We love camping with our dogs in the summer but what about in the winter? If your dog is suitable for colder weather, camping in the snow is probably the best new thing to try this winter if you haven’t done it yet. But before you go, it is important to ensure you are well prepared and have the proper equipment. Here we’ve compiled a list of dog gear to make the experience more enjoyable and memorable for you and your pooch.
Image by Patrick Hendry
Dogs are equipped with fur coats and have a higher body temperature than humans, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that all dogs are suited for long distance trips in the snow. If they are, you might want to consider a durable, warm and waterproof jacket. Short-haired dogs and breeds that are susceptible to the cold may benefit from a jacket to conserve their body heat, keep them dry and prevent the snow from accumulating under their belly.
Consider keeping your dog’s feet warm, safe and frostbite free with winter boots. A good pair of boots will facilitate traction, keep the snow out and provide warmth and protection in winter conditions. If your dog is simply not comfortable with them, make sure you trim the fur between the foot pads. Another trick is to rub on a protectant balm (such as Vaseline) to avoid snowballs and prevent ice from sticking between the toes and paw pads.
If you are really into adventuring in the backcountry with your pooch, investing in a good pack can be rewarding. The pack should be large enough for your dog’s frame and shouldn’t carry more than 25% of your dog’s weight. Packs usually feature a harness with detachable saddlebags, a padded handle and reflective trims. If your dog is new to wearing a pack, start with a light load and gradually increase to a heavier load as your pooch gets accustomed to it. Having your dog carry their own gear is quite admirable, but always be ready to take over their load on more difficult terrain, while crossing creeks or if they start dragging their feet. If the latter occurs, take a break, chances are you might need one too!
If your furry companion likes to snuggle under the blankets, and if you don’t fancy a wet dog sharing your sleeping bag at night, companies like Ruffwear have created sleeping bags specifically for dogs. The bags provide warmth, comfort and protection from hard and cold surfaces.
Cell foam sleeping pads are available to add comfort and insulation on hard and cold surfaces. They are packable, compact and clean with a shake.
Even though there might be creeks running though the trail along the way, always bring bowls for water and food. Packable dog bowls are light and easily fit in a pocket, backpack or your dog’s pack.
Some backcountry trails don’t enforce the use of a leash, but it is necessary to bring one along. It is important to keep your pet close in case of wildlife encounters, steep side hills, creek crossings or anything that requires absolute control of your dog. Choose a 5-6ft sturdy leash on a solid collar or harness that clips easily.
Keep your dog’s paws and fur clean and dry with a lightweight and packable towel. Some brands offer absorbant and antimicrobial towels made of eco-friendly fibers that are safe for you, your dog and the planet.
You want to know of your dog’s whereabouts at all time. Having a durable and waterproof safety light is very important to keep your dog visible in low-light conditions, inclement weather and at night.
While you might not carry a hair brush for yourself, having one for your pet could be handy. Jackets and booties are a great help to avoid unwanted accumulation of snowballs on fur, but some dogs just seem to attract them like magnet. A brush is very useful to remove burdocks and clumps of snow, keeps your pet happy and your tent dry and clean.
First Aid Kit
A backpacking First Aid Kit should already be part of your own camping checklist, but when adventuring deep in the backcountry with your dog it is recommended to add items specifically for dogs. For more information on what to pack in your dog’s First Aid Kit, please read How to Build a First Aid Kit for your Pet.
Exercising in cold temperatures requires extra food as well as snacks high in proteins and calories. While you don’t have to change their regular diet, cutting their food with about 25% puppy food helps increase the calorie content. Puppy food has added calories and proteins which will help boost your dog’s nutritional intake during long distance trips. Snacks such as jerky, peanut butter treats, dog energy bars, boiled eggs and cheese are also good options to provide your dog with the necessary amino acids to keep their energy up on a big winter adventure.
Winter camping with your dog can be a very rewarding and memorable experience for you and your four-legged friend. Nothing beats snuggling up in a tent with a furry companion, the campfire fragrance still lingering in the crisp mountain air. As long as you prepare adequately and bring the right gear, you and your dog are up for a real winter treat!