Bât Balissandre de Randoline pour randonnée et portage

The Balissandre


The adjustable packsaddle that does not capsize

The Randoline Balissandre packsaddle for donkey, mule, horse is an extremely robust packsaddle constructed of ash, steel, brass, stainless steel and leather (choice of vegetal or chrome tanning), according to the criteria of traditional packsaddles. It can be used as a hiking packsaddle or as a carrying packsaddle. It can be used on a donkey, mule or horse with 3 sizes available (XS-S-M). It fits the animal thanks to its 4 sliding arches. The exceptional stability is given by these descending arches. Its independent pads attached to rubber studs which give them flexibility and mobility, thus permanently conforming to the shape of the animal’s back. The size M Balissandre now comes with 10 articulated tracked pads, like its smaller cousin the Bastillon. The shape of the leather harness prevents the Balissandre from any untimely slipping which could cause an injury.

XS 4 pads fawn leather
444 €

S 4 pads chrome leather
464 €

S 4 pads fawn leather
529 €

M 10 pads chrome leather
534 €

M 10 pads fawn leather
609 €


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Linseed oil for wood care

Neatsfoot oil for leather care


Balissandre structure

The Balissandre consists of a cradle formed by two supporters and two crosspieces. The rear part of the supporter is bent upwards to take into account the saddlement of the animal’s back. The cradle forms a horizontal surface on which certain items of luggage can be attached (tent, air mattress, sleeping bag, etc.). Different brass and stainless steel cleats allow you to attach bungee cords to hang the luggage

The Balissandre is cut from an ash plank, a wood that is both flexible and strong, widely used in the past in the construction of carriages. Ash is also resistant to external aggression. All the parts of the packsaddle are 40 mm thick (except the Balissandre XS, for small donkeys, which measures 35 mm). The slides are laser cut from a 5mm aluminum blade. Laser cutting ensures natural rounding of the metal edges.

Balissandre harness

The leather harness was designed to accompany the intrinsic quality of Randoline packsaddles: their stability.

The attachment points of the straps are located at the lowest of the hoops, thus forming around the body of the donkey a net that is both flexible and strong which prevents the pack from capsizing, even in the event of a difference in weight between the side bags. .

To hold the breeching and the breast collar in position, two small support straps run from the ends of the supporters.

The cleats are made of brass or stainless steel, so as not to damage the leather and not produce any oxidation.

Bât Randoline Bâlissandre : harnachement de cuir

The harness is available in 2 qualities of leather: chrome leather or tan leather. Chrome-tanned leather is bluish gray in color, it is extremely strong and durable over time. It requires light maintenance using neatsfoot oil once or twice a year, wiped with a cloth. Tawny leather is tanned with oak tan using a slower and more expensive process (which explains its higher cost). Although it is admitted that its aesthetic is more beautiful than chrome leather, its resistance is less and it requires more frequent maintenance with neatsfoot oil by soaking surfaces and seams with a brush.

Photo legend : 1 – Breeching // 2 – breeching suspension strap // 3 – Breast collar // 4 – Breast collar suspension strap

Balissandre, bât de randonnée et de portage de chez Randoline, fabricant français équipement et matériel pour les ânes

The belly belt

The belly belt can be placed more or less forward, simply by changing the position of the loops. It is 6 cm wide.

Thanks to its V-shaped cutout, the belly band cannot move forwards or backwards. Even in the forward position, it can never get into the “belt path” and risk injuring the animal in this sensitive area.

Due to the stability of Balissandre, it is not necessary to tighten it all the way.

The arches

On the cradle are fixed 2 front arches and 2 rear arches. The arches are long enough (29 cm for the Balissandre S and 35 cm for the Balissandre M) to wrap around the animal’s back and ensure perfect stability for the packsaddle and great carrying comfort. The Balissandre does not capsize!

The angle of the arch is 10° to provide better stability to the luggage.

As no two donkeys have the same build or the same morphology, the front and rear arches are independent and will adapt perfectly to the shape of the body of each animal. To do this, each arch is adjustable in width along a metal slide, which gives a total clearance in width of 8.8 cm at the front and 12.8 cm at the rear for size S, or 10.6 cm at the front and 14.7 cm at the rear for size M. Watch the video.

When you have taken the measurements of your donkey, you can choose the size of your packsaddle. The sizes overlap by a few cm, which allows, for certain donkeys, to choose one size or the other.

Structure du bât Balissandre de Randoline, fabricant français
Les patins chenillés articulés du bât Balissandre de Randoline

Articulated tracked pads

The packsaddle transfers its load onto the donkey’s back using independent wood pads. Each wood pad pivots on all axes on a rubber pad in order to permanently rest flat on the back without effort or constraint, and in order to adapt to the permanent movements of the body during walking.

The rubber pads have a diameter of 20 mm and a height of 15 mm. They are constructed of 60 Shore hardness rubber, making them virtually indestructible. Each rubber pad is calibrated to support 4 times the load placed on it.

patins mobiles du bât Balissandre de Randoline

The support surface

The Balissandres in sizes XS and S rest on 4 wood pads. The M-sized Balissandre rests on 10 articulated tracked wood pads (like its little cousin the Bastillon). For the first time in the history of the art of saddling, the entire surface of the pad conforms to the shape of the animal’s back every second, providing unprecedented carrying comfort.

The total support surface is 1,100 cm2 for a Balissandre size M, much more than all other existing packsaddle models. And each of these 1,100 cm2 is strictly flat on the back, whatever the shape of the back, whatever the load, whatever the terrain of the path.

Leather color

You may choose the color of leather of your Balissandre:

• Either chrome-tanned leather, with a grey-blue shade
• Or leather tanned with oak tan, light brown in color
Chrome leather requires little maintenance: a little neat’s foot oil wiped with a cloth once or twice a year. Due to its tanning, it is extremely resistant and durable.

Tannic leather is more expensive to produce and requires more maintenance: always use neat’s foot oil once or twice a year, but pass with a brush, thoroughly impregnating the edges and seams. But it is true that its color harmonizes better with the color of ash wood.

Balissandre, bât de randonnée et de portage de chez Randoline, fabricant français équipement et matériel pour les ânes

History of the packsaddle Balissandre

For thousands of years, the peasants of our countryside and our mountains, not to mention the soldiers of the mule companies, have developed century after century working packsaddle of incredible technicality and solidity.

All these packsaddles, which lie dormant today in museums or in the backs of barns, were used until the 1930s. The last craftsmen disappeared a few years later. And the know-how was lost.

These working packsaddles all had the same characteristics, because there are not 40 solutions for keeping a loaded packsaddle balanced on a donkey or mule. We find in particular descending arches, enclosing the body of the animal, which by their shape prevent the pack from capsizing. There are pivots on the arches allowing you to adjust the spacing.

Then appeared, in the 1950s, cross-framed packsaddles, directly imported from the USA. These packsaddles are only placed on the animal’s back, and only rigorous balancing of the right and left loads prevents capsizing. As for putting a load on the top of the packsaddle, we must forget… Today the majority of these cross-frame packsaddles are manufactured in emerging countries (China, India, Pakistan).

And curiously, almost everyone forgot that we had packsaddles in Europe of a much higher quality than these American ones. This is why at Randoline, we thought we had to observe the old working packsaddles, look for their tricks and rebuild today, after 70 years of interruption, high quality packsaddles at an acceptable cost.

After months of testing and numerous prototypes, we had the joy in spring 2009 of finally seeing the Balissandre appear, a working and hiking packsaddle that brings together all the qualities of the packsaddles of our ancestors. And this art of building is slowly reconquering its natural territory.

Balissandre, bât pour âne, bât de portage

Sizes and dimensions

There are 3 models of Balissandre: XS, S and M, to adapt to very small donkeys as well as Poitevin model donkeys, mules or portage horses. The appropriate packsaddle model is not defined in relation to the height of the animal at the withers, but in relation to its width.

Note that the widths of the arches have a clearance which overlaps over a few cm. This allows you to choose the most aesthetic pack for your animal when 2 sizes fit it.

For the sizes S and M, the thickness of wood is 40 mm. For the size XS it is 35 mm.

Attention : on a Balissandre size XS, you may only hang Bagagines size S.

Length of supporter : XS = 53 cm // S =60 cm //M = 71 cm

Broadth of craddle : XS = 21 cm // S = 26 cm //M = 32 cm

Falling size of the arches : XS = 26 cmg // S = 29 cm //M = 34 cm

Spacing of arches : XS = 26 cm // S = 30 cm //M = 34 cm

Adjusting the front arches : XS = 25.5 to 36.3 cm // S = 33 to 42.1 cm//M = 40.5 to 51.1 cm

Adjusting the rear arches : XS = 31 to 44 cm // S = 41.9 to 54.7 cm//M = 47.5 to 62.2 cm


Load weight

A Balissandre can carry a load of 100 kg. This figure must of course be weighted according to your pet’s physical capacity.

Packsaddle weight

Despite all its possibilities, the Balissandre (with leathers and cleats) weighs only 11.8 kg (size M), 8.3 kg (size S) and 5.3 kg (size XS).

The difference in weight with a cross-frame packsaddle (around 1.5 kg) is small compared to the carrying comfort provided to the animal.

bâlissandre, fabricant de bât, bât de portage
bâlissandre, fabricant de bât, bât de portage
bâlissandre, fabricant de bât, bât de portage

Mules and horses

The Balissandre in size M adapts perfectly to equines such as carrying horses and mules, thanks to its 10 articulated tracked wood pads which perfectly match the morphology of these animals.

Indeed, the width-adjustable arches allow you to position the packsaddle on the animal with great precision, to perfectly match its shape, and to transfer the entire load in a harmonious manner, while maintaining great stability, in imitation of the mountain packsaddles of yesteryear.

It is obvious that only the M-sized Balissandre will be able to stay on a horse or mule.

To be sure there will be no problems, refer to the “Calculation dimensions of the animal” button and measure the back of your animal. If the width at the front arch is less than 51 cm and the width at the rear arch is less than 62 cm, then the standard Balissandre will work.

Otherwise, you will have to switch to the Balaska model for carrying heavy loads on very large animals.

• Photo on the left: Balissandre on a 700 kg mule

• Middle photo: Balissandre on a Haflinger horse

• Photo on the right: specially made, Balissandre XL for a Postier Breton from the Haras Nationaux


Small donkeys

The Balissandre XS has been designed for small donkeys.

We encounter, especially in northern countries, small donkeys, from 1 m to 1.10 m, which nevertheless have the strength to carry a packsaddle for hiking.

Until then, there was no packsaddle for this size of donkey. The Balissandre XS meets this demand. It has exactly the same structure as its big brothers, except that the wooden section is 35 mm instead of 40 mm, in order to reduce the weight.

For miniature donkeys, whose height is approximately 90 cm, the Cabriette can also be used.

bâlissandre, fabricant de bât, bât de portage

Stability of the packsaddle

The Balissandre is astonishingly stable. Like mountain packsaddles, its four descending arches ensure almost total immobility, even in the event of a slight difference in weight between the side bags.

• 10 kg at 50 cm from the center of gravity and the pack barely tilts

• Josette’s 50 kg on a pendulum, the pack doesn’t move…

Center of gravity

The Balissandre, despite its high loading, has remarkable stability.

This stability is essentially due to the fact that the packsaddle and the luggage are clipped together, so that there are not 3 objects on the donkey (1 pack + 2 bags), but only one.

According to physical laws, the transfer of the centers of gravity of these objects is found, depending on the animal, 15 to 20 cm below the spine, provided however that the heaviest objects are stored in the bottom of the bags, and the lightest at the top of the saddlebags as well as on the cradle of the packsaddle. This lesson is given to us by the experience of the ancient mule drivers, who always charged like this.

Advantage: ground clearance is significant, from 1.05 to 1.25 m depending on the animal. This prevents the luggage from constantly hitting obstacles on the path: rocks, stumps, embankments, etc.

bâlissandre, fabricant de bât, bât de portage

Easy installation

Once the straps have been adjusted for an animal, there is no further work to be done on the buckles. Simply place the packsaddle on the animal and close the two carabiners that connect the pack and the breastplate.

So we no longer have to redo the buckle adjustments every morning of a hike, at the risk of making them too short or too loose and injuring the animal.

To install the packsaddle at the start, all you have to do is to place it on the animal, clip the 2 left carabiners of the breast collar onto the supporter and onto the arch (see photo) and attach the belly band.

Position of luggage

Luggage elements can be installed crosswise or lengthwise, depending on the position of the side bags

Bât Randoline Bâlissandre : différentes possibilités pour positionner les bagages

Fabrication bât français


Other bags

On the Balissandre, you can hang all types of panniers, bags, wicker baskets, boxes, etc. You can use the U attachment kits or make your own system yourself.

If the hiker prefers bags (often a “duffel bag” model), these will be positioned naturally on the drop of the arches. The straps of the bags or panniers can be attached to the end of each spar. In all cases, the luggage does not touch the animal’s body.

You can also screw a U attachment kit onto the crosspieces (the same as those used to hang the Randoline Bagagines in the photo on the right), and hang the straps on it.

Questions and answers on the packsaddle Randoline Balissandre

• Question : Why buy a Balissandre Randoline, which costs around 500 euros, when you can find packs for less than 400 euros in some catalogs ?

• Answer : You always get what you pay for… If a Balissandre costs more than a packsaddle from China or Pakistan, it is not because its designers are lining their pockets, the reason is that its qualities and its manufacturing require more work, more material, more time. For the Balissandre, we saved on nothing and chose the best materials (ash, brass, stainless steel, leather), with one goal: the comfort of the animal. This choice has two incidental consequences: the guarantee of problem-free hiking, and equipment of exceptional strength and longevity. We have heard from people who bought cheap cross-braced packsaddles, who realized on the first try that the packsaddle could not work on their animal. They therefore stored the accessory in the attic and sat on their 400 euros… Great savings… On the other hand, here is the return after more than 1,200 packs sold in spring 2023: zero breakage in wood, only one tear in leather.

• Question : Is not the Balissandre too heavy ?

• Answer : The Balissandre size S weighs only 5.4 kg of wood, or 8.3 kg with all the iron and leathers. It is only 1.6 kg more than an average cross-mounted packsaddle, for 10 times greater carrying comfort. Element of comparison: former hikers remember the “Tyrolean” backpacks of their childhood, with metal bars which cut into the kidneys, and make the comparison with modern bags, adapted to the morphology of the human body, which allow them to carry more with less fatigue.

• Question : There are 3 sizes of Balissandre. Which size should I choose for my animal ?

• Answer : The choice of packsaddle XS, S or M does not depend on the size of the animal, but on its build. This is why we have developed a very simple method to measure this body size: simply click on “Calculate animal dimensions” on the page and follow the procedure.

• Question : I already have a cross-frame packsaddle for my donkey, why would I change to a Balissandre ?

• Answer : The question otherwise asked would be : why should we give a donkey a beautiful equipment when low-end harness is more than enough… At Randoline, we believe that a donkey, just like a horse, has the right to a quality equipment that is simply beautiful. Look at the photo of a donkey packed in Randoline and that of a donkey packed like we have seen some for 20 years, and you will understand the difference. And don’t our friends, the carrying donkeys, deserve to have a very comfortable packsaddle ?

• Question : But what new does your Bâlissandre bring ? For 20 years, we have said and done everything when it comes to building packsaddle…

• Answer : The same thing was said for stagecoaches just before the arrival of the automobile, and the same for propellers when the reactor appeared. Nothing is more heavy and heavy than tradition… If we look at the packsaddles of other countries, we see that each has its own construction, and that it is good to look at what others are doing. It is also important to note that hiking with a packed animal is a very recent thing, and that taking a packsaddle that once carried milk or cheese is not necessarily suitable for transporting hiking bags. We must also realize that many hikers today have no knowledge of the animal and its harness. The thinking on the Balissandre was to find a compromise between carrying comfort for the animal and ease of loading.

• Question : These 10 pads on which the load rests, do they seem very small compared to the two traditional pads ? Is there no risk of injury?

• Answer : In reality, if we measure the useful surface area of the two pads of a cross-framed packsaddle, which press on the animal’s back, and the surface area of the 10 pads of the packsaddle Balissandre, we obtain a better figure for the Balissandre. However, there is an important difference : thanks to the rubber bumper system, the Randoline pad automatically adapts its position to the animal’s back, whatever its shape, eliminating any risk of injury. You should also remember that the pad is not placed directly on the back : it first presses on a felt cushion which itself distributes the pressure over a larger surface. The Balissandre, with its 10 articulated tracked pads, has a larger carrying surface than all the other packsaddles, and always flat on the animal, every second of the walk.

• Question : Why did you put 4 cm thick ash, wouldn’t 3 cm have been enough and it would have lightened the load ?

• Answer : Because we carried out tests on 3 cm boards by twisting them using a mason’s clamp, simulating the force that an animal would exert on a packsaddle stuck against a tree. We concluded from these tests that 3 cm did not offer sufficient resistance. We hope that the Balissandre will give satisfaction to its owner for many years, and that is why we have taken as wide a safety margin as possible. After 14 years of experience, in 2023, we know we made the right choice.

• Question : But the crosspieces are still very practical for hanging loads ?

• Answer : To hang the straps of a bag, you need a hook of some kind, not necessarily a crosspiece. Because the crosspiece has a perverse effect : by a well-known mechanical law called “leverage”, any difference in weight between two bags will lead to an imbalance accentuated by the leverage. To be clear, a difference of 500 g can very well cause the entire luggage to capsize upside down and into the mud. This is why on the Balissandre, we favored hanging the luggage either on the drop of the arch (with the Bagagines bags) or on the top of the packsaddle. Eliminating the crosspiece also gives a flat surface on top of the packsaddle on which bulky but light luggage (tent, sleeping bags, etc.) can be placed, well anchored by bungee cords and without any swaying.

• Question : Why didn’t you put 2 belly bands on your packsaddle ?

• Answer : Because the design of the Balissandre is different from packsaddles with 2 pads and 2 crosspieces. Its descending, enveloping and adjustable arches alone ensure the stability of the packsaddle. The belly strap is only there to prevent the pack from fluttering if the animal gallops. There is therefore no need to tighten it, whatever its position under the stomach, and even less to put on 2 straps. In addition, the construction of the belly band is made in such a way that it can no longer slide neither forward nor backward, and therefore can no longer injure the animal at the corner of the front legs or the sheath.

• Question : How did you solve the problem of withers without crosspieces ?

• Réponse : The weathers garrote of a packsaddle is the space which must remain above the spine of the animal so that the wood does not press on it. On the Bâlissandre, there is a garrotage on the 2 crosspieces, a sort of half-moon dug into the wood. On the other hand, the pads themselves are positioned sufficiently high on the crosspiece.

• Question : Why is a Balissandre more stable than a cross-frame?

• Réponse : The specificity of the Balissandre is that the luggage is “glued” to the packsaddle and forms a single mass with it. Physical and mathematical result : despite the fact that the loading is at height (what we call “mule loading”), the center of gravity of the whole load is approximately 15 cm below the vertebral column, since the heaviest loads are stored at the bottom of the saddlebags. Thus, we have remarkable stability of the packsaddle…

Question : Is there not, at the bottom of the arches, a pressure point on the animal’s flank ?

• Réponse : The weight of the load rests exclusively on the pads. The arch is only there to wrap the body of the animal and prevent the pack and luggage from capsizing. If the weight of the load is equally distributed right-left, no pressure is exerted on the animal’s flank. If the weight is heavier on one side, there will then be a slight pressure, but this will be largely cushioned by the cushion. Experience now proves that no injury has ever been detected in an animal in this location upon returning from a hike.

Question : Can you cite an example of long-term use of a Balissandre ?

• Réponse : We have very good feedback from the trip of a young woman who left from Chambéry to Istanbul with her donkey, a Balissandre and two Bagagines saddlebags. Around 4,000 km in winter conditions without any problems. And the wonderful 7-month journey of the Seydoux family, from Fribourg, Switzerland, to Tarragona, Spain, with two donkeys, two Randoline packsaddles, and their little 4-year-old boy sitting in a Baladou.

Why are Randoline packsaddles eternal ?

Les bâts Randoline sont conçus pour durer des dizaines d’années. Leur conception et leur fabrication ont été pensées pour permettre une réparation rapide en cas de bris.

Randoline packsaddles are designed to last for decades. Their design and manufacturing have been designed to allow rapid repair in the event of breakage.

All breeders, hikers and horse rental companies know that an animal has no respect for luggage and that its strength is prodigious. All the hikers have one day seen their packsaddle burst because the animal, stuck between two trees, suddenly gave a big snap of its collar.

But if a part of your Randoline packsaddle breaks, it is not necessary to change the entire frame. Simply order the part to be replaced from us. It will be sent to you by post as soon as possible at a very low cost. At worst, any carpenter will be able to duplicate it.

So, by purchasing a Randoline packsaddle, you are making a long-term investment since you are guaranteed to always keep it in perfect condition.

You will note that the longevity of Randoline packsaddles goes against the grain of our consumer society…