Camping with Dogs
Story and photos contributed by Ruffwear Ambassador Mallory Paige
Zipped into the tent, I notice how filled with sound the forest really is. Each leaf rustling, branch breaking causes me to jump. I hear noises that seem to be coming from the direction of the food tree. I strain my eyes, but it’s too dark to tell if anything is there. And what would I do if I did see a bear? Try to scare it away? Hope it just eats the food and goes away? Having never actually done this before, I’m not really sure.
Eventually I fall asleep, wondering what I’ll find in the morning.
I wrote this on Day 13 of the journey now known as Operation Moto Dog. Just a few weeks prior I had gotten my motorcycle license, attached the sidecar to the bike, loaded up my best friend Baylor the Dog and hit the road for Alaska determined to become the motorcycling woman of the wilds I envisioned. And there I was, in the middle of nowhere Yukon. Lacking any useful mechanical knowledge or outdoor skills. It was exciting and terrifying.
Now, after more than 400 days and 40,000 miles on the road – and thanks to the help of an impressively smart, generous, kind and helpful can-do community – I’m inching ever closer to becoming the adventurer I envision. Capable of camping, riding, connecting and exploring. With my furry bestie at my side of course.
Here are 5 Camp Lessons this newbie learned from a year sleeping outside:
- Safety First: Backcountry Preparation
Heading into the backwoods? Go prepared. Carry bear spray. Learn to hang your food bag (dog food is especially aromatic, so take precautions).And if you plan to venture out solo, consider carrying a GPS tracker like the Spot device. It will give your family peace of mind and provide a layer of backup just in case.
- Comfort: Gear Up
It’s hard to say who was happier when Baylor got a Highlands Sleeping Bag. Up until that point I tried to wrap him up with me in my bag each night. And invariably I would wake up cold and shivering. Ridiculous, but true.Bottom line? Get the right gear for both of you. Baylor has a rain jacket for riding in the rain, loves his fleece on cold hikes and uses his sleeping bag daily.
- Research: Know Before You Go
Do you need a fire permit? Are there seasonal restrictions? How are the road conditions?Droughts cause fire bans, hunting can form seasonally crowded areas, and rain creates impassable roads. It’s better to know before you go. Do some research and don’t hesitate to give the ranger a call.
- Rules: Follow Them
Sure it can be more fun to let your pup run free, but we’re setting a precedent out there on the trail. And the better we do, the more access we’ll be granted. Use a leash when required, respect areas that don’t allow dogs and, of course, always pick up after your dog.
- Wild & Free: Camping Doesn’t Need to Cost a Dime
Imagine waking up to a valley overlooking the Mississippi headwaters. The sun is glowing. It’s completely silent except for the distant sound of a nearby bird foraging breakfast. No noisy campground or rules about where to set up and when to get out. It’s wild and it’s free. It’s the magic of dispersed camping.Up until a few years ago I had no idea that National Forest and BLM land offered dispersed camping opportunities, but it has quickly become my favorite way to get off the beaten path and adventure on the cheap. Check out these tips if you’re ready to camp for free.
There’s still so much I don’t know, but having Baylor the Dog at my side gives me the courage to get out there and go for it. To test my limits and venture into the unknown. To set up camp and call wild places home for the night.
Mallory Paige is a Storyteller and Adventurer. As creator of the popular Operation Moto Dog adventure, she has spent the past 18-months traveling and camping her way across North America on a motorcycle-sidecar with Baylor the Dog, proving you don’t need to be fearless or perfect to live your dreams.