Going camping or backpacking? Planning on bringing your favorite four-legged friend? Then you’ll want to make sure they’ve got everything they need to make their experience as great as yours. Even if you have a relatively low maintenance pup, you want to make sure they’re well cared for on the trip, and that means not forgetting any of their stuff at home. So we’ve put together this handy list of things you should do and bring, to make sure that you and your pooch have the best time out on the trails:
Before you leave
First things first, there’s a couple of things you’ll want to get squared away before you even leave for your trip:
- Brush up on doggy training – If this is your first time out with your dog this summer, you might want to run through a couple of things with them before you leave for camp. Make sure you’ve got a couple of commands they absolutely respond to, like “leave it” and “come.” This ensures that they don’t put their noses where they’re not supposed to, and they stay out of trouble with unfriendly wildlife like skunks and snakes.
- Practice proper camping etiquette – This is mostly for trips you take where you stay on a large campground with other campers. While you are probably very comfortable around dogs, other campers may not be. Make sure your dog knows how to behave at a large campground, and doesn’t just run up to, or bark at other campers.
- It’s also important to know that certain breeds will affect strangers differently. We know your Pitbull, Mastiff, German Shepherd, or Rottweiler is really just a big cuddle buddy, but unfortunately, that’s not how everyone else might see them. Unless they’re very laid back, it’s a good idea to keep them on a leash until they get settled, or just put them on a tether when other campers are near.
- Make sure your trails and campground are dog-friendly – You don’t want to wind up on a trail where no dogs are allowed. Do just a little research, and double check that the campgrounds you’ll be staying at and the trails you’ll be on are dog-friendly. They’ll probably have some rules regarding pet etiquette, so you’ll want to read up on those, and make sure you’re familiar with whatever you’re supposed to do, whether it’s pick up after your pet, or keep them on a leash for certain stretches.
- Tags and Papers – You never know who you’ll run into on the trail, and in case your dog wanders off, they’ll absolutely have to have their tags on. Not only their ID tag that says where you live, and how to contact you, but also their rabies tag, that shows they’ve been vaccinated, and therefore are not a threat. The papers are a good thing to bring along too, just in case. This might be something you leave in the car, but you’ll need them in case of an accident, or if you need to prove they’ve been vaccinated and are registered.
- Vaccinations and medications – Before you leave, your pet should be up-to-date on all of their vaccinations, like rabies and heartworm. This protects your pet from any possible diseases from other dogs, and keeps other dogs that come into contact with your pet safe as well. You’ll also want to have applied a tick and flea preventative on your dog. If you’re camping in any kind of woods or forest, they’re practically unavoidable, and they can be very harmful to your dog, as they carry all sorts of diseases. If you apply the tick and flea medication before you leave, your dog will be better protected, and you’ll reduce the risk of carrying any parasites back with you.
What to pack
Now that your dog is in perfect health and ready to go on the trip, here’s a list of all the essentials they’ll need to have the time of their lives:
Leash & Collar
Even if your dog is well trained, they have to have a collar to hold their tags, and there are situations where a leash will be necessary. Some trails and areas require dogs to be on a leash, and it’s a courtesy to other campers who may not be as comfortable with dogs as you are. We especially love these matching collar and leash combos from Chaco. They’re waterproof, washable, and super-durable, ensuring your pet stays close to you at all times.
Collapsible dog bowls are, in our opinion, the coolest thing since sliced bread. They fold up nicely, fit just about anywhere, and are perfect for dogs. They’re practically indestructible, easy to wash, and come in all kinds of sizes to fit whatever size dog you’ve got.
This is one of those things you won’t want to forget on the counter when you leave. It’s good to remember that if you’re going to do a lot of hiking and exercising that you should pack a little bit more food than what they usually eat to compensate for the workout your dog will get on the trip. Make sure you package it in a pet-proof container too, preferably something they won’t be able to smell or chew through.
“If you wouldn’t drink it, you shouldn’t let your pet drink it,” is a good rule of thumb to go by for water on the trail. Some people think their dog will be okay with running stream or river water, but just like it can make people sick, it can also make your pup ill. So plan ahead, and bring extra bottled water or water from home that your pet can drink throughout the trip.
This one really only applies if you have a small dog or are planning on doing a lot of camping near deep water. If your dog isn’t a great swimmer, or just doesn’t know when to quit, a doggie life-jacket can save you a lot of worry.
Long lead/tether + stake
If you plan on being in a campground for any length of time, you should bring along a long tether and stake so your dog can roam safely while you and the rest of your group grill, cook, and chill out. Just make sure you stake your pup far enough away from the fire that they don’t get themselves into any trouble.
If your pooch is crate trained, this is a really good idea for the ride to wherever you’re staying, and also at night. A carrier keeps them contained for the car ride, and a collapsible soft-walled crate or carrier is a lightweight option to keep them corralled at night. This is a really great way to make sure your pet stays warm and sheltered at night too, if they’re not allowed in your tent.
Though this may seem silly since you’ll be in the great outdoors, poop bags are a must-bring. Nobody wants to step in poo on their hike, and it’s just a good way to be courteous to other hikers. Also, many trails have rules and laws banning you from leaving that behind. So, do the right thing and bring the poop bags; the rest of the hikers will thank you.
It doesn’t matter where you go, if there’s any kind of mud or water, your dog is going to find it. Just plan on being prepared for that to happen, and bring them their own towel. This way you’ll be able to wipe off dirty paws before they come into the tent, and you’ll be doing the best you can to keep them, and everything they touch, more or less clean.
Camping’s supposed to be fun for everyone, dogs included! So don’t forget to bring some treats along for your pooch too. They love them, and they’re a great way to get your pup out of a pickle when they’re having trouble listening.
This one might sound unusual to you, but since you’ve been camping before, you know it’s pitch black at night when you’re out and away from any city lights. Connecting a glow stick safely to your dog’s collar is a great way to keep track of them in the dark, especially if they’re a wanderer. Just make sure they won’t try to bite it off, and it’s connected to their collar in a place where you’ll be able to see it (like the back of their collar, instead of the front).
First aid kit
You brought a first aid kit for the kids right? Well, your pup needs one too. You never know what they can get into out in the woods, so it’s just a good idea to be prepared with a few bandages, antibiotic ointment, sterile eyewash, tweezers, toddler socks for injured paws and whatever else might be necessary. Not sure what exactly makes up a pet first aid kit? Talk to your vet! They’ll probably have a few suggestions for you that will help you be even more prepared.
If there’s anything you’re missing from your dog’s packing list, stop in to Earth’s Edge in Grand Haven, or check out our brand new website! We can get you set up with just about any dog camping accessories you might need. You can also download our new Ultimate Hiking Gear Checklist below to make sure you’re not forgetting anything on your next outdoor adventure!
Now that you’ve got your pet all set up, we hope you have a great time! If you’ve got any pictures or fun stories about your camping trip with your pet, feel free to send ‘em to us, or comment below. We love to hear from our adventurous customers!