Watching as your pup discovers all those new smells and chases all those strange, new critters makes camping as a pack a uniquely enjoyable experience. Here are our top tips that have made moto camping and backpacking with our German Shepherd Moxie that little bit easier and more rewarding.
1. Save the un-slurped water. If you’re carrying in water and don’t have a potable source nearby, then every drop is precious. And yet isn’t it all too common that you pour a bowlful and your bewildered pup looks at you as if you’re asking him to make friends with a cat?
So, here’s the tip: keep your pup’s water in a separate bottle from your own so that you can save the un-slurped portion. It will add up very quickly.
2. Keep the bottle and the bowl handy. The last thing you want to do is rummage through your pack whenever your pup needs a drink. Obviously, that means keeping your pup’s water bottle in one of your backpack’s side pockets.
Less obviously – and, again, here’s the tip – that also means securing the collapsible bowl with a carabiner to the outside of your pack so that it can be opened and filled while still connected to your pack. The Kurgo Collaps A Bowl works great for this.
3. Opt for silicone over cloth. When it comes to a collapsible bowl, cloth has seams and seams are where ants like hide. So maybe you use the bowl for water or for feeding and then you give it a good rinse before packing up. Only now the ants that were hidden in the seams come pouring out all over the inside or – if you followed tip #2 – the outside of your pack.
4. Bring eggs but leave the shells. If you’re anything like us (and Moxie), then well-seasoned, scrambled eggs are the ideal way to start the day in the outdoors. But how are a bunch of eggs going to survive the trip to the summit, you ask? Well, if you can get Egg Beaters in your local grocery store then there’s your answer.
But if, like us, you live in a land without Egg Beaters, then crack a few eggs into a widemouthed water or Gatorade bottle. If you pack it deep in your pack and if you’re not hiking through the desert, then the ‘bottled eggs’ should stay cool and fresh until you’re ready for them the next morning.
5. Even dogs need to towel off after a swim. As much as possible we try to camp near a river or lake because a) swimming is fun, b) bathing after a hike is heavenly, and c) falling asleep to the sound of moving water is the best tonic for sore paws. Now, if your pup is anything like our Moxie, that means fish-chasing and water-fetching continue until well after sunset. Also, even if your pup is no great water-lover, the gods always punish the unprepared with a rainstorm.
So, tip #5 is: always have a towel handy for drying off paws, belly, and rump before entering the tent. This way it won’t be a wet pooch that’s thrashing all over the tent before finally settling onto her TenderPaw Trekker Bedroll to sleep peacefully while you’re sleeplessly shivering and cursing cocooned in a damp sleeping bag.
6. Let there be plenty of light. Headlamps are an obvious ‘must’ but unless there’s a full moon, they usually don’t give enough light. Also, repeated doses of ‘headlamp in the eyes’ is a great way to be shunned by your packmates. So, consider a small, inexpensive, and very lightweight LED lantern like the Moji from Black Diamond. We hang them from the outside of our tent, on a tree, or a trekking pole planted in the ground. With two or three of these around your campsite, headlamps will only be needed when you traipse off to pee or for that needlepoint or wood-whittling that you so enjoy as your evening hobby.
Also – and before we leave the topic of lighting – it’s worth mentioning that a light-up, LED dog collar like this one from BSeen is really a must, especially if you have a restless, curious beastie who runs off in search of critters.
7. Stay wet; stay cool. Overheating is a big concern and on the rare occasion that Moxie would start panting like she had a busted radiator, we used to worry. Then, quite by accident, we discovered this trick. In many countries such as in Guatemala where we live, plastic water bags are ubiquitous. So one time we decided to stash a half-liter water bag on either side of Moxie’s Kurgo Baxter Backpack – you know, just in case of a water emergency. After the first 45 minutes of hiking we noticed the growing stains of leaking water on either side of her pack. Clearly, she had punctured the bags as she traipsed through the brambles. However, we also noticed that despite a strong sun she looked to be about as cool as we’d ever seen her on a hike.
So now – and this is tip #7 – we place a small, lightweight bottle like this one from Nalgene in either pouch of her Baxter. A minuscule pin prick in either bottle allows the water to leak out in a slow, refreshing drip throughout the hiking day.
8. Harness or backpack? Just make sure there’s a handle. In most cases our dogs are more agile, daring, and capable on the trail than we are – especially when we are the ones carrying 40+ pounds of gear in our packs! Nevertheless, every now and again we come to a slightly technical scramble – usually an ascent – that has Moxie stumped or spooked. In these cases, having a handle on the top side of the harness or backpack (another reason we like the Kurgo Baxter Backpack) allows us to lift or just spot her through the obstacle.
We hope these tips were helpful and maybe even inspire you to give it a go at camping with your pup. If you enjoyed this read, please let us know by leaving a comment, share it with your packmates, and, of course, subscribe by filling out the ‘Join our mailing list’ box at the bottom of the page. You’ll receive a discount at the online store and a notice whenever we release new Chasing Tails stories or tips like this one.