What to Bring When Camping with a Dog in the Desert

The desert isn’t always the top choice when it comes to camping destinations with dogs. Camping in the desert brings more challenges compared to camping in the woods, especially when you bring your dog along. As it’s more of an unknown, it’s important to know what to take when camping with a dog in the desert.

Here’s our complete list of what to take when camping with a dog in the desert:

  1. Water
  2. Food 
  3. Leash and harness
  4. Dog booties
  5. First aid kit
  6. Doggie jacket
  7. Brush or comb
  8. Plastic bags
  9. Dog toys
  10. Large tent.

These are ten of the most essential camping items to help keep your dog comfortable and safe in the desert. While you may not end up needing everything listed, it’s always better to prepare for the unexpected. in this article, we will dig into each of the 10 items, explaining why they are so important on that list of what to bring when camping with a dog in the desert.

Your Dog Needs Plenty of Water

Water is the most important item to take camping in the desert, for both you and your dog. Always bring lots of water to stay hydrated. This is especially important if you’re hiking to your camping spot.

Dehydration is a major concern for anyone – pets or humans. Signs of dehydration include fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. To avoid these issues, bring enough water based on your dog’s weight.

The typical dog needs about one cup of water per ten pounds of body weight. In the desert, they may need extra water.

While a 50-pound dog may only drink 5 cups of water at home, he may need 50% to 100% more during his stay in the desert. To be safe, you may want to double the typical amount and bring about 16 ounces (2 cups) per 10 pounds of body weight. 

How to check if your dog is dehydrated

Bring Lots of Food and a Container

Your dog also needs extra nutrition to sustain his or her energy levels throughout the camping trip.

Make sure that you pack enough food for the entire trip, along with some extra. Your dog may eat more than normal, as he or she will be exerting more energy while hiking across the desert.

There are several convenient ways to bring dog food without taking up a lot of space in your camping gear. Use collapsible dog bowls, which can also be used for water. You should also store the food in a sealable container or bag.

Pack a Comfortable Dog Harness

A leash is a necessary accessory when taking your dog anywhere. While a leash helps keep your dog from running off and exploring on his own, you cannot lift your dog with a leash.

The harness is a simple accessory that is easily overlooked when packing a camping bag for your dog. It’s also a great way to get your dog through areas that he cannot climb

For example, you may reach a small ravine, crevasse, or boulder that you cannot work your way around. With a harness, you can safely get your dog to the other side.

Protect the Paws with Dog Booties

Without protection, your dog’s paws are at risk of cracking and blistering. If you don’t notice the injured paws immediately, they could become infected.

You can purchase lightweight dog booties that help protect your dog’s paws. These booties are typically made of breathable material with thick pads on the bottom. They’ll shield the bottoms of your dog’s paws without causing too much discomfort. 

If your dog can’t stand having shoes on his paws, another option is to use a protective salve. There are various products such as wax ointment that you can place on your dog’s paws before going outside. The waxy material will protect the paws while still allowing perspiration.

First Aid Kit for Emergency Injuries

You shouldn’t go camping or hiking in the desert without a first aid kit. Luckily, everything that you need to treat doggie injuries can be found in a standard kit intended for humans.

Gauze pads, adhesive tape, cotton balls, tweezers, alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment, and ice packs should be included in most first aid kits. 

If it’s not included, you may also want to add a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. This can be used to induce vomiting if your dog decides to swallow something that he shouldn’t.

Doggie Jacket for Sun Protection and Warmth

A lightweight doggie jacket or breathable shirt can help shield your dog from the sun during the day. Depending on where you’re camping, the temperature may get extremely warm. Providing a little protection can help keep your dog cool. 

You should also bring a few extra layers or a blanket for the night time. While the temperature may get hot during the day, it can drop dramatically at night. Keep your dog warm inside your tent with a fleece blanket or coat.

Pack a Brush or Comb to Get Rid of Burrs

There are plenty of plants in the desert for your dog to smell, lick, and taste. Unfortunately, there are also lots of plants with burrs and spines that can cling to your dog’s hair. Even with a short coat of fur, your dog can attract a wide range of debris by the end of the day.

Before letting your dog into the tent at night, brush his coat out with a brush or comb. Get rid of the tangles and remove anything that was collected while walking through the desert.

Bring Plastic Bags for Cleaning Up Waste

Even in the desert, you still need to clean up after your dog. Bring plastic bags to clean up the waste.

If you’re worried about the smell of the waste, bring a sealable plastic bag that you can store the waste in. When camping in the desert, you should still have access to water spigots and waste barrels at various points. When you reach these spots, dispose of the waste.

Pack a Few Favorite Dog Toys

Some dogs don’t easily adapt to life outdoors. When taken away from the comfort of their home territory, your dog may exhibit signs of anxiety or stress. This includes sulking or pacing in circles. Excessive panting and uncharacteristic behavior may also indicate that your pet is stressed.

Use dog toys to relieve some of the tension and keep your dog happy throughout the trip.

Use a Large Tent to Give Your Dog Space

Your dog may be your best friend, but even best friends need a little space from time to time. Use a large tent to give your dog some extra room at night. 

Instead of packing a one-person tent, consider using a tent that features multiple vestibules. You can sleep in one area while giving your dog space in another section.

Your dog is also likely to pick up dirt, sand, and debris while out in the desert. At the end of the day, he or she will track everything into the tent. With a large tent, you can keep your dog in the front area to prevent sand from getting in all your gear.

Is Camping in the Desert with Your Dog a Good Idea?

Why should you take your dog camping? Most dogs love the outdoors. It’s a great way to get fresh air and exercise. 

While camping can be a great experience for both you and your dog, there are a few added risks when camping in the desert.

Some of the biggest concerns, problems, and risks that you should be aware of include the following:

  • Heat and dehydration
  • Toxic plants
  • Dangerous animals and snakes

Heat and dehydration are the biggest threats. If you bring the must-have items discussed, you should be prepared for these issues. Remember to pack plenty of water and a lightweight cover for added shade.

Plants are also a potential danger. Prickly cactus spines can stick to your dog’s hair or paws. There are also some plants in the wild that are toxic to animals when ingested. Learn more about the local plant life to know which plants to avoid.

Scorpions and snakes may also pose a risk. Dogs are curious creatures and may chase after one of these critters if given the chance. Always keep your dog on a leash connected to a safety harness so that you can keep your dog away from any animals or critters that you may come across.

Precautions for Keeping Your Dog Safe and Happy

Besides packing the must-have items discussed, you can take extra precautions to increase the chances of having a great camping trip with your dog. 

If you’re hiking to your camping spot, make sure that you take regular breaks. Stop at least once every 30 minutes and give your dog water and some food. 

During these breaks, you should also inspect your dog’s paws, especially if you’re not using dog boots or shoes. Check for signs of cracking or blisters. If the paws are injured, apply an antibiotic ointment and wrap them in gauze until you can get back to civilization.

If there are any extra items that your dog is used to having around, you may want to bring them as well. For example, bringing their favorite blanket or dog bed may help them feel more at home when resting in the tent at night.

With these precautions, you should be set for a great time camping in the desert with your dog.


Michelle loves enjoying the outdoors with her dogs. She grew in a big house near the beach with German Shepherds. Nowadays, Michelle has down-sized her dogs to poodles, proving small dogs can enjoy the outdoors too! Her dogs enjoy playing fetch, swimming, and long walks. Michelle and her dogs enjoy escaping the city limits to hike, camp, and swim.

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