8 Must-Knows for Winter Camping & Hiking with Your Dog

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you and your furry best friend can’t enjoy some outdoor fun. If you’re looking to do a winter camping trip with your dog, then check out our tips below to learn how to keep your dog warm while winter camping, plus other essentials for cold weather adventures with your pup.

1. Know Your Dog and Be Realistic

Some dogs are better built for cold weather, while others may get cold more quickly and strongly prefer to stay indoors. Be sure to respect what your dog can handle, and be realistic. If you are unsure about winter camping with your dog, take a hike on a cold day to see how they handle it before committing to an overnight trip.

2. Check That the Park is Dog-Friendly

After being realistic about what your dog can handle, make sure your dog is allowed in the park you’ll be visiting. Some parks and recreation centers only allow dogs in certain areas, whereas other places forbid dogs altogether. Most parks state their dog policy on their webpage. Below are examples of state parks that are open year-round and have liberal pet policies, perfect for winter camping with your dog:

  • Lovewell State Park, Kansas
  • Dworshak State Park, Idaho
  • Chatfield State Park, Colorado
  • Mistletoe State Park Campground, Georgia
  • Brown County State Park, Indiana

Search for other state parks near you and check the pet policies listed on the Overview page, as well as on specific campsites (noted with a dog icon).

3. Give Your Pup Added Layers

With the exception of dogs bred to live in freezing temperatures, like Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies, most dogs need help staying warm outdoors in winter. This means letting them sleep in the tent, camper or cabin, and providing them with a warm outer layer. You should pack:

  • A dog jacket – layer up your pup with extra insulation in the form of a jacket or vest. There are a range of options out there, including waterproof and fleece-lined. Choose one that is appropriately thick enough for weather. Although it may seem silly to pack a doggie wardrobe, bringing a couple of pieces is wise in helping them comfortably confront the elements.
  • An absorbent towel – your dog is likely to get wet while winter camping, so bring a towel that can quickly dry them off.
  • A bed, sleeping bag and blanket – just like you, Fido needs padding to insulate him from the freezing ground via a bed or mattress. Tent campers may also want to lay down a tarp to keep themselves and their dog warm. Additionally, your doggo will be more comfortable with a specialized canine sleeping bag to curl into at night and a wool or fleece blanket to layer over him.


4. Consider Booties to Protect Their Paws

While a dog’s paws can handle extreme weather better than our bare feet can, they risk cracking or cuts from exposure to the snow and ice. Try a set of dog booties to protect their paws from the cold and the rigors of the trail. 

Pro Tip: Be sure to try the booties on at home several times before the trip. Your dog may walk funny at first, but they should become accustomed to them somewhat quickly. Try encouraging their walking in the booties by giving treats as rewards. If they don’t get used to the booties, you may need to try a different type. 

If you opt not to use booties on your winter camping or hiking trip, periodically check between the paw pads for painful ice balls. Since bare paws in snow and ice mean your pup will get colder faster, also be sure to dry and warm their paws every few hours. In addition, using a product like paw wax or balm on your dog’s feet can also help protect their paw pads by keeping them moisturized and supple.


5. Think Bright Colors

Your dog may be harder to see in a snow-blanketed landscape. To quickly find your good boy or girl, choose dog gear – like collars, jackets and harnesses – in brighter colors. Loud shades, especially blaze orange, is a must if your camping trip coincides with hunting season. And since the sun drops sooner in winter, consider a light-up dog collar to spot your pup after dark.


6. Watch for Hypothermia

Although typically heartier than their human companions, dogs are still susceptible to hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia include:

  • Slow breathing
  • Shivering 
  • Stumbling
  • Whimpering
  • Feeling cold to the touch
  • Dilated pupils

If you dog exhibits any of these symptoms, warm them up immediately with blankets or a sleeping bag.  If symptoms continue, seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.


7. Keep Them Hydrated 

Most people know to pack plenty of water for themselves and their four-legged hiking companion on a warm day, and the same is true when it’s cold out. The considerable effort it takes to trek through wintry conditions can cause dehydration and exhaustion just as much as heat. Signs of dehydration and exhaustion include refusing to walk, or noticeably slowing down and lagging behind the pack. You can avoid dehydration and exhaustion by stopping to rest and hydrate regularly.


8. Nutrient-Rich Food and Snacks

When winter camping with your dog, it is especially important to choose nutrient-rich, high-energy foods and snacks. Your dog will be burning more calories navigating snowy terrain, as well as burning energy just to stay warm. Be sure to increase their calorie intake by giving them more food than usual. If you are unsure about the quality of their food, talk to your vet or visit a specialty pet store, to find products that deliver the rights protein, fats, vitamins and minerals your dog needs for winter treks.

By following these tips, you’ll have a pup that is warm, dry and ready for some winter camping and hiking fun.


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