Backpacking with your dog is an amazing experience that we would recommend to anyone.
However, if you’re going to be backpacking in cold weather, you want to make sure you keep not only yourself warm, but your four legged hiking buddy too!
A dog’s fur will absolutely keep your dog warm… up to a point. But, you can’t just depend on their fur to keep them warm if the temperatures really drop – especially overnight.
Don’t worry, in this article we’re going to go over our best tips for how to keep your dog warm while backpacking so you can hit the trail with your hiking partner with confidence.
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Tips For Keeping Your Dog Warm On The Trail
Know Your Dog
This is truly the number one tip I can give you.
Know Your Dog.
Depending on your dog’s breed, age, health, etc they can respond VERY differently to the same weather. What might be cold for one dog may be perfectly comfortable for another.
This can also be very dependent on what your dog is acclimatized to. If you live up north and you’re outside in cold weather all the time, your dog will probably respond differently than someone hiking on vacation from a southern state.
The point is, you really need to know your dog and how your dog will respond to cold weather.
The best way to find out is to start taking your dog on walks early in the morning when it’s coldest outside. Or just sit on the porch for 30 minutes.
Pay attention to the temperature and how your dog responds. If they look comfortable, relaxed and not shivering and ready to go back inside – that’s a good sign.
Don’t wait until your miles out on a trail to realize that cold weather backpacking is going to be miserable for your furry companion.
Keep Your Dog Dry
This may be easier said than done if your dog enjoys the water (any water!) as much as our girl Mia.
But, keeping your dog dry in cold weather is one of the keys to keeping them warm on the trail.
Be mindful that keeping them dry is not just a matter of keeping them out of lakes and streams. Snow on the ground or early morning dew can also accumulate moisture on their coat and make them more susceptible to cold air.
I like to keep a microfiber towel with me to dry our dogs off when necessary. Then I’ll clip it to my pack to let it dry back off in the sun.
Proper Gear For Keeping Your Dog Warm
Avid hikers usually won’t think twice about dropping some money on all the gear they need to be prepared for the elements. It should be no different for dog!
Getting them the proper gear to help them stay warm on those cold hikes can make all the difference!
Staying Warm During the Day
Would you go out backpacking in cold, and perhaps wet, conditions without a jacket? Of course not!
Insulated Weather Resistant Jacket
Keeping your dog warm on the trail is the same as it is for us. The key is to stay dry and insulate heat. For these two reasons we use this Ruffwear Insulated Jacket. It’s water resistant which in my opinion is key in a dog jacket in case of rain or snow.
Now, does every dog need a jacket? I don’t think so, but that goes back to really knowing your dog. If you have a thick haired husky who is out in cold weather all the time, they may just fine in most cold temperatures.
However, a short haired dog that spends most of their time snuggled up on the couch where it’s nice and warm. I would seriously consider getting them some proper gear to help protect them against the cold, rain and wind.
Dog Boots can be particularly helpful in cold weather when conditions are wet. A set of boots will help keep snow and ice from accumulating on your dog’s paws.
This will help protect your hiking buddy not only from the cold, but against their paws becoming dry, cracked and painful.
As a bonus, dog boots are also great for protecting your pup’s feet from the ground on those really hot summer days as well.
My favorite are the Ruffwear Dog Boots. As you you’ve probably noticed, Jen and I are big fans of Ruffwear. I think all of their gear is the best performing, most durable gear that you can buy for dogs and their pricing is very reasonable.
Staying Warm at Night
Once you’ve settled in to your tent at the end of the day, the most important thing you can do to keep your dog warm at night is to create a barrier between them and the ground (this goes for you too!)
Both dogs and people can lose a ton of heat through the ground. Creating a barrier between you and the ground helps to stop this transfer of heat.
Our favorite piece of gear for this is this Ruffwear Sleeping Bag for Dogs. I love it for a lot of reasons. First, it’s designed so you dog can sleep in it or on top of it. For us, Chompers likes to lay on top of hers, but Mia will snuggle up inside it.
Two, it’s durable. Both of our dogs have a tendency to want to ‘dig’ at their sleeping spot before laying down and this bag has stood up to the wear and tear. This also protects my sleeping bag and tent from being dug at as well which could lead to punctures and tears.
Finally, it packs up SMALL. If it’s a one night trip, you can pack the sleeping bag in your own bag, but if you need all the space in your bag you can attach it to your dog’s own backpack harness and they can carry it themselves!
Final Thoughts on Keeping Your Dog Warm While Backpacking
For me, the keys to helping your dog stay warm on those cold backpacking adventures is to know your dog, keep them as dry as possible and to make sure you’re prepared with the proper gear.
For the most part, if you just give your four legged hiking companion the same thought and planning to prepare them for the cold as you do yourself, then you won’t have any issues!
Now go enjoy a cold weather backpacking trip with your dog!