My dog is my child. As such, he is spoiled rotten, especially when it comes to gear to take him on adventures!
Here is some of the gear I’ve found for bringing along my pup on trails, from the slightly frivolous to the invaluable. I am not incentivized in any way for these recommendations, even if it might seem I’m being paid by Ruffwear (I wish!). A lot of this gear can be found at REI, or some great local pet stores, like Mud Bay or All the Best.
These Paws are Made for Hiking
First off are the big things needed for walking. When hiking, I found a hands-free leash to be invaluable, especially if using hiking poles. I love this Ruffwear one as you can also clip it around trees or benches if taking a rest or at a post-hike brewery, but there are plenty of similar ones on the market. The Flat Out leash also has a handle near the dog-end that is great for assisting him with pulling over. I will strongly caution against the bungee-style. It seemed a good idea for an inquisitive dog, but the bungee yanked me a little more than I liked, especially on less-stable terrain. If trail running with a pup, especially on flatter terrain, go nuts! Otherwise, a shorter, non-bungee is good enough–your dog will still be pooped after a hike, promise.
I pretty much rounded out a set, as I bought a leash that matches his Ruffwear pack. Ruffwear makes three packs, in small, medium, and large capacity. We went with the medium, the Approach, as we didn’t know how he’d take it. The largest capacity does seem great for backpacking, as the saddlebags are removable for once camp is set up. Do check with your vet first if your dog can handle a pack (especially if a puppy), and make sure to start with an empty pack and work your way up to adding weight. A dog should not carry more than 10-20% of their body weight. For my pup, that means he can carry his bowl, treats, water, and even his breakfast and dinner for overnight trips. He always gets comments on trail about how helpful he is being! You don’t need a pack though, any good harness can do, especially on dayhikes. Speaking of water, a nice bowl is helpful, we use a silicone collapsible one.
Other gear I found to be pretty vital is a poopholder. Ruffwear makes a waterproof pouch perfect for holding full poop bags. I refuse to be *that* dog owner who bags poop and leaves it on trail “to pick up later”! While this product doesn’t block odor as well as they claim, if it is stinky I just move the clip to be closer to my pup or in his pack. Other great preparedness products are around safety. Many products make lights or various glowing products for dogs. For both backpacking and nighttime walks at home, we use a Ruffwear Beacon rechargeable light. There are three colors (red, green, blue) and three settings (on, flashing, pulsating) to help make your dog more visible. Ruffwear harnesses and packs have a designated spot to clip the Beacon to.
Of course, the ultimate preparation is first aid for your canine, as well as yourself. While premade dog first aid kits exist, plenty of people make their own. I hike with some gear I assembled thanks to this list, as well as styptic powder to stop bleeding. I’ve heard some people swear by maxi pads for stopping paw bleeding, too! While my pup is only 24 pounds and could be carried in an emergency, for larger dogs I wouldn’t hike without an emergency sling for assistance with carrying them.
Extras (for the Pampered Pooch)
As I said before, my dog is one spoiled Mexican rescue pup. There’s some extras I love having on-hand for hikes, even if it means extra weight for me (or him!). I always bring treats for him, as he’s burning calories too! While plenty of companies sell fancy treat pouches, I just use the smallest pocket-size Stasher bag for his treats, which works great. Another extra, depending on weather, is a cooling neckerchief. Especially with black fur, I worry about my boy getting overheated, so getting this wet activates some cooling for him he seems to enjoy. Speaking of wet, my last bit of gear I bring hiking for Schooner is a coat, either a Wilderdog warm fleece one or his Ruffwear Sun Shower rain jacket. Coming from Mexico, Schooner hates rain and cold, but these jackets both seem to help. The fleece coat fits well under his harness or pack, and the rain coat is big enough to even fit over the pack, if it starts raining mid-hike!
I love my dog to the moon and back, and love bringing him on my non-National Park adventures. Is there any gear you bring hiking for your pampered pooch? Share in the comments below!