How to Camp with Your Dog
There’s camping – and then there’s camping with your dog by your side. Their presence alone elevates every little moment. Their curiosity is contagious, their zeal inspiring.
Hiking and camping together is an opportunity to see wilderness through their eyes. Lakes become more than just part of the landscape – they’re primo places to splash and swim. And pinecones are no longer just pinecones – they’re the most incredible toy that's ever existed since the beginning of time, and it must be thrown a minimum of 127 times before retiring to the cozy comfort of a tent (that happens to be set up just right for enjoying the next morning’s sunrise). And the sunrise marks the start of a new Best Day Ever.
With a bit of preparation, the right gear, and a bit of that eagerness to explore that comes so naturally to our furry trail buddies, you’ll be en route to a good time camping with your dog.
Tips for Camping with Dogs:
1. Have a Game Plan
Before you start loading gear into the car, have a plan. Know where you’re going, where you’ll sleep, and the specific rules about dogs in the area you’ll be exploring.
Different types of public lands have different sets of rules. Many allow dogs, but a few don’t or have some restrictions.
Here’s a helpful guide to get you started. If you’re unsure about the rules for your destination, you can find out online or by calling the agency that manages the public lands you’re planning to visit.
2. Pack the Essentials
When it comes to camp life, our dogs’ basic needs are not too different than our own: food, water, warmth, a place to rest, and first aid supplies.
Before heading out, check the weather and temperature range so that your pup can be as well prepared as you are. Pack extra water if it'll be hot, layers if it will be wet or chilly, and plenty of food and treats – and more of it if you’ll be covering strenuous miles. Know what your trail companion is capable of, and have a contingency plan if things go awry.
Much like you’d break in your boots and work up to hiking longer distances for your first backpacking trip, it’s a good idea to get your pup used to wearing a pack or boots well before you plan to use them on the trail. Once comfortable wearing the gear, then work your dog's way up to longer mileage.
3. Pack Those Camp & Trail Manners, Too
Good recall, basic obedience, and manners like “leave it” will help keep things positive for your canine companion on the trail. They’ll also go a long way toward making friends with other users (and respecting wildlife) on the trail.
Know the etiquette for the trail you’re hiking or backpacking, and be mindful of other users on the trail. Trails that allow horses typically require hikers and mountain bikers to yield to horseback riders.
At camp, keep your four-legged friend on leash or within your control. Trying to keep an eye on a roaming dog while setting up camp, building a campfire, or eating dinner can be tricky. The camp site shuffle was the very inspiration for our Knot-a-Hitch™.
If your camping buddy has a lot to say or loves to let out a good howl at the moon, consider camping at a more secluded backcountry location. What’s music to our ears might be less than ideal for others’ wilderness experience. When in doubt, err on the side of courtesy.
4. Leave No Trace
Pack-it-in, pack-it-out! You can minimize impact and contribute to a pristine wilderness by observing the seven Leave No Trace principles. This includes picking up your dog’s waste and disposing of it in a proper receptacle.
Other dog-specific considerations include respecting wildlife by giving other animals and critters space (and not chase), being considerate of other users (through good manners and etiquette), and monitoring and cleaning up food crumbs, spilled kibble, or toys.
5. Trust Your Gut
You know your dog better than anyone else and are in the best position to make judgments for their well-being. When it comes to medical concerns and wilderness hazards, we recommend talking to your vet ahead of your next campout.
If you have gear questions, contact our team of experts, and let us know how we can help prepare you for your next camping trip. We've done our fair share of nights under the stars with our dogs and would love to share what we've learned along the way.
6. Have Fun!
Taking your dog camping for the first time is exciting, but it might feel a little daunting. Do your best to prepare ahead of time and have a back-up plan to mitigate some of those nerves.
But, beyond that, a little patience and sense of humor will help. Not all dogs take to sleeping in a tent (or going in and out of tent doors) right away, but with practice, they will get the hang of it.
Part of what makes camping so fun is that things rarely go exactly as planned. That’s just part of the adventure. As long as everyone is safe, you’re making memories together and building your bond — and that’s undeniably fun!
Recommended Gear: A sense of humor, a smile, lots of pictures
Ruffwear gear is built from a dog’s perspective and is rigorously field tested to ensure that it will enhance and enable our outdoor adventures with our dogs. Shop our entire camping collection and share your adventures with us on Instagram and Facebook. If you have any questions, feedback, or ideas, please don’t hesitate to bark.