BringFido’s Guide to Camping With Dogs

Posted by Lauren Barker

Whether you’re planning a family vacation or a weekend getaway, tent camping in the great outdoors can be the ultimate vacation for you and your dog. But before you start packing, follow these pet-friendly camping tips to ensure you and your four-legged friend make the most of your trip.

1. Know Before You Go

Your tent should have plenty of space for you and your dog. Photo by @macofer

Before you plan an excursion, make sure your pup is a good fit for camping. Dogs that are known to bark excessively, lack social skills or prefer to spend their days in the comfort of home may not be ready to camp. Whether you’re staying in a busy campground or at a primitive campsite, there are many distractions that can ruffle Fido’s fur, including other campers and wildlife.

A trial run or two will let you know if camping is in Fido’s DNA. Start small by camping in the backyard or close to home. This will help determine if your canine camper is content with the new space and sounds. If you’re not convinced, do it a few more times to get him into a routine.

You also need to make sure Fido is healthy enough for the adventure. Take him to the vet for a checkup and ensure he’s up to date on his vaccinations. You never know who or what he’ll come into contact with in the wilderness. Be sure your pup is on a monthly preventative for heartworm disease, fleas and ticks. Heartworm is carried by mosquitoes, so if you’re going to be camping in a wet or humid environment, your dog needs to be protected. Check out our Guide to Flea and Tick Season to learn more. While you’re at the vet, it’s a good idea to get your dog microchipped as well.

2. Learn the Laws of the Land

Look for dog-friendly activities near your campsite. Photo by

Once you’re sure Fido will be happy “ruffing” it, find out the rules at your chosen campground. Most dog-friendly sites won’t charge an extra fee for furry friends, but confirm ahead of time and be aware of any rules and restrictions. State and local parks, National Forests, and Bureau of Land Management lands are often very welcoming to pets, as are most National Park campsites. You can also count on KOAs to allow four-legged campers.

After you’ve chosen your destination, research nearby activities that will welcome your pup. Some campgrounds offer dog parks, while others may have dog-friendly hiking trails, swimming, canoeing and more. Find the most dog-friendly campground in your state, or use BringFido's app to search for dog-friendly attractions near your chosen campground.

3. Pack Your Pup’s Essentials

A travel bowl and plenty of water are essentials on any camping trip. Photo by @benztheshep

Now you’re ready to start packing! Camping with dogs may require additional baggage. Essentials like dog food, water, treats, packable or collapsible bowls, and waste bags should top the list. Sign up for a BringFido account and upload your pet’s vaccine records for easy access. Bring a pet first-aid kit that includes bandages, antiseptic, gauze, medical tape, blunt-end scissors and tweezers. We also recommend a harness and tie-out stake or cable system to give you both a little freedom to roam. Just remember to never leave your pup unattended.

Prepare for the weather, too. Towels to wipe muddy paws or wet fur, a paw plunger like the Dexas Mudbuster, a canopy for shade, and extra blankets may be necessary. Your pup should be outfitted with an ID that includes contact information, a collar with his rabies tag, and a light so he can be seen at night.

"Best dog bed ever!"Photo by @misty_thehusky

If you’re new to camping, consider the following before purchasing equipment like a tent, sleeping bag or sleeping pad:

  • How many two- and four-legged campers will be staying in the tent? Tent occupancy ranges from single-person to family size. Count your dog as an extra person when deciding which size to buy.
  • What elements will you likely be facing? It’s a good idea to purchase a tent that comes with a footprint, which covers the ground beneath the tent to keep it warm and protect the bottom from wear and tear. A rainfly to cover the tent in case of wet weather is another must-have.
  • Weather should also play a part in determining which sleeping bag is best for you. Typically, a sleeping bag with a temperature rating of +30 or higher should be used in summer, and +15 or lower in winter. If you plan on camping year-round, a bag between +15 and +30 is ideal.
  • The shape of the sleeping bag is another factor to consider. Mummy and semi-rectangular bags often provide the most warmth and are light to pack, but if your pup likes to share the covers, a rectangular bag with more room may be the best way to go. You can even purchase a dog sleeping bag so you won’t have to share.
  • If you want a little cushion between you and the ground, invest in a sleeping mat. Animal nails can be “ruff” on equipment, so while inflatable sleeping mats provide comfort, they can often be easily punctured. Look for a foam pad like the RidgeRest Classic by Thermarest, which is not only durable but extremely lightweight.

4. Practice Good Camp Etiquette

Make the most of your time together. Photo by @molokai_the_dog

Once you’ve arrived and set up camp, follow these rules and best practices:

  • Dog food can attract insects and wild animals. Put it away when it isn’t mealtime, and store it in a bear-resistant canister or hang it out of reach using a rodent-proof storage container.
  • Keep your pup on a leash while in the campground or when hiking, and stay on marked trails. Dogs who wander off the beaten path risk coming into contact with poisonous plants, seeds that adhere to fur, wild animals or stinging insects.
  • Have a plan in place if you need to visit a restroom, shower house or camp store where dogs are not welcome.
  • Avoid leaving pets unattended at campsites, in tents or in a vehicle.
  • Always clean up after your pet, even if it isn’t in the path of foot traffic. Leaving your dog’s waste behind can result in contamination of water and soil.
  • Finally, remember that a camping adventure with your dog is about escaping the hustle and bustle of daily life and connecting with nature. So turn off your electronics, forget everyday worries and enjoy your time with Fido in the great outdoors. You’ll both be thankful for the getaway!

Do you have any other tips to share about camping with your dog? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!