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Packing the (Hypothetical) Mule

Sketch of a big pile of gear.

Figure 1: The Problem.


The Problem

Most bulk shipping before the Revolutionary War was on the rivers, bays, and along the East Coast. The roads in Pre-revolutionary America were few and far between. There was the King's Highway from Charleston to Boston, and the Great Wagon Road in the Shenandoah Valley, but not many East-West roads. Wheeled vehicles just weren't practical away from the cities. It would commonly take two and a half weeks to go overland from New York city to Ohio. It was often easier to ship goods from the Ohio Valley down the Ohio River to the Mississippi, into the Gulf of Mexico, around the tip of Florida, and back up the coast to New York. The Erie Canal, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, were each started after 1800. Away from the major freight corridors, everything moved on pack animals.

A Solution

To be clear, I don't own a mule, nor have I ever packed one. Everything I know comes from the sources at the bottom of this page. But I figure one mule is about all the freight haulage a rural Colonial ropemaker could afford. The various sources indicate one hundred fifty, to two hundred pounds is a tolerable load, and nothing over 8 feet long. I'm aiming to keep my gear under two hundred pounds.

A Packed Mule.

Figure 2: The Ideal Solution.


The Load

Here's what I've been hauling to Market Fairs and such:

Equipment Length
Bag of General Tools 12 12 16 15
Bag of Rope 24 12 30 25
Basket of Rope Tools 24 24 12 10
Bench 48 9 6 30
Canopy 90 8 8 20
Cooking Gear 16 16 12 20
Fire Tripod 48 6 6 10
Table 43
Tent 72 9 9 20
Willow Basket of Rope, Pulleys, etc. 36 24 24 15
Willow Basket of Raw Fibers 36 24 24 5
Winter Bedding 36 24 24 25
Total - - - 240

So I've got some trimming to do.

That saves thirty pounds.

Under 200 pounds, split between me and the mule, my mule should be pleased. And I may even be able to bring back something new for the family.

But still a lot of room for improvement.  


Filson (c. 2020)
How to Pack a Mule with a Diamond Hitch & What to Bring
Accessed 04 August 2021 from

Headquarters, Department of the Army (June 2004)
Special Forces Use of Pack Animals
Accessed 13 March 2021 from

Kattell, John (2013)
Packable Trail Bridges
Accessed 13 March 2021 from

Walley, Cherilyn A (2005)
Of Mules and Men
The 612th and 613th Field Artillery Battalions (Pack) in Burma

Accessed 04 August 2021 from


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