Horse Panniers Guide

Horse Panniers include many types of panniers and pannier material. Hopefully, this guide will explain horse panniers and material sufficiently to allow you to make the best choice for your needs.

Click Horse Panniers to view 30 horse panniers available at this site.


  • Pack panniers are normally used with pack saddles. Pannier straps wrap around decker arches or saw buck crutches.
  • On deckers, you can put straps through hook slots and use pannier hooks for easier loading and off loading.
  • Some pack panniers straps can be adjusted and used on a regular riding saddle.
  • Most pack panniers have a wooden dowel at the top of the pannier to keep the pannier shape and for the pannier straps to wrap around.
  • Pack panniers are more expensive than other types of panniers.
  • Recommendation: If you like canvas panniers, I strongly recommend you purchase canvas panniers with leather ends if your pack panniers rub against trees, rocks and brush on narrow trails. The additional expense is worth it because the leather end canvas pannier will last much longer. Additionally, you won't have to pay a saddle shop to repair it like a normal canvas pannier when it tears or wears through.


  • Saddle panniers are designed specifically for use on a riding saddle. However, some saddle panniers can be used , with great difficulty, on pack saddles also.
  • Saddle panniers do not ride as securely on a saddle as pack panniers ride on pack saddles. Therefore, saddle panniers need a strap that goes around the pack animals stomach with a good teeth buckle to help keep the saddle panniers balanced and secure.
  • Recommendation: I would not recommend that anyone purchase a saddle pannier unless it has at least one stomach strap and one strap to connect the pannier bags.
  • Recommendation: I would strongly encourage you to buy a good saddle breeching and breast collar if you are going to do much packing with saddle panniers. Especially if you go up and down hills. The breeching will prevent the saddle cinch from slipping forward while going downhill. A saddle cinch that slips forward will cause a significant cinch gall that will require weeks to heal before you can use your horse/mule again. Click saddle breeching if want to look at the saddle breeching and breast collar I have for sale.


  • Recommended if you are short on pack animals. Don't overload your pack animals as it is much more difficult for a horse to carry pack gear than a riding horse to carry you.
  • Recommendation I suggest you purchase very large triple saddle bags for your riding horses to prevent overloading pack animals or leaving required items at home. You can fill these triple saddle bags with bulky, lightweight items.
  • Ensure that you don't put hard items on the side of the saddle bag that touches the horse. These hard objects will bounce up and down on the trail and cause pain and possible injury to your horse.


  • Normally made of poly/plastic or aluminum.
  • Hard panniers naturally protect the packing items much better than soft panniers.
  • However, hard panniers carrying capacity is usually less than soft panniers.
  • Top pack and H Pack panniers ride well on hard panniers lids because of their even surface.
  • Hard panniers are varmint proof and are great for storing food and kitchen items.


  • Designed for packing bulky items such as alfalfa pellet bags.
  • Utah panniers are great for packing out elk quarters. I use them for packing 80 lb alfalfa cube bags and packing out meat to keep my pack panniers clean and prevent stains.
  • Utah panniers do not have dowel on top of each pannier bag and do not have a lid.


  • Both H and Top pack panniers ride on top of the pack saddle and pack/saddle panniers.
  • Panniers are designed primarily for packing clothing, and other lightweight bulky items.
  • H and Top pack should be a low silhouette. Probably no greater than a 12-13 inch depth. A tall top pack has a tendency to rock the pack saddle and making it become loose.
  • H pack fits between the crutches on a saw buck very well, but can also be used on a Decker


  • Salt panniers are designed for packing in salt blocks, two salt blocks per pannier bag.
  • Salt panniers should be reinforced with leather because of the salt block rubbing on the pannier.
  • Salt pannier bags are normally very short, 19-20 inches.
  • Salt panniers can also be used as regular pack panniers on small horses, mules and donkeys. Normal panniers are just too big for these small animals.


  • Panniers certified to be bear proof by the US Forest Service.
  • Some wilderness and national forests require bear proof panniers to help prevent bear attacks.


  • Insert liners fit inside of panniers.
  • Inserts allow you to pack items better, provides protection to pack items and retains the shape of the pannier.
  • Normally made of a poly material.
  • I recommend inserts which have lids as these inserts are varmint proof and good for food storage.


  • Metal frame with shelf that attaches to pack saddle.
  • Shelf folds up when not in use.
  • Hauls All allows individual to pack in oversize items such as coolers, tent frames, fence posts, propane, etc.


  • Attaches to pannier straps and then hooks to decker arches/rings.
  • Makes loading and unloading panniers very quick and easy.


  • I use pack scales to ensure each pannier bag is within 1-2 lbs of the other to prevent the pack saddle from becoming unbalanced and shifting.


  • It is difficult to overload a pack animal using panniers because of the limited volume in most panniers. Unless you are packing alfalfa pellets or grain.
  • I prefer larger panniers to ensure sufficient volume/space for my packing requirements.
  • Normally the width of panniers determines the difference between carrying capacity of different panniers. Most panniers have similar length and width but vary greatly in depth.


CANVAS: Naturally water resistant and durable. The classic pannier material. Drawback is that blood stains canvas easily. Leather end canvas panniers is recommended.

IRON CLOTH: Extremely durable and tough synthetic material. Much more durable than canvas. Cleans easily to prevent staining.

CORDURA: Tougher and more durable than canvas but not as strong as Iron Cloth or Kevlar Tough. Courdura comes in many grades and quality varies tremendously. Ballistic courdura is a much higher quality than normal cordura. Cleans easily to prevent staining.

VINYL: Tough, waterproof and cleans easily.

ALUMINUM: Toughest pannier made. Some aluminum panniers are bear proof.

POLY-PLASTIC: Hard panniers that provide added protection for breakable items.