Vacationing at a dude ranch involves many different activities and coming prepared will drastically improve your experience. Our essential dude ranch packing list promises to prepare you for an incredible vacation. An all-inclusive dude ranch vacation is not only about horseback riding and hearty meals. Many dude ranches feature an extensive list of activities that requires some preparation and an essential packing list.
From whitewater rafting and mountain biking to ax throwing and ATV rides, there are so many fun options to choose from. Using our essential dude ranch packing list will make sure you are prepared for any adventure.
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Top 10 Essential Dude Ranch Packing List
Long Sleeve Roper Shirts
The first time I went to a dude ranch, I had never heard of a Roper Shirt! This is the number one item on my essential dude ranch packing list for a reason.
I wore a long-sleeve Roper Shirt on every horseback ride. It not only protects you from the sun but, most importantly, it protects your arms from the branches that your horse will inevitably brush by.
On those long hot days, you can turn up the collar to protect the back of your neck from sunburn, and the shirts are surprisingly cool even in the hottest of weather.
Western Style Jeans
The most important feature of jeans for horseback riding is that they fit over your cowboy boots. I learned the hard way that my cute skinny jeans that fit underneath my cowboy boots meant that at the end of my trail ride, my boots were full of burrs, dirt, and pebbles.
Wrangler jeans fit over the top of cowboy boots, preventing anything from getting in your boots, and keep your socks dry and clean.
Western-style jeans also have stitching on the outside of the pant, which makes for a much more comfortable horseback ride without the seams rubbing on your skin.
There is a reason why the cowboy hat is so iconic with cowboys, wranglers, and dude ranches. Wearing a cowboy hat during your horseback rides protects you from the sun and also protects your head when ducking under tree branches. Make sure your cowboy hat has a chin strap to prevent it from getting blown off your head in the wind or during an adventurous loping session.
Perhaps the most essential item on a dude ranch packing list is cowboy boots! They really are very comfortable and the raised heel makes riding a horse much easier. You will absolutely feel the part of a cowboy or cowgirl wearing cowboy boots on a dude ranch and they make for perfect accessories to evening outfits.
I highly recommend packing extra breathable socks for your dude ranch vacation. You will want to pack breathable socks that fit higher on your calf under your cowboy boots and some mid-length socks for your hiking shoes. I was so happy that I brought extra socks with me as I found my feet got quite sweaty during my trail rides. It was so nice to put on a clean, dry pair of socks to go hiking or biking or for any of the other activities that we ventured out on.
Many dude ranches will have a pool and/or a hot tub or will include activities like white water rafting. Packing a swimsuit is on our essential dude ranch packing list because on those hot summer days, you will definitely want to cool off!
I found that during our downtime before dinner, my boys would often put on their swim shorts and go play or hit the pool. Swimsuits came in handy when we went tubing and rafting, but I also enjoyed lounging poolside and taking in the views.
Hiking Shoes/Water Shoes
There are so many different activities to do on a dude ranch, so you will definitely want to be prepared with footwear. Hiking shoes are a must to pack for a dude ranch. Even if you don’t go out on a long hike, you will likely want to explore the ranch, and flip-flops just won’t cut it. Also, for our water activities, wearing flip-flops proved to be not a good idea when dealing with various terrain. If you have room to pack water shoes, you will be so happy that you did.
Laundry Bag/Shoe Bag
Life on a dude ranch means that your clothes and shoes are going to get dusty. When we returned from our horseback rides, we would always take our boots off outside on the deck and then remove our clothing inside the door so we didn’t track dirt all the way through the cabin. We immediately tossed our dirty clothes in our travel laundry bags keeping everything clean and contained. It certainly made packing at the end of the trip much easier.
Lightweight Rain Jacket
Depending on the location of your dude ranch, the weather can change from morning to night, and you may encounter some rain during your stay. It is always advisable to pack a lightweight rain jacket you can move easily in during your horseback rides. It can also come in handy for other activities or if there is a chill in the air at night.
Muscle Rub/Essential Oils/Epsom salts
If you are not used to riding a lot, you may experience some sore muscles throughout your vacation. If your guest ranch doesn’t have a hot tub, a nice soothing bath with Epsom salts in the evening is a great option for any aches and pains. Deep Blue muscle rub and essential oils are also great options and are easy to pack in your luggage.
When I think of a bandana, I immediately think of cowboys! When we arrived at our dude ranch, we were given a bandana to wear while mounting and dismounting the horses. But the reason I recommend bandanas for my essential dude ranch packing list is that they are perfect to use during your horseback ride when it gets really dusty. You can easily pull the bandana up over your nose on dusty trails, so you don’t have to inhale all the dust. They are very easy to pull up and down. And you can even wet them with cold water to keep you cool on super hot days.
Other Items to Pack for a Dude Ranch Vacation
- Outfits for dinner
- Bug Spray
- Camera with ring holder so you don’t drop your phone
- Water bottle
- Wine/beer for your room
- Flashlight to get back to your cabin in the evenings
- Hand & Body Lotion
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Casandra is the founder of Karpiak Caravan Adventure Family Travel and a mother to two adventurous, young boys. She is a family-focused, adventure travel advocate who grew up in Toronto with Danish roots. Casandra has visited over 20 countries on three continents often with her two boys in tow!