Backpacking With Dog: 2022 Practical Guide

backpacking with dog

A hiking or backpacking trip with your dog can give your wilderness experience a whole new perspective. The way dogs are always cheerful and energetic is so captivating.

In addition, they can provide you with confidence when you’re walking a problematic section of the trail.

You can also take your dog backpacking if you enjoy camping with them, but know that a regular campground is not suitable for them. Some dogs thoroughly enjoy the challenge of getting back to their wild roots.

But not every dog will be so enthusiastic about returning to its roots. Having a canine companion with you on a hiking trip can be a very joyful experience, one you will cherish for years to come.

Backpacking With Dog: The Advantages

Exceptional Company

A dog can keep you from getting bored when hiking with someone else or in a group, whether you are walking solo or with a group of friends. A dog makes an excellent companion, and you can groan at them without feeling judged.


It can be tough to feel secure when you enjoy hiking alone, so having a companion will help you feel more confident. It is also possible that if something does go wrong, your dog may save your life.

Sleeping With Your Dog Keeps You Warm

Camping in cold weather can be uncomfortable for your furry friend, and you will both desire some warmth.

Having A Dog Around Is Enjoyable

Dogs are amusing, which is why so many humans desire to have them as companions. A bit of extra entertainment is always welcome when walking the trails.

Backpacking With Dog: The Disadvantages

Hiking and backpacking with your dog have its benefits, but it also has some disadvantages.

Carrying Extra Items Is A Necessity

Doggie backpacks let your dog carry food and water for themselves, but some dogs may be unable to do this, or they might simply not like it. If you want to make the trip lighter, you’d better ditch the extra layers you need or carry a heavy pack. These are not the best choices.

There Is No Way To Get Their Opinion!

You will not be able to make crucial decisions out in the wild, like eating that berry or heading north or south with your dog. 

Your Dog Won’t Be Able To Hike Everywhere

Depending on the time of year and the nature of the trail, dogs may not be allowed on specific routes. Also, several national parks do not allow dogs. So you need to check ahead before you go so you don’t get disappointed. However, there are plenty of dog-friendly backpacking trails.

Does Your Dog Need A Leash For Backpacking?

Before you dismiss one method or the other, it’s worth considering the following and using your best judgment as to how much you use a leash.

Does The Trail You Intend To Hike Require Dogs To Be Leashed?

There are various reasons why some trails require dogs to be leashed. For example, families with children may feel threatened by a dog that is unleashed on the trail. Or the rule may be in place to prevent runaway dogs from being injured by wild animals or moving into hazardous terrain.

How Do You Handle Your Dog When It Comes To People And Children?

It is pretty terrifying for small children if an uninvited dog enters their face, regardless of how playful and friendly the dog may be. You never know what people will think, and some may be okay with this while others may not.

When Your Dog Interacts With Other Dogs, How Does Your Dog Behave?

Even if you have the perfect pup, you can never be sure how other dogs will react to him. This is especially true if one dog is leashed while the other is not. What happens if your dog gets aggressive? Will he back off, or will he fight?

Do You Always Have Your Dog At Your Side?

Many dogs simply don’t care how many other people or dogs there are around. They are perfectly content trotting as close as they can to you. Likely, they won’t need a leash in this case. However, it is always wise to have a leash on hand just in case.

How To Train Your Dog For Backpacking

The same goes for our furry friends. They must become accustomed to long-distance hiking trips first, especially if they have not experienced them before.

You’ll want to wait until your dog is fully grown and ready to begin increasing exercise levels before starting a doggie backpacking training.

Consult your veterinarian if you’re not sure. If you have been given the green light, you should train your dog to backpack with the following actions:

Taking Part In Endurance Training

Begin your hiking adventure with a short hike. As the difficulty of the hike increases, increase the distance, and then over a few weeks.

Make sure you monitor their progress, then take them on an overnight trip when you are convinced they can handle the situation. In addition to keeping you warm at night, this will teach your pup a positive habit! Exercise isn’t the only thing you need to improve.

As you traverse rough terrain, you’ll need to toughen up their paw pads as well. As with fitness training, you’ll need to introduce different terrains slowly if your dog has just been stomping on soft grass in the park.

Exercises To Improve Agility

As your dog gets used to climbing up rocks and clambering on a controlled course, it’s a good idea to prepare them for challenging terrain like steep trails.

Put up obstacles in your backyard to see how you do with balance, strength, and agility. Ideally, you’ll already possess a good sense of spoken commands as a team, which will help reinforce those.

Acclimatizing To Water

You might have to cross rivers during your backpacking trip, so your pup needs to be comfortable in cold water and not afraid of running water. First, let them paddle through shallow brooks and streams before you embark on your trip.

Then, consider taking them deeper into the water to expose them to the cold. Even though dogs love being in the water, it is essential to ensure they are comfortable before you have to get into colder, faster water with which they are not pleased.

Dogs Carrying Packs

You should acclimatize your dog slowly to wearing a dog pack and carrying weight so that he can carry his own food and water on long-distance trips. Try wearing it around your house without placing any weight on it.

Adding weight slowly to your dog’s harness once you have gotten him used to it will help him become more comfortable wearing it. Most dogs are capable of carrying up to 25 percent of their own weight.

It is advisable to ask a veterinarian if you are unsure, as it depends significantly on the dog. It would be best if you also considered the duration of your hike with your dog.

While some dogs will be able to carry that much for a couple of hours, they may start struggling when hiking longer distances. You can gauge how your pup is by gradually adding carry weight and walking distance until you reach the carrying limit.

The Best Backpacking Trails For Dogs

Make sure your dog is legal on the trail you want to take him on before setting out with him. It’s essential to look for dog-friendly backpacking trails since some areas may not be dog-friendly.

After you’ve determined your pup is okay to trek with you, you’ll need to figure out what kind of challenges you might face along the way. Prepare for your hike by researching before you accept your adventure to know what to expect and how to prepare.

Dog-friendly backpacking trails should take the following factors into account:

Is There Shade?

Your pup’s time in the wild will be much more enjoyable and safe if you hike at times of the year when there are sections of shade.

Do You Have Access To Water While Hiking?

If you are going on a multi-day trip with your dog, be sure to stay hydrated. Whenever your dog cannot carry water, pick it up for him.

Ensuring The Water Is Safe To Drink

Just as we would never consume unfiltered or unpurified water, neither should your dog. Before letting your dog drink water from streams and lakes, filter the water if possible. If your dog is always on a leash, this shouldn’t be an issue.

However, taking them away from their leashes will result in complex monitoring as they drink from wherever they are. If you intend to hike in a body of water, learn what parasites and bugs may be present. Maybe it’s too risky, and it’s best to use an alternate route or area instead.

Does The Area Have Predators?

It’s best to choose a location where it’s unlikely your dog will encounter a wild animal if you want to let it run free. Keeping your hound leashed is the best way to guarantee that you gain an authentic wilderness experience. Finding out which species are most likely to be hanging out in your area will help you draw a clear picture of their presence there.

Plan Your Backpacking Trip

While you will find some trails much busier during peak travel periods and national holidays, others may not. It’s easy to get slowed down when hiking with a dog, especially if your pet is cute and gets lots of attention. During this time, your dog will need to be leashed.

Are Livestocks Present?

Farmers and landowners don’t hesitate to act against a dog if it poses a threat or bothers their livestock, which is an important topic to research.

While there are plenty of signs along the hike, you may come across herds of grazing cattle in some unexpected places. Taking good notes is essential here. Keeping your dog leashed is the best approach to hiking with them.

How To Prepare Your Dog For Hiking Or Backpacking

The same way we humans wouldn’t just feel free to go hiking for days without making a plan, our canine companions are no exception. So you must do more than train your dog for backpacking and get dog backpacking gear for him; you must ensure they are adequately prepared for hikes and backpacking as well.

Have A Backyard Campout

Make practice trips with your dog at local campgrounds, or camp overnight in your backyard if your dog isn’t accustomed to sharing a tent with you. Your dog will become comfortable with nighttime noises and the enclosed space of your tent, as well as learn what temperature he needs to stay warm and comfortable.

Microchipping Your Dog

You may want to consider getting your dog chipped if it hasn’t already been done for those headed out into wilderness areas. But, then, even if he does wander, you will be more at ease at the very least.

Dog Tags

Make sure that your dog’s harness or collar has an ID tag attached securely. Make sure the tag is printed and current. Adding a capsule to the tag may also be worth considering. In the capsule, you can include route details and contact information.

Dog Vaccination

Your dog’s vaccination history and where you are hiking will be significant factors in the decision. If you decide you’ll be traveling to an area, check with your vet to ensure that your dog has the appropriate vaccinations.

Dog Claws Should Be Clipped

It would not be so nice to have a sharp set of claws scrambling onto your sleeping pad if your dog comes to snuggle with you at night. In addition to protecting your tent floor, having your dog’s claws clipped will make his hiking experience more enjoyable if you are on rocky terrain.

Brush Your Dog’s Coat

If you’re entering an unfamiliar environment, it is crucial to ensure your dog’s coat is free from bugs and fleas. The same applies to grasses and seeds in your dog’s fur.

Taking Your Dog Hiking or Backpacking Requires Food

Finding out what your dog needs to eat can be a bit of a trial and error process, just like finding out what your own nutritional needs are when hiking. Correct nutrition for your dog on the trail cannot be based on right or wrong answers.

You know your dog’s requirements far better than anyone else. But, as a newbie, you’ll need a little guidance on what kind of food and how much food to pack for your pup if you’re going on a long-distance hike.

Whenever you transport dog food, you should ensure that it is light, packable in a container, high in calories, and easily digestible. If you are planning a day hike or multi-day backpacking trip, here are some things to consider when bringing dog food and treats:

Canine Food Types

When hiking the trail, it is not the time to experiment with new recipes and food combinations. Although this is true, you may not be able to carry all the food you usually feed your dog on a hike, or it may not provide adequate nutrition from a calorific standpoint.

It is important to transition your dog to the new diet at least a few weeks before you head out on a long-distance walk with him. The calorie content per ounce of food containing meat proteins, fats, and vegetables is higher than food that includes cereals and grains. Besides improving nutrition, it will also have a positive impact on health.


There is no universal formula for how much food dogs need when hiking, and finding the correct number can be difficult at first. Dogs need calories based on various factors, including how long the hike is, the terrain, the temperature, and the size of your dog.

Dog Treats

I’ve yet to meet a hiker who doesn’t constantly nibble on trail mix or snack bars as they hike. And that’s on top of mealtimes. So be sure to have some yummy, nutritious, and energy-filled dog treats at the ready to keep a spring in the step of your bounding hound.

Purina Beggin’ Strips Dog Treats

All Beggin’ recipes are made with real meat, giving your dog the good stuff he begs for in a tasty treat he will love. Whether your dog prefers bacon, peanut butter, or flavorful venison, he will enjoy tasting this exciting range of delicious flavors.

Milk-Bone MaroSnacks Dog Treats

To add a special touch to any moment, this tasty treat comes in fun shapes, sizes, and flavors. There are treats for every dog, from classic, crunchy biscuits to tender chews! These tasty treats feature quirky shapes and tasty flavors that will surely make your dog’s tail wag wildly!

Good’N’Fun Triple Flavored Rawhide Kabobs for Dogs

Using rawhide and pork hide, these chew treats are wrapped with real chicken liver, duck liver, and duck back fat to make a long-lasting, delicious chew that your dog will enjoy.

Contains real chicken, duck, and chicken liver. Excellent source of protein as well. Natural chewing helps to prevent plaque buildup and tartar buildup. It stimulates a dog’s natural urge to chew in a healthy and enjoyable way.

Dog Backpacking Gear

When your pup has developed an endurance level that fits well with your own, and you’re both ready to set out, all you have to do is ensure you have the proper dog backpacking gear.

Best Leash For Hiking With Your Dog

When hiking and backpacking with dogs, the type of leash you use is primarily determined by your preferences and what works best for your dog. Some types include:

Extendable Leash

This allows your dog to feel a little more free while on the leash. However, they can be bulky and not as strong as rope leashes when not in use.

Hands-Free Leash

The harness can be connected to the leash to ensure safety while hiking. Select one equipped with clips at both ends, so you don’t need separate belts for your backpack.

Rope Leash

Since rope leashes can withstand rough treatment in the backcountry, keeping your dog close at all times is essential when using one.

Shock Absorber Leash

If your dog pulls unintentionally, a little tension in the leash will help. As a result, your shoulder socket and your dog will be less at risk of injury.

Dog Pack

The idea of having to carry the food and water for your dog on top of all your gear is not ideal. A good dog pack for backpacking should fit comfortably. You should consider a dog pack with good padding, easy access pockets, and compartments.

It should also have a handle on top to lift or hold your dog quickly. You might want to consider a dog pack that is waterproof for rainy or snowy weather. A reflectorized dog pack is also ideal.

Dog Hiking Boots

You can help to keep your pet going for longer if you wear doggie booties while hiking in cold weather or if his paws are susceptible to cuts and abrasions. You should try them on short trips first, as he will probably dislike them at first. Your puppy’s paw pads will appreciate that extra bit of protection when you take the booties with you at the end of a long day.

Other Dog Backpacking Gear

To make every minute in the wild the most enjoyable moment of your dog’s life, he’ll also need a few other things!

Pet Paw Protection Wax

Booties aren’t appropriate for some dogs, so this wax-based cream is ideal for them. If you apply it just before taking your pup out, your puppy’s paw pads will be protected from rough surfaces, cold conditions, and abrasive surfaces. You can also use it to treat cracked paw pads and dried paws.

Cooling Vest

Cooling vests soaked in cold water can effectively reduce your pup’s body temperature if you are hiking in hot climates. In the vest’s interior, evaporative cooling mimics the cooling effect of sweat. The outer layer reflects the hot rays of the sun away.

Collapsible Dog Bowl

With these, you can clip your backpack to the outside and clip it on quickly and easily without adding much extra weight.

Collapsible Water Bottle

Your dog can carry more water in his pack if he has collapsible bottles. Furthermore, these bottles are much lighter and more compact once empty, which keeps your dog on its toes and hydrated as he gets tired.

Waterproof Jacket

A jacket may be helpful for long walks in cold and wet weather, particularly if your dog has short hair.

Sleeping Mat

You will need to provide your dog with some insulation in cooler weather. In icy conditions, you may also want to consider a blanket.

Lightweight Towel

If your pup is not wearing boots, you’ll need to get him cleaned up before you get into the tent. If you want your dog to stay clean and dry before it shakes all over your gear, make sure to bring a small microfiber towel.


If your dog is hiking without a pack, then you may want to consider using a harness instead of a collar. Some dogs find them more comfortable, preventing excess pressure on their necks. And a harness makes lifting your dog much more accessible.

Leave No Trace

You might think that animals are exempt from the Leave No Trace Principles. But, unfortunately, that’s not the case. Moreover, some of these principles apply even more if you oversee an animal in the wild.

If you are hiking and backpacking with dogs, here are the main things to remember:

Poop Disposal

It is essential to carry out the dog poop on day hikes. Bring two bags if you have to! Poop should be buried in a hole far away from water sources and trails on multi-day trips as if it were a human waste.

Respect Wildlife

Keep your dog on the trail and respect wildlife while hiking.

Respect Other Visitors

Keep in mind that not all hikers and trail users care about dogs as much as you do. Some are even terrified of dogs. So remember to keep your dog under control and to yield to foot traffic whenever possible.

Dogs Need First Aid Too! Here Are Some Tips

If you plan on hiking in the wilderness, you must have at least a basic understanding of doggie first aid. They can quickly get into pickles because of their natural curiosity and an insatiable curiosity for new smells and places.

But, of course, the most important thing is to prevent problems in the first place, so make sure you pack a dog-specific first aid kit. The easiest way to prevent potential mishaps is to control your dog to prevent it from running into dangerous wildlife or attacking other dogs.

Make sure that you check your pet for ticks every day. Ticks should be removed from dogs within 24 hours of them latching on to minimize the chances of transmitting diseases. Extraction of ticks is easy with tick keys.

Keep your dog well hydrated. Since they will most likely be painting the entire time anyway, it’s hard to determine the signs of dehydration. Always provide your dog with water when you can.

You will find it far easier to carry enough water for both of you if you choose a hike with running water you can filter. Having enough water for both of you is also far too heavy if you are hiking a long distance.

Knowing when to stop is crucial. With practice, you’ll learn to read your dog’s signals to indicate when he needs to take a rest. Should you be uncertain, you’ll notice that your dog has his tail down or tucked under, lying down, licking its paws, or reduced pace.

It can sometimes seem like dogs don’t know when to stop and keep going, despite how badly they are shattered. A day hike may be okay because they can relax afterward. During multi-day trips, you should encourage your dog to pace himself.

Hiking or backpacking with your dog is such a great way to let them just be dogs. Your doggie will love the trail as much as anyone else as long as you are prepared and use it respectfully.