What to pack for a dude ranch vacation: 13 essentials

Remember, you’re going to a guest ranch, so casual dress is in style at all times.  Comfortable clothes and casual shoes or boots work best; you’re there for adventure and activity, so several changes of clothes are desirable.  If its an upscale resort ranch, then you’ll want some nicer clothes for evening (cruise casual describes it best). For more details, be sure and check with your selected ranch.

Light waterproof jacket with hood
T-shirts and long sleeve shirts
Softened jeans for riding (up to 3 pairs)
Shorts and bathing suits
Riding boots
Hiking boots, sneakers
Socks  (at least 3 pairs)
Fleece pullovers or sweaters
Tevas/water shoes/old shoes that can get wet
Sunglasses and a hat
Sunscreen and bug spray
Gloves for riding (for morning rides)
Backpack or fanny pack

Going to the mountains: The weather can change quickly: temperature can range from the 80’s during the day to the 40’s at night. Bring a light jacket, sweater or sweatshirt to wear in the evenings and for layering; occasional passing showers means you’ll want a waterproof jacket with a hood. To the desert: Protect yourself (and the kids) from over-exposure to the sun, so you don’t “lose” a day to sunburn. Cover that tank top with a light, long-sleeved shirt; wear long, lightweight pants for riding, shorts for hanging out, and carry a sweater for the evening. Oh, and for any climate: a hat with a ‘stampede string’ that knots at the neck, so you won’t lose it on a ride.

Boots: You must have riding boots for horseback riding. It just isn’t safe to ride in sneakers or hiking boots—your foot could slip through the stirrup or get stuck in it. But if you don’t have any, don’t feel that you must buy new ones; some ranches have spare pairs of kids and adults’ boots for you to borrow while at the ranch—be sure to ask ahead.

Riding helmets: most ranches recommend wearing a helmet while riding, especially for kids. If you own a riding helmet fitted for you, you bring it, but most ranches have a supply of helmets available for your use.

Toiletries: Yep, you’re gonna need bug spray, sunblock, toothpaste, etc. Some ranches have little ranch stores with some of those items, but don’t rely on it unless you ask.

Extra activities: for hiking, use a pullover made of synthetic, wicking material (in the mountains, the weather can change quickly and the synthetic fabrics like fleece, and Coolmax will keep you warm and dry better than cotton). For fishing, ask what the ranch loans out; often waders, boots, rods and reels are all there for you.

Nice extras: slippers–it’s kind of nice to have some slippers when you’re cruising around the cabins.

Laundry: Ask about laundry services; some have self-serve facilities, others do it for you (yea!) with a 24-hour turnaround.

Final thoughts:
Pre-trip, wash the jeans with fabric softener so the kids (and you) can avoid saddle sores from the rubbing of a thick, stiff jeans seam. Most ranches have washing machine/dryers available but if you don’t want to spend vacation time doing laundry, bring extra jeans, socks and tee-shirts for all. Bring that great book you’ve been wanting to catch up on because you’ll actually have the time to read while the kids are having fun.

Bring some Advil/ ibuprofen because ‘some guys aren’t able resist trying out everything there is to do and, being a guy, he won’t hold back and will be super sore!’ says Stephanie of Vista Verde.

Our thanks to Stephanie at Colorado’s Vista Verde Ranch, who sent us some great ideas for this list. And she offers one other suggestion: “With airline travel what it is these days, you could well arrive at the ranch before your luggage.  While it invariably arrives within 24 hours, you could nevertheless have an uncomfortable first day.  Accordingly, we suggest you pack some overnight items or a change of apparel in a carry-on.” Good idea, Steph!

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-park series, since packing for children/toddlers takes a whole different list. Stay tuned for: Packing with kids in mind.


1 comment to What to pack for a dude ranch vacation: 13 essentials

  • Jackie Sheppard

    Packing a few essentials and extra clothes on the carry-on is an excellent idea, I learned the hard way on that one! Don’t forget your camera and extra batteries! Also, Chapstick comes in very handy as well.

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