Kananaskis on Horseback – Day 3

Kananaskis on Horseback – Day 3

Travel with us on Horseback through Albertas Kananaskis Country

Packed up

Day 3 – Packing up and heading to Mount Romulus Equestrain Campground

A Kananaskis trip on horseback begins with great preperation. You can’t always prepare for every situation and you can’t pack everything. You learn to live with what you have.

We managed to get the necesities all packed and settled on the horses. It wasn’t pretty but it was functional. We just needed the packs to stay relatively stable for the 3 or 5 hour ride to Mt. Romulus campground. The terrain was fairly flat and packs could easily be adjusted from the saddles without having to dismount to readjust.

The biggest question evryone always asks me is “What the hell do you pack” ? It is a series of short lists I have devised over the years of trial and error. I’ve always had the luxury of a pack horse but with limited trailer space for 2 horses we had to make it work with what we were riding. It was a challenge but we had more than enough gear and food. The weather was very co-operative for our 5 days out which was a great relief.

This is the list we packed into our 6 Trail Max bags for the 5 day, 70 km Trip. 

Camp Gear 

Human Gear


Horse Supplies

  •  The best quality pack bags you can afford. We found some great bags by Trail Max that were durable and held a ton of stuff. Could even fit my plastic wash basin in them which came in real handy and could fit most of eating & cooking utensils in.
  • Your tent needs to be the best quality you can afford. It needs to be waterproof and should pack up into bedroll size.
  • Sleeping bags need to be rated for cold, even in the summer, temperatures can drop in the high country to -20C. Thinsulate works well and is super compact. The hiking stores are the best place to find good gear.
  • Invest in some self-inflating bedrolls. They can be made pretty compact and will fit into the cantle bag, makes a huge diffrence on your body.
  • A good pot for boiling water
  • A compact camp set for cooking on the fire, hikers plates, utensils and cups, cutting knife. All these should fold up and fit inside your dishpan.
  • Propane single burner element can work for heating your tent and heating water. food up quickly if the weather is inclement.
  • Coffee filters
  • Zip fire starter for wet wood, a reliable lighter and waterproof matches.
  • Water bottles (handy ones with built in filters are available at hiker shops)
  • Dish pan and soap, scrub pad,
  • Garbage bags, dish clothes and towel
  • Duct tape, non-stretchy rope
  • leather laces
  • Toilet paper on the top of the pack
  • First aid kit supplies that can be used for both you and horse. Sterile gauze, vetwrap ( 2 rolls) tensoor bandage, polysporin, pain killer, antacid.
  • Headlamps, gps or garmin “in reach” unit will give you added peace of mind.
  • Waterproof tarp to cover tack. 
  • Folding saw and shovel if room.
  • Waterproof oilskin and warm jacket that will be comfortable underneath
  • Good comfortable and preferably waterproof hiking/riding boots. You only have room for 1 pair so take the best you got. If they aren’t water proof you can stuff break bags wherever you have space to put around dry socks should your feet get cold and wet.
  • The clothes you are wearing and one more clean dry set of clothes, packed in a waterproof bag. a few pairs of warm comfortable socks, and 1 set of warm layers.
  • Long johns and warm insulated shirts.
  • Jeans are bulky but can be rolled into bread bags should your horse go down in a stream. A set of dry clothes can make or break your trip.
  • Good leather gloves – can double as oven mits and keep your hands warm during sleet and cold spells.
  • Stuff foot and handwarmers wherever you can find space in your packs
  • A good jacknife should be carried on body. A lighter, waterproof matches, sun screen, bug spray, trail mix, water bottle can all be carried on a pommel bag in front of your saddle for eay access as you ride. Glove liners and ear muffs – “ear bags” pack great. 
  • Someone in your party needs a can of bear spray and know how to use it.
  •  a camera, batteries or charger, flashlight and any medication.
  • Personal items like toothbrush, toothpaste, wash cloth can be packed in a bread bag with your clothes. Getting cleaned up can give you a new lease on life and a new outlook.
  • One set of good waterproof clothes with waterproof hat and gloves stuffed in pockets. 
  • It’s nice to plan ahead what you want to eat for the next 4 or 5 days, but don’t get too hung up on it. Lists will help.
  • The Trail Max cantle bags held more than enough food for the 2 of us for 5 days. We don’t eat big on these trips but healthy and nutritious is the key.
  • 1 can a day of soup, beans, vegtables, chili, stew, salmon and high protein goods.
  • You can honestly live on a can of brown beans a day and not die. I know cause I had to do it, but that’s a whole nother story.  (Don’t forget your can opener)
  • Oatmeal packs for breakfast are filling and quick to make. You are heating water in the morning for coffee and washing, so a cup of hot water makes a great quick breakfast.
  • A lot of coffee, cowboy coffee over the fire is the best in the world. A good cup while jingling horses in the morning is the best way to start your day.
  • Rice or sidekicks to heat up.
  • We had room to fit a insulated cooler in beside our cut box and put an ice pack, cold cuts, onion, eggs, cheese, milk, and even some coleslaw for crisp crunchy treat. Salad dressing
  • We still had milk and cold cuts left when we returned.
  • Smokies, burgers and homemade bread also made their way into our packs.
  • We stuffed trail mix and granola bars wherever we could find space and munched as we rode.
  • The first thing that always goes into my horse gear is a bottle of bute or Banamine. Banamine is an anit-inflammatory and anti-spasmotic that is given when horses show signs of colic and tying up. Anyone (or at least someone in your party)who rides in the backcountry should know how to give life saving IV injections and be comforable giving it, If you aren’t comfortable with IV injections it can be given orally and can save pain and lives should accident occur. Have a good working relationship with your veterinarian and ask them how to use it correctly. I am a retired vet tech of 25 years. In all my years of packing, I have only used Banamine once last summer when my horse got kicked in the knee. I have run into other outfits that have needed it and I was glad to oblidge.
  • Always pack a spare shoe and know how to tack one on or just pack an easy boot that will fit your horse.
  • Soft cotton ropes for staking out or highligning.
  • A good strong halter and shank
  • A soft and stiff body brush, hoof pick on your saddle
  • Blue Creek outfitters makes a really good bug goo out of pine tar and citronella. It works amazing. It fends off the nasty horse flies, is waterproof and will last days on a horse even thry multiple water crossings.
  • A collapsable water pail
  • Hobbles and possibly picket anchors if you have the room in your bags.
  • Cowbells for jingling and staking out.
  • Have a well stocked vet kit back at base camp. Stable wraps and pads, ice packs.
  • Know where your nearest vet clinic is and what emergecny are avialable.
  • Know the number for foresty serrvices should your or a horse require airlifting in an emergency.

We got all this gear sorted and wieghed out at evenly as we could. We then had to use some step ladders and alot of good rope to get it balanced over our horses and attached firmly to our saddles.

Everything was snug and secure and the horses maneuvered well with 5 days of supplies and a couple of out of shape Saskatchewan – wanderers stomping around Alberta.  We knew the bags would shift and the first few days would be a bit of trial and error of what worked and what didn’t. We packed plenty of additonal rope and ties and hoped for the best.

We made if to Mt Romulus in short time with no mishaps. Every day was pretty easy going with an average of 10 kms a day. This left us plenty of time to tend to the horses grazing, set-up camp, get cleaned up, relax, cook supper and enjoy.

Kananaskis on Horseback Day 2

Kananaskis on Horseback Day 2

Travel with us on Horseback through Albertas Kananaskis Country

Cooling down in Little Elbow

Day 2 – Finding the Trailhead from  Little Elbow Campground

Horseback riding in Kananaskis trip began like most pack trips. Exploring our base camp, getting our kinks out and allowing the horses to rest from their long haul.

I started my morning like most, doing my stretching and strengthening exercises but this morning it was in fresh mountain air. I had horrible sciatica from the day before and had to get that sorted out before riding.

We saddled up after breakfast and found the trailhead to Little Elbow Trail. There were trails along both the north and south sides of the creek. We knew the following morning we would be loaded with gear and needed to find the trail that provided the least amount of hills and climbing getting out of the staging area.

Maps and trails were well marked and finding Little Elbow trail would be easy once loaded and heading out the following morning. We were delighted to find the first bridge crossing about 1 hour out of base camp that would begin our 55 km round trip. The bridge was about 12 kms from the barn. So total kms would be close to 70 with our little side trips and adventures along the way

Exploring Little Elbow Campground 

 When we returned from finding Little Elbow Trail we spent the heat of the day exploring around the Campground. The trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Forget Me Not Pond and Little Elbow Falls. The place was a hub bub of activity with weekenders enjoying amazing weather. Kids on scooters roared past us like we were old people. Canoes, tubes and paddle boats filled the pond. We learned we sucked at selfies and promised ourselves we would get better at it, we never did master that task. We then headed east to Little Elbow falls where we  witnessed 2 guys jumping in the freezing, rushing mountain water. I thought I was crazy about mountain springs, but even those guys had me shaking my head.

We then spent the evening packing for the backcountry trip and appreciating the luxuries of the trailer we were soon to leave behind. Things like cell phone service,  a mattress, instant hot water and horse feed would be left at the campground for the next 5 days. We weren’t sure what to expect but we were keen for adventure and willing to take the risks that may lay ahead.

Kananaskis on Horseback – Day 1

Kananaskis on Horseback – Day 1

Travel with us on Horseback through Albertas Kananaskis Country

Laura Martin

Day 1 – Heading out & Travel 

Planning a trip to Kananaskis on horseback? The plan begins long before you ever loaded a horse. Plans are made months before you leave. This year, Covid restrictions had to be lifted enough that interprovincial travel was acceptable. Reservations had to be made with  Parks Canada, horses needed to be trained, conditioned and shod. 2020 was full  of challenges for a mountain trip. My back was deteriorating and the clock was ticking. I wasn’t getting any younger. Ralph was anxious to learn the science of backcountry camping with horses. Last year we missed our destination and we wanted to get that sorted out.

Would the stars align this year? Would my back  hold out once we got in the back country? We knew we had to try.

The packing….

I’d done more than my share of mountain packing in the past. I’d taken outfitting courses and hunted with my late husband, so had a pretty good idea of what was necessary and what wasn’t.  We were to travel light packing in only what we needed for 3 nights and 5 days. The equipment we needed for the trip, ourselves and the horses had been well learned from past experiences, and that is the best way to learn.

I found a really good set of durable saddle and cantle bags and boy did they hold stuff. Packing saddle bags and pack boxes has always been a bit of a science, but one I thoroughly enjoyed. Most of our backcountry supplies were made to fit into these 6 bags. The bags then had to be carefully weighed and distributed evenly upon the horses. I had to plan and pack for hot weather, snow, food, clothes and horse supplies and make sure they fit in these 6 bags.

Laura Martin
Laura Martin

Alberta bound…..

We spent the first day travelling. We left early on a Sunday morning and gave ourselves 9 hours to make the journey to Little Elbow Campground west of Bragg Creek on Hwy 66. That would give us lots of time for breaks, resting the horses at brunch and any other delays that were possible. 

We had amazing travel weather, clear skies, great roads and very little traffic. As we got closer to Bragg creek and our campground, traffic was hectic coming out of the park, but we were heading in with very units in front or behind us. We learned a long time ago to avoid Friday and Sunday evening travel, and always travel in when folks are coming out of the parks. Kananasis is a very busy summer park and we were in the peak of summer holidays. 

The travel time gave me lots of opportunity to reflect on our backcountry needs and exactly what to pack when we would leave the campground for 5 days. 

What to pack when mountain camping on horseback

What to pack when mountain camping on horseback

Setting goals and achieving them.

Dream Believe Achieve. To some it’s a sign in the doorway reminding you to apply it everyday. Some have used to gain their fame and fortune. It has a different meaning for everyone and that’s what makes us human. Doesn’t matter what “Achieve: may mean for you, What’s important is that you  know what it is and that  it can be done. The words sound simple enough and are easy to understand so it shouldn’t be that difficult should it?

It’s pretty easy to dream and we all need them, whether you sleep well at night or not. As a kid, I was always accused of being a dreamer. But when you’re a kid dreams do seem big. I’m not going to tell you what I dreamed about, but I do have a couple of cousins who can vouch for me when we played house. When you’re a kid is hard to believe and even harder to achieve your dreams. Every human should be a proud owner of a good dream or 2. Are these dreams realistic or just a fantasy? ( I think Aldo Nova sang that song). Or could  it actually happen? How could you make that happen? As a kid there were a ton of questions that needed a ton of answers. We couldn’t wait to head out in the world to fast enough to find those dreams. Hang out with me for awhile and found out where we are going with these 3 words. Dream, Believe, Achieve,  I am hoping those cousins don’t spoil the surprise.