Top Tips for Day Hiking Or Backpacking With Your Dog!
Summer’s here, and that means it’s day hiking and backpacking season! If you plan for a day hike or backpacking with your dog, it’s important to remember their well-being in addition to yours. With a few extra steps and a little extra weight on your back, you can ensure your pooch has a great time right alongside you!
Aside from the backpacking code of conduct inspiring hikers to “Leave No Trace,” packing the right gear can make the difference between enjoying nature to the fullest and incurring a medical emergency far from help.
Top 10 Safety Items to Bring
First Aid Kit
This is a big one. Whether you have Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training or just basic first aid, it’s important to bring along a kit of basic first aid tools, including bandages, antiseptics, moleskin blister bandages, and improvised splint materials. Think ahead about plausible emergency scenarios for the weather conditions and topography to ensure you are prepared for the day ahead!
Wearing layers of performance clothing sets you up for success in the event that the weather changes. Wear an insular silk or wool layer covered by UV-protective long sleeve performance gear. Take along a lightweight windbreaker and/or rain shell to protect yourself in exposed areas of the trail. It’s never a bad idea to pack an extra pair of socks and a warm hat, even in summertime! And remember, cotton kills—wear clothes that will wick away moisture, rather than absorb it.
Avenza Maps app or physical map and Compass
Thanks to technology, it’s never been easier to navigate, track your route, add geotags to photos of your surroundings, and plan a trajectory to a destination. Take time to build proficiency with apps like Avenza Maps so you are prepared in the event that the trail is obscured or you become lost. Another great option is to bring a tangible copy of the map, in case you do not have access to your phone, or the battery dies. Bringing both ensures redundancy, which could end up saving your life! If you are new to navigating with a tangible map and compass, don’t worry. Check out this resource on how to navigate with a compass!
It may seem obvious on a sunny day, but don’t forget the sunscreen even if the day appears overcast! Long exposure to the elements could result in dehydration, or worse, sun stroke. Bringing along sunscreen (and a cap or UV-protective shirt with a hood) helps you to protect your body’s largest organ: your skin.
Plenty of Water and a Collapsible Dog Bowl
As a general rule, bring more potable water to your hiking trip than you think you need. If you know your hike will bring you near running water, you can also bring a water filtration system along, coupled with bladder bags or water bottles. Don’t forget to “water” your dog!
Lots of Calories, for You and Your Dog
Think of your snacks for the day like a calorie bank. You will be burning lots of calories on the trail, and it’s always best to bring lots of nutrient-dense foods to keep you and your pooch fueled for the day!
Torch & Headlamp
A headlamp is not just essential for sunrise or sunset hikes! Packing a headlamp makes you prepared for an emergency. Bring extra batteries while you’re at it…this lightweight addition to your pack could literally be a lifesaver.
Whether or not you choose natural bug repellents like essential oils or pure Deet, having a way to combat the bug population will make you a happy hiker!
Multitool or Knife
It would take all day to list the things one could do with a multitool. Bringing along some kind of knife will help you should you need to make an improvised splint, emergency shelter, etc.
Matches or Lighter
It’s always a good idea to bring a way of starting a fire. In the worst-case scenario that you end up facing the elements overnight, building a fire could make a vital difference in that experience. Why not come prepared?
Everyday Basic Backpacks for Hiking Pros
In the wide world of daypacks, it can be hard to cut through the noise and select the right pack for the job. By breaking your day trip down into your ideal comfort model as well as intended use, it becomes easier to find the pack that feels meant for your back. Here are some things to think about when selecting a pack:
Is the pack you’ve been eyeballing water-resistant? Are the straps cushioned? Is there a mesh back panel for optimal airflow?
These are a must for anyone looking to use a bladder and hose system for staying hydrated on the trail. Built-in pockets in your back for a bladder bag make for a more organized pack.
Some packs are built with a sturdy internal frame designed to carry heavier loads. Depending on the mileage you intend to travel in a day, selecting a heftier pack with padded hip and chest supports could make for a more comfortable trip.
It is helpful to know the carrying capacity of your pack so you know how much gear it can hold. Packs typically range from 11-50 liters of capacity; anything between 21-35 liters is considered the “sweet spot” for a day hike.
Best Backpacking Lunch Ideas
Remember, the whole point of bringing snacks is to think of them like fuel to be burned. The more fuel you bring, the further you can journey—and it’s always better to bring more than the minimum you think you may need!
Here is a great, basic sandwich loaded with calories and complex carbs—it also happens to be vegan!
Step 1 - Slather one piece of bread with the nut butter.
Step 2 - Peel the banana and slice into rounds. Layer the rounds over the nut butter.
Step 3 - Drizzle with honey.
Step 4 - Cover with the second slice of bread and cut in half…and voila! Calories in the bank!
Other Snacks to Bring
Of course, picnic lunches are not everyone’s style. Sometimes, bringing a smorgasbord of various snacks is a great way to go. Here are some other snack ideas to take with you:
Remember to bring a designated trash receptacle for any wrappers, eggshells, apple cores, etc. Pack it in, pack it out!
Backpacking with Your Dog - Gear for Fido
While it is great fun to bring a dog with you on the trail, it is also another layer of responsibility. Practice good trail etiquette by knowing the rules of the area before you bring your dog. Pets are welcome in National Parks, for example, but are not permissible in National Forests. Research ahead of time if your pooch will need to be leashed for the entirety of the hike—and make sure to clean up after your dog should they need to go “number two” on the trail.
Bringing gear for your dog ensures their wellbeing. Collapsible bowls for water and dog chow are very handy, especially those with carabiners that can clip to the exterior of your pack.
Consider a hands-free leash, like this one that is worn around the waist. Keeping your hands free makes for better stability and allows your dog the freedom to wander within the extent of the leash. With the addition of a dog poop bag holder, your pooch will be ready for action!
Another piece of gear you might consider is a reflective vest for your four-legged friend. This is especially vital during hunting season and may even help you find your pooch in the event the two of you are separated. Here is one from SafetyPUP that significantly increases your dog’s visbility.
Remember to put yourself in your dog’s shoes and think of ways you can set them up for success on the hike. If your dog has difficulty with other dogs it may encounter on the trail, for example, bringing motivational tools like treats and clickers may help to guide them to a successful interaction. By mitigating risk in this way, you’ve opened yourself up for a fun, relaxing hike for both you and Fido!
I've recently encountered hiking through the Palmetto trail with my dog and shared my experience in our weekend trip series. Have a look before you embark to hike with your dog.
When planning an outdoor adventure, preparedness is vital. Even if you think you are going for a short day trip, looking ahead for possible emergency scenarios could save your life—or the life of someone else on the trail. As outdoor enthusiasts, we are all connected, and it is our responsibility to conserve these beautiful places we are blessed to enjoy as well as look out for each other’s wellbeing.
By packing the daytrip essentials for both you and your dog, you can go from a hiking fan to a hiking pro. Adventure awaits!