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January 1970

10 Essentials for Taking Your Dog in the Backcountry 

Written by: Guest Author from BC Outdoor Project

These are the things you should consider having with you when hiking with your favorite four-legged companion. Along with our goal of creating advocates for the backcountry, we are aiming to create role models for other pet-owners in the outdoor community.

Before you go, consider these things about your destination: the climate and your dog’s fur/coat thickness and color, the terrain, the accessibility to water, and your dog’s capability level.

Dogs may be animals, but much like us, they have been domesticated. It is important to consider the things that they will need, to ensure that you set them up for success. If they are having a good time, it exponentially increases the odds that you will have a good time.


  • Warm layer - Nights get cold. If you have a shorter fur/warm climate breed of dog, consider a warm layer for your dog to wear.
  • Dry layer - If your dog is wet, often so is your stuff inside your tent. Additionally, many animals are more comfortable (and warm) with a waterproof jacket. This will allow for faster dry time before crawling into your shelter.
  • If minimal/thin/light colored fur animal, consider options/strategies for sun protection if on hikes with high sun exposure (consult your vet)

Foot Protection

  • Paw Wax - Helpful in protecting foot pads from snow/ice clumping up for cold weather, or cracking and drying out with rough/dry terrain. Musher’s Secret is a popular brand.
  • Boots- Option of physical barrier can protect paws from cold, hot, or sharp terrain, such as snow, ice, sand, shale, or river rock.

  • Multi-tool/gloves - This should already be in your essentials list, but this will be helpful for removing thorns, burrs, etc

Grooming / Hygiene Supplies

  • Nail trimmers - Help prevent snags, splits, or torn nails from getting worse
  • Brush, wipes(no scent), and/or towel - These can be valuable depending on your dog’s coat. This can help prevent hot spots from debris, bringing a mess into your tent, or even if going to areas with pitch/sap.
  • Poop Bags - just like human poop, it is not natural to the environment, so pack it out. If burying the poop, be sure it follows the same rules as for humans of 6” deep and 200’ from the trail or water source.


  • Water bowl - seems obvious, but some people plan to have animals drink out of their water bottle as they pour, or squirt them with the hose from their Camelbak, but this wastes your water supply, and many dogs don’t drink well this way.

  • Water access/carried supply - Ensure enough water will be available for your pet, general guidelines mention ~1 oz/lb body weight, however, more may be needed depending on level of activity/heat. Talk with your vet for your dog in particular.
  • Filter/tabs - Not all water sources are safe for your pet to drink from. Check available sources on your trip and again, speak with your vet if concerned.


  • Extra food - General guidelines recommend packing about 25% more food per day, plus one extra day. Talk with your vet about your dog’s needs.
  • Do not change foods just for backpacking - Changing to more calorie dense foods for your animal can lead to bowel upset, or other issues along the way. Consult your vet.

First Aid Kit

  • Dog first aid kit - Adventure Medical kits - trail dog is one brand example. Animals may have different needs, sizes, types, etc. of first aid supplies.
  • Medications - If your dog has medications it takes, do not forget to pack them. Additionally, a sedative as managed by your vet, that your dog responds well to, may be useful should they get in distress.

Dog Bag / Leash / Harness

  • Saddle bag/pack for dog- Can be great to share the load with this extra gear and food you need to bring for your pup, but not all dogs are meant to shoulder this weight. Important to consult your vet about weight recommendations, and train your dog up to the appropriate weight and pack.

  • Leash or harness - Make sure to leash train your pet, as many trails require a leash. Test out your harnesses and leash fit, training your dog up to it to ensure no rub spots, and proper fit.

Illumination / Identification

  • ID - This can be engraved onto a collar, or in the form of tags that don’t break easily, such as those from Also consider getting your pet microchipped.
  • Light - Reflective and lighted collar or a detachable light for the collar can be crucial for seeing your pet at night, and knowing that the movement in the brush next to you is your dog and not a monster.

Shelter / Sleep Options

Pad, blanket, or towel - Having a sleeping pad, blanket and/or dog towel, separate from your own, can be a great safe and dry spot for your pup.

Emergency Gear

Dog sling - Fido Pro Airlift Dog Sling brand discussed on podcast.


  • Assess your risk for EVERY trip and what that looks like for your dog.
  • These dog essentials count as your essentials so planning them for packweight is important
  • Make sure your pet is the right age and breed to perform what you are about to demand from it (consult your vet)
  • Keep dog gear together & with the person who has the dog.