One of my favorite parts of being an adult is being able to decide how, when, and where I will go on vacation. Without a doubt, my favorite way to spend my vacation time is camping with my small family, which includes my partner and our dog, Jazz. Jazz is the perfect companion for camping: she loves riding in the car, hiking, swimming, and laying by the campfire at night. We enjoy seeing her in a new environment and get a kick out of all of the things she does, like woofing at unusual forest sounds, trotting down hiking paths, and shapeshifting into a beaver while swimming through lakes and rivers.
Since our first camping trip with Jazz several years ago, I’ve picked up a few tips that help make camping with your dog simple and stress-free.
Tips for Camping with Your Dog
1. Consider a test run somewhere near home.
The first time my partner and I brought Jazz camping, she was already a few years old and had never slept outdoors. She adjusted quickly, but it’s always a good idea to have an exit strategy during your dog’s first camping trip. Consider starting with a day camping trip, which can be just as fun as an overnight trip and can more easily be done during the chillier months.
2. Consider the car ride and ways to make the trip easier for your dog.
When we are traveling sans-pup, we usually try to drive for longer stretches and keep pit stops short and sweet. When Jazz is with us, it’s important to find rest steps where she can stretch her legs and have time for a quick walk. For longer trips, plan where you will stop for food and find restaurants or rest areas with picnic tables. Dogs need rest stops, snacks and water for the road, and ways to stay sane during road trips, too!
3. Find the best campsite for your dog.
Most campgrounds have at least a few campsites where dogs are allowed, but some campgrounds and campsites are more dog-friendly than others. We usually try to reserve the most secluded campsite at a campground where sites are spread out as much as possible. This inevitably leads to less woofing around midnight when other campers walk by our tent. Some campgrounds don’t allow dogs at all and it’s important to check the rules before rolling into your campground with your pup.
4. Find the dog-friendliest campgrounds and locations.
A few years ago, my partner, Jazz, and I went on a camping trip near Van Buren State Park in Michigan. We had never been to that area before, didn’t do much planning for the trip, and ended up wasting a lot of time trying to find dog-friendly Lake Michigan beaches.
On a particularly hot day, we found a park that allowed dogs via a hasty internet search. Getting to the lake required a long hike from the parking lot up a sand dune and back down to the water. Less than five minutes into our hike up the dune, our feet were on fire from the hot sand and we had to turn around for fear of burning Jazz’s paws. I don’t know who was more disappointed in our lack of planning, me, my partner, or our sweet dog who had to endure an additional 20-minute car ride before we found a place for her to swim, her favorite camping activity. Even though the park was highly recommended by other dog lovers on the internet, when we looked at the reviews again later that night, we noticed a few warnings of the “fire-hot sand” during the summer months.
Moral of the story: learn from my mistakes and do a little research at home, before you leave for your camping trip, when you have reliable internet access, and when you have time to carefully read about the places you intend to visit.
What to Pack for Your Dog
I recommend packing your dog’s camping gear in two bags: a backpack that you can take with you during excursions and a bag that you can leave behind at your campsite. When we camp with Jazz, I always bring:
- Tick prevention spray and tick tweezers
- A long leash that can be tied to a picnic table or tree so that Jazz can walk around our campsite on her own (most campgrounds require that dogs are on a leash at all times)
- Extra towels and blankets
- A collapsible water bowl for hiking
- Toys and bones
- Dog tags and rabies/vaccine paperwork (this is required for some campgrounds)
- Dog odor neutralizer (there is nothing stinkier than climbing into a tent to sleep with our dog after a day of swimming!)
Camping with Jazz requires a little more preparation and planning, but it is always worth it and the memories our family has made while camping with her are some of my favorites. I hope these tips help you plan your next camping trip with your furry friend!