Camping is one of the best bonding activities you can share with your dog. Plus, your pup will love it—there's a million things to smell, chase, look at and pee on. It's doggy heaven right here on earth. But to keep things safe and fun, you'll need the proper preparation. Check out the following 8 tips to ensure you and your pup make the most of your outdoor excursion.

1. Find the Right Campsite

Not every campsite is ideal or welcoming of canines, so finding a suitable spot is first on the agenda. Choosing the right space could come down to preference as well, as some sites require leashes and other don’t. Use Bring Fido, or another online resource to find a pet friendly campsite that’s right for you.

2. Visit the Vet and Update Your Dog’s Papers

Before camping with your pup, especially if it’s their first time, visit the vet to make sure your dog’s physically up to the challenge. While you’re there, confirm that your pooch’s ID tags, vaccinations and microchip information are up to date. As a safety precaution, bring these records along everytime you camp. And because camping can get messy, consider laminating them, too.

3. Pack the Essentials

While this list is by no means exhaustive, bring at least the following:

  • Poop bags
  • Leash (preferably reflective and no longer than 6 feet)
  • Collapsible food and water bowls (and plenty of food and water for the both of you)
  • Outdoor dog toys (you’re camping remember, it’s supposed to be fun!)
  • Towels (messy pups don’t make ideal tent buddies)
  • Dog backpack (but only if your pup is old enough and strong enough to carry one)
  • Dog-specific first aid kit (more on that below)

4. Bring a Dog Specific First Aid Kit

While your dog’s first aid kit should include more items, the U.S. Forest Service suggests bringing at least the following when camping with your pup:

  • Needle-nose pliers for removing thorns, splinters and other sharp objects
  • A bandana in the event you need an emergency muzzle
  • A tool for removing ticks
  • Booties, in case your dog injures their paw or simply requires extra paw protection
  • A first aid book with instructions for treating common dog injuries

For an in-depth guide to finishing out your dog-specific first aid kit, click here.

5. Don’t Forget a Tether and Stakes

Have you ever tried setting up camp while holding your dog on a leash? It’s almost impossible. Two hands is simply not enough. A tether and stakes to secure your dog to the campsite will make your outing much less stressful. While going tether-free or leashless is always an option, it’s a big risk. When faced with all the temptations the outdoors offer, even dogs that do well without a leash can run off and become lost.

6. Bring Pet-Friendly Bug Repellent

Fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and countless other insects and parasites inhabit the great outdoors. Apply a non-toxic, pet-friendly bug repellent to both your pup and yourself for a bite-free camping experience.

7. Never Leave Your Dog Unattended

Whether out exploring or back at the tent, never leave your pup unattended. If left at the campsite, your dog could aggravate other campers by barking or stealing food. But more importantly, your dog could get injured by wildlife if you’re not around to monitor their activity. As a rule, never let them venture too far from your side until you’re back in the comfort of your own home.

8. Pack Blankets and a Sleeping Bag Just for Your Dog

Like we said, your pup should never leave your side when camping—and that includes bedtime. While your pup can typically sleep on the ground, doing so, particularly in cold or wet weather, unnecessarily exposes them to the elements (body heat, for example, can easily be lost through the thin flooring of a tent).

To prevent such issues—and to give your pup a comfier spot to rest—pack blankets and a sleeping bag dedicated just for your dog. Low on cash? A child’s sleeping bag from a resale shop makes for a great doggy sleeping bag.

Corinna Henderson