Camping, backpacking, and hiking with dogs is so incredibly enjoyable. Your dog will be in their element exploring the wilderness with you. The fun and enjoyment can be ruined if you don’t plan around keeping your dog warm. For those who like camping in the winter, you will already know how to keep yourself warm. There are many people though who camp in the summer and don’t realize that their dog will need a little extra attention when it comes to keeping them warm through the night.
6 Tips For Keeping Your Dog Warm While Camping
A Good Ol’ Cuddle
There is nothing better than sitting back and relaxing with your dog. So why not make that part of the solution?
When I first thought about going camping with a dog the first idea I had for keeping him warm was to cuddle up through the night. Woody will usually sleep right next to my head when it’s not too cold. When it is freezing though I try to get him to cuddle into my side so we can keep each other warm through the night. Cuddling is something he loves to do when we are in the house anyway, so it’s natural for him to cuddle. Woody is just a little West Highland Terrier, but he is surprisingly warm, which is a bonus.
Another little tip might be to unzip your sleeping bag a little to let your dog lay down inside the sleeping bag with you. Alternatively, you can buy a slightly larger sleeping bag or even a double sleeping bag to give your dog as much room as he needs while also keeping each warm.
Dog Sleeping Bags
Some dogs would prefer their own space so buying a sleeping bag for your dog might be wise. There are various great options available, and I have even used a few with Woody. The one I like and the only one Woody seems to love is from Ruffwear on Amazon.
Woody would prefer to sleep next to me and inside my sleeping bag when it’s a little too cold. For those trips where it’s not as cold like during a summer camping trip I tend to see Woody starting the night next to me. When he gets too warm next to me, he will retreat to his little sleeping bag for the rest of the night.
Dog sleeping bags and travel beds will be a great addition to your dog camping gear. The one I use has a very durable fabric that is very easy to clean, is water-resistant, and will dry very fast when out in the wilderness. It weighs on around 2lb so is very lightweight for hiking and backpacking, you will also be able to roll it up into a small bag for carrying.
I take Woody’s sleeping bag with us when we go for picnics as he likes to sleep on it after playing games and a little chase around the park.
Pack Hot Water Bottle
Some of the tips I am listing for dogs are similar to the ones for people looking at how to stay warm in their tents. This tip though is a carbon copy and strongly suggests reading my other tips for people.
If you have adequately planned your camping trip, then you will have a hot water bottle and the ability to heat water for it. Hot water bottles are a great solution and will work even in the lowest temperatures. I have tried it a few times, and it certainly does work great.
I suggest heating the water as hot as you can get it, fill your hot water bottle and then place the bottle inside a t-shirt. Having the bottle in a t-shirt will stop your dog from burning themselves if the water is a little too hot. I always like to test a hot water bottle on myself to make sure it’s not too hot.
Woody loves sitting on hot water bottles until his bum gets too warm.
Get His Coat. It’s Cold
Much like when you are cold and need some extra layers, your dog is the same. Many dog owners will already own a dog coat for winter walks, so you can use that if you have one. I like to use a Hurtta Summit Parka dog coat for Woody. It is for cold weather and winter camping which so will do for colder evenings and even into the winter months.
When Woody and I are out on a camping trip, I always like to put the parka on him to see if he wants to keep it on or not. Woody and I have found a good system where I put the coat on him if I think it’s cold and wait 30 mins. After waiting, I will move to take it off him, and if he pulls away, he gets to keep it on for the rest of the evening. The only time I will insist it comes off is if he starts to get too warm or if the coat has become wet.
It is possible the one item that I can guarantee will keep my dog warm all night while camping.
Bring Your Dogs Own Blanket
Blankets can be great for keeping you and your dog warm. Wrapping up in a cozy blanket together will be great for bonding with your dog as well as keeping each other warm. If you want things to go a little smoother, then I would suggest you bring a blanket that your dog knows they are allowed to use in the house.
Woody has a few blankets that he knows are his, and he can use them for getting cozy and comfy. When I started camping with Woody, I used to bring one of his blankets from the house. It worked great, and Woody loved having something that was 100% his in the tent. The problem was it was a thick blanket which was a little heavy, and when it got wet from Woody’s paws, it would be near impossible to dry while camping.
Over time I opted for a camping specific blanket that is great. I have two, one for a backup and one that is being used. When not camping the blankets are used in the house for Woody, so we always have one that is on our Sofa and one that sits below my desk in my home office.
I now use the Arcturus Wool Blanket which you can find on Amazon for fairly cheap. It’s lighter than most home blankets and is great for keeping both you and your dog warm in the tent. You can even use it on the sofa when it’s movie night.
A Little More Food Will Help
The last and likely most important tip. Dog owners know that during winter months to decrease the number of calories their dog consumes because of less activity with colder temperatures and fewer walks. When you are out camping your movement and exercise will be higher than usual, so a natural increase in food is a great solution.
There is more to this though as PetMD mention:
“Studies suggest that dogs subject to low temperature exposure need two to three times the normal calories as they need at a more moderate temperature”.
My advice would be to use your best judgment when camping and keep an eye on how cold it is. If you think the temperature is lower than your dog is used to then maybe even more food the way to go. I am sure your dog will love you for all the extra food and treats.
Is My Dog Too Cold? Warning Signs
You will be able to tell if your dog is too cold easily as the signs are similar to humans. You should focus on keeping your dogs temperature up and ensure they are nice a cozy. That being said there might well be situations that are just too cold for your dog.
If you think your dog is acting odd or just not themselves then do not delay, get back to civilization, and a Vet.
Signs That Might Mean Your Dog Too Cold
- Cold to the touch
- Curling up and shivering
- Restless or pacing
- Sleeping or lethargy
- If your gut tells you something is up with your dog, then trust your gut and don’t take chances
Some final thoughts
Camping is a great experience and sharing it with man’s best friend is probably the best decision you will make. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into when it comes to camping with your dog. Over time you will understand how your dog reacts to different weather types and temperatures. Not to mention you will more than likely have a few of your tips so make sure you come back and share them with all of us at Wilderness Junkie.