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If you’re wondering what to pack for a dude ranch vacation, don’t despair! Check out our ultimate guide on what to pack for a ranch vacation, we share nine absolute essentials

We at Ranchweb bring to you a dude ranch vacations packing list that’ll have you holidaying in comfort AND style. 

Here’s a list of what to pack for a ranch vacation, 9 absolute essentials, plus tips. 

Let’s start from the top and work our way down:

What horse riding hat should I wear on a ranch vacation?

If you’re wondering what horse riding hat to pack for your ranch vacation, most ranches recommend wearing a hard hat and some even provide them.

But if you have your own then take it, to ensure the best fit (also, who wants to wear someone else’s sweaty headgear!). Otherwise a brimmed hat or baseball cap will protect your head and face from the sun.

If you do go for a real cowboy hat, make sure it fits and stays on – it’s not a good look to have your hat fly off your head every time you move into a lope and fellow guests won’t be too impressed at having to stop every five minutes while you retrieve it from a bush!

Person standing next to dun horse under a blue sky at a cowboy ranch

What clothes should I bring on a ranch vacation?

  • Tops: Think layers, layers, layers! For warmer climates go for vest tops and light, long-sleeved shirts to protect you from the sun. The weather can change very quickly depending on where you go and often it can get hot during the day and quite cool at night. Think long-sleeve tops, a neckerchief and a warm coat, too – many ranches supply rain slickers, but check with them before you go. And don’t forget something for the evening.
  • Waterproofs: Unless you’re guaranteed hot sunny weather on your ranch vacation, you need to be prepared to face the elements – and that means waterproofs. Some ranches provide guests with half-chaps and long, oilskin riding coats, however if these are not available we suggest they are obtained, as they prove very valuable. Half-chaps not only prevent rubbing, but, along with the raincoats, also help riders stay dry.
  • Swimwear: Many ranches have watersports, pools, hot-tubs or natural springs – don’t forget your swim gear if you want to get wet!
  • Hands: Gloves are essential for warmth and/or protection if you’re spending lots of time riding, especially on cattle drives. Choose the strong, leather-reinforced types.
  • Legs: If you’re wondering what legwear to add to your dude ranch vacation packing list, jeans or jodhpurs will become your new best friend. Pack a couple of pairs for horseback riding – those without an inside leg-seam offer best comfort. You can also get really comfy, stretchy ‘jeggings’ (leggings that are made from stretchy denim) that are great, for in the saddle or as a comfortable alternative to jeans for when you’re not riding.
  • Butts: For beginner riders or those not used to spending long hours in the saddle, padded underwear, like those designed for cycling, is often a wise option.

    What footwear should I wear on a ranch vacation?

Pair of tan cowboy boots sitting on porch

Footwear for ranch vacations primarily concerns safety in and out the saddle. You also have to consider, of course, the dress code for mealtimes and other activities you may want to get involved in, so bring sneakers and ‘dress’ shoes, too.

You may be super-keen to get your cowboy boots on and these, like any other low-heeled outdoor boots, are suitable for being on and around horses.

If you opt for some fashionable cowboy boots, bear in mind these could get scruffy on a working ranch vacation, or if you travel in the rainy season, so save them for your ranch’s social time if you don’t want them to get dirty.

And don’t forget some comfortable socks! You can get hi-tech, moisture-wicking, even sustainable bamboo socks to keep your feet warm/cool and dry. 

Other ranch vacation essentials

Toiletries for your ranch vacation

Aside from the usual toiletries, be sure to pack hand sanitizer, face mask, insect repellent, SPF chapstick, sunscreen (even in the winter) and blister band aids.

To save space, you could buy the essentials once you reach your destination. Some ranches even provide shower items, so check before you go.

The best camera for a dude ranch vacation

The best camera for your dude ranch vacation isn’t necessarily your super-smart professional camera, remember the larger sizes aren’t ideal for carrying on horseback.

iPhones and Androids today are more than capable of capturing that Insta-worthy story as they’ll easily fit in your pocket or saddlebag for those all-important horseback shots. A wrist loop will ensure you don’t lose it on your way.

Photo: Riding at Bitterroot Ranch, Wyoming

Go Pros are also a great way to capture your ranch vacation memories, but remember to pack extra memory cards – you’ll take more snaps than you think!

Check out this article on the best cameras for outdoor photography.

Is alcohol included on a ranch vacation?

If you like a nice cold beer or wine at the end of a long day, make sure you check your ranch’s policy on alcoholic beverages.

Some ranches like Rankin Ranch in California have a ‘bring your own booze’ (BYOB) policy on alcohol, so check beforehand so you know whether to stock up on liquor – airport duty free shopping is the ideal place to grab a bargain bottle!

What else should be on my ranch vacation packing list?

Ask your ranch if they provide hairdryers etc and leave the flat irons at home – the last thing you’ll be worrying about on your ranch vacation is your hair!

Socket adaptors if necessary, cell phone charger, sunglasses and camera charger is all you should need.

What will I need to take for a horse pack trip?

Some ranches, like Rawah Guest Ranch in Colorado offer overnight pack trips. Check with your ranch to see if they offer the use of canteens and rain slickers, so you can save on baggage.

Pack reuseable plastic bags to keep personal items in your saddlebags dry, a stocking cap and long underwear.

The emphasis is on ‘small’ and ‘light’. Your horse will be carrying everything in saddlebags while climbing up long, steep mountain paths – a demanding trip, so be considerate.

Reusable water bottle

All-day rides can take their toll, especially in hot weather, so carrying plenty of water to keep you well hydrated is essential.

A canteen will hold enough to last you a day and keep the water cool – go for the round, flat-sided styles, that lie well against the saddle and won’t flap around.

Ranch vacation packing tips

  • Many of our guest ranches provide ‘What to pack for your dude ranch vacation’ lists on their websites, so make sure you check what’s recommended for your ranch!
  • Save packing space and dollars by stocking up on riding attire like boots and a hat while you’re on vacation.
  • Not only will you likely glean fashion inspiration from wranglers or other guests, local Western clothing stores in cowboy country often offer a much better selection and price than you’ll find on the internet.
  • Try to leave about ¼ space free in your suitcase, as you’ll most likely want to stock up on souvenirs and gear while you’re there.

Happy trails!

Written and created by Kate Hammaren; luxury and adventure travel writer, editor and world traveler.

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