Camping with a dog might be one of the best ways to camp! Not only will you have a blast, but so will your pup! While it may seem like a lot of preparation for your dog to tag along (or wag along), these 12 tips for hiking and camping with your dog will make it a breeze to bring you furry companion along for the adventure!
Before you leave for your trip, you should know where you are going and how long you will be staying. Will you go to multiple locations? Will you be car camping or backpacking? How long do you plan on driving? Are you traveling to a dog-friendly place? There are plenty of important PRE-trip details that will influence what gear you will need to bring for your dog, or if you should even bring your dog. Honestly, if your pup would have a hard time tagging along, then maybe reconsider bringing them for this trip.
2. Important Dog Essentials
The following list of items are MUST-HAVES for any adventures with a pup.
Leash: Having the right leash is super important. You will want one that gives your dog enough room to roam if they have to stay on their leash. Also, you will want something durable and reliable for rugged terrain and continued use. Consider purchasing something like this Wilderdog dog leash that is both strong and waterproof which will help to prevent wear and tear.
Harness for hiking: My dog loves when I pull out the harness because harness equals adventure. Both Ruffwear and Wolf Gang USA have great harnesses. The specific design of these harnesses helps keep your dog comfortable and happy when hiking while on a leash. It doesn’t pull on their neck, and if you have to pick up your dog to hoist them over a rock or fallen tree, this style of harness allows you to do so.
Leash hitch for campground: Ruffwear has one of the most packable leash hitches making it easy to pack up and get out without any tangles. If you are feeling innovative, you can always grab some cordage, a pear carabiner, and a regular leash to make you a dynamic dog running line. Simply tie the rope between two trees, clip the carabiner to the middle of the line, attach the leash to the carabiner, and then clip your dog to the leash. This will allow the dog to walk freely through your campsite while remaining safe.
Dog Backpack: If you plan on backpacking with your dog, you may want to think about getting something like the Kurgo Dog Saddlebag Backpack. Many of these dog packs are designed to keep your dog comfortable while carrying their own weight. They also allow for your dog to have a full range of motion and vision. Just make sure the weight is evenly distributed in both side pouches to help keep your dog balanced and comfortable.
Dog Bed: Your dog deserves to be comfy and cozy while camping. If you are planning on car camping, feel free to bring your pup’s regular bed. But if you plan on backpacking or you want a camping bed, you may want something similar to this Cheerhunting dog bed. It is similar to a sleeping pad for humans. If you’re looking for something more durable, you may want to consider something resembling this Ruffwear bed.
Collar Light: Having something as simple as this Clip On LED Light can make all the difference when the sun starts to go down at the campsite. You will know where your dog is at all times.
Treats: Don’t leave behind the treats! You never know if your dog will deserve a little extra love while exploring. Just make sure you bring the treats your dog is used to so they don’t get a stomach ache while in a foreign place.
3. Dog “Toiletries”
Towel: Whether you pack a regular towel from home or a specific dog towel, you will want something to dry off and clean your dog with.
Comb/brush: You will want to make sure you have a comb or brush to get out any stickers or dirt that might latch on to your dog while adventuring.
Dog waste Bags: You will need to pick up after your dog, so make sure you have enough bags (and some extra) to be able to clean up after your dog at all times.
First Aid Kit: It may be a good idea to pack a First Aid Kit for your dog in case of emergencies. Since you might be off the grid, you’ll want to be prepared for anything and everything. Many people recommend the Adventure Dog Series Medical Kit for all human and dog needs. You may also consider packing an Emergency Dog Carrier in case your dog gets injured or hurt while hiking. There also lots of emergency dog lift harness’on Amazon.
4. Chew and Fetch Toys
Depending on your dog, if they are an avid chewer or need something to keep them out of trouble, you may consider packing a chew toy or two. If your dog likes to play fetch, bring a ball or frisbee you can toss around with them. Toys don’t take up too much space, so if you think your dog might need one, don’t leave them behind.
5. Camping and Hiking Guidelines
Depending on where you will be camping, you will want to know if you can actually have a dog at the campsites you intend to stay at. Most campsites are okay with dogs, but many will require your dog to be on a leash. If you are off the grid, perhaps on BLM land or public land, you may not have to keep your dog on a leash at camp, but you will want to be prepared just in case. Do your research before you go camping so you know what campsite rules to follow. This is the same for hiking. Depending on what trails you will be on, some require your dog to be on a leash, some don’t allow dogs, and others won’t specify if dogs need to be leashed. Just make sure you know before you go.
6. Cleaning Up After Your Dog
It’s inevitable, your dog will have to go to the bathroom while you are camping and hiking. It’s your job to clean up after your dog. This is really important when at a campsite, you will want to make sure that the place where you will be eating, sleeping, and resting is free from your dog’s waste; As well as, keeping the neighboring sites and trails clean. If at all possible, keep your dog from going to the bathroom near fresh running water (rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, etc.). Even though humans filter and purify their water, this will help keep the water clean for both animals and humans. Make sure you are always prepared with enough dog waste bags.
Where your dog will be getting water from is a super important logistic you’ll want to know prior to camping or hiking. Most dogs are okay to drink out of flowing rivers, streams, and runoff creeks, but the key here is FLOWING. The water should not be still, stagnant OR salt water. Dogs rarely get giardia, but when they do it’s usually from gross, murky, still water. However, if you are worried or aren’t sure what the water situation will be, bring your own water, or bring a filter to purify water for both you and the pup.
8. Don’t Forget the Dog Food
Dog food is probably one of the most, if not THE most, important thing to pack for your dog. You and your dog will be very unhappy if the dog food accidentally gets left behind. Make sure you measure out the proper amount of food for the days you’ll be gone plus one to two extra days, in case of an emergency. There are various bags you can use to pack the dog food in while camping (like this one from Ruffwear). You will, also, want to make sure you have bowls for food and water. Leashboss has some unique bowls that are easy to pack AND allow you to “seal” the leftover food in the bowl for later.
9. Change of Weather, Change of Plans
If you plan on summer camping, the days might feel hot for you, so it will be much hotter for your four-legged friend. If you know it is going to be hot, try to camp near water where your pup can cool down and play. When hiking, try to find trails alongside creeks and rivers so there is a constant source of water for drinking and cooling down. If you are car camping, you may want to pack a battery powered Portable Fan to keep them cool at night.
While some areas will be really hot during the summer, others might be experiencing a “monsoon season”. While rain might be intimidating when camping and hiking, know that you can still explore and wander with your pup in the rain, in fact, they just might love it! But if the rain comes with a thunderstorm, having a good tent, shelter, or car to climb into, will be crucial to keeping both you and your pup safe.
If you plan on winter camping, you will want to consider bringing extra gear for your dog.
A dog sleeping bag (like this one from Wilderdog) will keep your dog warm on cold nights. If you already have a dog bed, think about bringing a blanket for your dog to curl up in at night. If your dog is prone to getting cold feet or “snowballs” stuck to their paws, you may want to invest in some Booties for them to wear while hiking. These boots will also help your dog to have better traction in snowy/icy conditions. Lastly, if your pup doesn’t have thick fur, you may also consider getting a Dog Jacket to keep your do warm on while exploring. You can never be too prepared in winter conditions.
10. Know Your Dog
Your dog might be your most loyal companion and adventure buddy, but that doesn’t mean they are always perfect. If your dog is aggressive, be prepared to keep them on a leash or away from other dogs while camping and hiking. Also, communicate with fellow dog owners that your dog doesn’t respond well to other dogs. While at the campsite or on the trail, you should keep an eye on your dog and know where they are at all times. Make sure you also know where surrounding dogs are when at campsites. Plus, it can be a cool opportunity to make new friends for you and your pup.
Every dog is different, and sometimes the things that we might be used to as owners, might be the exact thing that drives someone else crazy. If your dog is a constant barker or whiner, be aware of how those camping near you might respond. This isn’t necessarily a reason to not camp with your dog, but you may want to find a more remote area for you and your dog to camp so neighbors don’t have to worry about it.
Will your dog come when called? This a huge one! If your dog isn’t the best at coming, try putting them back on their leash before the trail ends, or right when you get to your campsite. Depending on where you are camping or hiking, there is potential for you to run into wildlife. If you aren’t sure how your dog will respond to the wildlife, you may want to keep them on their leash at all times. But if you do your research, you will be able to know if, and what animals you might see while exploring.
11. Let Your Pup Sleep With You
Depending on where you are camping, some places may require that your dog sleeps in your tent or car with you. While
your dog might be the best, most well-trained dog out there, you still have to be aware of what might happen when wildlife is around. Let your dog sleep on their bed, but keep them close to you. This will help them sleep better knowing you are nearby, but also help you sleep better because you don’t have to worry about anything bothering them while the both of you try to sleep.
12. Have fun and enjoy your time together!
Lastly, and most importantly, enjoy adventure with your dog. You will make so many fun memories and your pup will be grateful for the time together in the wilderness. Know where you will be exploring, be prepared with the right gear, and have all the fun in the world while exploring with your dog!
Shanelle Foster is an avid explorer, dreamer and adventure seeker. She graduated from Fort Lewis College with a B.A. in Adventure Education. She is the Director for a backpacking organization called True Elevation Wilderness Ministry. When she isn’t outside climbing, skiing, or backpacking, you can find her drinking craft coffee in a cafe. Shanelle is a world-traveller and plans to continue doing this with her husband, Finn and dog, Blue until she can’t anymore.