How to go camping with a dog and have the best time ever

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How to go camping with a dog
How to go camping with a dog

Imagine you’re hiking through the beautiful backcountry, having a breeze of mountain air in your hair. You brought your tent with you, so you can sleep wherever it’s the most beautiful. At around 6pm you find a stunning spot on a hill with a beautiful view. You start preparing dinner as the sun is about to set and you’re incredibly grateful for the luck you got!

But you can’t get rid of the feeling that something’s missing… Something really important…

And then it hits you: YOUR DOG!!!

That’s right, wouldn’t it be super awesome if you could share this amazing feeling of pitching your tent in a beautiful spot after a wonderful hike with your furry friend?

I definitely think having my dog Baloo join me on a hiking and camping trip makes it so much more fun.

This is why I’m now showing you how to go camping with a dog.

How to go camping with a dog

Hiking, Backpacking and camping are clearly some of the best things to do with your dog, don’t you think?

Dogs love to be outdoors and to explore. But they love it even more when they’re with you.

In order to make this the best possible experience I’m showing you everything you need to know to go camping with your dog.

Let’s first look at the 2 kinds of camping there are and where you can actually camp with dogs.

Tent camping with dogs

Tent camping is probably the first thing you think about when we’re talking about how to go camping with a dog.

Tent camping is definitely the most flexible way to explore the world, especially with your pooch.

It’s also particularly convenient to combine with hiking.

If you want to learn more about what to specifically consider when tent camping with dogs, make sure you check out my 12 tips you need for tent camping with dogs.

RV camping with dogs

The second way to go camping with dogs is with an RV.

RV camping also has some great benefits. This biggest advantage is that you can bring a whole lot more with you. This means you don’t have to get a special lightweight dog bed and leave your dog’s toys at home. No, you can bring your pup’s normal dog bed, all his toys, his crate etc.

It’s also much homier. It’s basically like a tiny house that you can decorate in a really cozy way.

Another big advantage is that you can – under certain circumstances – leave your dog in the RV for a short time. This is particularly helpful to do groceries or other things where your dog can’t join you.

To learn more about RV camping with dogs, check out my 10 reasons to take your dog RVing.

Where can you camp with dogs?

Most campgrounds allow dogs if they’re leashed. To be sure, you should always check before booking a spot.

But what’s even nicer is to go free camping, where it’s allowed.

This means you can just pitch your tent or park your RV wherever you want.

Of course, you need to leave the place as you found it, don’t litter etc. But this is definitely my favorite way of camping, especially with Baloo. It just feels like pure freedom!

This guide covers everything you need to know to go free camping.

How exactly do I take my dog camping?

Now, let’s look at some a little more specific questions when you take your dog camping.

Where do dogs sleep when camping?

This is a pretty easy questions: they sleep inside!

Whether you go tent or RV camping, you should always let your dog sleep inside. You never know what kind of animals might be out there. Plus, it can become much colder outside than inside your tent that you warm up with your body heat.

So, even if your dog is used to sleeping outside, always take him inside while you’re on a camping trip.

In a tent he can either sleep on the side or in one corner. Or, if you really feel like you all need a little more space, you could theoretically let him sleep in the vestibule.

But again, I would definitely want my dog to be able to have a relaxed sleep inside the comfy tent.

I’ve got a whole article focusing on the question where a dog can sleep while camping. Head over there to also find resources for what kind of sleeping gear you need for your pup.

How do you tent camp with a dog?

Tent camping with a dog is pretty straight forward.

I recommend you get a big enough tent that is made for 1 person more than you are (e.g. 3-person tent for 2 people and a dog).

As I’ve said before, your dog will sleep in the tent with you. So, having enough space is a good idea.

If you go camping in colder regions, you should consider getting a sleeping bag for your dog. Otherwise, you should at least get some kind of insulating mat to keep your pooch warm.

I’ll talk more about preparation a little further below.

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Can you leave a dog in a tent?

This is a tricky question, which I have answered in detail in this post.

Theoretically you could, but only under very specific circumstances. That is if your dog doesn’t suffer from separation anxiety and if you go camping in a winter tent. In a “normal” summer tent you can only leave him for short periods when the sun isn’t shining on it.

Most of the time it’s forbidden on the campsite, anyway. So, you don’t even have to think about it.

In general, I wouldn’t recommend it. The risks are just too big.

Can you leave a dog in an RV?

It’s definitely easier to leave a dog in an RV.

You just have to make sure that you have an A/C that definitely never fails! Something that has a backup generator or something similar.

In order to make sure you get the perfect RV, make sure to check out my post about how to choose the best RV for traveling with pets.

Plus, I highly recommend to get some kind of camera or observation system, like the canary monitor, to see if something’s wrong with your dog.

Preparation to go camping with a dog

Now that you’re hopefully fully convinced that camping with a dog is absolutely amazing, let’s look at what you need to do in terms of preparation.

Train obedience

Before you go on any camping, backpacking or hiking trip it’s very important that your dog has a solid obedience. You want to enjoy this adventure without your dog constantly lunging at other people or dogs or having to run after him because he doesn’t have a solid recall!

The most important commands to teach your dog before going on a camping trip are:

  • Walk on a loose leash
  • Ignore
  • Settle
  • Quiet
  • Recall

If you’re pup got those commands straight, your hiking and camping trip will be much more comfortable!

In case you also want to hike and camp with your dog off leash, make sure to check out my preparation guide for off-leash hiking with a dog.

Build up stamina

If you go tent camping, you’ll probably combine it with hiking.

Keep in mind that your dog needs some training to get ready for that. Just like you couldn’t hike for multiple days without any training, your pup can’t either.

So, make sure you take enough time to build up your dog’s stamina. Here’s a preparation guide for small dogs that applies just as well for big canines too.

Get him used to a dog pack

In case your dog is a little bigger than my miniature poodle Baloo, then you might want to consider letting him carry some of his own stuff too. You can do this by getting your dog his own backpack that he can carry, a so-called dog pack.

In order to do that you need your dog to get used to it, too. You can combine this training with building up his stamina.

Just make sure you get the dog pack early enough before the trip.

In my article about the question “how much weight can a dog carry in a backpack” I go over all the questions related to a dog wearing a backpack.

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Get him used to all the gear

If it’s the first time you take your dog camping or if you haven’t brought him anymore in a long time, let him check out all the gear before you leave for a trip.

This helps him to get used to it and feel at home in your tent or RV right away.

Make sure to also spend a night or two in the tent in your backyard or in the RV standing in front of your house to make sure your pup can acclimatize to in properly.

Pack your and his equipment

And last but not least, you obviously have to pack your and your dog’s equipment.

Make sure you don’t forget anything by having a look at my complete packing list for camping with a dog.

How to choose a tent for you and your dog

As a last point I quickly want to touch on one more important question: how to choose the right tent for you and your dog.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I highly recommend you get a tent that’s made for one person more than you are. This is of course unless your dog is as small as Baloo and can curl up like a tiny ball in one corner. In that case, just take a normal tent for 2 people of your 2 people plus a dog.

Find a lightweight option

If you also go hiking I highly recommend you get a lightweight tent, though.

You’ll have to carry it, plus your sleeping bag, mattress, cooking stuff, food, your dog’s things and much more. So, you definitely don’t want to have a super heavy tent to start with.

Something like the Featherstone 2 person tent probably has about everything you need.

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Can I use a pop-up tent to go backpacking with my dog?

Yes, you could theoretically use a pop-up tent.

However, I don’t recommend it if you go hiking and want to pitch your tent in a little more rough climate.

Pop-up tents usually aren’t made to be water- and windproof and they’re also mostly quite bulky.

So, unless you drive somewhere and just pitch the tent right next to your car, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Tent with a dog door

I don’t actually know any tent with a dog door. That would be really cool, though. If you know a product like this, please let me know!

However, I highly recommend you get a tent with two doors (like the Featherstone mentioned above). This makes it easier to only let your dog in on one side, in case he’s dirty or something.

So, this is how to go camping with a dog

So, there you go, now you know exactly how to go camping with a dog.

If you take enough time for preparation and get slowly get your dog used to all the camping equipment, I’m sure both of you will have an amazing time together!

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