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When the weekend rolls around and the weather’s looking promising, we love hitting the trail and bringing our furry friends with us. But experience has taught us that there’s an art to having fun with a pup on the trail. Some tried-and-true products can make adventures in the wilderness a little easier to navigate, especially for those new to the activity. To help you get the most out of hikes with your four-legged friend, we’ve rounded up the dog hiking gear and goods we love.
Some Handy Basics for Hiking with Your Dog
First, let’s start with some basics. You won’t want to head out the door without these items:
- A leash (and a spare, just in case)
- Poop bags to keep the trail clean
- A poop-bag holder to responsibly pack out full loads when trash cans aren’t available
- A dog water bottle or travel bowl
- Food and snacks for both humans and pups
- A dog first aid kit in case of emergencies
Next, consider where you’re heading and under what conditions—there might be a few more necessaries to add to your pack.
For example, if you’re hiking along the water and think your pup might like to dip their toes, consider a dog life vest. It can sound silly, but even if your dog is an excellent swimmer, accidents happen. A current might be stronger than it looks and catch your dog off guard, or the water might be colder than your pup was prepared for. The market is flooded with comfy and convenient dog life jackets that we give two thumbs up.
There’s also the weather to think about. If it’s warm out, your dog might need some help staying cool. Heatstroke in dogs can present quickly and have serious consequences—so it’s a good idea to brush up on the warning signs and keep off the trails in weather hotter than 85 degrees. If you judge it to be safe but not exactly comfortable for a friend in a fur coat, try a dog cooling vest. Just drop it in water, ring it out, and fasten it on your dog for instant heat relief.
If you’re an intrepid winter hiker, you’ve got the opposite problem: you’ll want to focus on keeping your dog warm. Some breeds do just fine in the snow, but others can use a little help, like a coat or rain jacket for insulation.
Last, if you’re in the middle of flea and tick season, consider investing in preventive medicine, either oral or topical, to save yourself a headache down the road.
Here are a few of our favorite basic pieces of hiking gear for dogs:
This odor-proof pack-out bag from Wag & Wander is one piece of gear we highly recommend. It’s easy to forget that most trails don’t have garbage cans like your local park does—and carrying your dog’s poop around for six miles isn’t exactly fun. It’s tempting to leave a bag at a trailhead and come back for it on the return journey, but we speak from experience when we say it can be harder than you’d think to find again. An odor-proof sack for holding full poop bags makes it easy to be a conscientious trail buddy. Your nose will thank you!Find on Amazon
Trying to share a human water bottle with a dog is rough—either a lot of water goes to waste, or a lot of slobber goes in your drinking vessel. Dog water bottles solve that problem. This relatively lightweight model from OllyDog lets you both share one water source hygienically—you drink from the top, while your pup drinks from the snap-on bowl. If you need to carry more water or want to lighten your pack further, try a collapsible dog travel bowl for an even more minimal profile.
Dog Hiking Gear for Advanced Canine Trailblazers
If you’re past the basics and looking for some things to make the trail extra fun, we’ve got you covered.
First up, consider getting your dog their own hiking pack. A dog hiking pack has a couple of advantages. It will, of course, lighten your own pack (always a plus in our book). But it can also give working breeds a sense of purpose, and it helps a high-energy dog burn extra calories.
If your dog is new to carrying a load, ease into it slowly with some short neighborhood outings, starting with an empty pack. It’s also a good idea to consult your vet, especially if your pup is older or prone to hip or spine disorders.
If your pup is cleared for duty, try loading their pack up with a few of their own items, taking care not to exceed 25% of your dog’s bodyweight with their load.
Some packs, like the Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack (above), come with reflective strips so you can easily spot your dog in low light. It’s lightweight and durable with a harness and saddlebag design.Find on Amazon Shop at Moosejaw Discover on Only Natural Pet
Next up, dog tents. Sharing a tent with a dog can be delightful—but it can also be a little tricky if your dog is grimy, gassy, prone to deafening snores, or just not that great at sleeping in one spot for the whole night. Giving them their own spot can help you both sleep better on the road.
Tents are also surprisingly functional for more casual day trippers. If you like to hike to a sweet spot and kick back, a dog tent can offer your pup both comfort and shade—important for safety on hot days.
This tent from Alcott is a nice choice for hiking because it weighs just 1.5 pounds and comes with its own slim carrying bag for easy transport. It’s easy to assemble, and the addition of a dog sleeping bag makes it a cozy spot after a long day on the trail. One thing to note is that only the base is truly waterproof—so if the sky is looking overcast, you’ll want to add a rain cover to your pack.
Troubleshooting: Hiking Gear for Dogs Who Need Some Help on the Trail
Maybe you’ve got a dog who wants to be out there with you but isn’t quite up to the challenge. We know what that’s like. Fortunately, there are some nice tools available for pups who need a hand on the trail—and your vet is a great resource to help you know what your dog can and can’t try.
If you have a small dog whose spirit is willing but whose legs are a little short for the terrain, try a dog backpack. That lets your pup walk the fun bits but hop in the satchel when they’re getting worn out or encountering obstacles too big for them.
We like the Kurgo G-Train because it gives a dog a firm armorsole base to sit on and is remarkably comfortable for humans to wear, with a variety of adjustment points to help you find the fit that works for you. Fourteen-year-old Dachshund Oscar is a big fan of his red hiking backpack, which he sometimes crawls into to snooze even when there are no hikes on the horizon. We put the Kurgo through its paces in an in-depth review of the dog hiking backpack.
If you have a larger dog who could use the occasional lift, you might try the K9 Sport Sack Rover 2, which can accommodate pups up to 80 pounds!
Made especially with medium to large dogs in mind, the K9 Sport Sack is designed to be comfortable for you and your pup with interior padding and lumbar support straps for your dog, plus adjustable torso and shoulder straps for you. We do recommend chatting with your vet before going in on this one—just to make sure there aren’t any health concerns for your particular pup.Find on Amazon Shop on Chewy Discover at Petco
Another useful bit of hiking gear is dog boots. Although your dog’s calloused paw pads can handle a stroll on a sidewalk or beach, rocky and rugged terrain can be another story, especially for more senior pups. Boots offer protection from hot rocks, cold snow, sharp stream beds, and slippery mud.
It does take some work to get a dog used to boots, but we’ve found in our experiments that more pups than you might think are amenable to wearing them, especially if it means they get to come with you on your adventures. A slow and steady boot-adjustment process can make a huge difference when it’s time to hit the trail.
One of the most popular lines of dog shoes is Ruffwear’s Grip Trex. Ruffwear makes a range of paw-protection gear for all weather conditions and hiking terrains. The rugged outsole of the Grip Trex can hold up to wear and tear, and the breathable mesh keeps dirt and bugs out while keeping your dog comfy.Find on Amazon Shop on Zappos
If your adventure dog’s paws are looking a little rough from all that time on the road but you don’t want full-on boots, try treatments for dry dog skin, including butters, salves, and oils that can restore your dog’s paws to their former glory in no time.
Finally, it’s okay if after all this work, your pup just isn’t cut out for hiking. Your dog won’t love you any less for leaving them in a safe, cozy spot while you explore—you’ll be back to cuddle on the couch or sniff around the neighborhood in no time. The most important thing is to do what’s safe, healthy, and fun for you both.
We wish you many happy adventures, on the trail and off!