I’ve been backcountry camping with Whiskey since I’ve had her and we’ve tried so many different forms and types of gear. While I’ve gotten used to carrying a significant amount of weight, every piece that I bring needs to be purposeful, tough, and lightweight (in that order). For reference we hike and camp in bear country, usually with the threat of variable weather, rain, snow, river crossings, and in wild country. We avoid crowds and sometimes hike without trails. Normally I go with girlfriends but once a year tend to go alone. Over the year I tend to camp close to the snowline, in the alpine, and summit peaks close to camp. Ticks are not an issue for us being so cold, but other wildlife is, so keeping scent-free is very important. I hope our gear guide is helpful, please let me know if you have any specific questions! A few links may be affiliate but are meant as a guide as to where you can buy the product. I do not promote one brand above others and have purchased most of the gear myself.
Dog leash- Wilderdog– I love gear that’s multi-purpose especially if I’m needing to carry it in on my back up a mountin! Wilderdog uses climbing rope and real locking carabiners. I’ve used the leash for everything from hanging a bear bag, lifting up my pup up some steep sections (from the harness, not neck), to even installing my tire chains. We’ve used the leashes for several years and they’re in top condition.
Hiking Pack- Ruffwear Palisades Pack– My love of this bag matches the love of my own Osprey. I love LOVE how the packs can come off and on so easily so we can take it off during food breaks. I ask Whiskey to carry a hefty load on multidays and every break she can get really helps. The harness underneath is perfect for summiting trips so I don’t need to bring another piece of gear. It’s good to note that we did break one of the tiny buckles that secures the bag onto the side of the dog (it’s not a major problem), and I’ve been too lazy to ask for a replacement buckle. The material of the bag also does rub and wear overtime on bushes and trees but overall I’m just so impressed by the ease of this product.
Harness- Ruffwear Flagline Dog Harness– Whiskey doesn’t tend to pull but if you’re hiking all day long on-leash it’s much more comfortable for everyone if your pup is on a harness, especially around mountain tops and technical scrambles. Bourbon is new to technical scrambles so I would always recommend a handle on the harness to help your dog up sections and have the easiest way to grip them should they slip (also easiest for a friend to help as well). If you’re even thinking you may need a harness, I would always recommend one with a handle.
Tent– Depending on the size of your dog, you may need to go up one person size of your tent (ie if you’re two people with one large dog you may need a 3ppl tent). I also highly recommend NOT getting an UL tent as the mesh on those are so easily torn with dog paws. Whiskey loves to “knock” on the mesh to ask to be let in and out and also to say hi to friends in the morning. UL tents also have snaggier zippers which aren’t good if you need to unzip in a pinch for a pee break/barf emergency.
I use vintage Marmot tents that are really heavy compared to what’s available these days but I just find the doors are huge, zippers are great, and the material lasts so well. Our 3 person Ajax tent has been under a foot of snow, in all conditions and we’ve had it for a decade now. I also highly recommend that you leave the bottom of the tent unzippered and teach your dog how to go in and out without having to ask you to unzip and zip each time. I’m totally resigned to the fact my tent’s going to be messy with dogs so I just keep my clothes in the corners. Lastly even if the evening calls for blue skies, consider bringing the fly unless you’re sure your dog won’t be bothered by watching the outdoors. I find most dogs sleep better when they cannot see outside.
Klymit Moon Dog Mat– A really tough blow up mat that makes all the difference when the ground is cold, or you just want a comfortable spot to put your pup. Like humans, dogs lose so much heat from the ground so having an elevated surface really helps. I don’t bring the outer cloth layer anymore as it just adds bulk and weight and I’ll almost always bring a doggy sleeping bag instead. The mat is also great in canoes or anywhere else you want a mat that’s waterproof. I love the inflation system and I’m not even nervous about dog nails on these tough mats.
Whlyd River sleeping bag– Discount code: WHISKEY10
the best and warmest doggy sleeping bag out there. There’s so many options to adjust the bag to your needs and dog’s comfort, and a strap at the bottom to keep the bag on a mat. Available in 3 sizes we use Medium, Whiskey loves her bag and crawls right on as soon as I pull it out. There should be a down UL bag coming soon (the original uses synthetic insulation which is better for damp/wet conditions) that I would also totally recommend if you need to go light and don’t need the ultimate warmth the original provides. I use the UL bag during the day and slip the bag over the footbed of my own sleeping bag to keep me warm Whiskey Whiskey crawls in to join me. Another sidenote is that I normally take off most of Whiskey’s jackets if she’s going under the sleeping bag so she can warm up and so any dampness (it’s always damp where we are) doesn’t keep her cold.
Gundogsupply collar– We have lots of fancy collars but tend to go to these basic collars with nameplates. I’ve lost too many collar tags to trust them and if for some reason I lose a dog, I want to know my contact information is going to be on her collar. The collars are super tough and reasonably priced.
Klymit extra wide sleeping bag– Whiskey sleeps in my sleeping bag with me at night (the dog mat and sleeping bag are for the rest of the time we are at camp because I don’t’ want her crawling in and out of my sleeping bag during the day). I haven’t found many options for extra wide bags and this one is amazing. It fits Whiskey and I with room to spare (I’ll report back if I can fit Bourbon as well) and comes in two warmth options. Please do note that when Whiskey’s in my bag I cannot keep the face section tightened so although Whiskey does add extra heat, the open bag does make it colder at the same time. Also, I take of Whiskey’s collar and clothing before she shares my bag so we don’t get tangled!
Nemo Sleeping mat– Not a dog thing, but I find if I’m sleeping with a dog my mat needs to be higher, wider, and more comfortable since we’ll both be moving around. I love this mat and it’s been much warmer than other mats of the same warmth rating.
for more Human hiking gear, here’s a more detailed post
Dog bowl- I’ve tried the soft collapsible bowls but they break much easier (of two I’ve had both had holes from the dogs pawing at them). The fabric ones last but they’re a pain to clean when you feed something messy and leave food smells for the animals. I’m still looking for the perfect dog bowl!
DogFood- I highly recommend Open Farm Freeze Dried Raw (code WHISKEY10). It’s super lightweight, comes with a suitable package (so you don’t need to repack), I use half of her daily allowance for recall treats, and Whiskey’s poops are always so good.
Earth Rated Poop Bags- Use the compositable bags and dispose of dog poop when you also need to go (in a proper waste management method like a cat hole). Bring a freezer zip lock bag to place the poop until you can dispose of them so you don’t have an “accidents”. I normally ask Whiskey to carry her own.
Bear Bag- Ursack- If you are camping in bear or critter country without suitable bear boxes, animals can easily get into your food at night. I really suggest these bear and critter proof bags to keep your food and seal it in a scent-proof bag (drybag) if you can. They’re heavy and an nuisance to carry but it also means you’re not attracting and feeding wildlife, putting yourself in danger, making sure your campsite stays open, and of course that your food isn’t eaten.
night light dog collar– There are clip on lights for dogs in the evenings but I’ve preferred these light up collars as others can see it’s a dog easier (it’s so scary if your dog walks by someone else’s campsite at night but much less threatening if they look like they’re ready to party). It’s also less likely that your dog may turn around and the light is obscured.
Bug Protection- I’ve tried everything and nothing “natural” works for more than 5 mins. If it’s bad I’ll keep Whiskey in the tent, cover her with a jacket/blanket, or put a jacket on her that I’ve sprayed with DEET. Otherwise you just have to keep moving. I believe Hurtta makes a bug suit but I’ve never tried it as Whiskey’s not allergic.
Dog jackets- We’ve done loads of reviews on dog jackets but I didn’t want to ignore the need of protection in the evening when the temperature drops. Like humans it’s good to have layers, fleece, waterproof options, and maybe even a base layer depending on where you are going. The doggy bag is super warm but if you’re going to be out for long periods of time, having options is always great!
H2O4K9 Stainless Steel K9 Water Bottle– the “insulated” leaks- I normally carry a water bladder and hike in locations with loads of water so I don’t normally ever need to carry water for Whiskey. However if you do need a dog water bottle, this is the best one I’ve found. You can pour the unused water right back in so nothing is wasted and the lid doesn’t add much weight and works really well for Whiskey.
Paw Wax- Pup Wax– I keep a tiny tin and apply on my pups paws at night while giving the paws a close inspection especially on rocky and long multi-days. It’s so important to check their paws as much as possible because if you can catch a cut early and boot it, you can save yourself the trip, a rescue call, or carrying your dog the rest of the way. Try and make it a nightly ritual! You can also apply to sunburnt noses and your own hands and feet if they’ve been overworked.
Allergy Pills- I keep Benedryl and Reactine with me on most hikes. Allergy reactions are one of the most common issues (wasps, bugs, plants, etc). It’s good to know your dog’s dose of the drugs and write them down.
Activated Charcoal– Eating human feces with THC is highly poisonous and getting more common. Write your dog’s dose of charcoal and keep on hand if you are on a busier campground/trail/bike trail. I’m the crazy dog owner that goes out of my way to inform anyone I see smoking that my dog can die if they don’t dig a deep enough cat hole.
Duct Tape/Zip lock baggy/bandages- These are part of my normal human first aid kit that I find the most useful crossover to dogs. Duct tape can help wounds, make booties, mend broken gear. Zip lock bags (go for the freezer ones) are useful in so many ways but can help keep something waterproof. Bandages are self explanatory!
Booties– I normally bring an emergency bootie on long or serious camp trips. Boots that fit every single paw is best if you don’t want to bring the entire set so we go with Muttlucks (I can strap on really tightly and kept one on for 5 days of backcountry last year). If there’s any reason you may suspect your dog may need boots outside of an emergency (bad cut on glass for example) then bring an entire set and stay on the safer side.
Garmin InReach Device– should anything happen on your hike where you would need help (or come across someone else that may need help), you can communicate out of reception with any cell phone number or email (as well as SOS emergency systems). You can also track your location with GPS and check weather systems coming in.
Emergency Harness- I mention this as it’s something my friends have been pondering, some buying. You need to have some way to carry out your own dog should they become injured or sick. Whiskey’s just over 50lbs and I can carry her slowly over short distances on my shoulders and I do prefer that over a harness situation. Regardless, make sure you have a way to carry your dog and that you practice it before you need to. If you don’t regularly bring an emergency harness, practice carrying your dog over your shoulders (behind your neck) with their legs on either side so your dog feels comfortable and so you can get in and out of the position.
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Really helpful post! Does the pack chafe Whiskey? I have a 32lb mix who looks like a ridgeless RR puppy, and her coat is pretty short and thin. I want to get her a pack because she has WAY too much energy even at the end of multi-day trips, but I’m worried about it rubbing her chest or armpits.
It doesn’t, even over multiple days, however you have to ensure a good fit and keep the straps away from the armpits. Since it’s so adjustable you need to pay attention to how it fits (it could still “fit” but not be optimum for chafing). Also if you’re putting weight in the bags, make sure they’re distributed well and not bouncing too much (a soft jacket can wrap up something heavier and hard shaped).
Thanks for this post – lots of great recommendations! Do you mind sharing how much you feed Whiskey of the Open Farm freeze-dried raw while you’re adventuring? I just got my first bag and am planning to try it out with my two pointers. I’m a little confused by the feeding guidelines/calorie info on the bag and was hoping to hear from someone with real-life Vizsla-specific experience to get a better idea of how long a bag should last.
There are 3 sized bags of food and it also depends on the size of your pointer as well as how much activity you are doing per day. one 13.5 Oz bag lasts about 4-6 meals (2 meals a day) depending on how much activity you are doing that day. It lasts us about 2 full days per one dog with about 10 hours of activity (hiking with a pack). Food is really subjective with each dog. I also try and bring hard boiled eggs and I use the food as treats throughout the day for recall and work. I hope that helps! It’s expensive for me so we just use it for camping and treats while hiking
That is helpful! I have a 20oz bag and was thrown off by the packaging stating it contained up to 50 scoops of food. At first glance, I assumed a scoop=1 cup but the math doesn’t work out with the calorie info. I know every dog will be unique but just wanted to get a ballpark of what others were doing to make sure I wasn’t way off on how I was interpreting the bag so thank you for sharing! I was looking at using this for our cabin trips to reduce packing weight but I’m thinking it would get quite pricey for us as well. Our GSP and Vizsla can eat up to 4000 cal per day between the two of them, depending on activity.
There are other options for dry food, but ingredient-wise I find this brand the best and also amazing for treats. We also mix in canned food as well as ground meat or whatever I can find while travelling since raw is so difficult.
Hi, I have 2 adopted great danes and am planning an across canada adventure 2022 Late August/Early Sept start with them Zues 5yrs large black handsome male who I have nicknamed “Lewis” and 3 yrs med. camo color “Nova” aka Super Nova. Start Golden B.C. to Maritimes …..Camping, tenting and all…………..Portable fencing panels are being custom built to safely enclose us at each stop. Sportage Kia 2017 will be the vehicle. Anyone wanting to help along the way or the whole way expenses paid……includes our gas, accomodation ie campfees….. return airfare part of the deal. Anyone interested in sharing ideas, advice, photo/video skills….Alison 55 years young
Hi! I’m just coming across your post now. Great tips! I see that you listed an emergency harness. It’s something I’ve been thinking about purchasing. I have a 50 lb cattle dog mix and can carry her but only short distances. Do you have an emergency harness you recommend? I’ve been researching but haven’t found that many options. Thanks!
I don’t! I haven’t used the different options, and I prefer to carry my dogs on my shoulders but not everyone can/or is comfortable carrying weight on shoulders for a long period of time. There are 3 that I know of- FidoProtection, Ruff Rescue Gear and Mountaindogware. Keep in mind some only fit certain dog sizes with holes for their legs, and for males you need to think about where the weight stress may go (my friend had to return hers as it was extremely painful for her dog), and also how you would attempt to put an injured dog inside (if there’s a hole for a leg, can you get a dog in that is injured)?
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