Backpacking With Dogs: Top 10 Essentials

September 14, 2017 5 Comments

Backpacking With Dogs: Top 10 Essentials

Author: Kerri Irwin, Trailblazer

Everyone has their own preference when it comes to backpacking, some people love to go ultra light, some are more in it for comfort, and others want practical.

For backpacking with a dog, in my own opinion, being prepared without over packing is my main goal. Below I have my list of items I consider essentials and would never leave the house without when backpacking with my dog Goose.


1. Dog backpack

I am aware not all dogs can carry a backpack either for size or age of the dog, but if your dog is healthy enough then I say take advantage of it! If you don't know if your dog is ready for a backpack I recommend taking them to your vet and asking your vet to conduct a physical exam to determine if they are physically ready to wear a backpack. If your dog can wear a backpack that's great, just remember to not dive right into a backpack full of dog gear. Start with short hikes and light weight in the backpack and slowly increase the weight to the target weight. A maximum of 25% of your dog's body weight is a rough estimate. But remember, the age, size, and strength of your dog will alter that weight either up or down, so always double check with your vet.


2. First aid kit

This is something that weights a bit but I think it's worth it. I carry a first aid kit for myself, so why not have a dog specific one for Goose? Accidents can happen and it's best to be prepared, especially when you're away from civilization.  Also, familiarize yourself with dog first aid and think about attending a K9 CPR/First aid class -- this would be very beneficial if you are out on the trail and your dog gets injured. 


3. Dog boots

I always take a pair of dog boots with me. Goose dog may wear them or he may not, but if he starts showing signs of his paws being tender I have them and they are easy enough to get on so we can keep covering miles. Boots are also great for trails with sandstone or lots of goat-heads or cactus. They keep your dog's paws and pads happy and cut free! 


4. Food & water

A staple to any backpacking trip. We try and look for freeze dried dog food formulas when we go backpacking because they lighten the load and are packed with protein to help them recover after a long day of hiking. Lots of fresh clean water is extremely important, whether you're filtering along the way or finding streams or creeks (try to stay clear from standing water that looks like it's been sitting for weeks. Giardia, Coccidia, and Leptospira can be present and those are things you don't want your dog to get). I also have Goose carry two 1L platypus water bottles. They are light weight and fold up when empty -- it's also nice because I have extra containers I can use to filter water if needed. 


5. Collapsible bowl

Our favorite kind of dog bowl for food and water is one that is light weight, is easily folded up, and able to be stored away. Collapsible dog bowls also double as a sink for camp or drowning out a camp fire.


6. Comb & tick key

A comb is used quite often here in the desert as we have cactus. If your dog gets the unfortunate stowaway, it's easier for you to use the comb to flick it off and then deal with the spines that stayed. A tick key is good to have on hand just in case you have a run in with those pesky bugs.


7. Poop bags

Leave no trace, that goes for your dog too. If your dog goes number two remember to bag it and tag it, I double bag with a zip lock bag and have him carry his poop out in his backpack.


8. Treats

Just like us, dogs need a snack on the trail to keep them going and keep them happy. Treats make trail time a happy time.


9. Leash, collar and I.D. tags

All three of these items are very important for the safety and identification of your dog out on the trail. The leash is important for restraining and controlling your dog if you need to do so. And the collar and I.D. tag is crucial to your dog's safety if for some reason you two are separated.


10. Sleep system

Some dogs don't need a lot and are perfectly happy sleeping with nothing, but if it is cold and if your dog needs some comfort an old foam sleep pad cut to size would work great, even the dog specific sleeping bags that are out on the market now are a great way to keep your dog comfortable and happy when they turn in for the night after a long day of hiking.


 *These Items are subject to change depending on where and when you are backpacking with your dog, a few other items I would bring with me are as follows...

  • Safety light: This is a great way to help you keep tabs on your dog after sunset and during nighttime potty breaks.
  • Dog coat: Definitely an item I would bring if your dog lacks thick fur and if the temps will be low.
  • Cooling collar: All dogs have a hard time cooling down and this accessory is worth every added ounce when the temperature is climbing.

What are some of your essentials you bring for your dog when backpacking or hiking? We would love to hear! Comment below and share.

5 Responses

Debi London
Debi London

October 24, 2017

We have only some day hiking so far but would love to travel more trails and camp out. Kiwi needs her goggles! Of course, a few treats are good, and I bring a couple of bandanas to wipe off any dirt that may be around her face, they are lightweight, compact and dry quickly, too.


October 10, 2017

I liked the first picture where I see a small ¨dog bell¨ attached! Will use this idea.


September 22, 2017

Also good to note, perhaps don’t put their food in their backpack. A lot of bear attacks happen with dogs as it is. Don’t wanna make your pup a smellier target.


September 15, 2017

I forgot to mention I bring something like Solarcaine in case of bee sting or fire ant bites or stings on paws (it’s happened to us), and while I haven’t done this, I’ve thought about bringing a square of fabric I could tie around my dog and shoulder (baby carrier style) in case I had to carry her back in an emergency. Probably a light ripstop Silnylon would do it. She weighs 28# which is plenty to try holding and carrying too.


September 15, 2017

I see a lot of people heading out with their dogs when it’s already too hot for canines (how often do we see coyotes midday?) We humans might feel comfortable but it may already be too warm for dogs – closer to the heat radiating ground, no perspiration, normally napping during the heat of the day…. Here in SoCal, we’ve had a couple of deaths from dogs overheating this summer on trails. Plan a safe journey with your best friend.

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