10 Tips for Camping with your Dog
RootsRated November 2, 2016

There’s no greater joy than backpacking with with your dog and seeing them in the wild as they’re meant to be.

To make sure your dog is happy out in the wild, follow these 10 tips.

Let your dog lead the way.<br /><br />
    Kara Guzman

Let your dog lead the way.
Kara Guzman

1) Food: How much to bring

When you take your dog backpacking, it spends all day climbing, trotting, jumping, and swimming. Unless your dog lives day-to-day in dog heaven, it’s probably burning more calories than normal.

It’s OK to feed your dog more than usual when we’re in the backcountry. Double your dog’s food intake and she still may come back a few pounds lighter.

Since the dog owner is the one lugging around the food, carry dry kibble since it’s lighter than wet food. Portion out the meals in individual plastic bags. It packs better and you don’t have to worry about measuring later. And don’t forget treats, so your dog can snack between meals.

If you’re traveling in bear country, pack your dog food in a bear canister, since it’s smelly and will definitely attract other animals.

2) Water: Picking the right trail

Choose a route that has regular access to fresh water, such as streams or lakes. Depending on how fast you hike, you’ll want your pooch to drink at least once an hour. Check to see if your dog is peeing regularly. If not, then he or she is dehydrated.

When camping near  a place like Lake Tahoe, California, where the water quality is excellent, your dog can drink straight from the source. If the water purity is questionable, filter the water into a collapsible bowl for your dog, using something like the Katadyn Hiker Pro microfilter.

If a route near water isn’t available, then, of course, pack water for your dog.

3) Paw care

If the terrain is rocky and your dog isn’t used to it, you may need to bring booties for your dog. Musher’s Secret paw wax is effective, even though some dogs like to lick it off.

4) Should you take your dog off-leash?

A dog takes his human lakeside in the Desolation Wilderness of El Dorado County, California.<br /><br />
    Kara Guzman

A dog takes his human lakeside in the Desolation Wilderness of El Dorado County, California.
Kara Guzman

The short answer: Follow local regulations. Even if off-leash dogs are allowed, let your dog roam free only if it can follow “come” and “leave it” commands, and if it’s good about staying close by. Otherwise, there are too many animals in the backcountry that can hurt your dog, or that your dog can hurt.

Some people clip their dog’s leash to their pack belt with a carabiner. That’s useful if your dog is well trained and knows how to heel and assist you on climbs. But if your dog is likely to chase a squirrel, or is young and is not yet used to a leash, it’s better to just hold it. Otherwise you may get pulled off-trail into a dangerous situation.

If you do take your dog off-leash, keep the leash in an accessible pocket of your pack.

5) Bring a harness, not a collar

A harness is not only more ergonomic, but it can also help you carry your dog in the event it’s injured. And make sure your dog’s tags are on the harness, in case your dog gets lost.

5) Sleeping: Inside the tent or not?

If you’re camping somewhere that’s cold at night, it’s best for your dog to sleep inside your tent. Windchill is a huge factor that many forget.

Consider bringing a microfiber ultralight camping towel for your dog to sleep on. When you first arrive at your campsite, pick a soft spot to lay it down so she knows it’s her “place.” At night, bring her towel inside the tent. On warm nights, you can lay the towel just outside the tent under the rainfly.

If your dog is a barker, it should go without saying that you should pick a campsite away from others.

6) Waste: Bring a trowel

If you’re in the backcountry, you’re not expected to pack your dog’s poop out. But bring a lightweight trowel to bury it, six inches deep.

7) Be careful of harmful plants and animals

Ticks and poison oak are another reason to keep your dog on leash. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on flea and tick medication. Don’t let your dog rummage in the brush. If it comes in contact with poison oak, the oils will stay on its fur, which can then be transmitted to you.

Watch for porcupines, skunks, snakes and other wildlife that can potentially harm your dog.

8) Other useful gear

At night, put a glow necklace around your dog’s neck (the kind worn at raves) to see her. This is not only helpful, it’s hilarious.

Some owners bring backpacks their dogs can wear, but they don’t fit very much gear. It’s better to invest in a lightweight backpack for yourself to carry anything your dog needs.

Short-haired dogs, like chihuahuas, will need a sweater if you’re camping anywhere chilly.

9) Try nothing new on the trail

Marathon runner follow the mantra “nothing new on race day.” In other words, don’t try a new hat, new shoes or a new warmup routine on a day for which you’ve prepared for months. Something is bound to go wrong.

The same thing goes for taking your dog out on the trail. If you buy a new harness, break it in before you get in the backcountry. See how your dog likes booties before you try them on the trail. If your dog has never lapped water from a stream, have your dog practice on a day hike before you depend on her doing that in the open wilderness. Also, don’t try out new kibble on her when you’re camping.

10) Take pictures

The face of a dog on the trail is pure joy. Consider investing in a GoPro Hero4 camera. They’re super light, come with waterproof housing, and takes high-quality photos. GoPro also sells dog harnesses to which you can attach one of their cameras.

The reason we like to hike and camp is to escape our daily routine. Dogs are no different. But while we humans know what creature comforts we require to optimize our time outdoors, make sure your creature has the comfort she requires to enjoy the same.

Originally written by RootsRated for Kelty.

Featured image provided by Kara Guzman