar panels from Goal Zero were both heavy and cumbersome to use, but also straightforward to set up. Laura Lancaster

These panels are significantly bulkier and more cumbersome than anything else I tested. While the likes of Jackery’s SolarSaga series and the Anker solar panels are a bit like someone took a backpacking solar panel and just blew it up to 20x the size. The Boulder series from Goal Zero looks like a solar panel off your house that’s shrunken down to something you could throw into the back of your car. 

Both the 100W and the 200W solar panels come with carrying cases, which due to the placement of the zippers are kind of a nuisance to use. But use them you should because the way these panels fold up leaves the solar cells on the outside of the package, rather than on the inside (like the rest of the solar panels in my test). While the 100W panel was heavy, but otherwise easy enough to move thanks to the inclusion of a comfortable handle on the long side of the folded-up panels, the 200W had a tendency to drag across the ground (at least this was my experience, as a 5 foot 5 inch individual), forcing me to lean to one side as I walked. Did I mention that these panels were heavy? At 42 pounds, the Boulder 200W is extremely heavy. 

While the Boulder solar panels were reasonably easy to set up, the way the legs are designed give you fewer options for maximizing the angle of the sun in the winter months, when it’s lower to the horizon. This showed during testing, when the panels only pulled in 73W for the 100W panel, and 143W for the 200W panel. 

Best for RVs: Anker Solar Generator 767

Laura Lancaster


Key Features

  • power station  capacity: 2048 watt hours
  • Solar panels: two 200-watt solar panels 
  • Energy created by one panel in direct sunlight: 158 watts
  • Max AC output: 120 volts and 2400 watts


  • RV plug
  • Fully featured app
  • Second most powerful solar panel I tested


  • The Anker 767 power station  is quite heavy
  • The solar panel lacks a sundial

Product Description

The Power Station  

During testing, this unit was more than capable of taking on every device I could throw at it without blinking. If you’re looking for a unit to power your phone during a power outage, this is definitely overkill. The AC outlets alone are capable of managing 2400 watts—your average fridge is only using 250W or so at a time, so this is really more than enough for most purposes.

After testing, I can confirm that the wheels on the Anker 767 PowerHouse are more than capable of handling muddy conditions—it’s lugging this unit up and down stairs that’s not as much fun.
After testing, I can confirm that the wheels on the Anker 767 PowerHouse are more than capable of handling muddy conditions—it’s lugging this unit up and down stairs that’s not as much fun. Laura Lancaster

In fact, it has so much power that I didn’t come anywhere near maxing it out during testing. (Strangely, this unit only has three AC outlets compared to the six on the Anker 555 unit, which has half the capacity.) So no surprise here that it was also the only unit in my test that had a plug for an RV; fitting, since the total capacity of the Anker 767 is about equal to a day’s worth of power usage by an RV. 

Trying to make a dent in the Anker 767’s output capacity with a dehumidifier, air purifier, two laptops, a battery pack, a pair of headphones, and turning the light on the station up and down using the Anker app.
Trying to make a dent in the Anker 767’s output capacity with a dehumidifier, air purifier, two laptops, a battery pack, a pair of headphones, and turning the light on the station up and down using the Anker app. Laura Lancaster

My favorite detail about this power station was the app. While testing the best solar generators, I went outside pretty often to check if everything was working properly. That gets pretty annoying after a while. But with the Anker 767, I could just open the app up and check to see how much power was being generated (or not). In addition to showing me the current power capacity of the unit, it also gives you the ability to turn off and on the AC, USB, and DC ports, as well as turn on the light on the side. It also shows you the internal temperature of the unit. Pretty handy!

The Solar Panel

The Anker 531 Solar Panel was the simplest to use of the larger solar panels I looked at. I liked that it didn’t have a separate carrying case to mess with, and a simple carabiner and mesh bag combo did the trick to stash the relevant cable and ensure it didn’t become separated from the larger unit. Like all of these kickstand solar panel setups, it was a little cumbersome to use, but extra reinforcement on the three kickstand legs were useful to an extent when adjusting the panel to a lower angle.

The Anker 531 Solar Panel was easy to use and plenty powerful; I just wish it had the same sundial feature as the 625 model.
The Anker 531 Solar Panel was easy to use and plenty powerful; I just wish it had the same sundial feature as the 625 model. Laura Lancaster

While this solar panel isn’t quite as powerful as the Jackery SolarSaga 200W, it easily produced over 75 percent of its 200W capability—and the Anker 767 can support up to five of these chained together. Strangely, this panel did not have the same sundial component that the 100W Anker 625 did. However, after I set up the Anker 625 panel, I adjusted the Anker 531 panel to match its angle and immediately saw a 23W difference in the power input. Hopefully, Anker will simply add this accessory onto the 531 model in the future, but in the meantime, you can purchase a clip-on sundial separately. 

Read our full review of the Anker Solar Generator 767 for more information.

How to Choose the Best Solar Generator for You

Your Budget

Solar generators can be a pricey investment. Before you start looking at the various power stations and solar panels and package deals available, it’s important to know how much you are willing to spend. Underspending on a power station can result in inadequate power needs in the case of a power outage or while adventuring off grid. 

Your Power Needs

This is the big one. For the power station, there are two main numbers you’ll want to focus on: voltage and watt hours. First figure out what the most power-hungry appliance you’ll be powering is (likely a refrigerator) and check its voltage requirements. Then look for power stations that can meet those voltage requirements (typically out of the AC outlets). Next consider how many watt hours of power you’ll want. Estimating this is as much art as science, given that the power needs of larger appliances vary considerably—during testing I saw the AC output regularly jump between 250 watts to over 1,000 watts. It’s also tough to know exactly how much you’ll be using each appliance in a power outage event—will you need to power a space heater during winter, or an air conditioner in the summer months? A good rule of thumb is that if you are only looking for a solar generator to keep your laptops and phones charged, a 1,000Wh solar generator will give you more than enough juice. If you’re looking to power a full-size refrigerator, then you should buy the largest unit you can comfortably afford. If you are looking to power your entire home via a solar generator, then it’s worth spending the time to calculate your full array of power needs to figure out what you’ll need to make that happen. 

Solar panels are a bit simpler. The first step is to figure out how many hours a day you want to spend charging your power station. If you’re overlanding in the desert, you might be willing to spend all day with your power station plugged into its corresponding solar panel; as such, you can get by with lower wattage output. On the other hand, if you expect to be recharging your power station for brief periods of time, perhaps during a wintertime power outage, you’ll want the highest output panel you can get, or even an array of panels, so that you can recharge your power station as fast as possible. Keep in mind that a solar panel’s output will be affected by both the season and the weather, and plan accordingly. 


Power stations are often heavy, and solar panels can be unwieldy. Purchasing a larger unit than is necessary for your needs can reduce the utility of your overall setup—after all, if you hesitate to pull out your solar generator because of what a pain it is to set up, then it’s not doing you much good after all. 


Q: Are solar-powered generators worth the money?

Solar-powered generators are expensive, especially if you are looking to power high-energy appliances, but for many people the peace of mind they bring makes them more than worth the money. Also, compared to gas-powered generators, solar-powered generators are quieter, lighter, and are free to recharge (no fuel costs), and so for many people are less expensive over the long run. The key is making sure you select a unit that can hold and generate enough power to run whatever you plan to plug in for an extended amount of time.

Q: How do I choose a portable solar generator?

While estimating your energy needs during a surprise blackout can be tough, if you are shopping for a solar generator for a car camping, RV, or overlanding setup, then you’ll be able to hone in more closely on your exact requirements. That’s because the manufacturers for these products assume that most individuals will be using them off the grid, and can provide reasonable estimates of how much juice you’ll need to power them for a set amount of time. 

Q: Can a solar generator run a refrigerator?

Yes, some solar generators can run refrigerators. There are two numbers that you need to line up when choosing the right solar generator for your needs: volts and watt hours. First, look to see what the voltage requirements are of your refrigerator—you can typically find this on a sticker on the inside of your fridge.

Q: Can a solar generator run an air conditioner?

Yes, a solar generator paired with a power station can run an air conditioner. One thing you have to keep in mind is that the air conditioner’s power needs must match the power output of your power station.

At 115 volts, I can use three out of the five of the power stations in my test to power my fridge.
At 115 volts, I can use three out of the five of the power stations in my test to power my fridge. Laura Lancaster

Then choose a power station that can meet the voltage needs of your refrigerator. The watt hours (Wh) essentially represent the size of the battery in your power station —the larger the battery, the longer it will power your fridge for, and the more it will cost. Typically, a 2,000Wh power station  has enough juice to run your fridge for a day, but that depends on the power needs of your refrigerator, including the ambient air temperature and any add-ons running in the background. If you expect to have a solar generator powering a refrigerator for an extended period of time, choose larger, more powerful solar panels to pair with it, so that your refrigerator spends less time unplugged while the power station is recharging. 

Final Thoughts on the Best Solar Generators

After testing the best solar generators over several months—both individually and in tandem—it’s clear that the Jackery Solar Generator 1000 Pro (or 2000 Pro, depending on your power station  needs) is one of the best setups available. While the Jackery combo can often be on sale, if you’re looking to spend less money overall, the Anker 555 Solar Generator Pro is a great option for families looking to make sure everyone’s devices are powered for the long haul. If you have a strong idea of exactly what your energy needs are, check out the sheer number of options offered by Goal Zero—panels that vary from 100W to 300W and power stations that go up to 6,000Wh. Individuals and families on the go will appreciate the portability of the BioLite duo, while RVs and overlanders will benefit from the juice and powerful panels of the Anker 767 power station  and 531 Solar Panel.

The post The Best Solar Generators of 2023, Tested and Reviewed appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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The Best Air Rifles of 2022 https://www.outdoorlife.com/gear/best-air-rifles/ Thu, 12 Aug 2021 17:15:30 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=157116
Airforce texan best air rifle
Jim Chapman

Our air rifle expert chooses the best guns for hunting small game, predators, and big game

The post The Best Air Rifles of 2022 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

Airforce texan best air rifle
Jim Chapman

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Most Versatile Air Rifle The FX Impact is our pick for best air rifle FX Impact SEE IT

With the interchangeable barrel system, the FX Impact is probably the most versatile gun on the market. It’s excellent for small game and predators.

Best Big Bore Air Rifle The Hartsan PileDriver air rifle Hatsan PileDriver SEE IT

The Hatsan PileDriver in .50 caliber is accurate, powerful, and ergonomic, and puts more game on the ground than any other rifle I hunted with last season.

Best Budget Air Rifle The AirVenturi Avenger air rifle Air Venturi Avenger SEE IT

This air rifle is a great value and punches way above its price point. It offers excellent performance and is rich with features. Perfect for small game hunting and pest control.

In recent years, there’s been significant development focused on air rifles for recreational shooting, competition, and—my particular area of interest—hunting. While airguns are most commonly thought of for small-game hunting, they have expanded into predator and big-game hunting. The guns for hunting these varied species include spring piston rifles, Pre-Charged Pneumatic (PCP) powered air rifles in standard calibers, and larger-caliber PCP rifles for predators and big game. I’ve used air rifles to hunt small game, predators, and big game species all across the continent and I’ve shot every major air rifle brand. Using that experience, I’ve selected the best air rifles for small game PCP, cross-over guns that can be used for small game and predators, primary predator guns, crossover guns for predators and big game, and primary big game guns. Within each of these categories, there are several purpose-designed guns for just about any application or budget. 

Here are my picks for the best air rifles:

How to Choose a PCP Air Rifle

The first consideration for choosing a hunting air rifle is deciding what you’d like to hunt. With today’s accurate and powerful air rifles you can hunt squirrels, predators, wild pigs, and deer. Once you’ve decided on the game you’d like to pursue you can narrow down your choices to the proper caliber, power, and features.

Choosing an Air Rifle for Small Game

The rifles I gravitate toward for small game and varmint hunting are primarily .22 and .25 caliber rifles that generate power in the 20 to 40 ft-lb range. This energy output, in conjunction with sub-1-inch accuracy at 50 yards, makes for an ideal flat-shooting, small-game rig. Features that separate the top picks from the rest of the pack are an ergonomic design, fast cycling action, reliable high capacity magazines, large volume air storage with a correspondingly large shot count, shot-to-shot consistency, and a low sound signature.

Choosing an Air Rifle for Predators

For most hunters, it makes sense to choose an air rifle that can take either small-game or predators. The rifles I use for combined small-game and predator hunting are .30 to .35 caliber, and are designed to shoot Diabolo pellets at 50 to 100 ft-lb. These rifles are fine for shooting a coyote or bobcat at closer range (within 50 yards), but not over-the-top to use on smaller-bodied game, such as rabbits or squirrels.

In my opinion, a primary predator gun should be optimized for solid lead slugs, generate 100 to 150 ft-lb, provide at least 10 consistent shots per fill, and print groups under 1 inch at 100 yards. I don’t mind a single shot rifle, but I want a fast-cycling action, easy access to the loading port, and a light, crisp trigger to enhance accuracy.

Choosing an Air Rifle for Big Game

Big bore air rifles — in the .357 to .72 caliber range — represent a growing segment of the airgun market. In addition to the many regions in North America that permit these rifles to be used to hunt hogs and exotics, there are increasing opportunities to hunt deer, elk, pronghorn, bear, and javelina. I hunt in Texas, where there is a minimum power requirement of 215 ft-lb for a gun used to take big game. And for the traveling hunter, African plains game provides one of the ultimate hunts for the big bore airgun. Big bore airguns used for this typically generate from 200 to 800 ft-lb, though some newer guns are driving the power well beyond this.

Best Overall: BRK Ghost



Key Features

  • Interchangeable barrels (Multicaliber)
  • Adjustable power with flexible settings
  • Fully Shrouded barrel
  • Option for 480cc or compact 300cc air bottle
  • Fully adjustable, match-style trigger
  • Up to 95 fpe (in .30 cal)


  • Modular design with multiple configuration options
  • Multiple calibers available (.177, .22, .25, and a .30 on the way)
  • Tack-driver accuracy
  • Excellent power profile, regulated and fully adjustable
  • Very quiet


  • Moderately Expensive

The BRK Ghost is offered in three model configurations and is available in .177, .22, and .25 caliber, with a .30 caliber on the way. This gun is very accurate in all calibers, with the adjustability to allow the shooter to optimize performance for a specific application or projectile. The power output is adjustable in more than 20 discreet steps, and the higher-power models have an additional finger-adjustable dial to fine-tune the regulator pressure. 

The BRK’s sidelever action is a field-proven design, and it is ambidextrous. My only consideration on this air rifle is the price. However, while it is on the expensive side, if you look at competitors in this category, it is quite reasonable. Brocock (rebranding as BRK) has long been a manufacturer I consider to be amongst the best and has obviously benefited from the exchange of technology with its industry-defining sister company, Daystate. This is a compact hunting gun that is ergonomic, built to be rugged and reliable, and designed for hunting. But I think this platform will be equally at home in a competitive environment as well.

Best Compact: Hatsan Jet



Key Features

  • Side-lever, repeating, pre-charged pneumatic (PCP) carbine air rifle/pistol
  • Available in .177, .22, and .25 calibers
  • Available in single or dual air cylinder configurations.
  • Extra single and dual air cylinders available in 4 colors – black, red, blue, and green
  • Overall length: 15 inches as a pistol, 24 inches as a carbine


  • Can be configured as a pistol or mini carbine
  • Power up to 16.5 fpe
  • Up to 45 shots per fill depending on caliber


  • Operating pressure of 250 BAR / 3625 psi
  • Barrel length of 7.9 inches limits longer range shooting
  • Medium sound level

There are other compact carbines and pistol conversions on the market, but the Jet and Jet II are feature rich, solidly constructed, perform well for their intended mission (plinking and close-range small game hunting), and have a very ergonomic and usable design. And, it comes to market at a competitive price point. I think this will be a great gun to slip into my pack, maybe with an extra air tank, for a weekend of backpacking and squirrel hunting. With no sound suppression the gun does have a little bit of a bark, but I’d still describe it as indoor friendly. All around a practical and fun little gun to plink or do some pest control around the barn.

Best Youth: Umarex NOTOS CRK



Key Features

  • 7 Shot rotary magazine (magazine and shot tray included)
  • The SilencAir sound suppression system provides quiet shooting.
  • Collapsible, lightweight stock
  • Sidelever cocking
  • Two-stage, adjustable trigger


  • Lightweight (4lb) and compact
  • Regulated (set) for shot-to-shot consistency.
  • Solid performance for plinking, target, small game hunting
  • Quiet for backyard and indoor shooting.
  • Very Attractive pricing


  • High fill pressure required (250 BAR)
  • Limited power (13 fpe)

At the SHOT Show this is one of the guns that really caught my attention. The NOTOS Compact Rifle Kit (CRK) is a compact little gun that can be adjusted to fit young shooters and adults alike. This gun has a budget price, but is loaded with features; sidelever cocking, an integrated regulator, an effective sound suppression system, and I think a very nice design aesthetic. The only cons, which are really better described as considerations, are that; the guns operating pressure of 3625 psi is better filled from an air-tank or small compressor than a hand pump. And secondly, the regulator is set for 13 fpe, which is fine for mid-range small game hunting and ideal for backyard plinking, but it is limited.

Best Semi-Auto: Western Rattler .357

Jim Chapman


Key Features

  • Semi-Auto action
  • Proprietary hammerless firing system
  • Removable 580cc air tank
  • Adjustable regulator
  • Hammer Forged Nitrate Coated TJ barrel.
  • Shrouded barrel


  • Sub-MOA accuracy at 100 yards
  • Great shot-to-shot consistency
  • Can be optimized for various slug weights
  • High shot count (in context of a big bore)
  • Quiet
  • Air Bottles can be changed in the field.


  • Expensive
  • Nonadjustable trigger
  • Fixed magazine (can’t be removed)

At the time of writing this, my experience with the Western Rattler has been restricted to the shooting range. However, I have shot a selection of slugs from 100 grains to 170 grains, and have found the accuracy to be outstanding, not only for a semi-auto but compared to any .357 air rifle I’ve shot. And importantly, the operation has been consistent and reliable, which is something I look at closely in semi-auto airgun designs as this is a difficult criteria to meet. The ergonomics and responsiveness of the rifle make it a pleasure to shoot and allows the inherent accuracy to come through. The Rattler is expensive, but if you want a big bore semi-auto this is to be expected. The non-adjustable trigger was a nonissue for me, in that it is set fairly light, breaks cleanly and predictably, and is set up to optimize the reliability of semi-automatic firing. I was worried about a fixed magazine if there was a jam that needed to be cleared. However, besides not experiencing any jams to date, I have also found the break down of the rifle to be quite easy. I’m packing up for a trip down to Texas to hunt predators, javelina, and hogs, and I will be doing a detailed report on the Rattle soon. 

Best for Small Game Hunting: Brocock Commander

Key Features

  • Max Energy: 55 ft-lbs
  • Weight: 7.1 lbs
  • Shot Capacity: 10
  • 480 cc cylinder


  • Powerful
  • Accurate
  • Adjustable


  • Price

Product Description

The Brocock Commander has a tactical design that is ergonomic and fits most shooters well. The side lever action is smooth as silk and cycles the 10-shot magazine reliably and quickly. The Commander employs a regulated air delivery system that works with an adjustable hammer and valve to provide a very consistent shot string. Onboard air storage uses either a carbon fiber bottle or aluminum cylinder, and a dual-gauge assembly monitors regulator pressure settings and air supply fill status. 

There is a power adjustment dial located on the right-hand side of the breech that permits external tuning of the rifle. The accuracy is very good, and I feel very comfortable shooting this rifle off sticks at 75-100 yards. When paired with the right pellet, it hits hard with an impressive terminal performance on small- to medium-sized game. The Commander XR is designed to use an AR-15-compatible buttstock and an AK-47 fitted grip. Versions are available with folding or fixed buttstocks in black or tan with a Cerakote or black-action finish. The Commander’s sound signature is reduced by the shrouded barrel, and you can achieve further noise reduction by mounting a third-party suppressor on the 1/2 UNF threaded muzzle. In my opinion, this is the perfect rifle to carry into the woods when heading out on a fall squirrel hunt.

Most Accurate: FX Impact

Key Features

  • Max Velocity: 1020 fps
  • Weight: 6.85 lbs
  • Shot Capacity: 28
  • Two-stage adjustable trigger
  • Operating Pressure: 3625 PSI / 250 BAR


  • Tuneable
  • Versatile
  • Well-balanced


  • Price

Product Description

The FX Impact is one of the best air rifles
The FX Impact is a versatile air rifle for competition and hunting. Scott Einsmann

My top pick for a crossover rifle that performs well for both small-game and predator hunting is the FX Impact air rifle. This bullpup design has a lot going for it, and the frame is rugged and lightweight, with an adjustable buttstock that accepts standard AR-15 pistol grips: a very comfortable fit. The air storage is a 480cc removable carbon fiber tank that can be charged to 3600 psi, and the design allows extra bottles to be packed and changed in the field. 

The Best Air Rifles of 2022
A 50 meter group with a .22 caliber FX Impact and JSB Monster pellets.

The sidelever action is one of the quickest, most tactile, and smoothest cycling that I have used, and reliably indexes the magazines every time. What really seals the deal for me though, is that the modular design lets the shooter swap out barrels, magazines, and probes to optimize the gun for different types of hunting. The hunter can use the .22 barrel for a rabbit hunt, then swap to a .25 barrel that has a liner optimized for slugs to do a long-range prairie dog shoot, then swap again for the .30 caliber barrel to hunt predators.

If you are interested in one of the best air rifles for shooting slugs, check out the FX Maverick.

Best Budget: Air Venturi Avenger

Key Features

  • Regulated 
  • Adjustable Trigger
  • Max Fill Pressure: 4,350 psi
  • Shrouded barrel
  • 900 fps in .25 caliber 
  • About 20 shots per fill (depending on tune)
  • Weight: 6.4 pounds


  • Accurate
  • Consistent velocity
  • Handles well in the field 
  • Quiet


  • Requires a pump, tank, or compressor to fill 

Product Description

Air Venturi Avenger is a budget-friendly rifle available in several calibers and wears an ambidextrous synthetic black stock, with an option for a hardwood stock recently released. There are combined 11mm and Weaver-style rails for mounting a scope, and another rail at the fore stock for mounting accessories. It’s a fairly large rifle, but with the synthetic stock only weighs about 6 pounds. The Avenger is cycled with a side-lever cocking action that auto indexes a ten-shot, in .25 caliber, rotary magazine. The trigger is an adjustable two-stage that has a tactile feel, minimal travel, and breaks crisply. The air reservoir fills to 300 BAR, using a quick release fitting and is regulated via an external adjustment, up to 210 BAR, so actual shot count is dependent on how you have this set. All this functionality in a sub-$300 rifle is impressive, and the Avenger is a great platform for new shooters as well as experienced shooters that intend to use it as a platform for building up a custom rifle.

best air rifles
The Air Venturi Avenger is a budget tack driver. Scott Einsmann

In my full Avenger review this rifle had 19 fps variation over a 30 shot string. That consistency is reflected in the rifle’s accuracy—my Avenger shoots ¼ inch groups at 25 yards. It’s also a fairly quiet airgun, which is nice for introducing new shooters, backyard pest control, and basement ranges. 

Best Budget Big Bore: Umarex Hammer

Key Features

  • 4500 psi carbon-fiber tank
  • .50 caliber
  • Three full-power shots
  • Max Energy: 705 ft-lbs
  • Max Velocity: 1130 fps
  • Weight: 8.5 pounds
  • Made in the USA


  • Powerful
  • Consistent


  • Two shot capacity

Product Description

The last of the most powerful air rifles — the Umarex Hammer .50 — came to market a couple years back, and I had the opportunity to use the first ones while filming a segment of the American Airgunner TV program. This rifle offers some interesting technology: it is the only one of these rifles that is magazine fed, utilizing a linear shuttle mechanism with a two-shot capacity. This shuttle is cycled with a bolt action that operates with little effort. The Hammers onboard air storage is a 394 cc carbon fiber bottle that fills to 4500 psi but is regulated to 3000 psi to ensure shot-to-shot consistency. The stock is a synthetic material, designed and built for Umarex by PolyOne, and uses an AR Magpul style grip. This rifle is a solid piece of gear at just under 44 inches long, a 29.5-inch barrel, and weighing 8.5 pounds. I’ve only had this rifle out once on a fallow deer hunt, and anchored a nice buck putting a 330-grain slug into him that transited end to end on a quartering shot.

Best for Backyard Plinking: SIG MCX Air Rifle

Key Features

  • Caliber .177
  • Weight: 7.86 pounds
  • Max velocity: 545 fps
  • Uses CO2 88/90 gram cartridge
  • Unique 30 round rapid fire magazine


  • Very close replica of Sig MCX rifle, great training tool
  • Inexpensive ammo


  • Low power
  • Heavy trigger

Product Description

Plinking is an application where CO2 guns rule because it is an inexpensive system to operate, the guns are fairly quiet, the power is low, accuracy can be quite good, and the technology lends itself to being incorporated into traditional firearm replicas. 

The CO2 pellet gun that I’ve had the most fun with is the Sig Sauer MCX pellet rifle. The cosmetics of this CO2 replica are based on the Sig MCX short-stroke rifle. It uses a 30 pellet Roto Belt magazine to support semi-auto shooting as fast as you can pull the trigger. Set up some metal spinners in the backyard and don’t look back, this gun is a blast.

More of the Best Air Rifles

There are several other rifles that were barely nudged out of the running of best air rifle or had features that didn’t exactly align with my judging criteria. In no specific order, I will list a few additional rifles that I feel are of note.

The Best Predator Hunting Air Rifle: AirForce Texan .308 Caliber

The AirForce Texan lineup spans several calibers — from .257 to .50 — and all the guns are powerhouses. One of my favorites is the .308 caliber Texan, which has become my go-to predator hunting rifle. This configuration of the Texan can launch a .308 caliber bullet at over 1000 fps, which is very impressive for this caliber in an air rifle. Like all of the Texans, this single shot rifle is easy to cycle and load using the side lever cocking and accessible loading port. The auto-deployed safety can be reached without moving the hand off the pistol grip, and the rifle features a nice, crisp, two-stage trigger. There is both a rifle and a carbine version, and though I generally prefer a carbine, in this caliber, I like both equally. The 490cc onboard air tank is used as the buttstock and provides around 10 shots per fill depending on power adjustment. The Texan is light, the carbine version is compact, and it works well for a gun that might be carried with a lot of additional lights and calling gear. I’ve also been using the .257 caliber rifle version as a long range varmint and predator gun, and believe this is another interesting option for a hunter looking for a primary predator gun.

The Best Air Rifle for Predators and Big Game: AirForce Texan .357 Caliber

The AirForce Texan makes my list of best air rifles again, this time with the .357 version. All of the dimensions, controls, and features are the same as described for the .308 version. Again, what makes this rifle a top pick for me is the power achieved in a mid-caliber gun. I have a few .357s in my collection that generate between 125 – 175 ft-lb, but with the gun optimized for the 145 grain bullets I’m using, the Texan is generating about 300 ft-lb. In my experience the Texan .357 stands apart from other .357s and provides the flat shooting accuracy I want for predators out past 100 yards but can also reach out and deliver enough energy to drop a buck on the spot.

The Best Big Bore Rifle: Hatsan PileDriver

The Hatsan PileDriver is a single shot bullpup configured big bore PCP, built on an ergonomic synthetic polymer thumbhole stock with an integrated pistol grip. The stock features an adjustable buttpad with an adjustable locking cheek piece that provides comfort and a consistent sight alignment. The PileDriver delivers over 700 ft-lb in .45 caliber and over 800 ft-lb in .50 caliber, making it one of the more powerful air rifles on the market. This Hatsan air rifle generates enough power in either caliber, to anchor any big game animal in North America. The accessible loading port accepts ammo up to 34mm long and is easy to cycle using a side lever cocking mechanism. This rifle incorporates a 480cc carbon fiber tank that fills to 300 BAR, yielding 4 to 6 shots in the .45 caliber and three to five shots in the .50 caliber. Power is all well and good, but what I like about this big bore is the inherent accuracy, and even though it is fairly heavy at 10 pounds, it is comfortable to shoot offhand. I used this rifle to take deer, hogs, and javelina last season and it did an outstanding job every time.

The Brocker Ranger XR is our pick for best air rifle.
Brocock Ranger XR

Best Compact Air Rifle: Ranger XR

My top pick based on a compact design is the Brocock Ranger XR, a compact little air rifle hunting rig that weighs 5.5 pounds, has an overall length of 28 inches, and is equipped with an AR-compatible buffer tube and folding stock mount that allows the gun to fold down to 14.5 inches. The muzzle is threaded and accepts a compact DonnyFL suppressor that matches the gun’s dimensions. The Ranger has a small diameter air reservoir that fills to 200 BAR and generates about 25 to 30 shots per fill.  Multiple power and tuning adjustments permit the shooter to set the rifle up to meet their specific requirements. The integrated regulator can be adjusted to further optimize performance for a specific projectile or a specific application. The .22 caliber version I’ve been using is generating about 20 ft-lb. I think this is a perfect gun for the backpacker, urban hunter, or any other application demanding portability and stealth.

Most Powerful Production Air Rifle: AEA Zeus

The AEA Zeus is a recently-introduced rifle that has pushed airgun power well above the 1000 ft-lb mark. The Zeus is a .72 caliber pcp air rifle that can generate over 1500 ft-lb, which is close to double the power output of the next most powerful production guns on the market. The Zeus is a big rifle, but there are other configurations being offered — with a 24 inch and a 16 inch barrel. As a matter of fact, I am currently shooting the 16 inch carbine, and this compact rifle is a monster. The 650cc air bottle fills to a maximum pressure of 4500 psi and generates three full powered shots per charge. The rifle is not regulated, but the shot-to-shot consistency across the shot string is good. This is a rifle for airgun hunters going after really big game, and should be ideal for my upcoming hog hunts.


Q: What distance should I zero my .22 air rifle? 

In general, I like to zero my .22 spring piston rifles at 35 yards and my .22 PCP rifles at 50 yards. If planning to shoot long range at prairie dogs, I’ll zero at 100 yards (PCP only). For the best answer, though, i test how far you can shoot while keeping inside the kill zone of your quarry, and make that your maximum range.

Q: Which is better, a .22 or .177 air rifle? 

It depends on what it’s being used for, and whether it’s a spring piston or a PCP rifle. For hunting, I prefer .22, in most cases. PCPs are more efficient with larger calibers, so I’d opt for a .22 when using a PCP, and .177 for lower power springers.

How far can a .22 air rifle shoot? 

It depends on the gun more than the ammo, because the same .22 pellet will have vastly different performance when shot from a 12 ft-lb springer or a 40 ft-lb PCP. As a general rule, I’d say 50 yards for a springer and 100 yards for a PCP.

Final Thoughts

Top picks are definitely difficult to write about. While there are pretty straightforward, objective measures — such as dimensions, power output, and accuracy — there are other, more subjective, ones such as fit, shootability, aesthetics, and perceived value. It can also be hard to obtain certain information, such as failure rates, customer satisfaction, etc. Every individual’s priority list is very subjective, so in this article, I have identified a number of airguns that have impressed me with their design, performance, ergonomics, dependability, build quality, and aesthetic appeal. I do believe that if you are looking for an air rifle in one of the above categories, any of my suggestions for the best air rifle would be a fine choice and should be on your shortlist.

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Crazy Levity Review: Can a Super Ultralight Puffer Actually Keep You Warm? https://www.outdoorlife.com/gear/crazy-levity-review/ Mon, 06 Feb 2023 20:00:00 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=231227
The Crazy Levity is an ultralight puffer.
Laura Lancaster

Find out if the world's lightest puffer jacket can stand up to winter temperatures

The post Crazy Levity Review: Can a Super Ultralight Puffer Actually Keep You Warm? appeared first on Outdoor Life.

The Crazy Levity is an ultralight puffer.
Laura Lancaster

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Claiming the mantle of “lightest weight” is a pretty big deal for outdoor gear. Titanium pots, carbon fiber tent poles, Dyneema backpacks; each category has its material du jour. For puffer jackets, manufacturers are seemingly in a goose down arms race: 700 fill power, 800 fill power, 900 fill power—and then, most recently, 1,000 fill power. So when the Crazy Levity came across my rader, claiming to have 1,000 fill power and a 6.1-ounce weight, while still being warm enough for winter activities, I had to check it out.

Crazy Levity Specs and Features

Laura Lancaster


  • Claimed Weight: 6.1 ounces (men’s); 5.4 ounces (women’s)
  • Fill Power: 950 to 1000 fill power
  • Fill Weight: 2.9 ounces (men’s), 2.4 ounces (women’s)
  • Shell: 7D nylon
  • One zip pocket at left chest (men’s); one zip pocket at inside right waist (women’s)
  • Hooded
  • Downpass certified 

The Crazy Levity jacket is an exceptionally lightweight puffer jacket. It has 950 to 1,000 fill power down—the highest I’ve seen advertised for a puffer jacket. To understand why that’s significant, let’s take a look first at what “fill power” means. Down, whether it’s duck or goose, works by trapping hot air inside the wispy filaments attached to the feather’s shaft. But not all down is created equal. Some have long filaments that can trap more hot air, known as “loft,” than others. To measure down’s loft, 30 grams of down is placed in a cylindrical tube. Higher loft down will fill a greater volume: 600 cubic inches versus 900 cubic inches, say. So 30 grams of 1,000 fill power would fill 1,000 cubic inches. 

Read Next: The Best Puffer Jackets of 2023

With down puffer jackets you’ll inevitably get a feather or two poking out, especially when the jacket is new. The down coming out of the Crazy Levity was enormous.
With down puffer jackets you’ll inevitably get a feather or two poking out, especially when the jacket is new. The down coming out of the Crazy Levity was enormous. Laura Lancaster

It’s fairly common with outdoor manufacturers to advertise the fill power of a particular jacket or sleeping bag. But that’s only half the story. Even if a puffer jacket is boasting a high fill power, if it doesn’t have very much of it, it’s sacrificing warmth. The Crazy Levity has 2.9 ounces of fill (2.4 ounces for the women’s), almost half of the jacket’s claimed total weight. Here’s how it stacks up against other 1,000-fill power hooded puffer jackets. 

1,000fp Puffer Jackets Weight (ounces)Fill Weight (ounces)Percent of Down in the Total Weight
Crazy Levity6.12.947.5
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer UL6.7229.9
Rab Zero G114.540.1
Montbell Plasma 1000 Alpine8.43.440.1
Eddie Bauer Centennial Collection MicroTherm 10009.63.233.3

Next, Levity cut almost all non-essential features: No zip pockets at the waist, no cinch cords at the hem or hood, and the barest trace of elastic at the cuffs and the hem. This allowed Levity to cut even more weight out of this jacket without affecting its ability to keep you warm. This got them down to a claimed 6.1 ounces for a men’s medium and 5.4 ounces for a women’s medium.  

From left to right: the classic horizontal baffling of the Norrona Trollveggen, the minimal baffling of the Outdoor Research Superstrand, and the glued-in baffling of the Crazy Levity. It was also notable how naturally puffed-out the 1000fp of the Crazy Levity was next to the best-in-class synthetics of the Superstrand and the 850fp of the Trollveggen.
From left to right: the classic horizontal baffling of the Norrona Trollveggen, the minimal baffling of the Outdoor Research Superstrand, and the glued-in baffling of the Crazy Levity. It was also notable how naturally puffed-out the 1000fp of the Crazy Levity was next to the best-in-class synthetics of the Superstrand and the 850fp of the Trollveggen. Laura Lancaster

Finally, the Crazy Levity jacket took an usual approach to baffling. The reason baffling is important in puffer jackets is that, without it, the down can start to redistribute and sink downward, resulting in cold spots. The vast majority of puffer jackets sew the baffling in, typically in horizontal lines. But the Crazy Levity eschews thread, opting instead to glue in small horizontal ovals at regular intervals. The idea here is to save a little bit of weight by eliminating the need for thread, and also to prevent down from poking out through the seams of the jacket—a common way that down coats lose feathers, especially when they are new. 

Testing the Crazy Levity in the Field

I wore the Crazy Levity in a number of different scenarios, from sleet to ice to snow to rain, while hiking, skiing, and just sitting around. Typically, I paired it with nothing more than a simple base layer (sometimes just a T-shirt) and, if necessary, a lightweight rain shell. After having been burned by a number of so-called lightweight (really mid-layer) puffer jackets, I wanted to make sure the Crazy Levity actually did what puffer jackets are supposed to do: Keep you warm in cold weather. 

The Crazy Levity was plenty warm enough for skiing on sunny days and cloudy days alike.
The Crazy Levity was plenty warm enough for skiing on sunny days and cloudy days alike. Laura Lancaster

Verdict: Yes. While I’m not going to recommend this puffer jacket for Alaskan winters, in my experience it was warmer than other standard puffer jackets like the REI Magma Hoodie or the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer II—while still weighing the same or less than other ultra lightweight puffer jackets. Perhaps most surprisingly, the down has yet to redistribute; those sparse glued-in ovals actually work. 

I’m used to super lightweight clothing having a tight fit, so I was glad to see that this wasn’t the case here. I’m five foot five, with an unusually long torso, and tried out a woman’s small. The hem easily pulled down to mid hip. The sleeves had an extra inch at the end of them. Even the cowl and hood were generously sized—I could have easily fit a second whole puffer jacket underneath the Crazy Levity. 

The Crazy Levity easily covered my entire torso, arms, and head—a feature I appreciated while exploring my local neighborhood the day after an ice storm.
The Crazy Levity easily covered my entire torso, arms, and head—a feature I appreciated while exploring my local neighborhood the day after an ice storm. Laura Lancaster

So, is the Crazy Levity actually the lightest weight hooded puffer jacket on the market? After using this jacket for several months, I finally got around to weighing it. The women’s medium that I had came in at 6.1 ounces—over half an ounce heavier than claimed. On the off chance that some errant water weight was contributing to this (moisture gets in everything in the PNW eventually), I stuck the jacket inside a small room with a heavy-duty dehumidifier for several hours. When I took it back out again, it still weighed 6.1 ounces. While there is always going to be some variability in the weight at the margins of products like this, .7 ounces (or 20 grams) is more than I would have expected. 

While the Crazy Levity did not quite weigh in at the claimed 5.4 ounces for a woman’s jacket, it was still extremely lightweight.
While the Crazy Levity did not quite weigh in at the claimed 5.4 ounces for a woman’s jacket, it was still extremely lightweight. Laura Lancaster

In my experience, a 7 denier shell may also be a hair too thin for a jacket stuffed to the brim with down. Even if you are extremely careful, and never brush the wrong bush or rock, the end of the down’s shaft can poke through the material. If you see this happening with your puffer jacket, it’s best to resist the urge to pull on it, as the material will start to tear even more as the feather (and inevitably three more after it) pulls through. 

A piece of down poking through the shell of the Crazy Levity; I’ve also seen this happen with the 7D shell fabric of the Norrona Trollveggen.
A piece of down poking through the shell of the Crazy Levity; I’ve also seen this happen with the 7D shell fabric of the Norrona Trollveggen. Laura Lancaster

I did appreciate that Levity anticipated that users might need to patch the shell and provided a simple sheet that can be cut to size and ironed on. But whether or not you think the trade-off of weight for durability in this instance is worth it is likely subjective. 

What the Crazy Levity Does Best

The Crazy Levity answers the question, “How lightweight can a puffer jacket get and still actually keep you warm?” This jacket is ounces lighter than other best-in-class puffer jackets and still turns out to be warmer than the likes of the 8.8-ounce Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer and 7.3-ounce Norrona Trollvegen. And it does that without sacrificing coverage. If you’ve been hesitant to go all-in on one of Montbell’s UL options due to coverage concerns, you won’t have that issue here.

What the Crazy Levity Does Worst

At $650, this is an exceptionally expensive jacket—hundreds of dollars more than its competitors. Its durability issues over the course of a single season of testing were also significant enough that it’s unlikely this will be the last puffer jacket you ever own. While some may decry the lack of pockets or cinch cords, my feeling is that Levity took the process of cutting back on the “features” to the very edge, but didn’t step over the line. 

Final Thoughts

The bottom line here is that if weight is your only consideration (and I know you are out there), then the Crazy Levity is truly a must-have. Until someone figures out how to secure and measure 1,100 fill power down or creates a robust 2 denier shell fabric, the Crazy Levity is likely to rule the roost as the lightest winter-ready insulation layer available. 

The post Crazy Levity Review: Can a Super Ultralight Puffer Actually Keep You Warm? appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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The Best Fishing Lines for Bass of 2023 https://www.outdoorlife.com/gear/best-fishing-lines-for-bass/ Wed, 20 Apr 2022 19:00:00 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=187955
The best baitcasting rods for bass allow you to present lures and set the hook
Pete Robbins

Simplify the best fishing lines for bass options with these seven choices that cover all techniques and fishing styles

The post The Best Fishing Lines for Bass of 2023 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

The best baitcasting rods for bass allow you to present lures and set the hook
Pete Robbins

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More

Best Premium Fluoro Line The Tatsu is a premium, low-visibility line with strong abrasion resistance. Seaguar Tatsu SEE IT

A premium, low-visibility line with strong abrasion resistance.

Best Premium Braided Line For sinking applications, there's no better braid. YGK G-Soul OHDRAGON Sinking Braided Line SEE IT

For sinking applications, there’s no better braid.

Keep Waters Clean More sensitive than competing monofilaments, is easy to spool, and comes with a return envelope to recycle line. Strike King Tour Grade Monofilament SEE IT

More sensitive than competing monofilaments, is easy to spool, and comes with a return envelope to recycle line.

When I started bass fishing over 40 years ago, the best fishing lines for bass were also the only fishing lines for bass. We didn’t have many options back then, and stretchy monofilament had to cover all of your tactics and techniques. That wasn’t a horrible outcome because even the early monos were good, but they limited an angler’s effectiveness. Techniques like punching grass and throwing a frog over matted vegetation benefited substantially once modern braids entered the picture, and fluorocarbon made an increasing range of finesse techniques viable, reliable, and productive. 

Today, we suffer from the opposite “problem,” we now have too many options. Not only do we have monofilament, copolymers, fluorocarbon, and braid, but we also have them in multiple colors, an incredible range of sizes, and formulations dedicated to hyper-specific techniques. The fluorocarbon that you use for flipping might be different from the one you use for fishing reaction baits, even within the same manufacturer’s lineup. You might use a specific braid for all of your non-stretch uses, but prefer it in moss green for heavy cover flipping, and in fluorescent yellow when using it on a spinning rod with a leader.

Yes, it’s possible to go overboard, but you don’t necessarily need to do so. I’ve picked out seven lines that I think will cover the full spectrum of needs for all bass anglers. In fact, you could probably get away with no more than three of them and still compete and perform at the highest level. To make choosing the best fishing line for bass even easier, I also highlighted the techniques I’d recommend each line for.


I may be a rod and reel snob, but the one area where I truly will not compromise is my line. It’s the ultimate connection and the most likely to suffer from abuse. I think I’ve fished every brand on the market at some point and some just don’t do it for me—my particular bugaboo is memory. A line that coils up after even a reasonable amount of usage is distracting and limits effectiveness. I was a late convert to fluorocarbon and still use it sparingly, while I probably use braid (with or without a leader) more than most bassheads. Still, I tried to keep an open mind as I experimented, using both “conventional” and oddball choices across the spectrum.

The Best Fishing Lines for Bass Reviews and Recommendations

Best Premium Fluorocarbon Line: Seaguar Tatsu 



Key Features

  • Breaking strength: 4 to 25 pounds
  • Spool sizes: 200 and 1,000 yard 
  • Material: 100 percent double-structure fluorocarbon
  • Color: Clear
  • Best for: Leader material, finesse presentations


  • Remarkably supple
  • Maintains high knot strength
  • Low visibility


  • Very expensive

Product Description

Seaguar’s other fluorocarbons like InvizX and AbrazX were at the top of the charts for performance, and are still excellent choices, but Tatsu unseated them as the best fluorocarbon fishing line for bass. It’s invisible and abrasion-resistant like other fluoros, but reduces the lack of manageability that plagues some of them. The line sinks quickly and you’ll feel every bite, even 30 or 40 feet down in a crosswind, yet you’ll never suffer from unexpected or unwanted nicks or memory. Each spool is ultra-consistent, and it comes in a full range of sizes for all bass applications. If you can’t afford it for all uses, buy it for leader material because at about 8 cents a foot, using it as a leader is a lot more affordable than a main line. I use it on all of my spinning reel braid-to-fluoro finesse connections, for techniques such as dropshotting and Ned rigging. All the great qualities that make Tatsu one of the best fishing lines for bass also make it a great leader material. 

Best Fluorocarbon Line for Everyday Use: Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon 

Berkley Fishing


Key Features

  • Pound test: 4 to 25 pounds
  • Spool sizes: 100, 200, and 2,000 yards
  • Material: 100 percent fluorocarbon
  • Colors: Clear and green
  • Best for: Flipping, cranking, moving baits that require frequent line replacement


  • Nearly invisible
  • Good strength
  • Long track record of reliability


  • Not quite as supple as ultra-premium fluorocarbons

Product Description

The Trilene brand name has stood the test of time in serious bass fishing circles, and Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon is a reasonably-priced option that will benefit everyone from the first-timer to the serious bass pro. It handles well, is remarkably strong, and has similar refractive characteristics to water so it’s virtually invisible. This is what I use for my chatterbaits and cranking because I don’t have to worry about excessive memory, but I also know that I won’t have to take out a second mortgage if I decide to respool. 

Best Copolymer Line: Gamma High Performance Copolymer

Gamma Fishing


Key Features

  • Pound test: 2 to 40 pounds
  • Spool sizes: 275 and 3,300 yards
  • Colors: Clear and green
  • Best for: Topwaters, spinnerbaits, Chatterbaits, soft plastics


  • Exceptionally supple
  • Especially great for topwaters and moving baits
  • Wide range of sizes available


  • More expensive than average monofilaments
Copolymer is a great compromise between mono and fluoro.
Copolymer is a great compromise between mono and fluoro. Scott Einsmann

Product Description

If you can’t decide between fluorocarbon or monofilament fishing line for bass, copolymer, like Gamma High Performance, might be the way to go. It takes the best of mono and fluoro—facility of use, strength, and lack of memory—and eliminates most negatives. I still find myself spooling it up in situations where many other anglers use fluoro, and I don’t feel that I’m giving up anything except occasional aggravation. It’s becoming increasingly popular for tossing big swimbaits for good reason. The lower memory reduces the dreaded spring you get with mono on the first cast of the season and it has good abrasion resistance for ripping baits through wood. It also comes in an expansive range of sizes. If you want to give it a try, buy a pony spool, but don’t be surprised if you invest in bulk sizes going forward. 

Best Everyday Braided Line: Original Power Pro Spectra



Key Features

  • Pound test: 3 to 250 pounds
  • Colors: Moss green, hi-viz yellow, vermillion red, and white
  • Spool sizes: 100 to 3,000 yards
  • Material: Spectra
  • Best for: Flipping, frogging, heavy vegetation


  • Round shape for easy handling
  • Exceptional range of sizes
  • Great color choices for all-around use


  • Sometimes a little noisy going through guides
When pulling large bass from heavy cover, the best line to use is 50+ pound braid.
When pulling large bass from heavy cover, the best line to use is 50+ pound braid. Scott Einsmann

Product Description

Power Pro was one of the first brands of braids to gain widespread acceptance and while they’ve introduced newer formulations since that time—many of them exceptional—the original Spectra formulation is still reasonably-priced and an exceptional value. I spool up many reels each year with 50- and 65-pound test Power Pro for frogging and grass flipping each year, and use it on hard-fighting beasts like Amazonian peacock bass, with the full expectation that it’ll never let me down because it never has. Other lines may be thinner or sink better, but you cannot go wrong with the original Power Pro for the price and performance. 

Best Premium Monofilament Line: Sufix Advance 



Key Features

  • Pound test: 4 to 25 pounds
  • Spool size: 330 and 1200 yards
  • Colors: Clear, lo-viz green, and neon lime 
  • Best for: All-around use and longevity, topwaters, spinnerbaits, swimbaits 


  • Lower stretch than most monofilaments
  • Excellent knot strength
  • More sensitive than other monos


  • Limited spool sizes

Product Description

Sufix calls this “the mono that thinks it’s a braid” and that’s a good description because while it’s still supple and easy to manage, it doesn’t have the “rubber band” feel that limits the usefulness of some other monofilaments. I found that claim to be true and it’s remarkably strong, yet supple. As noted above, I wasn’t immediately sold on the value of fluorocarbon. I find some of them hard to handle, particularly in cold weather or in smaller sizes. If you too find yourself in that boat, this will do everything that most fluoros will do, without most of the hassles, or cost. 

Best for Keeping Waters Clean: Strike King Tour Grade Monofilament

Strike King


Key Features

  • Pound test: 6 to 20 pounds 
  • Spool sizes: 200 and 600 yards
  • Color: Clear
  • Best for: Everyday use across a wide range of categories, for both beginners and experts alike


  • Wound on the spool precisely for minimal twist or damage
  • Low visibility clear formulation
  • Conservation-minded recycling program


  • No bulk spools

Product Description

Strike King has long been known for top quality lures, but now they’ve entered the line game in a big way. While they have quality braid and fluorocarbon, they didn’t forget the monofilament addicts. This line is wound on the spool precisely and functions well in all weather and water conditions. I’ve liked it for spinnerbaits, topwaters, swimbaits, and even Senkos. Moreover, the smaller spools have a built-in “Sidewinder” spooling tool and tensioner. That added feature makes learning how to spool a spinning reel or baitcasting reel easier. Even better, the company includes a prepaid envelope that enables anglers to recycle used line, ensuring that it won’t end up polluting the environment.

Best Bargain Fluorocarbon Leader Material: Seaguar Fluoro Premier Fluorocarbon



Key Features

  • 25-yard spools
  • 12 to 40-pound test
  • Super low visibility
  • Best ForPitching and flipping.


  • Reasonable price
  • Great knot strength
  • Small diameter


  • Not available in finesse strengths

Product Description

Bass anglers increasingly want to meld the values of braid – long-lasting durability, minimal stretch—with the low visibility of a fluorocarbon leader, especially when flipping and pitching for pressured fish. Seaguar makes a wide variety of fluorocarbons, but this affordable leader material will allow, if not encourage you to change things out regularly. Its double-structure process fuses two different resins, and maintains a small diameter while attaining the best of both worlds – abrasion resistance and low memory.

Best Monofilament for Swimbaits: Berkley Big Game



Key Features

  • Green coloration
  • 8 to 30 lb. test
  • Great shock resistance
  • Best ForBig swimbaits and glide baits where affordability and strength matter equally.


  • Limited stretch
  • Highly abrasion-resistant
  • Low memory


  • No monofilament can be as low-stretch as a quality fluorocarbon

Product Description

If you’ve purchased a $100 or $200 (or even more expensive) swimbait and you’re afraid you’ll snap it off on the first hard cast, Big Game will allow you to get the maximum action out of your premium lures without that same risk. It’s made to handle big fish, and the green coloration makes it camouflaged in the water. Furthermore, it’s bargain-priced, with spools larger than standard filler spools coming in at lower prices than those other options. Even the 25- and 30-pound tests are remarkably manageable, especially in cold temperatures where other lines tend to show their faults.

Read about the best swimbaits in our full review.

Best Braided Line for Spinning Reels: P-Line SPIN-X Braid



Key Features

  • 8-, 12-, 16-, 20- and 24-pound test
  • 150-yard spools
  • Dual high-visibility color patterns
  • Best For: Finesse applications where feel and manageability are at a premium


  • Alternating colors make line-watching simple
  • Remarkably soft eight-carrier construction
  • Comes off the spool easily for long casts


  • Not available in strengths over 24-pound test.

Product Description

Even with the most forgiving of braids, spinning reels can occasionally cause problems, from line twist to wind knots to slow egress from the spool. This reasonably-priced option from P-Line solves those problems, and with its dual-color construction (the bright blue and vibrant orange colors alternate every meter), line watching is a snap. You’ll be able to detect even the most subtle deep water bites with ease. This is an eight carrier line, and it’s super soft, which enables long casts with the proper spinning reel. It can be fished straight out of the package, or with the addition of a matching fluorocarbon leader.

How to Choose the Best Fishing Line for Bass

Just like there’s a time to throw a spinnerbait rod or a crankbait rod, there are situations to use braid, mono, and fluoro. Here’s how to know when to spool up the proper line. 

The invisibility of fluorocarbon makes it the best choice for finesse applications in clear water.
The invisibility of fluorocarbon makes it the best choice for finesse applications in clear water. Pete Robbins


A line’s stretch is generally the biggest variable among different styles of line and even within categories. If you try to set the hook on a 2-pound bass in 30 feet of water on a windy day while using mono, you’re giving up a lot as compared to braid, or even fluorocarbon. That’s because mono stretches the most of all types of fishing line. Nevertheless, there are times when some stretch is beneficial, particularly on moving baits where you don’t want to pull the lure out of the fish’s mouth on a hook set.

Breaking Strength 

How strong does your line really need to be? Flipping a 1-ounce weight in matted grass for even smallish bass, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to break 20- or 30-pound braid. At the same time, in open water, most anglers would be shocked at how strong 8-pound test fluorocarbon can be. Of course, you have to treat it well, keeping it out of sunlight and extended heat, or even the best lines can weaken over time. For heavy cover fishing and applications like punching and frogging, a 65-pound braid is standard. But, let’s say you’re fishing a medium or medium light action spinning rod in open, clear water. In that situation a light fluorocarbon in the 6- to 12-pound range is ideal. 


Bass that are programmed to feed indiscriminately or living in the dark may not care about the sight of bulky braid, but pressured finesse-oriented fish definitely demand a stealth approach. Fluorocarbon is less visible than mono, which is less visible than braid. In some cases, though, visibility is valuable. For example, on a spinning rod in deep water, with a fluorocarbon leader, high-visibility braid will often let you see strikes before you feel them.

Spool Size

Make sure that the spool has enough line on it for your intended purposes, whether that’s to fill one reel or to get through a season. Bulk spools can be a painful investment in the beginning, but they’ll encourage you to change line regularly and will ultimately reduce waste.


Fortunately, there are many  good fishing lines for bass at a variety of price points. While paying a premium sometimes gets you better performance, there are also low-cost values. I’m personally willing to pay more for premium braid, which I change out only once or twice a season, versus fluorocarbon, which requires more frequent respoolings to minimize performance loss.


Q: What is the best pound test line for bass fishing?

Most serious bass anglers use thousands of yards of 8- to 25-pound test line in the course of a year, as well as braid in the 50- to 65-pound class. The most-used sizes include 8 for finesse presentations, 12-17 for moving baits, and anything heavier for thick cover and oversized lures.

Q: What color line is best for bass fishing?

For spooky or pressured fish, the best fishing line for bass are clear, at least where the lure joins the line. When using opaque braids, think natural colors such as moss green if the lure is tied directly to the braid, or high visibility shades of yellow, green, or even pink if using a fluorocarbon leader.

Q: What fishing line do pro bass anglers use?

Pro bass anglers depend heavily on fluorocarbon lines, changing it out frequently to maintain suppleness and minimize memory. They also frequently use braided lines for heavy cover, or on a braid-to-fluorocarbon rig for finesse. Some still use monofilament and copolymers, but the percentage is rapidly decreasing.

Final Thoughts

As noted above, there are more best fishing lines for bass than ever, and sometimes picking the size and style that work best is a personal matter. For example, someone who flips for big fish in clear water might need a lighter or less visible line than someone who pursues the same technique in dirtier water or heavier cover. Similarly, if I use a medium action, moderate rod for spinnerbaiting, that might require a line with less stretch than someone who uses the same lure on a heavier, faster rod. Grabbing rods with different lines—from mono, to fluoro to braid, and back again—in the course of a day requires a changing of attitude and hook sets. I find that the more I simplify my system, the more effective I become.

The post The Best Fishing Lines for Bass of 2023 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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Best Bass Lures of 2023 https://www.outdoorlife.com/gear/best-bass-lures/ Wed, 01 Dec 2021 01:01:00 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=159804
An angler catches a bass off a boat
Pete Robbins

These favorites produce anywhere bass swim, and they’ll do so forever

The post Best Bass Lures of 2023 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

An angler catches a bass off a boat
Pete Robbins

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More

Best All-Around Lure A six-inch Zoom U-Tale worm in "June Bug Red" Zoom U-Tale SEE IT

The U Tale takes an age-old worm design and simply makes it more consistent.

Best Lure for Heavy Cover A red and brown Strike King Hack Attack Jig Strike King Hack Attack Jig SEE IT

This is a jig that is made to be extra-durable, so you can put it in the nastiest possible places and catch giants who are often tempted to bite it.

Best Lure for Pressured Bass A green Gary Yamamoto Senko lure Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Senko SEE IT

Miraculously, despite over two decades to reverse engineer the Senko, no competitor seems to have found a way to match its seductive action.

The best bass lures are, of course, seasonally—and situationally—specific items, and things that no two anglers will agree upon. We all have our favorite confidence baits that we know will out fish the competition under the right circumstances. Furthermore, many more seasoned anglers would say that location, cadence, and depth matter far more than any specific offering. If you’re new to bass fishing, keep that in mind that as you stock your tackle box not everything is going to suit your style or location. My best bass lure picks are all proven fish catchers, but you still have to present them and know when to use the proper bait.

Nevertheless, fishing lures are tools, and some are simply better at a given task, or more versatile overall than others. Fortunately, the fishing industry contains some remarkably creative brains and better mousetraps are continually brought to market. Some of them work, others are less-than-revolutionary, but even the best of them eventually fade in effectiveness. If you were the first person to throw a Whopper Plopper or an Alabama Rig or a Chatterbait on your home lake, then you may have experienced some epic days, but eventually, the newness wears off and the results typically become a little bit less explosive. That’s what separates the all-time greats from the also-rans: they keep on producing through dozens, if not hundreds, of generations of bass. Here are some of our favorites and picks for the best bass lures of all time.

Best Bass Lures Overall: Zoom U-Tale

Key Features

  • Size: 6 ¾”
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Segmented body and ribbontail
  • Key Colors: Watermelon Red, Tequila Sunrise, Black


  • Natural profile and movement
  • Inexpensive
  • Wide color array


  • Not ideal for covering water

Product Description

If you don’t have a ribbontail worm — or a selection of ribbontails — in your boat ready to go right now, then stop reading this article and head to the store or make an online order ASAP. They can be fished ankle-deep on 60 feet down, they’re remarkably weedless and have the ability to be stealthy or gaudy, depending on how you manipulate them, which makes it a bait for all seasons.

U-Tale the best bass lure overall takes an age-old worm design and simply makes it more consistent. You’ll have confidence in them because it’s not much different than the worms that likely comprised your first selection of artificial lures. All you need to add are the appropriately-sized hook and sinker and you’re good to go for any season. The U-shaped tail wags seductively in even the slightest current, and the salt impregnation leads fish to hold on. Furthermore, it’s big enough to attract trophies, yet small enough that even a sub-legal fish will try to inhale it. With no negative cues to turn bass off or educate them, this flapping soft plastic will continue to work forever—just make sure to select one of the many color options that best match the local forage and works in the available water clarity.

Best Lures for Pressured Bass: Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Senko

Key Features

  • Sizes: 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 inches
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Cylindrical, pen-shaped body
  • Key Colors: Black with blue flake, green pumpkin, watermelon red


  • Great color selection
  • Unmatched subtle wiggle
  • Easy to rig


  • Not particularly durable

Product Description

This simple stick of plastic may look like nothing found in nature, but something about its wiggle on the descent means that bass can’t leave it alone. You literally need to throw it out and let it fall on a semi-slack line to be effective, meaning that beginners can feel like world-beaters, but don’t think it’s anything other than a legit tournament tool as well.

When they were first introduced, the Senko was met mostly with blank stares. Anglers had been conditioned to think that a soft plastic needed a big wagging tail and multiple appendages to be effective. This proved them wrong. It can be rigged Texas style, or a Carolina Rig or on a dropshot, but its most deadly presentation might just be wacky rigged through the egg sack with no weight at all. It falls slowly that way, but even without any angler input, it taunts bass to bite. Miraculously, despite over two decades to reverse engineer the Senko, no competitor seems to have found a way to match its seductive action.

Best Bass Lures for Heavy Cover: Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Jig

Key Features

  • Sizes: 3/8, ½, ¾, 1, and 1 ¼ ounces
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Heavy-duty hook and weed guard
  • Key Colors: Black/Blue, Candy Craw, Texas Craw


  • Heavy duty construction
  • Gamakatsu black nickel heavy wire hook with huge bite
  • Easily penetrates heavy cover


  • Heavy hook may struggle with monofilament or fluorocarbon (although there are similar models made for such uses).

Product Description

This one particular bass jig is a fairly recent addition and isn’t necessarily the original, but it’s emblematic of the genre, a lead head and skirt meant to penetrate thick cover. In this case, they’ve upped the ante with a gaff of a hook that stands up to vicious hook sets and braided line.

Whether it’s a jig and chunk or jig and craw, the simple lead head is a stalwart of heavy cover opportunities from the grass beds of Okeechobee to the thick buck brush of Texas. This is a jig that is extra durable, so not only can you put it in the nastiest possible places, but you can also be assured of extracting the giants who are often tempted to bite it. Fortunately, modern braided lines and sensitive graphite rods provide the complements that make this an efficient and tournament-proven system.

Best Bass Lures for Imitating Baitfish: Rapala Original Floating Minnow

Key Features

  • Sizes: 1 ½, 2, 2 ¾, 3 ½, 4 3/8, 5 ¼, and 7 inches
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Tank-tested balsa wood balance
  • Key Colors: Silver, gold, and rainbow trout


  • Consistently run perfectly out of the package
  • Quality balsa wood construction
  • Wide range of sizes


  • Minimal depth range

Product Description

Finnish angler Lauri Rapala’s creation was featured in Time Magazine in the early 1960s, and nearly 60 years later every decent tackle shop still has the Original floater on its shelves and every angler worth their salt has used one to catch bass. The tight, precision wobble and minnow-shaped body works everywhere.

When the Rapala lures first burst onto the scene they were so prized and scarce that anglers rented them with a refundable deposit in case of loss. They’re far more widely available today, but no less deadly. That’s largely because they run properly every time, and because their universal baitfish shape resembles a prime forage in just about every ecosystem holding bass. Young anglers beating the banks of farm ponds or wading shallow local creeks use them, and so do serious anglers chasing the fish of a lifetime. It’s the forerunner of every modern jerkbait, and while they don’t run deep, their side-to-side flash will call bass from a distance.

Best Lures for Deep Bass: Hopkins Shorty Jigging Spoon

Key Features

  • Sizes: 1/8, ¼, 3/8, ½, ¾ 1, 1 ½, and 2 ¼ ounces
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Hammered sides, baitfish shape
  • Key Colors: Stainless steel, gold


  • Inexpensive
  • Falls quickly
  • If snagged can usually be popped free


  • Not great for horizontal presentations

Product Description

This simple hunk of lead with a treble hook affixed via a split ring represents a dying baitfish better than just about anything else available. By adjusting the size of the lure, the size of your line, and the aggressiveness of your jigging action, you can control the fall and trigger strikes.

There are plenty of quality jigging spoons on the market, and most of them don’t offer major differences. That’s the point, they’re not complicated. Simply find a piece of offshore structure that’s holding fish, drop it down to the bottom, and jig it in varying ways until you figure out what the fish want on that particular day. You may have to fight off a variety of other species to get to the bass, but again, that’s the point — it’s such a universal shape that just about everything that feeds on shad or other baitfish will succumb to its simple charms.

Best Bass Lures for Covering Water: Rat-L-Trap

Key Features

  • Sizes: 1/8, ¼, ½, ¾, 1, and 1 ½ ounces
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Compact design, pointed at both ends with BB chambers
  • Key Colors: Chrome/blue, Rayburn red, and gold


  • Universal baitfish shape
  • Wide range of colors and sizes
  • Casts long distances, even against the wind


  • Factory hooks may need to be replaced

Product Description

This simple lipless crankbait, an early model of a burgeoning category, and one of the first to become widely popular, calls bass with its tight wobble and heavy sound profile. From the earliest pre-spawn to the latest portion of the fall feed, it calls bass from a distance, and when run in front of their faces generates vicious strikes.

The original Rat-L-Trap has become the generic term for an entire category of lures, like “Coke” or “Kleenex,” and decades after its introduction, throwing a “trap” is still a viable way to catch bass in a wide variety of circumstances. Beginners can just lob it out and burn it back and expect to get bites, but in the hands of an experienced angler, it does so much more. Rip it free from submerged grass, yo-yo it over a hump, or kill it amongst dying shad, and you can expect to generate bites, often from the biggest bass around.

Best Bass Lures for Heart-Stopping Strikes: Rebel Pop-R

Key Features

  • Sizes: 2, 2 ½, and 3 inches
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Cupped mouth can be “blooped” or chugged
  • Key Colors: Bone, silver/black, and Tennessee shad


  • Casts well
  • No wrong way to work it
  • Calls bass from a distance


  • Not ideal 12 months out of the year in most places

Product Description

Rebel temporarily discontinued the Pop-R in the 1970s, until a group of Texas bass pros bought up all they could find — and started winning tournaments with them left and right — convinced them to bring the lure back. Nearly 50 years later it’s a stalwart, and while some purists modify them for particular uses, they’re deadly straight off the tackle store shelf.

While there are more modern and more refined poppers available, albeit, at a higher price point, the original Pop-R is still the standard for topwater poppers. You can throw it out, let the ripples dissipate, and then slowly pop it, or alternatively, you can skip it along the surface like a fast-fleeing shad. Anglers in Tennessee even pitch it into buck brush in places most of us would only throw a jig. When you get a strike you’ll know it, because the waters often part in a biblical fashion. Just make sure you invest in a good set of long-nosed pliers because you’ll often find this topwater hard lure in the back of your fish’s throat.

Best for Suspended Fish in Cold Water: Yum Flash Mob Umbrella Rig



Key Features

  • Five wires for jig heads
  • Available in a Junior size as well
  • Willowleaf blades for extra flash


  • Flashy blades attract fish in clear and stained water
  • Can be fished at a wide range of depths
  • Lifelike baitfish head


  • May not be legal in some states

Product Description

The umbrella rig may look goofy out of the water, but under the surface it resembles a living, vibrating school of baitfish better than anything else. When the so-called “Alabama Rig” first came along, many of the competitors were both expensive and inconsistent, but Yum came along and made a quality product at a reasonable price. They even offer kits of jig heads and soft plastics to create a one-stop-shopping experience. Don’t forget to check the rules and regulations for your fisheries to make sure that a fully-rigged umbrella rig is legal where you chase bass.

Best for Bass Chasing Herring: Evergreen Shower Blows Topwater Plugs



Key Features

  • Four sizes: 77.7, 105, 125 and 150 millimeters
  • Ultra-natural color selections for clear water
  • Premium rear feather treble


  • Larger sizes have three trebles to ensure maximum hookups
  • Highly castable, yet buoyant
  • Feathered rear treble attracts fish at rest


  • Pricier than most US domestic topwaters

Product Description

Multiple topwaters in one package, the Shower Blows can be walked or popped, but it’s best when skittered at high speeds for bass chasing schooled-up baitfish. The Shower Blows is a 21st century Japanese answer to the more primitive pencil poppers of the past, made with improved styling and components. While this style of lure is best known for their striper-tempting abilities, anglers in the Carolinas recognized that they’re also ideal for when largemouth and spotted bass are herding blueback herring. They can be cast a mile and retrieved at warp speeds without blowing out – while they can also be slowed down in the rare instances when fish strike and miss. There’s also a built-in tungsten weight system which helps casting distance and creates a fish-attracting knock for times when sight feeding alone is not the ticket.

Best for Covering Grassy Flats: Stanley Ribbit



Key Features

  • Durable soft plastic construction
  • 3.5” standard size (plus a larger “Bull” Ribbit)
  • Stanley developed a double hook particularly for this body shape and size


  • Easy to fish “correctly” – cast it out, reel it back steadily
  • Incredibly weedless
  • Huge color selection


  • On some days the hookup percentage can be low

Product Description

The OG buzz toad still calls bass out from beneath the greenery and had just the right sound to provoke huge explosions. There are now lots of buzz toads on the market, but when the Ribbit first came out it was one of the few – and it nevertheless remains among the most beloved and most versatile. That’s because the boot-shaped tails can be made to gurgle in all sorts of seductive ways, from a steady pitter-patter to a hard-charging thump. Stanley has also taken the time to maximize their color selection, so whether you’re just trying to emulate amphibians or you want to replicate a bluegill, crappie, insect, or some other sort of forage, there’s a match for that situation. It’s big enough to take a variety of hooks, and slips over and through cover with ease, making it a true 4WD bass assassin.

Best Frog: SPRO Dean Rojas Bronzeye Frog



Key Features

  • Lengths: 90 mm (3.5 inches), 65 mm (2.5 inches), and 60 mm (2.3 inches)
  • Over 40 different colors from basics to forage-specific
  • Soft, narrow body design


  • Great range of colors
  • Walks easily
  • Skips well under overhanging cover
  • High quality 2X Gamakatsu hooks


  • After a number of fish sometimes takes on water

Product Description

Pro bass angler, Dean Rojas, shows how to modify a Bronzeye frog for more hookups.

This is the frog that truly changed the game for the vast majority of bass anglers, and while SPRO has enhanced the line with popping versions and other noisemakers, if you’re only going to get one frog, this is the one. Everything about it is premium, from the extra-strong Gamakatsu double hook that stands up to your hardest braided line hook sets, to the line tie, which is welded closed so that your braid will never slip out. 

The living rubber legs match the many colors and are left extra-long so that you can trim them to your liking—some anglers like them short or uneven for better walking abilities. Anglers just starting out should favor black, white, and maybe a frog pattern, but some of the all-time great colors from SPRO include Killer Gill, Nasty Shad, and Red Ear. With those, you’re not just limited to imitating frogs and toads, but also all manners of baitfish.

When you’re learning how to fish a frog bait, one of the first skills is walking a frog. Creating the enticing side-to-side dance is exceptionally easy with the SPRO Bronzeye, which makes it one of the best frog lures for beginners and seasoned pros.

Read more about the best frog lures in our full review.

Best Swimbait: Triton Mike Bull Shad

Triton Mike


Key Features

  • Sizes: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11 inches
  • Triple-jointed
  • Natural brush tail


  • Runs true at any speed, even burning it
  • Replicates a wide variety of baitfish
  • Many size options


  • Limited color options at basic price point
A hand holding a fish with a swibait in its mouth
The Bull Shad replicates common forage like shad and bluegill. Pete Robbins

Product Description

At $50-100, the Bull Shad is a good entry into the world of high-priced prestige baits. The Bull Shad does the work of a spinnerbait and swim jig and often lands bigger fish than both. There’s no way to retrieve it incorrectly, but many of the most vicious strikes come when reeling it at warp speed. Smallmouths love it as much as largemouths. It also comes in a stubbier Bull Gill version and a more elongated Bull Herring version. 

Read more about the best swimbaits in our full review.

Best Finesse Spinnerbait: War Eagle Mike McClelland Finesse Spinnerbait

War Eagle


Key Features

  • 3/16 and 5/16 ounces
  • Mustad Ultra Power Point Hook
  • Sampo swivel


  • Slides easily through cover
  • Turtleback blade provides a lot of thump in a small package
  • Premium components


  • Thin wire is susceptible to breaking

Product Description

Arkansas pro Mike McClelland introduced the piano wire War Eagle spinnerbaits to the bass world in the late 90s with back-to-back Bassmaster wins. This small spinnerbait features a tiny Colorado blade paired with a slightly larger turtleback blade (sometimes called a “Mag Willow”) for lots of vibration without an overwhelming profile. War Eagle’s dual-length skirts mean they don’t require a soft plastic trailer, which might hamper the action of this diminutive lure. This spinnerbait is a great option when bites are hard to come by, but don’t be surprised if you hook a trophy.

Read more about the best spinnerbaits in our full review.


A few more things to know about the best bass lures.

Q: What Rapala lure is best for bass?

Rapala has made many great lures since they burst onto the bass fishing scene in the 1960s. But, if I had to pick just one Rapala it would be the Original Floating Minnow. The tight, precision wobble and minnow-shaped body works everywhere.

Q: Are bass top or bottom feeders?

Bass can be found in six inches of water or 60 feet of water. They eat topwater lures, as well as lures dragged on the bottom. That’s why a bass angler should have lures that cover all areas of the water column, like the seven we discussed above.

Q: What is the most popular fishing lure?

The fishing lure that has probably caught more bass than any in history is a ribbontail worm — rigged Texas or Carolina style, it is an offering bass can’t ignore.

The ribbontail worm proving its the best bass lure
The author with a nice bass caught on a classic ribbontail worm. Pete Robbins


It’s tough to come up with absolutes or universals when it comes to bass fishing, simply because of the diversity of the sport. Yes, a bass is a bass, but depending on where they live, what they eat, and the depths they inhabit, their behaviors and preferences can vary widely. That’s why we came up with a set of choices to cover the surface down to the deepest haunts that bass inhabit. Remember to think prey and water clarity first, and then location, but don’t sleep on lures that have proven their worth over the course of decades.

Things to Consider

No matter where you fish, it pays to get out of your comfort zone occasionally. Just because you’ve always caught bass on a particular lure, or a particular size or color of that lure, doesn’t mean that something else won’t work better. The sport is about windows of opportunity and maximizing those openings. The worst thing you can have is a closed mind. At the same time, by always having proven winners in the boat, when everything seems lost, or even slightly imperfect, you won’t have to question whether a particular offering has the chops to get the job done.

Read Next: Best Smallmouth Bass Lures

Final Thoughts on the Best Bass Lures

The basic plastic worm may not be as sexy as a topwater or as internationally significant as the Rapala Floating Minnow. Still, it’s a proven winner for largemouths, smallmouths, and spots and can be effective 12 months out of the year. Because it comes in such a wide range of colors, and you can use different lines, weights, and hooks to customize it, it’s the closest thing to a universal lure. That doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t carry other categories — most certainly, you should — but you shouldn’t leave home without a ribbontail.

The post Best Bass Lures of 2023 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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The Best Lever Action Rifles of 2023 https://www.outdoorlife.com/gear/best-lever-action-rifles/ Mon, 06 Feb 2023 18:55:40 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=231240
We reviewed the best lever action rifles.
Tanner Denton

Here's a look at the growing crop of new lever actions being produced, as well as some of the classics you can find on the used gun market

The post The Best Lever Action Rifles of 2023 appeared first on Outdoor Life.

We reviewed the best lever action rifles.
Tanner Denton

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More

Best Marlin The Marlin 1895 SBL is one of the best lever action rifles. Marlin 1895 SBL SEE IT
Best Henry The Henry All-Weather Picatinny Rail .45/70 Side Gate is one of the best lever action rifles. Henry All-Weather Picatinny Rail .45/70 Side Gate SEE IT
Best Winchester The Winchester Model 94 is one of the best lever action rifles. Winchester Model 94 SEE IT

When I was a kid, there were three reasons I wanted a lever action rifle. First, they were cool. Second, because I grew up just outside New Haven, Conn., the historic home to Marlin and Winchester, they were my hometown guns. Third, they were cheap.

Only one of these things is still true. Lever guns always have been and always will be cool, though they will never again be cheap, nor—barring divine intervention—will they ever again be produced in Gun Valley.

Writing about the top lever action rifles is a bit tricky. Do you focus on the best of all time, which is a great for us nostalgic sorts, or do you talk about great lever action rifles that you can buy new? (Though given some of the lingering shortages, it might be more accurate to say the lever guns you can put yourself on a waiting listing for.)

I tilted this list of the best lever action rifles in favor of those you can order new. Though if you have a hankering for one of the old-time classics, there are plenty to be had on the used market. Just don’t expect to find any bargains. Nearly all quality lever actions command a premium.

How I Picked the Best Lever Action Rifles

This list is divided into those guns that are being currently produced (or soon-to-be) in significant numbers and those that are either specialty orders or that must be sought out on the used gun market.

With the exception of the rifles that have just been announced, I’ve shot, handled, and/or owned all the models listed. Beyond my hands-on experience with the rifles over the years, however, many of them are no-brainers based on their well-documented history and legacy. 

Best Lever Action Rifles Currently Made

The good—actually, great—news here is that we’re seeing more lever actions made with each passing year. A couple years back, Remington screwed the pooch with Marlin and those were some dark days indeed. In those years it seemed only Henry was making quality lever guns in meaningful numbers, but things have taken a turn for the better.

Under Ruger’s ownership, Marlin seems poised to flourish. Henry is still innovating hard and trotting out new models in new cartridges, like the 360 Buckhammer. And we have a couple interesting and innovative newcomers in the mix.

Marlin 1895



Key Features

  • Caliber: .45/70 Govt
  • Capacity: 6+1
  • Stock: Gray Laminate
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Sights: High-Vis Tritium fiber optic with an adjustable ghost ring
  • Weight: 7.3 lb.
  • Length 37.25 in.
  • Barrel: 19.1 in., cold-hammer forged, threaded 11/16-24
  • Twist: 1:20
  • Cost: $1,479


  • The new Ruger-made Marlin 1895s are the finest factory-produced Marlins in history.


  • Supply is still nowhere near in line with demand. Many are being resold for premiums on the used gun market.

When Ruger resurrected Marlin, the first model they brought back was the 1895 SBL. This was a smart move because the SBL, with its gray laminate furniture, stainless steel metal, threaded barrel, oversized lever loop, and picatinny rail was one of the sexiest and most sought-after iterations of this classic lever action.

I had good things to say about the Marlin 1895 SBL when it was reintroduced in late 2021, and that opinion hasn’t shifted. It is the best lever action rifle produced under the Marlin brand—at least in the modern era. Packing 6+1 rounds of .45/70 Gov’t in its magazine, it brings a formidable level of firepower to the party which is why it has garnered a lot of interest from hunters in bear country, as well as with everyday sportsmen in more sedate parts of the U.S.

Marlin has also introduced two new versions of the 1895 worth considering, a Model 1895 Trapper and a Model 1895 Guide Gun. The Trapper comes with a Skinner peep sight, no picatinny rail, and is a bit more compact (34 ¼ in. vs. 37 ¼ in.) than the SBL. It, too, is chambered in .45/70 and has a 5+1 magazine capacity. The Guide Gun (model GBL) is slightly less expensive than the SBL ($1,239 vs. $1,479), has traditional semi-buckhorn sights, blued steel, is chambered in .45/70, and a 6+1 capacity.

Henry All-Weather Picatinny Rail .45/70 Side Gate



Key Features

  • Caliber: .45/70 Govt
  • Capacity: 4+1
  • Stock: Stained hardwood
  • Material: Hard chrome with a stain finish
  • Sights: Ghost ring on a Picatinny rail
  • Weight: 7.1 lb.
  • Length 37.5 in.
  • Barrel: 18.43 in.
  • Twist: 1:20
  • Cost: $1,333


  • Affordable, available and versatile.


  • None worth noting.

It didn’t seem that long ago that Henry Repeating Arms was only making Golden Boys chambered in pistol cartridges and .22s. But these guys have been busy, and as the company embarks on its second quarter century, they have added an impressive number of products to the lineup.

One of the flagship hunting rifles is the All-Weather Picatinny Rail .45/70 Side Gate, which is Henry’s version of a do-everything guide gun. As the name implies, it is built for the elements. The metal has a hard-chrome satin finish. The stock is a stained hardwood.

It has an aperture peep sight mounted at the rear of the substantial Picatinny rail. Henry outfitted it with an oversized lever loop. With the 18.43-inch barrel, the overall length is 37.5 inches and it has a 4+1 capacity. The rifle can be loaded either through the side gate on the receiver or by dropping rounds into the tubular magazine.

This is a versatile and capable thumper that is equally at home in bear country or in a deer stand overlooking a food plot.

Winchester Model 94



Key Features

  • Caliber: .30/30 Win.
  • Capacity: 8+1
  • Stock: Grade V/VI Walnut, 22 lpi checkering
  • Receiver: Case color hardened
  • Sights: Marble adjustable semi-buckhorn
  • Weight: 7.5 lb.
  • Length 42.5 in.
  • Barrel: 24 in.
  • Twist: 1:12
  • Cost: $2,230


  • Arguably the most iconic of deer rifles. A true classic.


  • Expensive

The Winchester Model 1873 might have been The Gun that Won the West—a great bit of marketing by Winchester executives—but the Model 94 is undeniably the rifle that won the hearts and minds of generations of deer hunters. If you polled long-time hunters regarding their choice as the top lever action rifle, there’s little doubt the Winchester 94 would win the vote.

This was the most prolific of Winchester’s lever actions, being the first sporting rifle in the U.S. to sell a million units. Prior to the end of its domestic production in 2006, more than seven million Model 94s were produced.

Model 94s are still being made for Browning/Winchester by Miroku Corp. in Japan and are available in several different grades. These run from the basic Carbine ($1,309) with its plain walnut stock and brushed polished blued metal, to the Deluxe Sporting ($2,230), which has case color hardened metalwork, upgraded wood, nicely executed checkering, and a half-round, half-octagonal deeply blued barrel.

Currently, the 94 is being offered in .30/30 Win., .38/55 and .450 Marlin.

Browning BLR



Key Features

  • Caliber: .30/06
  • Capacity: 4
  • Stock: Laminate, 18 lpi checkering
  • Receiver: Aluminum alloy, matte nickel finish
  • Sights: Marble adjustable with Tru-Glo fiber-optic front
  • Weight: 7.25 lb.
  • Length 43 in.
  • Barrel: 22 in.
  • Twist: 1:10
  • Cost: $1,480


  • All-purpose versatility. Handy takedown.


  • In some shooters’ eyes has never attained “classic” status.

The Browning BLR is one of the most versatile lever actions on the market. It is available in both short- and long-action lengths and because it feeds from a detachable box magazine it is able to run pointy spitzer-style bullets in cartridges usually associated with bolt guns.

The Lightweight ’81 Stainless Takedown is the most utilitarian BLR of them all, making it the best lever action rifle in the BLR family. It breaks down into two pieces for easy transport and is built on a lightweight aluminum receiver and sports a stainless steel barrel for excellent weather resistance. At about 7.25 pounds (depending on the specific chambering) it has a very nice balance and feel. Combined with its smooth lever system, which uses a clever gear and pinion design, the BLR embodies the lithe, fast-handling characteristics that lever action fans admire. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a nod to the legendary Winchester Model 88, which was a game-changing lever action from which the BLR drew lots of inspiration.)

The Lightweight ’81 Takedown is currently chambered in .243 Win., 6.5 Creedmoor, 7mm-08 Rem., .308 Win., .300 WSM, .30/06, and .300 Win. Mag. Several other cartridges are available in other BLR models as well.

Marlin 336

Tyler Freel


Key Features

  • Caliber: .30/30 Win.
  • Capacity: 6+1
  • Stock: Black walnut
  • Receiver: Blued alloy steel, CNC machined from forgings
  • Sights: Adjustable semi-buckhorn
  • Weight: 7.5 lb.
  • Length 38.6 in.
  • Barrel: 20.25 in., cold hammer-forged
  • Twist: 1:12
  • Cost: $1,239


  • Wonderful craftsmanship. Quintessential brush gun.


  • Going to be scarce for a while.

It’s difficult for me to express how happy I am to include the Marlin 336 among the top lever action rifles currently made. I know I’m not alone in this. I cut my teeth hunting deer with a Marlin 336 in .35 Remington so, as with countless other hunters, the 336 was my first love.

We’ve handled and put a few rounds through one of the new 336’s, which will initially be chambered in .30/30 Win., and its quality was spot-on. As with the 1895s, the 336s have excellent fit and finish, run smoothly, and are aesthetically pleasing.

As for timing, expect to see the first Marlin 336’s shipping mid- to late-spring. The .35 Rem. is in the hopper, but those of us craving the return of that chambering will have to wait until later this year.

Also, don’t be surprised to see the 336 offered in Remington’s 360 Buckhammer in 2023 as well.

Henry Golden Boy



Key Features

  • Caliber: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 16+1
  • Stock: Black walnut
  • Receiver: Polished Brasslite
  • Sights: Adjustable semi-buckhorn
  • Weight: 6.75 lb.
  • Length 38.5 in.
  • Barrel: 20 in., octagon blued steel
  • Twist: 1:16
  • Cost: $636


  • Slick, fun, handy. Consummate plinker.


  • As long as it fits your budget, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this rifle.

As you history buffs probably know, the original Henry lever action was the first commercially successful lever action rifle. Originally chambered in .44 Rimfire, it was one of the most advanced firearms to see action during the Civil War and was fielded in limited numbers by Union Troops.

Confederate Colonel John Mosby is credited with cursing it as “that damned Yankee rifle that can be loaded on Sunday and fired all week,” after fighting against troops wielding it in battle. That unintentional endorsement stuck and helped propel the Henry to everlasting fame.

Henry makes a “New Original Henry” chambered in either .44-40 WCF or .45 Colt, though the most popular (and affordable) homage is the Henry Golden Boy rimfire, which can be had in .22 S/L/LR, .22 Mag., or .17 HMR.

In .22 LR, the most popular configuration, the rifle holds 16 rounds, the same as the original. It has a 20-inch octagonal barrel that is nicely blued and contracts sharply with the bright “Brasslite” finished receiver and brass buttpad and barrel band.

The receiver comes drilled and tapped for a scope, but before you mount an optic on yours spend some time running it with semi-buckhorn sights, as the Creator intended.

These Golden Boys run like a scalded squirrel and can digest ammo by the brick over the course of an afternoon.

As a first gun for a youngster, it has no real equal. But its appeal is so strong that no one will fault you for buying one for your grownup self first.

Marlin 1894



Key Features

  • Caliber: .44 Mag./.44 Spl.
  • Capacity: 10+1
  • Stock: Black walnut
  • Receiver: Blued alloy steel, CNC machined from forgings
  • Sights: Adjustable semi-buckhorn
  • Weight: 7.25 lb.
  • Length 38.5 in.
  • Barrel: 20.25 in., cold hammer-forged
  • Twist: 1:20
  • Cost: TBD


  • Based on the samples I’ve seen, should be as well made as other Ruger Marlins.


  • As with other Marlins, will be difficult to find.

The Marlin 1894 was hot stuff when it was introduced back in the day. It was the first lever gun with a flat top, side-eject design that anticipated the eventual wide-spread adoption of telescopic sights on rifles. This innovation gave it a leg up (on paper anyway) compared to the Winchester 1894 which debuted at the same time, though the fact that the Winchester came in the potent .30/30 versus the less powerful offerings in the Marlin gave Winchester’s 1894 a decisive advantage.

The Marlin 1894 has been chambered in a variety of mostly pistol-caliber cartridges over the decades, the most common of which (in the modern era) included the .44 Spl./.44 Magnum. .38 Spl./.357 Magnum and .45 Colt. I have a North Haven, Conn., built 1894 in .44 Magnum and it is one of my favorite carbines. (Though if I could snap my fingers and conjure any 1894 it would be one chambered in the quaint and now obsolete .218 Bee.)

Ruger announced the return of the Marlin 1894 this spring, so we will hopefully have hands-on range time with one soon for a full review. Expect to see the first offerings in the cartridges mentioned above, but as details become available we’ll update this information. (Note: the rifle pictured above is one of the older Marlin 1894s).

POF-USA Tombstone



Key Features

  • Caliber: 9mm
  • Capacity: 10- or 20-round magazine
  • Stock: Magpull SGA
  • Receiver: Aluminum
  • Sights: XS ghost ring on a Picatinny rail
  • Weight: 5.75 lb.
  • Length 36 in.
  • Barrel: 16.5 in., free floated, threaded ½-28
  • Twist: 1:10
  • Cost: $1,962


  • Cool design. Opening the lever action market to a new type of shooter.


  •  A bit expensive compared to what can be purchased for a similar price. Also, if you need a muzzle brake on a 9mm carbine you should probably seek medical attention. 

Guess what—the Tombstone doesn’t give a damn about your nostalgic attachment to the past. This new arrival has turned a lot of heads with its uber-modern take on the lever action rifle.  

Chambered in 9mm, it feeds via detachable 10- or 20-round magazines—the same ones POF uses on their Phoenix pistol.

The 16.5-inch barrel is free-floated, threaded ½-28, and comes with a dual-port muzzle break that isn’t really necessary but compliments the Tombstone’s tactical vibe. (Truth is, it is just a placeholder for a suppressor, which elevates the Tombstone’s fun-factor by an order of magnitude.)

The fore-end has a couple Picatinny rail sections as well as numerous M-Lok slots, so there is no shortage of places to mount accessories. The receiver is topped with a Picatinny rail as well and includes an integrated XS Ghost Ring sight.

It runs Magpul’s SGA 870 buttstock, which includes two flush attachment points for a sling and a grip angle that is much steeper than is typical on a lever action. The Tombstone is about 36 inches long, and has an advertised weight of 5 ¾ pounds, which makes it handy and quick to wield.

The base black model is $1,962, while the FDE version runs $2,097. The Tombstone isn’t cheap, but there’s no shortage of shooters looking to throw down their money to get one.

Bond Arms Lever Action

Bond Arms


Key Features

  • Caliber: 9mm/5.56mm NATO/.300 BLK
  • Capacity: Runs from AR-15 compatible mags
  • Stock: Magpull SGA
  • Lower material: Aluminum
  • Sights: N/A
  • Weight: TBD
  • Length: TBD
  • Barrel: TBD
  • Cost: $1,500 (Est.)


  • An innovative concept and cool way to leverage (pardon the pun) the AR-15 platform.


  • We don’t know how well it will really work or what it will cost yet. 

This interesting rifle isn’t available quite yet—the company hopes to launch it later in 2023—but I wanted to include it since it is an excellent example of the lever action’s enduring appeal.

The idea of this rifle is simple: An AR-15 compatible lever action lower that can run a standard upper. The execution of it is quite complex, however, and involves a lot of innovation, particularly in the linkage system to get the appropriate leverage and timing to cycle 30-round magazines.

The throw on the lever is short—for quick cycling—but features a variety of camming forces to extract rounds from the chamber and strip rounds packed tight in higher-capacity magazines. From just the mechanical standpoint, this is a fascinating design.

Bond expects to offer this rifle as a complete system for about $1,500, though final pricing is TBD as the company works to bring this concept to production. As with the POF Tombstone, the Bond Arms Lever Action uses the Magpul SGA 870 buttstock, meaning any Remington 870 compatible stock can be swapped in its place.

Another cool feature is the rifle’s user-configurable lever loop that allows the shooter to swap to a larger loop if desired. In fact, this rifle’s AR-15 mix-and-match modularity promises to spawn interesting configurations as shooters experiment with the platform.

Best Lever Action Rifles: The Classics

This list could have been much longer, but in the interest of brevity I’ve only highlighted a few notable classic lever guns. Before getting to those, however, I do want to highlight a couple important honorable mentions.

The Spencer repeating rifle is one. It was the first military repeating rifle that used self-contained metallic cartridges and is the forefather of all lever actions. Though the Spencer was produced for only a short time (1860 to 1869) and in relatively limited numbers, it was the steppingstone upon which the lever action rifle, specifically Winchesters, was built.

The Winchester 1895, which gained prominence as Teddy Roosevelt’s “Big Medicine” in .405 Winchester is an iconic lever action whose fame outstrips its actual benefits. From a technical standpoint, its most distinguishing element is that it was the first Winchester lever action fed from an internal box magazine.

Winchester 1886



Key Features

  • Caliber: .45/70 Gov’t.
  • Capacity: 8+1
  • Stock: Grade III/IV Walnut
  • Receiver: Steel color case hardened
  • Sights: Semi-buckhorn
  • Weight: 9.75 lb.
  • Length 43 in.
  • Barrel: 24 in., octagonal
  • Twist: 1:20
  • Cost: $1,930


  • The first real lever action for big game cartridges.


  • Hard to find and a bit spendy.

This was the first big-boy lever action in history. The Winchester 1886 changed the game because it’s strong locking-block action was able to handle proper rifle cartridges, rather than the pistol rounds that previous lever action designs were limited to.

It was originally chambered in .45/70 and .45/90, two rounds you can still get it in. Over the years it was loaded for other hard-hitting rounds like the .50/110 Winchester and .33 WCF.

Those rounds, combined with its excellent handling characteristics, made the Model 1886 the first true big-game capable lever action. Today, you can order it in a Saddle Ring Carbine configuration ($1,630) with a 22-inch barrel, in “Short Rifle” trim ($1,450) with a 24-inch round barrel, or go all out with the fancy Deluxe Case Hardened model ($1,930) with a 24-inch octagonal barrel, upgraded walnut and color case hardened receiver.

Savage Model 99

Savage Arms



  • One of the top candidates as the lever action GOAT. It is both timeless and ahead of its time.


  • You’re going to pay through the nose for one in good condition.

Arguably the finest lever action ever (and if there’s one thing lever gun fans like to do its argue about which is best), the Savage Model 99 was a revolutionary addition to the American sporting scene when it was trotted out in 1899.

It had an elegant, hammerless design, used an innovative rotary magazine that allowed the rifle to safely chamber cartridges with spitzer-style pointed bullets, and a stock silhouette that oozed sexiness and speed decades before such aesthetics became the hallmark of art deco industrial design.

First called the Model 1899, it officially changed to the Model 99 in 1921 when the .300 Savage was introduced. Initially, the 1899 was chambered in .303 Savage and .30/30 Win. Soon, Savage added other cartridges to the lineup—the most iconic of which was Charles Newton’s speedster, the .250-3000 Savage, in 1915. Later in life, the Model 99 added the .243 Win., .308 Win., 7mm-08 Rem., .375 Win. and others to the mix.

My Model 99 is a particularly lovely rifle. It was given the me by my father-in-law before he passed away and is a takedown model chambered in .300 Savage that includes a .410 gauge barrel that it shoots single-shot.

The rifle was sold by Abercrombie and Fitch to legendary car maker Carroll Shelby, who eventually gave it to my father-in-law as a gift. It’s still in its original case of leather and wood lined with purple velvet. I rarely shoot it—but admire it frequently.

Winchester Model 88




  • One of the most significant evolutionary designs in lever action history.


  • Its looks and feel weren’t for everyone, but enough hunters took a shine to it to make it the third-best selling lever action in Winchester’s history.

Though it never gained the following of the Savage 99, the Winchester Model 88 is similar to the Savage in that it incorporated a lot of technical innovation in its design and caused hunters and shooters to reassess the lever action platform.

Winchester unveiled it in 1955. It had a short lever throw and used a rotating three-lug bolt that smoothly stripped rounds from the detachable box magazine. The Model 88 was chambered in a handful of cartridges that were new at the time, specifically the .308 Win., .243 Win., .284 Win. and the .358 Win., which was a particularly terrific brush round that is sadly all but forgotten these days.

The Model 88 has a hammerless design and side eject, which allows for easy mounting of an optic on the receiver. One particularly clever feature is how the trigger moves with the lever loop, eliminating the possibility of a pinched finger or snagged glove when working the action.

Marlin 39A




  • The best rimfire lever action rifle ever.


  • Ruger isn’t making them—yet. Used 39A’s command a premium.

I don’t think there’s a rimfire lever action as beloved as the Marlin 39A. It tops many shooters’ lists as the best .22 LR ever produced. The legacy of the 39A is fascinating. It started as the Model 1891 and was the first .22 LR lever action produced. Its legendary accuracy was demonstrated by Annie Oakley who used one in her shooting exhibitions. The Model 39A held the distinction of being the longest continually produced shoulder-fired firearm in history. That streak was broken when the dimwits who purchased Marlin and placed it under the Remington umbrella decided to move Marlin’s production facilities from North Haven, Conn., to Ilion, New York—at which point the production of all Marlins ground to a (predictable) halt.

My sincere hope is that we’ll soon—as in the next couple years—be able to reclassify the 39A under the “Best Lever Action Rifles Being Currently Made” category since it seems Ruger is doing such a fabulous job reviving Marlin since they purchased it.

Winchester 1873



Key Features

  • Caliber: .44-40 WCF
  • Capacity: 14+1
  • Stock: Grade V/VI Walnut
  • Receiver: Steel color case hardened
  • Sights: Semi-buckhorn
  • Weight: 8 lb.
  • Length 43 in.
  • Barrel: 24 in., half octagon/half round
  • Twist: 1:36
  • Cost: $2,190


  • The gun that won the West. Nuff said.


  • A genuine used one is going to cost dearly. Newer imports don’t have the same cachet.

When you think “cowboys” and the “Old West” the first rifle that comes to mind is this beauty. The Winchester 73 really was the right gun for the right time—being the first rifle chambered for the .44-40, which is said to be the first centerfire cartridge developed. Whether it deserved to be called “The Gun that Won the West” as Winchester touted, there’s no denying that the Model 73 was used to send a whole bunch of men—both good and bad—to their maker, and accounted for along innumerable head of deer and other game to boot.

The Model 1873 was produced until 1923 but has enjoyed a revival since the sport of cowboy action shooting sprang up. Uberti makes replicas chambered in .357 Mag. and .45 Colt, while Winchester, which worked with their Japanese partner Miroku, has been importing ’73s since 2013. Those are available in .357 Mag., .45 Colt, and .44-40 WCF.


What is a .357 lever-action good for?

Since the barrel of a lever action is longer than that of a handgun, cartridges like the .357 Mag. and .44 Mag. get a significant performance boost in terms of velocity that makes them more capable on animals like deer and hogs. 
In addition, a lever-action chambered in .357 can run .38 Spl. rounds, which are economical and have little recoil making it a great option for plinking and practice.

Are lever-action rifles practical?

Yes. They are fast-handing, quick-shooting, easy to wield and carry, hold good quantities of ammo, are available in a wide range of cartridges for different applications, and are legal in most all jurisdictions. Whether you’re on horseback with one in a scabbard or have a take-down model in a bug-out bag, lever-actions are an excellent choice.

Are lever-actions effective on dinosaurs?

Absolutely. The Marlin 1895 SBL carried by Chris Pratt’s character—dinosaur whisperer Owen Grady—in Jurassic World, would be a top choice as a dino stopper, provided it was loaded with heavy, hard-hitting ammo like Buffalo Bore’s 380-grain mono-metal WFN dangerous-game load.

Are lever-actions good for home defense?

Certainly. A carbine-length lever action chambered in a pistol cartridge like .357 Mag. or .44 Mag. would be a highly effective option for home protection. Even a rifle chambered in .22 Win. Mag. can be a formidable home-defense gun when loaded with ammo like Federal Punch.

Final Thoughts on the Best Lever Action Rifles

Usually when one compiles a “best of” list—whether talking deer rifles, elk cartridges, or sniper rifles—there is significant push-back with the selections. Everyone has deeply-held convictions on such matters. 

With lever action rifles, it is a bit different. There are many rifles that are universally agreed upon. No one in their right mind is going say that a Savage 99 isn’t one of the best lever action rifles of all time. The same goes for the Model 94, Marlin 336 and others.

I think we rally around lever actions because they are the quintessential American rifle. Yes, we make the best bolt-actions in the world, and the same can be argued with other firearms platforms—but the lever action is distinctly ours. Though some are made abroad and imported, the lever action is, and always will be, America’s rifle.

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Jim Carmichel’s Favorite Hunting Rifles https://www.outdoorlife.com/guns/jim-carmichels-favorite-rifles/ Mon, 06 Feb 2023 17:32:53 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=231326
Jim Carmichel with rifle and bear.
An Al Bieson 7mm Mauser accounted for this cinnamon-colored black bear. Jim Carmichel

When it comes to picking your favorite firearms, explains our former long-time shooting editor, you don't have to be entirely reasonable

The post Jim Carmichel’s Favorite Hunting Rifles appeared first on Outdoor Life.

Jim Carmichel with rifle and bear.
An Al Bieson 7mm Mauser accounted for this cinnamon-colored black bear. Jim Carmichel

This story by our former longtime shooting editor originally ran in the October 1997 issue.

THE TWO QUESTIONS I’m most often asked are: “How did you become a gun writer?” and “What is your favorite gun?” 

There seems to be a widespread notion that gun writers are anointed by Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, and dwell thereafter in a magic kingdom filled with luscious firearms, like a fat Sultan surrounded by a harem of delicious maidens. The fact of the matter is that if I gave honest answers to either of these two questions I’d be accused of inventing stories or pulling my questioner’s leg. That’s why I usually render a modest response that suits the occasion or simply leave the subject hanging in the air, especially when it comes to the matter of favorite guns. Who would believe me if I tried to explain that I have torrid-but-fickle love affairs with shotguns, and that last season’s undying passion now reposes on the dark side of my gun rack?

Two photos showing hands holding rifle.
Aside from its exquisite workmanship, one reason the Al Bieson 7mm Mauser is a Carmichel favorite is its incredibly fast handling qualities. The beautifully styled Bieson grip feels like a shotgun—offering lightning-quick control. Jim Carmichel

In any event, like wives and mistresses, “favorite” guns are usually a matter of personal taste. The guy down the street may think the .30/30 he inherited from Dear Old Granddaddy is the sweetest thing in the deer woods, while you wonder why he bothers to take the clunker hunting. So with advance warning of these caveats, and since someone asked, I have a few favorites worth mentioning. My current favorite shotgun, like all properly conducted love affairs, shall remain secret. Rifles, on the other hand, tend to be more honest and businesslike and, unlike svelte smoothbores that blind you with coy promises, can be ranked according to how well they do their job, and why. But even then, as we shall see, reason sometimes gives way to sentiment. 

FROM THE STANDPOINT of unrivaled hunting perfection, my favorite has to be a .338 Winchester Magnum built by the David Miller Company. If you’re an aficionado of hand-built rifles you know that the “economy” model Miller rifle now sells for something in the neighborhood of eight grand, with deluxe grades having gone for over $200,000 on the auction block…which probably makes you wonder how an impoverished gun writer comes by such pricey hardware. The simple explanation is that I got my Miller rifle about 20 years ago, before wealthy sheikhs and oil tycoons discovered the remarkable talents of David Miller and Curt Crum, his stock-building partner.

Miller had developed a scope-mounting system that he was proud of and asked me to give it a try. During our conversation, I learned about his budding rifle company and the upshot was that I had him build a rifle in .338 Mag., complete with the new Miller mount. The funny thing, however, was that I somehow got the idea that Miller’s mounts were a quick-detachable system, so I figured that a set of English-style express sights would round out the rifle to perfection. I was doing a lot of jetting back and forth between Alaska and Africa in those days, and a .338 Win. Mag. would be good medicine for just about anything that roamed the veld or tundra, especially if fitted with some fast-pointing express sights for those tedious and aggravating moments when lions come roaring out of the yellow grass. 

Jim Carmichel poses with rifle and cape buffalo.
Carmichel’s number-one rifle for all seasons is this David Miller–built custom .338 Win. Mag. Miller’s unique scope-mounting system is so strong that Jim has never had to re-zero this rifle in nearly two decades of hard hunting for everything from Alaska brown bear to this Botswana buffalo. The rifle features an English-style “drop-box” magazine that adds an extra round to the gun’s capacity. Jim Carmichel

So that’s why the Miller rifle came complete with stylish express sights fitted. The quarter rib on which the rear sight is dovetailed is not simply soldered to the barrel in the usual way, but actually machined from the barrel blank so that they are one integral unit. But alas, as it turns out, this tour de force of metalworking is of no practical purpose, because I have yet to squint across the elegant express sights, the reason being that the Miller system gives whole new meaning to the phrase “permanent mounting.” 

The base and lower half of the rings are machined from a single block of steel and form a rigid cradle that supports and protects the scope for almost the entire length of the tube. Before building his scope mount, Miller needs exact information about the customer’s shooting stance and eye positioning, because once the base is machined to interlock with the scope turret, any fore or aft movement is impossible. And to further reduce the likelihood of scope movement, the rifle’s receiver ring is notched to form a recoil lug-type union with the scope base. The one-piece scope cradle is then mated to the action so precisely that they appear to be a single unit. 

When Miller introduced this super-strong, scope-mounting system the price was $300—a staggering sum back then considering that ordinary mounts could be had for about $10 bucks. But big-ticket hunters who’d lost trophies because of inferior mounts considered the Miller system a bargain. In time, the price for a Miller mount climbed to $900, and if that makes you gulp, consider that it now sells for $1,500! But the only way you can get one is by ordering an entire David Miller rifle. 

Is it worth it? All I can say is that for nearly two decades of hard hunting in temperatures ranging from 20 below zero to 110 above, in rainstorms and desert dryness, the only time I’ve touched the adjustment knobs on the rig’s 4X Leupold scope was the first time I sighted it in. Since then it has been spot on.

DON’T GET THE IDEA that my David Miller .338 is a favorite only because of the foolproof scope mounts. Actually, the Miller mounts are just one element of a total hunting machine. Nothing has been left to chance, from the rebuilt Mauser action, to the Model 70-style safety, to the raised checkering on the bolt knob, to the hinged floorplate on the magazine that has been “dropped” English-style so that capacity is increased by an extra round, to the gracefully curved trigger so closely fitted in the guard slot that seeds and grit can’t work their way into the mechanism. Then everything is perfectly fitted into a luscious piece of smoky-hued French walnut, with classic styling by Curt Crum and checkered with a delicate fleur-de-lis pattern. 

The years and the miles have left their scars on my David Miller rifle the blue is getting thin on some of the corners, and every hunting season I find more scratches on the stock. Miller has invited me to send the rig back for a touch-up, but I don’t think so. There is honor in those dents and nicks—each with its own story to tell. When I grow too old to climb the hill and chase the plain, I want to touch those scars and hear the stories again. 

Another favorite that has graced my rack for more than two decades is a custom flyweight built on a pre-1964 Model 70 Winchester action and chambered in .280 Remington. The slender barrel is by Douglas, and the exquisite Clayton Nelson stock is that amber-streaked kind of French walnut that we can no longer find. I’ve long since lost count of the deer, elk, sheep and African-plains game this lovely .280 has taken, but, for the record, it is the rifle I took to Iran back in the 1970s when my pal Fred Huntington and I went there to collect the Iranian “Grand Slam” of ibex, red and urial sheep and the petite Armenian sheep. 

Jim Carmichel with rifle and African antelope
Though now retired, this .280 Rem., built on a pre-1964 Model 70 Winchester action and stocked by Clayton Nelson, has gone around the world with the author several times. Among the many heads of game to its credit is this fine bongo, taken in the sweltering rain forest of the southern Sudan. Jim Carmichel

One sad day, when I was hunting elk in Idaho, I left my horse tied to a tree while I glassed a canyon. Another horse, tied nearby, spied the unprotected French walnut butt of my rifle jutting from the scabbard and, being an ugly and unprincipled beast, figured it would be a handy thing on which to rub his chin. That chin, of course, was wearing a steel bridle bit that cut long gashes in my lovely rifle. 

My tears were a long time drying, and after that tragic event the rifle was hunted with only once more—when I took it to Alaska for white sheep. Guns, like good hunting dogs, deserve a graceful retirement, and after having the stock repaired and refinished to its former radiance, I retired the faithful rifle to a place of honor in my rack. 

Its replacement, a .280 Remington built by Ultra Light Arms, rates about a 2 out of 10 on the beauty scale but earns its keep-and a place in my heart-because it can cut three overlapping holes in a 100-yard target and (even better) because it weighs less than six pounds, scope and all. This little Ultra Light isn’t really a favorite yet, but it will be, wait and see. 

For sheer handling joy, I like a 7×57 built on a Mauser action by Al Bieson, a living legend in the custom-gun world because of his exquisite styling and craftsmanship. Though the Bieson rifle is gorgeous to look at, its real beauty comes to life when you snap it to your shoulder. I like to hand it to guys who think they know all about guns and watch their eyes light up when they experience for the first time the feel of a truly great hunting rifle. When you close your hand around the gracefully slender grip the rifle seems to find the target with a will of its own. This is a difficult quality to describe. British gunmakers often call it “hand”-the way a gun becomes a living part of the shooter-but usually in reference only to shotguns. A rifle with hand is a rare treasure, and everyone who takes this jewel in hand instantly understands why.

IF YOU’LL EXCUSE a moment of sentiment, one more favorite is a mildly battered and not particularly handsome .458 Winchester Magnum that was custom-made from a $30 surplus Mauser. Actually, a real maker of custom rifles would call it an amateur’s do-it-yourself project, and I suppose that’s all it is. I’m the amateur and it really was a do-it-yourself project from my college days. I’d found the slick Mauser in a junk store and, since I fancied myself something of a gunsmith back then, elected to convert it into something useful in the way of a big-game rifle. I mean really big game: elephants for example. My school chums hooted at the idea because they figured the chances of my going to Africa and bagging an elephant were about the same as Marilyn Monroe calling me for a date. Not that I was all that convinced myself, but the more they chuckled the more determined I became to at least own an elephant rifle. 

To that end, I opened up the Mauser bolt face for the larger Magnum rim, had a .458 barrel fitted and laid out some $60 (big money in those days) for a classic-styled, semi-finished stock. After a couple of months of whittling and sanding and hand-rubbing stock oil, I had what I thought to be a rather elegant custom .458 and I promised myself that someday, somehow, I’d take that rifle to Africa and bag elephants, Cape buffalo, lions and other deadly beasts. It was a promise kept a decade later in a mopane thicket along the southern edge of Botswana’s mysterious Okavango Swamp, when I put the crosshairs just below the ear on an old bull elephant carrying thick, heavy ivory. On that and other safaris the do-it-yourself “elephant rifle” my school chums had laughed at tallied not just elephants and lions, but scores of Cape buffalo. Now it is hunted with no longer and rests in a special rack on the wall of my den, serving as a daily reminder that dreams will come true if you dream hard enough. It was the first rifle in my big-game battery…and the last I’ll ever part with.

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The $725K Mule Deer Tag: Auction Tags Set All-Time Record at Western Hunt Expo https://www.outdoorlife.com/hunting/auction-mule-deer-tag-western-hunt-expo/ Mon, 06 Feb 2023 15:58:17 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=231407
mule deer bucks
Funding from the tags goes toward mule deer habitat conservation. Dan Sherwood / Getty Images

The highest price ever paid for big-game auction tags was shattered—twice—at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo. What does this mean for the rest of us?

The post The $725K Mule Deer Tag: Auction Tags Set All-Time Record at Western Hunt Expo appeared first on Outdoor Life.

mule deer bucks
Funding from the tags goes toward mule deer habitat conservation. Dan Sherwood / Getty Images

The crowd in the ballroom of the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo exploded in cheers and astonished squeals as auctioneer John Bair thundered “SOLD!” on the final item of Friday’s auction. These attendees at the annual Salt Lake City auction had just witnessed a record. The chance to hunt a single mule deer buck this fall on Utah’s Antelope Island had just been sold for $500,000, which is $90,000 more than the previous record price, set in 2016.

The Expo crowd barely had a day to consider that a single deer hunt could cost a half-million dollars before that record was shattered the following night. In the final offering of Saturday’s auction, a Nevada man bought the Arizona Statewide Mule Deer Tag for $725,000, a sum that is as inconceivable as it is astonishing.

The buyer of the Antelope Island tag, according to Bair and confirmed by other sources, was Jimmy John Liautaud, the founder of the eponymous sandwich franchise. The buyer of the Arizona deer tag, which allows deer hunting for a full calendar year, was unknown to most Expo insiders.

Maybe it’s not important to know who’s shelling out this kind of money for this kind of opportunity. In some ways, our attraction to these stratospheric auction bids is our attraction to celebrity. We might not want to be fully in the limelight, but we want to be close enough to feel its heat and sense that we are participating in something larger than ourselves.

In the case of these auction tags, it’s easy to get pulled into the current of expectation by the auctioneer’s steady rhythm as he navigates successively higher bids. Whether you were in the Expo ballroom or not, if you hunt deer in the West, you are adjacent to the auction action, because these aren’t pieces of framed art or diamonds for sale. Public opportunities are being auctioned, and the deer tags that sell for these prices influence how we manage our public resources.

I’m not going to get all righteous and tell you that these tags shouldn’t be sold, or that they represent some dire direction for public-resource management. But even if the rest of us don’t pay these prices for our deer tags, we should pay attention to what’s happening in state legislatures and fish-and-game commission rooms and understand the mechanics of these high-visibility transactions. 

As a Western hunter, and as a member of the board of the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF), which presents the Expo along with Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW), these auction tags play an outsized role in funding opportunities the rest of us enjoy. Each of the record-setting tags is a little different, both in what the buyers purchased and how their funds will trickle down to those of us who wince when we pay 1/1,000th of what these high-rollers paid for their deer tags.

Antelope Island Tag

Antelope Island, Utah
Utah issues only two mule deer buck tags for Antelope Island on the Great Salt Lake. Martin Homer / Getty Images

Utah’s Antelope Island hosts a class of bucks that most of us will never get to hunt. The 42-square-mile island in the Great Salt Lake is visible from the convention center where the Expo’s auction is held. It’s owned entirely by the State of Utah, which manages the land as a state park and the deer resource for older, trophy-class bucks.

The state issues only two tags for mule deer bucks on the island. One is distributed in the public lottery, and last year it was awarded to a Utah resident who had only six bonus points going into the draw. The auction tag is offered for sale at the Expo, and since 2011, the tag has raised over $3.5 million for Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources, which receives 30 percent of the auction revenue to “improve habitat on the island and benefit mule deer translocations throughout the state,” according to the enabling legislation that authorizes the sale. The remaining 70 percent of the tag revenue is split. Ten percent stays with MDF and SFW to compensate the organizations for administering the Expo where the auction takes place. The remaining 60 percent must be used by the organizations for “eligible projects,” which include “habitat improvement and acquisition, transplants, targeted education efforts and other projects providing a substantial benefit to species of wildlife for which conservation permits are issued,” among other details.

In Utah, revenue from Antelope Island—along with the more than 200 other tags offered at auction—have funded thousands of GPS collars that biologist have strapped to mule deer and other big-game species in order to track their movements, better understand migration patterns, and ultimately influence management decisions that benefit wildlife populations and create additional hunting opportunity.

Arizona Mule Deer Tag

If Utah allows certain latitudes with 70 percent of the revenue raised by the Antelope Island deer tag, Arizona runs a much tighter ship. One hundred percent of the $725,000 raised at Saturday’s auction for the statewide deer tag goes to Arizona Game & Fish for “management and habitat projects that will benefit mule deer,” according to the Expo auction book.

Arizona actually offers two of these statewide deer tags, which can be used from Aug. 15, 2023 to Aug. 14, 2024. That’s right: It’s a year-long season, which means the recipient can hunt velvet bucks in the Kaibab or wintering bucks on Unit 12B, the legendary Arizona Strip. Presumably, hunters could also target bucks that haven’t yet fully developed their annual antlers.

“Maybe a June buck with beer-can bases,” says Jim Heffelfinger, wildlife science coordinator with Arizona Game & Fish and widely respected authority on mule deer management. “That would be a rare trophy. I bet nobody else with that [statewide] tag has one of those.”

Heffelfinger’s agency and wildlife program benefit grandly from special-tag revenue. Jackson Miller, habitat partnership coordinator for both MDF and Arizona Game and Fish, says the auction-tag revenue funded 47 habitat projects across the state last year to the tune of $3.2 million.

Many are landscape-level habitat improvements such as a 50,000-acre grassland restoration project in Unit 18A, water developments, and pinyon-juniper removal.

“Without the Habitat Partnership program, thousands of acres of habitat would not receive the treatment they need every year,” Miller says. “It truly changes the landscape.”

Auction Tags vs. General Tags

Given the eye-popping prices—and outsized attention—that these auction tags receive, it’s worth asking: How does that revenue compare with general-tag sales to hunters who can’t afford a new pickup, let alone a six-figure deer tag?

States’ revenue reporting systems are so different that it’s hard to quantify revenue, but in 2019 alone, Colorado sold nearly $100 million in hunting licenses. Revenue generated from those deer, elk, turkey, and moose tags paid for the salaries of wildlife biologists and hatchery technicians, for paper, power, and light at regional offices, and for the computer systems that enable these tags, used to manage public wildlife resources, to be distributed quickly and equitably.

That’s an important consideration for states as they wonder if they should put more of the public’s resources up for sale on the auction block, or simply keep distributing public tags to public hunters.

As they’re considering that choice, policy-makers would be wise to calculate the indirect financial impact that public hunters can have on rural communities. Nevada estimates that hunters spent about $380 million in 2020 on hunting and hunting related expenditures in addition to their licenses.

“More people want to hunt big-game animals here in Nevada than there are available big-game hunting tags,” said Michael Taylor, a co-author of the report. “That’s what makes hunting kind of a recession-proof industry. There are so many people who want to go that demand stays strong even during an economic downturn.”

An economic downturn that doesn’t seem to have affected the purchasing power of at least some Expo auction bidders.

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How to Start a Fire: The Ultimate Guide to Modern Fire Building https://www.outdoorlife.com/survival/how-to-start-fire/ Fri, 12 Nov 2021 17:06:36 +0000 https://www.outdoorlife.com/?p=167120
how to start a fire
Fire starting is easy if you follow these tips. Nau Nau via Getty Images

Our survival expert breaks down how to start a fire quickly and easily, no matter the conditions

The post How to Start a Fire: The Ultimate Guide to Modern Fire Building appeared first on Outdoor Life.

how to start a fire
Fire starting is easy if you follow these tips. Nau Nau via Getty Images

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Few survival skills draw attention like how to start a fire. Perhaps it’s because we still find it magical to take materials from the land and create something that offers both warmth and light. Or, perhaps we know that fire is critical when the mercury drops and darkness settles in. Even if we don’t know why fire skills interest us, we do know that fire building is important. 

Fire starting is a broad topic and given the thousands of years of evolution in the skillset, there are many ways we can approach building fire from the most primitive friction-fire methods to the most modern tinder and electronic lighters. You could spend a lifetime studying all the different methods to make fire. But if you only want to learn the most effective, and need a few proven methods for when you absolutely need a fire, this article is for you.

How to Start a Fire in Four Stages

There are four stages to building a fire: fire preparation, fire starting, fire maintenance, and fire extinguishing. 

Fire preparation is the act of locating a spot to build a fire, clearing debris from around the central hearth that could accidentally catch, and assembling all the components you need prior to starting. 

Fire starting is the act of striking a match, scraping a ferro rod, catching a piece of tinder on fire, or otherwise initially igniting your fire. Fire starting is where the three requirements for fire, heat, air, and fuel must come together in the right ratio to burn properly. These requirements are often referred to as the “fire triangle” and when a fire is not burning well, you can troubleshoot which of the components is lacking. 

Fire maintenance requires you to stoke the fire, add fuel to it as necessary, position logs to achieve more or less flame, and otherwise keep the fire going as long as you need it to burn. 
Fire extinguishing is the process of dowsing your fire, moving the firewood to the outside of the fire ring, making sure there are no hot spots left behind, and making sure the fire is no longer burning. Your fire should start with an understanding of the final stage first as it is not wise to build a fire you cannot put out. 

Choosing the Most Effective Fire Lay

How to Start a Fire: The Ultimate Guide to Modern Fire Building
The right fire lay will allow you to effectively heat a shelter or cook a meal. Kevin Estela

Assuming you’ve identified the location where you want to build a fire, you must think about what type of fire will help you accomplish your goal. There are different ways to arrange your fire that will produce maximum light and heat, burn for a long time, and other ways that allow you to control the amount of heat you use to cook with. How you assemble your fire is referred to as a “fire lay.” Here are the common fire lays and what each is best for. 

The Tipi 

Perhaps the most iconic and easily recognizable fire lay is the tipi fire that draws its name from the cone shaped configuration of firewood. This fire lay burns quickly, much like a wooden match held upside down, and it produces a tall bright flame. It is a good fire lay if you need to warm someone or if you want to illuminate your campsite at night.

Log Cabin

An alternative to the tipi is the log cabin fire lay. Much like Lincoln Logs, this fire lay is built up with perpendicular logs creating a box and it can be used for cooking as it burns very steady and doesn’t flare up. 

Platform and Brace

A hybrid of the log cabin fire lay is another called the “platform and brace”. Think of this firelay like a single corner of a log cabin built up on a heavier log that allows for airflow. The corner of the platform and brace points in the direction the wind is blowing and the initial fire is lit to the inside of the corner. This forces the flame into the material you wish to burn. 

Long Fires

Additional fire lays include long fires that are built the entire length of a body, resting alongside it. The long fire is popular among winter camping enthusiasts and bushcrafters that use it when temperatures drop and wood resources are plentiful. 

Star FireSimilar to the long fire, the star fire is used by groups of outdoorsmen camping next to a fire for the night. The star fire has a central fire with long logs extending out from the center like spokes on a wheel. The campers sleep between the spokes and throughout the night each camper can push the nearby spoke into the fire to keep it burning.

Fueling Your Fire

How to Start a Fire: The Ultimate Guide to Modern Fire Building
A pile of shavings or feather sticks makes for excellent tinder. Kevin Estela

Your fire will be built with fuel of different sizes and shapes regardless of what firelay you decide will work for your needs. As you assemble and prepare your fire, think of increasing the surface to mass ratio of the firewood. To visualize this, imagine attempting to light a wooden 2×4 with a single match by holding the flame against it. Now imagine taking that same 2×4 and carving it into thousands of toothpick-sized shavings.

The same match would easily light the pile of shavings because the wood has more surfaces and edges to catch flame on. Also, as you build your firelay, don’t jump in fuel diameter too large too soon. Limit yourself to using fuel no more than two times the diameter of what you are currently using as you build your fire larger.


The fuel you use should always start with tinder. Think of tinder as fuel that is light and fluffy and can light with just a spark. Some common examples of good natural tinder include birch bark, dried leaves that haven’t fallen from trees, actual old bird’s nests, and cedar bark. This type of fuel will likely flash and won’t burn long but it provides a starting point for your campfire. From tinder, the next type of fuel you’ll want to use is kindling. 


Kindling is more substantial than tinder, but unlike tinder, it probably won’t start with just a spark. Kindling will light with a brief exposure to a flame and kindling can be either found on the land ready to go in the form of “squaw wood”, found on the underside of evergreen trees, or cut down to size from a larger piece of firewood. Kindling is pencil lead thickness and it should have a distinct crack when you bend it. There is an old expression, “if it doesn’t crack, throw it back.” The best kindling is that from softwoods like the conifers since this type of wood burns very hot and very fast. It isn’t the type of wood you want to use in your campfire the whole night but it is the best to get it going. 

Adding Fuel

After you gather an appropriate amount of tinder and kindling, you must direct your attention to the fuel that will sustain your fire for as long as you need it to burn. Small fuel is approximately pencil to finger thickness, medium fuel is wrist size, large fuel is the thickness of your arm, and primary or main fuel is fuel up to the thickness of your thigh. 

Be forewarned, it is easy to jump too soon from one thickness of fuel to the next. Instead of rushing the process, monitor how your fuel is burning. If you notice there is a lot of smoke, consider your fire triangle of heat, fuel, and air. Perhaps you have too much fuel and not enough heat. Perhaps you have heat and fuel but not enough air. 

Troubleshoot as you adjust your fire and the fuel you add to it. As you burn more of your small fuel and medium fuel, you’ll notice a bed of small coals forming at the base of your fire. When you add more medium and large fuel, the coals will become more substantial as your fire continues to burn. Eventually, you’ll be able to place more fuel on top of your fire and it will ignite from the heat coming off the coals.

Ignition Sources

How to Start a Fire: The Ultimate Guide to Modern Fire Building
The author striking a ferro rod. Austin Lester

Modern fire starting utilizes modern methods of making fire. Thanks to technology, an inexperienced person can be equipped with the means to make fire anywhere and as long as they carry these tools and use them properly. Modern fire starting doesn’t have the same drama as primitive fire starting and it may actually be too easy to even raise any doubt you’ll struggle. 

READ NEXT: The Best Fire Starters of 2023

Yet, even though technology has greatly improved, you should still plan on carrying redundant layers to ensure success. Use the acronym “P.A.C.E” (Primary, Alternate, Contingency, Emergency) to help you build out the layers of preparedness. Think of spreading out what you carry on your person/pack, instead of carrying all of your kit in one location—so just in case you lose some of your fire starting kit, you won’t lose all of it.

Primary Starter: BIC Lighter

At less than a dollar and capable of making 1,000 one-second fires, the standard BIC lighter is hard to beat for fire starting. The BIC goes right to flame making it an excellent tool for starting both kindling and tinder. The best way to operate your BIC is in short durations. Conserve your gas and when you light something with your BIC, use the tip of the flame as that is the hottest point. The only concern you should have with your BIC is removing the child safety feature on the wheel and keeping your BIC warm and dry. If you must store your BIC for a period of time, put a small rubber washer around the top of it where there is a small lip underneath the gas button. That will keep it from accidentally depressing. Also, think about putting your BIC inside of a party balloon to keep it dry. 

Alternate Starter: Ferro Rod

Ferro rods have become incredibly popular for fire starting, providing the possibility of thousands of fires from a single “Scout”-sized rod. The ferro rod serves multi-purpose duty as an emergency night signaling device as well as a quick light to briefly illuminate your surroundings. Since the ferro rod is a spark-based fire starter, it works well to light natural tinder or man-made fire starters.

Pre-made tinder will ignite with fewer sparks and you can use the final third of your ferro rod for that. You can decide if you want to move the scraper and hold the rod still, or move the rod and hold the scraper still. Both techniques are viable and it will come down to personal preference. When you are attempting to light natural tinder, use the full length of the ferro rod and pin the tinder down with the end of it. Scrape harder and attempt to remove more material from the rod with a slower motion. This will create more substantial sparks that will more easily light the tinder you find.

Contingency Starter: Storm Matches

Storm matches are water resistant and windproof. They will, quite literally, burn underwater as long as there is more of the chemical head to burn. These matches burn more aggressively than standard book matches but they do take up more space and the heads are often fragile. That said, they are a “straight to flame” fire starter and most people know how to light a match. Matches make a great back up to back up fire starter and they are intuitive to use. Matches burn the hottest when the head is chemically reacting. 

Make sure when you use any match, you ignite the match close to where you will place it. Don’t light it away from your fire to then transfer it while shielding the flame with your hands. If you use your BIC and ferro rod correctly, you may never need your matches. Still, they are good to have just in case.

Emergency Starter: Flare

There is no such thing as cheating when it comes to how to start a fire. In an emergency, you do what you need to do and worry about how others will perceive you later. There could be a time when you exhaust your primary, alternate, and contingency means. That’s when you reach for your emergency option. 

I am not opposed to packing a road flare, or a cut down flare, as an emergency fire starter. I’m also not opposed to packing copious amounts of pre-made tinder. Road flares can burn for minutes and the magnesium used produces brilliant light that can be used as a signal too. A good road flare can burn hot enough to dry out small fuel and provide enough heat to get your fire going. It shouldn’t be used as an “every time option” but there may be a time when this survival tool is the only option.

Banking your Fire or Extinguishing your Fire

As your skillset improves, you will have less difficulty starting fires. You won’t even break a sweat thinking about how to get a fire going. Maintaining your fire will come down to collecting and processing wood as fuel. What you will have to decide each time you make a fire is if you want to extinguish your fire or, if you’re camping, bank it for the next morning. Extinguishing your fire is best accomplished by drowning it with water. Cover it completely to the point where no smoke rises from the firelay. 

If you decide to bank your fire (save it for later), you will cover it with hardwood ash, which smothers it and prevents the remaining wood from burning efficiently. Banking a fire slows down the burning process and the amount of wood used up overnight. The next morning, the ash is removed and air is introduced to the coals. This will create more heat and you’ll easily ignite the fuel again.

5 Mistakes Rookie Fire Builders Make

  • Picking materials off the wet ground. Many people are conditioned by signage and training to gather loose dead fuel that’s fallen down, but in an emergency (or any other time you’d like to have fire-making success), you’ll have better luck breaking off the dead branches, twigs, crunchy leaves, and brown pine needles from standing woody plants, shrubs and trees. This is typically the driest fuel in any environment.
  • Using rotten wood. Sticks should splinter when they break, not break off in blunt-ended chunks. You’ll also want to avoid branches with fungal growth, like shelf fungi, mushrooms, witch’s butter, wood ears, etc.
  • Choosing the wrong ignition method. Twigs aren’t likely to light from sparks alone, though an open flame may make them light. Flame-based ignition sources are the most versatile form of heat, but even these have vulnerabilities. Matches are easily blown out in the wind, and butane lighters can lose their gas if the button is pushed in storage. In the end, you’ll need to have an ignition method that’s compatible with your fuel materials.
  • Failing to use enough tinder. One or two dead leaves won’t cut it. For ordinary circumstances, I recommend two big handfuls of tinder material as a foundation, and a third heaping handful on the side as a backup. If you’re really in trouble and need that fire, get even more tinder. Materials like dead crumbly leaves, brown pine needles, crunchy dead grass and fibrous inner tree bark are some of my favorites. Like the sticks you’d collect, your tinder should be dead and dry – but so long-dead that they are not rotten.
  • Choosing a bad location. Before you shave that first spark from your ferro rod or strike that match, consider whether the conditions are even safe for a fire. Every summer wildfires consume acreage across western lands, some of which have been caused by human negligence. All it takes is a little wind and a spark to unleash hell on earth in a field of dead grass or a dry pine forest. If you have any doubt about the potential to start a wildfire, think twice before starting that fire. —Tim MacWelch

Final Thoughts

Modern fire starting doesn’t win ratings—and you won’t see it on reality television shows because with good equipment and training, you’re not likely to experience any issues. If I only have a few hours to train a group of individuals how to start a fire, I start with the most advanced methods first. Once a group has a strong command over modern techniques, I’ll work them backwards through more traditional fire starting methods all the way to primitive friction fire. If nothing else, students gain an appreciation for modern fire-starting equipment by training with inferior methods. The bottom line is carry modern kit, be well-versed in all methods, and never stop training. 

The post How to Start a Fire: The Ultimate Guide to Modern Fire Building appeared first on Outdoor Life.

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