In 2017, a fire ripped through the Columbia River Gorge, leaving 153 hikers stranded overnight six miles into the Eagle Creek Trail. After this happened, there was a lot of talk about the importance of bringing along the 10 essentials for hiking. You just never know what might happen when you head out for what you plan as a day hike.
For those of us who hike with our dogs, we also need to consider how to care for them in the event of a trail emergency. They have different needs than humans and while some of the gear can be used between both dog and human, some is very dog-specific.
Before we talk about the 10 essentials for dogs, I want to quickly go through the list for humans. It serves no use to talk about what you need for your dog if you are unprepared yourself.
- Navigation: map, compass, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger. Maps.ME is our favorite off-line mapping app.
- Headlamp: Make sure it’s fully-charged and bring extra batteries
- Sun protection: sunglasses and sunscreen
- First aid: You’ll need one for your dog as well. In many cases, first aid supplies can overlap with pet-friendly additions
- Knife or Multi-tool: I know some folks who carry a pocket knife everywhere they go. I’m surprised at how often they come in handy!
- Fire: matches, fire starter, and/or stove. You’ll want to be sure to have some way to be able to start a fire if you have to spend the night outdoors.
- Emergency Shelter: This can be a simple bivy sack or light tarp.
- Extra food: Plan for an extra day
- Extra water: Either plan for an extra day or if there are water sources nearby, bring a filter or water purifier
- Extra clothes: Always bring plenty of layers and a warm jacket. Space blankets are also great and super compact.
All right. Now that we know what we need for human survival, let’s take a look at what we might need for our dogs in a trail emergency.
10 Essentials for Hiking with Dogs
Pet First-Aid Kit
I’ve had to learn to get better about including a first aid kit. Fortunately, I’ve never had to use it in the outdoors, but it’s so important to carry regardless. You can either put together your own, purchase one specifically for dogs, or add a few dog items to your existing first-aid kit.
Just as important as bringing a kit along is the knowledge of what to do in an emergency situation. Check in your local area for pet first-aid courses, often offered by veterinary clinics or training facilities.
Also, consider purchasing Canine Field Medicine so you always have a handy reference. You can get it as an e-book so there won’t be any extra weight to carry.
I was once hiking with my former sister-in-law’s dog who tore his paw pads on the return. I happened to have an extra sock with me, but no way to keep it on his paw. It kept coming off and he wasn’t able to walk without protection. My partner ended up having to carry his 100-lb weight for about a mile back to the car.
If your dog doesn’t regularly wear booties on hikes, then carry an emergency pair of dog booties like these from Pawz Waterproof Dog Boot in case they tear a pad or you happen upon some unexpected rough terrain. Just keep in mind that these should really only serve as emergency boots, rather than for regular use. They’re inexpensive and small, perfect for the first aid kit.
Extra Food + Treats
Aside from the fact that your dog will likely require additional food due to the physical activity from a day of hiking, also plan to pack an extra half or full day’s worth of food on your adventures in case you need to stay overnight.
If weight is an issue, have your pup carry their own food in a backpack and/or use dehydrated or freeze-dried food that hardly weighs a thing.
Light up Collar or Light
Sometimes, darkness hits faster than expected and leaves you in the dark, literally. Of course you have your own light with extra batteries (right?), but what about your pup? Not only do you need to be able to see your dog in the dark, but they will need to be visible to others as well.
Bring along either something like this Nite Ize collar or a light you can attach to their collar like this one from Ruffwear. The benefit of a collar versus a hanging light is that they are visible from all angles, rather than just where the light hangs from their collar.
Most dogs wear their ID all of the time on their collars, but sometimes owners might remove collars to put on harnesses instead, not realizing the ramifications should their pet become lost on the trail.
Since I move a lot and have spent a lot of time abroad, I include my email address on my pets’ ID tags. For most, a phone number and email address will be sufficient.
Road ID makes a jingle-free dog tag that slides onto their collar. It is also much larger than most pet ID tags and has plenty of space for your dog’s name, your address, two phone numbers, and a slogan of choice or space for medical information.
Water and Water Bowl
Don’t assume that there will be plenty of potable water available for your dog on all hikes. Like humans, dogs are susceptible to water-borne diseases, so it’s not always wise to let them drink from any old stream.
You might get stranded or injured far away from any water source, so carrying extra is worth the weight. I usually bring two or three water bottles along on any hike. If it’s a summer hike, I add a bladder. Adding a water filter or iodine table is also not a bad idea.
A small, foldable travel bowl is a key piece of gear for any adventure dog set up. I have a few that I love, including:
Dexas Popware for Pets collapsible bowl – I love how durable Dexas bowls are. We keep one in the car for use after trail runs or to bring along to restaurants or other outings. The material is solid and we have yet to see any wear on the creases. You can read our review here.
Kurgo RSG Hydration Flask – This removable pouch attaches to the RSG Active Utility Belt and includes a 12-oz hydration flask and attached Zippy Bowl for super easy carrying and convenience.
Dog Bed or Jacket
Temps can drop in an instant in the mountains, so carrying an extra layer for your pup could prevent hypothermia. Even dogs with two coats will shiver in very cold temperatures. A bed provides an insulation layer between your dog and the ground to keep them warmer.
I have several favorite dog beds for camping that I use for different occasions. You can read more about my picks here.
As far as dog jackets, look for something that is both weather resistant and insulating.
Being stuck on a trail in hot weather can mean heat exhaustion for your pup, especially if there is no shade around. Know how to prevent and look for signs of overheating in your dog. Consider bringing a cooling vest on warm weather hikes. The Swamp Cooler from Ruffwear or the Dog Core Cooling Vest from Kurgo are our picks.
Other conditions may call for eye protection for your dog. Pack a pair of RexSpecs dog goggles for hikes in high elevation, on sunny snow days, or near lakes. Excessive sun exposure can lead to eye diseases like pannus.
Extra Poop Bags
Leave no Trace principles for dogs ask that dog owners pack out all of their dogs poop or bury it in a cat hole. It may seem silly to have to pick up dog poop when there are so many other wild animals leaving their droppings all around, but dog poop contains different bacteria that can contaminate water and spread disease among wildlife.
That, and it’s just unsightly and discourteous to leave it for other users to see.
A bonus of extra poop bags is that they can also be used as a water bowl if you’ve forgotten to bring one.
Harness or Backpack
Should your dog become immobile and you need to get to a veterinarian ASAP, you need a way to carry them. Of course, it’s easier to carry a small dog in your arms for several miles, but what about a medium-sized or large dog? For some, it’s impossible.
Ruff Rescue Gear makes ergonomic emergency harnesses for dogs of all sizes that pack down to the size of a water bottle.
In addition to the items above, be sure to always know where the nearest veterinarian is, including emergency hospitals, as most clinics are not open on Sundays or close early on weekends.