I’m sure most dog people would agree that there’s nothing better than having your best furry friend along for an adventure. Hiking and camping are great ways to get out and enjoy nature, and it’s even better when our dogs can come too!
While you may be used to doing walks or short hikes around your area, planning for a camping trip or larger hike can seem a little daunting at first. I promise with a little preparation you can ensure a fun and safe experience for you and your four-legged trail partner.
Tip 1: When in doubt, try it out!
The best way to get ready for a camping or hiking trip is to practice in a controlled environment. Never camped before? It might be worth pitching your tent in the backyard and seeing how your dog handles sleeping in one. I learned the hard way that Willow gets anxious in the tent when she can see out, so I sleep with my rain fly closed whenever possible.
If you notice your dog doesn’t like to eat while traveling or on the go, maybe you’ll want to bring some kind of a topper or something they really love to entice them to eat. If you’re planning a trip where you’ll be doing a lot of hiking, it will be important to build up gradually with longer or more consecutive hikes over time.
It probably goes without saying that any gear you buy for your pup should be tried on and tested before you go. There’s nothing worse than getting to the trailhead and realizing the harness is too tight – trust me, that’s not fun for anyone involved!
Tip 2: Know before you go
It’s so important to research the areas where you will be hiking or camping so you’re aware of the rules and regulations before you arrive. While some National Parks allow leashed dogs on trails, many others do not allow dogs on trails at all. The rules around dogs can vary widely across states and locations, so it’s your responsibility to know what to expect.
It never hurts to brush up on basic obedience skills and trail etiquette either. Even if you’re in an area where your dog can be off leash, having a rock-solid recall is critical to keep them safe from wildlife and ensure everyone can enjoy the trail responsibly.
Tip 3: Be prepared
Nature is unpredictable, so we have to do our best to anticipate what she might send our way! Weather, especially in the mountains, can change in an instant. Being prepared with the right gear can be the difference between having a great time and being miserable – or worse, putting you and your pup in danger.
If you’re car camping, you probably have room to pack extra items, but even if you’re backpacking it’s important to bring clothes and items that will keep you safe as the weather and conditions change. Willow gets cold easily, so I always pack an extra layer for her just in case (yes, even in the summer!) Always make sure to pack a first aid kit for you and your dog and have it on hand at all times. It’s also a good idea to bring more water than you think you’ll need – trust me, you don’t want to run out, especially if it’s hot.
And finally, check conditions ahead of time, and never attempt something if your safety is in concern– there’s no shame in turning back and completing a hike another day!
Tip 4: Gear up
Never underestimate the power of gear that’s tailored to your adventure! If you’re backpacking, having your dog carry some of their gear in a pack can be really helpful and lighten your load – some of our favorites are from Kurgo and Wolf Republic! Will the trail be very rocky? It might be worth investing in some booties.
You don’t need to break the bank on fancy gear but there are a couple of items that will be really helpful to have on hand. For hikes, we love a good hiking backpack (Muttruk makes an amazing one especially for dog owners), a biothane leash and collar, a travel water bowl and bottle, and Cedarcide bug spray. When camping, we add a safety light or collar, doggy sleeping bag, a towel to wipe off muddy paws, and a tie out for camp!
Tip 5: Leave no trace
One of the most important parts of hiking and camping with your dog is to recreate responsibly and abide by the Leave No Trace principles. This means packing out both you and your dog’s waste (or burying it in a 6-8 ft hole that’s at least 200ft from trails, camps and water sources) along with anything else you bring on your trip. It’s also important to respect wildlife, leave trails and sites as you found them, research any fire restrictions/minimize the impact of your campfires if allowed, and be considerate of others who are recreating in the same area.
Abiding by these principles will help ensure that others can enjoy the trails for years to come!
Tip 6: Have fun!
Last but certainly not least, make sure to have fun! Sure you may come back dirty and covered in bug bites, and maybe your dog rolled in the biggest mud puddle you’ve ever seen, but it’s all part of the adventure. Whether it’s a one hour hike at your local park or a grueling backpacking trip in the rugged backcountry, there’s truly nothing better than enjoying the great outdoors with your best friend. Happy hiking!