Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Crash Course in Backpacking with Your Dog

We asked our ambassador Devin Scannell to share her thoughts and tips on backpacking with your dog based on her experience frequently backpacking with Bella in the Rockies. Whether you're just getting started or are a seasoned vet, you're bound to learn a new trick!

Thinking about backpacking with your dog for the first time? What could be better: just you and your best friend, out under the stars, living in the moment, unplugged, with no signs of civilization. With some planning, preparation, and trail-smarts, you and your dog will have an unforgettable trip.

Planning Ahead

1. Check dog regulations for the area

If you are planning on backpacking in a state park, designated wilderness area, established trails, county open space, or National Park (there are a few that allow dogs!), basically anywhere there could be regulations, I recommend calling ahead to a ranger or park station to verify dog regulations.  Nothing is worse than being ready for an adventure, only to realize that dogs aren't welcome, or not realizing regulations and being ticketed by a ranger.

2. Pack for any possible weather 

We frequently backpack in high elevations in the Rockies, with some of the fastest-changing and most intense weather conditions you can imagine.  Wherever you are going, monitor the weather forecast, but also prepare for any known weather conditions that you could possibly encounter in the area.  For example, at elevation in Colorado we could easily face large hail, high winds, driving rain, snow, and any number of hypothermic conditions, even in the warmest months.  Realize that your dog will need layers and protection from the elements just like you do.  We suggest a warm layer, waterproof/windproof layer, and booties. Keep these items in a dry-sack in your dog's pack.

3.  Be prepared for emergencies

We are haunted by the story of Missy, a shepherd mix that was left behind on a 14,000' peak in Colorado in the middle of a snowstorm because she had injured her paw, could no longer walk, and was too heavy to carry (Don't worry, she was rescued by a group of hikers. Custody of Missy was given to a member of the rescue party.)

We always bring a bootie or two in case of paw injuries or unexpected trail conditions.  Our favorite first aid supplies are vet wrap and Tefla pads, made for horses. Tefla pads are essentially the white, non-sticky part of a band-aid, only much larger.  Vet wrap is great because it doesn't stick to fur.  We bring along a small roll of each, which can be cut to size for animals or humans.  Vaseline or antibiotic ointment are also good to have for chaffing, burns, or abrasions.  

If your dog's nails are a little overgrown, trim them slightly before you go, to help your dog strike the ground correctly.  If your dog hasn't previously toughened his or her paws on rocks or gravel earlier in the season, booties are a must.

Make sure your dog is in shape to take the physical demands of the trail.  Train with a few shorter day hikes before a big adventure.  At altitude, take elevation into consideration: your dog needs to be acclimatized just like you.  Check out this site to familiarize yourself with the signs of elevation sickness in dogs if this applies to the area you are backpacking in.  If you suspect altitude sickness, head back right away.

4.  Plan food and water

Bring more than you think you will need, and don't forget the trip back home.  Bring treats/trail food to supplement and add calories. Carefully study available water sources along the trail before you go. We suggest keeping a water bottle reserved just for your dog in his/her pack.  That way, you can fill up at an untreated water source for your dog, save water purification tablets/filters for yourself, and not risk contaminating your own water with a dirty bottle.  

Packing List/Gear Recommendations

 * Backpack: you'll have to decide if you need a large, multi-day pack or want to get a slightly smaller pack for more varied uses.  Don't overload: your dog should carry no more than 10%-12% of his or her weight.  If in doubt, you might have to carry a few of your dog's items the first day. 

 * Travel Bowl

 * Water bottle/water bladder: so you don't cross contaminate human water.

 * Food:  In plastic bag/large ziplock.

 * Paracord: for hanging food.  This is probably already on your own packing list.

 * Treats/trail food: We like Zuke's Power Bones, Natural Balance Glucosamine bites and freeze-dried, whole duck hearts.

 * ID Tags

 * Leash: We like a leash like Ruffwear's Flat Out leash for securing your dog to trees, boulders, or other tether points.

 * Booties: We use Ultra Paws, they stay on and have a good price point.

 * Poop bags

 * First aid kit (see "be prepared" above)

 * Clip Light: such as Ruffwear's Beacon Safety Light, which is waterproof.

 Dry Sack (optional): To keep your dog's stuff dry in case of rain or an impromptu swim. 

 Bear Bell (optional): We use this reflective model.

 Travel Bed (optional):  insulates your dog from the ground, protects sleeping bags from digging/sharp claws. We've listed this as optional, but this is a really nice item to have.

 Pack towel (optional): Clean up wet dogs before cuddling in the tent for the night, keep your own sleeping bags dry.

 Bandana (optional):  Soak in water to cool on hot days, spray a little bug spray on it as a bug deterrent.

*= We consider these must-have items.  We bring the optional items as well, but you could do without and be ok.

On the trail


Wildlife can pose a serious threat to your dog. During times when bears are going into and coming out of hibernation, they are especially ravenous and active.  We keep a bear bell on Bella in areas where bears and mountain lions are known to be active.  To be honest, the bell can get pretty annoying on a long hike, but it's better than dealing with your dog being injured in the wilderness. Know the hazards you might face specific to the area.  For example, in Colorado, we wouldn't expect a rattlesnake encounter at high elevation, but they are abundant in Fort Collins and the Poudre Canyon area. Porcupines are around as well. Be prepared and have a plan if your dog faces a wildlife-related injury. Realize that your dog's food is the best meal a bear, skunk, raccoon, or squirrel could hope to get. Even in daylight hours, if you are exploring a little ways away from camp, it is a good idea to hang your dog's food in a sapling to avoid undesirable wildlife encounters.  If your dog is a wanderer, nighttime would be a good time to keep him or her on a leash.  Keep in mind that many animals are more active at night, and your dog is more likely to get into trouble with wildlife. Bella usually stays pretty close at night, but we keep a light and bell on her collar, so that if the light is obstructed in some way, we can still judge how far away she is by sound. Finally, do what you can to keep your dog from harassing wildlife. Remember, you are visitors in their house!


It's not the most pleasant thing to deal with on the trail, but we treat dog waste as we would human waste when backpacking. Check regulations in your area, but generally speaking, if you are in a wilderness area, dig a cathole and bury waste at least 100' away from trails/camp and at least 200' from any water sources. On the trail or in more populated areas, pick it up in a baggy, double-bag it, maybe even triple bag in a sealing plastic bag, and pack it out in your dog's pack.

Leave the trail just as nice, if not nicer, than it was when you've left it. Any trash, treat bags, etc... pack it out!  We've probably all been guilty of a faux pas at some point in our lives of dog-ownership and accidentally left a baggy of dog waste along a trail.  Pay it forward the next time you see someone who made the same mistake, and pack out their bag for them.  Dog waste is a big reason some areas end up being closed to dogs.  Let's keep the trail nice for everyone, whether they own a dog or not.

Decisions, decisions

As a parting thought, I'd like to offer this friendly reminder to respect the power of Mother Nature. When in doubt, turn around and head back to safety, for the sake of you and your dog. When in the high peaks, we always keep in mind this quote by mountaineering legend Ed Viesturs:

"Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory."

Remember, always engage in outdoor activities with your dog at your own risk.

New Outdoor Gear from Hurtta

We've been quietly excited for the past 8 months after learning about the new Hurtta gear and getting our hands on it at the Summer Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City last year! We think  you're really going to dig the new backpack, boots and harness.

The Hurtta Trail Pack is a  versatile dog backpack for hiking, backpacking and training. It features a comfortable load dispersing harness, easily removable Saddlebags for rest and swim breaks, internal organizers, a handle to lend your dog and hand over obstacles and 3M reflective for visibility. The harness can be used separately for walks and control in the car.

The weatherproof Hurtta Outback Boots with Houndtex protect your dog's paws in difficult conditions and challenging outdoor activities. The boots are easy and quick to put on and stay firm on the paws thanks to the flexible velcro fastening mechanism. The flexible Softshell material, ergonomic design and pliable, non-slip rubber soles make the boots comfortable and unobtrusive to wear. The Outback boots are sold in sets of 2 to get the best fit for dogs whose back feet are smaller than the front. Check out video for help with measuring.

Finally, the sturdy, padded Hurtta Active Harness might become your new everyday harness. Easy to put on and the adjustable collar and chest strap ensure a comfortable fit. 3M reflectors improve visibility in the dark and the back is equipped with a handle for better control of your dog in difficult places. The Active Harness can also be used as a safety harness in the car.

Shop Hurtta gear at Backcountry K-9

Friday, April 3, 2015

Foster Dogs and a Lifestyle of Adventuring

Our Brand Amassador Krista Rodrigues has been fostering dogs for six years and we recently asked her how she brings her foster dogs into her outdoor adventures. Enjoy!

Fostering a dog awaiting adoption is everything you might imagine: fun, rewarding, educational, challenging… We have been fostering for six years and we would not be who we are and have the bond we do without having been a foster family.  There are a whole host of sub-topics to this wonderful experience but my favorite part of fostering is bringing the pups into the great outdoors and I'll try my best to focus on that!

Like with one’s own pups and experiences, there is a learning curve (for all involved!) and embracing that helps make fostering fun for everyone.  My favorite phrase is, “set them up for success.”  We do so by making the transition as easy as possible.  For example, we make lots of potty runs, establishing a pattern as early as possible; keep excitement low during initial pack interactions; get outside often, establish boundaries quickly; and acclimate her to the crate for a safe place when she is alone.  It sounds like a lot but it’s all interconnected!

That learning curve carries over into outdoor activities. The biggest adjustment for me is that fosters are leashed whereas mine are generally off leash.  Working on leash training right off the bat helps.  So does the right gear.  We have collected so much over the years: long leads, slip leads, bungee leads, backpacks, head haltis, front-clasping and traditional harnesses, etc. that all help enhance both pup and handler’s experience and meet any situation.  We've also learned to test a foster’s enthusiasm for hiking and manners on a smaller peak before tackling the bigger ones.  Like with my own dogs, I match the adventure to what I anticipate will be most enjoyable.

The White Mountains of New Hampshire are a rooty, rocky, ledgy bunch and we have finally found a system that seems to fit hiking its peaks with fosters.  I fit the dog into a harness (we have the Ruffwear Web Master), hook her to a tough bungee lead (I like the durability and price point of the Ultra Paws Tow Line) attached to my waist.  It gives her plenty of room to get ahead for rocky pitches but is also easy to reel back in.  The bungee absorbs the energy when she lurches ahead (another danger I hated about leashes) and, being hands free, I have my hands for balance, etc. without the fear of losing her.  There are lots of methods out there and what I've learned is an added benefit to fostering is improving my own adaptability and creativity.

The little added effort is worth its weight in kibble; taking your foster dog on adventures is so much fun!  They are so excited, whether they’re hitting the trail or digging on the beach.  It brings them closer to you and your dogs, tires them out, builds confidence, and is a fantastic means of positive PR and socialization.  Do you know how much people love to see a set of well-mannered dogs merrily making their way to a summit donned in backpacks?!

My biggest piece of advice, and this is true of any experience shared with a four-legger, is to be calm and focused on success.  So much of how a dog acts is derived from the energy their comrades and handler project (another great reason to involve them in excursions, we exude happy energy!).  Celebrate every victory – this is an empowering experience for everyone involved.  If nothing makes you happier than being outside with your pups, fostering will only enhance that as you bring a formerly “unwanted” dog up to a mountain summit or onto a canoe for the first time and blow her mind!

Backcountry K-9 Brand Ambassadors

It's with great pleasure that Backcountry K-9 can announce it's new team of Brand Ambassadors! From the White Mountains to the Rockies to the Sierras, our ambassadors and their canine companions are extremely active - hiking, backpacking, camping, paddling and road tripping. They're helping us put new gear to the test to make sure it can stand up to anything you and your dog can dish out.

Meet our ambassadors and read more:
Devin Scannell, Patrick Walker and Bella Sheila Bergin Goss and Gryphon
Devin Scannell, Patrick Walker and Bella Sheila Bergin Goss and Gryphon
Rachel Novak and Laika Krista Rodrigues, Tybee and Tango
Rachel Novak and Laika Krista Rodrigues, Tybee and Tango
Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd and Thor
Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd and Thor

Backcountry K-9's Brand Ambassadors

Sustainability and Good Looks

Have you seen the new Lupine Eco Collection?

Available in harnesses, collars and leashes, the unique 2-tone weave is soft yet strong and made from recycled plastic bottles. Your dog will look great in one of 9 designer colors, in both warm and cool palettes inspired by the natural world.

Keep plastic bottles out of landfills and look good doing it!

Shop the Lupine Eco Collection at Backcountry K-9

Monday, December 8, 2014

Backcountry K-9 "Explore" Gear

We're stoked to introduce our "Explore" gear in a Silipint Silicone Pint Glass and classic T-Shirt!

We worked with illustrator Katie Grundl to create this classic design. With a retro flair, it perfectly captures how we feel about getting out for adventures with our dogs.

Katie's thoughts on the design - 
"Backcountry K9 approached me with the idea of creating an illustration that encompassed the company's passion for the outdoors and our pets. Being a dog owner and outdoor enthusiast myself, I was excited to find inspiration from my everyday activities. I created the piece so that both the dog and mountains were equally highlighted as important. I went with a very 2-dimensional textured look that mimicked the look of other timeless outdoor brands."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

We Want to Hear from You!

At Backcountry K-9, we love dogs just as much as you do. That is why we strive to offer you the best outdoor dog gear available, carrying products from the best brands to ensure that you receive the highest quality gear.

We also love our customers here at Backcountry K-9!

Now it’s time to hear from you.

We want to know what products you and your dogs love, what brands are your favorites, how you use the products we sell and more.

What are your favorite places to camp with your dog and what items are must-haves? What's the best story you have about a product you purchased from Backcountry K-9? Whatever your thoughts are, tell us!

Stories and testimonials like this are what we want to hear. We are looking for some of our best customers to become champions of the brands we carry on Backcountry K-9. Your stories and first-hand accounts will help us better our selection and tailor a more beneficial shopping experience. Also, your information will help us better understand how our customers use the products we feature.

It's all about listening to our customers!

To participate, simply post on our wall, send us an email, or tweet us with your stories. We might feature them in our upcoming content! We will continue to update you on this process as we search for some of our best customers who could become Backcountry K-9 brand champions.

If we are interested, we will contact you with more information about this program and next steps.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please let us know by emailing

We look forward to hearing from you!

A special thanks to the dogs (and their owners) who appear above from top left to bottom right: Christine L. with her dogs, Bobby and Janis; Jonathan R.and his dog, Buddha; Ramey N. with Moe and Dyna; Crystal G. and her dog, Khaleesi; Anna R. and her dog, Izzie; Andrea R. and her dog, Luna; Christina S. and her dog, Dori; Chesy N., Travis H. and their dog, NakitaMelinda M. and her dog, Janice.