What to Bring When Hiking With Your Dog

Packing List for Hiking with DogsI 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.

UPDATED: May 1, 2018

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The Backpack

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.

The backpack I use to carry hiking stuff for me and my dog

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.

What I carry when hiking with my dog every time

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:

For me:

  • Water – in a hydration bladder or water bottle
  • Sunglasses (not pictured)
  • Handkerchief (for mopping up the sweat)
  • Snack/Food
  • 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:

Extra safety items I carry for myself and my dogs when hiking

  • 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.

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’ve been studying the Dachshund breed since 2007, owned 3 of my own, and shared in the lives of thousands of others through their owner’s stories. When I’m not sharing what I know on this blog, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


    1. Yes, the backpack I am currently using is SMALL. I can tend to over pack but I can barely fit all of the stuff on this list in it. Self limiting 🙂

  1. Great list! The cell phone is a must. I had a friend whose dog was injured and she did not have her phone. She had to carry her 50 pound dog several miles before she found someone to help her. Also, if you have reception, turn it off, turn off the ear buds and just enjoy nature, the dogs and the person(s) you are with. Getting in tune with nature not your “tunes” is so wonderful!

    1. Yes, the cell phone should be off and tucked away just in case. However, the other day the battery ran out on my camera so I used my cell phone to take photos. If I have my phone on for reasons such as that and there is no cell reception, I am sure to turn it to airplane mode as to not drain the battery. Dead battery on the cell phone is no good in an emergency :/

  2. I have all those things, plus I always take a camera. (I’m not real good on the bug spray either) One good thing about Torrey, she can carry water and a bowl for her and Roxy so I don’t have to. This works great for longer hikes.

    1. Yeah, I forgot camera on the list. I’m going to add it. I don’t go anywhere without my camera…especially as a blogger 🙂 I did go kayaking with a friend the other day and took NO PHOTOS. It was nice to not have to thing about that and just enjoy the frogs, turtles and birds.

  3. Our excursions are not as long as yours are, but thanks for the list of things we might need as we work into more complex ventures.

    1. Oh, I take this on every hike that we do if it is actually in the woods. I don’t bring all of this if we are hiking trails in city parks but if we are away from civilization it all goes, even if our hike is only a couple of miles. This is my list for smaller hikes! If I was going all day or overnight the list would be longer. Once we actually get out to camp overnight, the longer list of what goes in that backpack will come.

  4. You’ve got a good foundation list there…Not surprisingly a handheld GPS (I’m still using my relaible Old Faithful, a Garmin 60 csx)is a must carry for me…We visit many unmarked trails and I wouldn’t feel comfortable without it

    1. Yes, the trails we hike are primarily marked. If there are any unmarked trails they are not very long.

      My hubby and I might be carrying one soon because he wants to give Geocaching a try. If he actually goes forward with this idea (he has a habit of starting projects and not finishing them) we will do it during your August challenge 🙂

  5. Great article. I know cell phone reception is usually a no go but they also have cell chargers that are solar operated. These are good for emergencies if you end up stranded for a bit. You never know if you may get that glimpse of service for a moment, you want a charged battery. Love the info on the flash 18 pack, although my guy would NEVER fit. lol Makes me think-going to look around and see if they have anything out to help with the big guys incase something happens.
    Thanks so much, sharing. 🙂

    1. They do have sling-type carriers…similar to the kind parents carry babies in. They’re maybe not the most comfortable (neither is the flash 18 pack) but we are talking about emergencies here. Still, I imagine they only work to about 20 lbs max. For heavier dogs I suggest a bed sheet that you and your hiking friend could carry like a cot.

  6. I like “hiking” but since I pretty much live in a flat area…it is nothing like your hiking. I also have lived in more urban areas. Most of the time it is well marked and well traveled paths in county or state parks.

    I have a bladder but the straw part got mold in it despite my best efforts. I guess I’m not seasoned enough to know how to dry out the tiny tube? LOL

      1. We live in Savannah. Sadly, some of our closest, nice hiking areas don’t allow dogs!! The closest city park doesn’t allow dogs as well. They say it is to protect the environment. :/

    1. I hardly ever need them so I didn’t bring them on our hike to Eagle Lake….THEN there was the part where I had to walk in a foot of water! Luckily my socks were wool so the squishy hike out wasn’t too miserable. I would have rather had dry socks though 🙂

  7. It was interesting to see what’s inside your pack! There’s no way that I could ever carry a Lab out of the wilderness so I carry a Spot (emergency beacon) so I can get people to come help me if it comes to that. You sure are thorough! I’m going to take a few of your ideas.

    1. Yeah, a Spot is a great idea for larger dogs. If we are hiking for several days, or deeper into the wilderness than we can carry the dogs out, we bring a Spot. I will try to remember to include that when I make my “overnight backpacking” list.

  8. Wow! That’s pretty impressive. I almost purchased a backpack like that at Costco, but we haven’t gone on our first hike yet so I thought I might be jumping the gun. I’m so glad that I read this, because I was planning on heading out next week and I would have treated it like a regular walk and I should know better.

    Thanks for this post.

  9. Luckily our hiking area is a stone’s throw from home, but when I hike in a strange place I would also include an emergency blanket (one of those lightweight silver ones) and clothes pins to make a make-shift shelter.

    1. That’s a great idea Jodi. I guess I just figure 1) the trails are so established and well-traveled that I won’t get lost and 2) I can create a shelter MacGyver- style out of branches and stuff. One shouldn’t be too confident though. What if you are too injured to gather branches?

      I will tell you though – those emergency blankets ARE NOT good to sleep in. They are literally just meant to keep you from dying….primarily from letting you remain so cold that you have no choice but to stay conscious and move about to stay warm. Ha, ha. I know because I tried sleeping overnight under one on a mountain top when I used to fight wildfires. Now I know 🙂

  10. Jessica what kind of flavor do you put into their water to encourage them to drink while hiking? It is really hard to get my little Lily to drink on a hike even when I can tell she is hot/thirsty. I end up carrying a bottle of water for her and Bruno and end up bringing most of it home.


    1. Ugh! It totally can be. Chester love to drink water and gulps it down whenever I give it to him. Gretel not so much. She gets overstimulated and can’t focus on the water in front of her. I know how important it is for her to drink water though and stay hydrated when we are hiking. Adding something to their water definitely gets the job done. When we are doing strenuous exercise, I add K9 GoDog to their water. It’s like a sports drink for dogs. You can find it here: . I use double the water they say for a serving and it still works great. If we are just out in the heat but not doing anything strenuous, I just add a splash of low-sodium (or not sodium if you can) bone broth to their water. Hope that helps. Happy hiking!

  11. Great article. I have a 9-year-old dachshund and I frequently hike with him. We live in Utah so there are endless amounts of trails everywhere. During the warmer months, we try to do a “peak a week”. People are always so amazed that my little doxie, Rocket can make it to the top of the mountains(and with ease!). I am like you, I overpack my bag. My husband makes fun of me all the time. But when we hit the trail alone, it’s better to be safe. The only additional item I take on the trail is a water filter like a Life Straw. When I plan my longer hikes, I try to pick trails I know have water. That way, I don’t need to bring as much water which decreases the weight of my pack significantly. Great article and website. It’s so fun to see more doxies that love hiking so much!

    1. I’ve been thinking of getting a Life Straw. I just carrier water purification drops right now.

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