How To Camp With Your Dog

Posted by Amy Wellcoat / Ruffwear on Apr 07, 2022

There's camping - and then there's camping with your dog by your side. Their presence alone elevates every little moment. Their curiosity is contagious, their zeal inspiring. Hiking and camping together is an opportunity to see wilderness through their eyes. Lakes become more than just part of the landscape - they're primo places to splash and swim. And pinecones are no longer just pinecones - they're the most incredible toy that's ever existed since the beginning of time, and it must be thrown a minimum of 127 times before retiring to the cosy comfort of a tent (that happens to be set up just right for enjoying the next morning's sunrise). And the sunrise marks the start of a new Best Day Ever.

With a bit of preparation, the right gear, and a bit of that eagerness to explore that comes so naturally to our furry trail buddies, you'll be en route to a good time camping with your dog.


Before you start loading gear into the car, have a plan. Know where you're going, where you'll sleep, and the specific rules about dogs in the area you'll be exploring. Different types of public lands have different sets of rules. Many allow dogs but a few don't or have some restrictions.


When it comes to camp life, our dogs' basic needs are not too different than our own: food, water, warmth, a place to rest, and first aid supplies.

Before heading out, check the weather and temperature range so that your pup can be as well prepared as you are.

Pack extra water if it'll be hot, layers if it will be wet or chilly, and plenty of food and treats - and more of it if you'll be covering strenuous miles. Know what your trail companion is capable of, and have a contingency plan if things go awry.

Much like you'd break in your boots and work up to hiking longer distances for your first backpacking trip, it's a good idea to get your pup used to wearing a pack or boots well before you plan to use them on the trail. Once comfortable wearing the gear, then work your dog's way up to longer mileage.

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Good recall, basic obedience, and manners like "leave it" will help keep things positive for your canine companion on the trail. They'll also go a long way toward making friends with other users (and respecting wildlife) on the trail.

Know the etiquette for the trail you're hiking or backpacking, and be mindful of other users on the trail. Trails that allow horses typically require hikers and mountain bikers to yield to horse riders.

At camp, keep your four-legged friend on leash or within your control. Trying to keep an eye on a roaming dog while setting up camp, building a campfire, or eating dinner can be tricky. The camp site shuffle was the very inspiration for Ruffwear's Knot-a-Hitch™. If your camping buddy has a lot to say or loves to let out a good howl at the moon, consider camping at a more secluded location. What's music to our ears might be less then idea for others' wilderness experience. When in doubt, err on the side of courtesy.

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Pack-it-in, pack-it-out! You minimise impact and contribute to a pristine wilderness by observing the seven Leave No Trace principles. This includes picking up your dog's waste and disposing of it in a proper receptacle.

Other dog-specific considerations include respecting wildlife by giving other animals and critters space (and not chase), being considerate of other users (through good manners and etiquette), and monitoring and cleaning up food crumbs, spilled kibble, or toys.

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You know your dog better than anyone else and are in the best position to make judgments for their well-being. When it comes to medical concerns and wilderness hazards, we recommend talking to your vet ahead of your next campout.


Taking your dog camping for the first time is exciting, but it might feel a little daunting. Do your best to prepare ahead of time and have a back-up plan to mitigate some of those nerves. But, beyond that, a little patience and sense of humour will help. Not all dogs take to sleeping in a tent (or going in and out of tend doors) right away, but with practice, they will get the hang of it.

Part of what makes camping so fun is that things go exactly as planned. That's just part of the adventure. As long as everyone is safe, you're making memories together and building your bond - and that's undeniably fun!

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A sense of humour, a smile, and lots of pictures!