Dogs love being outside, which makes hiking a great activity to do with your canine companion. It provides physical exercise, mental stimulation and self-care as you escape everyday stresses, get some fresh air and move your body. It's important, however, to be prepared and safe on your hikes, so here are 18 hiking gear essentials for you and your dog.
Basic Gear For Your Dog
Collar With Tags
It's always a good idea for your dog to wear a collar with identification tags, whether you're hiking or not. But having a secure collar while on the trail will allow you to grab your dog if need be. In addition, up-to-date identification tags will help you more quickly reunite in case of separation. It's also recommended you have your dog microchipped and registered if you'll be going on adventures together.
Pro Tip: It's not a great idea to use a choke collar, but especially when hiking. If it gets caught on a low branch, it could strangle your dog.
Harnesses are a better, safer and more secure way than collars to clip your leash to your dog. They're more durable, give you more control and distribute weight onto the dogs shoulders rather than neck (which reduces the chance of strain or injury). They also help minimize leash tangling and are an even easier and sturdier way to grab your dog if need be. Just make sure the harness fits properly. It should be snug but not restrict movement or breathing. You should be able to slip one to two fingers under it but no more. If it's too loose, your dog will be able to slip out of it.
Pro Tip: Using bright colors for your harness can ensure that your dog is seen from long distances.
Look for a sturdy and durable leash that is also comfortable and easy for you to hold. Even if your dog is good off-leash, its common courtesy to use one and many trails require dogs stay leashed anyway. A standard six foot leash or shorter will give you more control and reduce tangling. It's recommended that you avoid using a retractable leash on hikes as they can easily get caught and, in case you run into other dogs or wild animals, provide less control.
Pro Tip: Bring a spare leash just in case something happens to yours.
Dog backpacks can be really useful, especially for longer hikes or overnight camping trips. Not only does it provide more storage, but you don't have to carry it. The ideal dog backpack will be comfortable, supportive and water-resistant with decent capacity and an easy-to-reach leash clip. Just make sure it fits properly and is comfortable for your dog. Note: your dog will likely need to be trained to wear a backpack and carry items in it.
Pro Tip: It's not recommended to use backpacks on dogs younger than a year old while they are still growing and developing physically.
Safety Gear For Your Dog
Paw Protection, Booties And Paw Balm
Hiking trails can have all kinds of terrain, twigs, rocks and more. This can be hard on your dog's paws, so you may want to use some protection. One option are dog booties. They typically have waterproof, flexible rubber soles for traction; adjustable velcro to secure to your dog's particular leg size; and mesh material for breathability while keeping out dirt and bugs. Some booties come with reflective strips for use in low light and most are machine washable. Bonus: booties also help protect your dog's paws from the hot ground, snow or ice, winter salt, and even glass and debris in the city.
To find the right fit, you'll need to measure your dog's paws (typically from heal to nail and side to side). No matter the fit, make sure not to put them on too tightly as that can inhibit circulation. Once you have the right booties, you'll then need to get your dog used to the booties. Not only does that help prevent irritation by breaking them in, but it allows your dog to become comfortable with them. Dogs will need some time to adjust to the feeling of their paw pads not touching the ground and trust the traction on the booties.
Pro Tip: Buy booties that you can return or exchange, since often times it takes some trial and error to find the right match.
Another helpful type of paw protection, especially if your dog just doesn't tolerate booties, is a topical treatment. These include balms, salves, waxes, butters and oils. They coat your dog's paw pads and protects them from drying out, cracking, burning and more.
Another important body part, beyond the paws, that may need protection when hiking is the eyes. Doggles (dog goggles) do just that. These come in handy when hiking in rain, wind or snow, where dirt and debris can get swept into their eyes. Many dogs don't like them though, so make sure to test them out before your hike. To have the most success in getting your dog to keep them on, try training beforehand so they become comfortable and associate it with positive things.
Reflective Or Light-Up Wear
When hiking in low light conditions, it's always a good idea to have some reflective gear or lighting. There are lots of options to choose from when it comes to reflective gear - such as harnesses, collars, leashes, backpacks, vests, booties and more. An alternative to reflective gear is actual lighting. These include light-up collars, attachable lamps (like headlamps but for your dog's collar or harness), and more.
Pro Tip: Bring extra batteries or a portable charger and cord in case your dog's light-up gear needs a charge.
Unless your dog is a cold weather breed, they'll likely benefit from layers for cold hikes - just like humans do. Fortunately, there are lots of insulating clothing options out there. If you'll be trekking through snow, rain or other wet conditions, opt for waterproof options like coats, vests and warming booties. Otherwise, you can go with sweaters or snoods.
Pro Tip: Want to find out what temperature is too cold for your dog? Read our article here to find out.
Along the same lines, cooling gear can be extremely useful for the warmer months. Keeping your dog cool helps prevent overheating, which can be really dangerous. There are many options, from vests and hats to collars and bandanas to mats and fans. These are just a few effective ways to keep your dog safe in the heat.
Pro Tip: Want to find out what temperature is too hot for your dog? Read our article here to find out.
GPS Tracking Collar
Hiking can take you deep into the wilderness. For extra security against losing your dog, opt for a GPS tracking collar. How they work depends on whether they are health trackers, location only trackers or radio frequency trackers. The most popular are health trackers, which monitor both heart rate and location. They typically use Wi-Fi and sync with your phone via an app, so you'll want to make sure it's waterproof if your dog likes to swim or splash around in the water. Location only trackers are easy to understand and among the safest to use, since they work through a SIM card sewed into the collar that sends out location information when prompted. The least common are trackers that use radio frequency, though they are the most accurate when it comes to pinpointing your dog's location. No matter which type or brand you choose, they will give you an extra level of security in terms of tracking your dog.
Pro Tip: Carry a photo fo your dog on you in case of separation.
Emergency Carrying Harness
Sometimes injuries happen and for those (hopefully rare) instances, it's not a bad idea to have an emergency carrying harness. They allow you carry your dog on your back, in case they become immobilized. This is recommended for long hikes and if you have a dog that weighs over 20 pounds. Most emergency carrying gear can be folded and packed compactly, so as not to take up too much space.
First Aid Kit
Accidents can happen at any time and you won't wait for you to be done with your hike. A first aid kit for dogs doesn’t look much different than one for a human. The ASPCA recommends packing absorbent gauze pads, pet-safe adhesive tape, pet-safe antibiotic ointment, cotton balls, hydrogen peroxide, ice packs, disposable gloves, tweezers, scissors, and more.
Pro Tip: Keep a copy of your dog's medical and vaccination records on hand. You can put a paper copy in your first-aid kit or you can keep a digital copy on your phone. Either way, you'll have easy access in case your dog gets sick or injured and needs to go to a local vet when on hiking or camping far from home.
Flea/Tick Prevention And Insect Repellent
Before taking your dog hiking, you'll want to administer flea and tick prevention to protect your dog from illnesses like Lyme disease. These come in oral medications, topical sprays or treatments, and vaccinations. You may also want to use dog-safe insect repellents, which keep mosquitos, foxtails and other pesky insects at bay. Some dogs don't tolerate repellants, so test out the product before you go hiking.
Pro Tip: Try to avoid applying insect repellant, even dog-safe ones, to areas your dog can easily lick and focus on the shoulders, back of the neck and around the ears.
Dog sunscreen is a good addition to your hikes when it's sunny or summer. This is especially the case for dogs with a short coat, white fur, light or pink nose and eyelids, or no hair. Sunburns are painful and can lead to skin cancer and pet-safe sunscreen can help prevent them. Pay extra attention to the nose (tip and bridge), ear tips as well as the skin around the lips, groin and inner thighs.
Pro Tip: Cover your dog's eyes before applying the sunscreen to ensure none get in them and make sure your dog doesn't lick it off for 15 minutes, while it absorbs.
Water And Travel Water Bowls/Bottles
Water is essential for humans and dogs are no different, especially when it's hot out. Bringing fresh water specifically for your dog will help prevent dehydration, which can cause serious issues. A good rule of thumb is to have at least eight ounces (one cup) of water per hour of hiking. Avoid letting your dog drink from standing waters, like puddles, as they can contain bacteria or parasites.
To make it easy to give your dog water and avoid wasting too much, bring along water bowls. You can use small stainless steel ones, but collapsible may be easier since they're lightweight and save space. Another option is a water bottle with an attached bowl dispenser that usually flips open.
Pro Tip: Fill water bottles 3/4 of the way and place them in the freezer overnight before your hike. That way, it accumulates ice that will melt during your outing and keep the water cool.
Food And Dog Food Carrier
Bringing your dog's food, nutritious dog snacks or training treats will allow your pup to maintain their energy throughout your hike. Feed them regularly, as it's better to give small amounts more frequently so your dog won't be exercising on a full stomach. You can also use them for training, as hiking is a great opportunity to practice commands. To make sure they stay fresh, use an airtight container, bag or dog food carrier.
Pro Tip: Bring more food than your dog normally eats, since they will be burning more calories. You may want to bring enough for an extra day, in case you get tied up overnight.
Poop Bags And Dispenser
In general, you should follow the seven "leave no trace" principles when hiking to minimize our impact on the great outdoors so we can protect and preserve the Earth. Principle number three is dispose of waste properly to prevent pollution and disease. This means picking up your dog's poop. Dog feces contains pathogens that can spread to other animals, so it's important to dispose of it properly.
If you don't want to carry around bags of poop (understandable), you can bring a waste container. DIY options include a larger and thicker plastic bag or an old reusable water bottle (like a Nalgene). Or you can purchase a product specifically made for holding bags of dog poop.