Camping with Canines – Human Essentials

Okay well, I mean camping with one canine, Milo, but these kinds of outdoor adventures are what we adopted him for in the first place. Below I’ll outline the 10 Essential Systems that we bring along for the humans on camping trips and also the essentials that we bring along for Milo in the next article.


Navigation is extremely important, but it’s also important to know what kind of special concerns the area you are traveling to may have. I have a subscription to Gaia GPS which allows me to download maps to my phone and track my location even when offline. Other good trail websites and apps for the PNW are All Trails and Washington Trails Association. Additionally, even for day hikes that I’ve never been to, I always bring along a printed map of the area we are exploring just in case.

I’d like to take an orienteering class one day so I don’t have to rely on electronics to know my directions, especially when I start to explore less traveled areas. Other people carry dedicated GPS devices, locator beacons, or some kind of satellite messenger. Again, preparation and foresight is key.


I carry my headlamp because it’s bright, has a long battery life, and allows me to be hands-free. If you know you’re getting down to low battery, bring spares.

Sun Protection

This is so important. People forget that even though we live in the Pacific Northwest, the sun’s UV rays can still penetrate through cloud cover. I always bring along sunglasses, a hat, chapstick and sunscreen. The worst is coming home and having to recover from burns or painfully chapped lips (this has definitely happened before).

First Aid

Since I usually travel with a small group, we usually split up first aid items so that not one person is carrying all the weight. Essentials for us are: bandages, antiseptic wipes, antibacterial gel, gauze, insect repellent and insect bite wipes, aspirin, and hand sanitizer. We use the small travel sized packets of wipes and gels to reduce weight and also cut lengths of gauze and put into ziplocks so we don’t have to carry the whole roll.


We each carry our own knives. We like Benchmade Knives.


Each of us carry flint starters or matches, but honestly our easiest source of fire are our portable propane backpacking stoves. Sometimes in the wind they have a hard time sparking though, so it’s a good idea to have backup fire starters to get them going.


We typically share the weight of our tents (tarp, tent, poles), even though they are backpacking tents and quite light. It’s always a good idea to minimize individual strain, but also environmental strains from having multiple tents in one area. Also, be sure to have an appropriately rated sleeping bag and know how cold your location could potentially get.

Extra Food

We always have this problem. Hiking and backpacking is such a high energy activity, especially when there is a lot of elevation gain. Some things we’ve packed along are dehydrated meals (you can buy at your local outdoor equipment store or make at home with a dehydrator), ramen, jerky, dried squid (a favorite Asian snack), nuts, protein/granola bars, fresh and dried fruits (those taste like candy up there!), pre-cooked rice, eggs, spam, tuna etc. Since we always seem to be hungry, we’ll bring along more lightweight but energy rich foods such as pita bread, peanut butter, tuna, hummus etc. Either way, we often repackage items so that it’s more compact and then put everything in a gallon ziplock to keep things clean and convenient.

If fires are allowed, our tradition is to bring along steaks to grill on our fire embers. We season and freeze these the night before so it can defrost by the time it’s dinner time on the trail. A perfect reward for a hard hike!

We’re on the lookout on how to improve backpacking cuisine! Give some suggestions below in the comments.

Extra water

This is extremely important and comes with knowing where you’re going. Is the hike shady and wooded or is it exposed and barren? How much elevation gain? Will you have access to water from streams and rivers?

We typically carry 1.5-2 L water bladders and extra water bottles, depending on the hike. Maybe that seems like too little or too much, but part of the planning process is knowing whether you are able to refill your water somewhere along the way. We carry a water pump between us and try to find clear/moving water to filter as needed.

Not only is this water used for drinking, it’s also used for cooking.

Extra clothes

Again, know where you are going. Higher elevations can still have snow, even in the summer. They may be extremely exposed and hot during the day, but also become very cold at night. What I find to be most useful is to bring layers rather than a bulky jacket. You can always remove a layer as you warm up from hiking or put one on when you stop to rest. Down jackets pack down very small and are also very warm. You can also layer your bottoms as needed.

Ladies, myself included, are especially guilty of over packing clothes. Remember that whatever you are bringing, you are carrying it on your back. Often I just wear whatever I’m already wearing and bring extra undergarments, extra mid-layers, and a jacket. There’s no sense in packing extra of what you already have on your body and you’re going to get dirty even with a change of clothes.

What I do like to do is leave some fresh items and flip flops in the car though. Nothing better than kicking those boots off and relaxing in some clean clothes after a long, dirty overnight hike.

Other items

Of course everything has to go into some kind of backpack and we got ours properly fitted and purchased at our local REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated). Fit is extremely important so that you can minimize back strain and injury. Our hiking boots and trekking poles were also fitted and purchased at REI.

Some other items to consider and bring: toilet paper, cat-hole shovel (this is a must, check out my LNT article), wet wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, salt/pepper/seasonings, electrolyte source, backpacking cook set, etc.

Decide what is a luxury item and always think about how you can repackage items, bring smaller quantities, share the load, or use less while on the trail. It’s certainly a comfort exercise to find out what you can exist and be happy without.

Happy Trails!


“The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world’s joy.”

Henry Ward Beecher

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