We recently took my friend Adelle’s two dogs, Autumn and Norbert, backpacking. Autumn had gone with Adelle and I once before, but this was Norbert’s first trip. To be honest, we were quite nervous about how he would behave; he’s a beagle after all! He is easily led by his nose. Still, doesn’t he look excited?
Tip #1: Make sure your dog has a pack that fits well and that he is used to it. Admittedly, Norbert’s pack was too big, but he handled it just fine. Now that we know he can successfully backpack with us, he’ll get a pack more suited to his little body. REI carries a great selection of packs by REI, OllyDog, and others.
Tip #2: Bring more food and treats than your pets normally get. Just like humans, dogs burn more calories when carrying packs and hiking at higher altitudes. They need extra rest and extra food to help them sustain energy and keep going. This is also the reason dogs need their own packs: so they can carry their own food!
Tip #3: Consider a sleeping pad or jacket (or both!). On our last trip with Autumn, we realized she got colder at night than we thought she would. To combat the cold, this time around we made sure to have a lightweight sleeping pad for the dogs so that they too could be insulated from the cold ground at night. If your dog has short hair or a thin coat, then a jacket might also be a good idea.
Tip #4: Don’t forget the leash/bowl/water! Chances are, your camp will be near a creek, so taking the dogs to get water won’t be a problem. Still, if you don’t want them out of your sight and you don’t want to constantly be walking someone to the creek, get some creek water for them to have in camp when you gather your own water for the evening. Make sure you’ve packed (in their packs) a leash and a collapsible food bowl too.
Tip #5: Shoes are important for dogs too. Autumn and Norbert’s feet were fine on this soft-dirt trip, but some trips are more rocky and can cause dogs to have sore or injured feet. If you know your trip is going to include some rocky terrain (hiking 14ers, for instance) take shoes like these Ruffwear ones for your pooch.
Backpacking with your dogs can be a lot of fun. They’re entertaining in the evenings and seem to have a great time sniffing after marmots and rolling in the “new” dirt around them. Still, like children there are special considerations, and making sure that your pet is as comfortable as you means your trip will be hassle-free!