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Unsure what to pack for a backpacking trip with your dog? This guide advises you on all the dog backpacking gear you need.

All the Dog Backpacking Gear You Need

This post is sponsored by REI. I have been an REI member most of my life, whether through a family account growing up or with the one Dave and I have now as adults. The majority of the outdoor gear I currently own or have ever owned has come from REI. Their knowledgeable staff, generous return policy, selection, deals, campaigns, and of course member benefits are among the reasons we are loyal members. Suffice it to say, we are big fans of the company and all opinions are our own.

Hopefully the snow is finally starting to melt where you live and you can start thinking about hitting the trails for some backpacking trips this summer. While we’re sad that we don’t have the Cascade Mountains as our playground anymore, we do look forward to exploring Europe’s mountains, like the Sierra Nevada where we live in Granada (just 45 min away!), the Pyrenees in France, Spain, and Andorra, among other places throughout the continent.

One of my most special memories with Sora was taking her on a solo backpacking trip. It was a short overnighter, but it was just her and me together in the woods, relying only upon each other. My goal with Laila and future dogs is to go on more backpacking trips, both solo and as a family or with friends. There’s just something about being out in nature, away from life in the city. In fact, I made sure to include backpacking in my 52 Week Adventure Dog Challenge.

As you plan for the summer, and figure out which gear you need for both you and your dog, be sure to check out the annual REI Member Rewards Event and spend that annual dividend reward! If you’re not a member, sign up today. It’s only $20 and you earn 10% back annually on your purchases, plus a host of other rewards, including members only deals, 20% coupons for both full price items and the REI Outlet, and an additional 10% back when you spend $50 or more on REI co-op branded items. We’ve saved hundreds, if not thousands over the years just for being a member.

Most dogs can help carry the load. A pack like the Ruffwear Palisades Pack is an essential item to have with your dog backpacking gear.

The Best Dog Backpacking Gear at REI

Ruffwear Palisades Dog Pack

If your dog can handle the weight, then it’s only fair that they help out with the load! The Palisades Dog Pack is one of the best multi-day dog hiking packs I’ve seen. Each side contains three zippered compartments, including one that contains two 1-liter BPA-free hydration reservoirs. The pack also comes with several attachment points and a cross load compression system to keep gear in place.

Keep in mind that a dog should not carry more than 25% of its body weight, and for some dogs, that number may be more like 10-12%. It’s easy to overload a pack, so go easy if you’re just starting out to see how your dog handles the load.

Ruffwear Quencher Dog Bowl

A lightweight collapsible dog bowl is a must for any endurance activity with a dog. The Quencher Dog Bowl folds into a tiny size that fits just about everywhere—my pants pocket, running vest or belt, my backpack, and in a dog pack. We only bring along one bowl that we use for both food and water to save on weight.

We're all about the hands-free leashes. Whether we're hiking, running, or backpacking, hands-free is where it's at.

Ruffwear Flat Out Leash

I’m all about the hands free hiking on the trails. With a heavy pack and rocky trails that require concentration and balance, a leash that clips easily around the waist or to your pack waistband is super nice to have. Ruffwear makes some of my favorite hands free leashes, the Flat Out Leash. They’re durable, lightweight, and I freaking love the talon clip.

To see a review of the very similar Slackline Leash by Ruffwear, check out this post.

Adventure Medical Kits Dog First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is one of those things that you hope you never need, but always need to have in case of emergency. The Adventure Medical Kit Dog First Aid Kit comes in a small size, perfect for backpacking with all the essentials to keep your dog safe in the event of a medical situation on the trail.

Ruffwear Front Range Dog Harness

If your dog is not wearing a backpack, then the Front Range Harness is a great choice. It’s a versatile harness that can be used for running, day hikes, or longer adventures. The customizable fit with four adjustment points and both front and rear leash attachment options means that it’s a good fit for most dogs.

Like humans, dogs need eye protection as well. A pair of dog goggles like RexSpecs will keep their eyes safe in certain conditions. We include them with our dog backpacking gear.

RexSpecs Dog Goggles

Depending on where you’re planning to go on your backpacking trip, your dog may need eye protection. It may seem ridiculous to think about a dog needing to wear goggles, however like humans, dogs also need to protect their eyes. Some breeds are prone to eye diseases that result from spending unprotected time in the sun or at high elevations. Depending on the exposure, elevation, and proximity to a lake (due to the reflection), we’ll pack our RexSpecs.

Poop Bags

Practicing Leave no Trace principles means packing out your dog’s poop. It’s not the most fun part of backpacking, but it’s part of backpacking with a dog. We opt for earth-friendly bags like these from Cycle Dog and store them in the Ruffwear Stash Bag.

For shorter backpacking trips, I’ll stuff the used bags in the dog pack, since it’ll just be one or two bags. If you’re planning a longer trip, you can use something like a 5L dry bag attached to your backpack to store the bags and the stench. Bring along a bit of paracord and opt for a 10L dry bag and use it to pack out all of your trash and keep it away from bears while you sleep.

Dog Booties

We personally have never had to use dog boots for our pups, but some have more sensitive paws than others. The Ruffwear Grip Tex Dog Boots have a durable Vibram sole to protect dog paws from rocky or harsh terrain.

Dog Camping Essentials

Ruffwear Knot-a-Hitch Dog Tether System

This is a bit of a luxury item to bring along if you can make the space and sacrifice some weight. The Knot-a-Hitch is great to have at camp to allow your dog to have some freedom without worrying about them going off on a little adventure of their own when you’re not looking. It also allows you to more easily set up your tent without having to also manage your dog. At 12 oz, it’s not a huge added weight to the overall pack.

Ruffwear Stumptown Insulated Dog Jacket

For cooler nights or dogs with short coats, bring a jacket. Something like the Stumptown Insulated Jacket will keep them warm at night or when you’re inactive.

Not all dogs require jackets. Sora, for example, with her double coat, never had to wear one. Laila, on the other hand, has a shorter, single coat and so tends to feel cold more easily.

The Stumptown Jacket is weather resistant and provides 120 grams of recycled polyester insulation to provide warmth at the campsite. The reflective trim makes for easy low-light visibility.

A lightweight travel dog bed is great to bring on a backpacking trip. It'll give your dog a comfortable place to sleep and keep them warmer in tent.

Ruffwear Mt. Bachelor Pad Dog Bed

A packable travel dog bed will give your pup a comfortable space to sleep in the tent or rest during meal breaks. The Mt. Bachelor Pad is made from a waterproof microsuede material and easily rolls into a tight bundle for carrying. I like to attach the bed to to top of the dog pack or to my own using adjustable straps to keep it in place.

Nite Ize Nitehowl LED Safety Necklace

If your pup does well off-leash or needs to go venture around camp to find a potty spot, an illuminated light or collar like the Nite Ize Nitehowl Necklace is a great accessory. You can turn in on to full light or blinking so that you can keep an eye on your pup in the dark.

Dog Food

Depending on the length of the trip, we will either store the food in Ziplock bags or a dry bag, like the one mentioned above. We measure out the exact amount of food we need for the trip + 1 extra day in case of emergency. Dehydrated brands like Stella & Chewy’s or Ziwi Peak are great to take on backpacking trips, since they weigh practically nothing.

Your turn! What are your essential dog backpacking gear items? What would you add to this list? Any questions? Ask in the comments below!

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Unsure what to pack for a backpacking trip with your dog? This guide advises you on all the dog backpacking gear you need.
Jen Sotolongo

Hello! I'm Jen. I'm a writer, photographer, dog mom, and outdoor enthusiast. When I'm not writing about awesome ways to get outside with your dog, I'm probably out for a long trail run. I also fancy myself a pretty decent vegan cook, and am always happy to whip up a batch of cookies for friends. My husband and I travel the world with our dogs, most famously taking on a 2-year bicycle trip across Europe and South America. I currently live in Spain with my husband and our two dogs, but the Pacific Northwest will always be my love.

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52 Week Adventure Checklist

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