Throw that Dog a Bone Part I

Is man’s best friend a great addition to your trip or a heavy load to carry?

Backpacking with a Dog

In my opinion, dogs make a great addition to any experience, especially anything outdoors. Along with great companionship, they do bring a lot of responsibility, though. Bringing your dog means carrying quite a bit more food and water. A full-grown dog can usually carry about 20% of their body weight in a pack. My dog is 60 pounds, which means he can carry about 12 pounds in his pack. Since 12 pounds isn’t very much, I always make sure to carry his food and water for him. He can carry just about all of his other gear himself.

Game Plan

My husband and I are planning to bring our dog with us MOST of the way. There are a few areas on the trail where only service dogs are allowed. Since we are NOBO, the first area that we will encounter is the Great Smoky Mountains. Luckily, I live around that area so one of our kind family members has agreed to pick him up/drop him off again. New York and Maine get a little bit trickier, and we’ve decided to worry about that when we get a little closer. Just FYI, attempting to pass off your dog as a service dog to hopefully get through those areas is NOT cool. Not to mention, it can be a hefty fine if caught.

Advice that Our Vet Gave Us

Our veterinarian was so excited that we decided to take our dog, Hank Williams Jr., with us. A few pieces of advice that she gave us was to switch him to a high fat/protein diet three times a day as opposed to his normal food two times a day. He is burning a bunch of calories too! She also recommended for us to buy dog booties and have him break them in. You want to be sure that they fit him well, not too tight but snug enough that their paws don’t slide around in them. You shouldn’t need to use their booties unless it is extremely cold and snowy, they cut their pad, or it is extremely hot and you are walking on an unnatural surface (for example, asphalt in town).

Gear I Am Bringing for My Dog

Marmot Catalyst 3P Tent

  • Indeed this is not typical dog-specific gear but by bringing a dog, you are adding one more body to your tent. I decided a 3P tent would be essential for my husband, dog, and me to be comfortable in the evenings.

Pack-A-Paw Rescue Harness

  •  This item does take up a bit of room but I would rather be safe than sorry. In the event of an emergency, this allows us to carry him AND all of our gear in the safest way possible.

Ruffwear Approach Dog Pack


  • I still haven’t found the right ones yet but the price range seems to be anywhere from $60-$100. I’m going to look for the best deal I can but you really want to make sure not to skimp on quality.

High-performance dog food or puppy food

  • I haven’t decided yet if I will get his food mail dropped or buy in town. I will probably do a little mix of the two. Some of the towns will be very small so I won’t have much to choose from.

Collapsible water/food dish

Rain jacket

  • This is another area that I would not skimp on quality. A good rain jacket will help keep your dog more dry on the rainy days and warm on the cold nights.

A toy (if your doggo is into them)

First aid kit

  • You can consult with your vet if your dog needs specific items. My vet recommended mainly foot (pad) repair items.

Dog towel

  • I saw this in a gear list by REI and I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before. This would have been a lifesaver on rainy days to wipe his paws before getting in the tent for the evening.

Safety light

Cooling collar

  • I usually use one of my old Buffs and will wet it and put it on his neck on warm days.


  • I recommend retractable and as light as possible. I usually use a Wilderdog (or homemade version) at home but let’s be honest, even though it looks cool, climbing rope is heavy AF. I’ve made that mistake before and I’m never going back. Plus, clipping a retractable leash to your pack gives your dog a larger range of movement and gives you free hands to use your trekking poles.

Leave No Trace

Rules should be followed as closely as possible to human LNT for bathroom breaks. Trying to keep all potty breaks 200 feet away from the trail isn’t as attainable when it comes to your four-legged friend but keeping potty breaks away from water sources is a must. Burying your dog’s waste in a cathole is also quite a bit more difficult but should be done when possible.



Interested In Hiking The Appalachian Trail With A Dog?


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Comments 2

  • Effie Drew : Jan 29th

    Hey Morgan — I’m stoked to hear you’re taking your pup on the trail this year! It’s such a game-changer having a dog along. I’d highly, HIGHLY recommend you keep your dog’s pack weight below <10% if you want him to go the distance. This might be a helpful resource for you: Looking forward to seeing how your hike goes!

    • Morgan Leigh : Jan 29th

      Hey! Thanks for the advice! I definitely want him to be as comfortable as possible. I clicked on the link but it didn’t work :/


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