The most frequently asked question I receive from my followers is how I plan and execute our many camping trips with my dog. Camping season is just around the corner (if not already here for some!) so I wanted to share the advice I've been given to all of you!
Hi, my name is Miranda and my dog's name is Loki (@mirandashea24). We live in Utah where there are many different camping possibilities. Today I'm going to cover the differences between car camping and backpacking. There are many similarities between the two, but I'll give you the guidelines to planning your camping trip with your dog, whether you're driving in or hiking in.
1. Do your research!
When I was a kid, I thought you could roll up anywhere and stake your tent into the ground without following any rules. You are, after all, in the wild, where rules don't exist, right? Wrong. We are adults here and it's so frustrating to find out so many adults think this way. So the first thing I want you to do when you decide to go camping is to actually put the thought into it.
Make sure where you're going allows dogs!
2. Be prepared!
Every camping trip is different but for every one you are going to want to stick to some basic guidelines:
- Bring a first aid kit.
- Check the weather.
- And lastly, make sure your dog can handle being in a tent.
My tip to people camping with their dog for the first time is to set up their tent in their living room or yard and give it a couple hours to see how their dog handles it. Don't force your dog in, let them come in on their own. Let them know it's a safe and positive place to be.
3. Make a list and check it twice.
This is not just for Santa, because I can't tell you how many times I've made a packing and to-do list and then still completely forgotten about some things. Fun fact: The number one thing we forget? Pillows.
Now, back to your dog. I've already covered that you should bring a first aid kit, but let's go over what else they need.
- Food: Believe it or not, I've made the rookie mistake of forgetting this one. Good thing we had a store on the way to our destination. I always pack extra kibble than their normal servings, because we always have physical activities when we camp. The more energy they exert, the more food they will need to replenish. When backpacking, obviously you want to keep weight in mind. If you're going on a multiple day trip, your dog is spending a lot of energy and therefore will need more food. At that point you might want to look into lighter options, like dehydrated food. Also, don't forget the dog bowls!
- Water: Again, another basic, but super important. I can't tell you the number of people I meet on the trails that didn't pack water for their dogs. I've even fallen prey to underestimating the amount we'll need. When car camping, if there is not a source of water around, I bring double the amount of water I think we'll need. I'm in a car and don't need to worry about that extra weight. But when backpacking, there is no way I want to haul the amount of water that two 70 pound mutts need, plus the water for myself. True, I could make them carry it themselves, but we'll get into that in a minute.
For us, we always plan our backpacking trips around water sources. After all, our favorite place to backpack in Utah has an ample amount of lakes and rivers. We bring a water filter, but usually these places are safe for dogs to drink from. Just don't let your dog drink from puddles with standing water.
- If you want your dog to help carry the weight, you can invest in a dog backpack. Keep in mind though that your dog's pack should never be over 25% of your dog's weight. It is also a good idea to practice with it beforehand, keeping it light at first and adding in a bit of weight as you go.
- Bring their leash and collar/harness. Even in the backcountry, if your dog is trail trained, you should still bring a leash to restrain them in case of any danger. It's also smart to keep their collar on a way to identify them, in case something happens and they get separated from you.
- Treats: Some people will say this isn't a necessity, but Loki will tell you they are wrong! Treats assist in rewarding good behavior, in keeping their attention when you want it, and in adding extra fuel and replenishment. Take it from Loks, treats are a must.
-Something for your dog to sleep on: Most dogs like to have their own spot. When we car camp, we bring our trusty Wilderdog sleeping bag. That's Loki's safe place and where he likes to relax when we set up camp or sit by the fire. When backpacking, again we're keeping weight in mind, so he has a designated lightweight blanket he loves.
- Poop bags. Because nobody wants to step in that.
4. Lastly, always, ALWAYS follow leave no trace guidelines. Only camp in areas where camping is allowed. In the backcountry, try to camp in a spot that's already been made into a campsite and don't create a new one. PACK OUT WHAT YOU PACK IN and a little extra. If somebody has left a mess, you could say "not my problem", but I like to think we're bigger than that. Always pick up after your dog. It is your responsibility as a dog owner, and a decent human being, to leave your campsite (and our trails) clean.
Alright, now you are packed and prepared! Hopefully you know how to pack for yourself. If not, feel free to message me on Instagram over at @mirandashea24. Now grab those puppers, and maybe some marshmallows, and get out there!