Backpacking with a Dog


Backpacking with your dog is great fun for both you and your dog. If you are a solo walker then the extra companionship is a big plus point and can make you feel safer in some situations. I was once camping on a so-called haunted hill and even though I’m not convinced about ghosts and ghouls I did start to get a bit edgy when night fell! At around 2am, I awoke to a gently flapping tent, but my imagination began to go in a ghostly direction. I looked over at my dog who was sleeping soundly and decided that all was well and that we weren’t being haunted.

The Practicalities of Backpacking with a Dog

You know your dog best regarding how far he/she is happy to walk in a day. Some dogs get tired after a few miles and others have boundless energy. Do take into consideration if your dog is going to be able to keep up the pace.

Is your dog well behaved, do you have good control if you have to put him/her on a lead if for example you are coming up to a road, a herd of sheep or a farm. Another consideration is if your dog tends to pull on the lead.

When it is necessary to have your dog on a lead, I find that the best solution is to loop the lead through one of your trouser belt loops. This leaves your hands completely free and the dog (should) walk to heel and not pull. A short flexible nylon lead works best for this, at around 1 metre in length.

Can a Dog Sleep in a Tent?

dog in a sleeping bag

Dogs love tents and will be much happier inside with you than outside in the porch. You’re probably going to need a two-man tent though because one-man tents are notoriously small and only smaller dogs will be able to share with you.

Your dog will definitely need some protection from the cold ground and the best solution for this is a piece of foam sleeping mat cut to size. It won’t weigh much at all after it’s been sized down. If you’re taking a foam mat for yourself and tend to curl up when you sleep, then your dog can share the same mat, otherwise he/she will need a personal one.

If you use an inflatable mattress, it’s better for the dog to have a separate mat, either laid on top of the mattress if sharing with you, or placed elsewhere in the tent.

You can purchase doggy sleeping bags but you need to consider the weight you are carrying when backpacking. Therefore, it’s more practical to cover your dog with some spare clothes or a waterproof jacket for when it gets a bit chilly.

For wet weather, it’s a good idea to have a small dog towel to dry off wet fur and paws before letting your dog inside the tent.

Food and Water for your Dog

The food aspect is the biggest compromise when taking a dog because of the extra weight. Dry food is best because it won’t spoil but it does mean that your dog is going to need extra water.

In temperate climates like the UK, your dog will find water in puddles and streams and you might not have to provide it separately. However, it’s best to have some kind of bowl for giving water and you can buy collapsible dog bowls that are great for saving space in your rucksack. When feeding your dog, he/she will be quite happy to take food from the ground and will clean up fast!

Youth Hostelling with a Dog

Youth Hostelling with your dog can be tricky; in fact, not many hostels allow dogs at all. The ones that do have limited availability and visitors will need to stay in a private room, not a shared one. Your dog won’t be allowed in the kitchens, dining areas or quiet rooms. You will be asked for a small charge for your dog too – currently in 2020, this is £5.

Can I take a Dog on Public Transport?

If you’re planning on using public transport to travel around Scotland, then it’s important to know if your dog is allowed on board. Currently in 2020, Scotrail, Stagecoach and the ferry operator, Caledonian MacBrayne do allow dogs but Citylink buses do not, except for guide dogs.