I’m worried my dog is going to tear a hole in my ultralight quilt or sleeping bag while in the tent.
This can be a valid concern, especially if your dog likes to make a nest and turn in numerous circles before settling down for the night. However, with some common sense and training you can easily keep your lightweight sleeping bag safe. If your dog is retiring to the tent before you, I suggest not pulling your bag out and laying it in there unattended with your dog. Leave the bag in your stuff sack or even better, in your pack liner so it can fluff up and still be protected. Generally, I let Karluk in the tent before me, but I oversee him going in. Instead of letting him make a nest, I command him to sit, lie down, and relax (teaching your dog to relax or settle at home can be very handy when out in the wilderness in new places).
I don’t want my dog to pop my high-end sleeping pad.
With high-end air mattresses like the Therma-Rest Neo Air or Sea to Summit series of pads pushing the $200 mark, you are correct to be concerned with putting a hole in your pad. I will say this though, I used a Neo-Air on the Continental Divide Trail thru-hike I did in 2016 and got 4 holes in it all together. The material they use is much tougher than many of us realize.
The number one way to help prevent a hole in your pad (or quilt or tent floor) is to make sure you keep your dog’s nails trimmed short and smooth. Although, even a freshly trimmed a dog’s nail can be jagged when freshly cut. To help prevent one of these nails from damaging your UL gear, try taking a small file to smooth out your dog’s nails prior to going out in the field, an even better way to achieve smoother nails is to take your dog on daily long walks, the more your dog walks on concrete in particular the smoother their nails will become form the natural wear this rough surface provides.
I always have a dedicated sleeping pad for my dog. We have been using the Gossamer Gear Night Light Torso Pad. This pad doubles as my backpack’s padding, and then at night I pull it out and unfold it for Karluk to sleep on. However, he quickly figured out that once I am snoring away, he can put his back along our tent wall and slide me right off my pad onto his. Many a morning I wake up on the small pad only to see Karluk spread out in all his glory on my Neo-Air. After 7 years of this common occurrence, I treated Karluk to his very own Neo-air. Now when we backpack together, I just carry the extra 11 oz. for him to be comfortable at night. I’m glad he “told” me which pad helped him get a better night’s rest.
I’m worried my dog is going to tear the bottom of my tent.
Just like your sleeping pad, sleeping bag or quilt, the number one cause of damage will be untrimmed nails or nails with sharp edges. To avoid ripping the floor out of an UL shelter that very well might have cost you $600, I recommend a few things:
- Do not leave your dog unattended in the tent if they have a tendency to dig, or make a nest to sleep in, as a quick swipe could become a big hole.
- Use something to protect the floor of your tent. Two great items would be a UL polycryo ground sheet
for the spring and summer. In the winter I use a mylar space blanket for the extra warmth and a good protective barrier.
- Consider putting some socks on your dog when you go into the tent. Ruffwear makes a great set of these called the Bark’N Boot Liners which work well. Or consider bringing a couple of pairs of baby socks to do the job.
Now besides protecting your gear from tears, holes and virtual mass destruction from your dog, here are a few other FAQ’s I get about taking your dog backpacking:
How do I deal with a wet dog wanting in the tent?
For this I always pack a Shamwow (or similar light weight pack towel) that I can use to dry Karluk off from the rain and mud to help keep us both dry and clean at night.
How do I keep my dog safe when cowboy camping?
Sleeping under the stars is one of the most rewarding things a backpacker can do to feel their connection with the cosmos… I always clip Karluk to his leash at night, and the tie the leash to my pack. This prevents him from wandering around at night, potentially being injured by something. This also helps protect wildlife from being disturbed by his presence.
What’s the best way to keep my dog warm at night?
While keeping your dog warm with your own coat is super nice (and super cute), there is gear made just for Fido.
This is not only important for keeping them comfortable. Just like you, it will help them conserve much needed calories. I do two things to keep Karluk warm at night. First, I always carry a Ruffwear Quinzee Jacket, this light weight synthetic puffy is the perfect layer for Karluk to wear in the evenings around camp. Second, as mentioned above, Karluk gets to use good backpacking gear too. Often, I snuggle under my quilt at night with him, and it is one of the many reasons I love a quilt versus a sleeping bag. I can get him settled down beside me then drape my quilt over the two of us for a warm night’s sleep.
I hope some of these tips and answers to the common FAQ’s have been helpful. Overall, backpacking with your dog can be a wonderful experience, and a great way to bond with your pup in the backcountry. Keep the nails trimmed, and the dog well outfitted with their own pad and sleep system. After a full day of hiking, they should be just as tired as you, and will likely lay down calmly to sleep in natures wonder.
Portland, Oregon resident and Katabatic Gear ambassador Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa has hiked over 6,000 miles with his canine companions over the years. He is a sought-after speaker, teaching people about responsible backcountry use with their dog, ultra-light hiking and a variety of hiking-related topics. You can find out more about his adventures with his dog on his website, https://www.allgoodsk9adventures.com/ or his other site www.thedagodiares.com.