Welcome back to my two-part series on hiking with dogs. Today the focus will be on how to prepare for a hike with your best pal.
As with just about everything in life, there are some inherent risks in exploring the great outdoors. Weather, unexpected terrain, wildlife (by which I typically mean insects and snakes, though we have seen a couple bears in Monrovia Canyon) can easily turn a pleasant day out into a practical nightmare. Fortunately, however, most potential issues are easily prevented with some preparation beforehand and consideration once on the trail. I cannot claim credit for most of these tips. Most of these guidelines are borrowed from Scouting.
Things to consider:
As mentioned in the previous post, keep in mind your ability as well as your dog’s. Research the trail ahead of time, taking into account distance, terrain, slope grade, and whether the area offers shade. Be sure to check the weather and other conditions, such as pollen and vegetation, as this can impact your experience and safety. And always be sure to have a trail map.
What to bring:
Again, much of this is based on the Boy Scout “Ten Essentials.” This provides a good guide for what to bring on a hike or day trek.
Food: Bring ample high-calorie trail snacks. Foods such as nuts, granola, or dried fruit are good picks. The kids and canine also like meat jerky.
Water: Hydration is key. Many issues that develop on a hike happen as a result of improper hydration. A rule of thumb is 16 ounces for every hour of hiking, however, this can vary depending on the individual and weather. I’d say bring at least that and hydrate ahead of time. If you feel thirsty, it’s already late. For your pal, REI sells a few products that can be used as a dog bowl. I personally like the Ruffwear quencher collapsible bowl. It’s easy to stuff in a daypack, and easy to clean after a hike.
First aid kit: A good hiking first aid kit will have a wrap bandage, small ice pack, band-aids, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, antihistamine cream, and small packs of NSAID painkillers (ibuprofen and/or acetaminophen) and Benadryl. REI sells day packing kits in soft pouches that are easy to clip to your daypack. REI also has a few ready-made kits for canines. If applicable, be sure to bring your rescue inhaler or EpiPen as well.
Map and compass: Know your trail and stay on it! This common-sense advice given me long ago will keep you from getting lost most of the time. For those rare occasions when one might get lost, especially in changing conditions, a map and compass can quite literally be a lifesaver. Any reliable compass will do, but I personally like a clear compass, as this is easier to line up with a map.
Weather ready: We always carry sun protection and a hat, regardless of how much shade will be on the trail. We also will carry ponchos and a lightweight jacket when hiking in higher elevations just in case. Weather can change quickly in many areas, so it’s good to be prepared.
This is not a comprehensive list of what one can bring on a hike. You know yourself and your pup best. I would not recommend bringing too much extra for a day hike. Too much extra weight can lead to added fatigue and a sore back. Also, remember to pack in and pack out. Some areas will not have trash service along the trail, so bring bags (including poop bags) to carry waste out.
As we say in Scouts, leave no trace. Take only photos, leave only footprints, and kill only time. Happy trails and happy tails!