Backpacking Gear Essentials For Your Dog

Taylor A Ritz

Check out previous posts by Taylor A Ritz detailing her cross-country bike ride from Maine to Washington with her dog, Dobby. 

The topic of gear can be overwhelming in any niche, and backpacking supplies for a dog are no different. It is too easy to get inundated with options and soon feel like you are hemorrhaging money to prepare for your excursion. Here are some of the most essential items to consider for a backpacking trip with your dog.

Editor's note: In our house, treats come first! So we think our Echelon Featherweight Pouch is the ideal pouch to carry doggie treats.

Collapsible Bowl: For food and water in camp. Some hikers choose to use a frisbee as an alternative.

Sleeping Pad: Dogs need a comfortable place to rest their aching muscles at the end of the day just like us. While some hikers choose to let their dogs share their sleeping pad, depending on their size your dog may need or want their own. One cheap alternative to buying an expensive dog sleeping pad is to take a foam sleeping pad made for humans, like the Thermarest Z-Lite, and cut it down to the appropriate size for your dog. One benefit to this is that you can use the small discarded piece as a camp seat!

Microfiber Towel: An essential item to clean off your dog’s feet before they enter a shelter or tent. This will also come in handy if your dog likes to swim and needs to be dried off before bed or due to cooler temperatures. A small microfiber towel (about the size of a hand towel) will do the trick.

First Aid Kit: Your dog doesn’t necessarily need an entire first aid kit devoted to themselves, but a few key items should be added to your standard backpacking medical supplies to ensure their safety:

  • An old wool sock, in case of foot injury (or bring a dog booty)
  • Waterproof medical tape
  • Benadryl (it’s dog-safe, but consult your vet regarding dosage)
  • Styptic pencil (to stop bleeding)
  • A picture of your pet (in case they get lost)
  • Vet and vaccination info
  • Fine-toothed comb
  • A paw conditioner (like Musher’s Secret)

Poop bags and Poop Vault: Poop bags are essential for taking your dog anywhere, but especially when hiking. Even if you plan to bury your dog’s excrement in accordance with Leave No Trace Principles, there may be some areas where digging a hole isn’t possible.

A poop vault is a place to store dirty poop bags until you can dispose of them properly. As an alternative to purchasing a poop vault, you can use any sealable container like an old diaper wipes box or resealable treat bag like the one in which Greenies treats are packaged.

Tent: Some backpackers choose not to bring a tent, especially on trails like the Long Trail or the Appalachian Trail where there are shelters to sleep in. If you are bringing your dog backpacking, I highly recommend bringing a tent. Maybe you come upon a full shelter, or there are hikers in the shelter who are allergic to dogs. Many backpackers just don’t agree with the presence of dogs in the backcountry. These are just a few examples of scenarios where it would be better and simpler to sleep in a tent with your dog.

Depending on the size of your dog, you will most likely need a bigger tent to accommodate both of you comfortably. On the Long Trail, Dobby and I had plenty of space in a 2-person ultralight tent.

Sleeping bag: If your backpacking trip is taking place in summer or your dog has a thick double coat, he or she may not need any sort of sleeping bag at night. If your trip is occurring during the shoulder seasons, however, your dog may need some help keeping warm at night. You can invest in a bigger sleeping bag that can accommodate you both, or supply your dog with their own. There are dog-specific sleeping bags available out there, but an alternative is to use a camp or mylar blanket. 

I like this solution because a camp blanket can have multiple uses and, depending on the brand, are cheaper alternatives to a dog sleeping bag as well.

Leash: Even if you don’t plan to leash your dog for the majority of the trail, there will most likely be occasions where you either have to or you should. Always bring a leash for your dog. Stunt Puppy leashes are our favorites!