Dude ranch vacation packing tips

BY Jody Dahl | Tue 08 May, 2012

Dude ranch vacation packing can be a nightmare! Unsure of what – and what not – to throw in your suitcase when packing for your horseback riding holiday? Whether you’ve signed up for an overnight pack trip, a backcountry riding adventure, a luxury ranch-and-spa break or anything in between, we've got your packing predicaments covered…


Because you can’t take the entire contents of your wardrobe, here are the main things to consider when packing for your dude ranch vacation…

Go for low-heeled boots or suitable cowboy boots, if you have them. If you opt for the latter, bear in mind these could get scruffy on a working ranch vacation or if you travel in rainy season, so leave them at home if you don’t want them to get dirty. Backcountry riding? Lynn Minty from Beaumont High Country Experience in New Zealand advises: “Normal riding boots without a tread are not suitable for walking on hills and tussock grasslands – go for leather tramping boots with a small heel or comfortable footwear suitable for walking on uneven terrain.” Don’t forget non-riding footwear too – sneakers and/or a pair of flip flops always come in handy, and pack ‘dress’ shoes if your chosen ranch has formal dining.

Riding clothes
Jeans will become your new best friend on your ranch vaca! Pack a couple of pairs for riding – those without an inside leg-seam offer best comfort. For beginner riders or those not used to spending long hours in the saddle, padded underwear, like those designed for cycling, are often a wise option! For hot climates go for vest tops and light, long-sleeve shirts to protect you from the sun. For cooler climates or if it’s likely to rain, be sure to pack plenty of layers, long-sleeve tops, a scarf and a warm coat. Many ranches supply rain slickers, but check with them before you go.

Most ranches recommend wearing a hard hat and some even provide them, but if you have your own then take it, to ensure the best fit. Otherwise a brimmed hat or baseball cap will protect your head and face from the sun. If you do go for a cowboy hat, make sure it fits – it’s not a good look to have your hat fly off your head every time you move into a lope, and fellow guests won’t be too impressed at having to stop every five minutes while you retrieve it from a bush!

Essential if you’re spending lots of time riding, especially on cattle drives on working ranch vacations – choose the strong leather, or leather-reinforced type.

Personal items
Aside from the usual toiletries, be sure to pack sunscreen and insect repellent. To save space, you could even buy the essentials once you reach your destination. Some ranches even provide shower items so check before you go.

Don’t forget it! But if you plan to bring a bulky professional camera, remember the large size isn’t ideal for carrying on horseback. Pack a smaller model as well that’ll fit in your pocket or saddlebag for those all-important horseback shots. A wrist loop and/or camera case will ensure you don’t lose it on your way, and remember to pack extra memory cards – you’ll take more snaps than you think!

Some ranches have a ‘bring your own’ policy on alcohol, so check beforehand so you know whether to stock up on wine, beers etc – airport duty free shopping is the ideal place to grab a bargain bottle!

Ask your ranch if they provide hairdryers etc, and leave the flat irons at home – the last thing you’ll be worrying about on your ranch vaca is your hair! Socket adaptors if necessary, cell phone charger and camera charger is all you’ll need.

Unless you’re guaranteed hot sunny weather on your ranch vacation, you need to be prepared to face the elements – and that means waterproofs! Says Lynn: “We provide our guests with half chaps and long, oilskin riding coats, however if these are not available we suggest they are obtained, as they prove very valuable. Half chaps not only prevent rubbing, but, along with the raincoats, also help riders stay dry.”

Pack tripping?
Says Jim Yost of Latigo Ranch in Colorado, which offers overnight pack trips: “We provide guests with canteens and rain slickers, but suggest they pack lots of layers and changes of socks, plastic bags to keep personal items in their saddle bags dry, a stocking cap – and long underwear! For pack trips we emphasize "small" and "light". Your horse will be carrying everything in saddle bags while climbing up a long, steep mountain paths – a demanding trip, so be considerate.

Stay hydrated
All-day rides can take their toll, especially in hot weather, so carrying plenty of water to keep you well hydrated is essential. A canteen will hold enough to last you a day and keep the water cool – go for the round, flat-sided styles, which lie well against the saddle and won’t flap around.

Top50’s top tips!

  • Save packing space and dollars, by stocking up on riding attire such as boots and a hat while you’re on vacation. Not only will you likely glean fashion inspiration from wranglers or other guests, local western clothing stores in cowboy country often offer a much better selection and prices than you’ll find on the internet.
  • Try to leave about ¼ space free in your suitcase, as you’ll most likely you’ll want to stock up on souvenirs and gear while you’re there.
  • Learn exactly what NOT to wear on your dude ranch vacation!

Thanks to Lynn Minty of Beaumont High Country Experience, New Zealand, and Jim Yost of Latigo Ranch, Colorado.

Find the best ranch vacations in the world at Top50Ranches.com

TAGS: dude ranch vacations, ranch vacation packing, top50 ranches, beaumont high country experience, latigo ranch, pack trips, horseback riding holidays, working ranch vacations

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