The sun is shining, birds are chirping, and truly, the mountains are calling. There is nothing better than spending a blissful summer weekend backpacking with your friends or loved ones. But how about that furry, four-legged companion? It is more than likely that he wants to enjoy the trip too!
Dogs can be the absolute best backpacking partners, as long as you take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety and comfort. Take a look at the following tips so you know what to bring and do when hiking and camping with your dog on your next wilderness adventure.
Don’t Forget The Leash
When you’re backpacking with your dog, it can be tempting to leave the leash at home; after all, your furry pal is well-behaved and wants an adventure too! However, it is critical that you keep the leash with you at all times. You may run into other hikers on the trail who aren’t dog-friendly and it is your responsibility to keep your dog under control. Additionally, wildlife can frequently lure your pup away from camp, possibly putting him in danger.
Bring a Dog Bed
Regardless of where your dog sleeps, it is important to remember his bed. Not only is the ground hard and uncomfortable, but it can be downright cold. Just like with humans, dogs will get chilly overnight if they don’t have any insulation to protect them. Many companies sell backpacking dog beds that are lightweight and pack up to a small size. However, the cost can be prohibitive. When I’m camping or backpacking with my dog, I have just as much luck with a three-quarter foam sleeping pad.
Food & Water
It may take some time to figure out your dog’s hydration needs, but this is so important! Use your own water consumption as a cue for your pup’s thirst levels. If you need a drink, it’s likely he does too. It can be significantly easier to plan trips around streams and lakes in order to provide easy access to water, but be aware: dogs can get giardia. Pack plenty of water and/or a filtration system in case your sources are too contaminated for either of you to drink.
Choose Dog-Friendly Trails
It goes without saying, but double check that your chosen trail allows dogs. Many state and national parks do not allow camping with a dog overnight. Additionally, make sure the trail itself is conducive to doggie paws. Even with daily training, paws are sensitive and can easily be torn or hurt on sharp or hot rocks. Soft dirt paths with lots of shade are ideal dog-friendly trails, especially if Fido is new to the backcountry.
If your trip includes some high alpine hiking where boulder and talus fields are plenty, consider investing in some dog shoes. It may take practice for your pup to get used to booties on his feet, but they can save his paws from an absolute shredding.