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Selecting a llama pack system
There are a number of considerations in selecting
a llama pack system. Some are only personal preference, but some
are critical to the wellbeing of your llama. It is not unusual
for a llama to tolerate an ill-fitting saddle until irreversable
damage has been done, or even longer. It is also not unusual
for a different llama to be a poor (or intolerable) packer, only
to become a willing trail partner once pack saddle problems have
been corrected. A well-fitting pack saddle is important to all
The basic criteria from your llama's viewpoint
- Free of spinal contact and pressure
- Free of contact or pressure on moving parts
of the llama's body
- The entire system stays in place during use
- No parts that dig in (many saddles stay in
place only because they dig into the llama)
- Adequate contact area (so that circulation
is not impaired)
- The impact of both normal travel and jumping
is absorbed by the system, not the llama
A fully detailed treatise of the subject,
including how to fit a saddle to your llama and use it successfully,
would take up more room than we have alloted to us for this website!
However, Gwen has authored an affordable, comprehensive booklet,
Evaluating a Llama Pack for Comfort and Function, which
you can order from Lost Creek
Unlike manufacturer's information and some
mail-order house leaflets, Evaluating a Llama Pack for Comfort
and Function does not tell you which pack to buy, nor does
it recommend specific pack saddles or systems, nor does it list
positive (but no negative) features of pack systems that are
available. Pack saddles and systems are constantly being changed
-- both for better and for worse. Instead, this comprehensive
booklet tells you what features and functional aspects to look
for before you buy, and it also shows you how to
look for it -- on your own llama. So, no matter
what pack system you're looking at, you'll always be able to
make a sound decision for yourself and the comfort of your llama.
In addition, Gwen and Ranger
Dusty have evaluated many of the llama pack saddles currently
available. The complete reviews can be found in back issues of
The Backcountry Llama. To date,
three llama pack systems (listed in alphabetical order) have
met the established criteria (above):
A very important
point to understand is that any of these systems can be used
incorrectly and thus not meet the established criteria. There
will always be some responsibility on the part of you, the human,
to use llama pack equipment properly.
Critical information about fitting and using
a llama pack system is also found in Evaluating a Llama Pack
for Comfort and Function.
Photo at right: 100+ pounds of archeological
screens and a canopy frame on Dusty
(foreground) and 70+ pounds of bulky, additional support gear
(rear) were packed out two miles over very steep "way trails."
Carrying these kinds of loads successfully requires a great deal
of knowledge, good pack systems, and good pack llamas.
Author Gwen Ingram has extensive experience
since 1986 packing with llamas under highly demanding conditions,
including distance packing (continual 20+ mile days), heavy load
hauling (up to 120 lbs payload per llama), and contract packing
unusual and awkward loads for varied clients, including the USFS.
She has also provided successful consultation for innumerable
llama packers and their highly varied pack llamas over the years.
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