The Real Truth About Hiking And Camping With Dogs



As anyone who has ever attempted to travel with children can attest, it is never as you imagine it in your head.  It is much the same with dogs.  You want everyone to have a good time, you envision their faces full of curiosity as they gaze upon sights unfamiliar to them.  You envision family harmony and good times, smiling faces and lots of wonderful photos to look back on after the trip is over.

Reality is often far less idyllic.

It is entirely probable that when you finally get on the road, there will be whining, barking and some unpleasant smells.  There will likely be more stops; to check on your dog, to clean up messes and to allow them to stretch their legs and go potty.  If you are traveling with a young pup, as we are this time around, remember that they need to potty (especially pee) more frequently than adult dogs.  Feeding while on the road can be tricky, so to head off any nervous tummy upset or surprise diarrhea, we refrain from feeding before hitting the road.  We will normally wait until we have been on the road for a bit and we are ready to stop for a meal ourselves.  Since we leave out very early, the dogs normally wouldn’t have access to food and water at that time anyway, so really, it’s ok to withhold it until your first stop.


Dogs are creatures of habit.  If you start them out riding in the car when they are young, and do it often (not just when going to the vet or groomer), you will have a dog that is comfortable riding in the car and less likely to experience stress while traveling.  Stress can cause loose stools, vomiting, excessive drooling and excessive shedding.  It’s always good to be prepared when traveling with your dog, and even more so when you will be camping and hiking.  Lower your expectations the first time out.  If there’s vomiting in the car, diarrhea in the car, whining the entire time or five times the normal potty breaks, relax.  If you begin to stress, your dog will as well.  The calmer you remain, the better the chance of having a good trip.

If you haven’t trained your dog to ride in a crate in the car, another option is a seatbelt harness (see photo above).  Your dog can see you, you can see them, and they are strapped in.  In some cases, however, this option might cause your dog to be more anxious, constantly trying to get into your lap and interfering with your driving.  This can be dangerous.  While we love our pets, they (and everyone else) are safest when they are properly restrained and not a distraction to the driver.  Bringing along a few chew toys can help to distract your dog and keep him/her busy.  I normally buy brand new ones for these occasions, as new toys are far more interesting to them than the same old toys they have at home.

My van is normally stocked with crates, paper towels, disinfecting cleaners, air fresheners, trash bags, poop bags, chew toys, extra leads, blankets and water.  When you camp and/or hike with your dog, you obviously cannot carry all of these things on you.  You have to scale everything down.  A small pack of wipes, a reusable rag, small piece of tyvek (for your dog to lie on), etc.  You can usually find a smaller, more portable alternative for most necessary items.  Depending on what type of outing you will be enjoying, tailor your items to fit.

You may envision snuggling with your dog in your tent or hammock, sleeping peacefully under the stars.  The reality may be waking up to a pee-soaked sleeping bag, vomit in the hammock, or barking excessively during the night at every little sound.  Hiking may not fit your preconceived idea of a restful, therapeutic thing to do with your dog at first.  Chasing squirrels, barking at everything, peeing every two feet and sticking one’s face into prickly or poisonous underbrush are all possibilities.  But rest assured, there are those dogs that seem to take to it right away.  And even if yours doesn’t, after a few trips things may be different.  Don’t give up!

This trip we have rented a cabin.  We decided on this option after deciding to bring the family along.  Since we won’t be camping out along the trail every night, we were able to bring a few more things; things we wouldn’t be able to take on an ultralight backpacking trip.  Still, we try to pack only things we will absolutely need.  Do the dogs need ten toys?  Five varieties of food?  No.  Bringing one bowl each instead of a water bowl and a food bowl for each dog saves space in the van, as does bringing dehydrated food, which is lighter and takes up less space.

Below is an example of what we are packing for the dogs on this trip, which will include standard camping and hiking:

As I am writing this, my mind is still swimming with what to pack in each kid’s pack, what camera equipment I’ll need and what else needs to be taken care of around the house before we go, so hopefully I didn’t forget anything!  Which brings me to my next subject–forgotten things.  It is inevitable that you will forget something.  Thankfully we can usually find what we need by stopping somewhere along the way to our destination.

So between noise, smells, stress and delays, it is very easy to get frustrated while traveling with your dog.  The truth is, life is full of ups and downs.  Try to refocus your attention on making the best of being alive and being out there with your best friend.  It can start out rough, it can get rough at any point, but it can also be the stuff of which memories are made.



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  1. Lauren Miller (ZoePhee) August 1, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    Great post! I am so thankful that Phoenix doesn’t get car sick anymore and that they are good travelers. I do tend to over pack, though! LOL!

    1. Shannon Adams August 9, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      Thank you, Lauren! I think I tend to overpack as well. I’m always so worried about forgetting something!

  2. April August 5, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Bain seems to be a good traveler , though the most was only for 2 hours. I’ve never had to feed him before getting into the car, so I wonder about that for road trips.

    I just returned from vacation at a cabin as well, unfortunately they did not allow dogs there. A lot of the ones I looked at the in the province of B.C do not allow dogs, ha.

    I really need a Go Pro! I hope you have fun on vacation!

    1. Shannon Adams August 9, 2015 at 9:57 pm

      Really? I always thought B.C. was very dog friendly? 🙁 And thank you, it was a wonderful time!

  3. Jessica @ YouDidWhatWithYourWeiner August 12, 2015 at 12:49 am

    I am lucky that Chester or Gretel has never gotten sick in the car. As for peeing on the sleeping bag? Chester pleads the 5th 🙂

    1. Shannon Adams August 12, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      Haha! Naughty Chester!

  4. Spencer the Goldendoodle April 6, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Great post! It always seems like my humans always pack too much when we go camping. But packing too much is better than not enough.

  5. Kelly April 6, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    Great post with summer (hopefully) on its way. I can’t imagine packing to go camping with Edie, I have enough in my bags just taking her out on a road trip for a day!

  6. Michelle & The Paw Pack April 6, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    Great post! My pups are seasoned hikers but it’s been awhile since we’ve been able to get away long enough to go camping. We’re trying to plan a trip for this summer – hopefully we can pull it off. Stuff like extra potty breaks and messes to clean up never bothered me. It’s all part of the territory when you live with dogs. When we do get out, I tend to over pack for the pets and under pack for myself.

    1. Shannon Adams April 7, 2016 at 4:10 pm

      Yes, yes and YES on your last sentence! Me, too! I’m working on it. I hope to be able to cut their gear a bit more this year.

  7. Sarcastic Dog April 6, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    I am planning my first camping trip with all three dogs. Two of the dogs have never seen a tent, let alone been inside one so I’m planning to set the tent up and do a little tent testing in the yard to make sure no one is scared of the tent before we head out.

    Thank you for including the checklist – Knowing me, I’ll probably still overpack 😉

    1. Shannon Adams April 7, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      I have done that; setting everything up ahead of time. It helps. Then I usually go out for a few nights to test them. I’m hoping to do a lengthier backpacking trip this summer so that they can get a little more comfortable with it. Look for some camping hacks and tips in the coming weeks!

  8. MattieDog April 6, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    We absolutely love this post – and so timely as the summer is getting near!! We’ve always have gone camping, hiking, etc., with many of the items you mentioned so we couldn’t agree more!

    1. Shannon Adams April 7, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      Thank you so much! I’m re-vamping it since it is the season! I’d love to hear any thoughts on anything else we could add or subtract. 🙂

  9. Beth | Daily Dog Tag April 6, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    I appreciate your candor in this post. I haven’t taken any of the dogs I currently have tent camping When we were first married we used to take our dogs hiking and camping, and it was great (or least I remember it that way) Nowadays, though, I’m much more likely to rent a cabin if we have the dogs. After (tent) camping with 5 kids, I realize that wet dogs, wet sleeping bags, and wet tents are more than I want to handle on our vacation.

    1. Shannon Adams April 7, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      I hear you on what you can handle. I have a thing for sand in tents. I just can’t. With kids and dogs there’s going to be sand. We live in Florida, and it’s everywhere. It’s in my house, lol. So I discovered hammock camping and it literally changed the game for me. No one else seemed to mind tent camping so I let them have their tents and me, myself and I are content in the hammock. We have also rented cabins, which is also nice. We are a 5 kid family, too, so I can completely relate to you there. Sometimes minimizing the mess helps us have a better time. 🙂

  10. Tenacious Little Terrier April 6, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    I haven’t gone camping with Mr. N yet… I always overpack for him on vacations though!

    1. Shannon Adams April 7, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      Overpacking is SO easy to do! I get so focused on going as light as possible and it’s hard. I’ve found, though, that if I do overpack, I won’t use half the stuff I included. I’m trying to force myself to be simpler, lighter, easier. The whole less is more thing. 😉

  11. Talent Hounds April 6, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Such a good post- made me laugh (with some sympathy). I can just imagine it all as so familiar. I always idealize then oops. Unfortunately or fortunately, I don’t think Kilo the Pug will be going anywhere with us too soon. He is fine on short distances but needs routine.

    1. Shannon Adams April 7, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      It can definitely throw them off their game, so to speak. That’s why I enjoy longer backpacking trips, so that they get used to a different routine. They tend to adapt quickly. If you have the chance to prep them, it’s a little smoother. Some dogs, though, just aren’t down with being outdoors and out of their daily routines, and that’s ok. 🙂

  12. Ava at Savvy Pet Care April 6, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    This was a fun read. I haven’t had dogs in a while but could just picture all those possibilities.

    1. Shannon Adams April 7, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Summer is coming so I hope to have some more good stories to tell of our adventures!

  13. Sweet Purrfections April 7, 2016 at 12:08 am

    My brother-in-law tried to take his dog with him on a hiking/camping trip and it didn’t go too well. I know he’s working with the dog in order to try again in the future.

    1. Shannon Adams April 7, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      It can be a process. I am actually working on a draft for preparing dogs for camping and hiking, since the season is upon us. Good for him for working with the dog. It can be a frustrating experience before they get used to what’s expected of them.

  14. Carol Bryant April 7, 2016 at 1:46 am

    Okay roughing it to me is a 3 star hotel BOL – but I do go on picnics and do outdoorsy things with the dog. We just are not campers. For those who do, this list rocks!

    1. Shannon Adams April 7, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      Haha! My husband used to say that my idea of roughing it was a hotel that didn’t have room service. I was never very into camping when I was younger, but I have come to love it now that I have a hammock. I don’t do tents well. I love my hammock. Once I discovered I could camp and not sleep on the ground I was like, “Whaaaaaat?” I have changed a great deal in my attitudes on roughing it. 🙂

  15. Denise Gruzensky April 7, 2016 at 2:29 am

    I’ve already saved your list. Shasta goes backpacking/hiking/camping with us though the hiking is slowing down as he ages. We are lucky he doesn’t get car/air sick and hasn’t peed in the tent but boy can we relate to the barking at every little sound!

    1. Shannon Adams April 7, 2016 at 3:51 pm

      I’m glad you found the list helpful! I am going to be re-vamping this post for the upcoming summer. That is awesome that Shasta has great tent/car manners!

  16. Cathy Armato April 7, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    We don’t camp but we do lots of road trips with our two dogs. We travel cross country from AZ to NY twice a year. At first we’d pack everything but the kitchen sink, LOL! But at this point we’ve got it down to a science with little stress. Great tips here!
    These are amazing, I pinned this recipe so I’ll have it always! I’m definitely going to make these, thanks for sharing. I’m loving your beautiful new logo!

    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    1. Cathy Armato April 7, 2016 at 6:53 pm

      Please ignore the last paragraph of my above comment, I screwed up on a copy/paste from another blog – apologies!

    2. Shannon Adams April 8, 2016 at 6:38 am

      I would love to do a cross-country trip. It’s on my list. I can’t say we’ve got it down to a science yet, but we’re on our way!

  17. Gone to the Snow Dogs LLC April 8, 2016 at 12:56 am

    We love to travel, hike and camp with our dogs. Yeah there is a lot of planning involved, but the memories you make are worth the trouble!

  18. Katie Allan April 8, 2016 at 11:29 am

    Great post. We have had great luck traveling and hiking with Gracie. Gracie came to live with me when I was 14 and she was 1, however I got into hiking when I was 18. Gracie acted like she had been hiking and camping her whole life! She loves car rides and travel too! I think we both found our niche when we got into hiking and traveling.

    1. Shannon Adams April 8, 2016 at 4:07 pm

      Thank you, Katie. How wonderful to have grown up with Gracie and to have gotten the opportunity to share the great outdoors with her!