Learn how to go overnight camping with horses (and actually enjoy it) with our complete horse camping guide.
There is nothing worse than being unprepared on a camping trip. Except for maybe being unprepared on a camping trip with horses. You are so excited to get out on the open road with your horse that….oops, you realize you totally forgot half your backpacking meals.
Avoid the pitfall of a forgotten item – and the accompanying trip back home – with this ultimate guide and checklist to camping with horses.
Or, as we like to call it, “gallamping.” (Don’t beat us to the trademark!)
Streamline the Process With a Checklist
How does the saying go? Cleanliness is close to Godliness? Maybe it should be preparedness is close Godliness.
At least in the case of camping with horses. You could spend a gazillion and a half hours online researching the best gear, weight ratios, feed, and on and on and on.
Fortunately, I have done that for you. This ultimate checklist combines my own trial and error – lots of error – with tons of research to make sure you have the best gallamping experience possible.
Before we get to the checklist, though, let’s cover some important basics to remember when camping with horses.
Key Considerations When Camping with Horses
Where are you going and when?
Do not be annoyed at this seemingly silly question! I only ask because I have been that person who assumed we would be camping in paradise… and ended up on a barren, sweltering mountainside.
Do a little research or mental check-in about where you are going to be camping. Will there be water for your horse? What about feed? What kind of creepy-crawlers might you encounter? Is the terrain steep or pretty flat?
These are all really important things to consider before you embark.
What kind of horses are you working with?
I would never — I repeat never — go on a camping trip with a horse you do not know and trust.
With your own horses, you know their strengths and weaknesses. You know, or can at least figure out, what weight they are comfortable packing or if they are comfortable packing at all.
You know what they will do if you have to blow a rattlesnake to pieces with your pistol or if you come across some ATVs.
Do not put yourself in a dangerous situation with a horse you cannot rely on.
Are you backcountry packing or campground camping?
Truly, this article should almost be made into two separate checklists and tips — one for backcountry packing and one for camping at a campground.
There are some major differences to consider. Most importantly, when you camp at a campground you have a horse trailer, most likely a camper, and other vehicles with you at all times.
The benefit (and challenge) of this is that you can have more stuff. When you are backcountry packing, the amount of stuff you can bring along depends on how many horses you have.
If it is just you and the horse you rode in on, you are almost definitely limited to 50 pounds of gear or less.
Camping with Horses Checklist for Beginners
Make your gallamping trip a success by using this checklist. Don’t be afraid to modify it for your own preferences and geographical needs.
Note: Items with an * are considered optional or dependent on your personal preference.
SAFETY AND NAVIGATION
- First Aid Kit
- For you
- For your horse – check out this option from HorseAid for a great kit with all the basics.
- Satellite Phone
- Especially if you are backpack camping where there will be no cell service. (Here’s the DeLorme sat phone we LOVE.)
- A gun*
- Something light-weight like a pistol. Especially, if you are backpacking through grizzly or rattlesnake territory. Just make sure you know how to use that bad boy first and have the appropriate registration.
- Ammunition for your gun*
- Bear Spray
- Highline Rope
- Small lighter
- Backpacking fire starter
- Hand warmers
- Duct Tape
- Backpacking meals
- You can find edible versions at your local sporting goods store, or even Walmart. But, for the healthy, delicious option, try these from Heather’s Choice. They are expensive, but oh so worth it.
- A good rule of thumb is a minimum of two liters per day that you will be camping. More if you are going during the summer. Feeling brave? Check out this neat little device that can save you from overloading your poor packhorse.
- High calorie energy bars or nut butter packets
- Sleeping bag
- This sleeping bag by Marmot is a solid option that isn’t too expensive.
- I would stick to the bare minimum here if you are backpacking — a toothbrush and some toothpaste. (No, I don’t even bring deodorant. My horse can deal with it!)
- Bug spray
- Rain gear
- Spurs (if you use them)
- Hair ties (pony-holders)
- Even if you do not have long hair, these little babies can be used for all kinds of surprising things like securing loose tack or keeping bags closed.
- Certified weed-free hay
- Alfalfa pellets
- Salt lick
- Saddle pad(s)
- Breast collar
- Particularly if you are traveling over steep terrain
- This one comes down to personal preference and whether or not your horse is used to a hobble
- Rope, rope, and more rope
- Saddle bags
- Horn bags are better for your horse’s center of gravity if you are going to be loading the horse you are riding with a lot of weight.
- Backpacking electric fence*
- Knot tying pocket guide like Corral Cards: Essential Horse Knots
- Hoof Pick
- Curry comb
- Lead line
- Fly mask
- Bug spray
- Extra set of shoes
- If you are camping in a campground, it is only polite to pick up after your horse. If you know what I mean.
- Three 10 gallon jugs of fresh water
- Pack saddle or over-the-saddle pack bags
- Collapsible bucket
Keep in mind, you might have a lot of these things in your horse-trailer already. Go through and physically write down the items that you have and check them off. You will thank me when you are in the backcountry and you remembered to bring the bug spray because you wrote it down. You’re welcome in advance.
Horse Camping Tips
Packing is only part of the equation. Here are a few quick tips to help make your trip a success:
- Get a feel for where you are going before you go there (do they require weed-free hay, is there water, what kind of wild animals might we encounter, etc.)
- If you are not a seasoned camper, do not go by yourself. Camp with someone more experienced or with another novice, just do not go it alone.
- Do a dry run as far as loading your horse and supplies up before you go.
Horse Camping FAQs
How do you tie a horse while camping?
You pretty much have three options here. Option number one: check out this video for some great info on the best knots for tying your horse securely and safely to a tree or your trailer.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqOEop37d_U]
Your second option? A hobble. Now, this article is not about whether or not hobbles are good or bad, so we will leave that up to you. At the end of the day, it is an option for keeping your horse put while you are camping.
If you’re looking for hobbles, try this figure 8 style from NRS.
Your third option, a temporary fence. Whether you use rope or a backpacking electric fence, these are great options to allow your horse a little more freedom.
Struggle to remember how to tie different knots or want to learn more? Pick up a set of my favorite horse tying pocket guide — Corral Cards: Essential Horse Knots
What are some good horse pack trip meals?
Bottom line, the best option is a freeze-dried meal. Why? They are lightweight and are more nutritionally sound than living off of Cliff bars for three days.
Whether you make your own or buy my favorites from Amazon, there are few options better than a full meal that you can make with a little hot water.
If you are camping in a camper you have a lot more freedom as far as food goes, but freeze-dried meals are still a good thing to have around.
What about feeding horses in the backcountry?
The first thing you need to think about is your horse. Does your horse require special feed? How much food will your horse need?
Think about their average consumption patterns and the amount of exercise they will be getting on your trip. And, it is always a good idea to test feed out before your trip.
The next thing to think about is where you are going. Does that area require certified weed-free hay? If so, you can usually buy that at your local feed store.
Just make sure your horse will tolerate that feed before you embark. It is not cheap, but what do you do? Make sure that you always, always bring food and water for your horse.
Do not ever take for granted that there will be enough grass or running water. Better to be safe than sorry.
What should you NOT pack for overnight camping with horses?
Don’t over-pack. My strategy is to imagine my entire camping trip — from the time I load the horses up to the time we get back into the truck.
As you do this, make a list of all the things you will need and cross check that with our list above. That way, you have crossed all your t’s and dotted your i’s.
How much weight can my horse carry?
The rule of thumb is no more than 20% of your horse’s body weight.
However, if your horse is going to be doing a ton of hill climbing and vigorous activity, err on the side of caution and aim for less than that, if at all possible.
Happy Gallamping!Shop Horse Rookie Riding Essentials
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- Happy Trails Gear Guide: What to Wear Horseback Trail Riding
- Rookie Rundown: What to Wear Horseback Riding in Montana
- 6 Best Saddle Pads for Trail Riding and Happy Horses
- Horse Riding Gear for Beginners
- The Ultimate Horse Equipment List