I have been hiking with dogs for almost 15 years now. I still manage to forget to pack something every now and then – especially when I am getting back into the swing of things at the beginning of the season. For example, I know better but have been leaving the bug spray at home because we haven’t rain into any major bugs in a while….until our hike to Eagle Lake. The mosquitoes were thick there and left me cursing my complacency.
Over the years, I have learned what I need to put in my backpack to make my day relaxing, comfortable and take care of any minor mishaps. This is what I bring on our hiking trips.
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Let’s start with the foundation – the actual backpack. When you hike with a big dog, they can carry some of the load. Small dogs usually can’t carry a pack or, if they do, you can’t put a whole lot inside of them. When I hike with Chester and Gretel, I am their Sherpa – I carry everything for the three of us.
The minimum size pack that I use for a day hike is 20 liters and the maximum is about 40 liters. Liters are the volume of stuff you can put into the entire bag, including all of the small pockets. However, I use a “hydration pack” so the water goes in a bag in the back compartment with a hose to drink out of – I don’t have to make room to carry an extra water bottle for me.
My favorite pack is the Osprey Manta 36 (mine is old – the updated equivalent is the Women’s Mira AG 34). It has plenty of room for the stuff I take on a short day hike but I can pack enough in there for a hike that lasts all day too. It has just the right amount of pockets and is well ventilated to allow airflow between the pack and your back.
What’s Inside My Backpack
Compared to what I see most people carrying on the trails, I am over-prepared. However, I like to be comfortable, for Chester and Gretel to be comfortable, and be prepared for the weather to change. This is what I carry on our hikes if they are going to be under 5 miles.
For little emergencies:
- Small First Aid Kit – includes stuff for people and first aid supplies specific to dogs
- Small emergency kit – for fire starting and signaling help if something goes wrong
- Ultra-light Flash 18 backpack – worn as a front pouch for carrying a small dog out of the woods in an emergency
- Wondercide Flea & Tick Repellent – natural & pet safe
- Water Resistant Sunscreen – in a small bottle or travel size
- Headlamp – in case we get stuck out after dark
- Cell Phone (not pictured) – turned off. Note: This is for the off-chance that I could actually get reception. Most places you can’t
For the dog:
- Earth Rated Poop Bags – for packing out that poo
- Odor Proof Ziplock Bags – to put the poo bag in so it doesn’t stink while you carry it out
- Collapsible Water Bowl
- Water Bottle – regular or insulated to keep the water cool
- Dog Hydration Water Supplement – added to the water before we leave. It encourages them to drink
- Dog Treats
- Water – in a hydration bladder or water bottle
- Sunglasses (not pictured)
- Handkerchief (for mopping up the sweat)
- Rain Jacket – I live in the northwest and the weather can change every 5 minutes
- Camera – varies from only my cell phone, to a Nikon 1 J5 Mirrorless, to my Nikon D7100 DSLR
If my hike is going to be over 5 miles, I include these extra things in my pack:
- Hurtta Torrent Rain Jackets – for the dogs
- Long-sleeved Shirt for Layering – for me
- Extra Socks – for me in case my feet get wet and it gets cold
- PackTowl Microfiber Towel – for drying the dogs off and to act as extra cushion in the Flash 18 pack if I need to carry them out
- Delorme inReach Emergency SOS Beacon with Two-Way texting capability (now made my Garmin) – Now this IS overkill. However, I own it, often hike alone with the dogs, and would kick myself if I got injured or had an emergency and didn’t have it with me. I can summon search and rescue with a press of a button and can sent text messages back and forth with my hubby to let him know I’m ok (and to emergency personnel in case the need help finding me).
If you are new to hiking, hopefully this little list will help you be prepared and have a great experience out on the trail. It will also serve as a great reminder for me at the beginning of each hiking season.
If you are a seasoned hiker, please leave a comment telling us about your must-haves.