8 Tips for Backpacking with Dogs

8 Tips for Backpacking with Dogs

Guest Post by Anne Handschack

Backpacking with dogs can either be very fulfilling or very stressful. Proper planning is essential to avoid unnecessary hiccups along the way, especially if you’re backpacking with your dog for the first time.

Whether this is your first trip or one of dozens, keeping your dog happy and healthy while on the trail can be a logistical challenge. Take a look at our tips below for everything you need to know about backpacking with dogs.

1. Upgrade Your Leash

Most parks require that your dog remains on a leash at all times. However, your everyday leash probably isn’t going to cut it. Instead, you’ll need to invest in a harness and durable leash. While walking your dog with a collar around the neck for a few miles isn’t a big deal, you don’t want to be tugging on their neck all day.

To avoid injuries and discomfort, a harness is a must.

Many leashes are not designed for hiking and outdoor trails. In these cases, you’ll need to purchase a heavy-duty leash that can withstand the elements a bit better. We recommend bringing a spare as nicely, just in case.

2. Train Before You Go

Truthfully, only well-trained dogs should be taken backpacking. Otherwise, your canine may be a bit too much to handle, which can lead to stress and even accidents. If your dog isn’t well-trained, it can be challenging to keep them safe.

Therefore, be sure to train your dog in basic commands before you hit the trail. Preferably, your dog should have a reliable recall, which helps ensure that your canine will come back should they get off their leash. However, this command can be complex for all dogs to master, so it is possible to skip it.

That said, walking on a leash correctly is a skill that you can’t skip. After all, you don’t want your dog dragging you around everywhere.

3. Check the Rules Before You Go

While many parks allow dogs, others don’t. Some only allow dogs in certain areas. Therefore, you need to carefully check to ensure that the park you plan on visiting is welcoming to dogs. Otherwise, you may end up accidentally breaking those rules – or showing up only to be turned away.

Usually, the rules around dogs can be found on the park’s website. However, you can always call and ask as well.

4. Practice

If your dog has not been hiking much before, a backpacking trail is likely to be too difficult for them. Like people, dogs need to build up their stamina to tackle longer hikes. Therefore, it is crucial to train them before you go on your trip.

In the same vein, you don’t want to expose your dog to the wilderness for the first time on your trip. Preferably, hiking in the wilderness should be old news for your dog when you take them backpacking. Otherwise, they may be a bit overwhelmed and incapable of completing the trip.

5. Don’t Forget First Aid

When you go backpacking, you likely remember to bring first aid stuff for yourself. However, you should also bring a first aid kit for your canine. Otherwise, you may find yourself out of luck when your dog gets injured.

We recommend having various items in your first aid kit, including gauze, bandages, adhesive tape, cotton balls, hydrogen peroxide, and antibiotic spray. These should cover most minor injuries. Of course, a vet visit will be needed for severe injuries.

You should keep this first aid kit with your dog at all times.

6. Take It Slow

Even dogs with previous experience may run into hiccups on their journey. Be sure to take it slow and listen to your dog; if they are panting far more than usual, then it may be time to stop for a break. Remember, dogs don’t sweat, so your only sign that they’re tired will be their breathing.

If it is hot outside or the hike is challenging, you’ll likely need to take more breaks. Heatstroke can occur without enough water and hiking breaks, so this situation is quite tricky.

7. Offer Lots of Water

While dogs don’t sweat, they still need a lot of water to stay happy and hydrated. You should ensure that you bring your dog’s bottle and a bowl for them to drink from. They make collapsible bowls, which can be very useful when you have limited space. You also have to consider a bottle designed to let dogs drink directly out of it.

Either way, be sure to offer water regularly. Your dog can’t exactly ask for it, after all. Therefore, the only way to know if they want it or not is to offer.

8. Pack Light, but Well

Packing for a backpacking trip can be a little bit complicated. On the one hand, you want to pack light to don’t have to carry much stuff. However, on the other hand, you don’t want to forget anything necessary. You can’t just leave everything at home, after all.

When you’re bringing a dog along, it automatically means that you will be bringing more stuff. As you might imagine, this also means a heavier load for you – unless you use a doggie backpack to have them carry some of their stuff.

Either way, carefully consider what items to bring, since you don’t want to carry more than necessary.

You will need dog food, a first aid kit, and a collapsible bowl. Be sure to bring reflective clothes if you’ll be out during hunting season. However, you can probably leave the majority of your dog’s stuff at home.


Bringing your dog along on a backpacking trip can be stressful if you don’t plan accordingly. It is essential to check the area out before you go, ensuring that your dog can legally be there, anyway. You’ll also need to consider what you’ll pack for your dog. While some items are a must and others are unnecessary, a few fall in the middle.

With the proper planning, a backpacking trip can be both fun and stress-free (or, at least, as least stressful as possible).

Solo Trekker 4 U: For more ways to vacation with your dog or take day trips, see:

How to Plan a Solo Fishing Trip with Your Dog

Dog-Friendly Travel Destinations

Traveling with Your Dog

5 Tips on How to Travel with Your Dog


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