Hiking 101: Must-Have Gear for Your Dog

Hiking 101: Must-Have Gear for Your Dog

Whether it’s your first hike with your dog or you're a seasoned pro, we know that gear matters!  Even if you and your pup have traveled many trails together, it’s likely you’ve found yourself forgetting something a mile down the path. (We’ve all been there!)

Not to worry, we've got you covered! We'll dive into the benefits of hiking with your dog, pre-hiking preparations you'll want to consider, and we’ll share the ultimate dog hiking list. You can use this handy packing list to make sure you have all the essentials for your next adventure with your four-legged best friend! 

The Feel-Good Benefits of Hiking

When we think of the benefits of hiking, we usually think of the physical advantages, like breaking a sweat, moving our legs, and getting some uphill in.  But what often gets overlooked is the healing impact hiking has on your mental and emotional health. A study done at Stanford University revealed that walking in nature (vs. urban areas) can decrease stress, anxiety, and even depression1.

The restorative effect of spending time outside has coined the name "nature therapy," and programs are popping up around the country. These programs range from adventure therapy, which includes more extreme outdoor activities like rock climbing, to wilderness therapy, which focuses on simply spending time hiking out in the wild.

Hiking is the ultimate gateway to disconnecting from work, unplugging from technology, and focusing on your surroundings. No WIFI means no checking up on emails, no social media notifications distractions, and ultimately, no worries (right?). Mindfulness and being present in the moment is always a welcome reset, and there is no better place to do that than on the trail

Hiking is not only good for dog owners but your dog as well. Exercise, mental stimulation, and strengthening your dog's bond with you are just a few benefits hiking has for your pup.

Pre-Hiking Considerations

When it comes to hiking with your dog, having your gear in order is just one way to prep for the miles ahead. Here are a couple of essential things to consider before packing your backpack and heading down the trail.

Plan Ahead

It's wildly important to plan ahead before you go on any hike – with or without your dog. This includes telling someone where you're headed and how long you plan to be gone. Look at the weather forecast ahead of time and decide if your dog can tolerate the heat or cold. Plan not to have cell phone service, and make sure to print out a map of the area. Phones can run out of battery much quicker trying to find service as well, so a downloaded map on your phone is not a guarantee. Also, since you and your pup will be getting in some good exercise, it's important to pack plenty of water and snacks. For humans, the general rule is about one half-liter of water per hour for moderate activity in moderate temperatures. Hotter temps, higher elevations, and more extreme activity will call for more water. Dogs' water needs will vary depending on their fitness levels, age, fur, etc. Make sure to always carry more than enough water for you and your pup every time you set out on an adventure.

Trail Tip: If your dog is running from shady spot to shady spot, it’s probably too hot, and they're likely dehydrated. Make sure to plan for stops to give your dog ample water breaks and don’t be afraid to turn around and head home if it’s not the right day for a hike.

Go at Your Dogs Pace

It's undeniable that dogs make the best trail companions, but starting out, hiking might take some getting used to for your dog. It's important to try some short hikes first to gauge how tired your dog gets before adding more miles. Even though your puppy might have a lot of energy, they might not be able to keep up with you on the trail after zooming around for the first hour. 

The same goes for older dogs - pay attention to their pace and make sure that their joints are feeling good enough to continue.

Look-up Trail Regulations

Not all trails are dog friendly, so be sure to research your desired route before heading out. Many trails will require your dog to be on a leash at all times, while others might not. If planning a trip to a National Park, you might be surprised that most parks don't allow dogs at all. You can find trail regulations on national forests, state forests, or local parks websites.

Practice Good Trail Etiquette

Practicing good trail etiquette ensures that trails remain dog-friendly and that everyone recreating has an equally great experience. This means knowing who has the right of way, making sure your dog respects others' space, and leaving no trace. You can learn everything you need to know about trail etiquette when hiking with your dog when clicking here.

Leave No Trace

When hiking with our dogs, we are responsible for them and, yes, their poop. It's important to pack out your dog's poop, and although it's tempting to leave your bag on the side of the trail to pick up later – it's not the best practice. If you don't want to carry your dog poop bag in your hand for the duration of your hike, we have the perfect solution in our gear list below.

The Ultimate Hiking Gear List For Dogs

Dog Backpack

There are several reasons to opt for a dog backpack when trekking. First, dogs can carry their own gear in their backpack, leaving more space in yours for whatever you might need. Second, dog backpacks with a top handle ensure that you can keep your dog close to you when encountering others on the trail or a squirrel.

Trail Tip: Don’t overload your dog with gear in his backpack. The general rule for what dogs can carry is about 10% of their body weight. You’ll want to work up to that weight as well.

Dog Leash

When hiking, it's a good idea to consider using a durable leash, especially if your dog becomes quickly distracted and wants to take off after a critter. Retractable leashes are prone to breaking and can easily tangle up people and other dogs. Let’s face it; they are not a great option for an excited pup on the trail.

Rope leashes are incredibly durable and can last a lifetime of hikes together. They are also versatile! The rope can be tied to itself to create a shorter length or tied around your waist for hands-free hiking. Check out all of our Rope Tutorials here. Wilderdog rope leashes come with a locking carabiner that securely locks to your dog's leash so that they don't accidentally get unclipped. Consider using a waterproof leash if you live in a wet climate or tend to wade through an occasional creek.

Dog Poop Bags, Crap Carrier, and Poop Bag Holder

Never get caught empty-handed again! It happens to the best of us, and poop bags are surprisingly easy to forget. Dog poop bag holders conveniently attach to your leash and can ensure you have your leash and poop bags all in one spot.

Remember how we were talking about "not wanting to carry your dog's poop" but also "not wanting to leave it behind on the trail"? The crap carrier is the perfect solution. You can add the crap carrier to your leash set-up and fit up to four bags at a time. It's not an essential item for hiking with your dog, but it does come in handy (or should we say "hands-free")?

Dog Medical Kit

Sometimes the unexpected happens, so it's always a good idea to be prepared on the trail. Whether your dog decides that a bee will make the perfect snack or a tick has started to burrow under your pup's skin, a trail dog medical kit can save the day.

Backcountry Bell

A backcountry bell can not only let other critters know your dog is approaching but other hikers as well. This bell also has a silencer if you want to stop it from ringing.  Know your location; if you’re in Grizzly country, be sure to pack bear spray and keep your dog on a leash.

Cooling Bandana

In the summer months, it's easy for your dog to overheat. Cooling dog bandanas can help keep your dog comfortable on hot days. Just dip it in water and tie it around your dog's neck to cool them down. Always check for signs of heat exhaustion, make sure to take plenty of water breaks, and if it's too hot out, leave your dog at home.

Dog Booties

If you’re hiking sharp granite peaks, you’ll want to pack some dog booties in your bag. In the summer, we’ll often have them in case of a paw injury, rather than putting them on our dogs before we head out on the trail. These might take some getting used to, so we recommend trying them on before hiking. (Booties will be back in stock in the next week or so - sign up for our restock list to be notified as soon as we're restocked!)

Dog Backpacking Bowl & Water

Keeping your dog hydrated is super important when hiking. Foldable and collapsible dog bowls are built specifically for the trail. They take up little space and are extremely convenient for road trips too. It's best to carry enough water for you and your dog, and remember they will need more water than they typically drink at home.

Post-Hike Pat Down

Wahoo, you're done with your hike! But, before loading up there's one more thing to do. Make looking over your dog for ticks and foxtails a habit after every hike. Foxtails are seemingly innocent pieces of grass that can bed into their skin, just like ticks. Carefully run your hands through your dog's fur and feel for any bumps that might be a tick. Make sure you know how to remove the entire tick (including its head). For foxtails, you can remove them with tweezers unless it is entirely embedded under their skin.

At Wilderdog, we love helping dogs discover their next adventure with their new gear. Subscribe to our email list to get updated with more blogs about topics like backpacking with your dog, and the occasional interview with some remarkable canines (okay – we interview their humans, but it's mainly about the dogs). And, if you subscribe now, you'll receive 10% off on your first purchase as a thank you for joining our pack!

See you out on the trail, friends!