The Long Riders' Guild

Pack-Saddles - page 2

Bags and saddlebags
Nylon Decathon pommel bags :  strong and adequately waterproof.  Rather large.  Very light.
Saddlebags :  simple Decathon backpacks.  Obviously they are not very strong and they frequently need mending, but it is not possible to find anything lighter, and they are reasonably waterproof.
Panniers :  I made them myself, they are old jute coal-sacks onto which I sewed some belts for security.  They are indestructible.  Not waterproof.  They go together with a cover cut out of the ground-sheet of an old tent.  The fixing points are very simple and strong - mainly mountain clasps.  The ropes are all mountain ropes, unbreakable.  They will last for about one year.

Laura Bougault 

We were very pleased  one day searching on the internet, to learn about a pack-system called "Not-a-knot", from Outfitters Supply in Montana.  We immediately realized that this was what we had been looking for.  We contacted the owner, Russ Barnett, and after spending a lot of time looking at the different options, we opted for the following:
2 complete "Not-a-knot" pack-saddles  
4 fiber-glass panniers (Ralide Horsepack Panniers)
2 big top-packs
2 heavy duty saddle pads
We haven't been disappointed.  To pack the horses is as easy as it sounds, and we have crashed in to trees and rocks, dropped the boxes,  and basically tested the whole system quite roughly. Horses have run scared away in full gallop, fallen, climbed up and down, but not a single time have we had trouble with sliding cargo.  Both the saddles and the pack-boxes have stood up to the test.  The top-packs and the saddlebags are not as watertight as promised, but we are pleased with the functionality. We made a rain cover for the cargo, and we use a Uruguayan rain-poncho that covers us and the whole horse, so everything works OK.  
The only negative part about the fiber-glass boxes are the weight, but we wouldn't change anyway.  They are very useful, and we use them as chairs, tables, backrests and you can fill them with water for the horses or do the laundry in them.
All in all we are very satisfied with both what we bought from Outfitters Supply, and also with the service we have received.  Our horses are not of the biggest, and when we contacted Russ Barnett and told that we thought that the pack-boxes were a little bit to low on our horses, he immediately sent us, free of charge, new attachment-straps for the boxes.  That solved our worries. 

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Howard Saether and Janja Kovačič

To contact Outfitters Supply:

I use a classic sawbuck-style pack saddle. It enables me to carry modern equipment, but also to do traditional packing such as the diamond hitch.
A very strong point about my pack saddle is that I made it myself and the cost was only about US$50.
For hard work or long trips, I prefer to use panniers made out of ralide.  They are very strong and useful, but a little bit heavy (7kg each).  I bought them at  Outfitters Supply, in Wyoming, USA.  My only concern is that you must take special care of the screws at the back of the panniers, which can damage the pack saddle. 

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Edouard Chautard

Pack saddle - The 'Hurunui Packer' manufactured by Rob Stanley of Hurunui Horse treks, was based on a standard military design with a hinge between the panel and the light aluminium alloy arches allowing it to fit different horses more readily.   The pads are thick, thick felt covered with canvas, and I kept a good wool blanket between them and the horse.  Breeching and breast plate were made of light nylon webbing - use a fleece girth cover over these to avoid rubbing.

Pack bags were PVC - light and soft - lined with an extra tarp  which was useful as a spare cover when it rained.

NB if you are in New Zealand,  anything made by Les Wilkins of Hawarden, or Mac Macpherson of Kaitaia will  'do the job' superbly...

Mary Pagnamenta

We had lots of fun packing the packhorse in the best way.  At the end of the trip we could choose between at least four ways of packing that the locals had shown us.  We tried all of them.  Even though we only had about 40 kg. (about 80-90 pounds) of luggage between the two of us - we were quite proud of that - it proved a challenge to pack it so that we can go at a fast trot.  Since we never saw a proper pack-saddle, we had to use a normal riding saddle and roped our two waterproof bags on each side, with the tent and the food on top.  Mongolians seem to use yak carts for transport rather than a pack horse, that was our impression.

Evelyn Landerer

We found that pack saddle pads with soft sheepskin or wool did not work well. While it seems like it should work well, in practice the soft material becomes rubbed and pilled over time, (especially as the horse sweats), creating an almost sandpaper like finish. What works really well (this is trick taught to us by a cowboy on the Mogollon Rim) is a pack saddle pad with a slick, vinyl surface. It slides easily over the horse's back as the horse moves without chafing, and it also allows the sweat to run out and not build up in the material. A well-packed horse with a correct, balanced load will not sore with a slick pack-saddle pad. Unfortunately, I have not ever been able to find a commercial supplier of these types of pads, and the ones I used were hand-made by a cowboy.

Doug Preston

Having settled on a riding saddle - let's look at a pack-saddle.  Now Hollywood would have us believe the erstwhile Western hero can travel for weeks and hundreds of miles with just his saddle-bags and a blanket, while still producing coffee pots etc. at his evening camp.  In fact, even a brief list of "necessities" makes it soon apparent that one needs a pack-saddle.  After a lot of searching a retired drover in Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia, came up with an ex-Australian Army pack-saddle for me.  

Old-timers I've met in the Territory and Kimberleys have since told me these were the best pack-saddles ever made.  So if you know the location of one, I suggest you grab it.  The chief difference about this pack-saddle is that the tree is hinged where it joins the side panels.  This means it adjusts to fit a variety of horse sizes and shapes.  Very handy!  These two panels are leather, lined with canvas originally though this has since been replaced with serge.  Incidentally - old-timers recommend not using any cloth or saddle-blankets with a pack-saddle.  The side-panels can pull the cloth down onto the horse's withers, causing problems.  

Steve Nott

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John Labouchere's horse Cacique is ready to move

I am terribly conservative - all the standard stuff.  I wish the new pack-frames had been around then.  Argentinean-style 'buck' pack-saddle (two "crosses" joined by two well-padded pressure boards) with lots of sheepskin (which doubled as my night mattress) between buck and horse.  Two big (I had to carry for two for a quarter of the Andes journey) home-built panniers of army canvas with front and back pockets for the easy-ready stuff - medical, veterinary, cooking and shoeing.  Top load was tent, bedroll, fishing-rod and groundsheet/drizabone.  The whole lot was secured by the load-rope of rawhide.  Two six-inch cinches 15" apart used as girths.  Tied on top of all was the water-bottle, map-case and a spare jersey/survival jacket depending on current altitude and weather.

John Labouchere

Items of interest

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The "No fail Scale" - How many people does it take to weigh a load?  Used to be two - one to lift and one to read the weight.  With the "No fail" no rust aluminium scale, you gradually lift the load and the indicator stays at the correct weight, making it possible for one person to balance the packs accurately.  Weighs up to 100 pounds in 1-pound increments.  The scale itself weighs 8 oz.

Saddles, saddle-pads & saddle-bags Pack saddles Horse-shoes & hoof care

Bridles, bits & head collars

Feeding & Grooming

Horse training Tents Solar power & laptops Clothing Camping equipment

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