Besides your big trip, What other uses do you see for your gear?
I prefer Utah Bags for hauling meat off the mountain. Just slip an elk quarter in and go.
I do like the Iron cloth for durability and ease of cleaning. But lightweight canvas sure rolls up easier and tighter to tie on behind a cantle if I need to ride and then throw the paniers over the saddle and hike out leading the horses. But it doesn't last as long.
Do you plan on using bags or paniers, or are you going to wrap stuff up in Mantes?
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.
I've tore up some Canvas Panniers. Especially when packing the cylinder stove for the wall tend. Seems if the horse bumps the pack against a rock wall or tree, and pinches the canvas between the steel of the stove and rock, It will tear.
Once you have a whole, then any continual rubbing will enlarge that hole.
The Iron Cloth is much more resistant to tears or holes.
Some of the hard sided panniers also serve as Bear Proof storage. Depending on how well they lock up.
OK. Well, that's one decision made: One set of paniers will be Utah-style Iron Cloth.
Also, I'm leaning way toward the Decker-style pack saddles. I really can't see them being that much easier to load than crossbuck style, but I've read on two different sites that in a rollover wreck, a Decker will survive more often than not, while Crossbucks often break. Also, I like the protection a half-breed gives the pack animal as well. For a long trip, those two factors seem significant to me. I need to learn more about the different variations of the steel bows and what each style's advantages are.
I'm probably going to take a shot at making a set. I have all the tools and it doesn't seem to be technically difficult at all. In fact, I have enough canvas to make the half-breed and a quarter-breed as well. My dad has a sewing machine that will handle it, although I might have trouble finding a supplier for the padding. I have time, so we'll see what I come up with. I'll document it on my blog and post a couple pics once I get started.
Just have to decide on my second set of paniers now, whether they'll be another set of Utah-style, or a smaller set with the support stick and a top.
I don't see any reason for the top flap if you are covering your loads with a Mante. From the stand point of hauling out Elk, I dislike the top flap. Just gets in the way of the quarter sticking up out of the pannier.
When I'm packing camp, Everything usually fits a little neater into the pannier, and I almost always have a top pack that covers everything up. I often use my rain sheets to cover the top of the pack. If bad weather blows in, I have something to throw over the horses while they are tied to highlines.
As far as the Deckers. Some have the smooth arch, Others have some dog ears. I think the Dog ears allow you hang some pannier like you would on a crossbuck. Lift the straps up and over to the far side and catch them below the dog ears. Gives you a little more versatility vs just using the hooks to hang on the decker arch near you. With the Dog ears, you can hang a pannier higher by using the offside or lower by using the near side, depending on the length of the straps.
This is a sawbuck, But gives you an idea of what I mean by stuff sticking up out of Utah Bag. They really do make an excellent Meat bag.
My dad's paniers are exactly like yours, although I think his saddles have a little wider spread between the crossbucks. I sure like the look of that mule.
The only advantage I can see for the paniers with the top, is that they are a bit more rectangular than Utah paniers and can be used with the hard inserts. Utah paniers generally have a narrow bottom, like 6", as opposed to 11' or so with the rectangular ones (25wX19tX11) with a top. Utah paniers are longer and taller, but narrow at the bottom (25wX26hX6).
I have never used the hard inserts, but I can see where they might be useful, make packing up the gear easier, as well as being useful in camp for a makeshift table, etc.. I find that with Utah paniers, in camp stuff gets pulled out and set on the ground while you're digging around looking for things. I think maybe with a hard insert, it would be a little easier to keep things organized. Maybe not.
I hadn't really thought about it, but I guess you're right, you can use Decker-style paniers on a crossbuck, but you can't use crossbuck-style paniers on a Decker, unless it has hooks or at least a good bend in the bows to hold the strap. Crossbuck-style paniers have solid hanger straps, so you can't unbuckle them or put Decker hooks on them.
Do you have problems with Decker style paniers hanging too low? I generally like mine to sit fairly high, but I see some with Decker saddles with their packs hanging a bit too low for my taste. With a crossbuck there isn't much adjustability in that regard.
We put this cooler and one just like it on each side. It gave the bag some form and protected our food and supplies. Kept food cold.
The next couple pics are af a cool set of panniers a friend had. They were a little noisy on the way out, they weren't so full. They were a little expensive, but cool how they had stove burners that ran on a little propane bottle.