9. Hydration (extra water). Figure what you’ll drink between water sources, and then add an extra liter. If you plan to rely on wilderness water sources, be sure to include some method of purification, whether a chemical additive, such as iodine, or a filtration device.
10. Emergency shelter. This can be as simple as a few extra-large garbage bags, or something more efficient, such as a reflective space blanket or tube tent. In addition to these essentials, I add an emergency survival kit. This tiny package at the bottom of my pack holds a small metal mirror, an emergency Mylar blanket, a whistle and a tiny signal smoke canister—all useful for signaling to search parties whether they are on the ground or in the air.
Here is a list of equally important essentials for your dog.
The Ten Canine Essentials
1. Obedience training. Before you set foot on a trail, make sure your dog is trained and can be trusted to behave when faced with other hikers, other dogs, wildlife and an assortment of strange scents and sights in the backcountry. If he can’t behave, don’t take him hiking.
2. Doggy backpack (for longer hikes). Let the dog carry his own gear. Dogs can be trained to carry gear in their backpacks, but, to avoid developmental problems, don’t put packs on dogs younger than a year old.
3. Basic first aid kit. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends a checklist of items for your dog’s first aid kit. The Red Cross also offers classes in pet first aid.
4. Dog food and trail treats. You should pack more food than your dog normally consumes because he will be burning more calories than normal, and if you do end up having to spend an extra night out there, you need to keep the pup fed, too. Trail treats serve the same purpose for the dog as they do for you—quick energy and a pick-me-up during a strenuous day of hiking.
5. Water and water bowl. Don’t count on there being water along the trail for the dog. Pack enough extra water to meet all your dog’s drinking needs.
6. Leash and collar, or harness. Even if your dog is absolutely trained to voice command and stays at heel without a leash, sometimes leashes are required by law or just by common courtesy, so you should have one handy at all times.
7. Insect repellent. Be aware that some animals, and some people, have strong negative reactions to certain insect repellents. So, before leaving home, dab a little repellent on a patch of your dog’s fur to see your dog’s reaction to it. Look for signs of drowsiness, lethargy or nausea. Remember to restrict repellent applications to those places the dog can’t lick—the shoulders, the back of the neck, and around the ears (staying well clear of the ears and inner ears)—which are also near the most logical places mosquitoes will be looking for exposed skin (at the eyes, nose, and inner ears) to bite. And don’t forget to check your dog’s entire body for ticks, foxtails and other trail troublemakers after your hike.
8. ID tags and picture identification. Your dog should always wear ID tags, and since a dog lost in the woods can lose his or her collar, I’d heartily recommend microchipping her as well. Carry a photo of your dog in your pack. If your dog gets lost far from home, you can use the image to make flyers to post in the surrounding communities.
9. Dog booties. These help protect the dog’s feet from rough ground or harsh vegetation. They also keep bandages secure if the dog damages its pads.
10. Compact roll of plastic bags and trowel. You’ll need the bags to clean up after your dog on popular trails. When conditions warrant, you can use the trowel to take care of your dog’s waste. Just pretend you are a cat—dig a small hole six to eight inches deep in the forest duff, deposit the dog waste, and fill in the hole.