Animal Packer Career Profile

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27 March 2024

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What is an Animal Packer?

An animal packer is a person who specialises in packing and transporting animals, typically in outdoor or wilderness settings. They are skilled in loading and securing animals, such as horses, mules, or camels, with supplies and equipment onto pack saddles or pack frames for journeys through rugged terrain where vehicles cannot access easily.

horse 1

Alternative Names

Some alternative names for an Animal Packer include:

  • Animal Transporter
  • Pack Animal Handler
  • Pack Stock Operator
  • Pack Horse Wrangler
  • Wilderness Packer
  • Pack Animal Guide

Career Categories

The animal packer career can be found within the following OZT career categories:

  • Animal Care

What does an Animal Packer do?

Groups of animals an Animal Packer works with

Farm Animals Icon OZT
Farm Animals
Mammals List Icon OZT

An animal packer typically works with a variety of pack animals, depending on the specific terrain and requirements of the journey. Some of the animals commonly used by animal packers include:


Horses are versatile pack animals that can carry heavy loads and navigate various types of terrain.


Mules are known for their surefootedness and endurance, making them well-suited for rugged and steep trails.


Donkeys are used as pack animals due to their strength and ability to carry loads over long distances.


Llamas are becoming increasingly popular as pack animals in certain regions due to their gentle nature, agility, and ability to carry moderate loads.


In desert regions, camels are used as pack animals due to their ability to carry heavy loads and endure long periods without water.

Other pack animals might include cattle, sheep, goats, elephants, reindeer, yaks, and water buffaloes. Animal packers are skilled in handling and caring for these animals to ensure their well-being and the success of the journey.

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With whom does an Animal Packer work?

An animal packer typically works in various capacities with different individuals or groups, depending on the nature of their work and the specific context. Here are some examples of who an animal packer may work with:

Outdoor Enthusiasts:

Animal Packers may work with individuals or groups of outdoor enthusiasts, such as hikers, campers, hunters, or anglers, who require pack animals to transport supplies, equipment, or game in wilderness areas.

Researchers and Scientists:

Animal Packers may collaborate with researchers and scientists conducting fieldwork in remote or rugged terrains. They may help transport equipment, supplies, or research specimens to and from field sites.

Tourists and adventure seekers:

In tourist destinations or adventure tourism settings, animal packers may work with tourists or adventure seekers who want to experience wilderness adventures or pack trips with the assistance of pack animals.

Wilderness Guides:

Animal packers may work as wilderness guides, leading groups of people on pack trips or expeditions through backcountry areas. They provide guidance on navigating trails, managing pack animals, and ensuring the safety of the group.

Conservation and Environmental Organisations:

Animal packs may collaborate with conservation or environmental organisations on projects such as wildlife monitoring, habitat restoration, or conservation expeditions that require the use of pack animals to access remote areas.

Animal packers interact with a diverse range of people, including outdoor enthusiasts, researchers, tourists, guides, and conservationists, while utilising their expertise in packing and handling animals in wilderness settings.

What does an Animal Packer focus on?

Animal packers play a crucial role in activities such as wilderness expeditions, backcountry trips, hunting excursions, and scientific research expeditions in remote areas. They ensure that the animals are properly equipped and cared for during their journeys, and they often have knowledge of animal behavior, trail navigation, and outdoor survival skills.

What are the daily tasks of an Animal Packer?

The daily tasks of an animal packer can vary depending on their specific role, the type of pack animals they work with, and the nature of the expedition or journey they are undertaking. Here are some common tasks that an animal packer may perform on a typical day:

Animal Care and Maintenance:

  • Feed and water pack animals, ensuring they have proper nutrition and hydration.
  • Check the health and condition of pack animals, including their feet, legs, and overall well-being.
  • Groom pack animals and inspect for any injuries or signs of discomfort.
  • Clean and maintain pack saddles, pack bags, and other equipment used for packing animals.

Packing and Loading:

  • Pack and load supplies, equipment, and gear onto pack animals according to the requirements of the expedition or journey.
  • Secure loads properly to ensure stability and safety during travel.
  • Adjust pack saddles and straps as needed to distribute weight evenly and prevent discomfort for the animals.

Trail Preparation and Navigation:

  • Plan and prepare routes for the day’s travel, considering terrain, water sources, and campsite locations.
  • Lead pack animals along trails, navigating obstacles, steep terrain, or challenging conditions.
  • Monitor weather conditions and adjust plans accordingly to ensure the safety of the animals and the group.

Communication and Coordination:

  • Communicate with other team members, guides, or clients to coordinate activities and ensure everyone is prepared for the day’s journey.
  • Provide guidance and instructions to individuals or groups on how to interact safely with pack animals during travel.

Camp Setup and Maintenance:

  • Assist in setting up campsites, including pitching tents, arranging cooking areas, and securing food and gear.
  • Attend to pack animals’ needs at camp, such as rest, feeding, and securing them overnight.
  • Clean up camp areas and pack out any waste or trash according to Leave No Trace principles.

Emergency Response and First Aid:

  • Be prepared to handle emergencies such as injuries to pack animals, equipment failures, or unexpected challenges on the trail.
  • Administer basic first aid to pack animals or team members if needed, and know how to seek help or evacuation in remote areas.

These tasks highlight the diverse responsibilities of an animal packer, combining animal care, outdoor skills, logistics management, and teamwork to ensure successful and safe journeys in wilderness environments.

With what kind of tools and technology (if any) does an Animal Packer work?

An animal packer uses a variety of tools and, in some cases, technology to efficiently perform their duties and ensure the well-being of pack animals and the success of expeditions. Here are some tools and technologies commonly used by animal packers:

Pack Saddles and Pack Frames:

  • Pack saddles are essential for securing loads onto pack animals such as horses, mules, or donkeys. These saddles are designed to distribute weight evenly and prevent discomfort for the animals.
  • Pack frames, also known as pack boards or pack bags, are used to carry equipment, supplies, and gear. They are attached to the pack saddle and can be adjusted to accommodate different loads.

Packing Equipment:

  • Ropes, straps, and tie-downs are used to secure loads onto pack saddles or pack frames.
  • Canvas or nylon pack bags are used to contain and protect gear and supplies during transport.

Navigation Tools:

  • Maps, compasses, and GPS devices are used for route planning, trail navigation, and determining location coordinates in wilderness areas.

Animal Care Tools:

  • Hoof picks and brushes are used for grooming and caring for pack animals.
  • Feed buckets and water containers are used to provide food and water to animals during breaks and at campsites.

First Aid Kits:

  • Animal first aid kits contain supplies such as bandages, antiseptics, hoof boots, and medications for treating minor injuries or health issues in pack animals.

Communication Devices:

  • Two-way radios or satellite phones are used for communication between team members, guides, or emergency services in remote areas where cellular reception is limited or unavailable.

Camp Setup and Cooking Gear:

  • Tents, sleeping bags, and camping stoves are used for setting up campsites and providing shelter and comfort during overnight stays.
  • Cooking utensils, pots, and portable water filters are used for meal preparation and water purification at camp.

Emergency Tools:

  • Multi-tools, flashlights or headlamps, and signalling devices (such as whistles or signal mirrors) are essential for handling emergencies and ensuring safety in outdoor environments.

While animal packers rely on traditional tools and equipment for packing and outdoor skills, advancements in technology such as GPS navigation, lightweight camping gear, and communication devices have also become valuable additions to their toolkit, enhancing efficiency and safety during expeditions in wilderness areas.

In which Environment does an Animal Packer work in?

What are the environment and places of employment like?

The working environments and places of employment for an Animal Packer can vary widely depending on their specific role, the type of expeditions or journeys they undertake, and the industry they work in. Here’s an overview of the indoor and outdoor working environments, as well as common places of employment for Animal Packers:

Outdoor Working Environments:

Wilderness and Backcountry:

Animal packers spend a significant amount of time outdoors in wilderness and backcountry environments. This includes forests, mountains, deserts, and other remote areas where vehicles may not have easy access.

Trail Networks:

They work along established trail networks, but they may also navigate off-trail terrain, rugged paths, and challenging landscapes.

Weather Conditions:

Animal Packers work in various weather conditions, including hot and dry climates, cold and snowy environments, and rainy or windy weather. They must be prepared to adapt to changing weather and environmental factors.

Indoor Working Environments:

Preparation and Planning:

While much of their work is outdoors, Animal Packers may spend time indoors for expedition planning, equipment preparation, route mapping, and logistics coordination.

Equipment Maintenance:

They may also perform equipment maintenance, pack saddle adjustments, gear organisation, and inventory management indoors or in sheltered areas.

Places of Employment:

Adventure Tourism Companies:

Many animal packers are employed by adventure tourism companies that offer pack trips, wilderness expeditions, guided hikes, hunting trips, or camping adventures to clients.

Outfitters and Guides:

Animal packers may work for outfitters or as independent guides who provide specialised services for outdoor enthusiasts, hunters, researchers, or conservation groups.

Government Agencies:

Some animal packers work for government agencies such as national parks, wildlife management organisations, or forestry departments, assisting with wildlife surveys, trail maintenance, or backcountry operations.

Research and Conservation Organisations:

Animal packers may be employed by research institutions, universities, or conservation organisations to support fieldwork, scientific expeditions, wildlife monitoring, or habitat restoration projects.

Private Expeditions:

They may also work on private expeditions for individuals or groups conducting exploratory trips, photography or filming projects, or adventure challenges in remote locations.

Overall, Animal Packers enjoy a dynamic work environment that combines outdoor adventure, animal handling skills, wilderness expertise, and teamwork. Their workplaces range from natural landscapes and trails to indoor settings for planning, preparation, and equipment maintenance, depending on the specific demands of their roles and the nature of their employment.

What is the Average Annual Salary for an Animal Packer?

The average yearly salary or wages of an Animal Packer can vary significantly based on factors such as location, experience, employer, and industry. Here are approximate average salary ranges for animal packers based on specific countries and regions:


$25,000 to $45,000 USD
Note: Salaries can vary widely depending on the state, employer, and level of experience.


$30,000 to $50,000 CAD
Note: Salaries may vary based on the province or territory and industry demand.


£18,000 to £30,000 GBP
Note: Salaries can vary based on location, employer, and experience level.


₹2,00,000 to ₹5,00,000 INR
Note: Salaries can vary based on the region, employer, and skill level.


$40,000 to $60,000 AUD
Note: Salaries may vary based on the state or territory, industry, and level of experience.

New Zealand:

NZ$40,000 to NZ$60,000
Note: Salaries can vary based on location, employer, and demand for packers.


₦600,000 to ₦1,200,000 NGN
Note: Salaries may vary based on the organisation, location, and level of expertise.


Ksh 300,000 to Ksh 600,000 KES
Note: Salaries can vary based on the employer, experience, and industry demand.

South Africa:

R120,000 to R240,000 ZAR
Note: Salaries may vary based on the region, employer, and level of responsibility.

Regional Averages:

South America:

Varies widely by country and specific role. In countries like Brazil, Argentina, or Chile, salaries may range from $10,000 to $30,000 USD annually, depending on factors such as experience and industry demand.


Varies significantly by country and location within Europe. In Western European countries like Germany, France, or Italy, salaries may range from €20,000 to €40,000 EUR annually, while in Eastern European countries, salaries may be lower.

Southeast Asia:

Varies widely by country and specific role. In countries like Thailand, Indonesia, or Vietnam, salaries may range from $5,000 to $15,000 USD annually, depending on factors such as experience and industry demand.

Can an Animal Packer be promoted?

Promotion levels for an animal packer can vary depending on the organisation, industry, and career path. However, here are three or four prominent promotion levels that may exist for animal packers, along with corresponding headings under each level:

Entry-Level Animal Packer


High school diploma or equivalent. Basic training in animal handling, outdoor skills, and safety protocols.


Assist in packing and loading animals, caring for pack animals, basic trail navigation, equipment maintenance, and camp setup.


Basic certifications in wilderness first aid, animal handling safety, or specific pack animal training.

Senior Animal Packer


Additional training or coursework in pack animal management, wilderness navigation, and leadership skills.


Lead pack trips, supervise and train entry-level packers, manage logistics for expeditions, and handle more complex terrain and trail challenges.


Advanced certifications in wilderness first aid, advanced pack animal handling, trail leadership, or specific industry-related certifications.

Lead Animal Packer or Pack Guide


Advanced courses or certifications in wilderness leadership, risk management, environmental stewardship, and natural resource management.


Lead and coordinate pack trips, design expedition itineraries, manage client interactions, oversee equipment maintenance and inventory, ensure safety protocols are followed.


Leadership certifications, wilderness rescue training, specialized certifications in pack guiding or expedition planning.

Managerial or Supervisory Role


Bachelor’s degree in related fields such as outdoor education, environmental science, or wildlife management may be preferred for managerial roles.


Oversee multiple pack teams, manage budgets, develop strategic plans for outdoor programmes, liaise with clients or stakeholders, and ensure regulatory compliance.


Management or supervisory training, business administration courses, industry-specific certifications related to outdoor leadership and management.

What difficulties does an Animal Packer face?

Animal packers may encounter various challenges in their profession due to the nature of their work and the environments in which they operate. Here are some of the challenges they may face:

Physical Demands:

Handling heavy loads:

Packing and loading equipment or supplies onto pack animals can be physically demanding, requiring strength and endurance.

Navigating rugged terrain:

Travelling through challenging terrain such as steep slopes, rocky paths, or dense vegetation can be physically taxing.

Safety Concerns (especially from the animals):

Animal handling risks:

Working closely with pack animals involves risks such as bites, kicks, or being knocked over, requiring proper training and caution.

Safety during transport:

Ensuring that loads are properly secured on pack animals to prevent shifting or falling during travel.

Variability in Working Conditions:

Weather challenges:

Working in extreme weather conditions such as heat, cold, rain, or snow can pose challenges to both the animals and the packers.

Remote locations:

Operating in remote areas with limited access to resources or medical assistance can increase the complexity of operations.

Emotional Challenges:

Animal welfare:

Ensuring the well-being and health of pack animals may involve emotional challenges, especially in cases of injury, illness, or stress during journeys.

Client interactions:

Dealing with diverse client personalities, expectations, and needs during pack trips or expeditions.

Business Management:

Logistics coordination:

Managing logistics such as equipment, supplies, permits, and transportation for expeditions.

Client satisfaction:

Meeting client expectations while maintaining safety standards and providing quality outdoor experiences.

Regulatory Compliance:

Environmental regulations:

Adhering to environmental regulations, permits, and guidelines related to wildlife, protected areas, and wilderness use.

Animal welfare standards:

Following regulations and best practices for the ethical treatment and care of pack animals.

Continuing Education:

Staying updated:

Keeping abreast of advancements in pack animal handling techniques, outdoor safety practices, first aid protocols, and industry trends.

Professional certifications:

Pursuing and maintaining certifications in wilderness first aid, animal handling, guiding, and other relevant areas.

Unpredictable Work Hours:

Seasonal demands:

Workloads and schedules may vary based on seasonal factors such as weather conditions, peak tourism seasons, or specific expedition schedules.

Emergency responses:

Being on-call or available for emergency situations that may arise during expeditions or pack trips.

Animal packers must be resilient, adaptable, and well-prepared to handle the physical, emotional, logistical, and regulatory challenges inherent in their profession. Proper training, ongoing education, teamwork, and a focus on safety and ethical practices are key aspects of navigating these challenges effectively.

​Future growth and Possibilities

The projected annual growth of the animal packer job market can vary depending on factors such as industry demand, economic conditions, and trends in outdoor recreation, tourism, research, and conservation sectors. Here are some current trends and possibilities that may influence the future of the industry:

Outdoor Recreation and Adventure Tourism:

Current Trend:

There is a growing interest in outdoor activities, adventure tourism, and wilderness experiences among travellers and outdoor enthusiasts.


This trend can lead to increased demand for pack trips, guided hikes, camping expeditions, and outdoor adventures that require the expertise of Animal Packers.
Conservation and

Environmental Initiatives:

Current Trend:

There is a heightened focus on conservation, wildlife research, and environmental stewardship globally.


Animal Packers may find opportunities in supporting conservation expeditions, wildlife monitoring projects, habitat restoration efforts, and sustainable tourism initiatives that prioritise environmental protection.

Education and Outreach Programmes:

Current Trend:

Educational programmes, nature-based learning, and experiential education are gaining popularity in schools, institutions, and outdoor education centres.


Animal packers with teaching and outdoor education skills may contribute to educational programmes, youth camps, environmental awareness initiatives, and nature immersion experiences.

Technology Integration:

Current Trend:

Advancements in technology, such as GPS navigation, digital mapping tools, outdoor gear innovations, and communication devices, are shaping outdoor experiences.


Animal Packers may benefit from using technology for route planning, safety monitoring, communication during expeditions, and enhancing client experiences.

Diversification of Services:

Current Trend:

Outdoor companies and guides are diversifying their services to cater to a broader range of clients, interests, and experiences.


Animal Packers may explore niche markets, specialised expeditions (such as wildlife photography trips, cultural exchanges, or wellness retreats), and collaborative ventures with other outdoor professionals.

Sustainability and Ethical Practices:

Current Trend:

There is a growing emphasis on sustainable tourism practices, responsible outdoor recreation, and ethical treatment of animals in the industry.


Animal packers may need to align with sustainability standards, adopt eco-friendly practices, promote responsible tourism behaviours, and prioritise the well-being of pack animals in their operations.

Regulatory Changes and Compliance:

Current Trend:

Regulations related to wilderness access, permits, animal welfare, safety standards, and environmental impact assessments may evolve.


Animal packers must stay informed about regulatory changes, maintain compliance with legal requirements, and uphold industry standards to ensure ethical and lawful practices.

While specific growth rates may vary by region and sector, animal packers can benefit from the overall growth and diversification of outdoor recreation, adventure tourism, conservation initiatives, and experiential learning opportunities. Adapting to emerging trends, embracing technology, promoting sustainability, and offering unique and valuable experiences can contribute to the continued relevance and growth of the animal packer profession.

Availability of Jobs


Which Skills do Animal Packers need?

The skills required for a career as an Animal Packer can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills and personality traits, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills and Personality Traits

People employed as animal packers typically possess a unique set of personality traits that enable them to excel in their roles and thrive in outdoor and wilderness environments. Here are some specific personality traits often associated with animal packers:

Love for Nature and Animals:

Animal packers have a deep appreciation and love for nature, wildlife, and the outdoors. They enjoy spending time in natural settings and have a genuine affinity for working with animals.

Physical Fitness and Endurance:

Animal packers need to be physically fit, with good strength, stamina, and agility. They are capable of handling the physical demands of packing, hiking, and navigating rugged terrain.

Adventurous Spirit:

They have an adventurous spirit and enjoy exploring new places, challenging trails, and remote wilderness areas. They embrace the unpredictability and excitement of outdoor adventures.

Resilience and Adaptability:

Animal packers are resilient and adaptable, able to cope with changing weather conditions, unexpected challenges, and demanding work environments. They remain calm under pressure and find creative solutions to problems.

Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Knowledge:

They possess practical outdoor skills such as navigation, camping, survival techniques, and wildlife awareness. They are knowledgeable about local flora and fauna, trail systems, and safety protocols in wilderness settings.

Animal Handling and Empathy:

Animal packers have experience and skills in handling pack animals such as horses, mules, or donkeys. They demonstrate empathy and care for animals, ensuring their well-being and comfort during expeditions.

Teamwork and Communication:

They work well in team settings, collaborating with guides, clients, and fellow packers to achieve common goals. They communicate effectively, providing clear instructions, sharing information, and fostering positive group dynamics.

Attention to Detail and Safety Consciousness:

Animal packers pay attention to detail when packing equipment, securing loads, and maintaining safety standards. They prioritise safety for themselves, pack animals, clients, and fellow team members.

Environmental Stewardship:

They have a sense of environmental responsibility and practice Leave No Trace principles, minimising their impact on natural ecosystems, respecting wildlife habitats, and promoting sustainable outdoor practices.

Customer Service and Client Interaction:

For those working in guided tours or adventure tourism, they possess good customer service skills, providing a positive and memorable experience for clients while ensuring their safety and comfort.

These personality traits collectively contribute to the success of animal packers in their profession, allowing them to navigate diverse challenges, connect with nature and animals, and provide enriching outdoor experiences for themselves and others.

Life Skills

Career Skills

  • Animal handling
  • Animal care
  • Customer service
  • Handle instruments
  • Good overall health
  • Computer literate
Career Skills

Which Subjects must I have at School to help me prepare for this career?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

What will I need to Study to become an Animal Packer?

To become an animal packer, you will need a combination of education, training, and practical skills relevant to working with pack animals and conducting outdoor expeditions. Here are the details under each heading:

Minimum Requirements

Most animal packer positions require a high school diploma or equivalent qualification. However, some employers may prefer candidates with additional education or relevant training.

Study Focus

Subjects if Further Study is Required:

If you decide to pursue further education or specialised training to enhance your skills and knowledge as an animal packer, consider the following subjects:

  • Animal Science or Zoology: Gain a deeper understanding of animal behaviour, biology, anatomy, and care techniques.
  • Environmental Science: Learn about ecosystems, conservation principles, environmental impacts, and natural resource management.
  • Outdoor Education or Recreation: Develop practical skills in outdoor activities, navigation, camping, first aid, survival techniques, and leadership.
  • Wilderness Medicine or First Aid: Obtain certification in wilderness first aid or advanced first aid training specific to outdoor and remote environments.
  • Business or Entrepreneurship (Optional): If you plan to start your own outdoor guiding business, consider courses in business management, entrepreneurship, marketing, and customer service.

Advanced Studies (if Necessary):

Depending on your career goals and the specific requirements of the job market or industry, you may choose to pursue advanced studies such as:

  • Associate’s Degree: Some positions may benefit from an associate’s degree in fields like wildlife management, outdoor recreation, or related disciplines.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: While not always required, a bachelor’s degree in fields such as wildlife biology, environmental science, outdoor education, or animal science can provide comprehensive knowledge and open up additional career opportunities in wildlife management, conservation, research, or education.
  • Master’s Degree (Optional): For roles in leadership, management, or specialised areas such as conservation biology, wildlife ecology, or outdoor leadership, a master’s degree may be beneficial.

Optional Short Courses:

Consider taking short courses or certifications to enhance specific skills or meet industry standards:

  • Pack Animal Handling and Safety: Learn about pack animal care, handling techniques, equipment use, load balancing, and safety protocols.
  • Wilderness Navigation and Orienteering: Improve your navigation skills using maps, compasses, GPS devices, and digital mapping tools.
  • Leave No Trace Principles: Understand and practice ethical outdoor behaviour, minimal impact camping, waste management, and environmental stewardship.
  • Outdoor Leadership and Guiding: Develop leadership, communication, risk management, and decision-making skills for guiding outdoor expeditions.
  • Wilderness First Aid or Emergency Response: Obtain certification in wilderness first aid, CPR, basic life support, and emergency response tailored for remote environments.

Study Duration

The duration of a a College Diploma is between 2 and 3 years. Time spent on a Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 4 years, and another 4 years for a Doctorate. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

Possible Career Preparation Paths

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A preparation path is like a road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

Here is a possible career preparation path for a high school student who wants to pursue an animal packer career, based on the points you provided:

1. Attend Career Guidance Sessions:

Attend career guidance sessions at school or external workshops to learn about different career paths, including outdoor professions like animal packing.

2. Research All Possible Careers:

Conduct thorough research on careers related to outdoor activities, wildlife management, conservation, and pack animal handling to understand the opportunities available.

3. Explore Educational Paths:

Explore different educational paths such as vocational training, certificate programmes, associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, or specialised courses related to animal science, outdoor education, or wilderness management.

4. Align High School Subjects with the Educational Path:

Choose high school subjects that align with the chosen educational path, such as biology, environmental science, outdoor education, physical education, and mathematics.

5. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent:

Complete high school education and obtain a high school diploma or equivalent qualification.

6. Learn About Animals You Will Work With:

Learn about pack animals such as horses, mules, or donkeys, their behaviour, care needs, handling techniques, and safety protocols.

7. Align Post-School Path:

Decide whether to enter the job market directly after high school, pursue further studies at a college or university, or start a business related to outdoor guiding or animal packing.

8. Gain Experience Through Volunteering, Internship, Mentorship, etc.:

Gain practical experience by volunteering at animal shelters, farms, wildlife rehabilitation centres, or outdoor education programmes.
Seek internships or mentorship opportunities with experienced animal packers or outdoor guides to learn hands-on skills and industry insights.

9. Pursue Extracurricular Activities:

Participate in extracurricular activities related to outdoor recreation, animal care, hiking clubs, environmental clubs, or scouting programmes to develop leadership, teamwork, and outdoor skills.

10. Join Professional Associations:

Join professional associations or clubs related to outdoor professions, equestrian activities, or wildlife conservation to network with professionals, access resources, and stay updated on industry trends.

11. Gain specialised Skills:

Gain specialised skills such as wilderness first aid certification, outdoor leadership training, pack animal handling certification, or navigation skills.

12. Network with Professionals:

Network with professionals in the outdoor and animal-related industries through events, workshops, conferences, and online platforms to build connections and seek guidance.

13. Enter the Job Market, Finish Tertiary Studies, or Launch a Business:

Depending on your chosen path, enter the job market as an entry-level Animal Packer, continue tertiary studies in relevant fields, or consider launching a business related to outdoor guiding or pack animal services.

14. Stay Updated and Pursue Continuing Education:

Stay updated with industry developments, regulations, and best practices by pursuing continuing education, attending workshops, and staying connected with professional associations.

By following this career preparation path, a high school student can build a strong foundation of knowledge, skills, experience, and networking connections to pursue a successful career as an animal packer or in related outdoor professions.

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):

Stepping-stone Career Paths

If a student starts their career as an animal packer as a stepping-stone due to circumstances such as gaining initial work experience, exploring outdoor professions, or pursuing a passion for working with animals and nature, there are several potential career pathways they could transition into in the future. Here are some related careers that an animal packer background could lead to:

Training and Apprenticeship

On-the-job training and apprenticeships play a crucial role in preparing individuals for a career as an animal packer or related outdoor profession. Here are the typical on-the-job training and apprenticeship requirements for someone entering this career:

Basic Animal Handling and Care Training:

  • New hires typically receive training in basic animal handling and care techniques relevant to pack animals such as horses, mules, or donkeys.
  • Training may cover feeding and watering procedures, grooming practices, recognising signs of distress or illness in animals, and proper handling during loading and unloading.

Equipment Familiarisation and Maintenance:

  • Apprentices learn about pack saddles, pack bags, ropes, straps, and other equipment used for packing and securing loads on animals.
  • They are trained in equipment maintenance, including cleaning, inspecting for wear and tear, making adjustments for comfort and safety, and storing equipment properly.

Trail Navigation and Outdoor Skills:

  • Training includes learning how to navigate trails, read maps, use compasses or GPS devices, identify landmarks, and plan routes for expeditions.
  • Apprentices develop outdoor skills such as setting up campsites, pitching tents, building fires safely, cooking outdoors, and practicing Leave No Trace principles.

Safety Protocols and Emergency Response:

  • On-the-job training emphasises safety protocols for working with pack animals, managing risks in outdoor environments, and responding to emergencies.
  • Apprentices receive instruction in wilderness first aid, CPR, basic medical care for injuries or illnesses, communication during emergencies, and evacuation procedures.

Client Interaction and Customer Service:

  • Depending on the role, apprentices may receive training in interacting with clients, providing information about expeditions, addressing client concerns or questions, and ensuring a positive customer experience.
  • They learn about client expectations, cultural sensitivity, communication styles, and conflict resolution techniques.

Environmental Awareness and Conservation Practices:

  • Training includes education about environmental awareness, conservation principles, wildlife protection, and sustainable practices in outdoor activities.
  • Apprentices are encouraged to practice responsible behaviour, minimise their impact on natural ecosystems, and promote conservation ethics.

Guided Expeditions and Mentorship:

  • Apprentices often work alongside experienced animal packers or outdoor guides during guided expeditions or trips.
  • They benefit from mentorship, hands-on learning opportunities, feedback on performance, and a gradual increase in responsibilities as they gain experience and competence.

Certifications and Continuing Education:

  • Depending on the employer and industry standards, apprentices may be required to obtain certifications such as wilderness first aid, pack animal handling safety, outdoor leadership, or specific industry-related certifications.
  • Apprentices are encouraged to pursue continuing education, workshops, or specialised courses to enhance their skills, knowledge, and career development in outdoor professions.

On-the-job training and apprenticeships provide a comprehensive learning experience that combines practical skills development, safety training, environmental awareness, client interaction, and professional growth within the context of outdoor and animal-related careers like Animal Packer. It’s important for apprentices to actively engage in learning, seek feedback, ask questions, and demonstrate a commitment to safety, ethical practices, and excellence in their work.

Average level of education of all the people who enter the career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

Becoming an animal packer or pursuing a career involving pack animals and outdoor expeditions may require adherence to specific licences, certificates, and legal registrations depending on the country, region, industry standards, and job responsibilities. Here are some common requirements that individuals may need to fulfil:

Pack Animal Handling and Safety Certification:

  • Many employers and industry organisations require certification in pack animal handling and safety. This certification demonstrates proficiency in handling, caring for, and working with pack animals such as horses, mules, or donkeys.
  • Certification programmes may cover topics such as animal behaviour, pack saddle fitting, load balancing, equipment use, trail safety, environmental stewardship, and emergency response.

Wilderness First Aid Certification:

  • Obtaining certification in wilderness first aid is often mandatory for outdoor professionals, including Animal Packers. This certification focuses on medical care and emergency response in remote or wilderness environments.
  • Wilderness first aid courses cover topics such as wound care, fractures, CPR, hypothermia, heat-related illnesses, allergic reactions, and evacuation procedures.

Guiding or Outdoor Leadership Certification:

  • Depending on the role, employers may require certification in guiding or outdoor leadership. This certification demonstrates competence in leading expeditions, managing groups in outdoor settings, and providing quality outdoor experiences.
  • Guiding certifications may include training in group dynamics, risk management, communication skills, navigation, natural history interpretation, and client service.

Animal Welfare and Ethics Compliance:

  • Animal Packers must adhere to legal and ethical standards related to animal welfare, treatment, and care. This may involve compliance with regulations governing pack animal use, transportation, handling practices, and health checks.
  • Understanding and following ethical guidelines, such as those outlined by animal welfare organizations or industry associations, is essential for maintaining high standards of care for pack animals.

Permits and Licenses for Wilderness Operations:

  • Depending on the location and nature of operations, Animal Packers may need permits, licenses, or registrations for conducting wilderness expeditions, camping in protected areas, or using public lands.
  • This may include permits for commercial guiding, backcountry camping, access to national parks or forests, wildlife management areas, or other designated wilderness areas.

Business Licenses and Liability Insurance (if self-employed):

  • If an Animal Packer operates as an independent guide or runs a guiding business, they may need to obtain business licenses, liability insurance, and comply with local regulations for outdoor guiding services.
  • This includes registering the business, obtaining necessary permits for operating in specific areas, and maintaining insurance coverage for client safety and protection.

Continuing Education and Recertification:

  • Many certifications and licenses require periodic renewal or recertification to ensure that professionals stay updated with current practices, regulations, and industry standards.
  • Animal Packers should prioritize continuing education, attending refresher courses, and maintaining active certifications to demonstrate ongoing competence and commitment to professional development.

It’s important for individuals aspiring to become Animal Packers or pursue related outdoor careers to research specific legal requirements, industry standards, and certification programs relevant to their geographical location and intended job roles. Consulting with industry associations, training providers, legal advisors, and experienced professionals can provide valuable guidance on meeting these requirements and advancing in the field responsibly and ethically.

Professional Associations

North America:

Backcountry Horsemen of America (BCHA):

BCHA is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to preserving the historic use of horses and mules in backcountry and wilderness areas across the United States. They promote responsible packing, trail maintenance, and outdoor ethics.

Website: Backcountry Horsemen of America


British Horse Society (BHS):

BHS is a leading Equine charity in the UK that offers training, certification, and resources for horse care, riding, and equestrian activities. They promote responsible horse handling and welfare.

Website: British Horse Society


Australian Trail Horse Riders Association (ATHRA):

ATHRA is an organisation promoting trail riding, horseback riding, and equestrian activities in Australia. They provide resources, events, and advocacy for trail riders and packers.

Website: Australian Trail Horse Riders Association


The Long Riders’ Guild (LRG):

LRG is an international association of long-distance equestrian travellers, including pack riders. They provide information, support, and connections for equestrian adventurers worldwide.

Website: The Long Riders’ Guild

General Outdoor and Adventure Associations:

International Mountain Guides Association (IMGA):

While not specific to Animal Packers, IMGA is a global association for mountain guides and outdoor professionals, promoting safety, standards, and education in mountain guiding and climbing.

Website: International Mountain Guides Association

Where can I study further? (List of Registered Tertiary Institutions)

All of the above information will help you understand more about the career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with high school (grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies and where you will study.

See the list of universities, colleges, and online training academies that offer courses in animal care and horse handling.

How do I start to prepare for this Career?

If you do decide on following this career, then OZT can assist you in gaining further knowledge about the career and the animals you will be working with. We do this by offering you FREE career development tools.

Use the free career path plan above on this course as an example and work out your own path. You can use this example as a visitor or full member.

Access easy-to-use short courses to make your career preparation easier! The basic information in the courses is free, but the rewards can only be unlocked as an OZT member!

Get a supercharged study guide that fits in the above career path plan! Now that’s really upping your preparation game! (The guides are free with OZT membership, which is also free to join!) Link in the button below.

But, if you are still uncertain about choosing this specific career, and even where to start, then have a look at our special series of WHAT NEXT courses (link below). They take you through all of the questions you might have on how to choose the right career, what to do while at and after school, and even how to start your own business.

Join the OZT online community for special access to more tools!

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming an Animal Packer.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. Some career experience is necessary; otherwise, you won’t get the job!
  • Top-notch information on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes, and certificates. Be the best of the best while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being an Animal Packer , please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the group, while non-members will be assisted in registering first.

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Some of the best websites to help you decide on a career are:

  1. The Long Riders’ Guild

    • Website: The Long Riders’ Guild
    • Description: The Long Riders’ Guild is an international association dedicated to long-distance equestrian travel. While not exclusively focused on pack animals, the website contains valuable information, articles, and resources related to travelling with horses and pack animals in various terrains and conditions.
  2. Pack Goat Central

    • Website: Pack Goat Central
    • Description: Pack Goat Central is a community and resource hub for individuals interested in using goats as pack animals. The website offers information on training, care, equipment, and adventures involving pack goats.
  3. Backpacking with a Pack Burro

    • Website: Backpacking with a Pack Burro
    • Description: This website provides information and resources for individuals interested in using burros (donkeys) as pack animals for backpacking and outdoor adventures. It includes tips on training, gear, routes, and safety considerations for packing with burros.

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