Who else remembers the innocuous day they finally had the epiphany: “I’m ready for a dog.” Cautionary articles and friends like to remind us of things like, “Dogs are a lot of responsibility,” “You’ll experience a serious lifestyle shift,” and “They’re pretty expensive.” But those that already have a four-legged adventure buddy of their own will tell you that the responsibility and expense are worth the infinite return of a dog’s love and companionship. Dogs and humans have been adventuring outside together since before the history books were around to document it, and we’ve been outfitting them in gear that helps them thrive—consider the Iditarod!
These days, advancements in dog-specific adventure gear is awe-inspiring. In an ever-growing industry, there are far more options, and the gear is lighter, more durable, and often available at a better price point than the gear we’ve seen in the past. The short story: Not every dog needs a winter sleeping pad or a $100 winter coat—it’s up to you to make the best judgment call based on your dog’s capability and the details of your planned route and activity. But if your furry companion is a pit bull, a vizsla, or some other breed that’s characterized by their short hair and thin coat, it should certainly be a consideration for you depending on where you’re adventuring.
Below we’ve comprised a list of our top-rated dog adventure gear for cold weather—mind you, the must-have gear list for any excursion goes far beyond this (water bowl, first aid, nutrient-rich food, a good leash, etc). For a more thorough explanation of why these items are important and what else you might include in your pack, peruse Winter Essentials for your Adventure Dog. Happy snow-romping!
Around the proverbial office water cooler, the topic of the necessity of paw wax is hotly debated. On one hand, there are those who assert that they serve to soften natural calluses and eventually lead to more lacerations. On the other, you have the crew that argues paw wax is an excellent stand-in for dogs that hate booties. But no one argues with those that need paw wax to help keep small snowballs from forming between the toes of their long-haired dog. We judged this category mainly on the product’s ability to prevent the snowballs.
The short truth: Not very many dogs need booties. But if the paw wax doesn’t work and your pup still gets between-the-toes snowballs or you’re planning to be covering long, icy miles, booties can be a serious day saver. Pro tip: Get your furry pal used to them in the house and around the neighborhood before you embark—some dogs need serious bribing to even consider wearing them.
Around here, we’re of the conviction that winter camping is totally underrated…especially sites with amazing snowshoeing or ski touring (or sledding!) access. Granted, your backpack may be significantly heavier than it otherwise might be for a warm-weather overnight, but it’s still totally worth it. Your dog will need some extras as well! These options make it easy to pack it up and hit the snowy trail.
As we mentioned above, when the weather really starts to cool down, this marks the difference between a long, fun excursion and one that’s cut short with a shivering pup. Trust us, your short-hair or small dog will thank you for getting her a winter coat, even if she resists wearing it at first. Bribery helps.
There are plenty of high-end dog GPS pet trackers out there (most are aimed primarily at hunters and trackers), and they can be useful during long winter excursions when your pup is off-leash. While your dog should never be out of your sight or out of your control, it can help lend peace of mind in situations that pose a potential risk of exposure if your dog were to wander off. The caveat: never put a beacon on your dog during situations in which humans are wearing beacons for avalanche precautions. Never risk saving a dog’s life over a human’s life.