My husband and I recently went on our honeymoon and as our honeymoon we decided to go on a 15 day hiking trip with our dogs. Although we wanted to continuously hike, the weather did not permit us to. We were able to do short 2-3 day hiking trips with breaks in-between throughout our entire trip. We quickly learned what we did need for our dogs and what we didn't need. This list is a collection of essentials for your dog (from our experience) for whether you are hiking, backpacking, taking a short camping trip or simply just spending the day outdoors. It will also include brands and products that we absolutely loved on our trip. Enjoy!
1. Food and Treats That Are High In Protein And Nutrients
Since we feed our dogs a raw-food diet and we couldn't take fresh raw meat on our trip, we opted for the next best thing: freeze dried or dehydrated raw dog food. In my opinion, taking freeze-dried dog food and dehydrated treats on a hiking or camping trip is the best option, because its protein and nutrient dense while also being very lightweight (all you have to do is add water when its time to feed fido).
We used two different brands of dehydrated & freeze-dried raw dog food: Primal Pet Food & Steve's Real Food. Flik ate the Primal and Dot ate the Steve's. They both thrived on each of the foods and had a surprising amount of energy throughout the trip (even on the longer mileage, hotter, more strenuous days). For our treat option we took a variety of Crumps' Natural's dehydrated treats and we will be sharing which ones were the pups favorites!
Primal Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food
What We Loved:
What We Didn't Love:
*I recommend taking primal on shorter hiking trips! (ex: trips that are a maximum of 7 days if you are not re-supplying on the way)
*I also recommend taking primal on long road trips if you have a car to store your food!
Steve's Real Food For Dogs
What We Loved:
*I recommend taking Steve's on longer trips, since it is less bulky and you don't have to take the effort to crush down before packing it up for your trip. (I especially recommend this food for backpacking trips!)
*Freeze Dried Raw Dog Food: The price. This is usually the dilemma with a lot of freeze-dried raw formulas, the cost is usually high, because you are not only paying for the high quality food, but also for the convenience. This is why we only use freeze-dried formulas on trips because it is worth the price if we know are pups are still getting high quality food and a good amount of nutrients - we would never go back to feeding our dogs a kibble diet. Even on short trips, kibble diets can disrupt the digestive system if your dog is used to eating higher quality foods like a raw diet. Not to mention kibble is pretty heavy to carry around and is not as high in protein content and essential nutrients! If you cannot bring yourself to purchase the freeze-dried formulas, I suggest using Orijen's kibble. It is the highest and best quality kibble on the market, but just be aware that it is still heavy if you are taking it on longer trips.
Crumps' Naturals - All Natural Dog Treats
These were their two favorite treats on the trip - Freeze-dried lamb chops and their Dehydrated sweet potato strips (disclaimer: they will only eat sweet potato along with a balanced diet once in a while when they are very active (which made it perfect for our trip)). Although Sweet potato has a plethora of health benefits, it is also high in sugar and is not recommended for pups who are prone to yeast infections, it is important to feed sweet potato in a moderation and to always do your research before feeding anything new to your pup.). That being said, these sweet potato slices were the savior to our dogs energy content! The sweet potato also supplemented their diets with extra fiber and energy. When my dogs are very active, they usually have softer stools for the first day of getting back on the trail. The sweet potato helped regulate this. The Lamb chop treats were also very easy to break apart and were a nice boost of protein and fat throughout the day.
What We Loved:
*I recommend Crumps' Naturals on all types of trips!
*Disclaimer: These three product brands did sponsor our hiking trip and sent us food and treats. However, all three of these brands are brands that I have used on a regular basis and have loved for a very long time. These are true opinions. I would not review them otherwise.
2. A Dog Pack
Having your dog carry some of his/her own supplies is a personal decision. But I think it's a great option if your dog is healthy and fit enough to carry some weight while you both hike, and not only does it take some weight off of your shoulders (since you'll be carrying all the water), but it also gets your dog used to carrying weight if you know he/she is going to be doing it in the future.
As we prepared for our trip we knew it was important for Flik to carry some of his own food and supplies. To do this he needed a pack that fit him well, had enough room but was not too bulky or heavy, and supported the weight properly. We decided to go with the Ruffwear Approach Pack.
What We Loved:
*I recommend the approach pack for daily and overnight hiking trips - it's small enough for daily trips but also comfortable and large enough for overnight trips (Flik was about 55 pounds when he wore this pack)
3. Durable Lead (traffic lead and hands-free lead)
It is so important to be able to have a durable lead no matter where you go. Its always a good idea to keep a dog lead with you while your hiking or traveling, even if you usually have your dog off-leash, some parks do not allow off-leash hiking.
The two leads we decided to purchase is a hands-free bungee lead from REI (not sure what brand). We regret getting the bungee option, but it worked for our short trip. The second lead we decided to bring was a short traffic lead when we wanted to keep him close to us. We ordered this from Kona Leashes. It is a very durable lead that is made up of mountain climbing grade rope so you know your pup is secure!
4. Bandana/Small Rag
Since you'll be out in the backcountry where there is dirt, dirt and more dirt, it is important to be able to brush the dirt and elements off of your pup at the end of the day. Bringing something lightweight is key, so it dries faster and also doesn't take space in your pack.
We took a homemade cloth bandana that we used to brush the debris off and dry the dogs off before they got into our tent for the night.
5. A Brush
The bandana or rag won't always get the dirt out of your dogs fur, especially if you have a dog who has a longer coat of fur. Make sure you bring a brush to brush out your dogs fur every night. Doing this will help prevent your dog from being irritated from dirt and debris, but also doing this makes sure to get any unwanted pests out of their coat.
6. Tick Remover
If you are hiking in areas where there are known to be high tick populations it is important to bring a small tick remover device or sometimes called a tick key (we just got ours from Walmart). In case your dog has one attached (or in case you have one attached), it is useful to have one handy to make sure you are removing it correctly.
7. Flea/Tick Spray and Preventative
If you live and travel to warmer climates its important to have your dog on flea and tick preventative. There are many natural essential oil blends (will post in an upcoming blog) that are better, safer and more effective than most chemical treatments!
8. Clip-on Light or Bell
This one is sometimes the forgotten necessity. When you are in the backcountry, there are many different kinds of animals, and some of those dangerous animal interactions can be avoided by simply putting a bell on your dog so the animal knows you are coming its way and will effectively get out of the way. Having a light attached to the harness is also a good way for you to keep track of your dog, especially if you are off-leash night hiking.
9. First Aid
This should always be one of the most important things you bring for you and your companion animal when you go on any kind of trip.
What we brought for our pups on our hiking/backpacking/camping trip:
1. Anti-septic wipes (in case of an open wound)
2. Nail cutter (in case of a hanging nail that could cause infection)
3. Benadryl (in case of an allergic reaction to (ex: bug bites, scratches))
4. Tweezers (thorn or other plant/insect matter stuck in your dogs coat or feet)
5. Gauze and skin tape (in case of an open wound)
6. Paw Balm (for rough or cracked paw pads)
10. Dog Waste Bags or Digging a Cat Hole?!
This is so important if you plan not to dig a cat hole and bury your dog's business. However, I urge you to try and not carry these as they can be a hassle (and a waste of plastic), especially if you are backpacking (since you'll have to carry them with you, and it can get stinky!). Digging a cat hole and burying it at least 200 feet from a water source is the better option if you're backpacking or hiking a longer distance.
*If you are a first time hiker or backpacker and you decide to bring your dog, be prepared to get frustrated, angry, tired and exhausted. My husband and I felt all of this and more but it was worth it. We got the hang of things and loved every minute of it. You will get over that threshold of having those frustrating feelings while traveling with a dog (or multiple dogs), but it is so rewarding in the end!