High Country Supply


Decker & Sawbuck Saddles
  If you are not sure about which type of pack saddle system to use, there are both regional and stylistic differences.  A brief summary of some of the major aspects of each design is included below.  

Sawbuck and Decker Pack Saddle Differences

Outfitters Supply Sawbuck Pack Saddle, fully riggedSome differences between a Sawbuck and Decker Pack Saddle are obvious. A Sawbuck Pack Saddle has wooden crossbucks instead of metal hoops. A Sawbuck Pack Saddle lacks the half-breed – the padded canvas cover with pack boards of the Decker Pack Saddle. And lastly, most Sawbucks are “double rigged”, using either a Sawbuck double pack cinch or two single pack cinches instead of one like the Decker Pack Saddle. Some packers cite this as an advantage for the sawbuck, saying it stabilizes the load and better distributes the friction around the animal’s belly.

However, some differences may not be quite so clear, but are important to consider when choosing between the two. The Decker Pack Saddle is stronger than the Sawbuck, mostly because of the metal hoops. The crossbucks of a Sawbuck, being made of wood, are more likely to break if a mule falls or rolls on them. The Decker Pack Saddle will often better survive a wreck.

Another advantage of the Decker Pack Saddle is rigging position. The rigging on a Decker Pack Saddle buckles to the tree beneath the half-breed and is easily adjustable over a wide range, allowing you to adjust the position of the Decker Pack Cinch and prevent soring of your pack stock. The rigging of Sawbuck Pack Outfitters Supply Decker Pack Saddle, fully riggedSaddle is screwed or riveted to the tree and cannot be as easily adjusted.

Decker Pack Saddles are better suited to heavier loads because of the half-breed with pack boards. The pack boards help distribute the weight of your load, whether mantied or packed in panniers, more broadly along the animal's side. Additionally, the lower portion of the half-breed behind the pack boards is typically padded, thus providing greater comfort and protection from the load for your pack animal.

Decker hooks are another benefit to using the Decker Pack Saddle. Decker hooks are typically made of brass and are used in sets of four. These hooks thread onto the pannier hanger straps and can then be hooked to the hoops on your Decker pack saddle. With Decker hooks you can attach panniers more quickly and you won’t have to lift the panniers as high or for as long.

Mainly because of the half-breed and to some extent, the Duplex-grade stainless steel hoops, a fully rigged Decker Pack Saddle will be heavier than the Sawbuck, weighing in around 30 pounds. A Sawbuck will weigh only 18-20 pounds.  High Country Supply sells all the materials you need for either system of packing.


From “Packin' In on Horses and Mules”, Elser and Brown, 1980.


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High Country Supply
140 E Stetson No 311
Hemet, CA 92543
United States
Ph: 866-389-0018
e-mail: jumpswest@gmail.com

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