Although dogs are a huge commitment and big responsibility, they can change your life for the better. When I first got Ego, I was finishing my first year of college and still very unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t interested in the outdoors.
Fortunately, Ego opened my eyes to all I had been missing by not hiking and camping. In 2018, the two of us hiked in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, completing 27 of the 40 mountains in the range. We went on a major road trip and camped most of the way. And we had more meals outside in the fresh air than I had the rest of my life, combined.
Put simply, I learned a lot—not only about big, existential things, but also about camping and hiking with dogs. Here are some highlights.
I started with a backpack I found on Amazon.com that left my shoulders bruised and sore. After upgrading to a pack that distributed the weight on my hips and shoulders more evenly, my appreciation for quality gear exploded.
This also applies to dog gear. Dogs should only carry 25% of their body weight maximum and starting out should only carry 10-15% of their body weight.
In addition to a well-fitting pack, here are other pieces of gear that are important for your outdoorsy pup:
- A well-fitting dog pack that sits comfortably on your dog’s shoulders and has removable bags. I use the Ruffwear Palisades Pack.
- First-aid kit. You wouldn’t go backpacking without a first aid kit for yourself—your dog deserves the same. Some companies like Kurgo sell dog-specific kits, but you can also get most of the materials you need from your local pharmacy.
- Paw-protecting boots. Dogs have sensitive paws and ice, snow, or rocky terrain can cut their paws. When the ground is cold or rocky, boots help protect Ego’s pads. If he gets a cut on his foot, the boot can protect his injured foot while allowing him to walk so I don’t need to carry him.
- Car harness. Ego and I put in the miles on the road. Last year we took a 5,000-mile road trip from coast to coast. I strapped him in with a car harness to ensure he would be safe in case of an accident.
- Sleeping bag. Seriously. Even in the summer nights can get cold. Ego loves his bag.
Know the Rules Before You Go
Last year, Ego and I started our epic road trip spending a summer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Then we headed west. We stopped in Badlands National Park and Custer State Park in South Dakota.
Most national parks only allow dogs in front country campsites and on paved roads. Some lesser known national parks that allow dogs on select trails include Maine’s Acadia, Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes, and Arizona’s Grand Canyon national parks. Check the regulations before you head out so you and your dog know exactly what to expect.
Often national parks are adjacent to or near national forests, where dogs are almost always allowed, often off-leash. While in northwest Wyoming’s Tetons, we viewed wildlife from the road in Grand Teton National Park and got our exercise on the nearby Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Have a Routine, Keep your Dog Close
During our trip we either slept in the car or in a tent. One benefit to traveling with a dog is that you have a built in security system. I was constantly asked if I was afraid sleeping out with wildlife, but 99% of animals will stay away when you have a dog with you.
Keep Your Dog Fed and Hydrated
This sounds obvious, but it’s important to make plenty of stops and to repeatedly offer your dog food and water. Bring the food you regularly give them, and have dedicated water and food bowls so your dog is used to them.
Although life on the road is adventurous, it was extremely satisfying to reach our destination. Standing in the Pacific Ocean watching Ego chase the waves felt like something straight out of a nature documentary.
Go For It
Last summer’s trip was just one of many more to come; without Ego I never would have had the desire to take on such an adventure. The moral of this story is that every adventure is better with a dog in it!
Ambassador Sydney Ryan is a writer in Minneapolis Minnesota. Follow her and Ego on Instagram.