It’s no secret that dogs make great companions, especially when enjoying the great outdoors. I have two pups at home, and they come with me on almost every camping trip I take. They are always by my side whether we’re hanging out at camp, hiking, swimming, snowshoeing or fishing, and I can honestly say they make these experiences much more memorable. I always recommend that people bring their pups camping with them, however it requires a bit of extra planning to ensure that you have an enjoyable trip. I’ve compiled a list of things you should know before camping with your dog, and adhering to these tips will ensure that your pup will be safe and have a blast.
First, check local rules and regulations to ensure that dogs are welcome at the campsite. Most established campsites and public lands do allow you to bring dogs, however many state and national parks don’t allow pets. Most campsites require that dogs stay on a leash at all times and some allow dogs to be unleashed as long as they obey voice commands. Always make sure you have a clear understanding of the rules regarding pets before you leave home. You should also check regulations for sites you will be visiting during your camping trip. Can I hike the trails with my dog? Are they allowed to swim in lakes or rivers? Can they be on the beach with me? Make sure that all activities you plan are dog friendly, you won’t be able to just leave your dog at the campsite.
Next, you need to decide whether or not it’s safe for you to bring your dog. Recently, I camped on some public land in Utah right at the ledge of a giant canyon. Our campsite was just a few hundred meters from the ledge of a huge canyon, and I decided it was best to leave my pups at home for their safety. My golden retriever loves to run off at full speed, and camping so close to a huge canyon posed a big risk for her. You’ll also need to consider the weather - will it be too hot or cold to bring my dog? Just like humans dogs can suffer from heat exhaustion and frostbite, so make sure the weather won’t risk your dog’s health.
Now that you’ve decided to bring your doggo camping, you’ll need to pack some essentials with you to ensure they are comfortable on the trip. Below is a short list of gear that I always bring for my dogs:
- Food and water. I measure out the exact quantity of food (plus one extra day just in case) I need for my entire trip to ensure I don’t pack too much. Don’t forget food and water bowls, I always bring collapsable ones as they take up almost no space. Bring some treats - dogs burn a ton of calories running around all day, so it’s important to feed them throughout the day.
- A long, tie-out leash. While hanging out at the campsite, I leave my dogs on a 30 foot tie-out leash. Having a long leash allows the dogs to roam around a little bit at the campsite while abiding to leash laws. Make sure to bring their regular leash as well for hikes and walks.
- A few old towels. These are great to clean up your dog at the end of the day, and they also double as a bed at night. Instead of bringing a bulky dog bed, I use towels (and sometimes stuff bags from my gear) to make a bed. It doesn’t take much to provide some extra warmth for your dog at night. If you’ll be cold weather camping, you may opt to bring a blanket or even an old sleeping bag. Yes, you can buy dog sleeping bags if you want to go that route.
- A light for their collar. As night approaches, you’ll find that it’s not as easy to spot your dog. I like to attach a small dog light to their collar to ensure I can spot them at nighttime. This gives me a lot of peace of mind knowing that if for some reason they run of, I’ll be able to see them.
- A dog vest. When my dogs are camping, they always wear a vest. It’s more comfortable for them when they are leashed up, and it also allows me to easily grab onto them when needed. This is great when you are on the trail and crossing a narrow bridge or rocky ledge, allowing you to grab onto them in case they are about to fall.
- Poop bags. Leave no trace applies to humans and canines!
Once you arrive at the campsite, you’ll always need to keep your pup in mind. They should be your constant companion who goes wherever you go. You shouldn’t leave your dog alone at the campsite, this can be dangerous for them especially if they encounter snakes, skunks or other potentially dangerous wildlife. It can also be a nuisance for neighboring campers if they are especially vocal. Even while at the campsite, keep a close eye on your dog to ensure they don’t stray off and get lost. When camping with my dogs, I’m constantly checking to make sure that they are by my side. Leashing them up gives you peace of mind knowing that they won’t run off, dogs can be very hard to find if they get lost in the wilderness. Below are some basic dog etiquette tips that you should abide by while camping:
- Keep your dog in your campsite. If local regulations require them to be leashed, then make sure they are on a leash. If leashes aren’t required, make sure they don’t wander into neighboring campsites. Be respectful of your neighbor’s space.
- Pick up after your dog. Hopefully you already know the importance of picking up after your pup. Just because you are outside and away from the city doesn’t mean you are exempt from picking up poop. Check out our blog post about Leave No Trace for more information.
- Your dog should sleep in your tent or car. My dogs always sleep in the tent with me - by the end of the day they are exhausted and sleep like a rock through the night. It also keeps my tent a bit warner. If you don’t think your dog will do well in a tent, then have them sleep in your car. Regardless of what you choose, this will protect them from unexpected nighttime encounters with wildlife.
- Leave the dog food in the car or a bear bin. Dog food can attract a wide array of wildlife, so make sure you don’t leave the food out all day, only take it out at feeding times.
Keeping all of the above in mind will ensure that you have a wonderful experience with your four legged friend. I highly recommend you try camping with your dog, it’s a great time for you both to bond. Some of my favorite memories with my dogs took place while camping, and whenever I camp without them it feels like something is missing. Do you have any other tips or advice for camping with your dogs? Let us know in a comment below!