A Look Inside a Dog’s Pack


Last time I talked about my own gear romance and now its time to share what Jetta will be carrying on our Nobo AT trek. Her gear romance revolves around her food bowl and tennis ball but she has some other important things in her pack as well. Before I get there though, here’s a few things to think about if you are interested in backpacking with your dog. IMG_20151016_124643

Backpacking Basics


If you want to hike with your dog and have them carry a pack, start by making sure they are healthy enough to for that kind of activity. Make sure your dog has a current vet check (within the last year) and is current on vaccines and heartworm, flea, and tick prevention. Jetta is about 5 years old and about 60lbs (about 5lbs over her ideal weight so she has some fat stores to burn)  and shows no signs of any health issues. She had blood work done just to be sure she was in tip top shape for a thru hike. She is on Heartgard to prevent heartworms (carried by mosquitos)  and intestinal parasites, and Nexgard for flea and tick prevention.  She will also be wearing a Seresto collar, another flea and tick preventative, because you can’t have too much tick prevention out in the woods. She is vaccinated for rabies, distemper, leptospirosis, bordetella, canine influenza (H3N2 and H3N8), and lyme disease. She also has a microchip. Your vet can help you decide what vaccines are appropriate for your dog and what preventions are the best fit.

Diet and Supplements

If you are going to be engaging in any type of strenuous activity with your dog you want to make sure they are getting the proper nutrition. Jetta used to eat Purina Pro Plan, which fulfilled her needs as a house dog, but as a trail dog she needs something with higher calories. I have gradually transitioned her food over the last couple weeks to Evo which has about twice as many calories per cup as the Purina. This means that Jetta won’t have to carry as much food weight and she can get the needed calories in a reasonable portion size (although I don’t think she would mind eating 10 cups of food a day). She also takes a glucosamine and chondroitin joint supplement, fish oil for joints and coat, and coconut oil for her coat.

The Pack

Ruffwear and Groundbird Gear are two brands that I’ve heard good things about and I would recommend but every dog is different and getting a good fit is critical. After trying a new pack on at home and adjusting it to fit, plan a short hike with your dog and have them wear the empty pack. Pay close attention to how the pack sits on them and check frequently for any chaffing. Make any adjustments so that the pack sits comfortably with the weight over the dogs shoulders. Gradually add weight to the pack on future hikes so that your dog can build up stamina to carry a fully weighted pack. As a general rule a healthy dog should carry no more than 25% of their ideal body weight . For Jetta this means she can carry up to 13.75 lbs but because a thru hike is so grueling I want to keep her pack weight as low as possible. Her gear with about 5 days worth of food and 2 ltrs of water is weighing in around 12lbs.


Jetta relaxing/watching squirrels after a 3 night backpacking trip in Grayson Highlands.

Jetta’s Gear



  • Musher’s Secret – We haven’t had the chance to really test this stuff out but I have heard really positive things and just using it around the house it makes her paws very soft and smooth.

Finally we are waiting on her fleece pajamas to arrive. I ordered these after our last shakedown when she was still cold at night. When they arrive I will be sure to post pictures!

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Comments 2

  • Jacqui Reed : Mar 6th

    When in March do y’all leave? There’s a good chance Panda and I will see you on the trail. We leave this coming Saturday, the 12th.

    • Sara Ecay : Apr 16th

      We left the 5th and have made it to Hampton TN. I heard some other hikers talking about Panda the dog and I recognized the name and talked to them a bit. It sounds like you are not far behind us so we may cross paths!


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