Packing for Your Horse Camping Trip

How to pack your saddlebags, and what you’ll need to bring on your adventure.

Camping Checklist
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Karen Saner and her husband Donald have been packing for more than 25 years in the rugged backcountry of Wyoming. Karen, a founding member and board member of the Teton Back Country Horsemen of America chapter, offers the following tips to pack your saddlebags for a successful pack trip.

How to Load Your Horse Packs

Weight limits: Carrying the live weight of a rider is different from packing the dead weight of gear in panniers. A good ballpark is to limit live weight (your saddle, you, and minimal gear) to 250 pounds per horse. Dead weight should be less—around 150 to 175 pounds per horse.

Packing tips: Always use a scale to accurately weigh and balance packs or panniers, both at the start of the trip and each day before heading further up the trail as supplies are used. Unevenly weighted packs will shift on the pack saddle, which can lead to either a sore horse or a “rodeo moment” when the horse is frightened as the pack slides under its belly. If necessary, use rocks to balance the weight.

Pack heavy, sturdy items—canned goods, pots and pans, tools, paper products—at the bottom, and easily damaged or frequently needed items on top. Tie your rain gear on the back of your saddle for easy access.

Ratio of pack animals to humans: One pack horse for every two people.

What to Pack for a Horse Camping Trip

Your packing list will depend on location, weather, length and difficulty, but here are some general items for your horseback camping trip. Bring the lightest, most functional gear you can.

  • tent
  • sleeping bags
  • cots/air pads
  • gas stove
  • pots/pans/plates/utensils
  • rain gear
  • cold-weather gear
  • weed-free feed/hay
  • canteens
  • fly spray/insect repellent
  • cell phone (in a hard case and turned off for use in an emergency)
  • first-aid kits for horses and humans
  • knife in a holder on your belt
  • map and compass
  • fuel/fire starter/matches in dry container
  • flashlight and extra batteries
  • axe, shovel, saw
  • high line rope and hitches
  • electric fence with solar charger
  • portable corral rope
  • duct tape and nylon strapping
  • toilet paper
  • extra halter and lead rope
  • brush, hoof pick
  • hobbles


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