Any hiker or backpacker will tell you that the gear you choose for an outing can make or break your trip. The same adage rings true for those of us making gear decisions for our adventure dogs. If you plan to take your four legged friends on hikes that cover rocky trails and snowy paths in places with cold or inclement weather, it’s imperative that your dogs have all of the gear necessary to enjoy the experience in comfort and safety. Here are the top 10 hiking and backpacking gear items for dogs you shouldn’t leave home without.
Are you new to hiking with your dog? If so, make sure to read my post on how to get started. In that post, you’ll find some very useful tips on training, fitness, route planning and more.
The first gear item I recommend for dogs that will be out hiking and backpacking is a quality harness. A dog harness helps distribute the pull weight onto a dogs shoulders and away from their necks. A dog harness also minimizes leash tangling and will give you a little more physical control.
My Ruffwear harnesses include a handle on the backs, so I can lift my smaller dogs up and over large trail obstacles. If you have a larger dog, you can get a pack with storage, and your dog can carry their own food and water.
Fit is key with your dog’s harness. If the harness is too big it will slip off, and if it is too small, your dog will be uncomfortable with restricted breathing.
After fitting your dog with a comfortable harness, make sure to pair that harness with a quality leash. A leash is critical in maintaining control of your dog on the trail. I prefer a leash with a bungee spring, as it allows for some shock absorption and expansion without having to carry a longer leash.
If you’re like me and have two dogs, you’ll want to look into a two-leash setup or go for a leash splitter. I’ve been opting for a bungee split leash as of late, as my dogs seem to enjoy it more than the tangled mess of two seperate leashes.
3. Warmies In Layers
If you’re going to be hiking and backpacking in cold environments that will require you to be dressed in insulating layers, make sure your dogs have the same access to gear to stay warm. Just like a human, you need to think in layers. For my dogs, I focus on three pieces. A thin fleece base layer, an insulating down layer, and a wind/weather proof shell layer. With these three options, they’re able to stay warm and comfortable wherever the trails take us.
4. Paw Protection
Paw protection is especially important when you first start hiking with your dog. Just like our hands and feet, it can take some time to toughen up and get calluses. When I know my dogs will be hiking on snow, ice, sand, or warm surfaces. I make sure to coat my dog’s pads in a wax called Musher’s Secret. I’ve tried using booties, but my dogs did not like them. The Musher’s Secret wax is truly amazing and has worked well on some really tough trails.
5. First Aid – Tweezers – Flea/Tick Protection
Before taking your dog out on the trail, you’ll want to start a flea and tick prevention medication. I used to use Frontline, but I prefer the edible Bravecto tablets. Medication is not enough though, and you’ll want to be prepared for any and all emergencies. A good kit starts with tweezers to grab any pesky insects. You’ll also want to carry a small trauma first aid kit should your dog get injured on trail.
6. Water and Food Bowls
Dogs need to eat and drink while hiking just like humans do. My routine usually calls for a stop once every two miles depending on the trail and the weather. Lightweight collapsible bowls are a great way to save on space and weight. For camping outings where I know it will be near freezing, I’ll keep the dogs water insulated, so they don’t have to drink anything that is too cold.
Snacks are a great way to maintain your dog’s energy, and are also a great way to work on training and motivation. I take my dogs to isolated areas to work on their off leash recall. I let them roam, and will then use their name or a whistle to request their return. Each successful return gets a treat. I’m also able to use this reward training while on leash if my dogs become distracted by other dogs, squirrels, or birds.
8. Sleeping Bag
If you’re going to bring your dogs camping with you in freezing temperatures, make sure that they’re able to stay warm throughout the night. I bring along an extra sleeping bag for my dogs to share. They’re able to snuggle up and get warm regardless of how cold it is outside of the tent.
9. Collar With ID Tags and Light – Microchip
I know that some people have dogs that don’t always come when called. Dogs can get spooked by thunder or go chasing after something they see in the brush. For this reason, make sure they have a secure collar with ID tags and contact information. It’s also a very good idea to have your dog microchipped. If you’re going to be doing any hiking or camping with your dogs at night, make sure they have illumination. A bright flashing LED light is a cheap and easy way to ensure your dogs don’t disappear in the black of night.
10. Waste Bags
While hiking alone or with your dogs, you should always follow the seven ‘leave no trace’ principles. Principle number three is to ‘dispose of all waste’ properly. Dog waste contains a variety of pathogens that can spread to other animals. Make sure to always clean it up and pack it out.
When you’re hiking in snow, rain, and wind, you’ll want to ensure the safety of your dog’s eyes. The best way to do that is with doggles. My dogs refuse to keep them on for more than a few minutes at a time, but they’ve come in handy when needed in a pinch.
If you enjoyed this post, you can leave me a comment or share it. Do you go hiking with your dogs? Tell me about your gear choices in the comment section below.
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