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Backpacking With A Dog In 2023 (+ Pre-Trip Checklist)

What's better than getting outdoors with your dog? The best backpacking gear for dogs, pre-trip checklist, tips and more.
Complete Guide To Backpacking With A Dog - Crux Range

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Thinking of camping or backpacking with your dog? 

Taking your dog along for the adventure can be a rewarding experience for both of you. 

Before you head out, however, you’ve probably got a few questions. 

Take a look at our Camping & Backpacking With A Dog Checklist below (we go into each category in detail throughout this article). 

Screenshot it, share it, or download it to use when preparing for your next trip.

In this in-depth article we made an effort to cover everything you need to know to get yourself and your furry friend trail ready. 

We hope it helps. 

There is a lot to cover, so if you know what you’re looking for just click on the titles below. 

Backpacking With Your Dog

Whether you are a seasoned backpacker or a car camper, taking your best canine pal along for the journey can be fun and fulfilling.

Read through this guide to get prepared, find the best gear, and to keep your dog safe and happy out there.

Go through the pre-trip checklist to make sure you are both prepared for the good times ahead. 

Camping & Backpacking With A Dog Checklist 

Backpacking With A Dog Pre-Trip Checklist - Crux Range

Use this checklist as a guideline. It is intended to provide a quick visual reminder of the basics you will need while camping or backpacking with your dog. 

Still, always take into account your dogs level of comfort and discipline while outdoors, the weather, and the applicable rules and regulations where you will be going. 

Check With The Veterinarian

Checking with your Veterinarian before a big trip is always a good idea. 

Before you head into the backcountry consult with your local veterinarian to ensure that your dog is physically ready (ex. puppies and/or brachycephalic dogs should not be taken into the backcountry), that all their vaccines are up to date, and that you are aware of the dangers your pet may encounter. 

Know The Rules

Before you head out, ensure you are familiar with the rules and regulations. Pet guidelines can vary greatly between locations.

For example, rules at a KOA campsite will be different than at a walk-in site which will all differ from backcountry and wilderness regulations. 

At the minimum there will be on-leash laws (your dog run will come in handy here). 

As per the US Forest Service

“Domestic pets are allowed in wilderness areas. You are responsible for their actions as well as their welfare. Pets should either be leashed or under direct voice control. When camping in areas with other visitors, pets should be kept on a leash.”

Be aware, in almost all instances, pets are not allowed in National Parks. When allowed there will be restrictions on where they can go and how you must monitor them. 

For example, Yosemite National Park allows dogs on paved roads, sidewalks, bicycle paths, and campgrounds (except walk-ins). However, dogs must always be leashed and are not allowed on hiking trails or in wilderness areas. 

Trail Etiquette 

While you may love your dog not all people are fond of or comofrtable pets. 

When on the trails or in the campground it is the owner’s responsibility to keep dogs away from passersby or other animals. 

It is best practice on single track hiking trails to pull over when other hikers are passing. 

Keep your dog at your side and under control (keeping extra treats on hand can help with this). 

Pets should not be allowed to chase wild animals or otherwise disturb the wilderness wildlife. 

If you know your dog is a runner keep them on a leash at all times. 

For hiking, hip belt/hands-free leashes work great.

Essentials For Camping & Backpacking With Your Dog

Whether you are car camping or heading into the backcountry with your dog, there are a few often-overlooked but must-have items you will want to take with you. 

Skip ahead for the best camping and backpacking gear for dogs.

Dog First Aid Kit

If you already carry a first aid kit while hiking, a dog first aid kit is not much different. 

You can simply stock up your basic kit with a few specific additions to provide care for both yourself and your canine pal. 

At the minimum your dog first aid kit should include the following: 

Tick Removal Tweezers

Having tweezers in your first aid kit is a must for both humans and dogs. 

Get a pair of heavy-duty tweezers like the Tick Ease tweezers with a tick-removal tool on one side and precise pinchers on the other.

For a lightweight tick only tool, something like the Tick Twister is a great option (this is the type of small plastic tool you can often get from the Veterinarian’s office for free).

Although ticks don’t stick to humans like they do dog fur, people get tick bites too, making it worthwhile to add tick-removal tweezers to all your first aid kits. 

How To Remove A Tick

Ticks are gross. They can spread disease to both you and your dog. 

As with most things, however, the key is prevention. Talk to your veterinarian about preventative tick medications for your dog.

Check your dog daily for ticks while hiking or camping. 

Ensure you especially check under their collar, in their ears, and in their skin creases (ex. armpits). 

There are a seemingly unlimited number of tick-removal hacks out there; some are bad advice.

Here are a few basic rules to remember when removing a tick:

  1. Always get yourself or dog checked by a medical professional after a tick bite. 
  2. Remember, the key is to get the tick out without it having a chance to regurgitate its stomach contents back into your dog’s skin. This is how diseases pass from tick to animal. 
  3. Do not use your fingers. This will compress the tick’s body, squeezing its stomach contents into your or your dog’s bloodstream.
  4. Best practice is to use a dedicated tick removal tool (as shown in the video below). 
  5. With a tick removal tool, tweezers, or forceps grip as close to the skin as possible to avoid squeezing the abdomen of the tick. 
  6. With a tick specific removal tool it is ok to twist. Only twist in one direction. Do not twist with tools other than a dedicated removal tool as shown in the video below. 
  7. Check the tick after removal to ensure its ‘head’ is intact. If you leave the head in your animal’s skin on removal don’t worry. It will eventually work its way out but your dog will likely be more sore at the site. 
  8. Clean the site with hydrogen peroxide after removal and apply antibiotic ointment regularly.
  9. Monitor the site for redness, swelling, or bleeding. 

Here is a quick explanation by a Veterinarian: 

Whichever method you choose, be cautious and always get yourself or your pet seen by a medical professional after a tick bite. 

Paw Care

Dog Paw Care

Dog paws are made for walking but they too can get damaged. 

If your dog is mostly a stay at home dog who only walks on pavement it is in their best interest to build up their paws over time. 

Just like human feet, dogs paws will adapt to their environment. 

A cattle dog for example, will have much tougher paws than a show dog. 

Taking an unseasoned dog backpacking or camping will most likely lead to hard to heal paw wounds and a limping dog. 

As you plan for your trip, take your dog on increasingly long walks on increasingly rougher terrain. 

Be careful not to advance too fast and check your dog’s paws regularly for injuries. 

It is important to anticipate environmental stressors as well. 

Long hikes in the desert like around Sedona may burn a dog’s paws while ice and salt in the winter might cause them pain as well. 

Paw balms and waxes like Musher’s Secret help prevent damage to your dog’s paws while keeping them healthy so they are more resilient and can heal faster. 

As you do your daily tick checks be sure to take a look at the bottom of your dog’s paws as well. 

Check your dog’s paws at least once a day for cuts and tears. This is a great time to look for other hazards like foxtails and burrs. 

Even if your dog doesn’t usually use them, carrying a pair of dog booties can be very helpful in the event that your dog does incur a paw wound. 

Putting a bootie on over a cleaned and wrapped paw will keep it clean and protected so it can heal, and may deter your dog from licking the wound raw. 

Pads & Self Sticking Bandages

Most dogs don’t like having stuff attached to them. 

When they do get an injury they usually want to lick it all the time. Hence, those goofy cone helmets the Veterinarian gives your dog after procedures. 

On the trail it will be a challenge to keep your dog from licking wounds or shredding the perfect bandage you just applied to their leg. 

It is a good idea to carry two things (both of which can be used for human first aid as well): Non-adhesive bandages and ‘bitter’ self-sticking bandages. 

Generally, you want the base layer of a wound to be non-adhesive. 

This way, once saturated the bandage wont be difficult to remove from the wound bed which can cause further tissue damage. 

Having a roll of bitter self-adhesive bandage tape like Andover Healthcare PetFlex No Chew will keep your bandages in place while discouraging your dog from licking or chewing the dressing. 

Bandana Or Triangular Bandage

For humans, these can be used as slings, face masks, or tourniquets. 

When it comes to your dog, having a triangular bandage or bandana around can be handy when your canine friend is severely injured or agitated. 

They are not going to want to sit still while you clean a deep coyote wound with peroxide or pull out some porcupine thorns. 

Use the triangular bandage or bandana as a soft muzzle if needed when giving wound care to your dog. 

This can double as an arm sling or makeshift tourniquet for humans.

Further, extra bandanas or bandages can be used as cool compresses in the case your dog suffers from heat stroke.

Heat stroke in dogs is a real thing, educate yourself about the signs of heat stroke in dogs before heading out.

If your dog is overheating, soak the clothe with water and drape it over their belly, underside, and paws for the most effective cooling when no large body of water is available.

Dog Run Line

A dog run allows your dog freedom of movement while providing peace of mind that they are secure and nearby. 

This may also be a good option at night if you are not planning on your dog sleeping in the tent with you. 

All you need to make a dog run is a long piece of rope, a small carabiner, and a leash. 

Ensure you find an open space where your dog cannot tangle themselves or fall over an edge or large boulder while tied to the run. 

Tie the rope between to objects like tree branches, the back of your car, large rocks, or a heavy backpack. 

You want the line taught and ideally well above their head level so that they cannot get tangled.

Below you can see a great example of how to set up a dog run using the simple Knot-A-Hitch portable and adjustable dog run from Ruffwear. 

Bio-degradable Poop Bags & Shovel

It’s best practice to prevent your dog from urinating or pooping within 200 feet of a water source. 

In most cases you should pack out your dogs’ waste. 

For wilderness backpacking where you are already burying your own waste, your dog’s waste can be disposed of similarly. 

This is where the shovel and Bio-degradable bags come in. 

Packable Shovel

A packable shovel is an essential piece of backcountry gear with or without a dog. 

The nice thing about having a dog along is that you can throw your lightweight shovel in their doggy backpack to free up space in your own pack.

To dispose of both your own waste and your dogs’ best practice guidelines are as follows:  Burry waste in a hole at least 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet away from any trail, camp, or water source. 

Bio-degradable Bags

In an ideal world, non-organic waste should not be buried in the wilderness. 

However, if your dog poops in the middle of a trail surrounded by boulders and streams you have no where to bury the waste. 

With a bio-degradable bag handy you can scoop it up and transport it to be buried at a later time along with your own waste. 

Do not bury plastic bags in the wilderness. 

Where Should They Sleep 

Some dogs are prone to wandering off more than others; especially at night. 

This can be prevented by using a dog run or having them sleep in the tent with you. 

If you choose the tent option there are few things to consider.  

First, dog paws and nails may destroy the floor of your ultra-light tents and sleeping pads. 

To mitigate this, bring along an extra footprint or groundsheet to line the inner tent floor. 

Another option is bringing enough foam sleeping pads to line the floor. This will make it more comfortable but also puncture-proof. 

Besides, foam sleeping pads are lightweight, much less expensive than their blow-up counterparts, and can double as a near-indestructible DIY backpacking dog bed.

As far as shelter goes, tents for camping with dogs should have large doors with a large vestibule.

Ideally, look for a tent door that unzips as close to the ground as possible.

Dog Camping In Tent

A taller sidewall on your tent can help with inclement weather, but it also provides ample opportunity for your dog’s nails to catch and damage tent material on the way in and out of the tent.

Large vestibules provide a safe place for your shoes and gear but can also serve as a shelter for your dog.

This way your dog can sleep next to you and be sheltered but still be outside of the main tent. 

Just throw a stake in the ground and tie their leash to it or secure smaller more obedient dogs to the tent poles. 

For cooler conditions, or short haired and older dogs you may consider bringing along a doggy sleeping bag or quilt.

Food & Water While Backpacking With A Dog

When backpacking or camping with your dog it can be difficult to know how much they need to eat, when to feed them, or what to do about water.

Carrying extra food and worrying about water can be a daunting task. Fortunately there are plenty of simple-lightweight solutions out there to make your next trip a breeze.

Let’s take a look at food and water planning in detail.

How Much Food To Bring For Your Dog While Hiking

When planning your backpacking or camping trip deciding how much food to bring for you dog can take a bit of math.

Don’t worry, we are going to break it down right now.

Depending how long you will be out and how big your pet is, you might need to carry a lot of extra food weight.

Veterinarians recommend increasing your dog’s food intake by up to 50% while backpacking or during continual strenuous activity.

As a rule of thumb, bring an extra 1/2-1 cup of dog food per every 20 pounds of your dog’s weight per day with you while backpacking.

For example, if your dog weighs 50 pounds and eats 2 cups of food per day while at home. During an extensive backpacking trip, you will want to bring an extra 1.25-2.5 cups of food per day (total 3.25-4.5 cups/day).

Of course, the exact amount of food you bring will depend on their overall fitness, how much they usually eat, and how intense your hiking activities are each day.

Moral of the story, you will be carrying a lot of extra dog food.

Ultralight Backpacking Dog Food

Fortunately for modern day dog owners, there is a variety of high-quality dehydrated dog foods and treats on the market.

Some of these brands are like the dehydrated Mountain House meals we buy for ourselves–warm water is added for preparation–while others are like freeze-dried space food. The later is super light but can also be hard for dogs to get down without adequate water available.

For dehydrated food that needs warm water to reconstitute one of the best in terms of taste, weight, and ingredients is The Honest Kitchen.

Take a look at our best of list below for more details.

Backpacking Dog Treats

Having some lightweight dog treats handy while on the trail can help keep your dog fueled in between meals.

They can also come in handy when they need some extra persuasion to stay put on the side of the trail to let other hikers pass or to get over an obstacle they might be afraid of.

One of our favorite lightweight dog treats are dried fish skins.

Learn more about these tasty treats below.

How Much Water Does A Dog Need While Hiking?

Like us humans, a dog’s body is made up mostly of water.

Dogs can go a long time without food, but without adequate hydration they will be in real trouble.

Remember, dogs don’t sweat like people do. They mainly keep themselves cool by panting.

When a dog pants the evaporation cools them down. If your dog is under-hydrated–or worse yet dehydrated–they won’t be able to cool themselves efficiently which can put them in real danger of heatstroke.

Some signs your dog might be dehydrated are:

  • Dry or cracked nose
  • White or blue gums or tongue
  • Sticky-dry gums
  • Lethargy or confusion
  • Glazed eyes
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing

As per Cesar Milan, a dog needs to drink 8.5-17 oz. per every 10 lb. of body weight (55-110 ml/kg) of water per a day.

So for a 50 lb. dog that comes to 42-84 oz. (~1.5-3 L) of water per day.

An active dog out backpacking or camping will need to drink even more. And owners should consider their dog’s activity tolerance level, how much fur they have, and how hot the day is when deciding how much extra water to give their pup.

Bottom line, whenever you are thirsty (and even a few times throughout the day when you are not) break out the portable bowl and give them a chance to drink.

Should You Filter Water For Dogs While Backpacking?

There does not seem to be any consensus on whether or not dogs need their water filtered in the backcountry.

It is helpful to know that dogs can and do get water borne illnesses just like people do.

Giardia, one of the most feared backcountry bugs, can give dogs similar symptoms to humans.

That said, it is near impossible to stop a dog from drinking stream or lake water while they are in there cooling themselves off and no one here at Crux Range has ever had a dog get sick from drinking backcountry water.

Chances are you will be filtering your own drinking water. But anyone who has done this for an extended period of time knows that filtering water can be a tedious task.

Even UV filters, which are much faster and less tiring than traditional ceramic or pump filters, take time and patience to use.

So filtering an extra 3 liters a day for your dog might get a little tiring.

If you have the supplies, try boiling some water in the morning and carrying that for them throughout the day. Chances are it won’t be enough to last all day but it will help limit their exposure to potentially harmful water on the whole.

Ultimately, whether you filter your dog’s water or not will be up to your best judgement. When in doubt, if you want it filtered they probably do too.

Dog Backpacks

As you can already tell, taking your dog camping or backpacking requires carrying some extra supplies. For car camping this might not be a big deal, but for backcountry treks weight becomes a crucial factor.

Find our editor’s pick for best dog backpack here.

Fitting your dog with a backpack is a great way to help them feel involved and to distribute the load.

Remember to consult your veterinarian first. Certain dog breeds will not be able to carry a pack or should carry a much lighter load than other dogs.

And give your dog time to get used to the pack before strapping it on them for a long trek.

Put some treats in the pockets and let your dog sniff around and play with the backpack.

Take them on some short walks with the pack so they can get used to it before heading into the backcountry.

How To Fit A Dog Backpack

Just like a human backpack, a dog’s backpack needs to fitted correctly based on their size and proportions.

In general, there are three measurements you will need:

  1. Chest girth
  2. Neck girth
  3. Neck-to-tail length

Chest Girth

For most manufacturers chest girth is the most important measurement.

Use a soft measuring tape or length of string. With your dog standing in a neutral position measure around the widest part of their chest.

This is usually just behind their front armpits.

Ruffwear shows it like this in their dog backpack sizing guide:

Ruffwear Dog Backpack Sizing Chart

Neck Girth

Next, measure around the base (widest part) of your dog’s neck where it meets their torso and shoulders.

This is slightly lower than you might measure for a collar so will probably be a bit wider than their collar measurement.

Neck-to-Tail Length

Measure from the base of their neck to the base of their tail (where it bends to curve upwards).

Most of the weight your dog carries should be in the front–over their shoulders/front legs.

To ensure your backpack is not too long, you can use this length measurement to compare to backpack length.

This will avoid a pack placing weight further down on the weaker areas of their spine.

How Much Weight Can A Dog Carry

As a rule of thumb, dogs should not carry more than 25% of their body weight. However, Cesar Milan suggests starting with 10-12% of their body weight and gradually building up.

It is important to consider their fitness, age, and breed as well. Again, a good time to check with your veterinarian.

The Best Backpacking Gear For Dogs

Finding the best backpacking gear for your dog will help ensure you both have an enjoyable-safe trip to remember. 

We mentioned a few essentials above but you may also want to consider the following items. 

Sidenote: You will notice a lot of the gear listed is Ruffwear gear. This is not due to a lack of testing. Ruffwear simply comes out on top in most dog gear-related categories. Plus, it’s a homegrown company with a consistent commitment to the community it serves. All their gear is well thought out and of high quality. Our go-to for outdoor dog gear. Learn more about Ruffwear.

The Best Dog Backpacks

Similar to your own backpack, you want a dog’s backpack to be lightweight, versatile, and comfortable.

Our top picks in each category are:

Ruffwear Palisades Dog Backpack

• Removable saddlebags
• Padded-breathable straps & back
• Large volume
• 5 adjustment points & 2 leash points
• 4 external gear loops & 4 tie-down points
• 6 zippered compartments
• Internal pocket compression system
Weight: 1.75-2.15 lb/800-980 g
Volume: 14-24 L

Ultimate Direction Dog Vest

Ultimate Direction has been at the top of the ultra-light running game for a while now. Their dog vest is no exception. It’s built for distance, durability, and versatility.
• Lightest backcountry dog pack available
• Portable dog bowl included
• 4 zippered-expandable pockets
• Heavy-duty zippers
• Padded sternum point
Weight: 10.7 oz./303 g
Volume: 5.8-10.3 L

The Best Portable Dog Bowls For Backpacking

A quality portable dog bowl is a basic essential for any dog owner. On backpacking trips a lightweight-durable bowl that you can stuff in your bag or your dog’s backpack becomes invaluable.

Considering that portable dog bowls are generally inexpensive, it is worth getting a high-quality bowl that won’t fail you when your three days deep into the backcountry.

At Crux Range we prefer coated fiber bowls. These styles are super light and can be crumpled up to fit in your back pocket, the last remaining space in your pack, or even clipped on the outside of a pack to dry while hiking.

Additionally, they are much easier to clean and more resistant to UV damage or abrasion than their collapsible style cousins.

The only drawback with this type of portable dog bowl is that some styles may take some finesse to stand up on their own when used for water.

You can easily avoid this pitfall by getting a bowl with purposeful structure like Ruffwear’s bowls below.

Ruffwear Trail Runner Bowl

The Trail Runner Bowl is about as light and packable as a bowl can get. PVC coated fabric to handle anything you throw at it, this bowl dries quickly and stands up to wear and tear.
• Ultralight & packable
• Works for food & water
• Self-contained in carry pouch
Diameter: 6 inches/15 cm
Volume: 32 oz./1 L

Ruffwear Quencher Bowl

Ruffwear’s original product, the Quencher Bowl doesn’t disappoint. Similar to the Trail Runner bowl, it’s lightweight and packable. But the design is more sturdy, making it better able to stand up on its own when filled with water.
• Sturdy self-standing design
• Available in 3 sizes
• Works for food & water
• Durable material & construction
Diameter: 2.5-7 inches/6.3-18 cm
Volume: 25-83 oz./750-2500 ml

Collapsible silicone bowls are a more affordable alternative. They do tend to stand on their own a little better, however, be aware that these bowls are much less durable when squeezed into a backpack, are less abrasion resistant, and are less UV resistant over time.

Best Dog Food For Backpacking & Camping

The best backpacking dog foods are lightweight, high in calories and protein, and are made from quality ingredients.

When choosing a lightweight dog food there are two main options; dehydrated or freeze-dried.

Both are ultralight and highly nutritious, the main difference being that dehydrated needs water added whereas freeze-dried you will need to provide lots of water for your dog to eat with the meal.

Freeze-dried can be re-hydrated as well, but the consistency doesn’t come out quite the same.

Dehydrated Dog Food

Freeze-dried dog food is a bit bulkier than dehydrated food. Both undergo similar processes that help lock in nutrients and eliminate the need for harmful fillers such as grains.

Another bonus that lends itself to backpacking, dehydrated or freeze-dried food doesn’t go bad, eliminating the need for preservatives or other chemicals during the manufacturing process.

Other than being made of whole meats and vegetables, the biggest seller for these dog foods in regards to backpacking and camping is their weight.

On average, a 10 pound box of food can make 40 pounds of whole food; a factor of ~4.

So using our dog food calculation from above, if your dog weighs 50 pounds and eats 2 cups of food per day while at home, then you will need to bring approximately 3.25-4.5 cups/day (total 5.25-6.5 cups/day) of food with you while backpacking.

Going with a mid-range serving of 6 cups/day with a standard dry dog food (~4 oz/113 g per cup) that comes out to approximately 1.5 lb. or 700 g of food you will have to carry each day.

Multiply that by a 5-day trip and you’ve got an extra 7.5 lb/3.5 Kg to haul around. And this is assuming your dog only weighs 50 pounds!

With a dehydrated food, that same 7.5 lbs shrinks down to a measly 1.8 lbs!

The only drawback with dehydrated is that you do need ‘warm’ water to make it edible. However, most backpackers will be heating water for their own meals anyway; it doesn’t take long to add a little extra for your pooch.

The Honest Kitchen Grain Free Fish Recipe

Made in the U.S. from non-GMO whole food human-grade ingredients, Honest Kitchen doesn’t mess around when it comes to quality and taste.
• No preservatives, fillers, or meat by-products
• Non-GMO
• Best taste
10 lb makes 40 lb

Sojos Raw Dehydrated Dog Food

Another U.S. company offering high-quality ingredients, Sojos focuses on raw dehydrated food. They offer some unique mixes with lamb and goat. Your dog will love the whole meat and locked in flavor. All Sojos products are grain and filler-free.
• No preservatives, fillers, or meat by-products
• Unique flavors with lamb & goat
• Reconstitute with water to 5x its dry weight
Only drawback: suggested food soak time ~15 min.
7 lb makes ~40 lb

Dog Treats For Backpacking & Camping

As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to bring some lightweight dog treats along while backpacking. Use them to keep your dog obedient, get through tough situations, supplement their diet on big days, and of course to simply make them happy.

Similar to backpacking appropriate foods, there are a number of fantastic lightweight-dried dog treat options as well.

Most dog owners know how much dogs love sweet potatoes. For the same reasons sweet potatoes are good for humans–high fiber, vitamins & minerals–they are also a great sweet treat for dogs.

Wholesome Pride only does dog treats, but they do them well.

Their Sweet Potato Fries Dog Treats are a top seller.

As the label boast, there is only one ingredient; sweet potatoes.

Wholesome Pride Sweet Potato Fries

Minimal ingredients with big taste, Wholesome Pride sources U.S. grown ingredients and never adds preservatives or fillers. Their treats are whole foods and often have only 1-2 ingredients. Sweet potatoes are good for your dog and they will love the sweet treat.
• No preservatives or fillers
• U.S. grown
• Lightweight & packable
• Nutritious & filling

For meat oriented dogs, there are some fantastically tasty treat options that will keep them coming back for more.

The Honest Kitchen (featured above) makes a variety of seafood-based treats from bite-sized ‘fish sammies’ to fish skin chews.

Flavor combinations like cod and strawberries might even temp you to try a few nibbles.

Our dogs’ favorites by far are the Cod Fish Skin Chews but the Cod and Blueberry Sammies are a packable runner up.

The Honest Kitchen Seafood Snacks

Made with the same quality and care as their dehydrated food, Honest Kitchen makes a variety of flavorful seafood-based snacks. Your dog will love the unique taste and the nutrients may help improve their health and shiny coats.
• No preservatives or fillers
• Unique flavors with pure seafood
• Lightweight & packable

Another unexpected hit, are Bone & Chews’ Lamb Lung Training Bites.

These crunchy bite-sized treats are made of pure dehydrated lamb lung to give your pooch a high protein nutrient-dense snack on the go.

Bone & Chew Lamb Lung Training Bites

One ingredient, no fillers, loads of protein, and lots of taste. That is what you get with Bone & Chew’s training bites.
• Perfect size for backpacking/carrying in dog backpack
• High protein & lightweight
• Pure ingredients with a novel flavor for dogs

Backpacking Dog Treats

Best Packable Dog Run

Having a dog run or at least a bunch of extra rope with you while backpacking or camping with a dog is another must.

Setting up a dog run in camp will allow your pup the freedom to roam while giving you the peace of mind that they are safe and nearby.

Even well behaved dogs can get rattled or pulled into a chase by wild animals.

Be prepared with a lightweight-easy to set up dog run like the Ruffwear Knot-A-Hitch.

Ruffwear Knot-A-Hitch

This well made dog run is easy to set up and adjust. Ruffwear thought of everything; sliding adjusters, an integrated swivel carabiner for quick leash attachment, and custom stow bag. No detail is spared and the included rope is super durable kernmantel nylon. This will be the last dog run you ever need to purchase.
• Attach to single or two points
• Swivel carabiner eliminates tangling
• 36 ft of rope included
• Packable stow bag

Best Dog Sleeping Bags

Even though your dog is walking around with a full body sweater 24/7, they get cold too.

If you have a short-haired dog or know you will encounter cold weather, be sure to bring along some extra warmth for your pooch. Dog sleeping bags are light and super packable so they won’t take up much space in your backpack.

For a mid-range option, check out a lightweight quilt. They are warm, compressible, and double as a picnic blanket, sleeping mat, or leg warmer when your dog is not using them.

By far the best dog sleeping bag out there is the Ruffwear Highlands. The Highlands is a durable, extremely well planned out dog sleeping bag that is ready for both home and your roughest backcountry trips.

It is made of a durable water-resistant shell with synthetic down insulation, is designed for a dog’s body shape, and has a mid-length zipper to reduce weight.

The Highlands comes with its own stuff sack that is designed to fit into the Palisades or Approach doggy backpacks.

Ruffwear Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag

Made of a durable water-resistant shell with synthetic down insulation. Designed for a dog’s body shape with a mid-length zipper to reduce weight.
• Synthetic down for weather resilience
• Half zipper for easy entry/exit
• Neck baffle to keep out drafts
• Integrated sleeping pad sleeve to block out cold
• Stuff sack included
Weight: 1.6-2.2 lb/715-980 g

Ruffwear Dog Sleeping Bag

A solid runner up for best dog sleeping bag is the Whyld River Sleeping Bag.

Whyld River’s bag is also made of a nylon shell with synthetic insulation.

The only reason we listed it as a runner up is because of a few key differences.

Whyld River uses snap fasteners whereas Ruffwear used a half-length zipper. Snap closures are a good idea but can easily be unsnapped by a restless dog or warped if stepped on etc.

We like that the fill is higher up the upper of the Whyld River bag but find the shape less doggy ergonomic than Ruffwear’s bag.

They are both approximately the same weight. Although, Whyld River offers more variety in sizing with sizes XS-XL whereas Ruffwear only offers M-L.

Another issue was availability. Whyld River bags are difficult to get your hands on. They can only be ordered from their online store and the website has some things to be desired.

Overall it’s are a fantastic bag closely comparable to the Highland bag. Both with run you a little over $100 for a size large.

Dog Life Jacket

Most dogs are natural swimmers. There are some, like retrievers, who are more built for it than others but almost all dogs enjoy swimming.

Still, some dogs don’t know their limits and it is our responsibility to keep them safe from unseen dangers.

Doggy life jackets aren’t just for old dogs or pugs. Even if your dog is a natural swimmer there are some water related dangers to be aware of that a life jacket can help prevent from ending terribly.

  • Strong currents or undertows
  • Fatigue or choking
  • Seizures
  • Unseen rocks, roots, weeds, etc.

To keep your dog safe from these types of dangers, fit them with a doggy life jacket.

Besides, life jackets help keep you dog warm while providing a handle to lift them and an extra leash point.

Most dog life jackets are also made of bright colors so you can easily spot your dog out in the lake or river. Our favorite dog life jacket, the Float Coat by Ruffwear, comes in 3 distinct colors.

The founder of Ruffwear worked professionally on sailboats before founding the company. His knowledge of the water and quality water materials is immediately evident in the Float Coat.

Float Coat Dog Life Jacket

Made of abrasion-resistant nylon with water-ready straps for no-slip when wet the Float Coat is a comfortable dog life jacket that your dog will love to wear. Features a telescope neck closure to prevent accidental detachment. Full strength back handle is optimally positioned to help lift dogs comfortably in and out of the water.
• Easy-adjust telescope collar for safety
• Reflective trim for visibility
• Supports natural swimming position
• Optimally positioned handle
• 2 tie-in/leash points
• 3 adjustment straps
Sizes XXS-XL
3 Bright color options

For a similar but not quite as solid option, the Kong Sport Aqua Pro is a decent life jacket at a similar price to the Float Coat.

Kong Dog Life Jacket

Made by the same company that brought you the Kong Toy, the Aqua Pro has a similar design to the Float Coat with adjustable straps and a wide lift strap on the back.

The main difference is the neck closure. Float coat is seamless so it cannot come undone whereas Kong’s is a buckle system and sits a little higher on your dogs neck.

For a more affordable–although less ergonomic–and quick-drying option take a look at the Vivaglory Neoprene Dog Life Jacket.

Best Dog Booties For Backpacking & Camping

As mentioned before, it is a good idea to bring along a dog booty or two in case your dog needs first aid on their paws.

If your dog can tolerate them, booties are also a great way to prevent injury–especially on very hot trails or areas with lots of small sharp rocks.

In our experience, dog boots with a low rise do not stay on very long. Look for booties with a high ankle and a little extra space in the footbed.

Our favorites and probably the best dog boots you will ever come across are made by a small company in Toronto, Canada.

Neo-Paws makes both winter and summer dog boots but all of their booties have high ankles with wrap straps to keep them on and secure.

Neo-Paws The Best Dog Boots For Backpacking
Neo-Paws Dog Boots

If you don’t want to carry booties or your dog cant tolerate them, be sure to take some Mushers Secret on every trip. Apply the wax at least once a day.

Or if you just want a light weight booty for emergencies, Pawz are a simple lightweight dog booty that actual stay on well.

Hands-Free Dog Leash

In many wilderness or backcountry areas dogs are required to be leashed at all times. Even when they are not, having your dog leashed will prevent confrontation with passersby or jolting at the sight of an unfamiliar wild animal.

For hiking and camping you will want a hands-free leash system so that you can enjoy the trek without wearing out your hand holding a leash all day.

As practically every dog owner already has a leash, this is a fairly easy DIY thing to make.

The easiest way is to take an old piece of webbing with a buckle (the waist belt from a climbing chalk bag is perfect) and loop the handle of your leash through it before buckling it around your waist.

This method allows your dog 360° of freedom so you don’t get twisted up as they roam.

Another simple and inexpensive method is to use an old locking carabiner. Clip it to the end of your leash, then you can clip that to your own hiking belt, to a backpack strap, or loop it around your wrist.

Just make sure your belt it strong enough to hold a bolting dog.

Hands Free Leash Belts

Of course, if you want an all in one solution Ruffwear makes a few different styles of hands free leashes for backpacking with a dog.

The Flat Out Leash is a simple leash with an integrated clip waist belt and Ruffwear’s indestructible Uniloop leash attachment point.

To give your dog a little extra roaming length while protecting your waist from the force of their pulling, the Roamer Leash offers the same durability and closure system with the addition of strategically placed stretch webbing.

Hands Free Dog Leash For Backpacking With Your Dog

Dog Goggles

We know, we know. It seems excessive but dog goggles are actually a thing.

Dogs need eye protection for pretty much the same reasons as us humans; too much sun, wind, debris, rogue tree branches, etc.

Certain breeds are more prone to different eye diseases. It is not uncommon for older dogs to go blind.

German Shepherds, for example, are prone to an eye ailment called Pannus. This degenerative eye disease is the equivalent of cataracts for dogs.

Pannus is accelerated by sun exposure. A great way to help prevent or slow this process is with eye protection.

This is where dog goggles come into play.

Fortunately, there are a number of companies making quality doggy eye protection that actually stays in place too fully protect your dog.

How can dog goggles help while hiking?

Well, if you are hiking at elevation or in the snow, your dog will be at increased risk of UV exposure.

Further, dogs who run off or like to adventure through the forest are at risk for eye abrasions from branches and weeds.

Rex Specs is one of the top dog goggle manufacturers out there. They started the company to assist their own dogs with eye disease and have since expanded to supply goggles for service and military dogs.

Their goggles come in a variety of colors, styles, and lenses. All Rex Specs goggles are tested impact resistant with a simple but stable attachment system.

Rex Specs Dog Goggles

High-quality impact resistant dog goggles that come in a variety of colors, sizes, and lens options. Rex Specs are easy to fit and stay secure even on the most active dogs.
• UV 400 protective lenses
• 5mm of foam around edges for comfort
• Single buckle easy on-off
• Adjustable for full range of jaw motion


Let’s quickly review some key points we covered above.

  1. How Do You Remove A Tick From Your Dog?

    Remember, ticks spread disease when they have a chance to regurgitate their stomach contents into your dogs skin. Do not squeeze them. Use tweezers or specialized tick removal tools to grasp the tick as close as possible to the skin. Do not twist unless using a specified tick removal tool. Always consult a health professional when you or your dog are bitten by a tick.

  2. How Much Weight Can A Dog Carry Backpacking?

    Rule of thumb is ~25% of their body weight. However, start at 10-12% of your dog’s body weight and gradually go up from there. Consider your dog’s breed, age, and fitness. Always consult your veterinarian before starting your dog with a dog backpack. Use the sizing guide to ensure dog backpacks are properly fitted.

  3. How Much Water Does A Dog Need Backpacking?

    A dog needs to drink 8.5-17 oz. per every 10 lb. of body weight (55-110 ml/kg) of water per a day. So for a 50 lb. dog that comes to 42-84 oz. (~1.5-3 L) of water per day. An active dog out backpacking or camping will need to drink even more. And owners should consider their dog’s activity tolerance level, how much fur they have, and how hot the day is when deciding how much extra water to give their pup.

  4. How Much Food Does A Dog Need Backpacking?

    Bring an extra 1/2-1 cup of dog food per every 20 pounds of your dog’s weight per day with you while backpacking. For example, if your dog weighs 50 pounds and eats 2 cups of food per day while at home. During an extensive backpacking trip, you will want to bring an extra 1.25-2.5 cups of food per day (total 3.25-4.5 cups/day). Dehydrated foods and treats are more nutritious than traditional foods and are ultralight in weight.

  5. What To Do With Dog Poop While Backpacking?

    Bury waste in a hole at least 6-8 inches deep and at least 200 feet away from any trail, camp, or water source. In leave no trace areas, dog waste should be packed out similar to human waste. Carry biodegradable poop bags to transport waste for burying at a later time or when a more appropriate location is available.

Always carry your dog first aid kit with you and familiarize yourself and your dog with their backpack before heading out the door.

Remember to check your dog daily for ticks and paw damage.

Keep them well hydrated and well fed to ensure the best possible trip for the both of you.

Check pet regulations at your destination. Rules can vary among parks and wilderness areas.

And of course, always talk to your veterinarian before your next backcountry trip to ensure your dog is fit for the trip and up to date on their vaccinations.

Now get out there and have some fun with your favorite furry friend!

Where was the last place you went backpacking or camping with your dog?

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