Must-Have Gear for Hiking With Your Dog

Like so many dog lovers, one of my absolute favorite things to do is hit the trails with my pooch. Rio and I hike in the woods near our home twice a day, but we particularly love exploring new places on longer adventures. Whether climbing up a mountain to an alpine lake or heading through desert red rock to a rushing river, life doesn’t get much better than being active and enjoying the fresh air and gorgeous scenery with a happy dog. If you’re as stoked as I am to head outside with your dog, you might want to check out some must-have doggy hiking gear to help ensure a fun and healthy trip.

Canine Backpack

As backpackers know, often every ounce of weight counts – I have friends who even cut off the handles of their toothbrushes to lighten the load. On longer treks, your dog can help out by carrying some of his food and water. Though they’re happy to help, keep in mind that you don’t want to put too much weight on them. The general rule of thumb is that they should carry no more than ¼ of their weight. Check with your veterinarian though because there are other factors to consider like age and conditioning.

Outward Hound offers doggy backpacks with adjustable straps, expandable pockets (for extra Zuke’s treats, of course!), and reflective accents to help them stay visible.

Collapsible Water Bowl

Dogs don’t sweat, so it’s easy for them to overheat when hiking in the hot sun. You know dogs – they’ll keep hiking or running until they collapse. So, even if you’re heading to a river or stream, it’s important to frequently offer them water throughout the hike. This also forces them to take a break and rest, even if only for a moment. Enter the lightweight, collapsible dog bowl. When I first started hiking with Rio, I had one of those huge bowls that I’d fill to the rim. He’d lap at it for a little bit and then walk away. I’d be forced to dump out water that I should have saved for the rest of the hike. Now, I like small, collapsible dog bowls. If your dog is particularly thirsty, you can always refill it. The Dexas collapsible travel cup with carabiner is made in the USA with certified food-safe materials, and you can clip it onto your pup’s leash, backpack or collar. 

Dog Booties

OK, we all know that dogs don’t naturally love booties. Their first response is almost always to try to get them off. However, booties can be key on longer trips, particularly if your dog is a “weekend warrior.” I know a veterinarian who has helped many dogs with paw pads that have been cut on rocky terrain or torn from the wear and tear of hiking long distances in the back country. The owners are panicked, but the issue is preventable. Dog booties can help protect your dog’s paws – just be sure to get them used to the booties at home so you spend your hike cruising through the trees instead of stopping every two minutes to put the booties back on. Ruffwear has a line of Trex booties for summer or winter (snow can crack pads, too).

K9 First Aid Kit

If you want to make a pet first aid kit for the hike, The Humane Society of the United States has a great list of what to pack.

Poop Bags

This isn’t a sexy topic, but we need to leave no trace and scoop the poop. Biodegradable poop bags like BioBag Pet Waste Bags can be composted when you’re back at home, and you can feel better about double bagging the poop to avoid an unplanned mess in your pack.

Quick-Release Collar

The great outdoors isn’t the place for, say, bedazzled leather collars with a standard belt buckle. Opt instead for a nylon or other fast-drying collar with a quick-release buckle in case your dog gets snagged on a branch or something. You’ll also want to make sure you have your cell phone number on her collar’s ID tag in case you and your pooch get separated. Lupine has some fantastic adjustable, quick-release dog collars that come with a replacement guarantee “Even If Chewed”.

It’s also worth noting that your favorite animal shelter or rescue organization might sell quick-release collars to raise money for homeless pets. Rio sports a collar from PawsCo, a Colorado-based rescue organization. I was thrilled when Zuke’s made a large donation of treats to them over the holidays – I love that Zuke’s supports so many worthy causes!

Energy Bars

The idea for Zuke’s started on a hike. Founder Patrick Meiering was hiking here in Durango, Colorado with his chocolate Lab, Zuke, and realized his tired pooch needed an energy bar as much as he did. So, he created Power Bones, and more than 20 years later, the flagship treats are still a fantastic way to “fuel the love” on a hike with your dog. They also come in handy as a reward when you need your off-leash dog to obey “Come!”

Happy trails to you and your dog! 

Rio on the trail in Durango

Freelance journalist Jen Reeder is an award-winning member of the Dog Writers Association of America.