I couldn’t imagine a camping trip without my dog. Camping combines his (and my) two favorite things: playing outside and snuggling up in bed after a day well spent. But I’ll admit that when I started bringing him along, it took some time to successfully adapt to a dog-friendly camping lifestyle. From where to camp (KOA campgrounds are dog-friendly, and you can find them everywhere), what to bring, and where to go out in nature, there were many lessons learned. Whether you’re new to camping with your dog or you’ve been doing it semi-regularly, here are some pro tips for a hassle-free camping trip with your pooch.
First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure that the campground you’ll be staying in allows dogs. Fortunately for KOA campers, KOA has very dog-friendly policies. KOA campgrounds generally allow dogs to join in on the fun, though the specifics vary by campground. For example, some KOAs have limited pet units or charge an additional per pet fee, so your best bet is to include the number of pets in your reservation and try to call ahead. Cabin reservations may or may not allow for dogs, depending on the campground.
KOA’s pet policy revolves around good manners and behavior. Dogs are expected to be on a leash whenever they’re outside of your vehicle or rental unit. Campers should also make sure that their dogs don’t bark excessively or display any aggressive behavior.
Pet owners, rejoice! KOA campgrounds have designated pet play areas, making it that much easier to get your dog some exercise at camp. Kamp K9s are fully fenced and provide ample space for your dog to run around off-leash. They include seating and clean-up stations. Some even have separate areas for small and large dogs so your pup can find the perfect-sized playmate.
Aside from quality time spent at camp, I like to find ways to include my pup on all the experiences of a camping trip. Hiking, bike rides, paddle adventures—you name it, you can find a suitable way to bring your dog along. For any outdoor experience, checking the pet regulations is step number one. U.S. National Parks generally don’t allow dogs on trails, though they’re welcome to come along for scenic drives and strolls on pavement. I like to seek out the dog-friendly places to get outside in every location I travel, which ranges from urban parks to U.S. National Forest trails to dog beaches. Since pet rules vary so much from place to place, try searching lists of local dog-friendly attractions like Bring Fido or find the relevant park service websites for details.
Dog owners know that heat can be a real concern for your pet’s safety, especially when camping. Never leave your dog inside the car, cabin, tent, or RV in temperatures that wouldn’t be comfortable for you, too. Fans, heat-blocking curtains, shade, plenty of water, and open windows are all helpful if you need to leave your pup inside when the weather allows. Cold, snow, and rain also require the right accommodations for keeping your dog comfortable when camping. Blankets, booties, a jacket, and a warm doggie bed are all essentials on the cold-weather camping pack list.
You never know when your dog may need veterinary care on the road. Having your pet’s up-to-date vaccine information and medical history is crucial when seeing a care provider other than your home veterinarian. Most pet groomers, doggie daycares, and boarding facilities will require a look at your dog’s vaccination history as well. I put all of my pup’s files in a special folder when we travel, but you can also keep a fully digital medical history through some pet insurance providers or your home veterinarian.
A few months into my camping road trip with my dog, I decided it was time to get him insured since he was being exposed to more potential dangers than at home. We traveled to regions with high numbers of fleas and ticks, areas with potentially harmful wildlife, and cities with far more traffic than we were used to. All in all, a pet insurance policy won’t keep your dog out of harm’s way while you’re camping, but it can be a financial lifesaver if an accident happens. If you already have pet insurance, great! Make sure that your current policy covers your pet when traveling out of your home state or country.
Despite the extra effort, traveling and camping with your pet is a rewarding experience that’s well worth your time. Just a little bit more planning can ensure that your camping trip is memorable for all the right reasons.
Written by Jenna Herzog for Matcha in partnership with Kampgrounds of America.