As a result of the ongoing pandemic, solo travelers, couples, small groups and families alike are seeking “safecation” trip options that adhere to social distancing protocols and, at the same time, are filled with QT and stimulating experiences. So, it’s no surprise that recent interest in camping—and said quality time that by default includes our furry friends—is spiking exponentially. But before you decide to pack up your pooch and pitch a tent for the first time, here’s what the experts have to say about camping with dogs and other furry friends to keep them safe and comfortable while making the experience enjoyable for both pet and pet parent—plus some of the handy (and super adorable) gear you should bring along.
Camping with Dogs: All the Tips to Know, Where to Stay and the Genius Products You Need
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7 Rules For Camping With Dogs And Keeping Them Safe
1. Consider Location First
“It’s easy to just load up and drive to your camping destination, but one thing families don’t realize is that just because a location is outdoors, it does not mean that it’s pet-friendly. Pet parents should research beforehand and confirm that their pet is allowed on the camping site,” says Jennifer Freeman, DVM and PetSmart’s resident veterinarian and pet care expert.
2. Know the Restrictions
Before you book, remember that like many hotels that have varying pet policies, so do campgrounds. “Many cabins or glamping accommodations will have a two-pet limit, so if you are camping with more than two pets, you will want to check before you book,” says Campspot CEO Caleb Hartung. “Similarly, if you are looking to camp in a tent with your pet, you might want to look into any restrictions campgrounds might have surrounding pets in tents,” he adds.
3. Prevent Pesky Pests
Bugspray can go a long way at a campground—and your pet needs their own special kind. “In addition to taking your pet for a vet visit to ensure they’re healthy enough to travel and stay outdoors, make sure your pet is protected against fleas and ticks, especially when spending time in nature,” says Freeman, adding that if you plan to swim while camping, it’s important to use a waterproof application. “Pet parents should make sure that pets are also on some sort of heartworm preventative due to the mosquito vector transmission of the disease,” she adds.
4. Do Some Pre-Conditioning
Humans physically and mentally prep themselves for camping—some of us more than others—and you should do the same for your pet. “If possible, try to get your four-legged friend used to being in the wild and the noises that go with it ahead of time,” says Hartung. “Before you embark on your camping trip, take walks with your pet in the evening when the animal noises are at their peak so they slowly get accustomed to the noises. Reassure your pal when they hear a new noise by giving them a treat each time,” Paw.com’s marketing specialist Katelyn Buck advises.
5. Scope It Out
Before even letting your pet out of the car, Freeman advises doing a quick walk through to ensure the space is safe for your pet to roam. And even if your furry friend is good off leash and it does look safe, don’t tempt fate: “There can be wild animals in the area as well as other unpredictable situations that could arise from natural hazards, including poisonous plants and cliffs,” says Buck.
That’s why, according to Hartung, most campgrounds will require a leash for your pet when outside regardless of their setup. “I recommend a long leash that you can tie-out that will allow them to get acquainted with the land while keeping them secure,” adds Freeman.
6. Make It Extra Comfy-Cozy
Giving your pet a sense of “home” is important when you travel. Our experts agree that taking a crate, their favorite dog bed, toys, or a blanket from home will make them feel more secure. “You want your pet to feel comfortable and avoid any anxiousness brought on by new surroundings,” says Freeman.
Buck advises having your furry friend sleep near you. “Put your pet’s bed or blanket right next to you or consider cuddling up with them as it will keep them safe, calm, and cozy throughout the night.”
When outside, be mindful to arrange a shaded area for your pet, or consider a shade tent, which will keep them comfortable under the sun’s harsh rays.
7. Make a Packing List Specific to Your Dog or Pet
“Make sure you plan accordingly and consider the area you are traveling to along with your pet's specific needs when packing,” says Hartung. Just some of the items our experts agree should be considered as part of the list: a travel water and food bowl (and a portable bowl, too if you plan on hiking), leashes, a proper ID with your name and phone number, toys, blankets, a safety harness for the ride, medication and vet records, and enough food (plus a little extra in case of some spills) to last your pet the journey.
The Best Camping Gear For Dogs & Other Pets
1. Harnesses & Leashes
“When hiking, it’s important for pet parents to ensure they have a proper collar or harness and leash for the outing,” says Freeman. Look for options specifically designed for camping, trail running, and hiking:
Shop Harnesses & Leashes: Ruffwear Knot-A-Long Leash ($30); Tuff Mutt Hands-Free Bungee Leash ($30); Ruffwear Chain Reaction Collar ($25); Carhartt Tradesman Leash ($20); Dog Stake ($10) and Tie Out ($8); Nathan Run Companion Runner's Waist Pack & Leash ($60)
2. Collapsible Food & Water Bowls
Chances are—even during spring and fall hikes—it can get a little hot for your furry friend. Pets can tire out just like humans, so make sure you also bring collapsible food and water bowls and a water bottle for the mandatory water breaks.
Shop collapsible food & water bowls: Petmate Silicone Round Collapsible Travel Pet Bowl ($9); Kurgo Kibble Carrier Travel Dog Food Container ($15); Ruffwear Quencher Dog Bowl ($15); Filson Dog Bowl ($45); madeking Dog Portable Water Bottle ($15)
3. Pet Beds & Comfort Items
Our dogs sure do love the Great Outdoors. But man, do they also love their comfy, plush bed at home. Bring the cozy comforts of home with you in smart packing form—like this chic faux cowhide waterproof blanket and bed duo from Paw.com—so that your pup has a place to cuddle up and feel at home even you’re miles away.
Shop pet beds & comfort items: Ruffwear Dirt Bag Seat Cover ($80); BarksBar Waterproof Cargo Liner ($20); Ruffwear Restcycle Dog Bed ($100); Ruffwear Clear Lake Dog Blanket ($80; Paw.com Memory Foam Bed & Waterproof Blanket
“I recommend having a shampoo on hand that helps neutralize skunk spray and other stinky smells you might encounter on your hike,” says Freeman.
5. First Aid & Safety
Look for kits that are specific to dogs, cats, and other pets, or for a combo that will help treat both yourself and your precious pet in the event of an emergency.
Shop first aid & safety: Me & My Dog First Aid Kit ($50)
6. Flea & Tick Protection
Between crunching leaves, snapping twigs, and chasing squirrels, your dog will thrive in a camping environment. But while you want to encourage and foster that sense of exploration, it’s important to keep the creepy crawlers that come along with it off their skin.
Shop flea & tick protection: Seresto Collar ($63); Advantus Soft Chew Flea Treatment Small Dogs ($55) and Large Dogs ($55); Frontline Plus for Medium Dogs ($47) (Available in more size-specific options)
7. Pet Camping Accessories
Yes, dog goggles are totally a thing. Here are some other nice-to-haves to consider—including a dog sleeping bag!
Shop pet camping accessories:Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Cooling Vest ($60); Portable Foldable Pet Playpen ($45); Trail Boots ($75); Rex Specs Dog Goggles ($80); Pop Up Dog Shade Tent ($60); Ruffwear Sleeping Bag ($100)
Where To Find The Best Dog-friendly Camping Accommodation Options
Over 70,000 of Campspot’s 100,000 diverse campsites across the U.S. and Canada are pet-friendly, so it’s the obvious place to start when you’re seeking out a campground, RV, or cabin. “It is very common to see dog parks at campgrounds with a fenced-in area, obstacles, and waste bags, while some campgrounds even have dog washing stations,” Hartung says of their offerings.
Private and secluded, Tentrr is a relatively new service that offers up private land with many dreamy glamping setups—complete with string lights, Adirondack chairs, and gorgeous views—all which will make your heart skip a beat.