The Ultimate Gear Guide for Your Dog
Camping & Hiking expert Hannah K. runs through her top recommended gear for your four-legged hiking companion.
For me, there is nothing better than camping or hiking, except for camping, hiking, and adventuring with my dog, Raya. Getting outside is not only beneficial for us humans but also for our furry friends! It helps Raya with her anxiety, gives her a good amount of exercise, and is a great way to bond. She also helps me feel safer if I’m on the trail alone, and let’s be real—the way a dog looks at you is with utter bliss and pure love. What a good time. If you want to start bringing your dog on the trail with you or while camping or backpacking, here are some great essentials and gear to make the trip nice and safe.
PSA: These are the products that work for my doggo, but every pup is different and may like different things. Don’t be afraid to try out items until you find what your doggo likes best.
Just like you, your dog needs a sleep system—think sleeping pad and sleeping bag. I use the Ruffwear Highlands Dog Bed as a sleeping pad for Raya to keep her warm and protect her joints from any hard surfaces underneath our tent. It folds up small and is very lightweight.
Now, my dog hated having a sleeping bag, so I switched it out for the Ruffwear Clear Lake Blanket that is about two pounds, comes in a stuff sack, and is great to keep her warm. If she doesn’t want it, then it doubles as an extra blanket for me! It is a win-win situation. However, if your dog is good with a sleeping bag, then the Ruffwear Highlands Dog Bed is a great choice to pair with the sleeping pad. It comes in two sizes and both items weigh under 2.5 pounds.
I know a bunch of people who will bring old blankets for their dogs to use instead and that works too! Whatever keeps your dog warm and happy when the sun sets!
Toys are a great way to make your dog feel comfortable at camp if they are a little nervous. I bring two toys for Raya. The Ruffwear Gnawt a Stick is made out of a great material for her that she can chew endlessly and it’ll never break. This toy is durable and long-lasting. It is also great for tug-of-war if you have any energy to do that after a long hiking day.
I also bring the Ruffwear Gnawt a Cone to play fetch with. I fill it with peanut butter when we get to camp and let her at it. It will keep her busy for about five or ten minutes and it gives me a nice rest where I can focus on cooking for myself or setting up my tent. This acts as a really nice treat. Other treats are always welcome—typically, I bring some extra kibble for her as treats.
If these don’t work for your dog, a tennis ball will always do the trick! They’re lightweight, small, bouncy, and great to chew on. I find the rubber tennis balls last a little bit longer before my dog breaks it compared to others.
Let’s talk apparel. Collars, leashes, harnesses, packs, sweaters, boots—all of it. I use myriad Ruffwear items for Raya. Ruffwear is a great brand—everything is high-quality, long-lasting, and the best part is that my dog actually likes it. I tried a bunch of harness brands and the Ruffwear Front Range Harness is the only one she didn’t run away from when I tried to put it on her. Not all dogs need a harness, but I find that it is safer for her on-trail in case I stumble and pull her accidentally or if she falls and pulls me. This harness has an attachment for the leash on the front and back of the harness. It is easy to put on and padded for extra comfort.
I use the Ruffwear Flat Out Leash and I love it. It can be used as a normal hand-help leash or you can wrap it around your waist, which is especially useful when trying to get your water bottle from your backpack without stopping and letting the leash go. Once you have a leash around your waist, holding a leash with your hand seems ridiculous! It acts as a belt, too, if your pants are too big. And if your dog occasionally pulls you to catch up to the squirrel or smell something exciting, having the leash around your center of weight helps a lot.
If I don’t use the harness, then I attach the Flat Out Leash to the Ruffwear Hoopie Solid Collar. The best thing about this collar is that the leash attachment is nowhere near her ID tag—hence no metal clinging together and scaring the birds away. There is nothing worse than when you’re at mile 15 and every step you hear “cling cling cling” when you could be hearing the birds sing or the wind rushing through the trees.
For a backpacking trip, I use the Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack. There are larger packs out there for backpacking trips, but this one is great for my needs. It will fit her food, water, toys, and poop-bags for a three- to four-day trip. If we do go on a longer trip, I carry the extra weight. I also will strap her sleeping pad onto the top of the pack and it doesn’t seem to bother her a bit. This pack cannot be used with a harness, but it has additional straps to act like a harness. It makes me feel better knowing she is safe and strapped up.
Another great pack is the Mountainsmith K9 Pack. It has ample room for your dog’s gear, air mesh panels, padding, and goes on like a harness. Easy peasy. This harness is completely adjustable to fit perfectly to your unique pup.
My dog won’t tolerate a jacket of any kind. We don’t typically camp in the winter, but in the fall or spring if nights are cooler, I bring an extra layer to throw onto her. Normally, she will move out from under it, but bringing something to keep your dog warm is so important. Here is a great jacket option—the Ruffwear Stumptown Jacket can be used with your harness and will keep your dog warm in cooler conditions.
If it is warmer out, I grab a handy rag or extra t-shirt, pour cold water on it, and tie it around Raya’s neck and lay it on her back to help keep her cool. Please never hike with your dog in extreme heat, as they are more prone to heat stroke and we may not always see the signs of it.
My dog also will not tolerate any boots, regardless if they are the best dog boots around. However, they are important to have if you are walking over dangerous terrain where your furry friend may step on something harmful. The Ruffwear Summit Trex Boots are a great option to protect your dog’s paws from sharp rocks, salt on the ground when it snows, bees, and hot pavement in the summer (although, don’t walk them on hot pavement in the summer).
When I go car camping, I always bring the Ruffwear Knot-a-Hitch Dog Tether System. This system is essentially a rope tied between trees and a carabiner. You use the dog’s leash to attach to the carabiner so your dog can run free while you set up camp, cook dinner, or relax. This system allows them to run around and smell while giving you peace of mind, knowing that they can’t run off into the distance.
To feed my dog, I use the Ruffwear Quencher Bowl. I typically only take one dog bowl that acts as a water bowl and food bowl on a backpacking trip and wash it out between uses. But if you are car camping or road tripping, then using two is definitely the way to go. They are easy to wash, durable, and will probably last longer than the cockroaches will.
The Nite IZe Rad Dog Collapse Bowl is another amazing product. It weighs 0.7 ounces, rolls up nicely, and can be hooked right onto your pack—you won’t even know it is there.
Another great piece of gear that will change your world is the Ruffwear Stash Bag—a bag to hide your waste bags. No more days of forgetting bags or tying them around your leash! This stash bag will fit your baggies, a key or two, and a small chapstick. So useful. It seems so simple yet makes my life so much easier.
Most importantly, don’t forget to make or buy a first-aid kit for your dog. If they have any medicine bring it, some bandages, an ice pack, a tick remover—anything you may need to care for your dog on the trail. Definitely bring a tick remover. It will ensure that you get the entire thing out, not just the body!
Bringing your dog on the trail, whether it is a day hike, car-camping trip, or multi-day backpacking trip can be so rewarding for both of you. It requires a little bit more planning and some extra outdoor gear, but will be worth the effort. Keep your dog safe and have fun in the great outdoors. Check for fleas and ticks when you get home. If you have any questions about the gear listed above or are looking to find the right gear for your dog, chat with me or one of my fellow Camping & Hiking experts here at Curated. We're happy to be a source of free advice and recommendations.