How (not) to pack for a hike

Posted by Maggie Marton, founder of on 28th June 2021

First, don’t check the weather. Pack for all possibilities. Wear layers, bring a rain jacket for you and for your dog, stow boots for your pup in your pack, and bring extra bug spray. Then, calculate the amount of water you and your dog will need and triple it. Don’t forget pickup bags, a first aid kit, a rain cover for your pack, a GPS, a spare leash, and a whistle. Why a whistle? You just never know.

OK, OK. No one packs like that, right? Well, that’s how I used to gear up before heading out with my dogs. I wanted to be prepared for any possibility. In part, I wasn’t yet a confident enough hiker, and I also felt a tremendous responsibility for keeping my dogs safe on the trail.

While I still like to be (overly) prepared, and I still stay focused on my pup’s safety, I’ve dialed back my packing to a reasonable amount. And, in truth, overpacking can cause just as many problems as under packing. Let’s dig into a few things you can ditch, along with a few things you absolutely must have when hiking with your dog.

A few things I’ve invested in to make the most of my trail gear:

Water Solutions

I no longer triple the amount of water I need, though I do come close to doubling it. I consider water the most important gear to bring along no matter where I’m going, and I use a combination of storage solutions to ensure we always have enough.

First Aid

A small first-aid kit is a trail necessity. Instead of a full-sized kit, pare down to what you really need. The basics I always include: a tick key, a couple gauze pads, a roll of bandage, and an antiseptic. You can start with a kit stuffed with all the essentials like this Dog First Aid Kit, then stow it in your car. Pull out only the items you need on the trail, and leave the rest at the ready in the parking lot.

Multi-Purpose Gear

The single best way I found to combat overpacking is with gear that pulls double duty. For instance, for your dog, the Stash n’ Dash harness serves as a solid, trail-ready harness—an absolute necessity—but the storage capacity enables your dog to carry a few trail necessities like those first aid items and some pickup bags. For you, a day pack or a belt that holds water plus essentials like your car keys, phone, and that spare leash. Yep, even though I’ve pared way down, I always keep a spare leash on me in case my dog’s leash breaks, snags, or snaps or, what’s happened most often, we encounter a loose or lost dog. A spare leash may not be a necessity for you, but it’s served us well over the years!

Beyond those basics, I’ve finally ditched some of the extra weight. Now, our gear is lighter, more functional, and still safe. I always check the weather before hitting the trail so I don’t feel obligated to carry extra rain or snow gear that I simply won’t need. It took a little practice and investing in the right gear, but we finally learned how to pack for a hike!

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