Packing your dog packWe recently encountered a small dog on the AT lugging around huge amounts of gear stuffed into a too-large pack.  We were startled to find some dog owners didn’t know how much weight is too much for a dog pack. While we sent this particular dog off in a new, properly-sized pack (offering custom fitting and advice along the way), we were anxious to get the word out that you can have your pack–and pack it too–without over burdening your dog.

Our saddlebags are sized to help prevent overpacking, however, sometimes the weight of food and gear, paired with a too-large pack can lead to an overweighted pack. The good news is, a lot of gear can fit in the correct size dog pack.  By packing only the essentials and being meticulous about choosing the right gear, you can fit everything you need into the right size pack for less than the recommended 25-30% of your dog’s body weight.

Here are a few other ideas to help reduce the weight of your dog’s pack.

  1. Analyze your current equipment.  Is it the best use of space and weight?  For example, do you have a bulky dog bed, when you could instead utilize the 14oz/397g Highlands Bed™?  Are you using a lightweight bowl, such as the Bivy Bowl™?
  2. Consider the weather, season, and location.  Do you really need everything you packed?  Sometimes the weather and location will allow you to pack a little lighter.
  3. Remove the extras.  Cut off tags, remove zipper pulls, and take out unused features; for example, if you don’t use the bladders in the Palisades Pack™, remove them before the trek.
  4. Share gear.  Is another dog coming along?  See if they can share a bed or bowl.
  5. Get the most bang for your buck.  Finding items with dual purpose can help you cut down on weight.  For example, the Quencher™ Cinch-Top Bowl can store food as well as serve it.  The Quick Draw™ is a leash that is worn as a collar when not in use.  These products can make a small, but hefty difference in your load.
  6. Reconfigure dog and human gear.  Just because it’s your dog’s, doesn’t mean you can’t carry it (and vice-versa).  Load your pack with bulky but light items–like your dog’s bed–and let them carry the smaller, heavier, and more often accessed items: camera, phone, snacks, water.
  7. Be creative.  For example, take your dog’s Highland’s Bed out of the stuff sack and put it in you stuff sack with your sleeping bag.
  8. Utilize attachment points.  Think of different ways your dog can carry more of their stuff when the saddlebag capacity challenges you.  For example, attach the bed using the gear loops and dynamicord on the dog’s pack, or use the leash as a rope to help tie gear down.

2 thoughts

  1. Great suggestions. I actually carry all of my dog’s water and food and load his pack with things that won’t be used until we reach our campsite, like food, bowls, coffee, etc. That way I can balance the load in each saddle bag and don’t have to constantly readjust every time we stop for a water break.

    1. Excellent suggestion. Balancing the load after a water break can be a real challenge. Many of our customers actually use their own bladders to fill up the dog bowl on the go, having their dog carry only the refill water.

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