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Whenever I am on a local hike, there is a good chance that you will find my dogs at my side. It has gotten to a point that when I am out of the trail without my dogs… Serious guilt sets in. I use the excuse that hiking with my dogs is imperative for their optimal health; But deep inside, I just want my boys with me on my adventures!
My dogs add a lot to my hikes. At times, they give me purpose to be out there. They have an abundance of energy and tend to keep me hiking a little further than I would on my own. In addition, if I need to hit the trail for work purposes, I have 2 buddies that I can always count on to accompany me. Luckily, their schedules are usually clear. 😉
Another benefit of bringing Bruno, (my Pit Bull) and Manchester, (my Jack Russell Terrier), is that they alert me to wildlife that I would otherwise be oblivious to. From a safety standpoint, they are an early warning system when a stranger is approaching our path. I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t feel added protection when my boys are part of my team.
There are certainly more positives than negatives when it comes to having my dogs out on the trail. But in all honesty… It’s not always fun and games.
- They take my focus away when I am working.
- I need to carry extra gear.
- They scare the fish away with all of their water play.
- They tend to ruin my video reviews & briefings with their random barks. 😉
Having my dogs with me adds much more responsibility to the outing. Over the years of hiking with my furry kids, covering countless miles, there are a few items that I found that make the mission much more enjoyable. At times, i have saddlebags for my dogs so that we can share the extra weight. But in warmer weather, I opt for carrying the gear myself ensuring greater safety for my boys.
I’d like to share with you 10 of the items that I bring along when I am hiking with my dogs. I approach their gear the same way that I do my own. The weight and multi-purpose applications of their equipment, certainly plays a role in my decision making.
So Let’s Get Started…
Me and my dogs hike on varied terrain when we hit the trails. Sometimes it’s sandy, other times it’s rocky and everything else in between. On extended rest breaks, I lay out the blanket in order to give them a bit more comfort. No… they aren’t being fancy, they are getting as much R&R as possible so that they could keep up on the longer humps.
By adding this barrier it also keeps the nasty ticks, fleas and ants from annoying my dogs. Even with the best insect repellant, these critters still tend to bother the shit out of my dogs… so any preventive measure is helpful.
The blanket can also serve varied purposes for my dogs. It can be used to provide shade from the hot sun. It can also be used as a rain fly for those unexpected downpours. Due to the construction of the blanket, it can also provide much needed warmth for my dogs in certain scenarios.
Leash & Harness:
Keeping my dogs on a leash is not only the law where I live… but it is also the right thing to do. Not only will it be more comfortable for other people that are sharing the trail with us but it is also the safest measure for my dogs. With a leash I always know where my dogs are. There are many trigger-happy morons in the world. If they see a Pit Bull coming at them for whatever reason… It may not bode well for my boy Bruno.
I keep the leash affixed to their standard collar while hiking. But when we take our extended breaks, I put a harness on my dogs to give their necks a break. Between me accidentally pulling on them for many miles and their own natural movements, their collars can cause irritation. I replace their collars with harnesses and fasten their leashes to them. This gives their necks a much needed break from their collars.
I tend to have a decent amount of cordage with me whether solo or with my dogs. The versatility of paracord goes without say. But when it comes to my dogs, they need to be leashed as we previously discussed. When moving on the trail, a standard leash is suffice. But when I take an extended break to work or for chow… I want to extend that short leash to give my dogs more roaming room.
Trees are usually abundant when I’m out in the field. I tie an extended leader made of paracord, to the existing leash; The other end gets fastened to a tree. This allows my dogs much more leeway so that they can do their thing. In return, since they are entertained, I can focus on the task at hand without having to tend to my dogs every few minutes.
When I am hiking by myself, I have a personal water purifier in my pack. When my dogs are with me, I opt for a water purifier that can provide for all of us. Water is something that I address before we ever get on the trail. However, my dogs tend to drain every drop of water that I bring well before our mission is complete. I can either bring a 5 gallon container with me or a good water purifier; I choose the latter. 😉
There are plenty of water sources around most of the routes that I chose when I am with my pets. Unfortunately, those sources aren’t always operable when we get to them. Having a water purifier that can get our water potable quickly is crucial. Be responsible for you but especially for your pets. They have no choice but to rely on your preparedness.
An LED collar is a newer addition to my gear. I had a few sent to me to review a little over a year ago. I put the LED collars through my review process and found them to be very useful. There are plenty of times that we are on the trail as the sun begins to set. Having an LED collar, that allows me to keep track of my dogs, makes my life much easier.
In overnight scenarios, the convenience of an LED dog collar multiplies. Instead of turning my flashlight on every few minutes, and/or calling my dogs’ names… I can basically use my peripheral vision and know the exact position of my dogs. These collars attach to the molle webbing on the outside of my pack and barely add any weight. They are not only good for the safety of my dogs but they also add peace of mind to my experience while I’m in the field.
Whether I’m using their bowls for water or for their chow, a quality water bowl if a must. I found that collapsible bowls work the best for me. They are durable, BPA-free, inexpensive and collapse to a very thin profile. I wouldn’t use them for home use but they are extremely convenient at basecamp or when on the trail.
Having a good bowl also extends the life of the food and water that I have with me. I have seen people give water to their dogs out of a standard bottle; spilling half of it with each gulp. If you have continual access to water, this isn’t an issue besides the waste… Of course. But when you are on the trail, you need to conserve both food and water.
Give them small portions of both water and food in the bowl. Keep refilling the bowl until they are satisfied. This will keep the water loss at a minimum and their food can remain packed, fresh and slobber free.
Dog Food & Snacks:
This one may seem obvious but many people plan to be back home before their dog’s chow time. Keep in mind that just like us, our dogs are burning lots of extra calories on these longer hikes. We need to keep their energy up and supplemental snacks seem to do the job quite well for me.
I bring varied treats from dog bars to regular dry food… And even some homemade dog cookies that are packed with nutrition. Homemade treats always contain less garbage than the store bought snacks because we control the ingredients.
Stick with what you generally reward or feed your dog on a regular basis. The trail is not a good place to experiment with new food. Diarrhea and vomiting is something that you want to avoid at all costs. Dehydration is one thing to deal with while at home but on the trail, things can get bad very quickly.
A bandana or shemagh is something that I generally keep with me in my go bag. It has countless applications and is easy to pack. When it comes to my dogs, I find that placing a water soaked shemagh around their necks, keeps them comfortable, especially in the warmer months.
When I’m confident that I have ample water for our hike, I use the water that I have with me to douse the shemagh. If water conservation is a concern, I use water from a stream, lake or pond to fulfill the task. The pups seem to appreciate it and when they’re good… I’m Good!
D-Ring Or Carabiner:
I keep a quality D-ring clipped to my backpack. It’s a real deal D-ring used for mountaineering. The cheap smaller ones, that seem to be attached to everything these days, will not serve my intended purpose.
I attach my D-ring to the shoulder strap on my rucksack. My ruck contains molle webbing on the shoulder straps, so it’s a simple task. I place the handle of the dog leash in the D-ring and fasten the ring. This allows me to operate hands-free while performing a certain task or even for the duration of the hike.
Keep in mind that this method is not for everyone. The size and discipline of both you and your dog needs to be addressed. Your strength and fitness level also comes into play. Let’s not forget that your gear, especially your backpack, needs to be able to accommodate all of the strain that will be put on it.
Insects can ruin the party when you are on the trail. They are extremely annoying to us but we can easily swat them away. When it comes to our dogs, they don’t have that luxury. Besides the obvious annoyance, critters can wreak havoc on your dog’s nervous system. They carry nasty diseases that can easily be transmitted to your dog.
I carry a concoction that I make myself out of 3 simple ingredients. It has served both me and my dogs very well for the past 7 years. When it comes to any chemicals that i put on me or my dogs, I want them to be as clean and non-toxic as possible. Be careful in what you apply to yourself and even more importantly, what chemicals that you introduce to your dog’s nervous system.
I have used most of the items that I mentioned in this articles for quite a few years. They have served me and my dogs quite well. I shared this list with you in hopes that you can use these ideas to make life, for both you and your dogs, more comfortable while you are on the trail.
There is never a one-size-fits-all so tweak the list to what will assimilate best for you and your dog. In an emergency situation, what you practice with your dogs while on the trail, may be what will save your life. Take nothing for granted and always strive to be as prepared as you can be for both you and your dogs.
Our dogs love us unconditionally… Do whatever you can to keep them happy and comfortable for the very short timespan that we are graced with presence.