Why I Designed the TrailMax™ Saddlebag System


When I started Outfitters Supply I was also a saddle repairman, and was often asked to repair all kinds of horse accessories as well, including saddlebags. And I saw a lot of saddlebags in my shop. I also saw a lot of saddlebags on the trail. And I heard a lot of saddlebag complaints. Worse yet, I had to use these same western saddlebags and experience the same frustrations as my customers because there weren’t any alternatives. That is why I designed the TrailMax™ line of saddlebags.

Brand X Saddlebags
TrailMax™ Saddlebags
Saddlebags that are not designed well can be uncomfortable for the horse and frustrating for the rider.
TrailMax Saddlebags fit the saddle, balance the weight and stay in place down the trail.
Slipping, sliding, shifting, banging...
driving horse and rider crazy!
Looking good and riding well!

What makes a good set of saddlebags?

I discovered five points that I think are critical for good saddlebags:

  1. They have to fit the saddle. The horse saddlebags should not be so far apart that the bags no longer rest on the saddle skirts. The saddlebag connector needs to be curved to fit snugly around the cantle. The saddlebags should not be too long or too wide or the weight of the bags will not be carried where it is comfortable for the animal.

  2. They have to stay put. So many times I would be riding down the trail and meet another rider with their saddlebags hanging off to one side. Or I would follow someone who was constantly reaching around to shift the bags back in place. And forget trotting or loping with these bags. They looked like a bird trying to take off. Worse than that, they would slap and bang against the horse’s flanks. At best, this is annoying, but with the wrong horse, it can be very dangerous.

  3. They have to be able to carry stuff. I have seen a lot of western saddlebags with a lot of neat little pockets and features and what not, and even designed a few of them myself. However, when it came time to actually load up my gear to go for a long ride, I need to fit in everything I needed to bring.

  4. They have to be easy to handle and easy to access. How many times have you wanted something in your saddlebags or hornbags while you are going down the trail? All the time, right? Me, too. And nobody wants to stop and get off to get into their bags. Nor do you want a set of bags that is difficult to take off your saddle to carry into camp. A good saddlebag is easy on, easy off and easy to get into.

  5. They can’t fail 10 miles out from the trailhead. Classic leather cowboy saddlebags have always held up, but not everyone wants leather, especially if you are conscious about weight. But many of the bags made from lightweight materials were not built well enough to last. Good saddlebags are built of material that can stand being scraped along rocks and trees and are reinforced at all stress points.

And they have to be good looking! But that’s just my personal opinion.

So I designed the TrailMax™ Saddlebag System to address all of the above.

  1. TrailMax™ Saddlebags fit the saddle. I brought the horse saddlebags closer together to make sure the weight could ride higher on the animal and the bags could rest on the saddle skirts. I built the saddlebags of a size that is big enough for your gear, but not too wide to get in the way of the animal’s natural movement or too long to force the weight to ride uncomfortably for the animal. The saddlebag connector is curved and fits snugly around the cantle.

  2. TrailMax™ Saddlebags stay put. Once again, the saddlebag connector is curved to fit close against the cantle. It is also designed with grommets for tying to the saddle strings. Then we added a strap to the underside of the saddlebag that attaches to the rigging ring. This strap holds the bags snugly in place and keeps them from bouncing and slapping the horse at faster gaits. It also helps snug the saddlebags connector down against the back of the cantle. The removable cantlebag is held in place with two snaps front and back, as well as with two compression straps, which also cinch your load down tight.

  3. TrailMax™ Saddlebags can carry stuff. Original size or Junior size, the TrailMax™ Saddlebags are large enough to pack your bulky or overnight gear in without making your horse twice as wide. They have foam insuliners for protecting your gear and keeping food cool.

  4. TrailMax™ Saddlebags are easy to handle and easy to access. TrailMax™ Saddlebags have durable zippers that zip across the front of the bag to keep out the rain. I have found that, with the right load, if my bags are cinched down tight enough, I can open and close these bags with one hand. And when I get to camp, I untie two knots and unbuckle two buckles and I can take the entire system with me into camp. Or I can just unsnap the cantlebag and carry it by its handle into camp.

  5. TrailMax™ Saddlebags are built to last. Having repaired so many western saddlebags in my time, I know exactly how and where saddlebags tend to fail. We use durable, 1000-denier nylon throughout our entire TrailMax™ line. This material is tough, yet attractive and machine washable. We have reinforced every stress point with nylon webbing for strength. And every TrailMax™ product comes with a limited lifetime guarantee.

The importance of good gearRuss likes to use the Daytripper Cantlebag with his Original Hornbags.
Nothing can ruin a perfectly good ride like gear that isn’t working properly. Customer complaints and input, as well as my own frustrations and experiences, are what led me to design and build the TrailMax™ System and what keeps me improving it all the time. Just last summer, we introduced the Pommel Pocket because my wife complained that her keys always fell to the bottom of the hornbags and why couldn’t there be a nice little pocket right up front for that sort of thing.

We design all TrailMax™ components to work with one another so that you can put together a system that works best for you. Almost every component is offered in the same six colors so that your system can match whatever color scheme you prefer. The Horse Saddle Bags and horn bags come in two sizes – Original and Junior – to provide you with the carrying capacity that you need. Additional TrailMax™ components to mix and match include the Daytripper Cantlebag, Pommel Pocket, Front Pocket and the Water Pocket.

We think we have designed the ultimate saddlebag systems for every trail rider. The TrailMax™ Saddlebag Systems are simply better by design.