Backcountry Camping - Need All the Info I Can Get!
 
 

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Backcountry Camping - Need All the Info I Can Get!

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  • Camping in backcountry with horses
  • Getting horses to drink in backcountry

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    12-17-2013, 05:31 PM
  #1
Yearling
Question Backcountry Camping - Need All the Info I Can Get!

Hey guys,
My friend and I are really into trail riding, and we want to start backcountry camping with our horses in national parks and other areas. We live in Iowa, so there's not really anything "backcountry" to try. We have gone camping before, and that was pretty successful! But, I wanted to know if you guys knew of any books or websites or even videos that help you prepare for a backcountry trip. Also, does anyone have advice, suggestions on where and how to start?

Our horses are both pretty well trained. My horse, Rusty, will go over bridges, go up hills, go down gullies, go over logs and brush, and goes through water without a fuss. My friend's horse does pretty much the same, although he hasn't had as much experience with water. They're both not generally spooky horses and are very reliable in general.

Here are some of my questions, but please tell me anything and everything you know!

-How do you pack to go backcountry camping? Can you put everything in saddle bags, or do you use another horse or other stock as a pack animal?

-Because many national parks don't allow you to bring in hay, do you use hay pellets if they don't allow grazing?

-How do you keep your horses protected from wildlife like bears that might want to prey on them?

-How do you condition for a weeklong trail experience?

-Can you get a tent that can somehow fit into a saddle bag?

-Do you use high-lines/picketing or temporary fencing and why?

-Do you use hobbles, and what are they good for?

-Do you shoe your horses for these rides if they go barefoot usually? Is there a certain type of shoe you should get to avoid slipping on rock? Should you get all four hooves shod or just the fronts?

-How do you care for yourself hygienically? Do you wash in a creek, not wash at all, forgo the toothbrush, etc?

-Which would be more comfortable, an Australian saddle or a western saddle? What are some of the most economical yet comfortable brands?

-What kinds of foods do you take with you? And how do you dehydrate foods?

-Do you prefer boiling water, using iodine tablets, or using a filtered water bottle and why?

-Is the water safe for horses to drink if it contains giardia since it isn't safe for us?

This is all I can think of for now, but please, tell me everything!
     
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    12-17-2013, 08:26 PM
  #2
Foal
I will have to break this down in to segments or it will turn into a book. On our first western pack in trip my wife and I paid someone to haul in our gear. That way we could learn what we needed and what was excessive. Our first tent was a quality two person mountain tent that you could absolutely count on to keep you dry. Good sleeping bags and air mattresses are a must because you have to have a good nights sleep. Freeze dried foods are all available but I prefer MRE's because they are odorless and will not attract bears if you are in bear country. I have experimented with MRE's in the back country by putting them out so the dumbest bear on the planet could find them and they go untouched. At camp I hang them in a tree along with my pellet type horse feed. You can't have too much rope and parachute cord either because I like to hang my saddle and saddle bags so they don't get chewed on. I carry water purification tablets along with a purification pump. I would start hobbling my horses right away and get them used to it. I prefer a portable corral with and electrified fence because my horses are used to it. One that is big enough that they can graze. Then as soon as you are up and going get them out of the enclosure on hobbles so that they don't graze out their pen in one day. After a couple days you can relocate the penned area. I like to feed a small amount of pellets to get them used to being fed morning and evening so in the event that they get loose they will hopefully come back at meal time. There are all kinds of rules and regs out there depending on where you are going. I have never camped out in a National Park - only in a National Forest, but there are plenty of rules that we all have to follow or we will turn our forests in to a mess. When I leave I like to leave the laid over grass where my tent was and that's it. I have seen more fire rings out in the boonies than I care to see. Campfires are not a necessity for me so I use a Svea stove and I don't leave any ashes, but that is not for everybody. If you have to build one disperse the rocks so the ring is gone. With MRE's you are going to have to carry out some trash because even if you burn them you always have a little trash. You might consider coming down here to Missouri and try the Berryman trail. It is a 25 mile circle with some creeks and ponds for the horses to drink and there are some springs and an artesian well that you can drink from (with your purification tablets). The Berryman is south of the town of Bourbon Missouri and you should find it on a map. If not let me know and I will get a map to you. When we were just getting started we would hide some hay in the weeds at one of the campgrounds and then drive to another and park. Then ride back to the camp with the hay and overnight there - usually using an overhead picket line. That way you could pretend that you were back in the boonies but you would have your hay and picket line waiting for you. I hope this helps
     
    12-17-2013, 09:18 PM
  #3
Foal
Corazon, This is a picture of my two boys all rigged up when I was doing a solo elk hunt in Colorado. I tried to limit my weight on my little Arab pack horse to 175 lbs. http://s901.photobucket.com/user/joe...g.html?filters[user]=138582489&filters[recent]=1&sort=1&o=0
     
    12-17-2013, 11:38 PM
  #4
Yearling
Herosbud,
Great information, thank you! And I will look into Berryman's! My friend and I are always looking for a ride, and her boyfriend wants to come along as well - fortunately, he's in Missouri!

So, what exactly are MREs? I've never heard of them before. But that's great that they don't attract bears! That's something that we don't need lol.

So THAT'S the reason behind hobbles. So, in the event that a place would not allow you to graze your horse, would you use hay pellets then? And how much do those electric portable corrals cost?

How do those portable stoves work? I think I would prefer a campfire (controlled by a "homemade" ring of rocks, of course, definitely remember Smokey the Bear!) just because it seems more...primitive? Haha, I really don't know.

We're college students, so the less stuff we have to invest in the better. I would like to get a better tent though - my friend's tent leaked at the last campout we went to, and my clothes got all wet! The horses had a blast though, and so did we. And after calculating some costs, it seems a lot less expensive to hit the trails than to go to a jumping show. I've been itching to travel, and there's nothing better than by horseback! Being outdoors without all the stress of cell phones, classes, jobs, just seems really peaceful and therapeutic. I truly enjoy every trail ride I go on, but I don't always enjoy every show I go to. And my friend, my best friend I should say, is on the same wavelength as me when it comes to trail riding - the sky's the limit! It's refreshing after taking so many trail rides with another friend who freaks out every time there's a hill (and this is Iowa, mind you) and always wants to go back, whereas I want to see more! And she always rode my horse, Rusty, because he's so good on the trail, so I had to ride my ornery show horse...

ANYWAY, I'm off topic now! By the way, your picture wouldn't load up for me. I don't know if my Internet is too slow or is something is not working with the link. But if that's your Arab in your profile picture, he looks just like my Arab! And you could write a novel about this topic and I would thoroughly enjoy reading it!
     
    12-18-2013, 01:14 AM
  #5
Green Broke
Username Trails on the forums here has his own website TrailMeister - The Largest Horse Trail and Camping Directory in North America and has played around a lot with packing lightly. That sounds more along your line of fun as poor college students as it only requires one horse per rider instead of pack animals. I would highly recommend spending some time investigating this site and reading the articles as they are very informative.

Now to answer some of your questions from my experience:

-You can pack lightly and use just one horse, how much you need depends on how many nights you intend to be gone. If you can't let your horse graze in the area you wont be doing much packing with one horse.

-Grazing horses. You can hand graze (yawn), hobble or stake them out. For hobbles or stakes you had best practice with your horse prior to going camping. Trying to work out the kinks on the fly doesn't usually work well.

-1 gallon zip lock bag holds about 3 pounds of sweet feed, half a bag in the morning and the rest in the evening works quite well along with grazing.

-State/federal parks where I live require processed feed or certified weed free hay. Get caught with feed that doesn't fit those two categories and you are facing quite a large fine.

-Sleeping. Share a two person tent to cut down on the number of tents. Use a hammock (dry/warm). Use those cheap plastic tarps and make a cover to sleep under. Buy light weight tents, sleeping bags that pack down to almost nothing. Easy to find at most outdoor stores. They also have sleeping pads that get real small for packing that you'll appreciate having if you've ever slept on a rock or two.

-High line or portable pen both work. Again it's about training your horse to them before going. My personal preference it high line.

-Don't worry about bears attacking your horse, not likely to happen. Do worry about them raiding your larder....That's why you hang food up in the air out of reach.

-Shoes or barefoot. Depends on the condition of their feet and the terrain you'll be covering. Poor hoof walls, shoe. Lots of rock, shoe. Bad feet in general, shoe. Alternately you can go barefoot. In either case take boots along just in case your bare foot horse gets sore or your shod horse loses a shoe.

-Taking care of yourself....How much can you stand your own smell?!?! Take a tooth brush for sure. Baths are haphazard, depends on the time of the year and how much water is available. Take a bar of soap and a chammy towel so when you have a chance you can. Chammy towels are nice because they dry quickly.

-Saddle to use is quite personal, what fits your butt the best for long rides? For packing you do want latigos and D rings to tie to/with.

-Food. I take freeze dried food for breakfast/dinner while lunch is just some kind of snack that will stick with you like peanut butter crackers. Take a portable stove to heat water in so you can use hot water for your meal and to make coffee or tea. Cold water works too but if it's cold outside you'll want the hot food. Again check outdoor stores for a light portable stove. MRE is the military acronym for the freeze dried food they provide troops while in the field. One piece of advice for cold weather packing, buy meals for two instead of one, you'll appreciate the extra calories in each meal.

-Water purification. Tabs or filter pumps both work. I prefer filter pumps myself as I prefer not to have to strain the junk/dirt out between my teeth. Using both is the best and safest way to go. Yes you can boil your water too but the last thing you want to do is run out of water mid day, stop at a creek, unpack your portable stove and boil the water then let it cool all before getting that drink of water you crave...Don't worry about your horse and drinking that stream water, they'll be just fine.
Corporal and Herosbud like this.
     
    12-18-2013, 07:55 AM
  #6
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corazon Lock    

-How do you pack to go backcountry camping? Can you put everything in saddle bags, or do you use another horse or other stock as a pack animal?
The short answer is you can do it with one, but it will depend on many things. Basically how light are you wiling to travel (i.e. What can you do without)

-Because many national parks don't allow you to bring in hay, do you use hay pellets if they don't allow grazing?
I've managed to always avoid anyplace where grazing is not allowed. I do carry feed though. NO grain, sweet feed or other junk. You want something that's good for them and easy to digest. Beet pulp is a favorite for most people I've known that go out. I also take copra (which is digested in the foregut). They are also seed free for places that have thatrestriction. If you're going to be out for an extended time add a little salt, possibly any supplements to the list. For the rest you'll need some grazing.

-How do you keep your horses protected from wildlife like bears that might want to prey on them?
I've never worried about it.

-How do you condition for a weeklong trail experience?
Actually ride them and simulate the distance and amount of time you're planning on.

-Can you get a tent that can somehow fit into a saddle bag?
You can get small, light, one or two person tents. I use to just use ground cloth that I would wrap around things. It served as a shelter in rain. I skip the sleeping bag. A full size wool blanket trifolded serves as my saddle blanket and to keep me warm at night.

-Do you use high-lines/picketing or temporary fencing and why?
Staking out with hobbles is my first choice because there might be place to set up a high line. Temporary fencing means you have to carry it (one more thing to carry...better get some pack animals which means more work).

-Do you use hobbles, and what are they good for?
Hobbles give me something to attach them to the stake and it you don't stake it generally keeps them from going too awfully far away (a bell can help you find them).

-Do you shoe your horses for these rides if they go barefoot usually? Is there a certain type of shoe you should get to avoid slipping on rock? Should you get all four hooves shod or just the fronts?
If your horse is not already shod don't shoe it. If their feet are not already conditioned for the type of ground you'll be riding on and you don't have the time or means of getting them conditioned then use boots. The feet will be able to function normally and you can just remove them when you don't need them. They'll also keep for the next time if you want to do it all again.

-How do you care for yourself hygienically? Do you wash in a creek, not wash at all, forgo the toothbrush, etc?
Brushing teeth was never optional for me. I did carry that. Bathing was optional depending on convenience (and temperature), but I was always alone so it didn't matter.

-Which would be more comfortable, an Australian saddle or a western saddle? What are some of the most economical yet comfortable brands?
That is entirely a personal preference. Ride 25 miles a day for 5 days and see how you feel. You'll be able to sort out what works best for you and your horse. My stock saddle is comfortable, but weighs more than my trooper so it cuts down on how much I can carry.

-What kinds of foods do you take with you? And how do you dehydrate foods?
If you can stomach Meals Rejected Everywhere (or by Everyone) (i.e. MRE's) then I'd go with those. Light, easy to back and plenty of calories to keep you going. You can also dehydrate and make your own light food to carry.

-Do you prefer boiling water, using iodine tablets, or using a filtered water bottle and why?
I've done the boiling water (and charcoal filtering) back in my survival camping days. Would not recommend it (it's one of the things that's nice to know and hope to never have to use). The new filtering pumps today can be so much better. Purification tablets do work and are the easiest option (if you're ok with them). I used them a lot in my youth.

-Is the water safe for horses to drink if it contains giardia since it isn't safe for us?
Yes, 99.99999% of the time. A mud hole can work for a thirsty horse.

This is all I can think of for now, but please, tell me everything!
What I would suggest, to make sure you and your horses are ready, is going camping around home for a few days (you can ride in big circular routes) to test out how you want to deal with the horses for feed and at night. Also lets you see how you'll manage with the gear you want to take. You might dump some or add some. It will also let you see how your horses do with the load.
Doing that will certainly leave you better prepared and aware before you actually do it away from home.
Corporal likes this.
     
    12-18-2013, 07:55 AM
  #7
Weanling
You have gotten some good advice here, so I am just going to add a few things. I have used a pack animal and I have not used a pack animal. I am big time about minimalist camping. There are several "tube" tents that will easily fit into saddlebags, but they are very much lacking in the comfort department.
What I usually do is fill my saddlebags with bagged feed and alfalfa cube. All the human gear goes into a day pack style back pack that I wear.
I carry my old boy scout mess kit for cooking and eating, whatever foodstuffs I use, a change of undies, and a spare shirt or two, a rain poncho, along with baby wipes (easier and far more multifunctional than tp), a water purification system like this (http://www.amazon.com/Katadyn-8018273-Hiker-Pro-Microfilter/dp/B002CN82V2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1387370448&sr=8-2&keywords=katadyn+filters ), a bar of soap, toothbrush, tooth paste and an empty 1 liter water bottle.
If you take the water bottle and drill (or use a hot nail) a hole in the cap it makes for a very effective and efficient shower system. Fill it with available water and lay it in the sun to warm. Then spray yourself down, lather up and rinse.
Also a good antibacterial bar of soap , such as lever 2000, is effective for dish washing.
I cannot stress enough the fact that everything you choose for minimalist camping should serve at the very least double, if not triple, duty.
You should also carry at least 2 different ways to make fire, and be proficient with both ( I carry matches/lighter and and a Swedish fire tool. One in my pack the other in my pocket if I get separated from my horse)
Http://www.amazon.com/Light-Fire-Original-Swedish-FireSteel/dp/B0013L2DKU/ref=sr_1_1?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1387371056&sr=1-1&keywords=swedish+firesteelAlso in my pocket I carry and old pill bottle filled with cotton balls covered in Vaseline to use to start a fire, they take a spark easily and will burn for upwards of 10 minutes. I cannot stress enough taking time to practice how to start a fire. Be competent in it and it will make your life in the backcountry easier.
I also carry a pistol, but that is a very personal decision. As a former LEO I am very confident and competent in its use (as is my horse), against both 2 legged and 4 legged threats.
I hope this helps......Kevin
     
    12-18-2013, 09:58 AM
  #8
Weanling
Just read all these VERY interesting Posts. I have always wanted to do multi day camping trips but have not. I am now old enough to want a bed and shower each night. BUT, I still love to read about others doing it.

My question... Why can animals drink the water with the bug/germ that makes us so sick?? Just a random thought that went thru my mind on last weekends ride when my mare was slurping up some creek water. Wonder what is so different in their system from ours that makes it ok for them?? Anyone know???

Rhonda
     
    12-18-2013, 10:28 AM
  #9
Foal
Corazon, Sorry about the picture not being there. I'm not the techyist guy on the planet so I could use some help there if somebody could give me adice. You have gotten some good advice here so you are going to have to experiment and see what works for you. My strongest opinion would be that you just do it. If you don't give it a try you will always wish that you did.
     
    12-18-2013, 12:38 PM
  #10
Foal
ElkHunt_zps6f5207b9.jpg Photo by joehaber | Photobucket
     

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