I've done both kinds of packing--on the horse and with one or two pack horses. But I have the animals and the trailer space to do it.
My input--plan for it and then DO IT!! Experience is the best teacher and you will learn a lot the first time out. Don't let that scare you. Be as safe as you can. Realize that after the trip there will be some things that you wonder why you took that and other things that you wish you would have taken. It's all good and all fun unless what you forgot was your raincoat and it pours!
I prefer using a pack horse because then I don't have to load up my riding horse.
Don West of Have Saddle, Will Travel has a one-horse packing system. He wrote an interesting book with that title. He rides Peruvian Pasos in the mountains of Colorado. His book would be a good resource while you are waiting for better weather. Also, Karen Bragg in Oregon has done a lot of on-your-horse packing in the Three Sisters Wilderness here in Oregon. You might could contact her through Oregon Equestrian Trails. She used to be the president. She had a lot of good ideas.
From your posts, you're on the right track. Now if the weather would cooperate you could really see how it goes! How about "packing up" on one of your day rides, just to see how everything attaches and travels? You could pretend you are in the big wide wilderness.
Thanks for the resource suggestions, Trails. I figure we'll load up for a practice camp day ride in the spring. Maybe for a ride down by Lewiston where there's no snow before that. Right now I'm mostly concentrating on getting out and getting more and more comfortable on Mr. Big. And working him hard enough to get him in shape for some serious rides next year.
On the other hand, doing a full pack out day trip DOES sound like fun! And what better way to dream about The Real Thing!
Well, nobody was home so I decided to load Shandy up for a camping trip. First time I'd put all the luggage on him. All I was missing was an air mattress (or ground pad), extra clothes, and food. And I had an extra camp stove loaded just 'cause I store it in my saddlebag. Plenty of room except for the airmattress. Might have to do some re-arranging to get it to fit. Of course, it'd help if I had the right kind (small).
Everything loaded fine and he didn't seem to mind, too much. I had to modify my mounting/dismounting to get my leg over the luggage, but that's no big deal. The modification makes the whole evolution a bit easier, anyway, so I'll continue to do it the new way even when not needed.
We only rode for maybe 20 minutes--just enough to make sure everything was OK. The ground is really soft and the road is really rocky so I didn't want to push him at all.
Now, all we need is decent weather and we're ready to rock and roll!
For an air mattress, have you heard of or tried the ThermRest self-inflating pads? That's what I use when I pack in. If I'm only on the one horse, the rolled up pad and my tent rest (are tied) on the top of the big cantle pack. They ride great, but, like you said, mounting and dismounting present a new issue!
Yes, I've used the ThermaRest pads. They ARE great! If I actually end up going camping alone (fairly likely, actually) with just the one horse I may get a camping hammock that takes up a lot less space than a tent in the luggage. Then I shouldn't have any issues with having enough room for everything. Instead of a ThermaRest with the hammock I'll probably get a 1/8 or 1/4 inch closed cell foam pad. From what I've heard they work better with a hammock than a ThermaRest.
Alas, it's the middle of winter. More or less. Right now this is all the Stuff of Dreams. Sigh. Sniff.
Not to try and convert you, But just to keep the conversation moving along.
I do have extra horses that need the exercise and work. So I always take a pack horse. It's part of the fun for me. Its how all my young horses get started. I pony them along with empty saddles as 2 year olds, throw a saddle pannier over the saddle and put a chain saw or salt blocks in the pannier as a 3 year old and then ask them to carry a real load as 4 year olds.
We often just turn the pack horses loose and let them follow in the middle of the pack.
We have an almost 3 year old filly that I was thinking last night might be a good candidate for a pack horse. She's likely to be a bit too wild, but she's strong and athletic and every time we saddle up she wants to go along. The Mrs is about ready to start her (won't actually ride her until she's four). I think I'll ask about trying to pony her a few times and see how it goes.
Of course, neither of us has ever led a pack animal. That, by itself, could get interesting!
We also have a 24 year old little Arab that might work as a pack animal--but with the same caveat that we've never done such a thing and neither has he.
And then there's the issue of a bigger trailer. Sigh. But I have been looking into that one. There's some inexpensive, older, four or five horse trailers out there that could be rebuilt into fine units. One step at a time!
Don't worry too much about teaching them to lead. It's comes pretty easy to horses. Usually the biggest problem I have is the horse I'm riding getting used to a lead rope getting under his tail or slapping his flanks. But with a little practice they learn to deal with it.
Also some horses get a little excited about having the pack horse right on their butt. They may want to kick. So I have to teach them to be tolerate of the second animal being nose to tail.
My best advice it to use a long lead rope and just hold it in your hand. If the pack horse, refuses to cross something or pulls back, You can let out some slack or even just drop the lead. I find my horses being herd animals stay close even if I drop the lead, So it's easy to go back and pick up the dropped lead. But never tie the lead to your saddle where it won't pull free.
I think its great experience for young horse to follow along on the trail. With no weight on them, They are not stressed. But they learn to deal with stirrups flapping, lead ropes flopping against them. They also learn to cross creeks, logs rocks and other trail obsticles. If they do this as a 3 yo, Then as a 4 yo when you start to ride them, These things are old hat and they just need to learn to deal with balancing a riders weight, and the various cues the rider is giving. Just keep them to shorter rides. 10 miles is plenty for a 3 yo. Wild Mustangs often cover 15-20 miles a day for water, The young stock follows the herd across somre pretty wild terrain. That's how they learn to traverse rough country in the wild.