A Primer on Hiking Gear for you and your dog
Hiking is a great excuse to get some sweet, sweet gear. Hiking with your dog is no different -- there's dog boots, packs, and even cooling systems to keep temperature-sensitive dogs comfortable on the trail. There's plenty of choices, but it really doesn't take much equipment for you and your dog to hike safely and comfortably.
- Start with good shoes for hiking -- they need good tread, and they should be close-toed, but that's really all you need. You only need a trail shoe if it will be muddy, and you only need a full boot if you are carrying a heavy pack or need the ankle support. We typically just wear tennis shoes. Not sure what to go with? HikingGuy.com offers some helpful tips on picking the right type of shoe.
- I hope this is obvious, but please wear socks when you hike to avoid blisters.
- Long pants are a good idea -- that way you don't have to deal with scratches or be as mindful of poison oak, which is pervasive in northern California. Leggings can work but thinner ones won't offer much protection.
- Beyond that, just wear layers if it's cool -- you may warm up as you hike so it's nice to be able to shed a layer to stay comfortable.
- I wear a hat when I hike to reduce the risk from ticks and to keep the sun off -- your scalp can get sunburned and is actually a surprisingly high-risk area for skin cancer, so if you don't wear a hat then at least use a little sun screen.
- We hike with a day-pack to carry water, snacks, our first aid kit and the dogs' water bowl. It's nothing much to speak of, just a nylon backpack that I used to use for school (nylon is good because it's lighter and handles rain better than canvas).
- Our first aid kit actually came with our car but it has all the essentials -- in case you don't have a Volkswagen, here's one that has the minimums (bandages, antiseptic, moleskin, tweezers) that you'd need to deal with cuts and sprains on the trail.
Of course the dogs have their own hiking gear!
- We use flat leashes -- some people like the round leashes (especially those made from old rock climbing ropes), but we find that we have better control and can give clearer leash commands with a flat leash.
- We just attach the leashes to our dogs' collars. We tried a harness with Mowgli but he was NOT having it. Grammar used to have a Gentle Leader which was great when she was younger since she used to be such a puller -- now that she's older she's fine with just the collar.
- Especially on longer hikes, you should bring a water bowl for your dog. We've got a folding silicone bowl that we use now; we used to use a soft-side collapsible bowl which was easy to carry, though it could get really drippy in my bag if I don't shake it out well.
- Always bring poop bags on a hike! We use Earth Rated brand because they're biodegradable, and (no joke) offer lavender-scented bags. Easy to open, and they're very light weight-wise to carry.
- Grammar is ummm really, really fuzzy so she soaks up water like crazy -- we have a rain coat for taking her outside during rainy season. It's polka-dotted.
This isn't hiking equipment per se, but it is still useful info for keeping your dog trail-fit. I also felt that this post needed even more bullet points.
- First and foremost, Mowgli is neutered and Grammar is spayed, and both are microchipped. Spay-neuter and microchipping are really important to us because they help keep the stray population under control.
- If you're going to be hiking with your dog you'll wand to find a Flea + Tick medication. We use chewable Trifexis rather than a topical solution -- we also have a cat, and the topical solutions can actually be very toxic even if you don't apply them directly to your cat, so talk to your vet to find the right one for you.
- Mowgli is a little neurotic, so sometimes he licks a spot on his leg obsessively until it bleeds. To keep him from licking and to let his spot heal, we put him in Comfy Cone when we leave the house -- it's more comfortable than a plastic E-Collar, and it actually does a better job of preventing him from licking.
- Mowgli is getting older, so we got him a dog bed from Casper to give him the support he needs to not wake up stiff.
- Mowgli has been dealing with arthritis since he was a puppy, so we give him Rimadyl and Adequan. Honestly the Adequan has been life-changing -- Mowgli has so much more energy now and he can keep up so much better on hikes. I cannot recommend Adequan highly enough.
- Rimadyl can be tough on a dog's liver, so some people use cannabis-based medications instead. In California you'll need to get a medical marijuana card before you can buy these kinds of meds. Treatwell is a well-known producer of CBDs for pets.
There's some stuff we'd love to try but haven't yet gotten around to -- dog boots for rainy season (they can keep the giardia away if you're city-dwellers like us), a pack for Grammar, a rain coat for Mowgli. We'd also like to try a pack that would keep Mowgli cool even on hotter days so that he can do more trails with us.
Like I said, there's a ton of gear options out there but you don't really need much. Just get set up with the basics and you, and your dog, will stay comfortable and hike safely. See you (and that sweet set of dog boots you've been thinking about!) on the trail!