The following is a list of the items Toby used for our 900 mile Appalachian Trail trek. There are endless options for your dog in terms of thru hiking dog gear, but here is what I chose!
Overall, Toby was in great shape before we set out (and he ended that way too!) and physical preparation was key to his success on the trail more than any single piece of equipment. A note on Toby: he is a 75 lb athletic lab mix (chocolate lab, German short haired pointer) with no medical issues.
The Packing List
Here’s what Toby used over our 3 month 900 mile adventure. More details are listed below, just click on each item. Hopefully you get an idea of how much each item will cost (these are all retail prices).
Dog collar – $35
Hands-free leash – $23
Dog backpack – $80
Dog hammock – $55
Dog sleeping bag – $100
Jacket – $80
Dog booties – $27
Collapsible bowl for food and water – $10
Dehydrated dog food (68 lbs) – $340
Trowel to bury waste – $20
Collar night-light – $11
Paw conditioner -$12
Elbow conditioner – $7
Multivitamin – $26
Tweezers – $5
Water filter – $47
Total spent – $880
Definitely not cheap to bring your best friend along, but well worth it in my book. A lot of people ask me if I would bring him again, and without a doubt, I absolutely would. Some of these items you can get cheaper if you shop sales, used camping gear stores, etc.
I started purchasing most of Toby’s gear within the 6 months leading up to our hike, which began in July of 2018 in New Jersey. Toby carried everything in his dog backpack (up to 4-5 days of his own food) minus his sleeping bag, which I carried since it was quite bulky! If interested in hiking with a dog, check out this article on some general guidelines for long distance hiking with your dog.
Collar with ID tags – dogIDs Waterproof Soft Grip Collar
Before starting this hike we would go through many cloth collars each year. I switched to a water resistant band that wipes off when it gets dirty that also includes a custom name tag with my phone number.
The collar not only held up great, but looked stylish as well. It was easy to clean, and never got that terrible smell wet collars can hold onto. I like that I didn’t have to have jingling tags on his collar, since my contact information was already engraved on!
Leash – Tuff Mutt Hands Free Leash
I only carried this one hands free leash the duration of the hike. I could not support the hands free aspect more! This is a two-part system, as there is a loop that adjusts to clip around your hip, then the leash section clips from your hip to his collar or pack.
I used this leash in many different ways and it allowed me to leash him to standalone objects very quickly and easily. I especially liked this leash for securing him in his hammock at night. I would secure the hip portion around a tree, giving him room to move out of him hammock if he wanted to but keeping him close to me at camp.
Pack – Ruffwear Approach Pack
The rule of thumb of your pup never carrying more than over 15-20% of their weight was not a challenge for us.
Realistically, Toby never carried more than 6-7 lbs at a time. Since he weighs 70-75 lbs, we were well below this rule. Utilizing dehydrated food was definitely the key to keeping the pack weight down.
I loved this pack! It is somewhat water resistant on the inside, however Ruffwear does make rain covers for their packs (which we did without). Anytime we stayed in town, I made sure to dry the pack out completely to prevent mold and chafing.
Toby did experience a little bit of chafing on one side near his arm pit, but I refitted the pack and applied elbow butter (see first aid kit section) and that fixed the issue.
There is plenty of room inside this pack. The base weight is only 1 lb, leaving plenty of weight for whatever you’d like your pup to carry. Toby was able to carry 4 or 5 days of food easily. By the end of the trip, the plastic coating inside the bag was worn out through machine washing, which is fine because the pack made it 900 miles!
The Ruffwear Jacket did great against the windy White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Having a jacket to keep your pooch warm is definitely key! This lightweight jacket worked well for us. Since Toby has short hair, if the temperatures were below 40 or 45 degrees, or he seemed cold, he would wear this.
It was easy to take on and off, cleaned well in the washer, and also compressed up pretty small so he could carry it in his pack. For the colder months up North in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, this was vital. He slept with it on some nights for extra warmth. It was easy to clean on the trail as well.
Sleep Systems (we used a hammock during the summer and switched to tenting for colder weather)
Hammock/Summer Setup – Gear Hammock with Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag
Toby loved to curl up in his hammock and sleeping bag at night. We spent a lot of time practicing how to get in and out of the hammock easily.
Toby slept in a VersaTrek gear hammock directly below my hammock, with the go anywhere rope kit. Dogs sleeping in hammocks is a huge mentality switch for a lot of people, so it’s important to see if you and your dog are comfortable with this setup before your trek.
I loved this setup because Toby could get out of his hammock if he wanted to before I was awake in the morning, but he was still nearby. The hammock only weighs 8 ounces, making it easy for Toby to carry in his backpack.
I loved the versatile hanging ropes, which were easy to change the lengths for finding the perfect set of trees for us both to sleep in. This hammock can handle up to 400 lbs, and most people use it as a gear hammock.
Since my hammock has a tarp and he slept directly underneath me, he was also protected from drizzly weather. When it was down pouring, we found a shelter to sleep in. I would not recommend this method of sleeping in rain unless you have a very large tarp that can go over everything.
The only drawback to hammock camping is you don’t get to use your pooch as part of your sleep system for warmth, which explains why we eventually switched to a tent.
Tent Setup/Winter Setup – Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag
When Toby was inside my 2 person tent with me, he slept in his Ruffwear sleeping bag to stay warm. If I were to do the hike over, this is the one item I would upgrade. I’ve seen a lot of custom sleeping bags for dogs, and while I liked this bag, it was way too bulky (12 in by 4 in) for a thru hike, but great for camping.
I carried the sleeping bag and it took up a significant portion of my backpack. After doing some research I will probably order something pre-made like sintax77 did (awesome youtube review) of this dog sleeping bag from the Netherlands.
Dog Bowl – COMSUN Extra Large Size Collapsible Dog bowl
Toby carried his own collapsible bowl, which doubled for both food and water. I’ve had issues with the silicon breaking in other bowls, but this one held up well for us. It was also large enough that it could hold 3 cups of food or water. This particular model came with 2 extra large bowls, which is nice for car camping when you use both food and water bowls.
Toby carried most of his own food. Toby ate The Honest Kitchen human grade dog food. I purchased most of his food in bulk before the trip and separately packaged his meals in plastic baggies (68 lbs of dehydrated food over the course of 3 months).
Keep in mind that THK weighs 4 times as much after re-hydration, which means Toby ate about 270 lbs on trail (not including town treats) over 3 months!
Toby ate the Whole Grain Chicken Recipe the duration of the trail. I received packages on the trail every 5-6 days with our food, so using dehydrated dog food would be difficult (and EXPENSIVE) if you purchase food along the way. Buying in bulk ahead of time and packaging into meal specific plastic baggies was key. If interested, check out a review of The Honest Kitchen dog food here.
Be aware that THK is expensive, but high quality dog food in trail towns can be pretty pricey too! I liked the comfort of knowing Toby always had high quality food that he was used to throughout our hike.
Toby started out each segment carrying 4-5 days of his own food. I fed him about 2 cups of THK mixed with about 3-4 cups of water, per meal. A tablespoon of olive oil ensured he ate his whole meal, since many owners discuss the issues of getting their dogs enough calories on trail. This worked out great because he was always hydrated with the water in THK!
If interested in switching to dehydrated food, definitely test it out gradually before your hike!
PS – it looks like gruel, and does not appear appetizing once you’ve mixed with water, but Toby maintained and even gained weight on trail!
Booties – QUMY Dog Boots
Toby’s pads held up very well for most of our journey (from New Jersey to Maine). The exception to this was the White Mountains in New Hampshire, which are notable for their sharp granite-like rock.
After about 6 miles of constant downhill on the granite, his paws started showing signs of hot spots. Thankfully, I pulled out these booties before things got too bad. He wore them the remainder of the day and this prevented any noticeable change in his gait (other than the hilarious first few minutes of a dog wearing booties).
Be sure to acclimate your dog to booties before hitting a long distance hiking attempt. These would also be very helpful for extreme weather such as snow, ice, etc. They claim to be waterproof, but I would not have your pup wear them through running water, as they are likely to come off.
Toby wore a size 7, which seemed to fit him perfectly (enough room to not cramp his pads/nails, but still able to cinch down around his legs). We didn’t really deal with snow that stuck during our hike attempt, but snow is a very realistic expectation.
Collar Light – LED Clip-on Dog Collar Light
I wanted to make sure that Toby was visible to me and others at night, so I purchased LED collar lights (the little dangle hanging off his collar). The pack of 6 I bought for $11 easily lasted the entire 3 months.
I would turn on the light around dusk to keep track of Toby in camp. If we were night hiking it made it easy to keep track of him and allowed others to be aware of his presence so there were no surprises on trail.
I never had any issues with them getting wet, and he swam a few times with the lights still working afterwards. To turn them on, you just click the light – there are 3 different settings with flashing as an option.
I carried a spare dangle, so whenever the current one seemed to be dimming a bit I switched them out. I only used 4 of the lights, so each one lasted about a month, with 1-2 hours of usage a night. Definitely a good, cheap investment.
Water – Katadyn BeFree 3.0L Filter
I carried water for Toby in my 3 liter capacity water system: the Katadyn filter (3L capacity). For the most part, I hardly carried more than 2 liters at a time. This was mostly due to the abundance of water on the Appalachian Trail during the fall. The high amounts of rainfall definitely helped. Most people will advise you to filter water for your dog, as they can get Giardia just like humans. However, if the water was active and running and looked okay, I would usually let Toby drink straight from the source.
Trowel – Deuce of Spades
When nature calls, my spade doubled for his spade. We used the Duece of Spades which was lightweight (.6 oz!) and space saving. The only complaint is that it was difficult to dig cat-holes on packed solid/frozen ground. May the force be with you.
Vitamins – Zesty Paws Multivitamin for Dogs
With the intense mileage, I pre-order and pre-packed these daily multivitamins for Toby to try and keep him healthy. I went with the 5-in-1 variety that cover skin and coat, hip and joint, digestion, immune system, and the heart. Toby never really had any issues keeping up and with an average of 13-15 miles per day, he stayed healthy the entire trip. I would definitely recommend some sort of dog multivitamin! The vitamin I ordered had a 90 day supply. Definitely worth consulting your vet for this one.
First Aid Kit:
This kit is meant for long distance hikes not carrying much. If you want the more detailed day hike or long weekend kit, check this out.
I’ve found that Musher’s is pretty popular with dog owners, although I didn’t know about it until the hike. Musher’s is a wax-based creamy paw protector. I would apply this salve to Toby’s paws every night or so, and it became a ritual he loved after dinner! His paws stayed healthy for the most part, and Musher’s Secret was absolutely key! One can lasted the entire 3 months. Here’s an in-depth review on how to use it and what Musher’s is made of.
A lesser known moisturizer for dogs. It was made to soften elbows and prevent drying out and cracking, however I used it anytime I saw issues with dry skin or chafing with Toby all over his body! Wipe this on your dog’s dry cracked areas and watch them heal!
Tweezers – an important part of your thru hike first aid kit too! Self explanatory, great for ticks and/or thorns.