- Forget shelters. Trying to stay in a shelter with a dog is a recipe for disaster. If I don’t want my own wet and stinky dog on my $600 down bag, others in the shelter don’t want my dog near their $600 down bag. We stayed in the empty Woods Hole Shelter near Blood Mountain, and I honestly wouldn’t choose to stay in an empty shelter again. It was really difficult to make sure Sheila wasn’t going to go bounding into the darkness after a raccoon or something in the middle of the night. It is for these and many other reasons why it is best to shy away from shelters and to stick to tenting.
- Be courteous in camp. Show some common courtesy and ask if anyone minds if your bring your dog into camp. It has been my experience that they won’t mind at all, but be prepared to move on if someone has a problem. Be sure to keep your dog on a leash while in camp. I know I just said avoid shelters, which means you will be tenting, and if your backpacking during the peak time of year, you will probably be camping with other folks nearby. You will probably see these people on and off for a few days, so do the right thing, and avoid conflict.
- Don’t let your dog near the water source. This also seems to be a big point of contention on the trail, so if your pooch likes to cool off in the stream, make sure you keep them on a leash when passing by or filtering water. Even though we all carry these high-tech filters that filter down to 2 microns, the idea of drinking water downstream from a dog tends to weird people out. Also, don’t let your dog drink directly from the source. This could lead to a nasty bout of giardia for your pooch.
- Pick up after your pooch. If your dog leaves a pile in the middle of the trail, follow Leave No Trace practices and move it 200 feet off trail and bury in a 6 to 8 inch cat-hole. Carry baggies for in-town errands.
- Be able to take physical control of your dog quickly. I know the pains of trying to hike with a leashed dog, and I don’t think it is necessary to keep your animal leashed at all times, but being able to take physical control of them quickly is key to avoiding mishaps on the trail. You never really know when another hiker will appear around the bend (or come up from behind) or when an animal might appear or a particularly treacherous section comes up. Being able to take control of your animal quickly could prevent injury and confrontation.
Ollydog Mt. Tam Hands-Free Dog Leash - This leash isn't the lightest or the cheapest, but it works wonderfully. It has a simple system for strapping it around your waist and a very sturdy clasp. My only complaint is that the bungee part is a little stiff, and if your not careful your dog can jerk you down a mountain a little too quickly. Sheila tends to be much better behaved off of the leash than on, but we keep this for town and for camp.
Guyot Designs Squishy Pet Bowl - We got this bowl in the 24oz size. What can I say? It's lightweight, it's durable, it's foldable! I wanted something I could just shove anywhere and not have to worry about it being wet. This fits the billet!
Therm-a-rest RidgeRest SOlite Sleeping Pad - We cut this down to size for Sheila. It offers moderate protection from the cold ground and gives her a clue about where her "spot" is in the tent. This rolls up nicely and straps to the outside of my pack.
The people at TeamUnruly give a great walkthrough on how to make a tiny first aid kit for your dog and they are the ones that inspired me to pack as much of the kit as possible into the prescription bottle. When all is said and done, it packs down into a pint-sized ziplock.