One of the best things about camping is the flexibility it offers to bring our furry best friend with us. I hated having to leave my dog, Meatball, at home and often struggled to find an available pet sitter or a kennel I liked. Unlike flying in a plane or staying in a hotel, there are many more opportunities to bring our pet with us while camping!
For most, their pet is a huge part of their life, usually even considered a member of the family. So when planning a camping trip, it’s natural to want to take your pet with you. Pets love the outdoors just as much as we do, if not more! While camping is definitely one of the easier ways to travel, there are still some things to consider before taking your pet on a camping trip, but with some preparation, camping with pets can enhance the trip for everyone involved.
Tips for Camping with Pets
If you’re just getting started in the world of camping with pets, never fear. These tips will make camping with your pets wildly successful the first time. Since dogs are the pets most frequently taken camping, most of these tips will focus on them.
Know Your Pet and Their Health
While you might feel excited about taking your dog camping with you, not every pooch is made for camping. If your dog gets overly nervous or becomes aggressive with new situations, people, or other dogs, it may be best to leave them at home. Also, know what kind of camping trip you plan on taking. If you are more so lounging around the campsite rather than doing a ton of activities, it may be okay!
You should also consider your dog’s health before taking them camping with you. If they’re in poor health or have limited mobility, they’ll be more comfortable staying with a friend or family member while you’re away. This is especially important if you’re planning to hike at any point during your trip.
Take Them to the Vet for a Checkup
Before you leave, take your dog to the vet for a checkup. Make sure that they’re up-to-date on vaccinations and have been taking preventative medicines for heartworm, fleas, and ticks. They may come into contact with things they wouldn’t normally at home. Talk to your vet about the area you’re visiting to see if your dog needs any additional vaccinations.
Choose a Campsite that Allows Pets
Most campsites allow pets, but it’s good form to double-check ahead of time, just in case. And, although your pet may be able to come to the campsite, it might not be allowed to participate in every activity you have planned. For example, many national parks do not allow dogs on hiking trails or boardwalks. Since you never want to leave your pet unattended or in the car, it’s worth it to find a dog-friendly campsite where your dog can do everything you want to do. It is just as much their trip as it is yours!
Pack Pet Essentials
Just like you, your pet needs gear for camping. Make sure to pack:
- Food and water – Pack more than enough dog food for your trip, as well as food and water bowls. You should bring plenty of water from home or tap water instead of hydrating your dog from the campground tap as changing your dog’s water could upset their stomach. You should also bring a collapsible dog bowl and a water bottle just for your dog to help them stay hydrated on hikes and other adventures.
- Collar and tags – Make sure your dog is wearing its collar and ID tags that list your name and the cell phone you have with you in case you get separated.
- Leash and harness – Most campgrounds have a six-foot leash policy, although you should check the specific rules of the campground you’re visiting. Bringing a leash and harness will also allow you to safely go for walks and hikes with your dog, if allowed.
- Tether and stake – For times when you’re at the campsite but need your hands free for cooking or other tasks, a tether and stake keep your dog close to you but allows them to move around.
- First aid kit – There are first aid kits that include items for both humans and dogs so you don’t have to remember to pack two kits. Important items include tweezers and a small book with first aid instructions for pets.
- Poop bags – Besides being courteous to other campers, cleaning up after your pet prevents damage to the environment. Dog feces can contaminate soil and water, as well as spread noxious weeds. Just like humans, we should strive for our dogs to leave no trace. There are many biodegradable bag options to choose from at your local pet store.
- Towels – You can never predict what your dog might roll around in while you’re camping together. Bring plenty of extra towels to clean your dog off and spread over your backseat for the trip home.
- Familiar items – Pack your dog’s favorite toys and sleeping pads to help them feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar setting.
Make the Car Ride Comfortable
For camping with dogs who get stressed, even driving to the campsite can cause anxiety. To help your doggy camping trip get off on the right paw, try to make their car ride as comfortable as possible. Limit how much they can move around to help them stay safe. You can either provide them with an enclosure or buy a special seat belt for them. Give them a special treat that will keep them busy for the duration of the trip, such as a bone-shaped treat that they have to untwist in order to chew through.
Plan Pet-Friendly Activities
As mentioned previously, make sure your pet can accompany you on any activities you plan. After all, you brought your dog with you to enjoy your company. It’s important for your pet to stay with you for their safety. Changes in weather or wildlife wandering through camp can put your pup in danger. But, if you’re with them, you can help keep them safe.
Camping with Cats
While it’s less common than camping with a dog, some cat owners like to take their felines on adventures. Many of the above tips for dogs also apply to cats. However, there are some special considerations when it comes to camping with cats.
You should specifically ask if cats are allowed at campgrounds and on trails. To avoid losing your cat should they get spooked or interested in a bird, keep them on a harness and leash at all times. It’s also smart for your harness and leash to be outfitted with lights in case you need to find your kitty at night. Make sure your cat is accustomed to going outside on a leash before you even consider taking it camping.
Kitty Camping Tips
Bring a small litter box that will fit in your tent and if your cat does any of its business in the woods, be sure to pick it up. You should also pack a carrier. Your cat can safely stay in the carrier while in the car and your cat may want to sleep in it at night. Before you go on your trip, establish the carrier as a safe space that your cat can retreat to by leaving it out at home. Put favorite toys, treats, and fabric that smells like you in the carrier to help your cat associate it with comfort.
Finally, keep a close eye on your kitty. Make sure they don’t get too close to the campfire and singe their whiskers. You should also watch closely for potential predators or dangerous plants they might want to taste. On a more positive note, camping with your cat can help you slow down and pay closer attention to the nature you’re visiting.
Camping with pets has many advantages. You have the opportunity to bond with one of your favorite creatures in the great outdoors. With planning and preparation, both you and your pet can safely enjoy a camping trip together. If there’s one thing the internet has taught me, there are tons of adventure pets out there who love heading outdoors with their owners. Whether you’ve got an energetic hiking dog or a sun lounging kitty outside your camper, camping is certainly an activity you can do together.