Camping with a Dog – Hanging in a Tent with Fido
“The glories of a mountain campfire are far greater than may be guessed.” – John Muir
We are almost exactly four months away from our next week-long trip, which will be our annual vacation to Colorado (but who's counting, right?). With this trip, we always bring Buzz along. After that very first trip in which he tagged along for, we found that he loves the mountains just as much as we do.
Jess, but don’t you have multiple other dogs? Why do you only take Buzz? What makes him so lucky? Why do you choose him over the others? He must be the favorite.
Before anyone judges, we have reasons why we only bring Buzz with us:
Buzz is small and very easy to fit in the truck for a road trip – even with all of our camping gear.
Buzz does really well in the car.
Some of the others do really badly, exhibiting things such as:
The list goes on
Buzz does well if we need to leave him in the car for any reason (if we ever do this, we make absolutely sure the temperature is good for him to stay in there, whether it be windows down or air/heat on to ensure he is safe).
Buzz loves to run and hike, while the others do not.
Jackson overheats easily (Husky mix problems).
Rascal is a short distance sort of dog (5Ks are his maximum distance before he crashes).
Ripley probably wouldn’t honestly even handle the altitude, let alone the hiking. I also don’t even believe she enjoys walks longer than a mile or so.
Buzz behaves well – on leash and off leash.
Jackson can barely handle being leashed for daily walks, and would most certainly run away off leash.
Rascal does fairly well on the leash, but has very little recall.
Buzz can also be picked up easily if necessary. For example:
When we run into a moose (which has actually happened before).
If there is another dog on the trail that seems aggressive.
If people on the trails are concerned about dogs (some have even been scared of Buzz – picking him up and bringing him past those people is very simple. Picking JACKSON up and carrying him past scared hikers would be another story).
When we are downtown or in “people-ly” places that allow dogs but prefer them not to walk around freely, like in shops, food places, etc.
Hopefully, that helps clear up any judgment about choosing just Buzz. I’m sure there are still some that believe it is just because he is the favorite. To those people I say – a good dog mom doesn’t have favorites (and certainly wouldn’t say aloud if she did).
Now, with four months to plan, it may seem that our trip is pretty far off. However, I am always looking forward to our next adventure, no matter how far out it may be. With that, and in preparation for our next vacation, I decided I would share some of our tips and tricks about camping with a dog.
This post contains affiliate links for products Buzz and I love, and I may receive a commission if you make purchases from them.
The first and most important rule when making the decision of whether or not to camp with a dog is to know that the dog will be with their owner at almost every single possible moment – from sun up to sun down and everything in between.
Know that if it is the first time camping with a dog, there may be some frustrating circumstances as the camping canine gets used to the adjustment. A trial run with a short camping trip close to home is highly recommended before an extended stay in a tent with Fido. Also know that some dogs may not do well with camping, and a backup plan is recommended.
Once the decision has been made, there are certainly some must-haves for camping with Fido:
Dog “Weekender” Travel Bag – I will be the first to admit that I waited quite some time to purchase this, but once I did, it was a game changer! It’s the perfect size to house dog food, treats, clothes, leashes, poop bags, toys, and everything else. (This one that we purchased also includes collapsible bowls!)
Collapsible Bowls for Food and Water – Collapsible isn’t necessary, but it definitely helps if the focus is fitting everything in the car for a road trip. They can also easily be clipped to a hiking pack for on-the-go eating or drinking.
Dog Food and Treats – This one should be obvious, but I will share that Buzz’s favorite treats are Merrick Power Bites.
Leash, Along with a Stake or Tether – We never stake Buzz at the campsites we visit because they are off the beaten path. If we need him to stay in one place, we hook his leash up to a tree or let him chill in the truck. However, if we were to get one, I would choose one like this that can be tied up to trees to give him more room to run.
Harness – Buzz’s favorite is his Gooby harness. He has run half marathons in his harness and has never experienced any chafing or (that I can tell) discomfort with it.
First-Aid Kit – They have so many options out there, but I love this one that is actually a dog-human combination first-aid kit that has everything those off the beaten path may need.
Toys – Buzz’s favorite toy is a Nerf squeaky tennis ball. We found last year that if we take them with us on a hike or while camping, we can squeak the ball once or twice and Buzz will come flying back to us. It’s the perfect recall trick for him.
ID and Rabies Tags – We make sure that Buzz has his name, our phone number, and the fact that he has seizures listed on his nametag on his collar. In addition, we keep his rabies certification on his collar at all times.
Poop Bags – This one is absolutely necessary. When camping (and at all times, honestly), it is important to follow the leave no trace principles. Our dogs are not immune to these principles – we should be sure to be picking up after them too.
In addition to the above “musts,” some other things four-legged campers may want are:
Doggie Sleeping Bags – I think this idea is adorable. Buzz prefers to snuggle in the bottom of our sleeping bags, so I’ve never explored getting one for him.
A Blanket – I highly recommend a blanket to bring along – it’s beneficial for the road trip, camping, and everything in between.
Doggie Clothes – we always pack different clothes for Buzz – rain jackets, coats for extreme cold, and bandanas.
A Light Up Collar – This comes in handy for nights at the campsite, early morning hikes, and running as well. Ours (the one linked and pictured below) is rechargeable and changes colors. I’ve gotten a ton of compliments on it!
Once all of the supplies are purchased, there are a few things to do that will help ensure the best camping trip possible:
Check With The Campsite Dogs Are Allowed – It is important to keep in mind that if camping at a designated campsite (much different than the dispersed camping we typically do), one must check with the campsite management to know whether or not dogs are allowed. It may take some “shopping around” to find a campsite that allows pets.
Be Aware of Wildlife and Surroundings – As mentioned above, Buzz does well with his recall and can explore some while we set up our tent. However, whether in dispersed campsites or designated campsites, we always keep our eyes on our surroundings. There is always the possibility of wildlife sightings or running into other dogs or campers. If uncertain of how a dog will react to these things, it is definitely recommended to leash or tether them up.
Sleeping Arrangements – Sleeping arrangements can be an issue if there is a lot of noise outside of the tent. Some dogs will bark and growl at outside sounds, which is another thing to keep in mind. This is also where the decision needs to be made on whether they will hang with their humans or get the luxury of their own doggie sleeping back, like this one.
Take Fido for a Morning Walk – One last thing that always works really well for us on camping trips is to take a short walk each morning when we wake up. Buzz and I like to explore around the campsite. He takes this time to go potty and work up some of an appetite for breakfast. Obviously, not all dogs will need a quick morning walk, but I like to mention it because it seems to really kick our day off right.
A deer, just feet away from our campsite last summer, in an absolute stand-off with Buzz (who was, thank goodness, in my lap and secured).
If interested in more tips and a fun infographic about camping with dogs, I came across the KOA Camping Blog, which has a lot of alternative ideas and thoughts around camping with Fido.
Looking through some of my old camping and hiking pictures with Buzz has me itching even more to plan for our next trip. Camping out in the woods, oftentimes with little to no cell phone service, is one of my absolute favorite things. Separating ourselves from society, leaving us alone with just our dog and the trees and wildlife around us, is one of the things in my life that recharges me the most. It must be that forest bathing at its finest!