Camping and hiking with a dog can be a wonderful experience. Done well, sharing outdoor experiences with your canine companion benefits their well-being and deepens your bond. Still, it can feel overwhelming at first figuring out what to bring, where to go, and how to care for your canine companions out on the trail. Here are 10 tips to make camping and hiking with your dog an easy and enjoyable experience.
1. PRACTICE AT HOME
Bringing your furry friend into the woods for the first time can be overwhelming and scary for them. So many new sounds, scents, and sleeping in a tent can be all too much at one time. One trick is to practice sleeping in the tent part at home ahead of time. Set it up in your living room or backyard and have them get comfortable with it. You could put their meals in there and feed them treats to create a positive association with the tent. Then practice sleeping at least one night in the tent so that they are used to sleeping in it. If all goes well, they are ready to sleep outside in the woods with you!
2. BRING A SLEEP SYSTEM
Just like humans, dogs need a layered sleep system. Some need more than others depending on the kind of coat they have, how insulating it is and what the weather is like as well. Your dog should be able to handle as cold of weather as you do with the proper planning. For a sleeping pad the Z-Lite SOL™ works great. It’s closed cell foam so you don’t have to worry about their nails puncturing it, and with an R-Value of 2.0 it sufficiently insulates from the cold ground.
Next, you can consider getting them a jacket of their own. Many brands make these with a variety of options in materials such as synthetic or down. This will be a great layer for them to sleep in and even wear around at camp when it’s colder.
The last piece to think about is an extra blanket to throw on top of them (and you!). The Ramble™ Down Blanket or could be a great option to be able to cuddle your furry friend under while keeping you both comfortable and warm. Alternatively, the Argo™ Blanket is sized for two, but because it is filled with eraLoft™ synthetic insulation, it stands up to canine use around camp quite well. If you wanted to spoil your dog with their own blanket, the Stellar™ Blanket is constructed with similar materials as the Argo but is smaller and more compact.
3. BRING PET FIRST AID & RESEARCH NEARBY VETS
When we go outside we probably think about human first aid kits pretty easily as part of our 10 essentials kit. If you are newer to bringing your dog hiking with you or camping, this may be the first time that you have heard of pet first aid. There are lists out there for you to be able to build your own like this, or even premade kits that would have all you need. Whatever route you go, it is good to have these tools with in the case of an emergency and know how to use them.
If you are going far from home it is a good idea to research vets in the nearby area. If an emergency were to happen and you were out of service, you would know exactly where to get help if you needed to. The peace of mind with being prepared with all of the above can lead to a much more successful camping trip.
4. PLAN AHEAD – NATIONAL PARKS VS. PUBLIC LANDS
Camping is one of the most dog-friendly activities you can do. It’s important to research the land you are recreating on ahead of time for rules and regulations regarding dogs. Most national parks have campgrounds within the park where dogs might be allowed, but do not allow dogs on trails. If you plan to hike with your dog, this would be an important piece to know. If you are on public lands, there are a lot less restrictions for dogs on trails.
5. PLAN FOR THE WEATHER
If it’s going to be very hot or cold, bring the appropriate things to make your dog comfortable like extra layers for the cold or camping by a lake if it’s hot. If there’s a good chance of rain, consider bringing some kind of awning or tarp for everyone to hang out under to stay warm and dry. Therm-a-Rest blankets like the Argo, Stellar, and the Honcho Poncho™ all combine synthetic insulation with water resistant shells. They make for great weather shields and dog-friendly insulation pieces.
6. UPHOLD CAMPSITE ETIQUETTE
Neighboring campers may not want to share s’mores with your dog, so it’s best to keep your pet leashed while at the campsite. There are times to have a free-range dog, but a busy camp area is not one of them. It keeps everyone safe to practice this.
Please also be mindful to never leave your dog alone in your car, tent, or campsite. This may seem like common sense, but is definitely worth mentioning.
7. LEAVE NO TRACE
Leaving no trace is one of the most important rules for recreating outside and is no exception for when you bring your canine companion with. A couple things to think about out of this list is plan to pick up the poo. Make sure to bring enough dog poop bags for the length of your trip and have a way to properly dispose of them.
Impinging on wildlife in its natural habitat is considered leaving a trace, so it’s important to have your dog respect wildlife. In the event that you encounter wildlife, be sure to have a leash either attached or at the ready. This will ensure you and your dog maintain respect of the wildlife.
8. BRING FOOD & TREATS
You may already be thinking of bringing food for your dog for the trip, but make sure to bring a day or two extra in case the trip gets extended or they are extra hungry from a big hike. Special treats will also help them to have a positive association with camping.
9. BRING FRESH WATER
Bring your own water or a means to filter water nearby. Giardia and other contaminants can live in the water that could make your dog sick. A water filter or chemical treatment could prevent this or you could plan to bring your own supply.
10. ENJOY THE TIME TOGETHER
Don’t forget to cuddle around the fire and enjoy the quality time together. Camping is best spent with the ones we love and our dogs definitely make the list. With the proper planning and precautions, camping and hiking with your dog can lead to some of the best memories. See you and your dog out there!
- How To Get Started Backpacking With Your Dog
- 10 Essentials for Backpacking with Dogs
- Considering a long-distance hike with your dog?
Updated. Originally Published August 27, 2020.