Tips for Camping and Hiking with a Small Dog or Puppy

by | Sep 2, 2020 | Gear, Lifestyle

We recently brought our mini-dachshund DW on a camping and 80-kilometer hiking trip and I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous going in. Before you @ us, don’t worry: He was in a backpack and nice and comfy 90% of the hiking, though he did get out and absolutely crush a few kilometers throughout the course of each day. As we prepared for this trip, I was trying to find any and all info on taking a small dog / young puppy camping, and honestly, wasn’t finding much. There were a few articles here and there, but not many with great detail. There were great tips for car camping, i.e bringing his pen so he had a play area that was safe at camp, but I wasn’t going to carry a playpen into the backcountry. So, a lot of it was just winging it.

Why take a puppy camping?

DW was only a few months old when we took him on this particular trip, and while I stressed on that—was he too young?—I also really wanted him to have early exposure to hiking and camping so that we could continue taking him on these trips. So, we decided we would take him… and we also agreed that if the first night (camping right next to the van before hiking in) didn’t go smoothly, we’d just do a day hike and skip the full trip. Luckily, he seemed to adapt to the tent really well right away, so we headed in. (Worth noting that we’re both capable of a lot of hours on our feet, so our worst case was still that we felt confident about hiking in and out quickly if needed. Our normal hiking trips are 20-40 kilometer days, so the distance around wasn’t overly intimidating for us. And we’d done this route before, so while it is a remote backcountry hike, it’s one we’re familiar with.)

So, if you’re taking a puppy or small dog for a trip, here’s what you might need to know / some tips that I would have found helpful:

Necessary gear for camping with your dog?

Other than the obvious kibble and leash, we brought a few helpful things with us.

Sleeping accessories: DW is crate-trained so I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about sleeping in the tent with us, so despite the extra weight, we brought his blanky and squeaky toy that go in his crate every night. They definitely helped keep him calm and gave him his own spot in the tent. Plus, it actually got a little chillier than expected so one night when he was a little wet from a creek dip (he loves swimming), he was very happy to cuddle up in his blanky while we hung out by the campfire.

Light-up collar: We didn’t end up needing this, but I brought this LED collar in case he needed to get out of the tent to go pee. Call me neurotic, but I wanted him to be well lit in case he managed to somehow slip his leash. Plus, in case he managed to break his regular collar somehow, we had a spare.

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Backpack: There are NO great packs for dachshund carrying, and believe me, I looked. But we have this backpack that normally is supposed to be worn on your back with your pup. It sits pretty comfortably on your front though, so I carried him on my front and tucked those straps under my hiking pack. If you’re backpack-hunting, look for one that has a solid platform at the bottom, since for long hauls like this, you want your dog to comfortably be able to sit/lay down without being squished.

Get it here (Get it in Canada)

Children’s Benadryl and some bandages that would work on a pup: Our friend and adventurer (often with his dog) Buck Miller gave me this tip. Dogs can safely take tiny doses of Children’s Benadryl, and in case of a serious allergic reaction, it would help buy us some time to get DW out of the woods. So, we brought that along and thankfully didn’t need to use it.

Tshirt: I knew there was a chance it would get buggy on the trip, so I wanted to make sure DW’s belly would be covered for hanging out at camp if bugs started hanging around him. We didn’t end up needing it, but I was happy to have it!

Get it here (Get it in Canada)

Pet towel: This really small towel was still fuzzy unlike a lot of camp towels, and really helped get him actually dry. (You know how most camp towels are more just about pushing water off rather than absorbing? This one absorbs more, which means longer drying time, and it’s a little bigger than the camp towels we use for ourselves, but it’s waaaaay worth it.

Get it here (Get it in Canada)


Carrying tips for a small dog on a hiking trip?

Honestly, test and re-test before you go, with your hiking pack fully weighted. Even a 10 pound dog + the pack and his gear that’s tucked in there add up to a ton of weight. It’s do-able, but it was stressful at times because I’d have to slow down and ended up falling behind as I navigated technical terrain with DW on my chest, since I was terrified of falling on him! My shoulders got a little raw by the end so I would have added some moleskin or kin tape to my skin in the morning if I was doing it again.

Any advice for at the campsite with a puppy?

Bad news: almost every tip for puppy camping is around car camping and suggests having a pen for your pup. Not possible in the backcountry, though I admit, I would consider bringing a longer lead that could get fastened to a tree if he wasn’t such a doofus who would immediately get tangles. If your puppy is like ours and still too young to be able to wander around without taking off or stressing you out, my best advice is to keep everything else as simple as possible. Normally we’re not backpacking-meal people but on this trip, I made sure breakfast and dinner were super simple. I DIYed our breakfast oats but pre-made the mix so it was just-add-water, and we really loved having dinner in a bag. No dishes to deal with while trying to control and entertain a puppy who was very confused about why he wasn’t home watching Netflix.

Would you do it again?

We have campsites booked for October, so heck yeah! I’m a more anxious person by nature so sure, there were stressful moments. But it was so worth it to get to have DW out in nature, to hang out with good friends, and to have him along on adventures, not just home waiting for us to get back. I think it takes a lot more thinking before trips like this, and during the trip, a lot of your attention will be focused on your puppy (note that I’m saying puppy, not dog–hopefully he’s trained enough in a year that he can be chiller at the campsite!). And the only other caveat I would add is only taking a puppy on a route that you personally feel 110% confident about. Pups probably shouldn’t have their first exposure to hiking / camping be a stressful ‘IDK what’s happening’ situation. As long as you understand that, I say do it!


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