Camping With Dogs
Top Essentials For A Paw-some Trip
Dogs love being outside with us. They make everything better—including a camping trip. There are new smells everywhere, other animals to see, trails to explore, and people to meet. Sometimes your dog can make you feel more at-ease, knowing your loyal companion has got your back. You get to bond with them over new adventures away from the distractions of home. Whatever your motivation is for bringing them into the wild with you, you’ll want to make sure you’re both prepared so the trip doesn’t go to the dogs.
Like any adventure, camping with your pup means you’ll have a few more items on the gear checklist. Whether you’re car camping or backpacking, adventuring with a veteran adventure pup or a new member in your pack, you can keep their tails wagging on your next camping trip with some key pieces of dog gear.
What To Wear
Leash & Collar
Life happens. But losing a leash shouldn’t have to keep your dog out of the fun. When you have a backup, walks around camp and on the trails are guaranteed. Off the trail, a rugged, durable option like the Carhartt Dog Leash, or a long tether, allows you to tie up your dog at camp without having to worry about them chewing through and breaking free chasing after that rabbit. Aside from that, just make sure your dog’s collar has all of their tags and your contact information should they wander too far.
Harnesses provide added visibility around camp and allow for more comfortable hikes. They help protect their fragile windpipes if your pup is prone to pulling when leashed, and many of them come with a carry handle to make going through technical trails a lot easier for both of you.
Whether you’re backpacking or car camping and dayhiking, having your dog be able to carry some of their gear can make your life a lot easier. Packs like the Mountainsmith K-9 Pack allow your pup to carry their food, water, poop bags, and other small essentials on the hike in, or on day hikes around the campground.
Depending on your dog’s age, coat thickness, and weather, your pup might be more comfortable in a jacket. Not only will it help keep them warm, but jackets can also provide added visibility at night (especially if your dog has a darker colored coat). For a backpacking hack in warmer climates, the jacket can be used as their “sleeping bag” as a way to save space in your pack.
Hot rocks, roots, long miles, sharp plants—there can be lots of hazards for your dogs paws out in the wild. Though they may seem like a luxury item, slipping them into some boots can help prevent injuries and make the trip more pleasant for both of you.
What To Pack
Food & Water
As a general rule, dogs need an ounce of liquid for every pound of body weight—though this can increase during activity. If you’re going to be hiking, backpacking, or exploring in the heat you’ll need to make sure you bring along much more to help keep them hydrated. When it’s time for a drink or to eat, a collapsible dish that conveniently stashes in a pack makes it easy to fuel up on the go.
Some dogs are content to sleep on the ground or wherever you are, but older pups or those who are used to creature comforts will appreciate something soft to escape to. On extra cold nights, having a cot or their own sleeping bag can help keep them nice and toasty while allowing you to keep your sleeping bag to yourself.
The tent you used before your dog came along may feel rather tight now that they’re along on the adventure. Plan for an extra person’s worth of space in the tent to make room for your dog, depending on their size of course. While this probably won’t be an issue if you’re car camping, bringing along a larger backpacking tent has the potential to change how you pack your pack, and is something to keep in mind while you prepare.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is a must-have in any outdoor adventurer’s gear arsonal—your dog’s included. You never know when a paw will get cut, a cactus spike will lodge itself in an ear, or a tick will be discovered. The Adventure Dog Series Medical Kit helps to keep you both pup-pared out on the trail and in the wild.
Being able to see your dog at dusk or in inclement weather helps keep them safe and can give you peace of mind. Having a waterproof, streamlined light that can attach to their harness or collar is an easy addition to any packing list and shouldn’t be overlooked.
High desert temperatures, late summer hikes, hot and humid mid-season campgrounds—it doesn’t take much for your four-legged friend to overheat. Depending on your campsite, consider a cooling vest to help keep them comfortable on the hottest days of the year, especially if they have a dark coat or thick fur.
For downtime around camp, you have books. Your dog should have something to do too. Get them a toy to keep them entertained when you need a rest. Toys are also a great way to keep them occupied when you need to set up camp and build a fire.
If you’re going to be camping by water and expect to do some canoeing, rafting, SUPing, or swimming, having a PFD like the Gearhead recommended Astral Bird Dog Life Jacket means your dog can join in on the fun. Some bodies of water require that all recreationalists (dogs included) wear PFDs, so be sure to check the local requirements before setting out for camp.
Leave No Trace
Camping with your dog can be a great experience, but it can also have a negative impact on the places we visit. The easiest way to keep wild places looking better than when you arrived is by cleaning up your dog’s waste. Pack it out with tried-and-true poop bags. We like to keep a sealable bucket, like one from a hardware store, as the designated dog trash zone when between trash receptacles.
Before you commit to any trip with your dog, be sure to check the regulations for the area you are visiting. Get familiar with leash rules, wildlife closures, and areas dogs aren’t allowed to be to help protect wild places and reduce future restrictions.
Rachel Jorgensen is a freelance writer based in Michigan, but doesn’t stay put for long. She’s lived in three countries, four states, and is always after the next adventure. When settled, you’ll find her climbing, skiing, or trail running with Scuba, her Thai rescue dog. Follow along @rjorgie.
Thanks to our dog model, Marjie, for her work on this series.