Autumn arrived in Southern California and it’s cooler again. Leaves are changing colors in most parts of the country and it’s officially hiking season! It’s time to hit the trail with your four-legged best friend.
If you are a beginner, here are some safety precautions you need to consider first:
- Your dog has a sturdy collar with a name tag that has the current contact info.
- Your dog is in good health and is fit to hike with you.
- Your dog has passed obedience training and is friendly with other people and other dogs.
Now, let’s get started with the gear list. These are my gear recommendations for anyone who hikes with a dog.
Do I really need to mention a backpack? Yes. You would be surprised how many people I see on the trails with just a bottle of water.
The backpack should be big enough to carry food and water for you and your pup for the duration of the hike and some extra for an emergency. I like backpacks with a separate external compartment for the hydration reservoir for convenience, which I will cover in the next section. Try to get a pack that fits your body frame and your torso size. The knowledgeable folks at REI can help you with finding the right size and type of backpack you need as well as advising you on how to load the pack the right way to avoid any discomfort.
But wait, why carry everything all by yourself? Is your furry hiking partner a healthy adult dog? If your dog is a working breed, an athletic dog or he just has high energy and doesn’t know what to do with it, these are all good reasons for trying a dog backpack.
There is a variety of styles and types of dog backpacks on the market. Whatever dog pack you choose, it’s recommended that your dog carries no more than 25% of body weight in the backpack.
2. Hydration Reservoir (a.k.a., hydration bladder)
Some hiking daypacks come with a hydration reservoir but most of the hiking packs don’t. If you have a backpack without a hydration reservoir, I suggest investing in one if you hike on a regular basis. I recommend 3L capacity and make sure it fits in the reservoir pocket in your backpack. For most of the day hikes, 3L has been enough between the two of us. When we need to carry additional water, Xena carries a hydration reservoir that came with her backpack.
Some dogs refuse to drink water from a hydration bladder or a water bottle. Even if your dog is trained to drink water from your hydration reservoir, it’s nice for her to have a bowl of her own at the summit. It can also be used for food.
It should be 100% pet-safe. Some brands carry one size and some carry Small and Large so pick the right size for your pack. We tried a large Roysili bowl from Amazon and that was disappointing. It ripped apart after a couple of uses when I tried to move the full bowl to another location. It should be sturdy.
Whether your dog hikes on a leash or off-leash, I recommend carrying a sturdy non-retractable leash for safety. When the trail condition becomes unstable or gets crowded, keep your pup close to you on a leash. I like leashes made from sturdy and durable climbing ropes on hikes. If your backpack has a waist strap, you can pull the waist strap through the leash handle and keep your hands free for trekking poles or delicious treats.
If you get one piece of hiking gear for your dog, I recommend a harness made for adventure. And if you have a small to medium dog, I recommend a harness with a sturdy handle so you can help her overcome obstacles. I like it bright and visible, especially during hunting season and having reflectors are great at dawn or dusk. Make sure it’s durable and functional.
I recommend these emergency items in your backpack at all times: a pocket knife, an emergency whistle, a battery charger for your phone, a couple of painkillers, and a first aid kit for you and your dog. Accidents do happen even when you are careful. It’s always good to be prepared.
Well, there you have it. Now, all you need is yummy trail snacks. Let’s get out and explore the great outdoors with our four-legged best friend!
*This helpful guide was sponsored by REI.