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Hiking with Dogs: Thoughts on Preparedness & Gear

Hitting the trail with just yourself is a task unto itself. Add fido and we think that you’re working with a whole different ball of wax. When preparing to get out on the trail, asking some questions in advance might help with the preparation and what you need. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.

Many times, we need to experience the trail to know what we need when we’re out and about in the wilderness.

  • What should I take for my dog when hiking?

  • What are the top things that I might need if something goes wrong?

  • My dog frequently runs off-leash and I want to make sure that I am prepared.

  • Is there are few things that I need in my pack that I might not have considered when hiking with my dog?

You could spend hours listing out the questions that you ask yourself or should be asking yourself. Being prepared when getting outside can be as simple as buying a small first aid kit designed for you and your dog — or — you can go all in to make sure that you’re covering multiple scenarios. I tend to think that much of your preparedness comes from the people and 4-legged friends that you are venturing outside with.

  • Breed: If you’re packing in miles, make sure it aligns with the breed of your dog. For us, German Shorthaired Pointers (GSPs) are notorious for endurance and getting in, on, over, and around everything that they come across. More importantly here, length and dog type are important and sometimes it’s necessary to start with short trips and gradually increase the length.

  • Terrian: If you’re going into the backcountry, there are a number of considerations — elevation, forest or meadow, river or rocks, river and rocks, and countless other variables. Each of these scenarios presents a different risk factor for fido. But mainly, it comes down to — is their terrain or is there not and if you need to plan for that.

  • Location: Are you close to a city that may have a vet or what are your options for trauma should it occur when you are out. Knowing the general care for yourself and your dog in the area you are traveling or frequent is a good practice.

If you have Google searched the interwebs, for hiking preparedness with your dog, you might have come across the basics. You’re probably already carrying them. The essentials are really whatever we want them to be that meets our own needs.

Those essentials might include something along the lines of:

  1. Bring a leash, water bowl, and water

  2. Ensure you have poop bags

  3. Make sure that you have some form of first aid

These are great and we think they warrant 100% consideration for any type of activity outside. They are the greens fees to play in the outdoors in our personal opinions. Depending on where you are going there are a few more things that you may not have considered that we think are absolutes too. So let’s go…

The Airlift by Fido Pro

No matter how physically fit you are, it is quite the trek to carry a 20lb, 30lb, or +40lb dog a few miles in the backcountry. The Airlift rolls up into a package that’s about the size of a large peanut butter jar at a fraction of the weight. Allows you to carry your dog significant distances easier than trying to hold on to fido. And remember, when fido is injured, they may not be very pleasant to hold.

Price: $79.00 - 95.00 (depending on the size of the sling)

First Aid Kits

We firmly believe in first aid kits as a minimum. I talked about the Shorthair hitting barbed wire fencing and the gash that was in her leg. We needed to rinse the wound, treat the wound, wrap, and ensure that she could walk the trail out without getting dirt or debris in the wound. The preparedness and having what was necessary paid off. Some considerations:

  • Pre-build First Aid Kits: If you want the basics, consider buying a pre-made kit or look at the content and purchase them from a place like Amazon.

Consider adding some other components to your kit:

  • ClotIt Veterinary Blood Stopping Powder: This natural powder is a blood clotting powder designed to prevent a dog with a larger wound from bleeding uncontrollably. Read up on when and when not to use it, there are some great YouTube videos that talk about products like this.

  • Nail Clippers: This one seems like it might be over the top, except it’s not uncommon for dogs to have issues with nails when they are running in the backcountry — chipped, cracked, hanging off. The catch here is that if you cut the dog's nails too far, you can risk cutting a blood vessel.

  • Dog Muzzle: If your dog has a big enough injury that it requires to be carried down the mountain in a sling, you’re going to want to make sure that fido can’t nip you. It’s their only response to tell you that something hurts. And if you need to conduct some remedial first aid, you may want to have that added protection from getting a cut of your own.

Visibility for Your Dog - Visi-Vest

Whether it’s a blaze orange collar for your dog or a full vest that they are wearing, it’s good practice whenever in areas where hunting is present to protect your dog. And assume that all areas are hunting areas. Many of our 4-legged friends look like animals that are commonly pursued by hunters.

  • Mendota Visi-Vest: Our preference is minimal coverage. There are burs, seeds, and other stickers that can get caught in the vests with greater coverage that can rub on your dog’s legs and inner thighs.

Dog First Aid Book

Nothing can ruin a day afield (and sometimes an entire trip) faster than a dog injury. This is the first field guide covering the injuries a dog can encounter in the field, presenting the symptoms and treatment. Sized to fit in a pocket (4 x 6) and spiral bound for easy use.

Each section is tabbed for quick access to a particular ailment and covers such things as snake bites, gunshot wounds, poisoning, choking, cuts, bleeding, lacerations, pests, eye problems, vomiting, ear problems, shock, heat prostration, broken bones, conditioning, and first aid supplies.

Dog Pack — bring it or leave it?

When I first started hiking with the Shorthair, I quickly determined that the Shorthair was going to be strong enough to carry a pack and it was going to be glorious to strap some of the weight to her. What I didn’t know was that the pack would change her center of gravity and make it difficult to run around freely. The dog trainer pointed out that we should consider ditching the pack and after careful consideration, we did. This is your call.

However, some dogs are bred for utility — and if they have the right frame could conceptually carry a pack. The working breeds might even be happy when they are tasked with this. There are two sides to this coin.

Dog Jacket - do they need it?

Many dogs stay warm by moving. There is a floor to when it might be a good idea to go with the vest. For the Shorthair, we were out during the snowfall when it was around 20-something degrees. We decided that was cold enough. Most vets will tell you that the point that you should consider a vest for many dogs is 20-degrees.

However, there are many dogs that have coats that are intended for cold weather. Take the English Lab, these guys could sleep in the cold and frankly would have no issues. I would encourage you to consult your vet and make the call for when your dog needs extra warmth. For us, we decided that it’s a combination of temperature and environment.

We love the Performance Dog Gear | from Ruffwear for the Shorthair. There is no disputing the quality of the product and this team knows their dog gear.

Cutting Tools: Leatherman and Compact Bolt Cutters

You never know when you’re going to run into barbed wire, a snare trap, or something sizable that needs to be cut. I have a fear about this one that is probably over the top, but I don’t want to be caught unprepared. The snare being the deadliest, it’s always prudent to be prepared.


By no means is this the end-all, be-all list for what you should take on the trail. We encourage you to think about where the dog is going, what they can get into, and how you need to be prepared. Don’t forget to check out our Gear Guide | Equipment. Tech. Clothing. for things that you might need to take with your including a few suggestions for your dog treks.

While these are only suggestions, hopefully, there is something here that you might want to add to your pack. Happy hiking!


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