Pack Saddle Info Guide


  1. Decker arches/rings - Metal arches on the decker come in two models - rounded or square. Square arches are also commonly referred to as the "new style" or combination. . Square style arches allow more room for your hands under the arches to tie ropes and or pannier straps. Rounded also called "old style" is still a workable option especially with pannier hooks.
  2. Breeching and breast collar - Should be double thickness harness leather due to the strain on them. Also rolled and lined (soft chap leather sewn to) breast collar and breeching are preferred since this helps to prevent chafing of the pack animal.
  3. Quarter straps - Some less expensive pack saddles only have one quarter strap per side. Higher quality pack saddles have two quarter straps per side.
  4. Half breeds - A half breed should have 1" felt inside for added protection of the pack animal. All decker pack saddles have half breeds, saw bucks do not. However, I can special order sawbuck half breeds.
  5. Nylon vs Cotton vs Leather - Nylon or cotton webbing for breeching, breast collars and straps are less expensive but are not as durable as leather. They also have a higher tendency to chafe a pack animal than leather. On long pack trips when a horse gets lathered up, the leather will absorb the sweat making the breast collar and britching slippery and less abrasive to the horse.
  6. Conway buckles vs Roller buckles - Adjusting a pack saddle to your horse is much quicker and easier with roller buckles.
  7. Brass vs nickel plated hardware - Brass is much more durable compared to nickel plating as the nickel plating will eventually peel or wear off.
  8. Tree/bar thickness - Most trees/bars have the same width and length but vary in thickness. The thicker trees are more durable.

Pack Saddles available at this site.


  1. In the West, the pack saddle of choice is the decker. In fact, you rarely see a saw buck in use.
  2. I prefer the decker because of the added protection the half breed provides the pack animal with its 1" felt and wood side boards.
  3. Deckers also are more versatile than Saw Bucks. Hooks can be used to secure panniers to the decker arches which makes loading and unloading panniers very easy and quick.
  4. If you have the misfortune of ever rolling a pack animal, and you will if you pack long enough, the saw buck crutches will definitely not survive the wreck. The decker arches/rings have a much higher probability of surviving a accident without destroying the pack saddle. Also sawbuck crutches break off occassionally when hitting low hanging large branches.


  1. There are some good used pack saddles for sale. However, just like canvas tents, be very leery of buying an old one. The last thing that you want is to have leather breaking and a pack saddle shifting on a steep narrow trail.
  2. Inspect an old pack saddle thoroughly:
    • Cracks - Look for any cracks in the leather, especially where it bends around the cinch, breeching, breast collar rings. If there is a crack its just matter of time before it breaks.
    • Quality of leather -Old leather loses it strength and will break under pressure, so check the quality of it just like you would check the quality of your wall tent.
    • Check decker tree - Put the pack saddle on the ground and try to move the metal arches. If the arches move the bolts securing the arches are normally rusted/decaying which allows the arches to move or the screw holes are rounded out.
    • Check saw buck tree - Put the pack saddle on the ground and try to move the oak crutches. If the crutches move the bolts/screws securing the crutches are normally rusted/decaying which allows the crutches to move or the screw holes are rounded out.
    • Examine tree - for splits or cracks. Splits or chacks will only get larger and make the tree unserviceable.