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Packing for your dream dude ranch vacation doesn’t have to be a nightmare, we’re here to help!

You may be unsure of what – and what not – to throw in your suitcase when packing for your horseback riding holiday, but 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 ranch vacation packing predicaments covered…

Here are our top 10 things to consider when packing for your dude ranch vacation:

Ranch Vacation Footwear

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch

Patricia Chesser from Burnt Well Guest Ranch suggests you go for “slick-bottom shoes (preferably slip-ons) or suitable cowboy boots for your safety in the saddle”. Other low-heeled outdoor boots are fine too, if you have them. If you opt for some fashionable cowboy boots, 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. 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.

Ranch Vacation Riding Clothes

  • Legs: Jeans will become your new best friend on your ranch vacay! Pack a couple of pairs for riding – those without an inside leg-seam offer best comfort. You can get really comfy, stretchy ‘jeggings’ (leggings that are made from a stretchy denim) that are also great.
  • Butts: For beginner riders or those not used to spending long hours in the saddle, padded underwear, like those designed for cycling, is often a wise option!
  • Tops: For hot climates go for vest tops and light, long-sleeve shirts to protect you from the sun. The weather can change very quickly, depending on where you go and the team at Badger Creek Ranch (which is nestled at 9,000ft in the alpine desert of Colorado) advises: “Although sunshine is the rule, afternoon showers aren’t uncommon. It can get hot during the day and quite cool at night, think layers!” Think long-sleeve tops, a scarf and a warm coat – many ranches supply rain slickers, but check with them before you go.
  • Hands: Gloves are essential for warmth and/or protection if you’re spending lots of time riding, especially on cattle drives. Choose the strong, leather-reinforced types.

Ranch Vacation Hat

The Home Ranch

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 (also, who wants to wear someone else’s sweaty headgear!). Otherwise a brimmed hat or baseball cap will protect your head and face from the sun. If you do go for a cool 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!

Personal items

Aside from the usual toiletries, be sure to pack insect repellent and sunscreen (sunscreen even in the winter). 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 (or even better, a Go-Pro!) 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! Check out this article on the best cameras for outdoor photography

Ranch Vacations and BYO Booze

Some ranches like Rankin Ranch in California 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 vacay 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! Some ranches provide 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?

Latigo Ranch

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 saddlebags while climbing up long, steep mountain paths – a demanding trip, so be considerate.”

Reusable Water Bottle

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 Packin' Tips!

  • Many of our ranches, like Gros Ventre River Ranch, Wyoming and Rainbow Trout Ranch, Colorado provide ‘What to Pack’ lists on their websites, so make sure you check what’s recommended for your ranch!
  • 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 price 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.
  • Want more? Learn exactly what NOT to wear on your dude ranch vacation!

Don't forget to check out the Top50 Ranches Specials for the latest ranch vacation discounts, offers and events!

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