Before you head out, find out if dogs are allowed or if they need to be leashed. You should also make sure that Fido is physically fit and able to take on whatever excursions you're planning. If a long, steep hike is on the itinerary, you should probably leave your older pooch at home. But if you have a high energy pup or are exploring an easier trail, by all means, bring them along. Just be sure to bring the right dog gear.
We've rounded up the essential gear that man's best friend needs to have fun and stay safe on his next outdoor adventure.
Dog Pack1 of 9
This first piece of dog gear helps ease your hiking load, but the best part is that most dogs like "having a job" on the trail.
To make sure that your pet is as comfortable as can be, don't load their pack with more than 25 to 30 percent of their body weight. If this is their first go with a pack, start with a lighter load and work your way heavier if need be. Try a few practice runs with the pack so that by the time the hiking trip approaches, this new thing on your dog's back won't be a surprise.
Most packs are designed for both the human and the pooch. The Approach Pack, by trusted outdoor dog gear brand Ruffwear, has top-loading pockets so you can easily grab your snacks and also has a place to attach a leash. For your hound, the pack is lightweight and comes with strategic padding to make the whole hike comfortable and fun for both parties.
Before ordering a pack or heading to the store, measure the circumference of your pet's chest. This will help determine the correct pack and harness size.
Booties2 of 9
Although it might seem like a cruel trick at first, your dog will get used to wearing booties and would thank you if he could. When heading out on a trail, or even in a campground that might have broken glass, sharp rocks or extremely hot pavement, it's important to protect the pads of your pooch. Unless your dog regularly is on rough ground, their foot pads aren't tough enough to take a rocky trail or an icy, cold hike.
Just like the pack, practice wearing the booties around the yard first and instead of laughing at the crazy dance that follows, distract your pet by walking around or playing fetch.
Booties come in several styles, and are made for different types of terrain and weather. For hiking or camping, choose a boot that has sticky traction and a gaiter or cuff that goes above the ankle to keep debris out, such as the everyday Ruffwear Summit Trex Boots. If the weather is quite hot, look for boots that have breathable mesh; if it's cold outside, use a boot that has a longer gaiter to keep the snow out and provide more insulation.
Coat3 of 9
Whether it's cold or hot, there's a coat for that. In winter weather, dogs can get just as cold as you can and need some insulated protection. Look for a jacket that can fit snugly around their torso and that goes on and off easily—think velcro, clips or zippers—but won't slip off or get hooked on branches. Make sure the jacket is still breathable and has enough stretch to really let your hound run.
If you live in an area that gets deep snow, we recommend a jacket that covers the underside of the dog thoroughly as well, such as the Winter Jacket by Hurtta, so that the belly doesn't get too cold.
For hot weather, there are cooling jackets or cooling collars. Check out the Swamp Cooler jacket by Ruffwear or the Cooling Coat by Hurtta, both of which you soak in water and ring out before putting it on your pooch.
You'll also find a handful of jackets between both extremes—lightweight waterproof ones for spring and slightly insulated ones for fall.
Personal Floatation Device4 of 9
If you're going camping by a lake, with a boat, or plan to enjoy some family rafting time, consider purchasing a life jacket for your dog. The jacket will not only keep your pup afloat in rough waters, but when you choose a bright color it will also help make your dog more visible if swimming in a busy lake. We recommend a life jacket with a handle as well, just in case you need to snatch Fido back up and into your boat or raft.
Poop Bags5 of 9
Nobody wants to step in something mushy while hanging out by the campfire, and you definitely don't want to be "that guy" who doesn't clean up after your four-legged friend.
Bring plenty of poop bags for your trip. These can be as simple as reusing your plastic bags from the store or using the biodegradable or compostable bags, such as those from Earth Rated. If you live near a Marshalls or a T.J. Maxx, these stores often have eco-friendly poop bags on sale. And if you invest in a new leash, some even come with built in bag dispensers.
Leash6 of 9
You probably already have a leash, but consider investing in a durable one, one that you don't mind getting extra dirty. Nobody needs a broken leash on a leash-required trail. Pack the new one, but bring along the other leashes just in case you need a back-up.
Most rules require that the leash be 6 feet or shorter.
If you prefer going hands-free while hiking, find a leash that can clip onto your pack or one that has a waistbelt system, like the OllyDog Mt Tam Leash. Other leashes, like the Alite Boa Lite Leash made of ripstop nylon fabric, have all the extra amenities built right in including a poop-bag dispenser, a pocket for keys, a quick-release handle and a nightlight loop.
Don't forget that the though a leash can be cumbersome at times, it can also keep your dog safe when encountering other canines, mountain bikers or wild animals.
Collapsible Water Bowl7 of 9
Just like you can get dehydrated on a tough hike, so can Fido, but Fido can't easily take sips from your hydration pack. Instead, pack along a collapsible nylon or silicone bowl.
Kurgo has a variety of travel bowls that are reasonably priced, as does Guyot Designs. Another hydration option is the water bottle with detachable bowl all in one, such as the OllyBottle by OllyDog. Most bowls are dishwasher safe and BPA-free.
Light-Up Collar8 of 9
Once it's dark and everyone is relaxing by the fire, your pooch is probably still sniffing away. Instead of keeping him tied next to you, snap on a light-up collar, like those by Nite Ize, and you'll be able to keep track of your pet even in the dark.
Many brands have full LED collars, but if you prefer to keep the collar you already have, try a clip-on light. A light not only keeps your dog in sight, but also allows him to be seen by drivers and other campers.