Camping with dogs can downright double the pleasures of tenting out in the woods. Sharing the great outdoors with such a naturally enthusiastic creature can give you that extra energy for one more trail or getting up early (prompted by some pleading whines) to enjoy the sunrise view. Plus your pooch’s keener ears and nose may clue you in to phantom-like deer, a slinking fox, the footprint of a black bear—amazements you likely otherwise would have missed. Of course, your four-legged buddy needs his or her own supplies to make the joint camping adventure a safe and comfortable one. To make things easier for you, we’ve put together a checklist for camping with dogs. (We’re not discriminating against cats, mind you, but camping with felines is a bit more of a specialized pursuit, and in many situations isn’t advisable given Fluffy’s habit of preying on local fauna—and her vulnerability to being preyed on herself.) Before we get into actual dog camping gear, let’s quickly review some of the logistical considerations that’ll help dictate the where and how of your trip.
Once you’ve squared away the rules, regulations, and practical logistics concerning dogs at your camping destination, it’s pretty straightforward assembling supplies. Dog camping gear (like dog hiking gear) after all, is little more than your pet’s everyday essentials tweaked to campsite (and trail)-ready form.
Bring your dog’s normal food (including treats): Switching the diet up for the campground won’t be great for his digestion or, often enough, his behavior in an unfamiliar place. On a backpacking outing, remember you'll probably be increasing your dog's daily caloric intake on account of the increased energy expenditure, just as you do with your own meal plan. Verify the water availability at the campground and plan accordingly. Some owners allow their dogs to drink freely from streams and lakes, but keep in mind that (as with people) they may contract an illness such as giardiasis or leptospirosis this way. Treating your dog’s water as you do your own is the safest bet.
Along with food and water bowls for the campsite, bring a handy-dandy collapsible bowl or a dog-friendly water bottle for on-the-go trailside hydration.
First-aid materials are just as important for Fido as they are for you. A camping trip, after all, comes rife with opportunities for a dog to get into trouble: from thorns in paws to tangles with critters. Along with standard items such as hydrogen peroxide, tweezers, and bandages, consider packing your preferred tick and flea repellent as well as Tecnu, used to treat exposure to poison-ivy and poison-oak (and remove skunk oil!). Speaking of, inspect your dog regularly for ticks and be cognizant she may pass such parasites—not to mention a poison-ivy/oak rash—on to you if you’re not diligent.
Be sure your dog’s collar has its accurate and legible I.D. tag, and add a temporary additional one with the name and location of your campground and your campsite number, in case the dog goes wandering. Backpackers especially should think about purchasing a GPS beacon for their dogs as well.
Make sure your dog's up to date shots-wise, and bring along a copy of his medical records. Find out the number of a local veterinarian in the region you’re camping in, too, in case of major injury or illness.
Be considerate of others at a campground or on a trail just as you are on your neighborhood streets: Clean up after that pooch! If you're backpacking, treat dog poop the same as the humankind, following Leave-No-Trace methodology by burying it in a hole well away from trails, campsites, and water sources. (You can learn some other sturdy Leave-No-Trace dog tips at the Pacific Crest Trail Association's website.)
Bring several leashes along: a long one for the campsite, a short one for walks and hikes, plus a backup or two. (A rope—which, of course, every camper should have in his or her arsenal—can double as a temporary replacement leash in a pinch.) Pack extra stakes for readymade leash anchors.
Sure, you'll probably be able to round up a stick for fetch purposes, but be sure to throw some of your dog's favorite toys in with your camping gear for campsite downtime.
Like it or not, your dog’s going to get dirty camping: muddy, dusty, sandy, soaked—heck, probably all of the above. Have towels on hand to dry him off and clean him before he gets in your tent or your vehicle.
What’s the best tent for camping with dogs? Well, a roomy-enough one, of course, which depends on the heft of your dog and just how cozy you can tolerate things. Some trial-and-error may be involved in terms of finding a model that fits your dog in terms of space, accessibility, and layout. A reminder: It’s not a good idea to leave your dog leashed outside at night, given the potential for tangles with wild animals.
Your dog will appreciate her own sleeping pad. In cooler weather, bring along a sleeping bag for her as well. Laying a tarp under your dog’s bedding gives her more insulation and keeps the inside of the tent that much cleaner.
If you plan on doing a lot of hiking with your dogs, or you’re camping amid rough terrain, you might consider bringing some booties along to protect those paws.
Depending on the breed and size of your dog as well as the ambient conditions, you may want to bring along a coat or vest for thermoregulation purposes while outdoor adventuring or lounging around a chilly campsite. In hot weather, a water-soaked vest or a cooling collar can help your scruffy sidekick beat the heat.
Why should you be hauling all of your dog’s snacks and water on the trail? Outfitting her in her own backpack is an excellent idea if you’ll be hiking a lot or if you’re backpacking. Naturally you’ll want to ease the dog into the practice before the actual camping trip, and you need to consider her load capacity. (You can learn more about packs for dogs in this comprehensive REI writeup or in this great dog hiking guide by Jenn and Scott from MYOpenCountry.) Hey, maybe you can muster your canine companion into toting some of those Mountain House meals along…