Equine photographer Shawn Hamilton has traveled all around the world and been on dozens of horse-powered adventures. We asked her to share some of her packing tips for horseback riding vacations.
For in the Saddle:
- Riding helmet (I always bring my own for comfort and safety)
- Riding boots – A comfortable pair. This is not the time to have to break in new ones!
- Riding gloves – leather and/or waterproof
- Riding pants
- Riding chaps (full, half or both depending on space and weather)
- Large-brim hat for under helmet – or brim that fits onto helmet
- Scarf or bandana for wind and/or dirt and sand and sometimes sun
- Snacks (time between meals can be a little longer than I am used to)
- Button-up long-sleeved cotton shirts (easier to open or take off)
Tank tops (for under shirt)
- Vest – a nice layer if it is cold
- Rain jacket
- Filter water bottle with clip to attach to saddle
- Fanny pack for snacks, camera, money, glasses etc.
- Camera with extra batteries, charger and cards
- Wet wipes for before and after meals while on the trail
- Sheepskin saddle cover (optional)
For After the Ride
- Hat and gloves for cold nights.
- Head lamp with extra batteries
- Comfortable shoes to change into
- Flip flops for shower
- Running or hiking shoes
- Enough underwear to change into a fresh pair after riding
- Bathing suit and small towel
- Quick dry shirts – for swimming etc.
- Chamois towel & shampoo
- Personal items in Ziplock bags
- Stuff sacks for clothes
- First-aid necessities
- Powerful flashlight
- Bug spray
- Bandanas for gifts
- Cash in proper currency for tips
- Patience and a sense of humor!
What Type of Luggage to Take:
The amount of clothes and other items that you bring on your trip will really depend on mobility. If you are staying in a luxury dude ranch where you may be “glamping” or staying in a comfortable cabin for the duration of your trip then by all means bring an average size suitcase. If you are moving camp every day, then that’s another story.
When I crossed the Andes mountains on horseback with Pioneros from Argentina to Chile we were only allowed to bring that which we could stuff in our saddle bags plus our sleeping bag on the back of the saddle. The mules were available to carry excess baggage but they also had to move the tents, tables, chairs, food and wine, and you wouldn’t want to take up wine space with excess clothing, now would you?
In Alberta with Wild Deuce Outfitting we rode to base camp while a horse-drawn wagon brought our bags. A soft-sided duffle bag is good for these types of trips. In Mongolia we had a truck which followed us with our goods but everyday we had to pack up and lug our stuff from our tent to the truck so packing light and having a bag with wheels was helpful.
In the Yukon we packed everything into base camp on packhorses. Waterproof sacks came in handy for that trip as there were some deep water crossings that the pack horses had to go through. Do the research and find out how much moving you have to do and how the bags are transported from place to place.
I usually pack once, then unpack everything and stack the similar clothing together: riding apparel; sleeping apparel; casual clothes etc. Then I’ll pare it down once again before repacking. Take your favorite comfortable clothes as those are the ones you will most likely live in for most of your trip.
I typically bring jodhpurs as they take up less space and roll up easier than bulky jeans. For non-riding clothes for the evenings I usually pack yoga pants and sweat pants with a fleece shirt. I always change all of your clothes after riding, especially footwear. You can get cold at night if you keep wearing sweaty or damp clothing. It’s a good idea to wear a hat, put some gloves in your pocket and have your headlamp accessible before nightfall.
I have seen many people over-pack but under-packing can be a worse mistake. While crossing the Andes we got extremely wet one day and my tent mate only had the one pair of jeans. She shivered the entire night.
Sleeping in minimal clothing is the best way to stay warm in a sleeping bag. Most people don’t believe me until they try it. The insulation of the sleeping bag gets warm with your body heat and clothes simply create a barrier to the heat. I keep my clothes for the following day in the sleeping bag with me so they are warm when I put them on in the morning. I keep all my riding gear in one stuff sack and my after-riding gear in another and my undergarments in a separate one. I also bring a spare stuff sac for dirty clothes. You can use your stuff sacks as a pillow as well.
Shawn’s Past Equestrian Trips:
- Anchor D Outfitting – Alberta
- Wild Deuce Outfitters – Alberta
- Hideout Ranch – Wyoming
- Bar W Guest Ranch – Montana
- C Lazy U Ranch – Colorado
- Pioneros – Crossing the Andes, Chile and Argentina
- Pioneros – Salta, Argentina
- Pioneros – Patagonia, Argentina
- Blue Sky Sage Outfitters – Wyoming
- Wine tasting by horseback – South Africa
- Ricochet Ridge Ranch – Mendocina, California
- Costa Rica
- Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm Fall Trail Ride
- Rancho Las Cascades, Mexico
- Yukon Horse Adventures
- Ride to the tortoise breeding area in the Galapagos
- Five separate rides in Wales
- A short ride in Quito, Ecuador
- 10-day ride in Mongolia
- Ranch Mont Tremblant, Quebec
- Camping with my own Horse in:
- Otter Creek, New York
- Pure Country Campgrounds, New York
- Horse Country Campgrounds, Ottawa, Ontario
Read all about Shawn’s horseback trip in Mongolia in the January 2016 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!