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- There's a lot to take into account when taking your dog camping, from choosing a pet-friendly campsite to how to plan and the best gear to pack for your pup.
- As the novel coronavirus continues to impact travel, many people are turning to camping vacations right now since it's easier to social distance outdoors in your own tent.
- Pets are a part of the family and if you're thinking about taking them with you on your next camping trip, read up on the expert advice outlined below first.
- Read more: The best campsites in the US
When it comes to camping, we are a family divided. On the one hand, Teddy, our 1.5-year-old rescue dog, and I love the great outdoors, bug bites, sleeping on a slightly deflated air-mattress and all. On the other hand, my partner and our 10-year-old dog, Bear, prefer the air-conditioning and high thread-count sheets that come with a luxury hotel stay.
It appears we aren't alone. According to a recently released COVID-19 edition of the annual North American Camping Report, camping has not only increased in popularity this year, but advanced deposits for September and October are now outpacing 2019 among more than 500 KOA campgrounds across the country.
However, if you plan to camp with your dogs for the first time, there's a lot you need to consider.
"Camping with your furry family members is a lot of fun, but being prepared will make the experience even more enjoyable and allow you to focus on making memories rather than scrambling to find items you may have forgotten to bring," says Renee Klenert, who volunteers for New York-based non-profit Pug Squad and helps organize an annual weekend camping event called Pug Camp.
Of course, before you make any travel plans, be sure to read up on CDC guidelines, as well and local and state guidelines where your specific campsite is. We always recommend practicing safe social distancing, hand washing, and wearing a mask in any common areas you encounter. It's also worth noting that while camping does seem to provide a safe alternative to staying in a hotel or resort right now, you should still exercise caution in comfort areas and other communal camping spots.
Read on for expert advice on what to know before you go camping with your dog, plus the best dog-friendly campsites and great camping gear for pets.
What to consider when camping with a dog
Make sure where you're headed is pet-friendly
This may seem obvious, but some people wrongly assume that because it's outdoors, campsites are all pet-friendly. While every campsite operates differently, many require you to keep your pets leashed at all times among other rules and regulations.
Be sure to do your research to find pet-friendly campgrounds. It doesn't hurt to call ahead and double check either. Klenert also recommends checking on things like additional fees that might apply if you bring a pet, as well as how many dogs are allowed in each cabin or campsite.
Get your dog up to date on vaccines
"The first thing you should do is research each camp's specific pet policies and know if they require you to bring vet records that show your dog has the required vaccinations," Klenert said. "It's always a good idea to have a copy of these in your glove compartment."
Vet and expert Dr. Karie Johnson agrees. "All dogs should be up to date on their distemper, parvovirus, rabies and adenovirus vaccines," she says. "These can be transferred from wildlife or from the environment."
If you plan to camp in a wooded area, Dr. Johnson also suggests being up to date on leptospirosis and/or Lyme vaccines. "Have your dog on heartworm as well as flea/tick prevention to keep them safe from bugs as well," she adds.
Be a good neighbor
This one should go without saying, but it needs to be said anyway, and it's extra important when bringing pets.
Be courteous to other campers and keep dogs close and on a leash for their safety and the safety of others. Don't forget there are often wild animals around campsites and unpredictable situations can arise quickly.
Prepare for emergencies
Sometimes bad things happen on vacation, but there are some things you can do ahead of time to avoid potential catastrophes. Hopefully, you won't need it, but having a pet first aid kit is never a bad idea just in case you're not close to a vet or pharmacy.
Dr. Johnson recommends checking the ASPCA list for items that should be out in your first aid kit.
Pack extra food and clean water
Klenert warned me that heat exhaustion can be life threatening to pets, so it's important to pack extra food and water, especially if you're going to be spending the bulk of your time outdoors.
And even if you're headed somewhere with a lake or river nearby, you still need to bring clean water for your pooch. "I highly recommend only allowing your pet to drink filtered water," says Dr. Johnson. "Otherwise you run the risk of them contracting bacteria or a parasite like giardia. They can get an upset stomach by drinking this water just like we can."
Check your dog for ticks
In addition to having your dog on flea/tick prevention and up to date on Lyme vaccines, checking for ticks is a good habit, especially when you're in a wooded area. The best way to do this is just to run your hands along your dog's coat to check for anything suspicious and have a tick removal tool handy in case you need to pluck one out.
"I would suggest checking for ticks after every hike or walk, as well as every night and morning in case you missed one," says Dr. Johnson.
Why the need for such frequent checks? "The thing that is hard with tick-borne diseases is that your pet can get one transmitted to them and not show any symptoms for a long period of time. The faster a tick is taken off your pet the less chance of a disease being transmitted to them," she notes.
With hundreds of thousands of campsites around the US, there's no shortage of campsites and accommodation types to choose from for you and your pup. And, if camping with your dog in an RV or tent isn't your thing, cabins, yurts, airstreams, and glamping options are all great alternatives.
To get you started here are some of the best dog-friendly campsites across the US.Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, RV Campgrounds
Set in the Hudson Valley, Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park in Gardiner, New York borders the Wallkill River and is an especially good option for pets and families with young children due to the onsite waterpark, mini-golf, and lazy river among other amenities. The site also offers a variety of accommodations from premium cabins to RVs.
Pro tip: These parks can be booked directly through online camping marketplace Campspot, which just teamed up with pet product site Paw.com. Anyone who books a pet-friendly campsite with Campspot gains access to deals and discounts on pet gear.Kampgrounds of America (KOA) San Francisco North/Petaluma
With more than 500-campsites across the US offering a range of accommodations from RV sites to glamping, Kampgrounds of America or (KOAs) offer some of the most pet-friendly campsites.
Chief among them is San Francisco North/Petaluma KOA in Petaluma, California. Campers can enjoy the outdoors while still being close to plenty of wineries, breweries, and iconic sites like the Golden Gate Bridge.
Tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, 4 Paws Kingdom Campground & Dog Retreat is the first "dog dedicated" campground. This North Carolina retreat has it all, from a fully-fenced in swimming pond to multiple off-leash play parks to a doggie bathhouse complete with grooming station.
Not far from Rutherfordton, Emberglow Outdoor Resort offers an elevated camping experience for pets and their humans. Accommodation types here range from traditional camping to one-of-a-kind accommodations from treehouses to glamping pods.Huttopia Southern Maine
Best for couples or families looking for an upscale getaway, French glamping company Huttopia welcomes dogs of all breeds at all three of their locations. Not far from Kennebunkport, Huttopia Southern Maine offers a variety of dog-friendly accommodations including modern cabins and wood and canvas tents.
The sprawling property is situated near the South Coast of Maine, which is a particularly spectacular option for day trips with four-legged friends. Onsite, there is a heated pool, nature trails, playgrounds, canoes and SUPs, as well as activities for the whole family like ping pong and football.Castaways RV Resort & Campground
There are 150 Sun RV Resorts across the US and Canada, all of which are pet-friendly and offer everything from doggie obstacle courses to pet-friendly private beaches. Among the top-rated picks for pets, Castaways in Ocean City, Maryland has a dedicated portion of the beach just for dogs.The Resort At Paws Up
With a name like The Resort At Paws Up, it should come as no surprise that your four-legged friends are welcome.
Set on 37,000 acres in Montana's big sky country, this all-inclusive ranch offers everything from safari-style luxury glamping tents to log homes and cabins. Every August, The Resort at Paws Up transforms into a massive 37,000-acre dog park for their annual Canine Classic.
Throughout the rest of the year, pets are welcome in select accommodations for an additional fee of $50 per night, per pet.Best camping gear for dogs
Depending on your dog's needs, you can get as kitted out as possible, or just bring the bare essentials. Speaking from personal experience, you don't have to go too overboard when it comes to gear, but I highly recommend anything water-resistant, collapsible, and portable.
Here's the best gear for camping with a dog.Collapsible doggie water bottle
No matter how much gear you choose to bring for your pets, nothing is more important than making sure they have clean and potable water, especially on a hot day or on the hiking trail. I especially love this portable Well Life Dog Water Bottle which comes with a refillable carbon activated filter.Collapsible bowls
Second only to having fresh water on the ready, collapsible dog bowls are going to be your best friend when it comes to camping with your pets. I recommend bringing a backup water bowl or getting a set of two in case your dog punctures one or uses it like a chew toy. These Guardians Large Collapsible Dog Bowls come in a set of two and include carabiner clips that you can attach to a belt loop or backpack.
This pop-up tent is weather-resistant and assembles in seconds. It also folds flat into a small carrying case for easy transportation that doesn't take up too much space. However, it's best for smaller dogs and pets so you may need a larger option if traveling with a big dog.A cooling vest
For the heat intolerant dog, this Arcadia Trail Cooling Pet Vest is lightweight and a great way to beat the heat on the trails. All you have to do is add some water and let the cooling effects take place. The vests are also good for nighttime use as the reflective strips can be seen in the dark.GPS collar
If your pet wanders off on campcation, an easy way to quickly find them is with a handy GPS tracker that secures onto his or her collar. This Whistle & Go Go is a location tracker that provides real-time tracking of your pet's location, along with health and activity monitoring.
Although most pet-friendly campsites will come with doggie bag stations, it's always a good idea to bring your own supply. These eco-friendly Pooch Paper sheets by Orvis are 100% biodegradable and a great alternative to plastic.
The Adventure Medical Kits Trail Dog First Aid Medical Kit comes with all the essentials, including sterile bandages, meds, and tools for pulling out thorns to ticks. It's a good insurance policy and even if you don't end up using it, it can provide peace of mind that you're ready for a pet emergency.Warm waterproof blanket
If your dogs are anything like mine, they will appreciate the creature comforts when you're on the road. This PupProtector Waterproof Throw Blanket or Carhartt Pet Blanket are both warm, durable, and most importantly, washing machine-friendly.Portable paw cleaner
Living in the New York City area, our dogs are accustomed to regular paw cleanings, even when we aren't camping. This has been made easier thanks to the MudBuster Dog Paw cleaners. These paw cleaners are portable and great to take with you on your camping trip in the event of muddy or inclement weather.
If you're planning on camping near a body of water, a life jacket is an absolute must-have, especially for smaller pets. I recently tried the Arcadia Trail Lifejacket. It comes in bright colors and includes reflective trim and webbing in the straps so my dogs were visible day and night.
Ideal for road trips to your campsite, this Back Seat Car Cover is an excellent idea for anyone looking to prevent scratches, dirt or shedding. Designed to fit any standard vehicle, the cover is also water-resistant and can be thrown in the washing machine between uses.
If you're really looking to go the extra mile and pack a sleeping bag exclusively for your pooch, the Ruffwear Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag paired with the Highlands Dog Pad is an investment in your dog's camping future. Ideal for medium and large-sized dogs, the water-resistant lining and insulation fabric makes this a great option if you're planning on spending a lot of time outdoors.