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The Essential Dog Camping Gear Items I Bring on Every Trip 2023

The Essential Dog Camping Gear Items I Bring on Every Trip 2023

If you’ve never gone camping with your dog or you don’t go often enough that you forget what dog camping gear essentials to pack each time you head out, then this is the post for you!

I have spent so many nights camping with my dog that it sometimes feels more comfortable than my own bed. My gear is always ready to go at a moment’s notice for any last-minute camping adventures. I even have a bin dedicated solely to dog camping gear.

Whether you’re about to head out on your first camping trip with your dog or you only camp a few times a year, this list will help you understand the best camping accessories you need for your dog.

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What gear do I need for camping with a dog?

When you camp with your dog, you’ll need a mix of what you you at home, only camp version, and what use for yourself, only dog version.

The main dog camping gear items include:

  • Dog camping bed
  • Food storage
  • Dog food/water bowl
  • Treat pouch
  • Leash
  • First Aid Kit
  • Containment system

Essential Dog Camping Gear

Depending on whether you are car camping or backpacking, the items may differ, as you can be less conservative when you have your car with you. I provide options for both, as well as some bonus items that I like to have along.

You’ll notice some brand repeats on this list. That’s because the brand makes exceptional dog gear. As you know, I always opt for quality as much as I can.

Dog Camping Bed

The key to picking a good dog bed for your camping gear collection is to find one that is:

  • Water resistant
  • Rolls into a compact size
  • Easy to clean
  • Lightweight

I have used a lot of dog camping beds over the years and since I can’t pick just one, I wrote an entire post dedicated to the best dog camping beds.

A few favorites include:

Best Dog Travel Bed for Backpacking: Ruffwear Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag

The Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag is a lightweight synthetic sleeping bag that rolls up into a compressible sack for easy transport.

Since dogs can opt to sleep inside or on top of the sleeping bag, it provides options for varying temperatures.

A zipper runs along half of the length of the side so dogs can easily get into and out of the sleeping bag.

For additional insulation in colder months, or if you want to provide a bit of extra padding for your dog to sleep at night, you can slide the Highlands Pad (sold separately) into the bottom of the sleeping bag.

Best Dog Travel Bed for Car Camping: Kurgo Wander Loft Travel Bed

The Kurgo Wander Loft Dog Bed is a favorite for camping with dogs

Soft, fluffy, and packs down to a transportable size, the Kurgo Wander Loft Travel bed is great for car camping trips because it doesn’t take up a ton of space, but still provides a warm and padded spot for your dog to sleep and rest.

It rolls up easily into a compact carrying tote, and is waterproof on the top and bottom. Dog hair floats off with a few shakes, and the rubber bottom makes for easy cleaning.

To see more about what I think of this bed, check out the review.

Dog Food: Storage, Bowls, and Serving

I like to measure out my dog’s food before I leave home, adding an additional day’s worth, just in case. Depending on the length of time you’re camping, container options vary.

If you’re staying just one night or backpacking, a simple ZipLoc bag will do (I like the freezer ones because they’re more durable and reusable. Areas with bears will require a bear container. ZipLoc bags are helpful for this as well, since you can pack them more easily into a smaller space.

For backpacking, I bring lightweight dog food to save on weight and space. Ziplock bags are great for backpacking as well because they pack more easily into your dog’s pack.

My general dog food set up includes the following gear:

Dog food storage: Kurgo Kibble Carrier

A thick, roll top dry bag makes transporting and storing dog food for camping trips a breeze. The Kurgo Kibble Carrier can hold up to 5lbs of dog food, which is plenty for a week or so of camping for most dogs 50 lbs and less.

The Kibble Carrier is made using a hex weave design that keeps dog food fresh. A bottom pocket can store a collapsible dog bowl and a zippered side pocket can hold small items like treats.

Best Dog Food & Water Bowl for car camping: West Paw No-Slip Water & Food Bowl

West Paw No Slip Water and Food Bowl for dogs

A sturdy bowl that doubles as both a food and water dish will save on space. I love these BPA-free bowls from West Paw, one of my favorite sustainable brands.

These particular bowls are made from the brand’s Seaflex material, which takes plastic that was destined for the ocean and repurposes it into a reusable product.

Best Dog Food & Water Bowl for backpacking: Quencher Packable Dog Bowl

I have a couple of the Quencher Bowls stashed in various backpacks. They’re super packable and weight practically nothing, so they’re easy to take just about everywhere.

They are available in three different sizes to suit your dog appropriately.

Treat Pouch: Ruffwear Home Trail Hip Pack

I am always training my dog and take every opportunity to do so. For this reason, I always have a treat pouch on me. Camping and backpacking trips are great places to train, whether you’re working on staying in place or recall on the trail.

I just fill the treat pouch with my dog’s meal and use that for training instead of treats, which can lead to obesity if they are getting too many treats throughout the day.

I prefer a fanny pack style of treat pouch, like the Home Trail Hip Pack from Ruffwear because it can hold other items, like my phone, keys, poop bags, and more.

Dog Leashes

I use two different hand-free dog leashes for my various activities, but my two main leashes are a multi-purpose leash and a biothane leash. I usually bring both for car camping, but will bring just the biothane leash for backpacking.

Best Hands-free Dog Leash: Ruffwear Crag Leash

A hands-free leash is great to have for camping. I can secure it to a table while I’m setting up my tent or cooking and attach it to my pack or around my waist when we hike.

I have a few favorites that I use on rotation. I’ve mentioned before how much I love the Ruffwear Crag Leash leash several times on this blog because it is truly my favorite multi-purpose leash.

It’s strong, has a reflective trim, can adjust to about any size you like, and it’s comfortable to wear.

The talon claw is the best leash attachment device I’ve ever used. I don’t have to fidget with a tiny trigger release when it’s cold or stuck after a trip to the beach.

Best Everyday Leash: Biothane Leash from CSJ Creations

CSJ Biothane Leash

Biothane leashes are commonly used with horses and known as “vegan leather” because they have the same feeling. I love them because they are lightweight and waterproof.

If your trip ends up being muddy or rainy, or you just enjoy hiking around water, then biothane is ideal because it’s clean with a quick wipe of a towel.

I personally use a 4′ length and 3/8″ width, because my dog is trained to walk with a loose leash and the prong collar requires very little pressure. If you use a flat collar or harness or your dog pulls when you walk, then you’ll want to opt for a longer length and thicker width, at least 6′ and 1/2″ width.

First Aid Kit: Adventure Medical Kits

Don't forget to pack a first-aid kit as part of your dog camping gear essentials

This is the one piece of gear that you hope you never have to use, but never want to be without.

While human kits do have some items that can be used for on dogs, there is pet-specific equipment that you should have on hand. You can either add these items to your own kit, or purchase a pet-specific first aid kit, like I have.

I like the Me and My Dog Adventure Medical Kit because it includes both human and canine first-aid items, eliminating the need to bring two kits. For backpacking, I use the Adventure Medical Kit Heeler Kit.

I also highly recommend taking a pet first aid course, either in person or online. They’re inexpensive and knowing what to do in an emergency can keep a situation from going from bad to worse.

Containment System

Even if your dog is place trained, some kind of containment system will allow you to focus on other activities, without having to frequently monitor your dog.

Tether System: Ruffwear Knot-a-Hitch

The Ruffwear Knot-a-Hitch keeps your dog safe and secure at camp

This zip line system allows dogs to wander somewhat freely, while still keeping them contained.

Designed using a tension system inspired by rock climbing techniques, the ends of the Knot-a-Hitch are secured to two trees or a post.

If your dog barks at strangers or other dogs, I wouldn’t recommend this system, as it will just build the habit of barking at passersby (while also annoying the entire campground). Instead, use a crate or pen (see below).

Collapsible Soft Crate: MidWest Portable Tent Crate

I have found that bringing a collapsible soft-sided dog crate on car camping trips comes in very handy.

The reason I started using it in the first place was because Sitka was going mad about the mosquitoes. I tried tucking him under a blanket, but he wouldn’t stay fully submerged, so I popped him into the kennel.

Once I started using it , I saw the other benefits of having a camping crate. Not only is it nice for camping, but also for hotel travel, since it’s easily portable.

Sure, I can use my dog car kennel, but it’s strapped in and weighs 35 lbs, so it’s a pain to take out and put back in each time I use my car. So instead, I use the MidWest Portable Tent Crate, which is lightweight and easy to store when not in use. Most importantly, it keeps the bugs out.

Because this is a soft crate, it should only be used with dogs who are already crate trained and calm inside the kennel.

Optional Dog Camping Gear

Depending on where you’re camping or how well your dog is trained, you may want to consider a few other pieces of gear for your camping adventures.

Cooling Vest: Ruffwear Swamp Cooler or Kurgo Core Cooling Vest

The Ruffwear Swamp Cooler is a great dog camping gear item to have for hot days.
Ruffwear Swamp Cooler

For hot weather camping trips, a cooling vest will be an essential item to keep your dog comfortable. A cooling vest is simply a light-colored vest you get wet, wring out, and put on your dog to keep them cool.

I’ve used two different cooling vests and like both pretty equally. The first is the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler and the second is the Kurgo Core Cooling Vest.

The Kurgo Core Cooling Vest is a great investment for dog camping gear
Kurgo Core Cooling Vest

They are especially handy if you’re camping near a lake or river, so you can wet and wring whenever it dries out from the last round.

Since dogs can’t sweat, this helps prevent your dog from overheating in hot weather.

Ruffwear Swamp Cooler

Kurgo Core Cooling Vest

Dog Jacket: Voyagers K9 Apparel

When the night falls, the temps can go way down and some dogs can get cold. I made the mistake of not bringing a jacket on my first backpacking trip with Sitka and we were socked in a chilly fog system in the Olympics that left Sitka shivering. I had to warm him up in my sleeping bag!

My favorite jackets for dogs are from Voyagers K9 Apparel. They make breed-specific sizes or custom fit to your dog if they’re a mutt, they’re easy to put on your dog, and the shop is woman and minority-owned.


Bring at least a few dog towels along on your trip to wipe off paws before your dog enters the tent or to dry them off after a muddy romp in the woods. I get my dog towels for a buck from Goodwill. If you’re backpacking, opt for a lightweight camping towel.


Must-have dog camping gear Pinterest image

Kent Clyde

Monday 15th of May 2023

This is so amazing for the dogs!


Wednesday 3rd of February 2021

All great ideas on what to bring! Some things I always bring for my dog are: A comb/ brush. I have a Australian Shepard and she is always getting stuff in her fun when we hike.

Her hiking boots. This isn’t a necessity but I feel better knowing her paws aren’t getting cuts on them from rocks or anything.

And the most important A HEADLAMP! Yes a headlamp for the dog. I put it around her neck once it starts getting dark. I can easily see where she is at all times, weather it’s hiking a trail or sitting by the campfire. A headlamp is a lot brighter than the small light that attaches near the dog tags, and can be seen from multiple angles (not just from the front)

Happy hiking and camping with your 4 legged friends!

Jen Sotolongo

Tuesday 9th of February 2021

My dog's collar has a built in light and I love it for evening at camp! A headlight is a pretty nice hack, too! They also make fun lighted collars for dogs, glo-stick style!


Sunday 26th of January 2020

I wanted to ask a question about traveling with your dog. My wife and I always wanted to have a dog but we do love hiking and camping and also traveling to different countries. I always wondered if it's possible to have your dog with your traveling to other countries without going through too much stress for your dog and yourself. From the beginning of this article, I imagine you travel with your dog abroad and you also fly? We'd love to take our dog everywhere with us. Knowing that someone does it would mean a lot. Let me know! :)

Jen Sotolongo

Sunday 26th of January 2020

I mean, we did it, so my answer is yes, you can! Peruse through the website and you'll find a lot of information about traveling internationally with dogs. :)

Roy Huffman

Tuesday 1st of January 2019

Hi, your post was really helpful. I was wondering what you (the humans) use gear wise with a dog? I have nice, light-weight, expensive, backpacking gear that I use alone. But i feel like one paw inside the tent and my pad, tent, and bag will be ripped. I think my biggest problem would be a decent sleeping pad that wont tear from my 70 lbs lab stepping on it!

Thank you in advance!

Jen Sotolongo

Friday 11th of January 2019

Funny you bring this up, Roy! I've actually been thinking that we should add what the humans require for such trips as well. I'll be amending blog posts over time to address these questions, but for now, we have a Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 person tent, and the Therm-a-Rest Trail Pro sleeping pads. The pads have lasted us since 2015 and we've had hundreds of sleeps on them.

Rockin' Robin

Tuesday 18th of December 2018

Well, it finally happened. One more sad, mangy, street pup crossed my path. The straw that broke my resolve. I adopted a three footed puppy from India. Oy! Now what? Been travelling by bike for almost three years. The thing that scares me most is the dogs safety in a trailer. Thoughts, suggestions, comments?

Jen Sotolongo

Tuesday 25th of December 2018

Aw, yay! We know the feeling. Unfortunately, we weren't able to bring any along with us, though we gave them as much love as we could. We used the Burley Design Tail Wagon and D'Lite for Europe and South America, respectively. We have reviews on both on our blog!