Should you take your pup camping? Absolutely—camping with dogs can be a lot of fun! Not sure what to pack or how to prepare for your trip? No need to worry, we’ve got tips for camping with dogs that will ensure you all enjoy the adventure. With a little preparation, you and your furry travel companion will be enjoying a beautiful night in the great outdoors.
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Tips for Camping with Dogs
What to Pack
Gear can make or break a camping trip, but that doesn’t mean you need everything under the sun. Here are some of the basics to keep you and your dog comfortable and safe without going overboard.
If your pup is a medium-sized dog or larger, you’ll probably want to size up your tent. Think of your dog as another person, especially if he sprawls out to sleep. Two humans and one dog? Consider a three-person tent. One human and two dogs? Cool Whip and Hercules each weigh about 70 pounds, and they typically curl up like donuts, so the three of us fit in a spacious, two-person tent.
As an accessory for the tent, bring a sheet or blanket to spread out on the floor. Your dog’s claws can poke holes in the tent, and the sheet will protect the floor and also makes it easy to shake out any dirt or grass you track inside.
Just like you, your dog will enjoy soft, cozy place to sleep. Look for a dog bed or sleeping bag made for the outdoors. These beds and sleeping bags are typically more durable and water-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about it getting damaged with some rugged use.
If you’re hiking to your campsite, be conscious of the weight and size of your gear. Neither you nor your dogs want to lug around a heavy backpack! While there are a lot of options for dog camping gear, not everything has to be dog-specific. My go-to dog bed for camping is a regular inflatable sleeping pad.
Cool Whip and Hercules used to beeline for my half of the tent that had the puffy sleeping pad. I learned quickly their lightweight dog beds weren’t cozy enough. Now, I pack two inflatable sleeping pads (one for me and one for them) that each pack down to the size of a soda can. They’re lightweight and easily fit in my backpack or Herc’s, which leads to our next type of gear…
Leashes and Backpacks
Most campgrounds require dogs to be on a leash at all times, so a zip line gives your dog a little freedom while still keeping him safely leashed at your campsite. Plus, your hands are free for other activities, like making s’mores!
READ MORE ⇒ Make A Zip Line For Your Dog
If you’ll be hiking dog friendly trails, consider getting a backpack for your dog. Your dog can help carry some of their own supplies and it gives some dogs the sense of having a job to do. Not sure what backpack to pick? We’ve got you covered with our guide to picking the best backpack for your dog.
Food and Bowls
It’s not always convenient to bring the whole bag of dog food when you’re camping with dogs. Instead, look for a kibble carrier. There are roll-top dry bags and other sorts of containers designed to make it easy for transporting dog food. Or go basic—I like to pack my dog food in a 15-quart, clear plastic bin. In fact, that’s how I pack a lot of my gear, because it’s easy to see what’s inside, they stack well, and they keep everything organized in the car.
Next, leave the ceramic food dishes at home—probably not the best thing to bring into the wilderness. Pick up metal or plastic dishes that won’t break. Or, even better, get bowls made from flexible, collapsible materials that are also easy to pack in your hiking or backpacking pack. Bonus: You and your dog will have extra room for snacks!
First aid kit – Accidents happen, even on vacation. In addition to standard first aid gear, include your pet’s medical records, contact info for you and your vet, a recent picture in case they get lost, hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting of harmful ingestions, Benadryl for allergic reactions, and self-cling bandaging tape (vet wrap).
Lighting – Think headlamp, flashlight, LED collar, etc. These items are good for safety’s sake and in case your pup needs a late-night bathroom break or if you’re staying outside to watch the stars.
Treats – Reward good behavior, especially if it’s your first camping trip or when you’re encouraging them to pose for what seems to them like the millionth photo.
Waste bags – You can never bring too many poop bags. Always pick up after your pet, plus these are great for picking up trash you come across that you don’t want to touch with your hands.
Treats – Oh, did we mention this already?? Whoops! Better add another bag, just in case. ;)
Gear for inclement conditions – It isn’t always 65 and sunny, so be sure to check the forecast and pack accordingly. The same goes for the terrain; consider packing dog boots to protect paws from hot pavement or rough trails.
READ MORE ⇒ Which Dog Boots Are Best For Your Dog?
How to Prepare for Camping with Your Dog
Test out your gear before you leave home: Set up your tent, pack your backpack, practice making your zip line, etc.
Do a practice night out in your backyard, at a nearby campsite, or even in your living room. The goal is to make sure your dog is comfortable in the tent. You don’t want to be out in the wilderness or hours from home only to find out your pup is scared of the sound the tent fabric makes in the wind.
The same concept applies to campfires and your dog’s backpack. Make sure your dog is okay with the experience at home before you’re in a place where everything is new to them.
Assess your own gear as well if you’re trying anything new. Is your sleeping pad comfortable? Is your backpack too heavy with the extra dog gear? Sort it all out at home to avoid surprises when you set off on your trip.
Where to Go
There are many options for camping with dogs, whether they be state parks, national parks, or private parks—it doesn’t matter. Even parks that have minimal pet-friendly trails usually allow dogs in the campgrounds. So, you can still enjoy time outside with your dog even if you’re not hiking.
READ MORE ⇒ Pet Friendly Campgrounds at National Parks
If you’re seeking a place with fewer people, check out national forest campgrounds. National forests, along with national grasslands, often have primitive campsites (pit toilets and no electricity) that operate on a first-come-first-served basis. These areas and BLM land may also have dispersed camping options.
Camping With Minimal Investment
By now you might be worried that camping with your dog is going to require a major investment in gear. Especially if you don’t know if you or your dogs will enjoy it.
Luckily, you can start out by finding inexpensive gear at yard sales. Or rent equipment the first time. REI stores sell used gear and also rent it. Outdoors Geek will ship rental gear to you. And some colleges and universities have outdoor recreation clubs (like Cornell Outdoor Education) that rent gear to the general public.
Just remember. If you rent equipment, you are responsible for returning it clean. Make sure you have a good plan for cleaning up pet hair as well as human dirt and messes.
However and where ever you decide to go camping with dogs, the most important part is to relax and have fun!
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