Loading and Adjusting Pack Panniers

Beginners at horse packing should start with panniers instead of manties. Manties require knowledge of tying knots and manties are more difficult to load on the pack saddle. Having pack gear come loose on narrow trails in steep terrain can be very dangerous to you and your pack animals. Especially, for individuals who are just beginning to pack.

Pack Scales are a necessity in balancing the load/pannier on each side of the pack animal. If a load is 3-5 pounds heavy on one side it will eventually cause the pack saddle to slip to one side causing a wreck. Pack scales have a tab that automatically marks exact weight. When weighing, don’t jerk up on the scales but gradually raise the pannier/manty off the ground to insure an accurate weight. Weigh the pannier or /manty twice to insure accuracy. Insure you take the pack scales on your pack trip because you will have to repack and reweigh panniers on your way back to the trailhead.

Adjusting Unbalanced Panniers on the Trail Occasionally you can have equally weighted panniers and one will start riding lower while you are on the trail. The best and quickest way to make the necessary adjustments is to add 3-4 lbs of rocks to the high pannier and then lift the lower pannier to have the proper alignment. Add more rocks if necessary if the first rocks were not sufficient.

Triple Saddle Bags are recommended if you are short on pack animals. 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 always walk to give your riding horse a break.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. 

I use my BIG ONE - saddlebag which are very large. I put all my clothes in the different compartments so I know where everything is. The problem with the big one is the over sized cantle bag as it is very high and you have to make an effort to throw your leg over the cantle bag. To me it is worth it as I pack my sleeping bag in the cantle bag.

Max pack loads for a horse The general rule is 20% of the horse’s weight including the pack saddle. It is more difficult for a pack horse to carry dead weight than a rider who helps balance the load and leans forward or back in the saddle. A mule can carry 25 % of its weight including the pack saddle.

I am not advocating usung a mule for packing as I prefer horses. I have heaard stories and mule unusual behavior.

Do a dry run at home and load all items to insure all gear will fit in your manties or panniers and you are not overloading your pack animals.