Llama make wonderful packers and companions on the trail. They are, what we would call in today's world "Going Green", or in the 70's "Low impact" on the trail. Their foot prints are light and leave little trace. Their feces is good for the soil and plants around them.....however, in some areas you may have to feed a certain diet or they may not even be welcome, for the seeds in their feces.
Most llamas are very easy to train to pack. Others may never be suitable for taking on an overnight trip...more trouble then they are worth.
Weathers (castrated males) make your best packers, but don't rule out the females and or in tact males.
JUST REMEMBER! THERE IS NO PLACE CALLED "IN THE WOODS". ALL WOODS, ALL LAND, IS OWNED BY SOMEONE. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO BE ON THAT LAND. IF IT IS A PARK, YOU WILL STILL NEED TO MAKE SURE GOATS, CAMPING AND CAMPFIRES ARE ALLOWED!
The contents of this page for Pack Training is still under construction. Please check back later!
GETTING YOUR LLAMA READY FOR PACKING
Your packing Llama needs to be in good health and good shape. Not only should your llama be healthy, it's hooves need to be trimmed correctly and neatly and not done the day just before the trip.
Your llama needs to be on a regular worming schedule and kept healthy and well fed. Not overfed, well fed.
The llama's age does matter! A young llama, two years old or older, can carry a light weight day pack, but certainly not a heavy weighted, overnight sawbuck pack with panniers. It is not a good idea for a llama younger then one year old to carry a pack. It is hard on the development of their bodies. Llamas live long lives, 20 -25 years, why get in a hurry and ruin a good animal.
By the same token it is not a good idea to start a llama's packing career when it is older the ten years old. A light pack would be OK for a short trip. By ten or so years old your llama is what we call "middle age". At that time your llamas body, especially if it has not worked before) will not be as resilient as it once was.
A llama that is started correctly, cared for through the years can pack for many years. An older seasoned llama is a joy on the trail and in the camp. As the llama starts reaching the age of 17 years old, if it has been a packer all it's life that is, should now start carrying a lighter load. Just as a man of 60 years old should do. Be kind to your older workers.
Animals carrying heavier loads need to be worked up to it. Just as you would not suddenly carry a 50 pound pack for 10 miles, it is not fair for the llama to have a large load stuck on it's back and asked to carry it for miles with no conditioning before hand.
Start with a light or empty load when first training your packing llama and just walk about a block or so. Take your llamas around tress so that they learn to swing out away from them with the pack on. Take your llamas up and down hill so they get the feel of the pack moving on their back a bit as well as, feel the straps on their bodies and learn to balance themselves a bit different. Make a fuss over your llama as it carries the pack. Make it believe it is the KOOOOOLEST animal in the world! Back those words with treats.
Keeping your llama in good condition is important. Grooming your llama, brushing it out and picking it's feet, before and after it carries a pack, will help the llamas muscles (much like you enjoy a nice massage after a packing trip), help you find any cuts or bumps or dry patches or bugs, it will also be a little reward for the llama. It will remind it that you appreciate it's efforts.
PACKING THE LLAMAS PACK
Rule number one: KEEP THE PACKS EVENLY PACKED WEIGHT WISE.
Rule number two: NO SHARP ITEMS ON THE INSIDE (near the goats body) OF THE PACKS.
Rule number three: DON'T OVER PACK THE PANNIERS.
It is so important to keep the above three rules in mind when packing with animals. If the packs/panniers are not even in weight one side will pull the other either over or off balance. You may even loose the load.
I am sure I do not even need to explain why you do not want sharp or hard items poking your animal in the side with each step it takes. Pack soft items, such as your clothing, next to the llamas body.
Have you ever carried a pack that was tooooo heavy for you? Not only is it hard on your body, it will ruin the trip for you. If your burden is too heavy while packing you will not be able to enjoy the fun things on the trip because all you will be thinking about is how heavy your pack is and how much your body hurts because of it.
The same is true for animals. A heavy load is a burden. A load that is too heavy will not be fun for the animal and therefore, not fun for you. Injuries on the trail are certainly serious. Keep in mind that if your llama is overloaded and injured, YOU will be carrying the animal's pack the rest of the way or home.
Don't pack breakables or sodas or apples or bananas or the like in your llamas pack without proper cushioning or crating. Surely, I do not have to explain why, right?
You also do not want to stuff a pack. Over packing is not only hard on the llama, it may cost you in split seams, lost items or torn panniers.
A backpacker's rule for packing is not to take anything you do not need...on the other hand, when you pack with animals, you can take those extras you always wish you had out on that trip.
Sheboygan went often with me, in pack, to the mailbox. It made going out for the mail more fun for me, it was good training for him. Notice, we never went alone. So, going to the mailbox can be an event.
WHAT TO PUT IN THE PACKS
When out packing with animals what you carry is usually decided upon where you are going and how long you will be staying. Of course if you are camping you will need many more items then if you were just going out for a lunch trip. There are some items however that you should always take with you.
I have backpacked with dogs (both the dogs and I wore packs), goats, llamas, horses, our donkeys and of course my wonderful husband who always made the trips lot of fun. While out packing when we have run into other people they always ask "What is in the packs?"
This is a list of items I carry in my packs, no matter what species of animals I go packing with, this is what I carry. I will be adding a list of items that will prove necessary while hiking and camping in the back woods soon, plus what is in my first aid kit.
What I carry IN the panniers when I go backpacking
First Aid Kit
Extra socks in a zip lock bag
Extra Gloves in a zip lock bag
Small Paper Pad and Pen
Small Cook Stoves
Stove Fuel (wait til you see my new one Deron made Wink
Fire Starter Pinecones dunked twice or three times in hot wax
Matches dunked in wax
Sit Upons (used next to the goat for cushion)
Pots and Pans
Cream and Sugar, Instant Coffee, Tea, Hot Cocoa, Tang (yes, I do take them all, ever had Tang Hot?)
Plastic Insulated Cups
Plastic (the kind that you get at camping places that don't brake) silver ware
Tie Outs for animals
Pillow Case (for sit upons to be tucked in for pillows)
Flashlight (I carry two, one is the lantern type)
Wet Wipes in a zip lock bag, doubles as toilet paper, well, not doubles but can be used as
Water Bowl or Frisbee for animals to drink out of
This light weight reed beach thing for setting packs on in came
Rope for many things including tying up food
Recorder and/or Ocarina and music
I am sure that I carry more... that's all I can remember of right now.
SECURING THE LOAD
Your load on the back of the animal will rock wildly if not secured. For a Day Pack or Soft Sided Light Weight Pack it should not be a problem to have the bag just closed and unsecured with the girth and chest straps. But for a large load the rocking can sore up your animal. It can cause saddle sores and make the goat's muscles sore for days.
Some packs can easily be strapped down by adding one strap around the girth, over the packs, and around of the waist of the goat. Some systems have securing straps within the saddle.
I found out the hard way that if your panniers do not have a closure, you will need to secure them with an over he back strap. Otherwise items can work up to the top and fall out of the pack when you are not looking. (I lost and earring, out of my ear, that same day. Amazingly my packing partner, Sally, found it a year later. It was her property we were packing on.)
Always check your load while on the trail. Keep an eye on your animals as well as actually checking the pack to make sure the straps are snug, the pack is even, the llama seems comfortable.
If you take the packs off or loosen the load at rest stops, be prepared to restrap each pack. Check and double check the loads for balance and security each time you stop.
BACKPACKING TRAIL ETIQUETTE
FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT!! THERE IS NO PLACE CALLED "IN THE WOODS". ALL WOODS, ALL LAND, IS OWNED BY SOMEONE. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO BE ON THAT LAND. IF IT IS A PARK, YOU WILL STILL NEED TO MAKE SURE LLAMAS ARE ALLOWED!
Sharing the trail with others. <deep sigh> Here is where people can get into big fights out on the trail. Most don't, most will heed even if they have the right of way.
Let me see if I can remember all of this.....
Horses, Mules, Donkeys, ie ALL Equine always have the right away. You must get off the trail and stop moving for them. Far off if that is what it takes. It does not matter if they came up behind you and are passing or if they came from the opposite direction. Remember that many horses may have never seen a llama, especially one in harness or pack and the horse may spook. To help the riders, get your animals off the trail and try to turn them facing the other way away from the horses.
Next right away goes to any packing animals, llamas, donkeys, goats, dogs, any packing animals. This includes human packers. It does not matter if it is one person or a group.
Bicycles, I believe are next in the line up for right away on the trail.
People with dogs are suppose to keep them on leashes unless it is their own property or a dog park. There are very few places where dogs are allowed freedom of movement anymore....and less all the time. Dogs are to get off the trail for all of the above trail users. So if you are traveling with a dog with you, this pertains to you.
When you get to where you will be camping, take care of your animals first. Find your area, unpack and groom out the animal. Give the llama a small treat and in about an hour a full good meal.
OTHER ANIMALS ON THE TRAIL
It does not matter where you backpack with your animals, country or county, you will run into other animals, some wild, some domestic. Most of the time your worse encounter will be domestic dogs. You may have to defend your animals from an attaching dog. Worse then a loose dog coming for your animals is it's owner. Somehow, dog owners that do not have control over their dogs, seem to blame everyone and everything else for their animals bad behavior.
Overnight trips will bring out more wildlife and maybe right up to your tent. Skunks can be your worse nightmare. Not only will they spray you, your tent, camping gear, but also your llamas.
It is not just four legged animals either....children and stupid people can pose a real threat to your animals and your safety. There is nothing worse then a spoiled child approaching your animals as you tell them no with their parent telling your "Oh it's alright, they just want to pet your animals." You must be firm and tell the child and the parent to either get back or wait until you are right beside your animals, or in fact to get back from your animals if you do not want them around them.
All the animals in the photo belong to us. Everyone wants to go with us when we hike.
HUNTING WITH LLAMAS
Llamas can make great hunting companions. Not only are they quite, they move quietly too. They are calm and patient and will sit out in the woods with you all day and enjoy themselves.
Then of course, when you do make a kill, the llama(s) can carry your game back to camp or home for you. But there is much training involved.
Your llama is likely to run off fast if it has never heard the shot of a gun until you take it hunting with you. Training for hunting starts at home, not on the first trip as it does for many human children.
Llamas, like horses, mules and other packing animals need to be taught to carry game. The site, the smell, the blood of dead animals is hard for them to take. You will have to desensitize them before expecting the llama to carry your meat back to camp.
more to come
SECURING YOUR ANIMALS IN CAMP
One thing you sure need to think about when backpacking with llamas is how you will keep your animal in camp. Especially overnight camping.
You will either need to High Tie your animals, carry a small pen kit in, or rope off an area around trees.
The pen in this photo was set up the day before in an area that a bunch of us llama hikers were stopping for lunch. The host of the event, was kind enough to set the pen up for us so that when we arrived to the area for lunch, we would have a nice and safe place to put the llamas. Although our animals were only introduced that day, they all got along great.
WHEN YOU GET HOME FROM YOUR TRIP
So you are home from your packing trip. You llama, no matter how it really behaved, needs to know that you think it is the most wonderful animal on earth and that you appreciate the trip together.
Talk nice to your llama, give it treats and a good brush down and grooming. When you put it back in the barn or pen, give it some really nice hay to munch on.
As you are unpacking and caring for your own packs, you also need to care for your animals packs and equipment too. It is best to empty and clean them before you put them away. Some how if your wait to do this, you will end up doing it the day you would like to be leaving for your next packing trip.
Be sure when cleaning your packs to check all the stitches and straps and buckles. Make any repairs or replacements necessary before you put the pack away.
A word from you dog. If you took your dog with you on this trip, make a fuss over it too. It did more for you then you may know. It kept you company, protected you from monsters, slept with and kept you warm, and walked as far as everyone else did on the trip, for some dogs, further.
The photo is of us when we returned from a little hiking trip.
REPAIRING YOUR PACK OR PANNIERS
If you repair your own packing equipment be sure to really nail down your seams. Double stitching may not be enough. Packing trips can really be hard on some equipment with some animals. Some packs will be scrapped on trees, chewed at, gone through water crossings, and usual wear and tear. Keep in mind the wear that the type of pack/panniers will be receiving and repair accordingly.
If you patch a pannier, cut your patch out of heavy duty fabric as close to matching the fabric as you can. I fold the fabric over, double it, for the patch. Sew it in place from the outside of the pack over the hole tucking your pannier under (where the hole is) as you sew so that the pannier will not fray any further. You might need to clip your corners on the pannier for this. Sew it at least double then go right along the fabric edge with a zig zag stitch. Now sew the inside of the patch (sew from the other side of the pack). Double your patch over where necessary and tuck it under as you sew it on so that it too does not fray. Sew it down close to the ends of the patch. Zig Zag it too, on all edges, this helps keep items from rubbing it when the llama walks with a load in it.
Don't think of your pannier as patched, think of it as broke in and has character!
Patches on Panniers are like scars on the body, like a tattoos only with a much better story!