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Are you bringing your pet along to camp with you for the first time? They're going to need their own camp supplies to help your getaway go smoothly. Whether you're glamping or boondocking, there are some basic pet supplies you'll want to have on hand.
First, let's think through what your pet's day will look like while camping. They'll spend the entire day with you -- relaxing at your campsite while you cook your meals over the fire, hiking or swimming with you when you go off on adventures, and sleeping with you in your tent or camper overnight. Now, let's take a look at what they'll need for those things!
Around the Campsite
Whether you have a tent or a camper, the first thing you'll probably do when you arrive at your campsite is set up your site. Since cars can overheat quickly in the summer, you'll need to get your pet out of the car while you're setting things up.
Make sure that you have everything you need to contain your pet at your site packed right on top for easy access. Here's a few options for keeping your pet safely in your site:
Leash: Sometimes the most obvious answer is the best one! Simply attach your pet's leash to a tree or picnic table to quickly contain them while you set up camp. Word to the wise: Use a biothane leash while camping! It won't absorb wood smoke, it's water proof, and it can be cleaned with a quick wipe down.
Tie Out: If you have room on your site for your pet to move around more, you can always use a biothane longline or a stronger, coated cable to contain your pet. Make sure that the line can't wrap around or knock over anything in your site. I recommend using a back clip harness, the Ruffwear Flagline for dogs or the RC Pets Adventure Kitty for cats, when your pet is on a tie out to help prevent whiplash or other injuries when they reach the end of the tie out. If there isn't a tree, picnic table, or anything else suitable to attach the tie out too, you may want to use a stake that twists into the ground to secure your pet's tie out. Make sure that you test out this system at home to ensure that the stake is secure when your pet pulls against it!
Play Pen: Whether you have a dog or a cat, a play pen can be a great option for keeping your pet contained safely at your site. Most pets could actually hop out of a play pen if they're motivated to do so, so make sure to either train your pet to stay in the pen or chose a pen with a roof to keep them inside.
Dog Play Pen: My favorite play pen for our dogs is a simple metal pen that humans can easily step over, like the 30" pen from Midwest Homes for Pets. These pens can easily be connected to create a larger play area. You can even set them up flush with the sides of your tent or camper so that you can easily let your pet in and out for potty breaks. We train our dogs to stay in their pen, but it never hurts to let your dog drag a leash and/or wear their e-collar just to be safe!
Cat Play Pen: For the cats, we prefer a pen with a roof like the Pet Gear Travel Lite Portable Play Pen. It's breathable mesh and ability to collapse down flat make it perfect for a camping play pen! Determined kitties may be able to claw through this mesh, so make sure to acclimate your pet to the pen at home.
Sealed Food Container: Dog and cat food smells like a delicious snack to many wild animals. In fact, many zookeeper and wildlife rehabbers feed dog and cat food to wild animals in their care! Make sure that your pet's food container seals tightly and can be stored in your tent, camper, or vehicle to keep it safe from hungry critters.
Place: Giving your pet a spot to relax can help them settle in more quickly at your site (although if they're anything like Korra, they'll just lay on the gravel anyway!). We like to use yoga mats, lightweight fleece blankets, or rag towels for our pets' places when we camp. We leave the cushy beds at home, so we don't have to mess with washing them!
Poop Bags: "Leave no trace" applies to your pets too! Pack out their poop to prevent spreading diseases to native wildlife. Even if poop and poop bags are biodegradable and your pet is healthy, it will take a looooong time for it to break down. Packing it out is best. If your kitty prefers a litter box, don't forget to bring that along too! We like to order an extra Kitty Poo Club box for vacations, since it collapses down easily to save on space in the car.
When we go camping, we usually plan an offsite adventure or two (or more!). Make sure to choose a pet-friendly adventure so you don't have to leave your pets behind. Most campgrounds don't allow that anyway! The two most common adventures we take our pets on during camping trips are hikes or swimming at the beach. Here's what we like to bring along for those adventures, depending on the leash laws and each pet's level of training:
Harness: On the less busy trails, we like to give our pets a little more freedom to explore than we do on a loose leash walk in the city. We switch the dogs over to their Ruffwear Flagline harnesses and use the RC Pets Adventure Kitty harness for the cats to let them know that they are free to explore a little more! We use harnesses for the cats wherever we go, but we prefer collars for the dogs at the beach since they are easier to wash.
Longline: A nice longline gives your pet the room to safely explore without having to worry about whether or not you've proofed their recall well enough. The Signature K9 Biothane Longline is my favorite for the dogs and the cats. Since it's waterproof, it's also a great choice at the beach!
Poop Bags: Yep, "Leave no trace" applies on your adventures too! Pack out their poop to prevent spreading diseases to native wildlife. Even if poop and poo bags are biodegradable and your pet is healthy, it will take a looooong time for it to break down. Packing it out is best.
Water Bottle: It can be tricky to fit a big water bowl in your adventure bag! We opt for a travel water bottle instead to save on space. If you use the Ollydog Ollybottle with a detachable bowl, you'll be able to drink out of the bottle too without sharing it directly with your pet. Slobber free is the way to be!
Carrying Tools: If your pet gets injured or simply needs a break while you're out on your adventure, how will you carry them?
Cat Back Pack: For the cats, we always bring along our Ibiyaya Cat Backpack. If they don't feel like hiking, they can rest inside it, if we encounter other pets when we're out and about we can easily scoop them up and into their pack for safety, and if they're ever injured they can ride to safety in the pack.
Dog Sling: While our dogs are probably light enough for us to carry back via their harnesses, that's not really what the harness is designed for. We always pack an emergency sling -- just in case they get too injured to walk. Make sure to practice carrying your pet in this sling at home, so that it's not something new and scary on top of being injured if you ever need it!
Sleeping should be something your pet has down by now, right? Well, it's a whole different ballgame when there's only a thin tent or camper wall between your pet and the outside world! Where will your pet sleep when you're camping?
We transport our pets to the campsite in their Ruffland Kennels for safety, so we already have those on hand for them to sleep in. Sleeping in this familiar place makes it easy for them to settle in quickly! Since we usually sleep in a different room than our pets at home, we spent a few practice nights sleeping with their crates in the same room as us and even a night or two in our tent in the backyard to make sure they were prepared for camping! If you plan to have your pet loose in your tent or camper overnight, I highly recommend spending a few practice nights in your driveway or backyard to see how they do loose in your camper as opposed to your bedroom! You may want to still bring along a place blanket or towel for them to sleep on in case they find that more comfy than your slippery sleeping bag.
There it is! Your list of camping essentials for your pet. Stock up and head out to enjoy this big, beautiful world with your pet at your side! Have all of your camping supplies, but still nervous about how your pet will behave on your next camping trip? Join the King's Creatures Adventure Team Club for the training you and your pet need to transform into a calm, confident Adventure Team that can enjoy any adventure -- camping, therapy animal work, you name it! -- together!