If you have horses for any length of time, sooner or later you're going to take one away somewhere overnight. And if you think packing for kids is bad, you ain?t seen nothin? yet. Horses are big. And they need big things, like saddles, blankets, buckets. But the biggest thing they need is hay. Not only is a bale of hay cumbersome to handle, it sheds like a cat in June and can
make a mess out of a nice clean tack compartment.
Enter the hay bale bag.Completely encasing a bale of hay in a canvas or vinyl bag makes it convenient and safe for transporting, especially if it's going to be in the back of an open truck. Working from a hay bale bag at a show, trail ride or clinic can also conserve hay by keeping the remainder of the bale out of the dirt or from being scattered around the stall area.
We looked at six styles of bale bags/totes to see what design and/or materials worked best. All of the bags showed some thought in the design and we felt each had a reason to appeal to different people in different situations.
If you usually get your hay from the same baler, we found it's a good idea to measure one of those bales before buying a hay bale bag as the bags varied some in size and ease of loading. All of the bags we tried accommodated a standard, 40-pound square bale, but if you buy hay in 60-pound, three-wire bales you need a bag big enough to accommodate a bale that size. The Horse Sense Bale Bag we tried is made to handle bales that big and had a semi-rigid bottom that helped keep it open so it was easier to wrestle one of those big boys into it. This bag also had a handle on each end so two people could carry it, plus a shoulder strap if you're moosey enough to heft such a heavy bale alone.
On the smaller side, we found the Half Bale Cover from Triple E worked great for shorter trips and smaller people. At just 24 inches square, it held enough hay for a day and could easily be carried by a small person, or even a large child.
Adequate venting was important if the hay is going to stay in the bag for any period of time. All hay has a little moisture content and vents allow it to ?breathe,? helping to ward off condensation (although it is still a good idea to open the zipper a little to allow more moisture to escape). The Brookside Rolling Hay Bag had three mesh windows down each side, while the Horse Sense and Centaur Hay Bale Carrier had varying numbers of grommet holes. The Fabri-Tech Hay Bale Cover and the Triple E Half Bale Cover were meant to be seriously waterproof and had no vents. Even with vents (and definitely without them) condensation can form, so on sunny days it's best to keep bales in any bags in the shade and to slightly open the zipper.
Getting a Grip
Carrying a bale of hay is always work and lugging one from the truck to the stall area at a show can really be a drag. Here's where convenient, comfortable handles ? and wheels! ? really help. Our testers who have to load and unload at shows alone found the Brookside Rolling Hay Bag a great convenience. The five, smooth-rolling wheels made it simple for a single person to pull it along by the padded top handle. But wheels don't always work well on rough terrain, so the handles on each side, as well as the extra web strap on the bottom, were handy when they needed someone to help carry it. We also found the side handles made it much easier for one person to lift and push this big bag into the back of a truck. The Horse Sense, Triple E and Centaur bags all had shoulder straps that enabled them to be carried by one person. The Fabri-Tech and Roma bags had handles at the ends only, but we found most of our testers
could carry them if the bales weren?t overly long.
All but the Roma bag closed with heavy, two-way zippers. (The Roma was the exception having no hardware of any kind, just hook-and-loop tabs to keep the lid closed.) All of the bags opened down one long side and the two short sides, except the Brookside Rolling Hay Bag, which had the lid attached at the bottom where the wheels were. We liked this setup because, at a horse show, we could stand this bag up, tie the top handle to the stall bars and peel down the front flap to get at the hay one lap at a time. The upright position also took up less of the precious storage space in front of the stall.
A Surprising Lightweight
The soft 1200D Hay Bale Bag by Roma was so light and thin we initially doubted its value. Plus, the top didn't close completely, and it had minimal end handles. But, test it we did, and we
found for someone who carries hay to her barn one bale at a time in the back of her car, it was perfect. It kept the car clean, was easy to shake out and folded up nicely to keep in the car for the next trip.
All of the bags we tried had their benefits but, in spite of its cumbersome size and the added weight of the wheels, the Brookside Rolling Hay Bag was our favorite because it had the most features we used and liked. While a little tight to load, the covered zipper, good vents, smooth-rolling wheels and ?stand up? design made it a winner, particularly for people who had to pack and transport a bale of hay alone. An extra web strap on the bottom was there if you needed someone to help by picking up the other end.
The Horse Sense Bale Bag was a close second because it was so easy to load and could hold a large bale. Lots of vents and feet to keep it up off the damp ground were added pluses. It also earns Best Buy.
Article by Contributing Editor Nancy Butler.