How to Pack for Your Dog on Your Next Adventure


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When I’m packing for a road trip, whether it’s to go biking, skiing or camping, it’s hard enough to remember everything I need for myself, much less the dog. But Charlie, my nine-year-old white Lab, who enjoys adventures as much as I do, needs gear for the road, too.

There’s hardly enough room in my cross-over for all my gear, so I have to pack wisely for the dog. What essentials does she need? And what can I leave behind? I decided to call up a couple of my most outdoor-loving dog-owning friends to get their advice on how best to pack for your pup.

First I reached Grayson Schaffer, a senior editor at Outside magazine, based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He’s constantly on the go—skiing, hunting, biking, fly-fishing, road-tripping—and his dogs, Danger, a chocolate Lab, and Cooper, a yellow Lab, come with him nearly everywhere. Cooper spent a couple of years with Schaffer getting trained as an air-scent dog on the Los Alamos Mountain Canine Corps, a volunteer search-and-rescue team that finds people lost in the mountains.

When he goes places with his dogs, Schaffer tells me he likes to bring only the necessities, starting with a travel dog bed. Mountainsmith’s K9 Dog Bed, which is best for medium to large dogs, fits into its own stuff sack and can be cleaned easily. “Get a bed that rolls up small and gives your dog a place to stay and shed hair,” Schaffer says.

A leash and collar, of course, are Schaffer’s next required items. “For leashes, you want a short one. A good lead should be a static line four feet or less,” he says.

I like Chaco’s Dog Collar and their six-foot-long dog leash, made from the same resilient polyester webbing you’ll find in Chaco’s river sandals. Or if you want a shorter one; add on the Ruffwear Double Track Dog-Leash Coupler and you can easily walk two dogs at once.

Sochi Pups

Next, I got in touch with Robin Macdonald, a photographer and videographer who, along with his friend, Olympic silver medalist freeskier Gus Kenworthy, was responsible for adopting those stray puppies from Sochi, Russia, during the 2014 Winter Olympics. The puppies ended up making news headlines and TV morning shows in the wake of the Olympics. Macdonald’s Instagram account of the puppies (@thesochipups) now has over 46,000 followers. Macdonald kept two of the puppies, Jake and Miskha, both shepherd mixes, and they live with him in Vancouver, British Columbia. He often takes them on long roads trip, such as driving from Vancouver to Colorado for ski contests.

“I always pack the essentials: leashes, dog bags, treats and water,” Macdonald tells me. “I always make sure to have a supply of their food, and having a gallon of water and a bowl is an easy way to keep them hydrated.”

Try an easy-to-haul travel tote that stores food and toys in separate compartments and has two drop-down bowls for food and water with waterproof liners. Or, if you’d prefer a separate bowl, I like Kurgo’s Collaps-A-Bowl, which is made from BPA-free silicone and collapses to the size of a Frisbee™ when you’re not using it.

Finally, as Macdonald suggests, toss in a roll of Cycle Dog Earth Friendly Pick-Up Bags, which are made from corn and plant starches and will decompose naturally, and you’ll never be stuck in a crappy situation again.

Packing for your Dog

Beyond those essentials, everything else you could bring along for your dog is an added luxury, like a seat cover to keep your car from getting too dirty (try Ruffwear’s Dirtbag Seat Cover) and some toys to keep the pup entertained (like a West Paw Zisc). GoPro even makes a dog harness, the Fetch Camera Mount, for capturing your adventure from your dog’s point of view.

Once you’re finally on the road, enjoy the ride with Fido in tow. Just be sure to check in advance where your dog is welcomed and where he or she isn’t. “Definitely check ahead with hotels,” Schaffer says. “Most places that you want to travel to with your dog, you’ll find a hotel that loves having them.”

Adds Macdonald, “Camping is a great way to travel with your pet, but make sure you check to see if you’re allowed to bring your dog into the park. Most campgrounds allow pets, but many national parks will not allow them to enter.”

Finally, here's a quick checklist of items to reference for taking your best friend out on your adventures:

  1. Plenty of food, treats and water
  2. Collar or harness and leash
  3. Dog bowls
  4. Dog bags
  5. Dog bed or kennel for sleeping
  6. Dog gear -- dog pack, coat, boots
  7. Favorite toys
  8. Dog PFD (if planning on watersports)
  9. Collar safety light (for better nighttime visibility)
  10. First-aid kit

For additional information, check out Hiking or Backpacking With Your Dog and shop dog gear for any missing items in your kit.

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