The Importance of Being Prepared

If anything can go wrong, it will.  We are all very familiar with this saying, and I have seen it in action on trail rides and pack trips more times than I care to count. I’ve found that the wilderness is terribly unforgiving of any mistakes. Some of the wrecks I've witnessed were just little mistakes that ballooned into a big problem because the person was not prepared. So, after many years and many miles, here is a list of the items that are ALWAYS packed in my saddlebags.

  • Human first-aid and horse first aid
  • Rain slicker or waterproof rain jacket to keep me dry
  • Down or wool jacket to keep me warm
  • Gloves, because you can't do anything with frost-bitten fingers
  • Emergency food (granola/protein bars, dried fruit and nuts, freeze dried meals)
  • Light-weight space blanket or bivy for an emergency shelter
  • Bear spray in a VERY easy to access location, preferably my belt (we love our local Montana manufacturer, Counter Assault, and they provide a belt holster)
  • Map(s) of the area
  • Highline kit and/or horse hobbles
  • Collapsible water bucket
  • Water Filter (preferably a gravity water filter if you have 4 or more people in your group) or water purification tablets
  • Folding knife or multi-tool
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • An axe or hand saw (or both for longer trips). Nothing can take their place if you need firewood or have to clear trail.
  • A zippered plastic bag within another zippered plastic bag containing the following:
    • Several fire starters
    • Waterproof match container with matches
    • Partial roll of toilet paper
    • Lighter
    • Mini-Mag flashlight with extra batteries and bulb

Your personal list of what to bring on a horseback riding trip may vary somewhat from mine depending upon where you are riding, but you should definitely make a list, gather the items and leave them permanently packed in your saddlebags. These items will at least make your trip more enjoyable and may even save your life, your horse’s life or the life of someone else who was not prepared.

Just so you don't think I am too serious. . . I also never leave home without my camera, fly rod and flies, and maybe even my rubber raft in case I can’t cast to where the fish are jumping. I also bring camp chairs, because the rocks have gotten awfully hard in the last few years, and a camp table, because there is no sense taking chairs without a table. Last, but not least, I take two mules to pack it on!