The Happy Camper: Best Doggy Camp Gear

Kevin Callan talks about some of his favourite doggy camping gear, and offers some tips for keeping your dog under control outdoors.

Credit: Kevin Callan

I’m on my third dog now. Angel is a “gollie” — a mix between a border collie and a golden retriever.

She’s a great dog, and the best part is she loves canoe-tripping and backpacking just as much as my other two dogs (Bailey and Ellie — may they rest in peace). Angel carries a pack full of her kibble on the portage and hiking trail, doesn’t whine or bark in camp and she stays close to me most of the time, except when she spots a squirrel or chipmunk.

Angel also has her favourite camp gear to pack along: a sleeping pad and cozy bag for cool nights, dog-friendly insect repellent, dog whistle, compactable dog dish and a bear bell (she’s black and I’m worried she’ll be mistaken for a bear along the trail). I’ve glued a slab of foam padding to the bottom of the canoe that provides a perfect spot for Angel to sit comfortably, and gives her a place to call her own. This works amazingly well to control her in the boat when paddling through big waves, bad weather or wild rapids. I’ve also attached an umbrella holder to the gunwale of the canoe to help prevent Angel getting heat stroke. My dog also has her own PFDs, and a separate first-aid kit with items specifically for dogs. Good news — Adventure Medical Kits has just announced they’ll be launching a first-aid kit made dogs in February 2015.

Angel tried out the Wave Rider life-vest during our family’s recent 12-day canoe trip around Killarney Park. It fit her perfectly and came equipped with extra head and chin support. The added foam helped keep the dog afloat during an accidental swim in the rough waters of Georgian Bay. The breathable mesh panels and adjustable belly straps helped keep Angel from overheating, as well. The best part, however, was the quick pick-up handle positioned on the top of the life-vest. I simply grab the handle to put her in and out of the canoe, which is probably the main reason I prefer this style of doggy PFD.

Canada Pooch also has a heavy-duty dog pack. Angel used one to carry two weeks’ worth of kibble and treats. This is really one of the best pieces of camp gear a dog owner should bring along. Having the dog take part in the trip adds to good behaviour. A dog wants to work and be a part of the pack while on trip, which includes carrying its own supply of camp food.

Of course, all dogs are different. Some are well behaved and considerate, while others are just a plain nuisance, which is why the question of having them join you on a camping trip is not all that cut-and-dry. Much of it depends on the actions of the owners themselves. I witnessed someone’s beagle harass a cow moose by leaping out of the canoe and swim after the poor beast. Half my food was taken from my pack on the trail and consumed by a golden retriever. At a public campground I saw a poodle, which was leashed to a tree during the night, torn apart by a pack of coyotes. I had the displeasure if mistaking an overly friendly and unleashed black lab for a marauding black bear while walking the portage. And more than once I’ve set my tent on top a mound of fresh dog doo-doo and didn’t realize it until I packed up the next day. I blame these incidents not on the dogs, but on the owners.

Taking care of your dog on a trip, and making sure it behaves, is key. Far too many campers have their dog tag-along on a trip but don’t bother taking care of it. They’re probably the same people that leave their pooch locked up in a hot car while they go off shopping.

Check out Angel and I on CTV News in Ottawa, showing off some pieces of dog camp gear: