Adventuring with Your Dog

If you’re like us, we love taking our dog on adventures.  Like children, viewing the world from a dog’s point of view allows you to take in the little things, perhaps at a slower pace, to stop and smell the flowers 😉

However, taking your dog on a hike or an adventure requires extra layers of preparation and knowledge. 

Happily hiking in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, WA

Step One: is your pup hike-ready?

FITNESS: This means that your dog should be of an appropriate fitness level to take on your hike or adventure of choice.

  • Just like humans, dogs must train to reach a certain fitness level and hike a certain amount of mileage.  This does not happen overnight.  It takes time to build up their stamina for both distance and difficulty (elevation, terrain). 
  • Be sure that you are prepared to care for your dog along the way, and allot time to take breaks for pup to rest, eat or drink water if needed. 
  • Continue to read below for what to pack on your hike to care for your dog.
  • If there are any concerns or questions regarding your pup’s health or if he or she is old enough to start hiking, ask your veterinarian.
  • During the hike, keep an eye on how your pup is doing.  Most pups are motivated to keep hiking, keep up with their owner, and keep moving forward to smell the new smells.  But, if your pup seems fatigued, is limping, is taking more breaks than usual, these are signs that you need to rest your pup to avoid overworking your dog.  
  • Heat stroke is also a huge concern and can be fatal. 
    • Warning signs may include excessive panting, and noticing that your dog is taking more breaks to rest in shady spots than usual. 
    • To avoid the risk of heat stroke, hike in shaded areas ideally with plenty of water access, carry a lot of water for them to drink, and hike during times of the day when the sun is not completely out (i.e. plan to be done hiking by noon, or aim for a sunset hike).

LEASH LAWS: Ensure your pup is well trained and that you follow the rules.

  • Leashing your dog also keeps your dog safe.  A dog that is unleashed is more likely to get distracted and run off and out of your sight.  They could chase a rabbit off of a cliff, or encounter a bear off-trail.  Leashing your dog prevents these very preventable, dangerous situations.
  • Leashing your dog where required is also a way to practice compassion. Just because your dog is friendly, doesn’t mean that every other dog is, or that every human is excited and open to having an unknown dog approach them.  What if there are other humans that are scared of dogs?  What if there are children on the trail that do not know how to act around dogs?  
    • Our pup can be leash reactive around dogs she is not familiar with, so when off-leash dogs approach her, this creates a tense and possibly scary situation.  This can be avoided if all dogs (and their humans) follow the rules. 
  • In areas where dogs are allowed to be off-leash, your dog should only do so if they are trained with excellent recall.  This means that your dog should be under voice control and supervision at all times.  Off-leash does not mean the dog is wandering off-trail and out of your sight. 
Our pup wearing her cold-weather jacket, a must for winter adventures

Step Two: choose the right trail

  • Not all trails are dog friendly.  Ensure that your trail is. 
    • A general rule of thumb is that all National Park trails are NOT dog friendly. 
    • Other trails that are part of state park systems, in wilderness areas, or regional or private land, vary by location.
  • Beware of trail hazards, terrain and special considerations
    • For example, popular lakes may have seasonal algae blooms that are toxic to dogs.  
    • Or, if the trail is exposed with minimal shade, or does not have much water access (without lakes, creeks, etc), be sure to pack extra water, and/or start hiking earlier so that your dog doesn’t overheat in the hot afternoon sun
    • For snowy, rocky or icy trails, or hot and sandy trails, dog booties may be helpful.  Some breeds have paws that are more prone to build-up of snow between their toes, which can be very uncomfortable for pups.  
    • Is it tick season? Be sure to check for ticks throughout and after your hike.
Our pup enjoying dispersed camping in Arizona

Step Three: what do I pack for my dog?


Okay, now you’ve determined your pup is in hiking shape and you’ve chosen your trail!  Now, what do you bring along for the adventure? (this is in addition to your normal human packing list, of course)

  • Doggy identification (what if they get lost!), dog collar, dog leash
    • Even if dogs are allowed off leash on your hike, there may always be a situation when you need to leash them
  • Doggy first aid kit
    • Any prescription medications if needed
    • Antibiotic ointment
    • Gauze pads and a small roll of tape
  • Poop disposal bags 
  • I also like to carry something to store the poop in – remember, don’t leave your poop bags on the trail!  You must carry your poop bags and all trash out with you to dispose of at the trailhead garbage cans.
    • I carry a small 2.6oz Pringles can for this – this easily holds one to three bags of dog poop (though this is dog-specific, of course).  It is a hard cylindrical container so it will not get squished.  It is not entirely odor-proof, but it does the job!
    • If you really want something fancy, Amazon has lots of reusable odor-proof examples to hold dog poop baggies, like this one.
  • Collapsible water bowl
  • Extra water for pup
    • Don’t count on having good water access throughout the hike.  Not all water you may encounter on your hike may be drinkable for your pup.  Plan on bringing all the water your pup needs.
  • Extra food for pup
    • If an emergency happens and you have to spend the night on the trail unexpectedly, it’s good to be prepared for your pup as well
    • Remember your pup will be burning more calories while hiking, so account for this
  • Snacking treats
  • Bandana – this is helpful for many reasons:
    • To identify her in case she accidentally gets lost or off-leash
    • We soak it in cold water on hot days to keep her cool
    • It can be used as a makeshift muzzle in emergency situations
  • Weather dependent items:
    • Dog boots/paw protectors
      • The need for these will vary by pup/breed. I have a pair of these that I have actually used once, and that was to protect her paws from the hot sun while hiking in Utah. I have NOT needed to use these for snow or ice or rocky conditions, but I have had other dogs that have needed boots for these situations.
    • Doggy raincoat
Our pup pictured with a few of both Human and Doggo essentials: water bowl, beer, sunscreen, bug spray…

CAMPING: in addition to the Hiking list, we also pack the following:

  • Sleep system
    • Sleeping bag: our pup has her own sleeping bag we ordered from Amazon – she has a thick coat so she doesn’t always sleep inside it, but definitely on top of it. We only bring this for camping trips where our car is accessible. We do not take this on backpacking trips.
    • Sleeping pad: we just use the same Therm-a-Rest Z Lite sleeping pad that I use for myself when I go backpacking
    • It’s helpful to get your pup comfortable with the idea of sleeping on these new items and inside a tent!  Start gradually and introduce products at home in a familiar place, and reward good behavior with treats!
  • Tie-out cable (short and long lengths)
    • This is dog specific as each cable is weighted differently based on the dog’s weight and size.  For us, we have a 10 foot cable and a 30 foot cable.  We usually take the shorter, lighter one on backpacking trips. For camping trips, we bring both cables and use either one depending on the campsite and what we are doing. We do not use a stake- we usually find a sturdy tree trunk at camp, or a picnic bench leg to hook the cable to.
  • Small towel to wipe her paws before she enters our tent
Our pup attached to a 30-foot tie-out cable at an established campsite in California

BACKPACKING: this is just like the Camping list, but with some modifications and even more items:

  • Sleep system – the backpacking version
    • Sleeping bag: we actually do not pack her camping sleeping bag, but instead pack a sweater/jacket that she wears at night, which is more packable than the sleeping bag
    • Sleeping pad: I normally pack a Therm-A-Rest Seat Pad for myself, and this doubles as our pup’s sleeping pad.
      • Note: this means that the sleeping pad I linked above that she uses for CAMPING, is what I use myself to sleep on for BACKPACKING. All of this is to figure out ways to improve packability, reduce weight and pack items that are multi-use for backpacking trips.
  • Doggy backpack
    • You do not want a pack that is too tight – you should be able to slip fingers between the pack straps and your dog’s body. This will reduce the likelihood of chafing and discomfort for pup
    • Reflective strips on a pack are a nice added touch
    • Ensure the weight is evenly distributed
    • Gradually increase your dog’s comfort with the pack, and it’s weight over time – dogs are not pack mules!  You can start by having them wear their pack without anything in it, then gradually add weight.  
  • Even more food and snacks 
  • Trowel – this way you have the option to bury your dog’s poop in the ground (far from water sources and your camp)
  • Tie-out cable (short length)

Sharing adventures with your dog further deepens the bond you already have with them.  Dogs deserve to live their best lives alongside their best friends – you, their human!  We hope these tips help you create a lifetime of memories with your furry friends.

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