Llamas as Pack Animals
Llamas are native to altitudes of 9,000-14,000' on the altiplano of the Andes Mountains of South America. They are naturally adapted to mountainous terrain and have extremely low impact within that environment. They are very efficient browsers eating small amounts of many varieties of forage (they eat 5-10% the intake of a horse or mule) and are able to sustain themselves in the backcountry without supplement or heavy impacts. They have relatively low water requirements and can go for extended periods without water.
They have a soft, padded hoof which gives them superior traction and negligible impact on trails and vegetation over which they traverse. Llamas are very hardy and strong and can carry loads of 80-100# on or off trail at the highest elevations the Rockies offer. Their low-key disposition makes them safe and easy to handle, while their intelligence and individual personalities blend them into the social structure of an outing. Their gait is evenly matched to that of the average hiker and their quiet demeanor is an asset both on the trail and in camp. Pelleted feces, cleanliness, and low water consumption also simplify campsite requirements.
These qualities offer wilderness users a pack animal that fits easily into their existing packing routine, preserves the aesthetics of their experience, and at the same time extends their range and comfort. Children, seniors, and people with disabilities can more easily access destinations beyond road corridors. Trail maintenance crews, fire fighters, photographers, fishermen, hunters, climbers and others requiring additional capacity find llamas to be an ideal solution. Impacts are spread more evenly throughout the backcountry without the degradation caused by conventional pack animals. This provides an enhanced experience for those who follow.
Llamas are easily transported to and from the trail head in a variety of vehicles (pickups with racks, vans, and trailers) with minimal preparation. They travel well for extended periods and will typically lay down in a moving vehicle.