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Camping with your dog may seem overwhelming at first but fret not. With some planning and preparation, you will have everything you need for a smooth trip.
If you’re planning to see the world with your pet by your side, follow this guide to ensure you’ll be prepared to meet the unique challenges of camping with your dog.
The Benefits of Camping with Dogs
There is nothing better than standing in front of a beautiful sunrise or majestic mountain view and having your best friend by your side.
Camping with your dog adds a whole new level of fun, playfulness, and wonder to your adventures as they experience the world for the first time along with you.
Sharing these new experiences helps to deepen the connection and trust between you and builds confidence.
In both your dog and yourself.
While there are certainly challenges to overcome, and not every trip will be picture-perfect, any place where dogs are is a happier one.
Sometimes you need their bright, loving presence to get you through the most difficult times out in the wilderness.
Essential Dog Camping Gear
When traveling to and from a camping site with your travel buddy, you don’t want either one of you to become tired from carrying too much equipment.
While gear is important to ensure you have a covered place to sleep and a place for your dog to be comfortable, don’t go overboard with the amount of gear you bring.
Start with the essentials on your first trip, then add equipment from there if you find that you need it.
Nowadays, there are a lot of different options for dog camping gear. You can purchase specialized equipment or stick to the basics and use human camping gear. (which can be cheaper sometimes, especially if you buy it second-hand)
1. Choosing the Right Tent
Choosing the right tent is the most important step you’ll take when preparing for your camping trip.
You’ll want to make sure that the tent is big enough to comfortably fit you and your pets.
A good rule of thumb is to count each dog as a person and purchase a tent that is big enough to fit the number of “people” you have camping with you.
This is especially true if you have a medium or large dog who likes to sprawl out while they sleep.
It’s a good idea to bring a blanket or sheet to lay out on the tent’s floor.
This will prevent your dog’s nails from accidentally poking holes in the base of the tent.
This also makes it easy to clean up when it’s time to pack up and head out.
2. Car Camping with Dogs
If your dog is not a fan of traditional tents, then car camping might be a better solution.
Camping in your car is an alternative to tents that may make them feel more at ease.
It is a crossover of camping and van life that appeals to many pet owners who travel with their pets.
You are better protected from the elements and are able to get around quickly by driving.
Learn more about car camping with your dog.
3. Sleeping pads, Dog beds, and more
Just as your sleeping options are endless, from basic sleeping bags to inflatable sleeping pads and mattresses, so are your pets’.
As long as they are comfortable and safe, you can choose from many different sleeping options for your pet.
Inflatable sleeping pads are lightweight and easy to travel with.
Plus, they provide an extra level of comfort by lifting your pets off of the hard ground.
There are several types of dog beds and sleeping bags made specifically for dogs in camping situations.
These are easy to fold up and pack away and are more water-resistant and durable than ordinary dog beds.
For ultimate comfort, you could even double up and place a dog bed on top of an inflatable mattress.
4. Leashes, Collars, and Packs
Many leashes nowadays are made to be durable and hard to break or for your dog to chew.
However, there are some that are specifically designed for camping and hiking that have a more athletic look to them.
If you’re planning to stay at a campground, be aware that most campgrounds require pets to be on a leash at all times.
A long line is a great way to give your dog some freedom while still following the rules of the campground.
It also gives you the freedom to move around your campsite without having to worry about your dog running off or having someone hold their leash all the time.
A dog backpack can be a great way to give your dog a job.
Many medium-sized and larger breeds enjoy doing this.
They can carry some of their supplies, too, which will make your backpack a little lighter.
5. Traveling with Dog Food
While you can certainly travel with an entire bag of dog food, it’s much more secure and safe (i.e. your dogs are less likely to get into it and eat the whole bag) if you use a dog food carrier.
These come in several varieties, including a roll-top dry bag.
Typically, a simple plastic bin is sufficient to store dog food while you’re on the road or in the woods.
If you’ll be traveling with your dog for a while and need to bring along a large amount of food, try dehydrated dog food that is lightweight and easy to pack.
When it comes to how you feed your dog, metal or plastic dog bowls are best.
These are less prone to break, unlike ceramic bowls.
Collapsible bowls are another popular option for hiking and camping.
They are flexible, durable, and easy to store in a side pocket on your backpack.
Of course, treats are easy to carry around and are a must for rewarding good behavior!
This can be especially beneficial if it’s your pet’s first time in the outdoors for an extended period.
Giving them treats as a reward can help them to associate camping with a good experience.
6. First aid kit
A first aid kit is essential for traveling with pets.
Although we wish they didn’t, accidents do happen, especially when exposed to the terrain and wildlife of the outdoors.
In addition to basic pet first aid like bandages, antibiotic ointment, and scissors, it’s a good idea to have your pet’s medical records on hand (a hard copy along with a scanned copy on your phone is most reliable).
This usually includes contact information for you and your veterinarian and a recent photo of your pet in case they become lost.
Some other useful supplies include Benadryl (for treating allergic reactions), vet wrap, and hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting).
It’s always better to be prepared. Having a first aid kit on hand will give you peace of mind should something go wrong during your trip.
7. Other Equipment for Camping with Dogs
There are countless products available that help light up your camping space.
From headlamps to LED collars to small flashlights that can attach to your dog’s leash, there are many ways to light up late-night potty breaks and hikes.
Camping with pets means, unfortunately, that there will be more bugs attracted to your campsite.
This can be avoided with the help of insect repellents.
Ensure that the variety you use is safe for dogs, as many human insect repellents contain harsh chemicals.
There are also clothing and bandanas available for both dogs and humans that have an insect repellent infused into the fabric.
Poop bags are another essential.
Be sure not to underestimate the number of bags you’ll need, as you can go through them quicker than you may think.
It’s always best practice to pick up after your pet, even if you’re in the wilderness.
The last thing to bring with you when traveling with dogs is protective gear.
When it’s rainy, cold, or windy out, you don’t want your dog to be uncomfortable.
If you’re camping in an area with a harsh climate, bring the necessary clothing, jackets, and boots to protect your dog from the elements.
Training your dog to enjoy camping
Practice makes perfect
One of the best ways to prepare your dog for camping, and to see how they’ll react to sleeping in a tent is to have a practice run in your backyard or inside your home.
This also allows you to test your gear and make sure everything is working correctly.
Be sure to do everything exactly as you would do it in the field — otherwise, you may miss an important reaction from your dog to something like a zip line or inflatable bed pad, which will be a disaster when you’re trying to get them to go to sleep the first night.
Use treats to encourage your dog
If your dog is nervous or hesitant to go in the tent or be around camping equipment, use positive reinforcement (i.e. treats) to slowly get them used to this new setup.
Make sure your dog is used to being around campfires, too.
Waiting until you’re in the field to see how they react to fire could make for a dangerous situation.
Remember, you may be a camping pro, but this is brand new for your dog.
Give them some time and space to get used to the equipment, sounds, and smells.
Utilize outdoor-safe toys
If your dog loves to play, using tough, outdoor-safe toys can be a great way to get them excited about camping.
Another option is to use nature — there is an abundance of sticks around you in the woods that can be used for fetch!
Things to Plan Before You Go Camping
Plan dog-friendly activities
Have a plan for what you will do with your pet during the day.
Luckily, there are many dog-friendly outdoor activities available.
Hiking, kayaking, and going to the beach or lake are just a few.
Know where you can camp
If you don’t have a specific campground in mind, start with a national, state, or private park that allows dogs on its premises.
Check campsite regulations
Review camping regulations and guidelines for the campsite or park you’ll be staying at.
Make a vet appointment
Before you hit the road, meet with your veterinarian to ensure your dog is up to date on all its vaccinations and flea and tick prevention.
You may wish to discuss microchipping your dog.
This is useful if they wander off or become lost while out in the wilderness. If they are microchipped, you’ll be able to find them more quickly and easily.
Camping with your dog requires preparation and patience, but it is well worth it. Follow these guidelines to prepare for your trip, and enjoy the great outdoors with your furry friend!