If you hike with your dog often, you probably don’t put much thought into “packing” for a hike, especially a shorter one. But if you (or your dog) are new to hiking, you might not know just what you should bring. Well, the Mutts are here to help. This is our tried and true dog hiking gear list.
Essential Dog Hiking Gear List:
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1. Sturdy collar
Steer clear of cheap dog collars with plastic buckles or thin, flimsy collars. You want a sturdy collar that won’t break if it gets stuck on something or if your dog sees a squirrel or decides to pull at the end of the leash (if you aren’t using a harness). Our favorites are the K9 Explorer Collar or for water-proof awesomeness, check out Petoji Adventure Collars.
2. ID Tags & Microchip (with up-to-date info)
Hopefully nothing will ever happen to separate you from your dog on the trail, but in case disaster strikes, you want to be prepared. Dog tags with current information is your first line of defense should you lose your dog. The information is easily available to whoever may find your dog and it’s the fastest way to get them back.
Heaven forbid your dog’s collar breaks or their tags get stuck on a branch and fall off somewhere along the way (this has happened to me on a hike before), having your dog microchipped is VITAL. It’s pretty much your last hope of being reunited with your best friend should they lose their tags.
3. Strong Leash
I know some people hike with their dogs off leash, but even if you do, you should always have a leash on hand. A good majority of parks and trails have leash laws. I know all of them in my area do. Even if they don’t, you should never leave home without a leash, just in case. I recommend a standard 6′ length leash (or 5′ if you prefer for smaller dogs). 6 feet is generally the maximum length allowed in places where leashes are mandated.
Make sure the leash you bring hiking is strong enough for your individual dog . Most leashes are weight rated and will say something like “for dogs up to 50 lbs” or what have you. You also do not want a leash that is too heavy. For example, I would never use the leash I use for Boomer or Helo (both about 60 lbs) on Roxie, who is only 14. You don’t want the extra weight on their necks while you hike.
Our favorites (based on dog size)
For larger dogs like Boomer and Helo (50lbs+) we love SportLeash. We’ve had one for about 4 years now and still use it almost everyday.
For smaller dogs like Ringo or Roxie, our go to is the Alcott Explorer Leash in small or medium.
4. Water… LOTS of water!
Dogs drink a lot of water. When they’re exerting more energy, like they do when hiking, they need extra water to keep hydrated and cool. The generally accepted rule of thumb is 0.5 – 1.0 oz of water per lb of dog per day. So, if your dog weights 50 lbs, they need an estimated 25-50 oz of water for a day on the trail. This is for average conditions, so please keep in mind things like temperature, intensity of the hike, elevation, etc. All of these things affect how much water you and your dog will need. Plan ahead and pack accordingly.
So what about if I hike near water? Can’t my dog just drink from there?
Yes and no. This really depends on how clean the water source is. While it’s easy to see if water is REALLY gross, like if it’s slimy and has stuff growing in it, it’s not always so cut and dry. Water can look clean and smell clean and not be good to drink, for you or your dog. This comes down to knowledge of the area and testing done on the water source and, honestly, your personal preference. There are some hikes where I bring less water because I know for a fact that the water is fast-flowing and clean and has been tested. If I’m not sure, I make sure I bring enough water for all the pups, plus some.
5. Collapsible Bowls
Bringing water isn’t all that helpful without a vessel for your dog(s) to drink out of. There are a lot of options out there, from foldable fabric pocket bowls to bottles with bowls attached to them and a million designs in between. My personal preference is collapsible silicone bowls with a carabiner. They’re easy to wash, they don’t absorb water. My dogs don’t really like the fabric ones because they’re generally taller and less open. This means they’re often folding in on themselves and your dog needs to stick his or her face in this weird collapsing thing to get to water. The LAST thing you want is a bowl that your dog is scared of and therefor won’t drink out of. These Dexas collapsible travel cups are our absolute favorite.
Especially on more technical hikes, a harness can be a really helpful tool. Whether it’s because your dog is a puller, or they have a strong prey drive, or maybe they’re great on leash but it’s a technical trail. We use harnesses on ALL of our hikes over a mile or so and I really appreciate the extra security. I find it especially helpful near ledges, on rock terrain, steep inclines, and wobbly suspension bridges like the one pictured above.
Not only do you have a more secure attachment to your dog, but a lot of them also have handles just in case you need to grab your dog. Some are more for maneuvering and control, like this Hurtta Active Harness. Others can be used to lift dogs if needed, like the Ruffwear Webmaster harness. Read the full review of our favorite, the Active Harness, (pictured above) here.
7. First Aid Kit
First aid kits come in all shapes and sizes. With so many options out there, it’s good to do a bit of research and find one that fits the needs of your particular dogs and your adventures. I personally choose to keep a large, fully stocked kit in my truck (when we are on shorter hikes) and bring a mini kit on hikes. Check out our DIY Dog First Aid kit post for tips on making your own.
To purchase a full size kit, I suggest checking out something like this one from Adventure Medical Kits. I also throw a roll of vet wrap in my backpack before we hit the trail. Be sure to bring human-specific first aid items as well, just in case!
Treats serve two purposes on the trail. First is energy and second is motivation. If you’re on a long hike, you bring snacks right? Trail mix, a granola bar, some fruit. Your dog need extra energy on a long, tiring hike just like you do. They even make energy bars for dogs. Ours love Turbo Pup bars.
The second use for treats is motivation. Wether you need to encourage your dog to cross a wobbly bridge or want to reward them for great recall on the trail, bring treats! We love Zuke’s Mini Naturals, because they’re small and low calorie (so you can give more treats!).
These are some other pieces of gear that you may want to consider based on terrain, trail length, and weather conditions.
- Dog backpack – Let your dog help by carrying their own food and water on longer trails/backpacking trips. We use either Ruffwear or Hurtta packs. (Start light and never make your dog carry more than 25% of their body weight.)
- Dog boots – Consider dog boots for trails with a lot of rocky terrain or extreme temperatures. Hot sand, snow, ice, etc.
- Doggles – For windy hikes in sandy environments or for dogs who like to run head-first into brush, consider dog goggles like RexSpecs
- Jackets – Cold temps? Rainy? Maybe it’s time for a dog jacket
Thanks for reading,
Debbie & The Mutts
Have other gear on your hiking list? Or questions about hiking with your dog? Leave us a comment below!