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Dirtbag’s Gear List: 9 Dog Hiking Gear Essentials

two dogs with hiker in the mountains

Hiking is an activity for all ages and all skill levels. It brings us closer to nature, gives us a breath of fresh air, and allows us to escape from our everyday lives for a few miles. One thing that makes hiking even better is bringing your pup with you.

Dogs are excellent hiking companions, but you’ll need some dog hiking gear to make your adventure fun and safe. In this article, we’ll run through the list of what we use when we take our dog hiking.

After we review our checklist, we’ll review some other things to be aware of when you bring your dog on a hike, such as non-essential items you can bring on a hike.

This post includes affiliate links but rest assured that we only recommend items we would use ourselves. And if you choose to make a purchase, we receive a small commission. No sponsorships, just the truth about our favorite finds.

9 Dog Hiking Gear Essentials

There’s no time to waste. Let’s jump right in! When we take our tripod dog on a hike, we always bring 9 essential dog hiking gear items. These are either on the dog or in our backpack.

Check our website for a possible sale price on these items! Now, let’s review the best dog hiking gear essentials that we dirtbags use:

1. Collar With Information

Having pets has enormous benefits for your physical and psychological health. So, the last thing we want is to lose our precious furballs. That’s why we always make sure our dog has his collar with his name and our phone numbers.

We use the GoTags Nylon Personalized Dog Collar. We lost our first collar but loved it so much that we repurchased the same collar. It comes in various colors, such as neon green, blue, baby pink, and gold, so it can be customized for your pet’s personality.

We prefer to use dog collars with the information stitched on them instead of using jingly tags for a few reasons:

  • Our dog plays rough, and the etch of the tags fades quickly/gets filled with dirt, making it hard to read.
  • No jingly noises when he walks, runs, or scratches
  • The name and number are printed in large, bright-colored lettering, making it easier to read from far away. No one has to get close to our dog to see our phone number.

Whether you go with a tag or a stitched collar, you’ll want to have some way for people to contact you if your dog gets lost.

2. Harness

A harness is an essential piece of dog gear for hiking. No matter the size of your dog, it’s always better to leash them on a harness rather than a collar. If your dog takes off after a distraction, the leash will stop them by putting pressure on their chest instead of around their neck.

Additionally, harnesses are more challenging to slip out of than a collar, which can often be pulled off by the dog backing up.

We use a different dog hiking harness for specific situations:

  • Ruffwear Swamp Cooler Dog Cooling Harness: This is for everyday wear or for light hikes that are less than 5 miles. It has three color choices: graphite gray, sage green, and heliotrope purple. 
  • Front Range Dog Harness: We have this in campfire orange for hunting season. It’s also a snugger fit with extra padding, so we use it on longer hikes as well. This harness has a variety of colors as well, including twilight gray, aurora teal, blue moon, red clay, and more!

You might be hesitant to make a dog cooling harness your everyday harness, but I promise it’s worth it! Dog cooling harnesses are super light, and we love that it has an extra strap, which works great with our tripod. You can read more about dog cooling vests here!

3. Leash

Another essential piece of dog hiking gear is a leash. There are tons of options out there, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Having a leash is essential on hikes so you can keep your pal under control when you pass other hikers or dogs.

Don’t be the “it’s okay, he’s friendly!” person on the trail. No dog owner appreciates it!

We use three different leashes, depending on the situation:

Dog hiking gear
  1. Short leash: We use the Crag Reflective Dog Leash on a busy trail where we want our dog to stick close to us. We rarely use this to actually walk our dog on hikes, but every once in a while, it’s necessary.
  2. Retractable leash: we know, we know. Retractable leashes are a big no-no for dogs. But we’ve found that on less-crowded hikes, it’s the best thing ever. Our dog gets to sniff around, hike ahead, or lag behind, all without getting pulled by a shorter leash. We use Frisco Retractable Dog Leash. Just select the correct size based on your dog’s weight.
  3. Off-leash training lead: When we still want our dog to be able to sniff around to his heart’s content but we want a little more reliable control, we use a long lead. These are often considered off-leash training leads. We use PetSafe Cotton Dog Training Lead. We use the 20-foot lead, but there are 15- and 30-foot leads available.

One thing I don’t recommend is bringing your dog on a hike where you plan to constantly pull them on the leash. Try not to set a schedule when you hike, but instead let your dog sniff, go slow, and enjoy your time together.

4. Dog First-Aid Kit

There are some things in your day pack that you never hope to use – bear mace, emergency bivy, and your first-aid kit. However, it’s always better to have it and never need it than vice versa!

When we hike with our dog, we always pack the Adventure Medical Kits Trail Dog First Aid Kit and the FIDO Pro XL Airlift Emergency Dog Rescue Sling.

Fido Pro Airlift Emergency Dog Rescue Sling view of the side.

The medical kit includes all the essentials like gauze, bandaids, triple antibiotic ointment, alcohol swabs, and a tick remover. The FIDO Airlift is essential if you have a larger dog and they get hurt, and you must carry them out. Read about our indepth look at the Fido Emergency Airlift Rescue Sling.

5. Byte Tag

The Byte Tag is a recent addition to our essential dog hiking gear list. However, it gives us peace of mind knowing that our dog has two forms of identification on him.

If you’re unfamiliar with Byte Tag, it’s a tag that can be placed on a harness or collar. The tag has a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone. With the app, you can create a profile of your pet that has their name, health information, contact information, and the temperament of your dog.

When someone scans the QR code, even if they don’t have the app, your pet’s information pops up!

We use the Byte Tag Slide and attach it to our dog’s harness since he already has a stitched-in name and phone number on his collar. We like the slide because it avoids the jingly tags, and the rubber is super grippy on the harness, so we know it won’t fall off.

You can use the code FURBAGS on the Byte Tag website for 15% off!

6. Collapsible Water Dish & Extra Water

Ruffwear collapsible dog bowl

Kansas State University tells us that dogs need approximately 1 ounce of water for every pound of body weight. In warmer weather, the amount increases. So, if you’re hiking with your 50-pound pup, bring at least 50 ounces of water.

One of the easiest ways to give your dog water is to use a collapsible dog bowl. We use Mr. Peanut’s Premium Collapsible Non-Skid Silicone Dog & Cat Bowls. They come in a 4-pack and collapse to make it easy to store in a hiking backpack. They’re also made of food-grade silicone, so it’s nice and safe for our adventure dog.

When the bowls are entirely unfolded, they can hold up to 32 ounces of water. They also have a small carabiner clip on the end to make it easy to hang from a backpack.

7. Poo Bags

Whether you’re scaling a mountain, exploring a forest, or just taking a leisurely stroll in your local park, there’s one tiny item that can make a huge difference – poo bags. Dog poop isn’t just unsightly—it can be harmful too. When left behind, it can seep into the soil and contaminate water sources. 

You can read more about why you should pick up your dog poop here.

Picking up after your dog is a sign of respect—for nature, for other hikers, and for the local wildlife that calls these spaces home. Nobody wants to step in an unexpected surprise, and certain animals might even be attracted to your pup’s leftovers, disrupting their natural behaviors.

We probably have more poo bags than we’ll ever need, but we hate to be anywhere without them. We use Earth Rated Dog Poop Bags. These work great for a few different reasons:

  • Made of recycled plastic.
  • Extra strong and thick, so you don’t have to worry about getting any surprises on your hand.
  • Easy to store in a poo-bag holder.
  • Easy to tear from the other bags.

Dog-friendly trails won’t stay that way for long if no one picks up after their dog. Do your part and pack out their poo! That way, we can enjoy these trails with our dogs for years to come.

8. Training Treats

Training treats are a must-have on hikes with your dog. It’s the perfect opportunity to train them around distractions, so why not reward your dog for good behavior?

Whether your dog is 1 year old or 10, they’re never too old to have habits reinforced with training treats. Did your pup do a good sit while another dog walked by? Treato time! 

We’ve used a few different treats over the years with our dog:

  • Zuke’s Mini Naturals: These are fantastic training treats. They’re small and only 2 calories per treat. They’re crafted in the USA, but they source their ingredients from Australia and a few other reliable sources. One downside is that they’re not the most high-reward treat, and my dog quickly got bored of them.
  • Merrick Power Bites: Merrick is a brand we trust. They are based in the U.S., though they source some ingredients from outside the U.S. Treats are 5 calories each. These worked well as a high-value treat, but they were too big for our 45-pound pup.
  • Full Moon All Natural Human Grade Beef Savory BitesThese were our favorites. They’re small like the Zuke’s Mini Naturals but were high-value like the Merrick Power Bites. They are 2 calories per treat, made in the USA (though sourced globally), and we like that they are human-grade.

Even if your dog is a little older, you should still keep up with training. Pack those treats on every hike to make the journey more enjoyable!

9. Cleaner

While we might not pack this in our hiking bag, we always have some way to clean off our dog after a hike. There’s no reason not to let your dog have a blast on a hike, get their paws a little dirty, and enjoy themselves. Especially when it’s super easy to clean them off using pet wipes or paw cleaners.

We keep pet wipes and a paw cleaner in the car for post-hike cleaning. For pet wipes, we use Vetnique Labs Furbliss Pet Bathing Wipes. These are hypoallergenic and can be used on all parts of the dog’s body, such as ears, face, and paws.

To clean his paws, we use the Dexas MudBuster Portable Dog Paw Cleaner. It’s easy to use – fill it up with water, place your dog’s paw in, twist, and pull the paw out. Your pup’s paws will be sparkly clean!

Non-Essential Dog Hiking Gear

Pawd sleeping on his portable sleeping mat from Ruffwear.

Now that we know the 9 essential dog hiking gear items, let’s chat about some extras you can bring. We have an excellent article on what to bring on a hike with your dog for a deeper look. However, there’s some hiking gear for dogs that you should consider taking.

These are just a few items you can bring to make the hike with your dog even more enjoyable – for both of you! Want some more ideas for gifts for that pet lover in your family? 31 Gift Ideas For The Adventurous Dog Lover In Your Life.

Wrapping It Up: The Essentials for a Pawsome Adventure

Looking for the best hiking gear for dogs? We got you! Let’s recap the 9 essential dog hiking gear items and wrap up this adventure!

  1. Collar with information (we prefer stitched instead of tags!)
  2. Harness
  3. Leash (we use a 6-foot, retractable, and a training lead)
  4. Dog First-Aid Kit
  5. Byte Tag
  6. Collapsible Water Dish & Extra Water
  7. Poo Bags
  8. Training Treats
  9. Cleaner (We use a combination of pet wipes and a paw cleaner)

Do you have a must-have item that didn’t make our list? We’d love to hear from you. Sharing knowledge makes us all better adventurers, so don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments below!

Remember, every great adventure starts with preparation. As we lace up our boots and load our packs, let’s remember our four-legged friends rely on us to bring along everything they need, too. So, pack smart, hike responsibly, and embrace the joy of sharing the great outdoors with your furry pal.

Ready to get started? Check out our hiking blog for inspiration on where to go!



  1. The collapsible water dish is a must! And I never thought of a first aid kit. Thank you for another great post!

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