Hiking and Backpacking with Dakota (or your own dog)

Every weekend my dog, Dakota, and I go on at least one little hike. She is a German Shepherd/Norwegian Elkhound mix and quite out of shape (part of it I think is due to the history of hip dysplasia in GSD). She can rarely go over 4-5 miles in the heat of summer. Last weekend she made it 6 miles in the fall weather. The furthest she has gone in a day was 10 miles – and that was too much for HER.


Even though we may be able to go farther than our furry friends, we need to keep their health and happiness in mind. They aren’t going to tell us no; they will stay loyal and walk on. *Except after my dog went on a long hike and sprained her paw – she refused to go on a walk everyday for a week. Since I know am aware of what my pup can handle, I keep it within her limits. I still want to bring on some backpacking trips because I feel too guilty when I know I am enjoying a hike outside and she is stuck sleeping at home. When I do bring her, I make sure I keep it in her limits. KNOW YOUR DOG.


Your Pup

Just like you, your dog is going to need much more fuel and hydration when expending so much energy. When you feel thirsty, your dog is also thirsty. When you feel hungry, your dog is hungry. During strenuous activity such as backpacking you often need at least double your normal caloric intake – same goes for Fido. Make sure to pack enough food.DSC01705

Just like you, your dog can’t automatically walk 10 miles in rough terrain with a heavy pack. Slowly build up your dog’s endurance and get them used to various terrain Concrete is a lot different from dirt and rocks. In addition, get them used to wearing a backpack. I have seen many pups, including my own, run and jumps for joy at the trail head. As soon as the pack goes on the dog turns into a statue and refuses to move. First just get them used to wearing an empty pack around the house, then around the block, then on your longer hikes. Then add some weight (such as a water bottle) and start over with around the house and progressing from their. I want my pup to be happy, so I try not to exceed 10-15% of her body weight.

Keep your dog safe. Get familiar with pet first-aid. There are many community classes held on animal first-aid. Sites like peteducation.com and avma.org also have great articles and info on pet first aid. Get them safety gear, such as a flotation vest, boots, and collar light. See some of my favorite gear below. Dogs are also susceptible to waterborne illness. Watch what they are drinking and guide them to clear, running water if possible. Always carry extra water for your dog as you would yourself.

Trip Planning and Trail Regulations

I live in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah where there are protected watershed – therefore I can only bring my pup along in a few select areas. Don’t get me wrong – can drive less than an hour and my options multiply! Always make sure to double-check regulations of where you plan on going. Are they allowed everywhere, or only designated trails? Many parks require dogs be on leash at all times, if not, make sure your dog is well-trained and will listen to your commands even when seeing a squirrel. Do not forget Leave No Trace Principles! We would not take a dump in the middle of the trail; your dog shouldn’t either. Pack it out or bury it. Also keep your dog on trail and off delicate surfaces.


Dog Packing List (obviously this list will differ based on length, # of days, and location)

  1. Leash – 10 ft or shorter. Parks often require a leash not be longer than 6 or 10 ft. I prefer a leash that has an additional handle at healing length.

    Ruffwear Roamer Leash
    Ruffwear Roamer Leash
  2. Pack

    Kyjen Pack - great budget bag - Dakota's 1st bag.
    Kyjen Pack – great budget bag – Dakota’s 1st bag.
    Ruffwear Approach Pack
    Ruffwear Approach Pack
  3. Brush – There are a lot of burrs out there. Enough said.

  4. Collar – With ID tag and contact info, preferably have your pet micro-chipped as well. Also include a light, whether built in or clip on. You could also consider a harness with a handle. These can come in very handy if you need to lift your dog on tough scrambles/climbs or to rescue in water. If you are going to be in water, a PDF may also be a good extra.

    Nite Ize SpotLit
    Nite Ize SpotLit
  5. Boots – Protect your dogs sensitive paws from sharp and hot rocks.

    Ruffwear Summit Trex
    Ruffwear Summit Trex
  6. Dog Bed – keep them comfy and protected from heat loss on the cold ground.

    ChuckIt! Travel Bed or an old Thermarest Z pad (cut)
    ChuckIt! Travel Bed or an old Thermarest Z pad (cut)
  7. Water and Food Dish

    Collapsible Bowl - I got mine for $3 at Tjmaxx
    Collapsible Bowl – I got mine for $3 at Tjmaxx
  8. First Aid Kit  – most of this stuff you will already carry for yourself

    • scissors
    • tweezers
    • hydrogen peroxide
    • antibiotic lotion
    • gauze roll & pads
    • vet wrap
    • Benadryl
    • adhesive tape
    • pocket guide to pet first aid
    • copy of vaccines
    • extra rope or webbing (in case you need to rig something to carry your dog out)
  9. Poo Bags

  10. Dog Food and Snacks/Treats