Get Ready to Hike & Camp With Your Dog

Get Ready to Hike & Camp With Your Dog

The Idaho wilderness is full of beautiful and remote locations to visit. From a short backpacking hike to a quick jaunt in the hills, there are hundreds of trailheads to enjoy. Having your best four-legged friend come along just seems like a no brainer. If you’re not prepared though, your hike can turn into a headache. 

As a relatively new dog owner, I have been looking forward to the summer camping and hiking season and bringing our dog Opal along. Now I might be an over-planer, but I want to enjoy my time in the wilderness, and I want Opal to enjoy her time as well. I have been researching and speaking to other dog owners for myself, and I want to share what I have found.

One of the first things I investigated was what vaccinations we needed in order to be prepared. We could go for the whole gamut and get every available vaccination. However, I wanted to look a little deeper and consider what was necessary. Many of our dogs’ vaccinations are for protecting spread inside kennels and areas where many dogs come together and aren't as critical to keep your pup healthy in the backcountry.

Rabies is my greatest concern. The incidence of rabies is rare but being in the backcountry is a prime location for exposure. At a minimum, keep your pup's rabies vaccination up to date. Another vaccine I feel is important to have up to date is Leptospirosis. This virus is spread by wild animals and can be found in water supplies. While I intend on having filtered/clean water for Opal, I may not be able to stop her from jumping in a stream, or lake. 

First Aid
Spending time in the wilderness means isolation and greater distances from basic medical care. Therefore, your first-aid kit is a crucial piece of equipment to have for yourself and your dog. Many of the same pieces will carry over from you to your dog. But there are several things you’ll want to bring for your dog. The items I will be adding to my first aid kit are:

  • Cotex wrap
  • Vetericyn wound spray
  • Tick key or tweezers
  • Styptic powder
  • Forceps
  • Booties 
  • Muzzle 

Tick Control
There are many options to choose from when it comes to tick control. The method you choose will largely depend on your preference. If you are used to a spot-on liquid treatment, there are a lot of benefits as you apply once for a month of protection. I would recommend applying these four to five days before heading out. This will assure that the oil has been dispersed and won’t attract any dirt. It will also assure it won’t wash off in the water. I will be starting with a collar. Particularly the Protec or Adams collars that last for up to six months. These collars are lite weight and can be removed when you are away from exposure risk.

Let’s face it, researching and acquiring new gear are some of the best parts about getting into any outdoor activity). I am always looking to upgrade my gear or find something new that will make my time in the wilderness more fun. Adding gear for Opal is another level of geekiness that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  

Collars, Leashes, Packs, and Harnesses
I believe that a good collar and leash are your first line of pet safety. I have a few collars and leashes I will be trying out and you can look forward to reviews of these items over the next few months. To get started I will be using a local Idaho company called Eze dog for Opal’s collar and leash. At the most basic level, I am looking at belt like collars rather than a plastic buckles. I don’t want to risk failure when I am at camp or on the trail. For a leash, I am looking for something that is lightweight and has a lot of versatility. The Eze dog running leash should accommodate what I am looking for in its ability to go around my waist and easily switch to a standard handle, and another hold that will allow me to hold Opal closer when needed. I will also review a few harnesses and packs to find what works best for us. 

It might seem like water for your dog can take care of itself. However, there are some concerns and it’s generally not a good idea to let your pup drink from unfiltered sources. I use a gravity-fed water filter when hiking and will carry an extra water bottle for Opal so she will always have access to clean filtered water.

Leave No Trace
I am a big believer and proponent of “leave no trace”, which is exactly what it sounds like. You might think that your dog can just go wherever they want. Animals poop in the woods, right? Sure, wild animals can “go” wherever they want. However, it’s important to realize that our dogs don’t live there, and their presence is not natural. Their waste needs to be cleaned up and so some good bags will go a long way. At the very least their waste should be buried well away from water sources and trails. I would also recommend bringing along a larger Ziploc bag to keep the waste bags in as they are used.

Food & Treats
If you are car camping, food shouldn’t be a big issue. My plan for food with car camping is to bring Opal’s regular food portioned out for what she will need while we are away. Dog food can be very smelly but when car camping, I would leave the food in the car to avoid attracting wild animals. While hiking, your dog’s food can become a weight concern. There are a few options to choose from and I will make a more in-depth hiking food and treat guide in the future. My largest concern when it comes to food is security and protecting yourself and your dog from wild animals. Having a bear-safe container and storing food away from camp is a must.

The last bit of gear I want to mention in this article is bedding. It’s easy to dismiss our dog's bedding thinking they are an animal, and they will make do. While this may be true in some instances your pet’s comfort can make your sleep time more comfortable. When camping from the car their regular bed or something a little bulkier will be just fine. While hiking size and weight again become a concern. I have a few ideas that can accomplish some sleeping comfort. Some beds are designed with weight and comfort in mind. As I get a hold of some of these beds, I will be sure to include reviews, discussing their benefits. To get started I will plan to purchase a bed with a regular fill and a zipper so that fill can be removed. This will greatly reduce weight and size. With this, I can use my clothes as the fill at bedtime.