Camping with donkeys, or donkey trekking, is a great way to get out into the bush without having to carry your own stuff. You can also go places you can’t take a vehicle, and there’s just something about being out in the bush with no one else around. Plus donkeys are good company!
To get started, you really do need a decent quality packsaddle. When I started out, I used my old dressage saddle which had a narrow gullet and fitted my donkey perfectly. But getting the gear to stay on was a nightmare!
My long-suffering hubby made me up a basic sawbuck frame, and i bought some army bags. But the girths kept moving forward, and it too was a nightmare. At one point I was struggling with the girths and thought “I’ll fix that after i get the gear on.”
Well of course after I got the gear on I forgot about the girth, and literally walked 200m and the load slipped under my donkey who started bucking, and when he realised the load was still attached, decided the best thing to do was to lie down – on top of all my gear! One of the wooden crosses broke, and I had to go home. Amazingly, my eggs DID NOT break!
So finally i bought a good quality, well fitting pack saddle and panniers. It is so much easier when things work, and work well. There are a multitude of packsaddles available. I bought a soft packsaddle from Sopris which were designed for Llamas, but fit standard size donkeys perfectly, but you really need to decide what is best for your needs.
If you are packing with horses, there is some packing equipment that will fit over a western saddle, so you don’t need to buy a packsaddle as such, which looks like a great option for those who have a larger animal.
Once you have your packsaddle, then it’s time for your next big decision – Where to sleep?
Tent or Hammock? I choose a hammock because I don’t like feeling closed in, don’t like sleeping on the ground, and don’t need to take a mattress or pillow. On the flipside, you can’t fall out of a tent, don’t need trees, and you don’t get tight rope walking scorpions that bite you in the night (true story, happened to me!).
So with these two big decision made, you can build up your camping gear. Where possible, USE WHAT YOU HAVE. If you already have a hammock or a lightweight tent, use those. If you already have a tarp, use that. However, when you are going to do a lot of trekking, it’s good to have some good quality items, so if you are due to replace your old gear, you can have a lot of fun checking out what’s out there.
IMPORTANT – always remember to CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK your gear is evenly distributed on both sides of your donkey and make sure you pack no more than 20% of your donkey’s weight, preferrably less if you are going a long way. Also, make sure there are no sharp or uncomfortable items near the donkey’s side. Put anything pokey on the outside.
Ok, now for the gear. One of my favourite things to take donkey trekking is a good knife. I have a few to choose from, the pocket knife is good to have on your jeans to cut free anything in an emergency. A bigger knife is good for splitting open a wet branch to cut out some dry kindling. It’s also great for cutting pumpkin and deterring hoons!
A nice lightweight table that folds up is great for cooking on, and keeping things off the ground. Taking your trannie/wireless is also nice to have. And of course your aerogard, torch, hoof pic, first aid stuff, and something to cook on.
I bought a couple of lightweight cutlery colanders with holes, and found they are an excellent stove top. You can put a few twigs in, and just keep adding twigs depending on how long it takes to do your cooking. If you have some small firelighters you can use them in the morning when the wood is wet from the dew. It only takes a few minutes to boil some water or cook some eggs, plus you’re not carrying any liquid fuel.
A set of lightweight saucepans with fold up handles are great to have, some come with bowls and utensils inside. Other things I take are my flexible cup that is lightweight and takes hardly any space. Also a fold-up stool a wind up radio, mobile phone, and a great gadget that will charge up your phone multiple times is a Car Jump starter. We have used it to jump start our car several times. It doesn’t seem possible, but trust me it is. Below is a video of other things I take camping with my donkey but the most important thing to take is your sense of adventure and fun!
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