What To Bring When Camping With a Dog In a Tent

I’m not terribly organized when tent camping with our dogs. We race out the door, confident things will be OK. But after our 5th camping trip I decided to make a list. Why? From experience, I knew it would make our tent camping trip with our dog more enjoyable for us all. And that’s great vacations are all about, right?

What to bring when camping with dogs in a tent? Here’s a list of 17 must-haves when tent camping with your dog:

  1. Water
  2. Collapsible bowls
  3. Dog food (wet, dry and treats)
  4. Leash/harness
  5. Dog collar (night and day)
  6. Something to sleep on
  7. ID tags
  8. Screen House
  9. Poop bags
  10. First Aid Kit
  11. Vet stuff and medications
  12. Toys
  13. Towels and grooming wipes
  14. Sweeper/dustpan and brush
  15. Protection for the paws
  16. Bear spray
  17. Dry sack.

Do 17 items seem overwhelming to you? Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through exactly what you need to consider and reduce any overwhelm.

Water/water filter/purifying tablets       

How remote do you plan to camp?

How long do you plan to be away with your dog?

Answers to these questions will determine whether you need one or more of the items below for both you and your dog:

  • Fresh water in a large storage container
  • Water filter
  • Water purifying tablets.

Certainly, you want to travel with some fresh water. Even if you are only going a short distance, and you are sure that your chosen destination has water available.

Don't make the mistake we did on one of our tent camping trips with our two Shetland Sheepdogs, Shellie, and Bernie. The water coming from the tap in our campsite contained sediment. The minerals in this water didn't sit well with Bernie's digestive system. He was only 5 months old at the time. You DO NOT want to find this out while you are tenting. You can trust me on this one!

Collapsible bowl

We always take a collapsible dog bowl made by Dexas. It comes with a carabiner so that it can be clipped onto something for hiking. Don’t attach the bowl to the handle of the leash when you are exploring with your dog. We found that to be a little annoying. Instead, attach it to your belt loop or backpack.

A colapsible bowl is also very convenient in the car during the road trip. It clips right to the water bottle top for easy access in between stops.

Plenty of food

Are you heading out on the trail to backpack overnight? Or are you going to explore a more developed campground closer to civilization? Either way, always bring more dog food than you will need for your planned trip.

Invariably, things happen. You may find a spot that speaks to you and decide to stay for a few extra days. It would be a shame to have to begrudgingly pack out because you don’t have extra food for the pooch.

Also, some dogs are sensitive to changes in diet. Even if there is a store nearby that you can grab a bag of dog food, bring the food your dog is familiar with from home. Stomach sensitivity is not something that you want to learn about your sweet angel while sharing a tent. It can be very inpleasant!

Leash/harness/crate

Famous last words, “Oh, he is such a good boy. We never have him on a leash.” We all adore our little four-leggers. They are, to us, smart and amazing and perfect.

Aside from the fact that most camping areas and trails require dogs to be leashed or restrained in a crate, there are plenty of reasons that you need to do the responsible thing.

This may be hard to fathom, but not all campers like, or feel comfortable around, dogs. More importantly, there can be lots of children exploring camping areas and hiking trails. Not of all these children are adequately supervised, or know how to behave around dogs. And most importantly, we are visitors in the wilderness where the wild animals live, and we should respect their space.

Secondary ID tags

We have been camping with dogs for a long time. Regardless, we are always discovering new things that could make our lives, and our dog’s lives, more fun, easier, and safer.

I recently heard about the idea of secondary ID tags in a Facebook group thread. I think it is an absolutely brilliant idea and here’s why. There are many times when we are camping in an area without cell service or internet connection. If one of our pups were to get loose or wander off in one of those situations, their regular ID tags with our phone numbers would be useless.

A secondary ID tag that is imprinted with our vehicle’s make, model, and the license plate number would allow a fellow hiker or camper that comes across our dogs to keep an eye open for our truck.

It’s just another way of increasing the chances that your lost dogs will be found and returned to you. For me, that’s great peace of mind.

Nightlight for collar/LED collar

Total disclosure. While we are camping, our eight-year-old dog Shellie is always on her leash, but we might not always be holding her leash.

At night, if we are sitting by the fire, she is allowed to sit on her own, a comfortable distance from the fire. She hates fire.

She also hates being more than ten feet away from her Dad Human.  He is the absolute center of her universe, and she is always focused on him. For those reasons, in those rare moments, we allow her that freedom.

With her collar light on, we can see her. She can see him. Everyone is happy.

A night collar light is also good for after dark potty runs. Other campers will know that a dog is approaching and that it is obviously not a wild animal adorned with a day-glo necklace.

Screenhouse

Now, we all can agree that not being able to give our pups some freedom in the great outdoors seems counter-intuitive.

One solution that works for us when we are car camping is a screenhouse. The one we have is made by Coleman, the camping people. It is 10’X12’. Not too heavy, it is relatively compact when collapsed. This is great for packing.

Our screen house is pretty easy to set up and take down. If you are used to camping and tsetting up your tent is record time, setting up a screen house will be a no-brainer.

We have had our screenhouse for a few years. We have not treated it gently, and it has still held up well.

It isn’t necessarily my favorite thing, but it is large enough for a picnic table, and two dog crates. It means my babies don’t have to be on full lockdown 24/7 and tethered to a pole.

One word of caution. A screenhouse is only a good idea if your dog:

  1. Is responsive to voice commands and
  2. Doesn’t spook easily and bolt at the sight or sound of random wildlife or other people nearby.

Poop bags

Picking up dog poop is what you do as a dog owner. It may seem ridiculous when camping that since no-one picks ups the waste of the wild animals around you, why would you need to pick up dog poop when camping in the wilderness.

There are 3 good reasons to pick up your dog’s poop when tent camping:

  1. It’s respectful of other campers;
  2. It will prevent the spread of bacteria and parasites to the wildlife; and
  3. It will remove any scent that may attract unwanted predators.

We use Earth Rated bags for a couple of reasons:

  • They are certified compostable. This means the poop bag is compostable it will break down into natural elements, leaving no toxic traces in the soil. It’s a genuine claim. Their product is certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute.
  • They are genuinely biodegradable. If you’re thinking that a regular plastic grocery bag will do the trick, think again. Earth Rated dog poop bags have an additive which helps the bag break down more quickly in a landfill. U.S. Federal Trade Commission regulations require biodegradable dog waste bags break down in a landfill environment within a one-year time.
  • They are lavender scented. You will appreciate if you camp in an area without garbage receptacles and you need to pack the used bags out with you.

There are of dog poop bags out there that claim to be “bio-friendly” or “earth friendly” in their marketing. Be aware. Genuine products will be certified.

If you’re thinking that a regular plastic grocery bag will do the trick, think again.

First Aid Kit

When we first began camping with our dog, we threw a pair of tick pickers into our own first aid kit and were good to go! Or so we thought until paw met the dreaded Texas sticker bur. Trying to extract a sticker bur with your bare hands leads to two injured parties: dog and man.

Leanring our lesson, we promptly added tweezers to our kit.

Over the years our kit has grown quite a bit to include:

  • Benadryl (10mg/lb. of body weight). Bees aren’t yummy to eat, but our four-legger had to try one just to be sure!
  • 3% hydrogen peroxide. A questionable mushroom can be dangerous to your dog.
One time, Shellie at a questionable mushroom. It was an expensive meal, costing us $1500 worth of tests at an emergency vet on a Sunday. We learned from our vet that the wrong wild mushroom can induce vomiting and then can do more damage. After all, a lot of those mushrooms you find when you're camping are poisonous. before you head off on your next camping trip, ask your vet to ensure proper administration. 
  • What about that styptic powder that you have on hand for nail trimming accidents? That should go into the kit. I wish I knew exactly how I learned this, but one moment we were loving an early spring hike in Nevada, and the next moment a nail was pulsing blood.
  • We also carry 3M™ Vetrap™ bandaging tape. Luckily, we have never had to use it, but we learned about it from a friend, and we won’t have to learn this one the hard way!

Vet records/medication/Information about the nearest vet

This one we definitely learned the hard way!

Of course, we had always traveled with a hard copy of our pup’s (Bernie) most recent medical records. This included:

  • Vaccination records
  • Rabies certificate, and
  • Any medications.

But we had never thought to research local vets in advance of our camping trip.

Early on a Sunday morning, our six-year-old dog Shellie woke us up whining. Not her usual behavior. She likes a lie in. Our original plan for the day was to drive from our campsite near Appling, GA to see friends in Columbia, SC. As I began breaking down our campsite, my husband took the dog to take care of business. He was about 100 yards away when he started yelling for me and waving me over.

My poor girl’s rear end was covered in bright red blood. Without cell service, knowing no one, and it being the off-season hardly anyone was camping near us. It was probably my scariest dog Mom moment ever.

We had to drive until we had cell service. Find the closest vet, which was closed on Sunday. Then call them to get an emergency number from their voicemail. The emergency vet was 45 minutes away.

Thankfully, we got her to the vet. They were terrific. It turns out that she had eaten something that had nicked her on the way out. A few days later, on antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, and soft food, and she was fine.

I could have spared my heart if only I had researched the closest vet and emergency service before the camping trip.

Everywhere we go now, no matter how far out, I know the address and distance to the nearest animal hospital.

Sleeping Bags

Don’t judge. Dog sleeping bags are a thing.

When two humans are sharing a three-man tent with two dogs, it’s pretty cozy.

Now, if you are taking the dogs camping for the weekend in July, obviously they don’t need sleeping bags.

However, we often camp in the early spring and late fall when the weather is unpredictable, and it can get frigid at night, like 20 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s damn cold!

I love my furry babies more than anything in the world, but if I have to share my sleeping bag with both of them, then we are getting into the truck and turning on the heat. When camping with your dog, you can find other ways to organize the sleeping arrangements.

If you do decide to get your dog their own sleeping bag, just go ahead and unzip them all the way. My dogs won’t climb into their sleeping bags, but they curl up into it if it is unzipped. They stay warm, and it is unbelievably adorable.

Toys (tug)/ Puzzle toys

While hiking is the ideal workout when camping with dogs in a tent, the weather may not cooperate.

It is always a good idea to have something on hand with which they can entertain themselves in a confined space (like a screenhouse). Tug-o-war is our go-to, but puzzle games have the added benefit of occupying them while you have a little downtime of your own.

We like Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound, but you can probably skip over the level one puzzle. It took our girl Shellie about 90 seconds to figure that one out and eat all the treats.

Microfiber Towels/ grooming wipes

Part of camping with dogs is getting dirty.

No matter where you decide to venture there will be dirt or sand or water or mud.

Since it is an accepted part of the deal, we like to have doggy wet wipes and microfiber towels on hand.

One of our dogs is also very susceptible to environmental allergens, and we find that wiping around her nose and face a couple of times a day with the Earth Bath Grooming Wipes helps.

If your camp ground includes a tap, maybe one of those pet shower hoses will do the trick. Grip the faucet attachment to the end of the hose, turn the tap on and you are ready to clean your dog.

Sweeper/dustpan

We now travel with two double-coated dogs.

Between the sand and the hair, sweeping is something that I do daily on a camping trip. Although, I have resigned myself to the fact that I will never get it all, and some hair and sand will always elude me.
Paw protection

The pads on your dog’s paws are pretty tough. Depending on how much hiking experience they have, they may or may not need booties.

We have them because our dogs need them in winter when there is lots of snow. The temperature falls below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

I pack the booties when we go camping because many places, like Texas, have different types of sticker burs. Once at a gorgeous state park in New Mexico, there was, sadly, a lot of broken glass on the hiking trail.

Musher’s Secret Wax is fantastic for keeping the pads soft, smooth, and in good condition while doing lots of hiking and outdoor adventure.

Bear Spray

Where you are journeying to will dictate whether bear spray will be necessary.

We often hike and camp in areas where black bears are active. We carry bear spray. We have never had to use it. We hope we never have to use it, but we have it nonetheless.

Sealine Blockerlite Dry Sack

Dry sacks should be on your camping must-have list, dogs or no dogs.

Sealine Blockerlite come in a variety of sizes and styles. We use these sacks to store the dog food, microfiber towels, rope toys, and sleeping bags. Completely waterproof and lightweight, they keep everything nice and dry. Packing is a breeze.  

Where To From Here?

Would you like to know more about the many dog-friendly campgrounds scattered amongst dog-friendly hikes and backpacking adventures? Then check out our dog-friendly resource guides. They will be very usefully for planning your next canine camping adventure. 

DOG-FRIENDLY HIKING GUIDES
Name and link to the articleState covered
Can You Hike With Dogs In National Parks?Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Utah, Maine and Virginia
Top Rated Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails Near Grand Lake CoColorado
Hiking With Dogs Off-Leash in Colorado (15 Epic Hikes)Colorado


Author - Eileen

Eileen is dog mom to 2 Shetland Sheepdogs - Shellie and her pup Bernie. They enjoy a couple of walks each day plus 2-3 sessions with the frisbee or Chuck-it! She enjoys many road trips with her dogs. She has tent camped all over the U.S. The dogs love exploring new hiking trails. Regardless of the season, Eileen has plenty to share with you about outdoor dog life whether it's in the Rockies in winter, Massachusetts in the summer or Oregon and Minnesota in between. She loves to find new off-leash parks while traveling.

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