How to Go Backpacking With Your Dog

When you explore nature on foot, you’ll be amazed at the inspiring sights and the energy you’ll have — even when you’re lugging some pretty heavy weight on your back. Backpacking is as therapeutic as the time you spend camping, and perfect for exercising. So it may make sense to bring your four-legged friend with you on those backpacking trips.

You get a sense of calm and joy when you’re around your dog. Why not bring him along to explore the wilderness with you? Backpacking with your dog could also be safer; you’ve got instant protection by your side. And when you’ve camped for the night, a dog keeps you company.

But how do you backpack with a dog? And is it even safe for the dog to go hiking on those lengthy trails?

Before Backpacking With Your Dog

Don’t head out with your backpack just yet, putting dog on a leash. You must see if your pet’s ready for the wilderness. Cover the basic concerns before tackling the worrying situations in which you may find yourself asking “how long can a dog go without water and food?”

Start with the following steps:

Take your dog for day hikes

If you take an hour or so hikes on some mornings, bring the dog. Treat it as training pre-marathon for your pet because they may not be used to long, long walks. Hikes can mean serious mileage and your dog may not be ready for it. If your dog starts to drool or pant and appears lethargic, that pooch is dead tired. You’ll know just how far they can go. Get your dog acclimated to long hikes before taking him on a backpacking trip.

But how many miles can a dog hike?

The average fit dog can hike up to 10 miles. These tend to be reserved for larger breeds that love to hunt and run, like Labrador Retrievers and Huskies. If you’ve got a wide, small-legged dog, like a British bulldog, the mileage capability shrinks to more than half.

Make sure your dog follows your lead

Your dog must be obedient. Otherwise, backpacking with your pet could be frustrating. They may be OK with the usual backyard play and pay attention to you when you yell, “Stop!” or “No!” In the wild, all sorts of distractions can test your dog’s obedience.

It’s also unfamiliar surroundings, so your pet may not be so inclined to obey your commands. When a deer or a chipmunk is spotted, you’ll want your dog to not make a run for it and leave you in the wilderness.

Train your dog to carry stuff

If you want to use your pet to help load some of the stuff, train them during those long hikes. Fit them with a harness and empty pack, just so they get used to those things while they walk with you. On the next few days, start adding bits into the pack, like a first aid kit, a water bottle and some clothes.

Your dog’s hiking backpack should weigh no more than 25 percent of your pet’s weight. Weigh your dog, and you’ll know just how much they can help you with your load.

Let your dog get used to camping gear

A tent isn’t a big deal to you, but this unfamiliar structure could be scary. So test it out at home. Pitch a tent indoors and let your dog sniff it, check it out and sleep in it for a while. Test out the tent you intend to bring for the backpacking trip.

Learn about trail regulations

Some parks may be closed to dogs, so you can’t hike with your pet. The easiest way to narrow down your options would be to search for “dog friendly hikes near me.” Make a short list of those trails. Learn about each one, making sure to pick ones that are easy for your dog to explore. Make the backpacking experience as pleasant as possible for your dog, so you can take them again.

Find out if the hiking spot has regulations on dog leashes. If you’re in the habit of letting your dog run free, this may not be allowed in the park.

Once you’ve taken your dog through the training and acclimation, and you’ve picked the backpacking destination, organize your gear.

dog outside
Photo by Spencer Gurley from Pexels

What to Take When Backpacking With Your Dog

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when packing for this trip because you’ll be packing for you and your dog. Yes, your dog needs to have their stuff as well. One way to pack would be to do yours first; you probably already have some stuff in your pack. When you’ve squared away your gear, focus on your dog’s essentials.

Dog Sleeping Bag

Since it’s your dog’s first time out in the wild, a tent of their own may not be a wise investment. They may not use it because they’d want to be next to you. But if you want your dog to have their own space in the tent, bring a dog sleeping bag. It’ll keep them snug and warm when the temperature dips at night.

Poop Bags and a Trowel

Follow the “leave no trace” principle, and pick up and pack up your dog’s poop. You can also, like human poop, bury them in cat holes. Never leave them on trails exposed or packed.

Food, Treats and Water

Your dog’s going to burn calories walking several miles. So they’re going to get hungrier and thirstier than usual.

Grooming Tools

These could be as simple as a towel to wipe off mud, scissors or brush to remove debris from their fur. If your dog is especially furry and likes to explore, grooming tools are essential to the dog camping gear.

First Aid Additions for Your Dog

Aside from the usual items in your first aid kit, add a tweezer and a balm for your dog. Tweezer to remove ticks and balm to moisturize your dog’s pads. You’ll also want to check with your vet for medication you may need to bring backpacking with the dog.


What could be a better playground than the great outdoors? So bring your dog’s favorite toys and have loads of fun.

Share the peace and joy backpacking brings you with your beloved dog. Prepare your pet well. Choose the right hiking spots. And bring the necessary to make your outdoor experience a positive one.

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