If you’ve spent any time poking around Outdoor Project or perusing our articles, you get it: we’re unabashedly, wholeheartedly dog people. Even the greatest adventure on our bucket list is rendered all the sweeter when we get to do it alongside an ecstatic furry companion. The tough miles seem shorter, the early mornings are notably easier, the campfire snuggles are all the cozier, and the cold plunge into an alpine lake at the end of a dusty trail is oh so luxurious.
While you’re setting your eyes on your next adventure prize and assembling your gear list, there are important considerations to take into account to ensure that your four-legged companion not only keeps up but is safe, comfortable, and primed for years of adventures to come.
Just as it is for their human counterparts, a dog’s hiking, beach, or backpacking adventure gear list wildly varies from creature to creature. Though this article is created specifically to advise you on how to pack for any sort of adventure with your furry friend, the bottom line is this: There’s no substitute for good judgment. You know your adventure companion best, and if you don’t yet feel confident preparing your pup for a backpacking adventure or a longer hike, start smaller. Trial and error is highly effective, but only in relatively controlled situations that lend themselves to easy-out options.
Below, we’ve compiled a few starter lists to get you out there on the trail with your furry companion of choice. Besides ensuring the safety and wellbeing of you and your dog, the most important preparations you can make are those that lessen your impact on the environment and wildlife that you may encounter. Applying the principles of Leave No Trace to adventures with dogs demands attention to nuance, but having an absolute blast in beautiful outdoor spaces while lessening our impact on the environment at the same time is the gold standard—one that applies to everyone that gets out there.
Basic pack items
- A durable collar and tags: This is something that seems like a no-brainer, but in some cases, it has made all the difference. If you get separated from your pup, it’s imperative that, no matter what she tromps through, those tags will outlast mud, muck, and supremely hard use. Likewise, choosing a collar that, for example, easily rinses off and does not harbor poison oak oil, can mean the difference between a restful camp and an…itchy one.
- The right leash: Again, a no-brainer, but choosing the right leash for your particular dog can make adventures more enjoyable. If your pup is typically off-leash, consider getting a lightweight, short, durable leash. If she’s a chaser or a wanderer, consider getting a longer retractable leash so that she can get her exercise, run a bit, and stick close by.
- Dog-safe soap: If you live anywhere near poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and the like…trust me on this one. And don’t be afraid to use it!
- A water bowl and extra food: Make special considerations for the length of the trail, extra calories burned, and the availability of water along your adventure path.
- Basic first aid: Think bandages, non-adhesive absorbent dressings, surgical sticky tape, cotton wool, gauze, blunt-end scissors, a bit of thick towel, and a soft, collapsible cone. You could throw a few treats in there for good measure, too.
Specialty pack items
- Booties: This is perhaps one of the most controversial gear items we could think of. Some dogs absolutely abhor them, others couldn’t be bothered. But if you’re planning on spending long miles on rough terrain or long days on snow, these should certainly be considered.
- A warm vest and/or a cooling harness: Simply, different breeds evolved to thrive in different conditions. Obvious, yes. The advancements in cooling harnesses and durable, warm vests as of late are significant, and there are plenty of relatively affordable options. Take a moment to assess conditions and your pup’s abilities before embarking, and perhaps keep one of each in the car just in case.
- A doggy backpack: Most often, dogs love it when they have a job to perform, and often that’s as simple as carrying their own treats! There are myriad dog packs on the market at varying price points with many different features—it’s easy to find one that’s right for you.
- A life jacket: Even strong swimmers in calmer waters can greatly benefit from having a bit of floatation. If nothing else, enjoy peace of mind when SUPping, riverside hiking, or playing in the surf.
- Collar-mounted GoPro: Yes, you read that right. Talk about a unique perspective.