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SmartPak Gone Wild: My Week as a Montana Cowgirl

I’m sure I looked like quite the city mouse, rolling up to Swan Mountain Outfitters’ base camp in full English regalia. Myself, along with seven other guests and two guides, were preparing to embark upon a five-day pack trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area adjacent to Glacier National Park in Montana, and I definitely did NOT look the part. While everyone else was wearing fringe chaps, bandanas and 10-gallon hats, I could have passed muster at a George Morris clinic.

So what, though! If we were going to be riding for hours at a stretch in the 90 degree heat, I wanted to be cool and comfy. How in the world do cowboys wear jeans for this stuff? No thanks — I’ll take my Piper Breeches by SmartPak, thank you very much. My top pick for tops that protect you from sun, bugs and dust: the SunShield Long Sleeve ¼ Zip Shirt by SmartPak.

I hopped into the western saddle — the first time I’d ridden in one since I was a kid earning my Girl Scout horsemanship badge — and we hit the trail.

I wasn’t sure what to expect: I’d been in nearby Kalispell the week prior covering The Event at Rebecca Farm for Eventing Nation and figured five days of riding, hiking, sleeping under the stars and maybe wrestling a grizzly or two would be the perfect final boot camp before my upcoming Mongol Derby adventure in August (see my last blog, “SmartPak on the Steppe: An Eventer in Enduranceland.”)

I’d heard that the Glacier area was spectacular but nothing could have prepared me for the beauty that surrounded us all week: snow capped mountains, lush alpine valleys, a rainbow assortment of wildflowers everywhere. We rode our horses through cliff-edged mountain passes, swam in crystal clear lakes, and hiked along game paths to summits with 360-degree views of the million-plus acres of untouched wilderness surrounding us. At the end of the day, we feasted on moose steaks and huckleberry cobbler made from fresh-harvested berries and sat around the campfire, swapping adventure stories. After that, between the white noise of a creek burbling outside my tent and the contrast between my toasty sleeping bag and the brisk mountain air, I slept like a baby.

We pretty much destroyed the cobbler.

What a week! I was in the saddle for well over 25 hours of it, and after the first day nobody gave me a lick of grief about my outfit. The real winner of the trip, which I would take against jeans rubbing my calves raw anyday, were my new Harwich Soft Leather Half Chap by SmartPak.

Butter soft from the moment I pulled them out of the box, the pack trip was a maiden voyage for my new full-grain leather half chaps. The first time I put them on they were a bit snug, but in the custom of a cowboy breaking in his new boots via a dip in the water trough, a refreshing knee-deep wade in a trailside creek had them fitting me like a custom glove in no time! I loved how grippy they were and the clean, elegant line of the tapered lower leg.

Here they are looking a little more rough-and-tumble.

I ended up taking my Harwich half chaps where SmartPak probably never intended for them to go — one day I even hiked six miles up and down a mountain in them! I expect that I am going to be on my feet a lot during the Mongol Derby (hopefully just giving my horses a break by hand walking them and not chasing them down for miles after they’ve dumped me and galloped off into the horizon!) so I wanted to make sure they were going to be wearable in and out of the saddle.

Good news: They are, which is music to the ears of horse people like me who spend as much time puttering around the barn as they do riding. Thank you, SmartPak! Always a pleasure to have you along for the ride.

The homestretch to the 2017 Mongol Derby, August 9-19, is here! Check out my weekly “Wylie vs. the Mongol Derby, Powered by SmartPak” blog on Horse Nation, Eventing Nation and Jumper Nation, and keep an eye on the SmartPak blog for all the latest.

Posted in Blogs, Stories & Adventures

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