If you’ve never gone camping with your dog or you don’t go often enough that you forget what dog camping gear essentials to pack each time you head out, then this is the post for you!
I have spent so many nights camping with my dog that it sometimes feels more comfortable than my own bed. My gear is always ready to go at a moment’s notice for any last-minute camping adventures. I even have a bin dedicated solely to dog camping gear.
Whether you’re about to head out on your first camping trip with your dog or you only camp a few times a year, this list will help you understand the best camping accessories you need for your dog.
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What gear do I need for camping with a dog?
When you camp with your dog, you’ll need a mix of what you you at home, only camp version, and what use for yourself, only dog version.
The main dog camping gear items include:
- Dog camping bed
- Food storage
- Dog food/water bowl
- Treat pouch
- First Aid Kit
- Containment system
Essential Dog Camping Gear
Depending on whether you are car camping or backpacking, the items may differ, as you can be less conservative when you have your car with you. I provide options for both, as well as some bonus items that I like to have along.
You’ll notice some brand repeats on this list. That’s because the brand makes exceptional dog gear. As you know, I always opt for quality as much as I can.
Dog Camping Bed
The key to picking a good dog bed for your camping gear collection is to find one that is:
- Water resistant
- Rolls into a compact size
- Easy to clean
I have used a lot of dog camping beds over the years and since I can’t pick just one, I wrote an entire post dedicated to the best dog camping beds.
A few favorites include:
Best Dog Travel Bed for Backpacking: Ruffwear Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag
The Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag is a lightweight synthetic sleeping bag that rolls up into a compressible sack for easy transport.
Since dogs can opt to sleep inside or on top of the sleeping bag, it provides options for varying temperatures.
A zipper runs along half of the length of the side so dogs can easily get into and out of the sleeping bag.
For additional insulation in colder months, or if you want to provide a bit of extra padding for your dog to sleep at night, you can slide the Highlands Pad (sold separately) into the bottom of the sleeping bag.
Best Dog Travel Bed for Car Camping: Kurgo Wander Loft Travel Bed
Soft, fluffy, and packs down to a transportable size, the Kurgo Wander Loft Travel bed is great for car camping trips because it doesn’t take up a ton of space, but still provides a warm and padded spot for your dog to sleep and rest.
It rolls up easily into a compact carrying tote, and is waterproof on the top and bottom. Dog hair floats off with a few shakes, and the rubber bottom makes for easy cleaning.
To see more about what I think of this bed, check out the review.
Dog Food: Storage, Bowls, and Serving
I like to measure out my dog’s food before I leave home, adding an additional day’s worth, just in case. Depending on the length of time you’re camping, container options vary.
If you’re staying just one night or backpacking, a simple ZipLoc bag will do (I like the freezer ones because they’re more durable and reusable. Areas with bears will require a bear container. ZipLoc bags are helpful for this as well, since you can pack them more easily into a smaller space.
For backpacking, I bring lightweight dog food to save on weight and space. Ziplock bags are great for backpacking as well because they pack more easily into your dog’s pack.
My general dog food set up includes the following gear:
Dog food storage: Kurgo Kibble Carrier
A thick, roll top dry bag makes transporting and storing dog food for camping trips a breeze. The Kurgo Kibble Carrier can hold up to 5lbs of dog food, which is plenty for a week or so of camping for most dogs 50 lbs and less.
The Kibble Carrier is made using a hex weave design that keeps dog food fresh. A bottom pocket can store a collapsible dog bowl and a zippered side pocket can hold small items like treats.
Best Dog Food & Water Bowl for car camping: West Paw No-Slip Water & Food Bowl
A sturdy bowl that doubles as both a food and water dish will save on space. I love these BPA-free bowls from West Paw, one of my favorite sustainable brands.
These particular bowls are made from the brand’s Seaflex material, which takes plastic that was destined for the ocean and repurposes it into a reusable product.
Best Dog Food & Water Bowl for backpacking: Quencher Packable Dog Bowl
I have a couple of the Quencher Bowls stashed in various backpacks. They’re super packable and weight practically nothing, so they’re easy to take just about everywhere.
They are available in three different sizes to suit your dog appropriately.
Treat Pouch: Ruffwear Home Trail Hip Pack
I am always training my dog and take every opportunity to do so. For this reason, I always have a treat pouch on me. Camping and backpacking trips are great places to train, whether you’re working on staying in place or recall on the trail.
I just fill the treat pouch with my dog’s meal and use that for training instead of treats, which can lead to obesity if they are getting too many treats throughout the day.
I prefer a fanny pack style of treat pouch, like the Home Trail Hip Pack from Ruffwear because it can hold other items, like my phone, keys, poop bags, and more.
I use two different hand-free dog leashes for my various activities, but my two main leashes are a multi-purpose leash and a biothane leash. I usually bring both for car camping, but will bring just the biothane leash for backpacking.
Best Hands-free Dog Leash: Ruffwear Crag Leash
A hands-free leash is great to have for camping. I can secure it to a table while I’m setting up my tent or cooking and attach it to my pack or around my waist when we hike.
I have a few favorites that I use on rotation. I’ve mentioned before how much I love the Ruffwear Crag Leash leash several times on this blog because it is truly my favorite multi-purpose leash.
It’s strong, has a reflective trim, can adjust to about any size you like, and it’s comfortable to wear.
The talon claw is the best leash attachment device I’ve ever used. I don’t have to fidget with a tiny trigger release when it’s cold or stuck after a trip to the beach.
Best Everyday Leash: Biothane Leash from CSJ Creations
Biothane leashes are commonly used with horses and known as “vegan leather” because they have the same feeling. I love them because they are lightweight and waterproof.
If your trip ends up being muddy or rainy, or you just enjoy hiking around water, then biothane is ideal because it’s clean with a quick wipe of a towel.
I personally use a 4′ length and 3/8″ width, because my dog is trained to walk with a loose leash and the prong collar requires very little pressure. If you use a flat collar or harness or your dog pulls when you walk, then you’ll want to opt for a longer length and thicker width, at least 6′ and 1/2″ width.
First Aid Kit: Adventure Medical Kits
This is the one piece of gear that you hope you never have to use, but never want to be without.
While human kits do have some items that can be used for on dogs, there is pet-specific equipment that you should have on hand. You can either add these items to your own kit, or purchase a pet-specific first aid kit, like I have.
I like the Me and My Dog Adventure Medical Kit because it includes both human and canine first-aid items, eliminating the need to bring two kits. For backpacking, I use the Adventure Medical Kit Heeler Kit.
I also highly recommend taking a pet first aid course, either in person or online. They’re inexpensive and knowing what to do in an emergency can keep a situation from going from bad to worse.
Even if your dog is place trained, some kind of containment system will allow you to focus on other activities, without having to frequently monitor your dog.
Tether System: Ruffwear Knot-a-Hitch
This zip line system allows dogs to wander somewhat freely, while still keeping them contained.
Designed using a tension system inspired by rock climbing techniques, the ends of the Knot-a-Hitch are secured to two trees or a post.
If your dog barks at strangers or other dogs, I wouldn’t recommend this system, as it will just build the habit of barking at passersby (while also annoying the entire campground). Instead, use a crate or pen (see below).
Collapsible Soft Crate: MidWest Portable Tent Crate
I have found that bringing a collapsible soft-sided dog crate on car camping trips comes in very handy.
The reason I started using it in the first place was because Sitka was going mad about the mosquitoes. I tried tucking him under a blanket, but he wouldn’t stay fully submerged, so I popped him into the kennel.
Once I started using it , I saw the other benefits of having a camping crate. Not only is it nice for camping, but also for hotel travel, since it’s easily portable.
Sure, I can use my dog car kennel, but it’s strapped in and weighs 35 lbs, so it’s a pain to take out and put back in each time I use my car. So instead, I use the MidWest Portable Tent Crate, which is lightweight and easy to store when not in use. Most importantly, it keeps the bugs out.
Because this is a soft crate, it should only be used with dogs who are already crate trained and calm inside the kennel.
Optional Dog Camping Gear
Depending on where you’re camping or how well your dog is trained, you may want to consider a few other pieces of gear for your camping adventures.
Cooling Vest: Ruffwear Swamp Cooler or Kurgo Core Cooling Vest
For hot weather camping trips, a cooling vest will be an essential item to keep your dog comfortable. A cooling vest is simply a light-colored vest you get wet, wring out, and put on your dog to keep them cool.
I’ve used two different cooling vests and like both pretty equally. The first is the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler and the second is the Kurgo Core Cooling Vest.
They are especially handy if you’re camping near a lake or river, so you can wet and wring whenever it dries out from the last round.
Since dogs can’t sweat, this helps prevent your dog from overheating in hot weather.
Dog Jacket: Voyagers K9 Apparel
When the night falls, the temps can go way down and some dogs can get cold. I made the mistake of not bringing a jacket on my first backpacking trip with Sitka and we were socked in a chilly fog system in the Olympics that left Sitka shivering. I had to warm him up in my sleeping bag!
My favorite jackets for dogs are from Voyagers K9 Apparel. They make breed-specific sizes or custom fit to your dog if they’re a mutt, they’re easy to put on your dog, and the shop is woman and minority-owned.
Bring at least a few dog towels along on your trip to wipe off paws before your dog enters the tent or to dry them off after a muddy romp in the woods. I get my dog towels for a buck from Goodwill. If you’re backpacking, opt for a lightweight camping towel.