Most dogs love to be outdoors. They eagerly jump into the car as soon as their owners start putting on a pair of hiking boots or pull out their backpacks. But before venturing out with your canine friends, it’s important to make sure both you and your pup are prepared. Start by packing those dog-specific essentials for food, water, and gear that is suitable for the conditions. Deciding what gear to buy for your dog can be daunting which is why we’ve put together this list of recommended essentials for the trail hounds (and seadogs) we know and love. Here are our picks of the best hiking gear for dogs.
The Front Range harness is padded for comfort and constructed for durability, keeping your dog safe and comfortable for years. A versatile harness, it offers four points of adjustment ensuring the best fit for any breed of dog. It also allows users to adjust these points to prevent uncomfortable chafing and grant a full range of motion.
It features two attachment points — an aluminum V-ring on the dog’s back and a loop of reinforced webbing on the dog’s chest. Best of all, the harness offers extra padding, which is ideal for long days of walking around town or trekking across mountain trails. When it comes to choosing the best hiking gear for dogs, it really is tough to top Ruffwear’s Front Range Harness — and at $40, is quite the steal.
The best dog leash
A leash is an important piece of gear for keeping your pup safe while on the trail. It not only prevents them from inadvertently chasing wildlife or approaching other hikers, it ensures they stay close to your side at all times. Most trails also require all dogs to be on a leash, making this mandatory equipment for almost any hike with your dog.
The $25 Trailmate leash from Flowfold is made from recycled climbing ropes, which means it’s not only extremely durable but it’s good for the environment, too. This leash is soft to the touch and provides just the right amount of flexibility, as well. Measuring 5 feet from end to end, it is also the perfect length to give your canine companion room to roam, without wandering too far.
The best dog pack
Ruffwear’s Approach Pack offers 5 liters of carrying capacity, allowing your dog to carry their own gear and supplies on a hike. The pack comes with an integrated harness, features zippered pockets on both sides, and has been ergonomically designed to remain stable thanks to its five different points of adjustment. It also offers two distinct places to attach a leash and is made from a reflective material that makes it easy to spot in low light conditions. The Approach Pack is available in four different sizes.
Those looking for something a little smaller may find the newly-redesigned Ruffwear Singletrack Pack to be more to their liking. It offers many of the same features as the $80 Approach Pack, but in a lighter, slimmer form factor.
The best dog booties
Like human feet, dog paws require protection when walking on rugged terrain or in extreme weather conditions. Ruffwear’s Grip Trex booties ($75) are comfortable on your dog’s feet and provide outstanding protection from rocks, roots, and other rugged conditions. These all-terrain booties have a flexible and comfortable fit, allowing most dogs to wear them without trying to kick them off.
They also offer a Vibram bottom for protection from hot sand and other damaging surfaces while providing extra grip on rocks and roots. In the winter, the Grip Trex are essential for preventing snow and ice from balling up in a dog’s paws. You can also help protect your dog’s feet by applying Musher’s Secret paw wax, too.
The best dog bowl for the trail
The Port-a-Bowl costs just $7, fits easily in a backpack or bag, and is durable enough for even the rockiest terrain. The simple fabric dish is also extremely lightweight, weighing less than 2 ounces and stuffs down to the size of a fist. On the trail, the bowl is rigid enough to hold any kind of food and is perfect for a quick water stop, and durable for either day trips or week-long backpacking excursions. With a price tag under $10, Outward Hound’s Port-a-Bowl is as cost-effective a piece of dog hiking gear as it gets.
The best dog first aid kit
One of the major concerns for any dog owner is keeping their canine companion safe out on the trail. That means bringing along a dog-specific first aid kit for those “just-in-case” moments. Adventure Medical Kits’ Trail Dog model provides everything you need to treat simple injuries, cuts, scrapes, insect bites, and other issues that could arise while on a hike, and costs just $25 to add to your hiking arsenal. As with all AMK products, everything is neatly organized, clearly labeled, and easy to find, which is exactly what you want when dealing with a potential emergency.
How we test
When possible, our dog gear recommendations have been field tested across a variety of terrains and weather conditions. We try to test each item under the conditions which it will be most frequently used. When testing the gear is not possible, we look at the features of the item and compare it to existing models in our arsenal of gear.
We examine how each piece of hiking gear for dogs changed and what improvements, if any, were made for the current year. We also comb through product specifications and both manufacturer and retailer videos for insight into any new technology advances that were developed for these latest and greatest dog-centric items.