Heath Smith is the program director for Conservation Canines, a University of Washington program that trains rescue dogs to track endangered species. His dogs are out in the field every day, either camping or hiking, so I called him to ask for dog gear recommendations. Here are his top picks, plus some of my own.
Ruffwear Web Master Harness ($60)
This harness has ample webbing that trainers can grab to help dogs up steep terrain or over large obstacles. (There’s also a pack version with storage.) Trainers sometimes pair the harness with the Ruffwear Brush Guard, which protects the dog’s belly when working in rough terrain.
Warner Bear Bell ($6)
These bells are mostly used to warn humans of incoming canines, Smith says. The sound gives ripping mountain bikers a heads up and alerts hikers so they aren’t startled when a dog suddenly rounds the trail.
Wellness Core Dehydrated Dog Food ($30 for 2 Pounds)
Dehydrated dog food weighs less—key if you’re schlepping food over long distances. This brand doesn’t skimp on ingredients: its grain-free kibble is 70 percent protein.
Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack 2L ($14)
Dog food is notoriously oily and creates a stinky mess when it spills in your backpack. You could store the stuff in a garbage bag, but a dry sack is more secure. This one from Sea to Summit is totally waterproof and made from durable nylon.
Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag ($100)
A sleeping bag for your dog might sound ridiculous, but try to get a solid eight hours with a cold dog packed into your bag or wandering around the tent. Not happening. Synthetic insulation keeps a dog warm even when wet, and the pack stuffs into its own foot-long pack.
GPS Data Logger ($95)
A data logger isn’t necessary gear, but if you have dogs that like to do laps on the trail or tend to run off for a while and then come back, it’ll let you see how far they’ve traveled and where they went.
Kurgo Collaps a Bowl ($10)
Handlers for Conservation Canines haul water in for their dogs because they often can’t find any on the trails. Your dog will do just fine if you’re near a stream, but if you’re out in the desert, bring along Kurgo’s Collaps a Bowl. It packs down to less than an inch thick and expands to hold 24 ounces of water.
Ruffwear Track Jacket ($40)
This is another piece of gear for dogs that like to roam. The bright orange vest makes them easy to spot and comes with attachment points for lights. It’s essential for hiking during hunting season.
Pawz Natural Rubber Dog Boots (From $12)
Many dogs are fine without boots, but if you’re hiking over sharp rocks and sticks or putting in lots of miles, these thin boots will give your dog an added layer of protection. They’re also biodegradable and relatively affordable.