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5 Things I Learned on My First Backpacking Trip with a Puppy

When I pictured my first backpacking trip with Chorizo, things were all rainbows and sunshine inside of my head. 

Everything would be perfect. We’d make excellent time, the sun would be shining, Chorizo would sleep peacefully in the night, and we would take a dip in the alpine lakes.

But let’s be real here – backpacking is hard. And things get even more interesting when you add an 8 month old puppy into the mix. 

The truth is no matter how much you prepare or how many articles you read, you are guaranteed to be thrown for a loop at some point or another. So, I will share some of my biggest takeaways after my first backpacking adventure with Chorizo “the Sausage.”

Puppy chewing on pinecone

Meet the Dynamic Duo

To begin, you’ll need to meet the pup himself: Chorizo (trail name, “the Sausage”) is an 8 month old Blue Heeler. Some of Chorizo’s favorite things: loves his blue ball, shady hikes, and apple slices.

My name is Quincy (Q) (She/her) and I am the lucky guardian of this wonderful puppy. Some of my favorite adventure sports include rock climbing and backpacking. 

Now that that’s out of the way … let’s get into it! 

  1. All of the preparation is worth it

A week or two prior to going on our backpacking adventure, Chorizo and I practiced hiking. It was a great opportunity to see his comfort level on different terrain, his endurance level, and overall stoke for being outside.

On each hike or outdoor excursion, Chorizo wore his Switchbak™ Dog Harness, which has pockets and carried his water bowl, protein treats, and other trail essentials. Since puppies are unable to carry a quarter of their weight until after they are a year old, this was a fun way for Chorizo to practice wearing a pup pack.

Dog by lake wearing.

  1. Lower your expectations

The second we got on the trail, I realized that I needed to adjust my expectations to avoid getting frustrated. 

Realistically, Chorizo may not be able to handle river crossings or the distance or the heat. Although these factors were difficult to come to terms with, it didn’t change how amazing it was to simply be outside experiencing the beauty of the outdoors with my best friend.

No matter what we faced on the trail, Chorizo and I were going to tackle it together. And, if we didn’t finish the trail, it didn’t matter because we were learning together.

Soon the trip became less about the pace and miles and more about the joy of being outside with my dog. 

Dog and two humans smiling while backpacking in the woods

  1. Don’t forget to take care of yourself

Sometimes, we can get so wrapped up in making sure our pup is taken care of that we forget to take care of ourselves. Caring for your dog on the trail starts with taking care of yourself. Don’t forget to hydrate, take breaks, and snack often.

If you are energized and ready to go your pup will pick up on those signals and match your energy. 

Dog on trail standing next to his pack and his humans' two backpacks.

  1. Backpacking tents are small as heck!!

That super cute compact, ultralight tent is really small for a reason… BUT, that is something to consider when bringing your furry friend along.

I had practiced sleeping in a tent with Chorizo and my partner earlier in the summer to get him used to being in a compact space at night. Obviously, Chorizo doubled in size come August and the tent situation on our trip was CRAMPED.

This was something I had completely overlooked and it surprised me when we set up camp for the night. I would recommend doing a test run of your tent layout with your pup to ensure everyone fits comfortably. You and your dog will be grateful for it later on! 

Closeup of dog and human sleeping in a tent

  1. Have fun

Again – backpacking is hard, and adding a pup into the equation can make things even harder. 

Give yourself and your puppy some grace on your first backpacking trip together. Chances are something may not go to plan, but that is okay! Treat every misstep on this first trip as a lesson learned. These experiences will help you prepare better for the next trip. 

Remember why you and your pup are outdoors in the first place … to have FUN.

Dog and human backpacking side by side on trail 

Curious what adventures Chorizo and his human, Quincy, will get up to next? You can follow them on Instagram @chorizobarkompas and @quincyberkompas.