If there’s one thing my lovable husky, Sven, enjoys more than anything else, it’s the freedom to be outside in the wilderness, running wild and exploring all of the unfamiliar territories along our journey. Until recently, his main contribution to hikes and campouts was his ability to pull me up the hill as the “lead dog.” That is, until I got him his own backpack.
I’ve been a backpacker for more than ten years and the thrill of setting out on foot and camping wherever you end up has always been a thrill. That being said, it’s not for the faint of heart; backpacking backpacks are such heavier than your normal day pack, and you’ve gotta haul out 40 or so pounds of gear inlacing your tent, sleeping bag, cooking supplies, food, and water. When I found out that they made doggie backpacks, I was thrilled on a personal level, and happy on a practical level that my goofy dog would have to carry his own meals and refreshments along the trail. I often joke with Sven that I’m not bringing all of his food because he never eats it anyways and I’m not packing multiple pounds of uneaten dog food out; Now, that’s up to him.
Needless to say, a doggie backpack offers a significant amount of storage space and can help you shift the weight away from your own pack. I hit REI yesterday and grabbed the Ruffwear pack designed for larger dogs (He’s a husky, remember?). These packs have up to 24 liters of space (for comparison, my backpack is a Gregory Baltoro 85 liter). But, just because your pup has the space, doesn’t me you can load him or her down with 40 pounds and stroll through your hike.
Jut like humans, dogs have load-bearing limits. You can stuff items into their packs, but you need to make sure you are causing them pain or putting too heavy of a pack on them. Sven weighs about 72 pounds, and his pack weighs about 15-20 will full water and food. In the same way that a human’s pack shouldn’t get much higher than 1/4-1/3 of the person’s bodyweight, keep in mind how much you’re loading your dog down with.
Not only is weight a concern, but doggie activities are as well. If you dog jumps headfirst into a lake with all of your fire gear, you’re going to have a cold evening. Similarly, if the weed and pipe are in the dog’s pack, they won’t do you much good after being banged into the side of a mountain all day. To make it easy to pack your dog’s packs, here’s my quick list for items that are great options for dog packs:
- Dog Bowl: Portable, collapsible dog bowls.
- Water: Obviously the pup is going to need water. Get a small Platypus or water reservoir for their pack.
- Dog Food: My dog typically eats breakfasts and dinners. I’ll be gone about a day and a half, so I separated food into three ziplock baggies for easy meals. This also allows you to spread the weight evenly from side to side for your pup.
- Dog Treats: No brainer. Only thing to keep in mind is whether the bag is smell proof (your dogs will go nuts all day smelling treats on their backs) and making sure you have some on your person in ties when you have to call your dog and get his or her attention.
- Trash Bags/Shopping Bags: Always a good idea to have trash bags, for dog shit and human shit.
- Nozzle: I was able to snag a nozzle off of a regular water bottle for my dog’s water. This makes it easier to swap out and give him a drink on the trail with less waste.
- Bear Bag: Our bear bag is very lightweight and hard to destroy; the perfect item for a dog’s pack.
- Plastic flasks: If you’re bringing a bit of booze, you can add this to your pup’s pack. Make sure the container is nonbreakable and that you’re not increasing the load too much.
- Rope: Can be used for a leash, lead, or emergencies and is relatively lightweight.
- Hand warmers: Never hurts to have a few extra, especially if the dog carries them.
- Walkie Talkies: This is a great option for storage before you get to the trail. Just make sure to grab them for your crew before you begin (wet or broken walkie’s don’t work as well).
- Beanie/Hat: I put my hat in the side of his pack as extra cushion and easy access in case the weather changes.
- Miscellaneous Small Items: I threw a few caribeaners, a lighter, a silicon bowl, a hack sack, sunscreen, and some drink mixes quick access to flavoring for water bottles.
Hope this helps with your next backpacking trip with a dog! Stay tuned for regular tips, tricks and guides on how to get the most out of your adventures.
Thanks for reading!
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[…] wanted a shorter trail to avoid any issues with pack weight and exhaustion. Also, I’d grabbed a backpack for Sven, which he had never hiked with, so we didn’t want to have to carry his pack for an extended […]