What and How Much Should You Take?

by Melinda Van Bossuyt

Our family likes to go on at least one long pack trip each summer. Long for us means about two weeks on the trail without resupply. Special planning is required for long pack trips. Two weeks can be a long long time if something important is left behind.

While preparing for one of these long trips, I keep in mind two words: simple and light. KEEP IT SIMPLE is my motto. My slogan is KEEP IT LIGHT. While I am thinking in terms of long pack trips, most of the ideas I am going to share with you can be applied to any length trip. This may be especially helpful if you have several people and not so many llamas. That leads me to my first rule of llama packing.

RULE #1 There is a minimum amount of gear that must be taken on a pack trip whether it is an overnight or 14 nights.

Regardless of the number of nights you plan to spend on the trail, you still need a sleeping bag. And every llama has his pack saddle and panniers just the same. There is a long list of items that must be packed along every time you hit the trail overnight. But before I discuss that, let's look at my second rule of llama packing.

RULE #2 The weight of the things people want to bring minus the weight the llama can safely carry equals the stuff you leave at home.

If you ever have backpacked, you know that llamas are a wonderful asset. With llamas one never has to carry anything. Luxury items can be taken that a backpacker would never consider. But llamas have their limits. For example, I never asked old Charlie to carry the kitchen sink. When deciding what to pack, it is important to first consider the necessities.


What is it that you absolutely must have while hiking and camping in the wilderness with llamas? And how much does it weigh? The list may vary slightly from person to person, but I think we can agree on a few basic items.

Llama Stuff - minimum 12 to 20 pounds per llama (pack saddle, pad, panniers, rain fly, lead rope, picket pin, food and water containers, first aid, salt and mineral etc.)

Personal Stuff - minimum 15 to 20 pounds per person (clothing, sleeping bag and pad, tent, flashlight, rain gear, water bottles, cup and spoon, first aid, toiletries, TP, etc.)

Cooking Gear - minimum 4 to 10 pounds for 1 to 4 people (pots, utensils, salt and pepper, matches, stove, fuel, water purifier, water containers, etc.) THE MORE ELABORATE THE COOKING, THE MORE DIFFERENT COOKING EQUIPMENT NEEDED.

Food - minimum 1 pound per llama per day (depends on available forage) -- minimum 1.5 pounds per person per day. (Believe me, we can eat a lot more than this and usually do.)

How many llamas are needed for a pack trip? Assuming 80 pounds per llama (not all llamas are capable of this), when everything is added up, consider these numbers:

Short trips: 1 to 6 days = minimum 1 llama per 2 people Long trips: 7 to 14 days = minimum 1 llama per person

Now it is time to consider what luxuries can be accommodated. Luxuries add lots of weight in a hurry. I call these luxuries...


Fancy Food and Drink - (Gourmet meals, fresh foods, beer and soda pop, wine, canned goods, etc.)

Hobby Items - (Fishing gear, camera gear, binoculars, telescope, flora and fauna identification books, carving tools, raft or kayak, fisherman's float tube, climbing gear, journal, knitting, etc.)

Comfort items - (stool, chair, pillow, good book, solar shower, better mattress, etc.)

This brings me to my final rule of llama packing.

RULE #3 - Take only the llamas necessary to carry the gear you need to take.

The tendency is to expand to fill the amount of space available. In other words, it is very easy to take too much. CAREFUL! Don't get carried away and take too many llamas. While llamas are easier on the environment compared to a horse, llamas can still have an impact. Protect our wildernesses. Reduce your impact.

Happy Trails!