If you’re thinking about taking your dogs camping, you probably have a ton of questions about what gear to bring, where your dog sleeps, and what to do with their poop and so much more. Adding your four-legged friend to the party certainly requires a bit more planning, additional gear, and adjustment for you both.
It’s absolutely worth it to take your dog along on camping trips. They make wonderful outdoor companions and your bond will grow with each trip.
We see a ton of questions about camping with dogs and hope that the answers below will help better prepare you for your next adventure with your pup. If it’s your first time taking dogs camping, this post will likely answer more questions and help you understand how to prepare your pup for their first overnight under the stars.
Your Questions about Taking Dogs Camping Answered
Where Does the Dog Sleep?
Our dogs sleep in the tent with us, but it’s totally up to you and where your dog prefers to sleep. Some dogs are more comfortable sleeping outside on a blanket, while others may prefer to have their own tent or sleep in the car for a secure, quiet space. The idea of a personal tent for dogs may seem ridiculous, but they do exist!
In our set up, each dog has their own dog bed or sleeping bag, set up at our feet or in between us in the tent. This gives each one a place to go when they want to chill and keeps them from commandeering our beds.
A few of our favorite beds include:
I love, love, love this bag. LOVE. Not only does it come in my favorite shade of blue and therefore match all of my other camping gear, it’s just simply well-designed. Company founder, Rachel Bauman designed the bed after a scary incident with her dog, River. On a backpacking trip on Mt. Hood, the chilly night temperatures left River shaking with cold all night, so she set out to make the best backpacking dog bed ever.
The DoggyBag is really two bags in one. The top and bottom layers snap together to form a cozy sleeping bag or come apart if you just want a thinner layer or if you have two dogs. It fits easily into a stuff sack that is about the size of a small sleeping bag.
Best for: backpacking and car camping.
Use code longhaultrekkers for 10% off your purchase on Booking.com.
Despite its thinner profile, the Mt. Bachelor Pad keeps dogs warm with the microsuede material and waterproof bottom layer. The bed is super durable and the material repels fur, dirt, and mud. It folds in half and rolls up into a compact size, though it’s a bit heavy to bring for a backpacking trip.
Best for: car camping.
This lightweight dog bed means that most dogs can easily carry their own bed during a backpacking trip. Just strap it across their back and latch it to their dog pack. It hardly weighs a thing, so it won’t add much to their load. It rolls up easily into its stuff sack and a simple shake out removes any fur and debris.
Best for: backpacking.
This is one of our favorite travel dog beds. It’s super plush, has a waterproof bottom, and rolls up easily into a travel-friendly size. The handle makes it easy to carry to and from the car and it shakes out easily to remove dog hair and other debris. You can check out our honest review to learn more about the bed and see why we love it so much.
Best for: car camping.
How Do I Prevent My Dog from Puncturing My Sleeping Pad?
A frequent question I see asked is keeping your dog from puncturing your sleeping pad. We have never had this happen, likely for a few reasons. First, we keep our dogs’ nails trimmed regularly.
Second, we try not to let allow them on top of our sleeping pads without the sleeping bag on top. This provides a barrier between their claws and the sleeping pad. Lastly, and most importantly, we never invite them to play inside the tent. The biggest threat to sleeping pads are sharp teeth.
That said, since Laila is still a puppy we do keep a stuffy toy with us at all times. This way, if she starts to get mouthy, we can offer her something she is allowed to bite if she becomes playful. If you know that your dog gets excited first thing in the morning, then bring a toy inside, just in case.
Our go-to sleeping pad is the Therm-a-Rest Pro Trail. It’s slightly heavier, but the extra few ounces are worth it to us for a durable pad. We’ve used ours probably 100 or more times and have never had an issue. They’re still going strong and are super comfortable and warm.
What Size Tent Should I Use When I Camp with My Dog?
Depending on the size of your dog, we suggest including your them as a person when you go to pick out your tent. Dogs under 15 lbs can probably be excluded from this rule if they are ok in tight spaces.
It’s likely not necessary to think of multiple or one giant dog as multiple people if you have more than one. As an example, we consider Riia and Laila one unit in terms of space and we still have plenty of extra room.
For help picking the right tent for you and your pup, see How to Pick the Best Tent for Camping with Dogs with our recommendations for long-lasting outdoor shelters.
Will My Dog Get Cold at Night?
Possibly. Dogs with shorter fur or single coats are more likely to feel cold. Those with thick fur or double coats probably won’t, unless temperatures are pretty extreme. Think about how your dog does in cold weather when you’re hiking or just out for a walk.
Below are a few suggestions we love for high-quality jackets and sweaters for adventure dogs:
- Gold Paw Duluth Double Fleece Fleece Coat
- Stumptown Insulated Dog Jacket
- Voyagers K9 Apparel Winter Coat
- Hurtta Extreme Warmer Dog Winter Jacket
- Kurgo North Country Dog Coat
Can I Leave My Dog Alone In The Tent?
This really depends on your dog. We would leave Sora in the tent for a short period of time on occasion if we were nearby. For example, we stayed at the Belknap Hot Sprigs during our Oregon Rode Trip and left Sora in the tent when we went to the thermal pools. It was more a matter of inconvenience as dogs were allowed on the grounds, but not near the pool. We had nowhere else to put her.
At this point of time, we would never leave Laila alone in the tent for fear that she would cause a bit of destruction. If your dog is chill on their own in abnormal situations, then they should be fine for a short period of time. Test it by leaving them alone for a few minutes in your sight and see how they do.
How do I pack my dog’s food for camping?
For car camping, just measure out the exact amount, plus one extra day in case of emergency to a kibble carrier, like this one Kurgo makes. We brought this along on our cycle tour and it served us very well. It’s basically a dry sack for dog food. Could you use a Ziplock bag? Sure, but we love that this one is reusable and machine washable when the oils from the kibble start to seep through.
We bring along our favorite collapsible bowls from Dexas that are lightweight and pack down into a small size. If we’re backpacking, then we just bring one and use it for both food and water.
If you’re backpacking and need to divide the food into smaller bags, I use these 1l dry bags from Sea to Summit.
For more tips on packing your dog’s food for camping, see this post.
How do I carry out their poop?
I’ve written extensively about this very topic in How to Dispose of Dog Poop on the Trail. The short version is, always pick up your dog’s poop. If you’re car camping, it’s easy to just toss it in the campground bin or collect with your own trash. Backpacking makes things a little trickier, but there are a few options for disposal:
- Bring a shovel and dig a cat hole to bury your dog’s poop.
- Have your dog carry it in their backpack.
- Carry it yourself in something odor-proof like a Turdlebag or a Nalgene bottle.
How Do I Keep My Dog Contained at Camp?
Sometimes, you need two hands to set up your tent, make dinner, or pack. There are a couple options for keeping your dog contained while your hands stay free. You could get a hands-free leash, like our favorite from Ruffwear, the Flat Out Dog Leash, which you can attach around your waist to keep your hands free.
Alternatively, use a set up like the Ruffwear Knot-a-Hitch, which just requires two trees or a post. The tether system keep your dog on a secure line that lets them roam without straying too far.
What if My Dog Barks at Night?
If you know that your dog has a tendency to bark at strange sounds, then you will want to do some practice sessions in your backyard or during the off season when there are fewer people camping. Nobody wants to hear a dog barking all night long.
If sounds are the issue, download a white noise app like Sleepio and bring a battery pack to keep your phone charged while you play it overnight. We use an Anker pack that has held strong for four years now and kept us charged during our bicycle tour.
Another suggestion is getting a tent with less mesh. If your dog is like Laila, she barks when she sees other dogs or animals, if there is nothing for her to see, then there is no reason to bark.