Hiking with Dogs: Food and Gear Packing List

Hiking with Dogs: Food and Packing List

Last month I wrote about transitioning my chocolate lab, and hiking partner, Coco to the Merrick Backcountry raw infused dog food line. That spurred a flurry of emails and questions via social media asking about hiking gear and packing lists for dogs. I was making preparations to take Coco on a short hike right as I was publishing the last blog post, so I figured that I’d use that as an opportunity to pull together a list of what I usually take on a trip with her. To my surprise it was more than I realized.

Carry Weight Considerations for Dogs

Hiking with Dogs: Food and Packing List

As a general rule of thumb a dog can comfortably carry approximately 25% of their [ideal] body weight. Coco weighs 86lbs so that would mean that her overall skin out weight would be in the region of 21lbs and would include her backpack which weighs 1lb 12oz. This rule of thumb is based on a gradual ramp up of weight over several trips and also assumes that the weight is evenly distributed. Dogs love to have a sense of purpose and duty, so I try to let her carry as much of her own gear as she can.

Big Things First

I usually start my packing routing by looking at the largest, bulkiest, or heaviest components first. In Coco’s case, and I’m sure this will be true for most dogs, that’s going to mean her backpack and her food. Those are easily the two biggest weight considerations. Dog food is not only a heavy component of a doggie’s packing list, it can also be rather bulky one depending on the type of food they are used to and the duration of the trip. For the latter reason I like to limit the length of the trips I take her on to one or two days.

Hiking with Dogs: Food and Packing List

Coco’s Merrick Backcountry Raw Infused dog food is a dry kibble mix that weighs 6.5oz for two cups. She normally eats four cups a day (two in the morning and two in the evening) so that’s 13oz of food per day not accounting for any snacks. For a two-day trip I like to have enough food for two full days even though I know that part of the beginning and end of the trip will be driving to and from the hike – it’s easier for me to factor this way and typically results in a little left over. This is what two days of her dry kibble looks like – I bag it in serving sizes of two cups each and make sure it is all in water tight bags, dogs (especially labradors) LOVE water! In addition to carrying her own food I like to have her be responsible for a few of her other things such as: her tennis ball, furry toy, and her collapsable food bowl. Other than the collar that she wears, I carry pretty much everything else that she needs.

A Typical Dog Packing List

Hiking with Dogs: Food and Packing List

If you’re not sure what a packing list for a dog looks like here’s what I typically take with me for a trip with Coco. A few of these are optional or adjustable depending on weather, distance, and duration.

I also make sure that I am the one carrying her treats and I store them in an easy to reach location like my pants pocket or the hip pockets of my backpack. Positive real-time praise followed up by a treat makes for a loyal and well behaved pup! Always make sure that you have a toy for fun, like a tennis ball, and a comforter for sleeping at night.

Hiking with Dogs: Food and Packing List

What Does Your Doggie Packing List Look Like?

I’m always interested to hear feedback on how others do things. My doggie packing list for hikes has evolved over time based on the trips we’ve gone on, yours may be vastly different. If you have tips or tricks to share, leave a comment and/or photo below – I’d love to see. I have a couple of other posts planned related to hiking with dogs, if there is something in particular you’d like to know about be sure to mention that too.

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  • Karen Rohrkemper

    Do you use the hydration bladders in the Ruffwear pack? We have the pack and have used a lot but never the bladder – not sure how to get our pup to learn to drink from it. Thoughts?

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Hi Karen, I occasionally use the hydration bladder inserts for her pack, but I never try to get her to drink from them – in fact it never crossed my mind to even try. I use the (Ollydog: http://amzn.to/1IOJ34J) water bottle that has a small tray attached so that she can drink as normal. I also have a small foldable bowl that can be used for food or water. That’s what seems to work best for her.

      • Karen Rohrkemper

        Thanks! We have the foldable Ruffwear bowl – but I hadn’t see the Ollydog bottle – that would be great for when we are out just for the day – great fin, thanks for sending!!

  • Irene Rebello

    what boots does your pooch like the best? we have a pup who is getting ready to start hiking with us and we’ve never used booties

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Irene, Coco has the RuffWear Grip Trex boots (http://amzn.to/1Dey0jg) and seems to get on well with them. It’s amazing just how rough a dog’s paws and pads can get from days of hiking! It took her a few hours at first to get used to them and it was hilarious watching her high step trying to shake them off, but in no time at all she was running and bounding around like a pro hiker! Definitely worth every penny – be sure to pay attention to the sizing instructions. I ended up buying her two sizes because her front paws and back paws were different sizes.

      • Karen Rohrkemper

        Brian – Any issues with keeping the boots on? We have the same boots – and haven’t done a trip with them yet, but when trying to acclimate our dog to them we find he will kick off one of the back boots while running around. Don’t want to tighten them down too much – maybe just kitting the trail and keeping an eye on him, wasn’t sure if there was any magic to getting the boots to seat correctly on the dog’s paw.

        • ashley

          Hi Karen, we’ve used these booties on our Newfoundland on many occasions and find that you have to tighten them quite a lot (more than you think you should) to make sure they stay on. I usually just check to see if I can fit the tip of my little finger in the underside to make sure I’m not cutting off his circulation. Then we just monitor him as we go. Hope that helps :)

          • Karen Rohrkemper

            That is extremely helpful – thank you so much!!

  • KarenB

    I have a yellow Labrador and she and I have been on a lot of camp hikes. I take her dry food also bag portions separately, her sleeping bag bed which looks like a sleeping bag but turns into a dog bed when taken out of the bag, her nylabone in case she gets nervous wanting something to chew, some dog biscuits, a favorite soft toy for her to cuddle, and two blankets, and her daily medication for thyroid and extra heartworm pills too in case I get stuck somewhere not expected. I think a first aid kit is also great idea, plus her folding dishes. Also I take grooming gear Ito keep her clean. Dry shampoo is great! towels for keeping her dry from the rain and mud.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Grooming gear is a great idea! Coco loves to be brushed and it would calm her, plus being outdoors with all that fur/hair is better than doing it at home. I’m going to add a brush to my list – thanks :)

  • Annette

    Great post, Brian, but I would like to clarify something very important about the 25% weight rule for dogs carrying gear. I’m sure you realize the difference but sooo many people don’t. The recommended 25% of weight is based on what your dog SHOULD weigh, not what it weighs. If you have an 80 pound dog that should weigh 60 pounds, it is already carrying its 20 lb. maximum and should not be carrying anything else. I’ve seen many dogs end up with ortho problems and/or shortened hiking lives on account of this error. Happy trails!!

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      @disqus_0q9nn1bpQR:disqus that is a super important clarification. Most vets will tell you what your dog should weigh and THAT is the weight you need to base the 25% guideline on. Thank you for pointing that out – I love my readers :)

      • Annette

        ….and we love you. Thanks for all the great reviews, tips, and info you provide us.

        • Karen Rohrkemper

          Great clarification, our dog is at his target weight but I don’t know that I ever would have thought of that if he wasn’t – thanks for pointing it out!

  • Chad

    If you’re interested in raw dog food, check out Sojo’s complete dog food. It’s all human grade, freeze-dried raw food. My pup loves it and it makes taking her backpacking with us all the easier since it’s very light and a lot less bulky than kibble (1 lbs. dry makes 4 lbs. fresh which is two days of food). All you have to do is add water and wait a few minutes like normal freeze dried meals. Plus, the quality of the food is so good. Her vet always praises her good health, weight, and coat.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Fantastic info Chad – I wasn’t aware of that option. I’ll be sure to check it out :) Thanks!

  • http://www.prickeared.com Dave

    Interesting blog post.

    I would add, however, is calorie-dense kibbles preferably one which is higher in protein and fats. Sled-dog kibbles (eg. Inukshuk, Dr. Tim’s, Kobuk, Redpaw) They generally contain ingredients which are aborred by pet-owners, but high-fat kibbles are expensive and the manufacturers try to keep the costs reasonable and most of the kibble brands on the market are not north of 4 000 kCal/kg.

    To be honest, dogs don’t really need much and what they require is breed-dependent. Strains, especially working ones, known for tough pads don’t really need feet protection. Mine don’t carries anything, not even bedding, booties or jackets. What he does carry is his own water bowl, kibbles and two 1L Platypus soft bottles (usually empty, but we fill up if we need to go above the treeline since water is a more scarce resource).

    It’s a good idea to pack booties anyway because there’s only a handful of dogs left in the world that are still bred for ruggedness– their occupations are kind of obvious: nomadic livestock guarding (eg. Central Asian Ovcharka, Koochie, Tobet), aboriginal sled dogs and not the racing ones (eg. Canadian Inuit Dog, Chutkotka Sled Dog and Kamchatka Sled Dog), Central Asian sighthounds (eg. Taigan), commercial hunting dogs (eg. East Siberian Laika) and some herding dogs that still do stockwork on the range (eg. Australian Kelpie). But those dogs are becoming rarer as the existing ones are becoming softer for recreational hunting, racing and as pets and thus people are not breeding for hardiness. Just because something is mentioned in the breed history or referenced in the original population does not means those traits are retained in the so-called “civilized” world.

    Another thing which is important to highlight is emphasizing finding a backpack which transfers most of the weight to the shoulders. Dogs have flexible spine for cornering prey and are not as rigid as horses or mules. Domestic canines are the oldest “pack mules”, but photographs of dogs being used as draught animals usually highlight that the backpack is on the first quarter of the topline.

  • Arizona Hikers Guide

    I love that Ollydog hydration bottle! I’ve been searching for a bottle or bladder or bowl that works for my dog and this one might be it. Thanks for sharing, I may have to pick one up!

  • Cloe Mayfair

    Hi Brian! Congrats on being listed as a Top Outdoor Adventure Bloggers by Healthlisted! That’s how I found your site…I have a little Yorkie that I take with me on our hikes. She’s tiny but has amazing stamina : )

  • http://www.moroccancontrast.com Said Daoudi

    Its good idea for the travelers who choose be accompanied with dogs. I liked your way in oganization

  • Bob Harman

    Great blog and your dog info spot on. I am a veterinarian and travel with my Border Collie everywhere allowed. He is crazy hiker. Have brought along boots but he has not needed yet, even in the Sierras. Suggest VetWrap in first aid as easy to wrap up torn pad and stays on well. Ben likes Nature Variety Instinct dehydrated dog food…like and rehydrates quickly. Steve’s Raw food now had dehydrated version too. Keep on posting and enjoy Coco on those trips. Maybe chat about how Coco does in the tent?? :-)