I have always used crossbucks and canvas Utah-style paniers. We just pack them up, balance them, load them, cover them with a canvas tarp, and tie them on with a diamond hitch. We use the canvas tarps as bed covers in camp. Never even had a tent. Never tried anything else. Then again, my trips have normally been 3-4 days, with the occasional week-long one thrown in when I had sufficient time off work.
That's kind of why I started this thread. Up until now I have been using my dad's gear, because I only did trips when I was visiting him in AZ. For my GWT trip I'll need my own gear, so I wanted to figure out whether something other than crossbucks and Utah paniers might be better. You kind of get used to what you've used in the past, and it's pretty expensive to just try out something else, when what you've been using has always worked fine. I figure that since I'm going to be starting fresh I might as well ask around and see what others use, and why.
My intention is, from here on out, to do two or three major trips per year, say a week or two each, with several shorter ones in between (retirement is great!). Most of them will probably be alone, or with one other person. I won't be outfitting or guiding or anything, just riding and looking, sometimes hunting and fishing. I plan to do that until I physically can't anymore. My dad is 78 and he still goes out, so I'm hoping I have at least 20 years of this. I won't get much pack tripping in this year, while I'm here in VA, but next year I'll be moving back out west and the fun will begin.
I have my blog for my GWT trip going (see my facebook page, Western Trail Rider), and I'd like to keep it going after my trip by writing up each of my pack trips and turning it into sort of a guide for the various trails I try.
Having said all that, you can see that I'm going to want durable equipment. I am considering the Iron Cloth Utah paniers, but I don't know anything about Iron Cloth. I have sort of shied away from hard paniers, but I can see where they would be nice for a long stay at a base camp for a hunt or something. I can see where the soft paniers with a top would be handy in camp, but I cover my Utah paniers with a tarp on the trail anyway. The last option seems to be soft paniers with a hard insert. I can see some sense in that, and it might make packing less technical (not worried so much about things poking the horse in the side).
I expect that over the years I may end up with several different types of paniers, but for now I'm looking for what I'll take on my GWT trip. I'll need two sets. I figure at least one set will be Utah-style, for their large capacity and versatility. The other set is up in the air.
I'm just about convinced to go with Decker-style pack saddles. One thing I've read about them, that I think is important, is that if you have wreck where a pack horse rolls, a Decker saddle is more likely to survive and be usable than a crossbuck. I've never had that happen, but I can see where it could.
There are several styles of saddle bows, though, for Deckers, and I'm curious as to what the benefits/problems there are with each. Must be something, or there wouldn't be so many variations.
My dad has a set of saddle paniers that we use on hunts. I have the use of them any time I need, so I won't need to buy a set for myself. Figure I'll inherit them anyway, once he hangs up his spurs.
Sorry so long-winded, but that's what I'm looking at for the future.
Last edited by thenrie; 01-18-2013 at 08:08 AM.