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How to Plan a Successful Camping or Backpacking Trip with Your Dog

Dreaming of a summer camping adventure with your pup? Adventuring with our dogs outdoors can be so joyful and enriching for everyone. You get to strengthen your bond and create fun memories, while your dog gets to experience new sights, smells, and sounds. 

Before you take the leap to camping with your pup, it’s important to be fully prepared with supplies and safety precautions. Here is our comprehensive guide to planning a successful camping or backpacking trip with your dog!

4 Things to Consider When Planning Your Camping Trip

While a spontaneous camping trip with your dog may sound fun, it’s super important to take a variety of factors into consideration to make sure that the trip is safe and enjoyable for you and your pup. Here are a few key things to consider when you plan your trip:

1. Your Dog’s Personality and Potential Challenges

The most important thing to consider before taking your dog on a camping or backpacking trip is whether your dog will enjoy it. It’s the first question I ask myself whenever I consider a new experience with my dog. 

While for some dogs, nothing could be better than hiking alongside their favorite human and sleeping in nature, other dogs may feel completely overwhelmed and unsafe in a camping setting. You know your dog best. If camping doesn’t suit your dog’s temperament or personality, it’s best to leave them with a dog sitter for your trip. 

Think about what kinds of environmental triggers your dog may be exposed to while camping. If you’re planning to camp in an established campground, you may be surrounded by small children, other dogs, loud people, bikes, music, generators, squirrels, golf carts, vehicles - the list goes on!  If your dog is reactive, sound sensitive, or doesn’t enjoy the presence of other people or dogs, a crowded campsite won’t be the best choice. Similarly, if you’re camping in a less established area, think about potential wildlife encounters and the risks associated with being further from civilization. 

Remember that while camping, your dog won’t have the comfort of routine or home to fall back on if they’re feeling overwhelmed. Always consider your dog’s feelings before you choose a destination. 

Dog in a tent

Cruz cozy in his tent. @cruzthecanine

2. Research Dog-Friendly Destinations

Not every trail or campground is pet friendly, so it’s important to research your destinations beforehand. Even the parks that are pet friendly may have specific rules and regulations for camping with your dog. Many national parks don’t allow dogs except on paved roads, so keep this in mind. 

Look into the leash requirements at every destination where you’re planning to camp, hike, or backpack. While your dog may be phenomenal off leash or on a long line, many campgrounds and trails require no longer than a 6 foot leash.

Depending on where you’re traveling, your destination may also require proof of up-to-date vaccinations for your dog. 

3. Your Dog’s Physical Condition and Health

If you’re planning a camping trip, remember that hiking and just being outside all day is physically demanding. You should consider whether your dog is in good enough physical condition for the trip that you’re planning.

If you’re not positive about your dog’s stamina, you may want to think about gradually increasing their exercise routine before your trip. Always keep your dog’s comfort and abilities in mind. Start with short hikes and slowly increase the distance and difficulty. Never push your dog beyond their physical limitations. Remember that dogs are experts in masking signs of pain or discomfort, so always be conservative.

4. The Climate and How You’ll Keep Your Dog Safe

Before you take your dog with you, consider what the weather and the temperature will be like at your destination. 

While individual dog’s heat or cold tolerances may vary, there are some situations that are unsafe for any dog, like dangerously high heat or frigid temperatures. These conditions put your dog at risk of hypothermia or heat stroke, and you need to take proper precautions to keep your pup safe.

Dog eating from travel bowls on a camping trip

Summit @youdidwhatwithyourweiner enjoys dining al fresco with the raised feeder bowls from @dexasintl

Essential Supplies to Pack for Your Camping Trip

Before you leave, make sure you pack all of the essential items that your dog needs to stay happy, healthy, and safe. Not only will you need your dog’s day-to-day essentials, but you’ll need emergency supplies as well. Your camping trip packing list should include:

  • Up-to-date vaccination records, including rabies 
  • Current identification tags on your dog’s flat collar
  • Phone number of your vet and a local emergency vet
  • Your dog’s food (we recommend packing extra and increasing your dog’s food intake while camping) 
  • Collapsible or portable food and water bowls
  • Poop bags
  • Blankets or a comfortable bed for your dog to sleep on
  • Towels
  • Grooming wipes
  • Paw balm or booties for sensitive feet
  • Paw wipes or paw cleanser 
  • Dog sunscreen (especially if your dog is prone to sunburn)
  • Comb or brush
  • Pet seat belt, car seat, or kennel (for car travel
  • East to clean, lightweight leashes and long lines
  • A comfortable, non restrictive harness
  • A GPS tracker for extra security (such as a Fi Tracker)
  • Pet First Aid Kit

Always travel with a pet first aid kit. You can purchase pre-made kits. At a minimum, a pet first aid kit should include: 

  • Any medications your pet takes 
  • Anti anxiety or anti nausea meds (check with your vet about what they recommend)
  • Tweezers to remove a tick
  • Benadryl (determine correct dosage based on your pet’s weight ahead of time) in case of insect bite or sting
  • An emergency muzzle
  • Gauze
  • Vet wrap
  • Rubbing alcohol
Dog on a long leash hike standing in front of a mountain view

Wren @loveandthedogs enjoys a panoramic view while hiking. 

7 Tips to Keep Your Trip With Your Dog Safe and Fun

1. Check In with Your Vet Before You Leave

A quick check-in with your vet will ensure your dog is healthy enough for the travel and exercise required for the trip. Make sure your dog is up to date on required immunizations for the area where you’ll be traveling. Your vet can also provide you with up-to-date medical and vaccination records that many campgrounds and other accommodations will require. 

If your dog were to get sick while you were away from home, especially if you’ve road tripped a long distance, it can be tough to find a vet with available appointments. Research and save contact info for the emergency vet closest to where you’ll be staying. If you may encounter rattlesnakes in  the area where you’re traveling, you may want to ask the local vet if they carry antivenom (not all will have it on hand). 

If your dog is known to have travel anxiety or car sickness, your vet can also provide anti-nausea or anxiety medication to help them feel more comfortable during travel. 

You may even ask your vet about having a calming sedative on hand in case of trauma, injury, or a stressful event. If your dog struggles with seasonal allergies, bring the appropriate medications. 

2. Keep Your Dog’s Safety in Mind

Keep your dog securely fastened inside the car while you travel, whether that’s with a kennel, car seat, or pet seat belt. Your dog should be comfortable enough to move around but securely fastened in the event of an accident. We provide lots more tips about safe car travel here.

While you’re out, you also need to make sure your dog is under control at all times. Even on off-leash trails, and even if your dog’s recall is typically rock solid, we always recommend keeping your dog on a long line when in an unfamiliar area. If you’re backpacking, there can be many unforeseen hazards, from wildlife to other hikers, and having your dog under control will keep you both safe. 

3. Provide Extra Hydration

Even if you’re not going for long, strenuous hikes, just being outside can increase the amount of water that your dog needs, especially in the heat. 

Always carry extra water with you, and make sure you have a portable water bowl for your dog to drink out of. Offer water frequently throughout the day. If you feed kibble, consider mixing water in for extra hydration. 

Never let your dog drink out of still water sources, like ponds or puddles.

4. Practice Before the Big Day

Just like your dog’s hiking skills need to be learned and improved over time, so do your dog’s travel and camping skills. 

Start small. Take your dog for short drives to make sure they’re comfortable in the car, and spend time outside to get your dog used to the sights and sounds of nature. Consider planning a camping trip close to home to “practice” for a night. 

5. Be Prepared for Trail Hazards

There are many unknowns that you may face while you’re in the great outdoors with your dog, and you need to be prepared for all of them. That includes knowing which plants your dog needs to avoid, knowing pet CPR and First Aid, and knowing what to do if you encounter a wild animal.

Here are a few common trail hazards to prepare for, but be sure to look up the wildlife and hazards most associated with the specific region you’ll be camping in. These could include:

  • Bears, mountain lions, or other large mammals
  • Rattlesnakes
  • Skunks 
  • Porcupines
  • Ticks
  • Foxtails or other hazardous plants 
  • Toxic mushrooms
  • Contaminated water
  • Other hikers and dogs
  • Heatstroke, hypothermia, frostbite, and other weather-related health conditions

We always recommend keeping your dog on a long line while hiking in an unfamiliar area or while you’re in camp. It keeps your dog, and everyone else, safe, while giving your dog plenty of room to sniff and explore. Check out some of these resources about choosing and using long lines: 

6. Keep Your Dog’s Paws Protected

Trails are full of unpredictable, rocky terrain, debris, and pests that can cause damage to your dog’s paws. Make sure your dog has some form of paw protection, whether that’s hiking boots or paw wax. Thoroughly check your dog’s paws before and after a hike for any signs of cuts or foxtails. If they look dry, cracked, or irritated, or if your dog is licking their paws more than normal, give them a rest day and monitor closely. 

7. Give Your Dog Plenty of Space to Sleep

Make sure that your tent is big enough for both you and your dog to sleep comfortably. This means your dog should have enough room to move around and sleep in their own space comfortably if they choose to. 

When shopping for a tent, consider your dog as another person, even if you think they may need less space than one. For example, if it’s just you and your dog, get a two-person tent. Bring along your dog’s regular bed so they’re cozy in the tent! 

Your dog will need a cozy place to rest throughout the day. Always make sure they have access to a comfy place to rest. 

Dog at a camping site

Plan for decompression time

If your dog is the right fit for a camping adventure, they’ll likely have a blast! But after your trip, they’ll also likely need to catch up on rest. Plan for lots of downtime and easy decompression walks for a week or so once you’re back home. Monitor your dog closely for any signs of illness or injury. 

Preparing well for your next camping trip will ensure you and your dog will have the time of your lives! Happy camping! 


Hugo @crystalsister enjoying lounging in camp.