Contributed by Mecca R. Dennehy. Mecca works at a dog rescue and when she’s not at the kennel, she’s out exploring with her two rescue pups, Finn and Ruby. She has logged hundreds of miles on trail with her pups.
Dogs, our furry best friends, make any hike ten times better (ruff estimate). A perfect day with your four-legged friend on the trail is only made possible with the proper preparation. Whenever you venture out with your dog, make sure you’re packed and ready for all situations: What if your dog eats something toxic? What if it’s hotter than you expected? We’ve compiled a comprehensive packing list and tips for a successful day hike with your dog. With the following advice at your fingertips, you and your pup will never leave home unprepared.
Food & Water
Be sure to pack high-quality snacks for your pup as they will work up an appetite when out on a hike! It’s safer to overpack than to under-pack. Worst case, you’ll end up with something to chow on during the drive home. If you’re planning on completing thru-hikes or a longer trail, make sure to pack extra food for your dog, and offer a small lunch! If you’re planning on camping overnight with your dog, meal prep will be slightly more involved and you’ll need their bowl.
Just like us, your dogs will need to stay hydrated during the hike. Always bring a water bottle and a compact bowl for them on hikes and offer it regularly! While water intake varies greatly from dog to dog (depending on size, age, health, etc.) on average, dogs consume between ½ ounce to 1 ounce of water per pound, per day. So, if your dog weighs 10 pounds, packing a 12-ounce water bottle should be enough to keep your adventure pal hydrated throughout the day. If it’s hot out, bring extra since they can get dehydrated easier in high temperatures. A quick way to check if your dog is dehydrated is to gently pull at the skin on the back of their neck. If it bounces back into place, they’re hydrated. If it stays sticking up and forms a tent, they need some water. When on the trail, we love using these rubber collapsible dog bowls for water breaks. They’re lightweight and can fit into almost any pocket in your daypack!
Aside from the obvious leash and harness, the dog hiking gear you’ll always find in my pack (or my dog’s) is a jacket and booties. You never know when the weather could turn so having a waterproof jacket for your pup is always a good idea! You might be thinking, “But dog’s already have a coat of fur. They don’t need a jacket.” This would be correct, as they are insulated better than us humans, but when wet, they can get cold quickly, even hypothermic if the air temp is low enough.
If you plan on walking on rough surfaces or you’ve realized your pet has sensitive paws, try training them to walk in booties. Dog booties are a great way to let your dog run wild without worrying about their paws getting cut up. Definitely try this at home and around your neighborhood before you go hiking, they take some getting used to! If you want a laugh, check out what most dogs will do the first time they try on their booties.
If you want to keep some weight out of your pack and instill a sense of self-sufficiency in your pup, try a dog pack. Your dog can carry their own gear and it provides a workout for them! This is especially useful on longer hikes and overnight backpacking trips when pack space is at a premium. Be sure to practice using the pack at home first. Get a correctly-fitted pack, and start with little or no weight. Slowly increase the weight and monitor how they’re reacting as it increases. After a few practice sessions, load up their hiking gear, buckle the straps, and start your adventure!
Extras That You Need
Always have poop bags! This is a must for good trail etiquette when hiking with your dogs (for more on dog trail etiquette check out our article, How to Responsibly Hike With Your Dog: 5 Tips for Safety and Trail Etiquette). Towels are also a packing essential for all of your water-loving adventure mutts out there. The good ‘ol shake-dry doesn’t quite cut it.
As a general safety rule, it’s always better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.
Consult your veterinarian prior to applying any medication or give treatments to your dog before you head out on your trip and go over your dog first-aid kit with them. For more information on dog first-aid kits, check out this piece from Outside Magazine.
A dog first-aid kit should always be with you when hiking with your dogs! Some basics to include in your kit would be hydrogen peroxide and an oral syringe (in case they eat something that’s poisonous and they need to throw up), latex gloves, tweezers or a tick remover, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin (the original without the pain relief, as that can make dogs sick!), gauze, scissors, and a towel or blanket. If your dog eats anything poisonous, having activated charcoal is a great option to give to your dog after hydrogen peroxide. Activated charcoal will absorb any toxins left in the body after they vomit. Consult your veterinarian on doses for hydrogen peroxide and activated charcoal prior to your trip. For more information on dog first aid kits, check out this piece from Outside Magazine.
If you’re hiking with your dog at night or around dusk, having a light attached to their collar or even a light-up collar is a great way to keep them safe in the dark! You’ll be able to keep tabs on them, as will your fellow hikers. Plus, it’s an additional light to illuminate the trail.
If you’re camping overnight, a travel dog bed and some of their favorite toys are great comforts for your pup. After a long day on the trails you can set up camp, sit by the fire, and drink a beer while your pup lounges comfortably, chewing on their favorite bone. Sounds like a perfect evening, doesn’t it?
Complete Packing List for a Day Hike with Your Dog:
- Compact Dog Bowl
- Dog pack
- Poop bags
- Towel / Blanket
- First Aid Kit
- Light for collar
- Toy / Bone
Just like you would pack a day bag for yourself and children, pack one for your fur baby as well! Being adequately prepared for a hike with your dog will give you peace of mind so you can fully enjoy the scenery and each other’s company. Keep this list on hand and you’ll always be prepared for a day on the trail with your dog. If you’re a frequent adventurer, have these items stowed away in your car so they’re ready to go anytime. Happy exploring!
Did we miss any of your go-to dog hiking items? Share below!
For our full list of tips for hiking responsibly with your dog (including when to leash up, when to turn back and how to do a post-hike health check) click here.