There are many reasons why people choose to use long-eared critters. It seems that donkeys are becoming more and more popular. They are being utilized as farm companions, they're great under saddle or as pack animals, and folks even compete in halter class and other arena events with them.
Donkeys have many positive attributes. If you ever ask a donkey owner why they like them, chances are you'll get an earful. As a packer, one of the positive things about utilizing donkeys and mules is their ability to survive on lower quality forage and less water than a horse. It is estimated that a donkey can go up to six days without water. However, that doesn't mean I don't keep them hydrated to the best of my abilities in the backcountry.
Backcountry Tips: Hydrating Your Pack String
If I plan on being in the backcountry overnight, I pack a portable electric corral fence to keep my stock contained. In many cases, I try and place it in a location that has trees for cover and good forage and, if possible, a water source. A lot of Forest Service trails follow creeks, and because there is a requirement to keep all campsites at least 100 feet from trails, this can create issues with getting close enough to a water source to extend the corral so they can drink on their own.
So, what are the best backcountry tips for keeping your pack string hydrated? It depends. First, you want to make sure you are close to a water source like a clear mountain stream. If you high-line your stock you will be taking them off the high-line to feed and water and you will most likely take your animals down to the stream to drink. Another option is to extend your fence over a water source so they can drink whenever they feel the need. I'd say this is the ideal situation, but as I stated earlier, it isn't always possible. I bring along two 20 liter (5.283 gallons) Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink soft side, collapsible water containers.
Donkeys and mules typically drink around 3-6 gallons per day, horses, 5-10. Of course, this all depends on how much you are working your animals. I check the water containers in the morning and afternoon and usually need to refill them. Creeks tend to be at the bottom of a hill. Throw in some backcountry elevation and it can be a workout carrying over 10 gallons of water twice a day. If this is your plan, I recommend you stay in shape. If not, by the end of a weeklong trip you will be well on your way to some muscular shoulders!
If you can picket or corral your animals close to water and they can drink on their own that's probably the best option. If that isn't possible, there are a number of soft sided water containers to consider. Either way, have a plan to keep your pack string hydrated. That’s one of the best backcountry tips you’ll ever get.
The collapsible water container is great for your donkey. Check out our hydro pouch for a reliable and convenient backcountry hydration solution for yourself. You need to stay hydrated too!