The Long Riders' Guild

The Long Riders’ Guild launches the World’s Toughest Equipment Test


The Long Riders' Guild does not accept advertising revenue, or any type of outside funding, from anyone - ever.  In other words, you can't buy your way on to this website.  We're not for sale!

The opinions expressed in our Equipment Section by the various Long Riders are unvarnished, sometimes harsh, often complimentary, but always spoken from the heart. They have to be.

Unlike ring riders, our lives and those of our horses depend on our gear. If a piece of equipment fails in the middle of the Amazon jungle, while riding over the Himalayas, or fording a Russian river, we can't load up our pony and go home. You don't get ribbons or trophies when you're a Long Rider. If you do it right, you and your horse make it through in one piece.

That is why the Guild has launched the world’s toughest equipment test, to prove the durability of the famous Canadian adjustable pack saddle.

Can one pack saddle survive ten expeditions, made by ten different Long Riders, in ten varied portions of the world, over the course of ten years?

The Long Riders’ Guild and the pack saddle’s maker, Kelly de Strake, are determined to find out.

Long Riders have already used Kelly’s pack saddle to explore every continent except Antarctica. Stan Walchuk took it through the Cordillera mountains of Canada. Saskia Machaczek used it in Argentina (as illustrated by photograph at the top of this page). Horst Hausleitner crossed the African continent with it, to name just a few.

But perhaps the most astonishing single test was conceived when Australian Long Rider Tim Cope used two of the pack saddles on his 6,000 mile solo journey from Mongolia to Hungary. While following in the hoofprints of Genghis Khan, Tim routinely used the adjustable pack saddle on various sized horses. It even fit a Bactrian baggage camel, as seen in this picture taken in Mongolia.

“Have used the Canadian pack saddles on both camels and horses. They have been a fantastic reliable asset- the pieces of equipment which stay fast when everything around me is turning into a storm. Quite frankly I have had a lot less trouble with the pack saddles than with my riding saddle,” Tim wrote to the Guild.

While these results are encouraging, no one has ever undertaken a systematic planet-wide study of this critical piece of Long Rider equipment. Thus this will be an unprecedented decade-long project, one that will have new information added to it as Long Riders register their experiences and recommendations.

British Long Rider Elizabeth Hill, who completed a 1,000 mile ride through Great Britain in 2011, is the first equestrian traveller to use the Canadian adjustable pack saddle in this special ten-year international field test.  See her glowing review on her blog.

Also in the summer of 2011, Tom Fairbank and Katie Russell tested the donated Custom Rigging Packsaddle on their ride across Washington, Idaho, and Montana with great success.

"This particular saddle has bars for a horse or mule that has withers, and the new style of adjustment. The saddle is sturdy and easy to adjust to allow for changing condition of the animal. It is a bit easier to adjust than the old Custom Pack Rigging style; however it has square bars that tend to wear holes in the top pack.  In fact, it wore holes in a new top pack in just one day, so we split a length of hose and put it over the adjustment bars which solved the problem.

The boxes (panniers) are tough and water proof however you either need to rig a rope around them or sling them; so they are a little more work to hang.  I chose to sling them with a basket hitch, then secured it with a diamond hitch.  When we traded around equipment in the middle of our trip I sent these boxes out and used a set of bear proof boxes instead.  This wasn't because of a problem with the boxes; our route required certified bear resistant containers."

The pack saddle used by Elizabeth Hill, the "European" pack saddle, has now been tested by Virginie Claeyssens, a French Long Rider who recently made a journey through Argentina. Virginie wrote to Custom Pack Rigging to say, "I just wanted to say to you a huge THANK YOU for the pack saddle lent by the LRG for my travel in Argentina Patagonia this winter/spring.  I left 3rd  December from el Chalten and I finished early April at Bariloche, with my three horses Pingocho, Mosquito and Chiquito. The pack was very easy to use in practice. It was comfortable for the horse, and easy for me to load. It worked so well that many people wanted to buy it. I would suggest providing flexible Tupperware boxes that fit inside the panniers.  This would help people gain time when looking for something."



Other expeditions, in a variety of difficult and dangerous places, are now being considered as potential test sites. Will one pack saddle be able to endure such an unprecedented experiment? Only the mounted Argonauts of the Long Riders’ Guild will be able to tell you – in ten years’ time !

To learn more about the adjustable pack saddle manufactured by Kelly de Strake (right), visit his website,

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