chasing epic at home + on the road

Lexi’s Pack Essentials

Lexi's Park Essentials - Cheers Suz

The summer heat is coming to an end and, for Lexi and me, that means it’s time to get out there and hike, camp, run the trails, and more. Here’s a list of the things we take depending upon our adventures. For quick hikes under 10 miles we pack light. For longer hikes and overnight trips we pack more. When car camping we have been known to go all out and over pack. This last park I’m working on.

Anyways, as the season progresses I hope to share my own pack/gear essentials. After more than a decade with my current set up, I’m re-working some things and making some upgrades. Occasionally gear has to be upgraded and weight adjustments have to be made. Growing up your parents tend to carry more of the weight (extra food and water), then when you fly the nest, you have to carry that stuff yourself which has been my most recent set up. Now though, after several years of hiking, backpacking, and camping with a dog it’s time to make some adjustments.  So as I figure out my own set up I’ll let you know. For now though, I thought I’d share Lexi’s since hers is pretty good.

Collar – Lexi has a several types of collars depending on where we’re going and what we’re doing. The most recent one we picked up is just a standard break away color with this nifty LED light in it so that at night when I’m pitching the tent or making dinner she can run around and I can locate her. Now that she’s grown up a bit she doesn’t go very far from camp. Nonetheless, trying to locate a black dog on a dark night can be tricky unless they make a lot of noise or have a light up collar. This teal LED collar I ordered on Amazon for $10 has been great.

Pet ID – In case your dog gets away from you or gets lost it’s important that they have some sort of ID on them so that when they are found you can be contacted. Some people opt for a microchip and others a tag on the collar. Lexi is not microchipped, not that I am opposed to such things, it’s just that she was an adult when I adopted her from the animal shelter and never had her or Abby chipped. Instead, she wears a tag on her collar with her name and my number on it. You can get a traditional version at your local pet store, one of the big chains, or Amazon. If you’re feeling like being a little more unique then check out They have some funny options. When Lexi and I move and I change my number then we will upgrade to something like this.

Leash6′ leather leash is a great investment that will last you a really really really long time. If you’re looking for a more DIY kind of leash, there’s nothing better then some climbing rope and a carabiner. Etsy has some inspiration.

Bug Spray – Lexi is on a monthly flee and tick treatment but when we head out for a hike or to go camping I always being along bug spray. We spray ourselves down before leaving the car and depending upon the length of the hike and the possible water sources along the way we may take the bug spray with us. I like to spray it on my hands and then run them over her ears and carefully around her face, avoiding getting any in her eyes.

Outward Hound Pack – There are quiet a few dog packs on the market. Lexi rocks this teal Outward Hound pack because, let’s be honest it’s not some stupid girly pink color, and it didn’t cost a fortune. Lexi is tough on things, much like I am, and I knew that even with the pack on she would still roll around in the dirt and snow, splash through the mud, and take it swimming. She’s had her pack for a couple of years and it hardly shows any signs of wear and tear. When it comes out of the closet she runs over and wants me to put it on her. Once it’s on she sits and the front door waiting for me to get my act together.

Poo Bags and Shovel – We always hike with poo bags because you just never know when a dog is going to take a crap on the trail on in the trailhead parking area. Many times she goes off trail and into the bushes to do her business but not always. I like to try and leave as little trace as possible. I know some people preach leaving no trace and I’m all for it, but until you’ve tried to pick up diarrhea on a prickly shrub, you won’t understand that it’s just not possible.

Dog Boots – I think these are genius. Lexi, however, does not. I have a set and have tried to use them but she won’t have it. Duct tape might be in order next time or some Musher’s Secret Pet Paw Protection.

Water – Not all trails have water and even if they do it might not always be suitable to drink. Lexi usually carries at least two bottles of water and I carry the rest. I try to even out the weight distribution on her pack during the trip so she isn’t running around with a lopsided pack.

Food – A serving or two of kibble can come in handy out there. Usually when we stop for lunch or something then I will grab a bag of food for her and let her have some always keeping a little in reserve just in case we don’t make it back to the car because of injury or something. This is also helpful if you opt to hike further or stay out longer than originally planned. If you get back to your car late in the evening, then while you’re loading up, you dog can eat dinner and get a big drink before heading home. Lexi think’s this is the greatest thing ever and usually passes out as soon as she gets in the car. Nothing like a day filled with adventures and a full belly to make you want to go to sleep.

Collapsable Bowl – We hike with just one bowl but have a backup one in the car as well. Mind you these are usually inexpensive so you could splurge and get several if you really wanted to. We picked up ours at Target and it’s made silicone. They might still carry them so check out their pet section. If not, Amazon has thousands to choose from.

First Aid Kit – In my pack you will find a First Aid kit that I picked up from REI several years ago (this is the closest I could find) and it’s filled with not only the things I might need but also things that Lexi might need as well. I added to it so fit our needs. A couple of the things that I really like to have on hand are, vet wrap and extra bandages. I’ve wrapped my own ankle in vet wrap when I’ve twisted it. It’s great stuff and comes in all sorts of colors. Right now we have some black but I’m thinking that when I order more I’ll opt for teal in order to add some spice to our lives out there on the trails. Plus, it’ll color coordinate with the LED collar and pack. Hahaha!

Brush – Ticks are such a pain here in California so I keep a brush in the car. It helps to get them off of her before the either latch on or before the decide to walk around the car and possibly find me for lunch. Yuck!

Towel – I keep a towel in the back of the Subie along with a small dishcloth in the driver’s side door as Lexi is more like the Peanut’s character, Pigpen. I swear she gets dirty just thinking about going for a walk. Cobwebs, trail dirt, rain, mud, horse poo, pollen, leaves, sticks, pine needles, you name it, it sticks to her. Also, she gets so excited at the dog park she drools. I’ve found it handy to keep a small town on hand or else you’ll get slimed.

Other Tips:

When loading up you dogs pack it is recommended that you stick to about 1 lb per 20 lbs of dog. So in the case of Lexi, who weighs 60 lbs, she is limited to about 3 lbs of pack weight.

If your dog likes to go swimming then you might want to pack everything in a Ziplock back before sticking it in the pack. Also, depending upon where you’re going and what sort of swimming might be involved a life jacket could be in order.

Overnight trips with a dog are awesome! There’s something so rewarding about hiking all day, setting up camp, watching the sunset, cooking up a little dinner, and sleeping under five billion stars with a dog by your side. Everything is new and exciting to them. Their enthusiasm is contagious. But I digress. When camping overnight you might want to consider a couple of extra things given where you’re hiking. If it’s going to be really cold then you might want to pack a mat and a sleeping bag for them, unless you don’t mind sharing yours. Lexi used to hate getting in the tent when I first got her. Now though, she’s the first one in, and if it’s just her and I, she’s the last one out. If she get’s in before I do then she promptly tries to claim my pad and sleeping bag as her own. In the past if it has been cold then I wrap her up in my puffy North Face jacket so something. Overnight I lose the battle for the pad and we end up half on and half off of mine. I’m considering the following for some of our next adventures:

Ruffwear Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag

Ruffwear Landing Pad

Last but not least, make sure your vaccines are up to date. The people over at Foster and Smith put together this handy chart. For those of you who are DIY’ers then you can also buy your vaccines from them as well. It’s much more cost-effective than going to the vet unless of course you need the lovely paperwork for boarding, pet sitters, doggie daycare, and the like. The only vaccine that I’m aware of that you can’t do through them is rabies. That’s something you have to get from your vet and it should be good for three years.

Speaking of vaccine records, it’s a good idea to keep copies on hand. For example, if you’re road tripping through National Parks and some of the places you want to go do not allow dogs then you might want to board your pup at a nearby kennel for the day. They’ll probably want to make copies of your vaccine paperwork. You’ll also want to make sure you have your vet’s name, number, and address handy in case of emergencies.

Cheers Suz

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