If anyone likes camping more than people, it’s dogs. Dogs get a lot of extra exercise from walking and swimming, mental stimulation from exploring and smelling new environments, and quality time with their pack around the campfire. As much as puppies love to relax on the couch, going outside is always a special treat, and we should give them every chance we get.
That said, dogs still need certain tools and equipment to make their time outdoors as safe and enjoyable as possible. Plenty of food and water is a good start for both you and your pup, but the list doesn’t end there for our four-legged friends. Your dog is just as susceptible to heat and cold, exhaustion, hypothermia, dangerous encounters with wildlife and being separated from their group as you are. The best dog camping gear will prepare you and your pup for all of the above and then some.
Ruffwear makes some of the highest quality dog camping gear in the game, and the Front Range harness is the one we’ve found that will give years of trouble-free outdoor use. Harnesses are especially important for owners who need to tie their dogs to trees, camping tables or vehicles from time to time because when the inevitable happens and your dog goes after a squirrel, deer or bear while on a leash, the Front Range harness can doesn’t put undue pressure on their neck when they reach the end of their chain.
You’ll have many of the dog first aid supplies in your human first aid kit, but we’re fans of Adventure Medical Kit’s « Trail Dog » kit for nailing down dog-specific supplies. It has all the usual wound care products (gauze, bandages, antibiotic ointment), but also contains useful additives such as a premixed hydrogen peroxide solution to induce vomiting (should your dog eat something harmful), an irrigation syringe to clean wounds and even a tweezers to safely remove painful thorns and disease-carrying ticks.
If you’re camping in cooler weather, it’s important to remember that your dog’s fur coat may not be enough to keep him safe and comfortable for long periods of time. The Ruffwear Powder Hound insulated coat is our go-to solution, and for good reason. The combination of a 75D polyester shell and nylon-spandex fabric is durable enough for backcountry use without restricting your pup’s range of motion, and the 250g high-loft polyester insulation keeps your dog warm day and night (no sleeping bag required) even when wet.
In a perfect world, every dog is well trained, comes when called and never strays too far from the pack in the wilderness. Some dogs just can’t resist following their noses (dog owners, we feel your pain), which is why a reliable GPS tracking device like the Garmin Astro 430 is indispensable for pet owners. Unlike your typical budget-oriented dog collar, the waterproof Garmin Astro uses a global satellite tracking system rather than a cellular network — important, since most camping spots have little to no cell service.
We all know we need to take off our boots before entering the tent, but your pup’s toenails don’t distinguish between hard ground and the thin polyester of your tent floor. Putting a simple no-frills moving blanket or two in your tent before setting up your sleeping area will protect the floor from being ripped or pierced by your pet’s nails, and as an added bonus, you can wear shoes in the tent without damaging or to damage. dirty the thin floor. Dirt cheap, durable and an absolute game changer.
If you’re staying in campgrounds where your dogs aren’t roaming freely, you’ll need to tie them to something to keep them from wandering. We’re fans of the Ruffwear Knot-a-Hitch, which works as a single point hitch or as a dog run between two points (trees, tables, posts, cars, etc.) to keep your pup from making friends with the neighbors. The Knot-a-Hitch uses durable, climbing-inspired rope with metal hardware that is built to last for years and can be custom tensioned for over 30 feet of walking space.
The folks at Mountainsmith are best known for their rugged lumbar backpacks, but they also make some of the best dog backpacks money can buy. Their K-9 package uses a secure four-point adjustable harness with a plug-and-play buckle system and breathable EVA foam for a comfortable fit. The double side pockets provide plenty of room for food, treats and bowls with room for the inevitable poop bag you’d rather not carry for the rest of the walk.
Your pet will likely miss his dog bed while out in the woods, which is why a reflective foam pillow is an important part of their sleeping system. We like the Nemo Switchback because it’s small, light, affordable, and its closed-cell foam construction is virtually indestructible. We also love that you can cut these pillows to size (or fold them in half) to refine your pup’s sleeping area without overcrowding your tent.
Leave your clunky metal dog bowls at home where they belong and toss a few of these collapsible silicone bowls in your backpack for mealtime or water breaks along the way. They’re cheap, tough as nails, and even come with carabiners so you can attach them to your backpack for hikes. Each bowl holds one and a half cups of dog food or water and can be flat packed when not in use.
No good pet owner takes their dog to the campsite without bringing toys but getting hugs terribly annoying terribly quickly out. Tough vinyl training dummies like these from Kong will last for years, and they’re easy to clean so your pup can have them indoors too. The bright orange color means you won’t lose them, the thick nylon rope is bulletproof for chewing and pulling, and these pacifiers float too, so they’re great for playing with your dog on lakes and beaches too.
This one is mainly for fun, but hey, you can never have enough mood lighting around the camp at night. We’re fans of the Nite Ize Nitehowl because it’s water resistant, rechargeable and can be cut to size with any old pair of scissors. This necklace features three selectable colors, which are great for distinguishing which dog is which in the dark, and also includes a color-changing « Disc-o » mode that is downright hypnotic to watch.
Some dogs are stronger swimmers than others, but they can all benefit from a good life jacket. Dog life jackets give your pup extra buoyancy, making it easier for them to stay afloat. The NRS jacket goes one step further. This is our favorite pick as it increases your dog’s visibility (making them easier to spot for both you and the occasional reckless boater), has a grab handle to help guide them into the water and doubles as a harness with a leash attachment to walk to and from the water.
Regular walks in the open air will help harden the pads on your dog’s feet, but even the toughest of biscuits are no match for sharp stones and thorns. For that, you’ll want to strap your dog into a sturdy pair of boots, and again, Ruffwear is our favorite option. The Ruffwear Grip Tex boots combine a durable Vibram rubber sole with a breathable mesh upper to keep your dog’s paws protected and comfortable. We love that these boots are sold in pairs, so you can order different sizes to accommodate the size differences between the front and back legs.
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Kurt Spurlock is a writer for the outdoors and motorcycle industries. When he's not writing or riding, you can find him and Willie (his rescued black-and-tan coonhound) out camping in the mountains of north Georgia.