Packing Questions?

Mountain Boomer

New member
Dec 10, 2000
I need a little help from you experienced packers... :rolleyes:

When you pack into the high country with horses, how do care for them? Do you turn them loose to graze, stake them out, or what? Do you pack any feed or hay in?

How about a bare necessities list for gear. What do you pack in that is a must have?
Boomer, been awhile ! depends on where your packing into some places dont allow feed to be packed in some do! each state is different i think... might check regs for where your going. Most every pack trip ive been on we hobbled the horses in an area with good grass.

my first pack trip i brought what i thought was the bare necessities.... two small duffle type bags......Dave grinned at me and said thats great now whatever you can get in that panier (1 pack box)is what we will be bringing........think real hard about what you may need then ask yourself over and over will you use it! ........the most valuable thing i brought was saddlecloth breatable raingear mt50 cabelas stuff , good luck where ya headed ?????
Mtn. Boomer.....Unless these are your own horses and you know them well, you never turn them loose to graze.....unless you want to hoof it back to your trailers or trail head, to try to catch them up again. I use a picket stake with a single hobble for grazing and only half the horses at a time. The other half are on a high line. Wework our horses pretty hard and are about 8 miles from the trailers, so we always pack in both grain and hay. But, we get there early before the opening day and take several trips packing our camp, gear, and horse feed in. In the fall, the grasses have started to dry up and there is not enough nutrition to maintain the horses weight without packing feed in for them. Your must have is shelter and food and a close source of water for you and the horses.
Thanks Guys. I will be using my own horses to pack in. We are planning on hunting the San Juan Wilderness in CO. I went last year and tried to pack in but had way to much stuff. We ended up just camping at the trailers and riding in every day.

Where we plan on camping has a big meadow w/ a spring near buy. I have hi ties and one legged hobbles. I didn't know if the meadow would be enough to maintain my horses. We have two horses and two mules. My mules want leave the horses, so I could turn them loose in the meadow. The horses are a different story...

Here is our plan... There is three of us going. We plan on making two trips in. The first trip pack two animals in and two ride in. One person stays and starts setting up camp while the other leads all the animals back out. Come in again with two pack animals and two riders. Essentially, we will have 4 pack animals for 3 people. Will that be enough to get all our gear in? We plan on going very light since we will be bow hunting the first week of season and don't expect real bad weather.
4 pack horses for 3 people is more than adequate if you're going light. I would make one more trip with the mules to pack in grain and alalfa cubes to supplement your graze. Feed your horses and mules gradually on alalfa cubes the week before leaving until you are about half their daily intake on the cubes and your horses will maintain their weight. Of course pack enough grain also for morning and evening.
You will need more animals coming out than going in ,you hope any way.
I like to use 2 mules per elk.And don't pack antlers unless you know how.they always go on the last animal in my string. Make sure you can cut him loose quick if you have to.
Tie a stick between them, and the scull part goes to the front and the stick keeps them above the saddle.
best to get some one to show you how not to hurt your self or your animals with the can be very dangerous.
As far as turning them loose to graze don't,and feed I take bails ,and do Petty much like the other guys.I keep my animals about a quarter mile from camp,It the law in certain areas best check USFS,BLM,or game and fish in your area before you go.All kinds of rules you need to know about animals and CAT HOLES etc.

[ 07-01-2004, 13:45: Message edited by: nitro x ]
Your first mistake and the one most guys make is camping in a big meadow with water and good grass. That's elk country. Camp in the trees, a long way from where you plan to hunt. By all means take feed, and don't try to graze or hobble. The last thing you want to do is chase stock in the dark before you go hunting each morning. You can always bring in more feed when you pack out a bull. Your season is probably 5 days so you can probably get by with 20% protein alfalfa for the duration of this trip, and a couple pounds of oates per day in the am. Make sure they get 20 pouns of alfalfa though in the am before they go to work.

I sure hope I have to make several trips out. I missed a cow last year at 30 steps. I got kinda excited... :D

Now I have another question. It looks like I am going to need around 500 lbs. of feed & grain. How much weight can I put on a horse? I was planning on packing 100 lbs / horse but I may have to push the limits to get enough feed in. It looks like three trips is going to be needed for sure, but I still may not be able to get all the feed in.

Also, is plain oats the best or should I take some sort of sweet feed?

Just for fun here is a picture of my horse and mule as we were packing to leave last year...

Mtn. answer your weight question, how many miles are you packing, what type of terrain, (elevation gain, dense forest, open trail, your own trail, rocky,) average miles per hour you plan to travel? Using panniers or manties? etc., etc., etc...
ARCAT, you bring up a very good point. Last year we thought we knew what we were doing. Needless to say we got a big wake up call...
I have been practicing this year and will have "something" figured out by then hopefully... :rolleyes: To say I am a rank amature in packing is an under statement. Thats why I am here.... Trying to learn.

Whitedeer, I am not sure about the elevation change. I would say around 2000 feet. We are going to camp at 10,500 ft accourding to the GPS. The trail is open for the most part. That is one reason we figured we could pull this off. It took us about 3 hours to ride in last year and we went slow. I'm assuming that if the packs ride well we can make it in the same amount of time. It took us about 2 hours to ride straight out. I have one set of panniers and one pack that goes over a saddle. I am assuming that is what you are calling a Mantie??? It is the heavy duty nylon one.

Rockydog, I think that is the only thing I know I can do... :D
Manties are pieces of canvas that you wrap your stuff in, then tie it up with ropes, and tie that pask on each side of a mule on a decker saddle. Its the best and only true way to pack in rough country. (I'm sure that last comment will solicit many responses) Its the way packing is done in the North-West...Idaho, Montana, oregon, washington etc. Colorado and wyoming are bags and sawbuck country. Get a copy of Packin In on Horses and Mules, by Smoke Elser. Its very informative, and is the Bible on packing at most guide Schools, and will teach you alot whether you use manites and deckers or sawbucks and bags.

Thats a good looking rig, and nice looking stock you have there.
Mtn. Boomer.....I assumed you had two pack saddles since you had two mules. If not, you should invest in another pack saddle and have two good setups for your mules. The nylon saddle rig should only be used for loose stuff and not counted as a "real" pack outfit. A manty is a way of not using panniers and packing your gear in a canvas which is folded and then tied around the gear. I use this for odd-shaped gear and primarily for carrying hay into the back country. One bale slung on each side and one on top if I'm not going too far. The modern rule of thumb is 20% of your mule or horse's weight is comfortable. For your short distance 200 - 220 lbs. per mule should be about right unless they are real lightweights. I would guess your mule in the picture may be close to 900 - 1000 lbs. So 220 lbs. would not bother him at all.
Lots of good advise given bove. Where I hunt, I set up camp near the trailhead and ride in everyday. Their primary source of food is hay cubes, with some grazing. I give them grain in the morning while saddling and again when we return. I take a some grain in the saddlebags for a mid day snack and some mountain grazing. There is a group that camps up where we hunt and they put their horses in an electric fence enclosure where there is grass and water. It is there that they stay the whole week unless they are called upon to pack an elk back to camp. Here are a few pages you may find helpful also.
When we go in a wilderness, we ride one horse and pack a horse. We have a bag we tie on the back of the saddle on the horse we ride. On the pack horse, we have either a saddle pannier or packsaddle with panniers. All our gear goes in these. We are generally in for a 4-6 day hunt and dont take horse food. They graze and eat what they can. We eat MRE's, so everybody including horses have to suck it up a little. Dosent bother them a bit to graze on what they can find. So what if they loose a little weight, mine are too fat anyway.(And so am I)
When we come out, each pack horse handles a whole elk (front quarters, rear quarters, head and backstraps). All remaining gear is put on the riding horse. We hop on and head out.
Of course, we generally have a lightweight tent with no woodstove or cookstove, lightweight lantern, mre's, clothes and guns. Rifles are put in scabbords.
When we pack an elk, we cut each hindquarter off with hair on, cut each frontquarter off, take the backstraps all the way up the neck, and cut the head off. When we get the frontquarters, we cut next to the ribs all the way down towards the back of the ribs, so when we are done, there is not much meat on the ribs. That way, you dont have to gut the elk. We then put a hindquarter in the pannier with the foot toward the back of the pannier. Cut the leg off the frontquarters and drop one in each side. Divide the backstrap and neck meat and put them in each side. Tie the head on the top with the antlers tied also to the legs sticking up. Cinch it all down with a top strap and take off. Works great. Horse has no problems with it.
Thanks for all the help guys. I will chew on this for a few days and see what I can come up with. My horses and mules are rode all summer between roping and trail riding. They are usually fit and trim. I really don't want them to loose weight if I can keep from it.

Whitedeer, The mule you are looking at is 14-2 hands. She will weigh about 850-900 if I was guessing. I've never had her on a set of scales. The mare you are looking at is 15 hands even if you stretch her. She will go 1200 easy. I have an old horse that is the same height but doesn't have the width and muscle of this mare and he goes 1050. I've weighed him. The other mule I am taking belongs to my dad and he is 16 hands and will weigh 1000+. Never weighed him before either. Here is a picture of him... My dad is 6' for size comparison.


Thanks for the compliment. I'm going to order the book today. I just noticed you are from Little Rock. Thats where I work... or, suppose to work.. :D

Steve, we are going like you described. Light weight all the way. We did this last year and made it fine w/ the tents and food. Of course we were camped at the trailer...
If you are taking 500 # of feed you will neen 2 mules or 2 trips.250 # is all you want to put on a large fit mule in rough country.Less if they aren't used to it ,or are smaller.
Decker saddles are the way to go .I hunt AZ mostly and most guys around here use sawbuck. but I learned to pack up north on a modified decker.You can heat and bend the tree to fit your mule.And to me any way I think they are easier to pack mainty loads.
Panniers are easy on either, just use Carebiners to clip them on the decker.
To make a pack ride well Most beginners get the equal weight thing but not bulk.You need to keep both sides as close to the same as possible.
Learn the Crows foot,barrel hitch,and how to through a Single, double, and triple Diamond hitch and you can pack any thing all day without adjusting your packs.
some critters freak out when you come at them with dead stuff "meat" for the first time. Tie them off good and approach from the front and slow the first time.
PS Rocks work to equal out the weight

[ 07-01-2004, 13:43: Message edited by: nitro x ]

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