What to Pack for your Winter Ranch Vacation

01/11/2015 by

Snowshoeing, sledding, cross country skiing, riding on a peaceful trail during a light snowfall- chances are, you've already prepared yourself to experience these and other breathtaking opportunities during your winter ranch vacation.  But in addition to bracing yourself for the unforgettable time you're about to experience, you need to prepare your bags.  Nothing ruins a vacation more than not having the necessary gear. (Okay, except maybe getting sick but that’s a different article).  So, what do you pack, exactly?  We're here to help. Photo Credit: The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana


Here’s our Top 10 Must-Have’s:


1. A Base Layer

—or for those of you who are old-school- "long underwear".  Some trusted brands include Hot Chillys, Patagonia, Columbia. 


2.  A Mid-Layer  

A fleece jacket or pullover, and/or down vest.


3.  A Top Layer 

That is, a coat.  Make your coat or jacket a shell- that is, a weatherproof, water resistant layer to keep you dry.  Columbia, Patagonia, North Face, Carhart - all quality brands.  You can find plenty of options at http://www.REI.com.


4.  Boots 

Make sure they're comfortable and warm. For guys and gals- Justin Rugged Utah Round Toe Boots come highly recommended as you can use these for horseback riding and walking ( CountryOutfitter.com). Also, Keen and Merrell make excellent waterproof and water-resistant adventure boots.   If you plan on heavy snow activity, bring snow boots if you have them but many of the high-end ranch/resorts will provide them for you.  Best to check so you don't add weight to your luggage.  If you do end up bringing your own, consider wearing them on the plane so that you don’t have to worry about going over your limited weight allowance.


5.  Socks

Wool or thick hiking socks work great.  


6. Hat

Most of the heat lost from our body comes from our head- so don't forget a hat to retain the warmth!  Make sure it covers your ears because if the wind picks up while you're outside, that can hurt.


7. Gloves 

Keep your hands warm on the reins, warm on your walks, warm on your skiing poles.  


8. Swim suit

What?  Yes!  Don’t forget your swim suit!  Most ranches have hot tubs with a view, and what a view it can be.  Whether it’s a sunrise, sunset, or starry night with snow on the ground, a hot tub in winter can be a special treat you don’t want to miss.


9. Sunglasses and Sunscreen

Snow reflection increases UV intensity by 85%.  So you’re going to want to protect your eyes and your skin from those dangerous rays.  Polarized sunglasses work best because they actually eliminate the glare coming off reflective surfaces, like snow.  Whereas regular sunglasses only reduce the glare.  As far as your skin is concerned, an SPF 30 or above applied every hour will help keep skin moisturized and protected.  For more info on how to keep your skin protected from the harsh winter elements, check out High Altitude Skin Care


10. A nice outfit

Unless you are headed to a working ranch, there will be an opportunity for a nice dinner and you don’t want to be the only one feeling under dressed.  Think business casual.  Some ranches will have specific dress codes for dinner, like Alisal Ranch in Solvang, CA.  Alisal has a strict code with jackets and ties for men, dresses for women.  Be sure to check your ranch’s website or give them a ring.



It never hurts to think like a boy scout and prepare, prepare, prepare!  Don’t let a lack of gear put a damper on your ultimate vacation experience.  Finally, have a great time and send us some pictures.


—Your friends at Discover Outdoor Life.


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