Avid hiker, new to hiking with dog. I am Looking for tips on how to safely hike overnight with a couple friends (also avid hikers) and our dogs. Planning on hiking first week of October in the White Mtns of New Hampshire. I thoroughly understand the importance of safety, and wearing the correct cold weather gear to hunker down for the night. I’m looking for tips or info from fellow backpackers who have similar experience hiking with their dogs as far as keeping them warm, comfortable, and safe. Planning on staying in a shelter but if it is safer to do so we will stay in the tent for warmth. My dog has been on numerous overnight backpacking trips during the spring and summer months, this will be her first cold season overnight. There are 2 dogs and 3 adults total in our party. Any tips/ info is greatly appreciated, thanks for your time!
Hey there @MGMillie! So excited you are trying out overnighting with your dog! It is honestly our dogs' most favorite thing to do with us. I'm pretty sure my pup's favorite object in the world is our tent. But you are totally right to think about how to keep your dog warm, I've definitely had nights where I underestimated how cold it was going to be and ended up ceding my sleeping bag to my pup.
We have two dogs with two very different sleep styles and then two systems depending on how cold it will get, so I'll break it down for both. We do have another system for below zero, but that probably won't be super relevant here. A quick glance at the weather forecast shows anywhere from as low as freezing to as high as mid-50s for the next few weeks in the White Mountains, so hopefully this helps you think about early October!
Cold, but not wintery (night generally at or above freezing)
- Our 40lb colder pup, who loves to snuggle under blankets: he has an insulated jacket and dog bed that converts to a sleeping bag. Between these two he is fine!
- Our 70lb warmer pup, who wants to lay on top of things (including you): she has an insulated jacket and a memory foam bath mat as a sleeping pad. She will mostly just snuggle up close to you.
Wintery cold (below freezing, but not below zero)
- Our 40lb colder pup, who loves to snuggle under blankets: he get everything mentioned above, plus his own cut to size reflective foam mat to go under his dog bed. But honestly, we've bought a Nemo sleeping bag for my partner and it has a really wide footbox and our pup likes to curl up inside at the bottom of it on really cold nights.
- Our warmer pup, who wants to lay on top of things: Since she doesn't like to snuggle under things, more clothing is the best for her. She gets a second wool jacket as a baselayer, it is longer and covers up more of her back. She also gets a cut to size reflective foam pad for under her sleeping pad. Then we've made fleece booties for her paws that go up about halfway up her legs (I've made fleece jackets for dogs in the past too, but this one outgrew it). We do have a kids-sized sleeping bag that fits her pretty well, sometimes we will bring that to just toss over her when we wake up at night, but she never stays underneath it.
How your dog likes to sleep, should really determine your method: if they like to be under a blanket at home, bring an extra sleeping bag or something to curl up inside; if they are more of a sprawler and like to move around, then pack stuff that stays on their body as they move throughout the night. Hope this helps! Let us know how your pup likes their trip!
Thanks a bunch! That does help a lot and makes me feel a lot better about bringing the pups with us. Any recommendations from others with similar experience would be greatly appreciated as well, I’d rather learn here than the hard way!
Hello, it sounds like you and your friends have a great trip ahead, I love the Whites!
My first questions are about your dogs: How old are they?, What breed are they?, do they live mostly indoors or outdoors?, and are they emotionally dependent on you?
Young and older dogs (just like us) will have greater difficulty moderating their temperature and combined physical effort required for the White mountains.
Some breeds are better suited for the weather/seasons then others. For mixed breeds, this is mostly evident if they have both fur and guard hair and how thick/bushy their coat is (including tails and ears).
Living outside or spending a large portion of their time (regardless of the season) is good for dogs traveling outdoors in many ways, most prominently in cold temperatures, it allows them to shed their summer coat for a thinker winter coat.
Emotional dependence is more of a comfort for the dog. Is the dog comfortable being left outside by itself for the night (regardless of weather/temperature) or do they require constant companionship from you or other dogs?
The answer to these questions will offer insight into how well your dog would be suited into being outside in your desired season, weather, and camping situation. Your dogs may need nothing except a leash to keep them from wondering off at night after something interesting or a nice sleeping situation that Racheil posted for you.
If you feel you need to augment your dog’s comfort with gear, you will find there is as much gear for them as there is for us!
I hope you all have an awesome adventureI
In addition to the other responses, I would like to add that It’s important to be able to recognize the signs of hypothermia in your dog especially during cold weather hikes. The first symptom of hypothermia you’ll notice in your dog is excessive shivering. Here is a detailed guide https://shihtzuexpert.com/hypothermia-in-dogs/
@MGMillie Great question! I love that you focused on the safety-side of cold camping with your pups!
My former pup, Tahoe (RIP) and my current pup, Hank, both LOVE camping and we will take them camping even when it gets below freezing. I 100% agree with @REI-RachelL that knowing your dogs will help you make the best decisions for your pups. Both Tahoe and Hank have a synthetic (human) sleeping bag (since it's easier to clean than down and keeps it's warmth when wet since both are/were water-loving dogs), but how I put them in it is different. Tahoe was a skinny, cold-natured mutt, so she was always zipped up to her neck with 2 closed-cell foam pads below her. If it was really cold, we would bring extra blankets for her. She absolutely loved it.
Hank, on the other hand, is well.... a tank, so he tends to overheat unless it's close to freezing. He still uses the sleeping bag and closed-cell foam pad, but I will only zip him about halfway in on warmer nights. This makes it easier to zip him up all the way up in the middle of the night if the temps drop. Also, he has pretty intense doggy dreams, so if I don't zip him up part way, he tends to completely kick off all the coverings and then he gets cold. If it's really cold, he loves being zipped up all the way with 2 closed-cell pads.
I always make sure my pup is sleeping right next to me so I can monitor their temperature overnight.
Other things I have found that help when cold-weather camping with my dog, is to bring extra food, since dogs also need extra calories to stay warm. Also, as the days get shorter, putting a Ruffwear Safety Light on your dog's collar or a Nite Ize LED Necklace around their neck give them greater visibility if they wander off. I will also put a Bear Bell on my dog, not only to scare away animals, but also so I can hear them if they wander off.
Have so much fun with your adventure pups, and post pictures when you return! Here are some of my pictures!