What to Pack for a Backcountry Horseback Riding Trip in the Canadian Rockies

by | Jul 25, 2022

Looking out to the Canadian Rockies
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Last updated on February 20th, 2023

Featured image: The view from a remote cabin in the Rockies / Photo by Carolyn Ray

What to pack for the remote backcountry of the Canadian Rockies

by Carolyn Ray, JourneyWoman Editor 

When I am invited to join a Canadian Rockies Backcountry Riding experience with Wild Women Expeditions, my first question is: “Do I need to know how to ride a horse?” With only two weeks before I leave for Banff, I research everything I can find on horseback riding etiquette, clothing and safety.

I’ve ridden horses before, but never for six hours a day in the remote backcountry of the Canadian Rockies, through avalanche paths, rockslides, and rivers. There is no telephones, wireless networks or Netflix here. My last equine experience was an uncomfortable hour-long ride in Cuba in March 2020, where I spent most of the time trying to avoid being tossed off a cantankerous horse on a steamy day. I scour Netflix for western movies and search websites for clothing recommendations. Before long, I am inundated with advice ranging from ‘do squats’ to ‘wear breeches.’ I try to freshen up my knowledge from horseback riding lessons but there’s not enough time, so I call friends and family for advice on horses and quiz them on etiquette. 

How to become a cowgirl

Having downsized most of my clothing, I don’t own boots with heels, so my first purchase is a pair of Ariat brown laced boots that I can wear again. I find two women’s cowboy shirts and a jean jacket at Value Village. I discover I can fit bike shorts under a favourite pair of well-loved, fairly seamless, black jeans. Instead of buying riding gloves, I opt to repurpose my old gardening mitts.

One of my biggest concerns is being comfortable on the horse for six hours a day. I expected to feel sore at the end of each day but I don’t. For me, bike shorts under a pair of well-loved jeans are the answer. I wear the same combination every day with a different shirt.

My biggest challenge is finding a hat, and the day before I leave, I find the perfect Stetson at Bootmaster. I feel ready to be a cowgirl!

Ready to be a cowgirl! 

canoes at moraine lake

Seeking Adventure and Connection? The Majestic Canadian Rockies Beckons!

Women share their once-in-a-lifetime stories of the majestic Canadian Rockies, the jaw-droppingly beautiful mountain range spanning Western Canada. that connect us to nature at is most authentic and primal.

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What to pack for a horseback riding adventure

Wild Women Expeditions provided an exhaustive list of clothing options which I appreciated. But I got even better advice directly from the women of the backcountry, and the more experienced riders in my group, including Bev, Darcye and Louise. The women tell me that it’s hard to find clothing for women, as most stores still cater to men, something I experienced myself. If you’re looking for western clothing stores that cater to women try Irvines.

When I went in late July/early August the days were hot and the nights cool. It was the perfect time to be out. on the trail!

(Affiliate disclosure: JourneyWoman participates in the Amazon Associates program. Some of the links below contain affiliate links for which we make a small commission at no extra cost to you).

The Essentials

  • Ariat or Wrangler seamless jeans are preferred by the women for their durability and quality (1-2 pairs)
  • Bike shorts make it a comfortable ride and can be worn under jeans or other pants
  • My Ariat boots are deemed good choices by the cowgirls
  • Long-sleeved button-down shirts (2 or 3) – wear each twice (which I got at Value Village)
  • Short-sleeved shirts (2 or 3) – wear each twice
  • Raincoat and pants (There was a fire ban and it did not rain)
Skincare /Protection

Nice to have

  • Chaps (pronounced ‘shaps’) or chinks if you have them
  • Cowboy hat with a chin strap or a baseball hat (Helmets are provided and I wore mine while on the horse
  • When cowboy boots are off, plastic shoes (such as Crocs) are the norm
brown boots

Every JourneyWoman needs a good pair of boots!

Women standing at a ranch in the Canadian Rockies
A woman wearing traditional horse riding gear in Banff
A backpack, hat, and packs of wool socks.

In your backpack

    Recommended movies to prepare for the trip:

    • Secretariat (Where the “Ariat” brand name comes from)
    • The Man from Snowy River (many of the views are reminscent)
    • Not the Yellowstone TV series (snickers from the cowgirls, particularly about the bathing scene)

    While in Banff:

    • Take the Airporter Express from Calgary International
    • Eddy Burger on Caribou Street for Milkshakes
    • Melissa’s for breakfast
    • Rose and Crown for live music
    Four women sit on horseback while discovering the real Canadian Rockies
    Plan Your Trip

    Get started with resources recommended by the JourneyWoman community

    Book Your Flights

    Use tools like Expedia or Google Flights to look up the best flight prices. Being flexible with dates can save you even more money.

    Find Somewhere to Stay

    Find a hotel on Expedia and earn points towards free stays. Hotels.com offers a free night stay for every 10 nights booked.

    Looking for an apartment or something more long-term? Check out VRBO.

    Insure Your Trip

    Travel insurance is more important than ever. Compare plans and policies for the best coverage for your trip using Insure My Trip.

    Traveling for an extended amount of time? SafetyWing offers ongoing coverage on a month-to-month basis, and World Nomads offers coverage for extended trips.

    Looking for a Tour?

    Head to the Women’s Travel Directory to find a woman-friendly tour around the world.

    Travel Extras

    Why not brush up on a new language before your trip with Babbel.

    Don’t forget your JourneyWoman branded accessories while you’re on the go!

    More Packing Tips

    As the CEO and Editor of JourneyWoman, Carolyn is a passionate advocate for women's travel and living the life of your dreams. She leads JourneyWoman's team of writers and chairs the JourneyWoman Women's Advisory Council and Women's Speaker's Bureau. She has been featured in the New York Times, Toronto Star and Zoomer as a solo travel expert, and speaks at women's travel conferences around the world. In March 2023, she was named one of the most influential women in travel by TravelPulse and was the recipient of a SATW travel writing award in September 2023. She is the chair of the Canadian chapter of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), a member Women's Travel Leaders and a Herald for the Transformational Travel Council (TTC). Sometimes she sleeps. A bit.


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