Dog Backpacking Checklist: Your Pooch Can Pack It In, Too!

Heading up into the high country to spend a few nights deep in the mountains with only the backpack on your back is nothing short of a life-altering experience. From traipsing up steep mountsides to pitching your tent next to trickling streams, you may go days without seeing another human.

If the idea of total solitude isn’t something you’re interested in, you may be considering taking your canine friend along for the trip. Inviting your dog on a backpacking trip will add considerably to the gear you need to bring along, meaning you’ll want to invest in high-quality bare necessities.

Pack it in, pack it out? Your pooch can pack it in, too!

Remember that if your dog is fit and healthy, they can carry some of their own gear as long as the total combined weight doesn’t exceed 10 to 15% of their body weight.

Because this isn’t an insignifcant amount of weight on their relatively small frame, you’ll want to put as much thought into choosing your dog’s pack as you did your own. There isn’t one pack that will suit all dogs, so it’s critical to take the time to measure your dog carefully when choosing the pack.

Ruffwear: Ruffwear is probably the gold standard of doggy adventure gear, and their packs come highly rated from almost any reputable review source.

Their canine packs are sturdy and well-padded, meaning your dog will not only be comfortable, but you don’t have to worry about your dog destroying your investment after a romp in the bushes.

The Palisades pack has two water reservoirs, meaning your dog can pack his own water. Another notable feature is a removable saddlebag system so you can unpack your dog’s gear at the end of the day and still have a harness to safely tether them in your campsite.

Bedtime will be everyone’s favorite part of the day!

Your snug backpacking sleeping bag will only sleep one, so don’t expect that your pooch will be able to cuddle in your bag with you. No matter how high in elevation you go, the temps are likely going to dip low enough that your dog will need a bed to keep warm, especially if you have a thin coated breed.

Ruffwear Highlands dog bed: Weighing in at a little over 1.5 pounds, the Ruffwear Highlands is a great choice for shorter backpacking trips. It packs up small enough that larger dogs could carry it in their own packs, but it won’t take up a lot of room in your pack, either.

The bag zips open wide for dogs who don’t like the feeling of being wrapped, but it also zips closed for dogs who don’t mind that feeling. It also has loops to stake to the ground if you are sleeping under the stars.

Hurtta Outback Dreamer sleeping bag: This bag was designed specifically with a dog’s natural sleeping position (curled up) in mind. The bag is lined with foil for optimal heat reflection without adding bulk to your gear.

The overlapped opening allows you to seal the bag closed to keep your dog as warm as possible. Because of its very thin material, the “small” size weighs only 0.5 pounds while the “large” size is just 1.5 pounds.

Chow time!

Aside from bedtime, meal times will certainly be your pooch’s other favorite part of the day. Rubber collapsing bowls add more weight and bulk where you don’t want any, but there are plenty of fabric collapsing bowls on the market.

Another bonus is these will store easily in your bear canisters if you’re camping in country with heavy bear activity.

Rad Dog Pocket Bowl: This ultra tiny bowl folds down to the size of a camera battery and weighs only 1 ounce. Fully unfolded, it holds 16 oz of food or water. This is the perfect choice if you’re backpacking on a thru-hike or like to get your pack as light as physically possible.

Ruffwear Trail Runner Ultralight bowl: In keeping with the “as light as possible” theme, this bowl is only 7 inches in diameter and holds 32 ounces of water. It is small enough to fold up into a backpack pocket or many of Ruffwear’s other backpacking gear.

Mountainsmith K9 Backbowl Packable dog bowl: This bowl has a one-of-a-kind snap-fit assembly that allows it to be folded or rolled into the tiniest, most compact bowl possible. It snaps together quickly into a square bowl shape and holds over a quart of water or dog chow while only weighing 2.5 ounces.

Rain, rain, go away

Your dog needs to be protected from the elements, too! If you’re stuck out on the trail on a rainy day, your pup is going to be just as miserable as you are if she is wet and cold on a muddy trail.

Hurtta Rain Blocker Eco Jacket: Unlike a lot of other canine rain jackets on the market, this coat has front leg protection, meaning the majority of your pup stays dry in even the strongest of deluges.

The hem on the back end covers their hindquarters but allows for full range of movement, and the high neck means rain doesn’t manage to slither under the fabric and into your dog’s fur. Reflectors in the collar makes for high visiblity in the cloudiest of conditions.

Ruffwear Sun Shower rain jacket: If you’re hiking in an area where you aren’t expecting anything more than a light drizzle, this vest-style jacket is non-insulated so it merely will keep your dog’s coat dry in warmer climates. A storm collar can be unfolded from the jacket for extra moisture protection in stronger rain.

Don’t forget to protect those tootsies!

When our own feet are protected by hiking boots, we forget that our pup’s paws can become tender on trails that may be covered in a layer of snow and ice, hot from relenteless sun, or covered in sharp rocks.

You may notice that the first few days are fine, but the more time you spend on the trail, the more sensitive their paws become. Carrying some protective boots for these days may very well mean the difference in having to end your trip early and getting to finish out your planned route.

Ultra Paws Rugged dog boots: These boots are known for being very simple to put on but harder to take off, so you won’t look back and see your dog is only wearing three boots. The closures are padded to prevent rubbing while the sole is designed to withstand even the most rugged situations–even mud!
Ruffwear Grip Trex boots: The flexibile soles of these boots are made with Vibram, guaranteeing a long-lasting boot that’s perfect for all sorts of hiking conditions, as well as running on concrete or asphalt when you get back to your regular routine.

A mesh-upper allows for air circulation while simultaneously preventing dirt and debris from entering the boot.

Your dog doesn’t need a ton of things for a comfortable and successful backpacking trip, but you should ensure that your dog has the minimum essentials so they have just as good of a time as you do on your adventures as a backpacking duo.

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Jackob Evans

Hi, I’m Jacob. I’ve been a professional blogger for over six years, and in that time, I’ve written countless blogs that have helped millions of people worldwide. A DVM by profession, I have treated and cured thousands of dogs, if not millions.

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