Backpacking with Dogs: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Backpacking with Dogs: What You Need to Know Before You Go

Everything You Need to Know About Backpacking with Your Dog

If you’re a dog parent who loves backpacking, chances are you’d like to hit the trails with your best friend. 

Backpacking with dogs requires extra planning, and here's how to prepare for your next big adventure together.

Determine if your dog is ready for backpacking

Backpacking requires more stamina than your average day hike, and it’s certainly not for every dog. Before you set out on an epic overnighter, ask yourself, “Is my pup ready for this?”

Readiness isn’t just about your dog’s physical fitness, either. You should also consider their behavior and how comfortable they will be sleeping outside. Even if your canine companion isn’t ready quite yet, you can still work up to a backpacking trip — just follow these tips to prepare your pooch for outdoor adventure.

Brush up on your canine first aid knowledge

Your human first-aid kit contains most of the tools you’ll need to take care of your dog if they get injured, like tweezers and gauze. Certain medications, such as Benadryl, can also be safely used on your best friend. Just be sure to check with your vet about dosages before heading into the wilderness.

If you aren’t yet familiar with first aid for dogs, check out this helpful guide.

Test your gear at home before your backpacking trip

You might be used to sleeping in a tent, but is your dog comfortable in that environment? If you aren’t sure, it’s a great idea to test your gear out beforehand. The same concept applies to the things your dog will be wearing/carrying and sleeping on.

Set up your tent in the living room or backyard and give your pup a chance to become acclimated. If you’ll be using a dog backpack, dog bed or a

Don’t overload your pup’s pack

Dog backpacks are awesome tools, but never load the pack up with more than 10% of your dog’s total weight. This may mean you’ll have to carry some of your pooch’s food and water to keep them safe and happy.

Buy dog-specific gear to ensure a comfortable trip

Speaking of gear, your dog needs some of their own. Aside from a backpack, consider bringing these additional items for your furry friend:

  • Something to sleep on, like a lightweight camping bed or an old, lightweight sleeping pad cut to size.
  • Collapsible water and food bowls.
  • Dog booties for extra paw protection.
  • An extra camp towel for muddy fur and paws.

Have a poop plan

Leave No Trace (LNT) principals apply to your dog, too.

Dog waste must be packed out in poop bags or buried in a cat hole (just like human waste.) Never, ever leave a bag on the side of the trail, even if you “always” pick it up on your way out. It’s an eyesore to other hikers, and it’s not uncommon to forget the bags on your way back to the trailhead.

Review and follow all dog regulations where you’ll be backpacking

Is your dog allowed on the trail you plan to backpack? 

Some trails, especially those in national parks, prohibit dogs. Regulations vary from one wilderness area to the next, so it’s always a good idea to double-check before hitting the trail. The same rule applies for leash laws. 

Now that you know everything you need to know before you go backpacking with your dog, it’s time to hit the trails!