Travel with us on Horseback through Albertas Kananaskis Country
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.
- 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.