All You Need to Know About Camping With Dogs

Cooper on his bed

You’ve decided to go overnight camping with the family then remember you have a dog . . .  or even two, as we do.
As they snooze on their soft, comfy beds, you all sigh . . . 

of course, they should come too!

Molly on her super soft, comfy bed

Our dogs are camping with us - but what's next?

Compile a list of to-do’s right from the start.
This post runs over 4 steps we used to organize each dog’s camping needs.

These steps are:

  1. Dehydrating dog food
  2. Packing dog food
  3. Other meal ideas
  4. Treats

If you’re dehydrating your own food, then add the dogs to your list first, before  you figure out their bedding and daytime lounging mats as this takes the most time.

I was able to dehydrate a 750-gram pre-cooked lamb meatloaf, loaded with vegetables and fruit, down to 250 grams of dried, healthy dog food.
I already knew they each enjoyed half a loaf for a meal so was able to feed them the equivalent in a dried version and made sure they had plenty of water.

Use kitchen scales to pack the equivalent weight you need for each dog.
For this loaf, I knew they ate half each. By packing 125 grams in each bag, I could be assured they were on track for each meal.

Dog food sliced and ready to dehyrdate
Dehydrated dog food ready to bag and label

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Step 1: dehydrating dog food

The best part about a dehydrator is, you set the temperature for meat, then walk away. 
If you don’t have a dehydrator, set your oven to its lowest temperature – mine is 200 degrees C and then try hard to not walk away.

I have a Nesco dehydrator and love it.
My dream, however, has been to always own a Cosori as the reviews are incredible.

If you’ve not seen one before, this is what they look like:

How I dehydrated our dog food

Buy a precooked loaf that is loaded with healthy ingredients so the dehydrating smells are pleasant!

Here’s what I did:

  • Slice
    Our commercial dog loaf was pre-baked in a tin foil container so was easy to slice.
  • Chop
    Next, I chopped the loaf slices into large pieces before placing them onto a baking tray already lined with a Silpat baking sheet.
  • Bake
    Bake meatloaf for about 4 hours at 200 C to remove most of the moisture. Every now and then I wiped down the excess moisture from inside the oven.
  • Dehydrate
    Transfer meatloaf pieces to the dehydrator and slow dry until food looks and feels like kibble – another 6-8 hours, or overnight.
    I used the herb tray to keep the crumbs as well.
  • Pack
    Allow dehydrated dog food to cool, check all pieces are dry by opening a few of the larger chunks.
    Some of these may need a little more dehydrating time.
    Vacuum seal or use thin resealable bags.
    Add a label or mark the bags and you’re ready!
Molly looking out the car window

Step 2: packing the dog food for camping

Next, decide how you’ll pack and travel with dog food.
I didn’t want to use the traditional resealable bags as the plastic is thicker and adds bulk.
I needed to squeeze in enough dog food for 2 large dogs over 3 days and I only wanted one container so it was easy to find at the campsite. 
The best idea I found were these clear bags.

They looked flimsy and felt fragile, but held up to the 6km hike and, I was able to reseal them!

HELPFUL TIP:  Remove as much air as possible, and label the bags with a permanent marker.

I managed to fit both dogs’ meals in one reusable plastic container from Whimzees that doubled as a water bowl at the campsite.
Note: I discovered this lid is not dishwasher proof, so wash it by hand!

Why bring a dog bowl when you’re right beside the lake?
Good question!
You don’t  want wet paws tracking in through your tent after that evening sip of water down by the lake, bringing small stones, grit, and mud.

Packing dog food for two in a plastic water dish
Packing labelled meal-sized portions

Step 3: other meal ideas for your dog

You may have noticed in my box of dog food above, that several brown round discs packed and labeled ‘D.’
What are they?
These are done-for-you, Stella and Chewy dehydrated dog patties.
We use them all the time during the week so I knew how many to pack for each dog.

For camping I packed two meat types, Duck (D) and Lamb, (L) and labeled them as one dog isn’t that excited to eat lamb.
I also packed portion-size packs of high fibre low-fat kibble that kept the dogs satisfied for longer. 

HELPFUL TIP: Senior dog food fits the low-fat, high-fibre criteria!

Hiking in for a 3 day camping trip

Step 4: dog treats

There are lots of different treats available for your pup and I highly, highly recommend you aim for low fat. You’ll discourage the wildlife and it’s nice to give your pets a healthy break too.

One way to decide which treats are best is to check the list of ingredients.
If you see wholesome, natural ingredients, then your dog will absolutely love the taste too.

A good time to make homemade treats for your furry friend is right after Thanksgiving.
You’ll more than likely have leftover squash that no one wants to eat for quite a while.
Already cooked, leftover squash is ideal. Not only is this vegetable loaded with vitamins but it’s naturally sweet and high in fiber too.
Our dogs love this recipe and they are so easy to make. There is a kid-friendly section with rolling and shape-cutting activities too!

I packed the treats you see below.
Dehydrated chicken breasts are long, narrow, and thin so easily slide in between items.
Our dogs love Whimzees and this was also our campsite water bowl.
The Wild Weenies are a super treat!

Try to make camping fun for your dogs.

Camp fire roasting marshmallows

6 great reasons to love camping with your dog

  1. Dogs are willing to try something new and inspire us to enjoy living in the moment.
  2. Our furry pals make the best nighttime companions beside a fire – if you can convince them cooking marshmallows over flames is safe.
  3. Tents are strange for dogs so invite them inside your tent during daylight and show them their mat. This helps them feel safe even on an adventure and reminds us we too are stretching our boundaries.
  4. You have the most perfect excuse to bring a fluorescent, fun-colored leash.
    And don’t forget the flashing light for their collars, for those dark nights.
  5. You’ll have an advanced built-in warning system when wildlife wanders too close.
  6. Most hikers love to stop and chat if you have a dog, giving you a chance to meet someone new.
Camping and a great way to find the dog leash is on the tree
A bright leash makes it easy to find in a hurry

Why it matters you camp with your dog

It’s so much fun watching your fur buddies enjoy the outdoors during and then after your trip!

We had a fantastic time reconnecting outside of our normal routine.

Molly asleep on her camping mattress
Cooper sunning himself, eyes closed

Find me:

This cookbook is now on my to-buy list!

Written by a chef, Recipes for Adventure you’ll find different dehydrated meals including breakfast eggs, Ramen noodles, Mac and Cheese, and Salsa rice with Beans.

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