We’re from Montana, and we love to get out and explore. We’ve got national forests, national parks, and five different mountain ranges right outside our door.
Our constant backpacking companion is our pup Lucia. She’s been all over the country camping, including the Appalachian mountains, sand dunes in Oregon, Texas hill country and of course, our Montana backyard. These trips have shed a lot of light on what it takes to keep her comfortable when she’s camping with us.
She’s about as mutt as they come: a little Border Collie, a little German shepherd, and I think even a little coyote worked its way in there too. After spending the last few years camping and hiking with her, there are a few staples that we make sure to never leave home without. These are our five essentials when we camp with our dog.
1. Collapsible Dog Bowl
When we decide to head out to the wilderness, the first thing we grab is Lucia’s collapsible bowl. These things are awesome! When you’re hiking or backpacking, saving weight and space is a top priority, and a collapsible bowl does both. Just like humans, dogs use a lot of energy when they’re hiking, and replenishing water and calories is very important.
There are a lot of great options out there, but we really prefer silicone bowls. They’re easy to clean, won’t get moldy like a cloth bowl, and they compress down really easily — making them the first item we grab.
When we’re just walking around town, Lucia has a standard collar, but when we head out on an adventure, we make sure to grab her harness. A good harness is a must when we go hiking or camping because it’s more secure than a standard collar.
Lucia is super fluffy, and that includes her neck. If she wanted to, she could slip her head out from under her collar and run after an animal. If she were to go after something like a porcupine or a skunk (which she has), we’d be in for a long trip back to the truck and into town. We also don’t want her hurting another animal, as we’re strong believers in the “Leave No Trace” mentality.
Her harness keeps her safe, secure and close. It always comes with us when we’re camping.
Imagine walking 7 miles up a trail with no shoes on. Dogs’ feet are well-equipped to handle lots of regular walking, but Lucia’s feet can get really tender if we’re scrambling over difficult terrain. If we find ourselves in snow, it can become impacted in her paws, making her really uncomfortable — enough that she’ll sit and try and chew out the buildup of ice in between her toes.
Dog booties can be a real life saver in the back country. Even if Lucia doesn’t wear them all the time, we always make sure to have them in our packs. One time we had just summited a peak and were on our way down to camp when Lucia started limping. We stopped to look at her feet and sure enough, one pad had gotten a good cut in it while we were hiking. Lucky for us (and her), we had her booties with us, so we put them on and within a few minutes she was walking much better.
When we’re hiking, it’s always nice to stop and enjoy the scenery for a bit and have a snack on the way to camp. Hiking is hard work, and the opportunity to stop and eat helps boost energy… and morale. For Lucia it’s no different, and she’s always excited to stop for treats.
We prefer small dry treats for Lucia. They’re lightweight, easy to pack, and easy to dole out to Lu as we’re on the trail. Even if we’re not stopped she can still have a snack, as we carry some in our waist strap pockets so we can grab them on the fly.
We didn’t think of this until our first trip without one. When we’re out, far from anyone or anything, we’ll let Lucia run off leash for a while so she can explore. But like most dogs, she seems to find mud, water and grime like it’s her job. We don’t mind too much — after all, we’re all pretty smelly, and jumping in an alpine lake feels pretty great after a long hike.
One thing we don’t want, however, is a swampy, smelly dog in our tent all night. Having a towel along with us really helps to mitigate the “stink” factor. A quick dunk in a lake or stream can get her rinsed off, and drying her with a towel helps her stay comfortable, especially if it’s cold out.
The towel is a dual-purpose item. Lucia fancies herself a princess, and only wants to sleep somewhere off the ground. (Seriously, you could lay a dishtowel on the floor and she’d find a way to lay on it.) A towel doubles as her camp bed while we’re sleeping and helps keep our tent from turning into a dog house.
Having Lucia with us in the backcountry is awesome: she’s our watchdog, she gets some exercise, and it just adds some good ol’ fun. If you haven’t tried it, consider camping with your pup, or even just getting outside with them. You’ll see a whole new side to that couch potato laying at your feet.