Saddle panniers, just about everyone learned to pack with them, even the grumpy old guy in the back of the room that says “I manty everything.” Saddle panniers is just about the most affordable way to get into packing. This is a low dollar (or was) first step to get you out on the trail, build some confidence, and see if packing is right for you. Saddle panniers were originally designed to go over a riding saddle and carry a light load for a day’s get away, short overnight, or carry some fishing gear and lunch in hopes of catching the big one.
My first set of saddle panniers had a round cutout on the front end, to drop over the horn and an elongated cutout for the cantle. Over time the round hole design was changed to a second elongated cutout making the saddle panniers more versatile; now being able to be used on not only the riding saddle but also pack saddle (both Decker and/or Sawbuck). Back in the day the craftsman sewing the panniers would make the bags whatever size he or she felt was best. This construction style gave way to a standard size bag when the plastic insert made its debut (we will come back to the inserts).
With the fading of true craftsmanship giving way to more of a mass production of packing equipment, more and more of it was now being produced overseas and sold with pretty packaging in the big box type farm stores. Metal buckles were replaced by plastic side release buckles. Two-inch straps have become one-inch webbing with two small dee rings that you wind the strap through to tighten. Thinner nylon fabric is being used, that would tear out in just a trip or two. Those plastic/poly inserts were being promoted to protect your belongings, but really, they were adding strength to the light nylon fabric. If you did the math, the saddle panniers and a set of inserts were more money than a set of hard pack boxes. Me, personally I don’t like the inserts I’d rather suck those bags in and raise them up keeping the weight where it belongs for a more balanced load and an easier ride for your animal.
Do I still use saddle panniers? You bet!!! So, how do I get around all of the issues of a mass-produced item? We decided to make our own and bring true craftsmanship back. Saddle panniers absolutely have a place in the packing world. For people like me, I use them for that last-minute stuff, just throw the pannier on the empty pack animal, toss in those items, and hit the trail. On every Sunday afternoon ride, I take one pack animal with saddle panniers for the food, beverages, and fishing poles. There isn’t a hunting trip I ride in on, that I don’t have a set rolled up and tied to the back of my saddle in hopes of walking that horse out carrying quarters out. If you are like me, or if you are just starting out and need something basic, but quality, to start with, check out our new saddle panniers. We just posted them to our online store this week and we are really proud of the quality we are offering for a fair price.
If you have any questions about saddle panniers or any other packing quandaries feel free to reach out to us, that’s what we are here for.
See you on the trail,