In recent years, I’ve become a huge fan of winter adventures. The cold weather keeps people indoors, which means less crowded trails. The right winter gear for dogs (and humans!) makes these winter outing much more enjoyable.
As they say, there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.
I love how the snow completely changes the environment. Even trails that I know like the back of my hand look completely different beneath a blanket of snow.
This guide to winter gear for dogs will set you up so that you can continue your outdoor adventures together, even when the temperatures drop.
The Best Winter Gear for Dogs
I’ve tested out a lot of winter gear for dogs over the years. Everything I list below is what I use for my own dog or are products that have been recommended by trusted friends.
This gear has kept us safe and warm over the past several winters and comes highly recommended by yours truly.
Weatherproof Dog Jacket
Many dog owners assume that only short-haired dogs require jackets, however plenty of long-haired dogs need them, too!
I learned this lesson after a Fourth of July backpacking trip in the Olympic Peninsula that was much chillier than expected. I didn’t think to bring a warm coat for Sitka, and the poor guy was shivering and curled up into the tightest bagel I’ve ever seen.
Now, I always bring a jacket for him, no matter the forecast, just as I do for myself.
My favorite winter jackets for dogs are made by Voyagers K9 Apparel. They are based out of Washington and make breed-specific designs and custom coats for dogs, so they fit perfectly.
You can read my reviews here:
- Voyagers K9 Tummy Warmer
- Voyagers K9 Winter Coat (coming soon!)
- Voyagers K9 Rain Coat (coming soon!)
For more on winter jackets for dogs, check out my recommendations for the best of the best.
Dog Paw Wax
A common assumption about dogs is that their paws are tough and can handle any surface, including snow.
Like human skin, dogs’ paws can chap and crack, and bleed. Additionally, snow can cause “snowballing” or ice build up in between toes, which is painful for your dog. If you notice your dog limping during a winter hike, this could be the reason.
There are many dog paw waxes available on the market right now. The original dog paw wax is Musher’s Secret, designed and used for sled dogs. This is what I currently use for Sitka and it works great.
For more great options, including deodorant-stick style applicators, take a look at my picks for natural dog paw waxes.
An alternative to paw balm are dog boots. I have never had a need for dog booties with any of the dogs I’ve had in my life, but they work great for some pups.
It can take awhile for them to become accustomed to wearing them, so practice indoors before lacing up to go out for a snow day.
My recommendation would be the Ruffwear’s Polar Trex booties. These feature a Vibram sole provides traction, and the insulated softshell fabric offers breathable, weatherproof protection in cold and inclement weather.
RexSpecs Dog Goggles
Like humans, dogs need eye protection, too. On sunny winter days, the reflection off the white snow can cause eye injuries, like pannus.
Think about when you take your ski goggles off and become blinded by the snow. It’s super bright and you have to squint.
Certain breeds and dogs with light-colored eyes are most susceptible to eye damage. Consider getting a pair of RexSpecs to keep your pup’s eyes safe for future adventures.
It’s easy to forget how dehydration winter adventures can be since it’s usually so cold, but the dry air is dehydrating.
Further, trudging through snow is far more exhausting than the same hike on a clear trail.
Further, if your dog drinks from rivers, they may not have the same access to water sources as they would during a summer hike.
I bring as much water on winter hikes as I do for hot summer hikes.
For dogs that are a little picky about drinking water, dog-friendly broth is a great option. I love the mix from The Honest Kitchen.
Finally, the bowl I bring with me everywhere is the Ruffwear Thirst Quencher. It packs up small enough to fit into a pocket, so it’s easy to carry anywhere.
Dog Camping Bed
It’s nice to bring a warm travel bed or sleeping bag for your dog if you plan to stay at a viewpoint for a bit or to have for them to curl up in when you return back to the car.
It also provides a layer between their body and the snow or cold ground if they want to lie down while you snack or take photos.
The Whyld River Doggy Bag is pretty much on-the-go dog bed perfection. It packs down into a small size and is lightweight. The bed is cushy and plush and warm and I want one for humans.
Winter Hiking Gear for the Humans
I won’t go into as much detail on this section as I did for the dogs, but do want to point out some of my go-to essentials for a winter adventure with the dogs.
If the human isn’t comfortable, the outing likely won’t last long and the likelihood of future adventures may diminish if you’re just cold and miserable the entire time.
Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen!
My hands get really cold, very easily, and after many years of searching, I think I’ve found my perfect gloves: the Smartwool Merino Fleece Wind Mittens.
These are really gloves with a mitten covering, which I love because it allows me to use my hands without taking off my gloves. The touchscreen feature actually works and my hands stay toasty warm, even in frigid conditions.
Traction for Icy Trails
If you’re planning on some winter hikes, you’ll want to carry around a pair of microspikes. I use the Hillsound FreeSteps6 Traction System and love how easy they are to put on and take off.
I feel completely safe wearing them, even in the iciest conditions.
If you’re trekking through deep snow, whether on snowshoes or microspikes, gaiters not only keep the snow out of your shoes, but also add a layer of warmth. The Hillsound Armadillo LT Gaiters are my go-to.
I have been wearing Goodr sunnies for years and I’m obsessed. They’re inexpensive, polarized, stay in place when you run. And best of all, they have really fun names, like Ice Bathing with Wizards.
Merino Wool Baselayers
I am super, super picky about the merino wool I wear. As a vegan, I am “not supposed” to wear wool, but it’s been the one thing I can’t give up.
I love that I can wear it for days and it doesn’t stink. I can sweat and I won’t get cold. It can be warm and I won’t be hot. Ridge Merino products meet my strict standards with animal welfare practices, and they’re members of 1% for the Planet.