Try to name a better backpacking companion than your dog. Go ahead, I’ll wait. I mean your dog won’t complain if you smell. They won’t constantly talk about how they’re craving a pizza. They don’t mind getting dirty and five-second rule? Make it 10!
But seriously, dogs make great trail partners. They love the sights, smells, and exercise. They’re pretty low maintenance but if you’ve never done an overnight trip with your dog, you might find it a little intimidating. Below you’ll find a pack list and tips to make it easier.
Even if you’re a seasoned pro, be sure to read through the considerations at the bottom for thoughts and tips on getting on the trail for overnight trips.
Dog Backpacking Pack List
- Dog Backpack – Like a Ruffwear Palisades Pack, EzyDog Summit Pack, or Mountainsmith K9 Pack
- Bed or Blanket – Consider a dog backpacking bed like the WhyldRiver DoggyBag for colder temps
- Collar with Tags – Consider waterproof collars that clean easily like the Dublin Dog Koa
- Leash – Consider a stretchy leash that can be waist worn like the Ruffwear Roamer
- Food and Treats
- Food and Water Bowls
- Boots – Ruffwear Grip Trex are a great option, Ultra Paws Durable are a good budget option
- Poop Bags
- Camp Towel – Dry off before hopping in the tent
- First Aid Kit with a tick remover
- Pack Cover
- Collar Light – For nighttime visibility
- Toy – We love a fetch toy as most of our backcountry adventures are around lakes and rivers
- Long Line for Camp – Consider the Ruffwear Knot a Hitch
- Jacket – The temperature for when you would use a dog coat depends on your dog and the weather. For example, short-haired breeds may become cold at warmer temperatures than long haired dogs with undercoats. We always pack one – lighter jackets in summer and heavier in spring and fall. We love the Ruffwear Fernie.
- Raincoat – This will be dependent on expected weather, temperatures, and your dog’s tolerance of wet and cold. We always pack one.
Considerations and Tips
- Pack weight – At most your dog should carry about 10-15% of their weight. Don’t forget to include the weight of the empty pack. If your dog is older or in less than ideal shape, go with a lighter pack. Never weight a dog who isn’t fully grown. Consult your vet if you are in doubt.
- Extra Food – Your dog will need more energy on the trail. Consider carrying larger portions for each meal.
- Boots – Boots don’t necessarily need to be worn the whole time. Outside of rough terrain like volcanic rock, many dogs are fine without the extra protection. We always bring boots though if feet do become irritated or injured. I’ve seen something like a small stick cause my dog a limp when stuck in the pad and we needed to use a boot on that foot for the trip.
- Sleeping Outside – While there definitely dogs that prefer to sleep outside in the dirt, most don’t. Most will want to be close to their humans, in the tent, out of the bugs. And, let’s face it, the last thing you want is your dog running off after a rabid raccoon in the middle of the night. Our dogs always crash in the tent with us.
- First night in a tent? – If your dog has never slept in a tent (or a hammock or rode in a canoe), don’t make your backcountry trip a testing ground. Even if it is in the backyard, do a test run to be sure they are comfortable in the tent.
- Bears – Backpacking with dogs in bear country has been a point of concern for many. However, if you are educated in bear safety (making noise on the trail, safely storing all foods and toiletries, bringing none of those items in your tent, etc.) and you apply those same principles to your dog and their food, your dog won’t present any increased risk in bear country.
For more tips and thoughts, read our post A Crash Course in Backpacking with Dogs