If there’s one thing that the folks at Therm-a-Rest HQ love as much as camping, it’s our four-legged friends. From conference rooms to trailheads, we love bringing our dogs everywhere we go. If you’re thinking of taking a backpacking trip with your own dog, we jotted down a few of our tips to help teach how to get started backpacking with your dog.

Know Before You Go

Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. It’s imperative that you research the rules for the trail and camps that you’ll be going on.

Pay special attention if you’ll be moving between areas cared for by different land managers. Moving between a state park and national forest may mean a different set of rules and restrictions for your pup.

If your dog must be leached the entire time, ensure that you have the proper length leads for time on the trail and at camp.

backpacking with a dog

Dressed For Success

Although your dog’s fur does a great job of keeping them comfy, there’s a few things they need before heading out into the woods.

Ensure that your dog’s tags are up-to-date and have multiple contacts in case they manage to get out of your sight.

It’s also a good idea to ensure that your dog has the proper tick and flea medication so that they come back from your backpacking trip happy, healthy and bug-free.

dog camping with leash and backpack on trail

Dog-sufficiency

If you’re going backpacking with your dog, where’s your dog’s backpack?

Most people’s first reaction is to begin stuffing their dog’s gear into their own pack, but there are quite a few companies that make very comfy packs so your four-legged friend can carry much of their own gear.

Make sure that they’re comfy with the pack before heading. Start with an empty pack on daily walks and slowly add more weight leading up to your trip.

Also, no one wants to encounter little stashed green bags of dog doody. When humans use blue bags, we pack them out. Fido needs to pack it out.

Boots Made For Walkin’

Any backpacker knows how good footwear and care can be the difference between backcountry bliss and dismal days on the trail.

Your pup’s feet are equally important. Make sure you have a set of booties or Musher’s wax to protect those sensitive paw pads. A sharp little bit of sap, thorn or sharp rock can quickly ruin your time in the woods.

Who’s A Good Boy/Girl?

Backpacking is supposed to be fun, right? So, if you usually pack some treats and downtime activities for yourself, make sure you’re bringing plenty for your dog too.

Treats not only keep them happy and energetic but can be great for some obedience encouragement if the psyche is too high or as encouragement for the perfect photo. Their favorite toy will also keep tails wagging after you’ve arrived at camp.

After You Enjoy the Sunset

Eventually, the sun will begin to light up the sky like a Thomas Kinkade painting. As the sun begins to set, there are a few things to consider before you slumber under the stars.

Add a small light to your dog’s collar so you can know exactly where they are once it gets dark. It’ll also help ensure they don’t spook any late-arriving campers.

When you’re setting up your sleep system, ensure that your dog will be comfy without sacrificing your own gear. Used a closed-cell pad like a ZLite to give your pup a warm and soft place to sleep while protecting your NeoAir or self-inflating pad from dog-nail punctures. They’ll also appreciate an extra quilt or blanket like the versatile Honcho Poncho or Stellar blanket to stay cozy on chilly nights.

Final Thoughts

Be sure that you and your pup always follow Leave No Trace principles and the rules of land managers. Although most people will smile when they see your dog working their way down the trail, always be respectful of others experiences in the backcountry. Hopefully, all these tips will get you and your pup started an incredible season of backpacking together.