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Winter Hiking With Your Dog
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Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Winter Hiking With Your Dog on 01/19/2012 13:01:09 MST Print View

I live in a relatively warm climate. However, the mountain areas can get down to freezing. Last weekend I canceled an over-niter because the weather report called for night time temps in the low 30s. I couldn't get anyone to take care of my dog that weekend, which meant she was going to have to go with me. She's never experienced temps lower than 45*F. I do have a thermarest ccf pad and a very old 30*F rated Coleman sleeping bag for her. But, living in Southern California where she's accustomed to day time temps, generally, no less than 65*F and nights no less than 45*F, I was concerned. I'd really appreciate any advice you can offer.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Winter Hiking With Your Dog on 01/19/2012 13:24:42 MST Print View

What a sweet baby! What a face! If I'd been in CA I would have taken care of her!

But, to your question. I think she would have been fine with the sleeping bag and mattress, whether used to it or not. If fact, if you snuggled with her, you would have found her to be a little furnace! It's amazing how much heat our furry friends put out.

Mary D hikes with her pup all the time, she should be able to give you first hand experience advice!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Winter Hiking With Your Dog on 01/19/2012 13:34:49 MST Print View

30F isn't even a "one-dog night" to use that native temperature scale that gave the rock group it's name.

But if she was a little cool that night, it could have been a "one-human night" from her perspective. She'd have leaned up against your bag and been warmer for it.

Dogs come knowing how to adjust their position to retain or dump heat. They'll curl up or stretch out as needed.

I think with a pad and any sort of beater sleeping bag, she'd have been more than fine. With our lab, on a tent trip at 30F, I'd have maybe brought a fleece throw blanket like the kind airlines used to give you back when airlines gave you blankets. EXACTLY like that kind of blanket. While our dog plays outside at -20F she sleeps inside every night.

Being acclimitized makes a difference, but labs were bred to jump into the North Atlantic after fish and nets.

Time for some trial runs. If she'd not curled up and wiggling under the covers, bring a little less the next time.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
winter on 01/19/2012 13:54:59 MST Print View

Our dog is little so he climbs into the sleeping bag with his Human Dad. He also has his own little piece of insulated mat in case he gets too hot in there.

When we had our German Shepherd we used Muttluks on his paws in the cold weather so they wouldn't freeze/crack. You can find them at pet stores or

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Winter with your dog on 01/19/2012 14:35:38 MST Print View

Unfortunately, mine is not a very cold tolerant dog, so he's got his own thermals.

Guess where he sleeps

I avoid taking him once the snow gets too deep. A wet cold pitbull is an unhappy pitbull.

Chad Miller

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Re: Winter Hiking With Your Dog on 01/19/2012 14:35:52 MST Print View

I've seen many backpackers with dogs get a fleece vest for the pooch to use at night. The vest doesn't have to be anything special, just a human vest that sized to fit the dog. The human vests will fit most dogs just fine.

Combine that with a ccf sleeping pad and if need your jacket and the dog should do fine.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
RE: RE: RE: "Winter Hiking With Your Dog" on 01/19/2012 15:09:52 MST Print View

Thanks guys. I feel better now. I went through a lot of angst last week and finally decided to bail. You've all been a big help. :)

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
RE: RE: RE: "Winter Hiking With Your Dog" on 01/19/2012 15:37:02 MST Print View

Thanks, Doug, I would totally trust you with her. And, Ike,that is a beautiful pit!

Edited by socalpacker on 01/19/2012 15:37:42 MST.

(jpovs) - F - M

Locale: Arrowhead
Re: Winter Hiking With Your Dog on 01/19/2012 16:33:14 MST Print View


Edited by jpovs on 02/02/2015 08:45:58 MST.

Gabe Joyes
(gabe_joyes) - F

Locale: Lander, WY
Dogs are tough. on 01/19/2012 16:46:46 MST Print View

Dogs are tough. Ours skis in 0 degree weather and has camped in the lower teens with snow. We just throw a rain jacket or something over her and she usually works her way closer and closer to our sleeping bags. She is an Alaskan Husky (Siberian, Greyhound, and Collie). SO she is skin and bones with short fur. See below.Only time the dog has ever used a sleeping pad.
Only times shes ever used a sleeping pad.

All 37 pounds of her.
All 37 pounds of her.

Not winter yet, but isingle digits wind chill on Wind River Peak
Not winter yet, but single digits wind chill on Wind River Peak

Edited by gabe_joyes on 01/19/2012 16:48:27 MST.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
re: dogs on 01/19/2012 19:11:50 MST Print View

Thanks Kendall. Yours looks like a sweetie and far better suited for cold weather than mine. Other than his coat, I just bring a spare bit of foam pad for him. I also open up my sleeping bag and throw it over the two of us like a quilt if its cold.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Winter Hiking with the Dog on 01/20/2012 18:28:29 MST Print View

Hey Kendall,

My yellow lab accompanies me on a lot of my trips, which mostly take place in the winter in the local backcountry. We don't typically have to deal with snow (or if there is snow, there's not lots of it), but we do regularly get temps down into the mid 20s and sometimes colder.

We were worried about how Bixby would handle the cold, but so far we haven't had any issues. He has his own ccf pad (an old GG nightlite pad) to sleep on and his own insulation piece which is just an old synthetic vest.

Go pick up an old fleece vest or synthetic vest from the thrift store, probably a men's Med (or large if your dog is bigger, for reference my lab is 95 lbs), and you should be good to go. An old sleeping bag seems like it could work too but whenever we've tried to drape something over our dog, he just kicks it off at some point in the night and it ends up in a ball in the corner of the shelter.

Having the dog carry its own pack towel can be good too so that you can use it to dry the dog off real well in camp, assuming yours is anything like mine and has to stop at every swimming hole, creek, lake, etc. for a dip. The only time I've seen my dog get cold and shiver while curled up in a little ball was when he was damp from swimming all afternoon and hadn't dried out before the sun went down. We got him dried a bit more, took him for a quick walk and put his vest on him and he warmed right up.

Bixby at Ediza Lake

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Winter Hiking with the Dog on 01/20/2012 18:38:36 MST Print View

More Dog"A wet cold pitbull is an unhappy pitbull."

So true! Ike, where can I get my pit bull hiking companion thermals like yours? When my pooch comes out with me in the winter, he insists on sleeping on my chest under the quilt.Winter Dog

Edited by evanrussia on 01/20/2012 18:51:05 MST.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Evan on 01/21/2012 14:55:59 MST Print View

Those are from K9 topcoats. Knowing pitbulls though, even with the coat she's still going to want to sleep on your chest.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Winter Hiking with the Dog on 01/21/2012 15:09:11 MST Print View

Nicholas, I like the photo of your dog in Lake Ediza. I assume that the stroke is a dog paddle. Is that a double-sided dog pack, or are those water wings?


Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Evan on 01/21/2012 18:35:28 MST Print View

Thanks, Ike! Since the dog needs to sleep against me in any context, I think I'll just have to keep sharing the quilt with him on the trail.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Dog Packing on 01/27/2012 06:41:21 MST Print View

The fotogs herein have captivated and inspired me to post some of the Mighty Winter Cur in his best elements---the TN and NC mountains.

Dana Design and Dog
Here is old Shunka on a TN mountain top and using his homemade pack made from a set of old bicycle paniers.

A View on Hangover Mt
On another trip we reach the top of Hangover Mt in NC and old Shunka likes the snow.

Climbing Up From Elysium Fields
On this particular trip we get caught in a series of winter storms and still have another thousand feet to climb. Here we are on the trail up to Four Mile Ridge in NC. At the top I lose the trail in 24 inches of snow with drifts to 30-35 inches. It took me three hours to hike one mile.

High Elevation Cold Camp
Another time we reach Airjet Camp in frigid temps and Shunka surveys the Staika tent and the WM Puma bag.

Dog Surveys Scouts
Atop Bob Stratton Bald mighty Shunka surveys a group of boy scouts anxious to get off the mountain due to a surprise October snowstorm.

Shunka Gets A Better Pack
At some nameless spot we take a break. It's obvious Shunka traded in his crappy homemade pack for a real one made by Adventure 16.

Minus 10F
In 15 years of his backpacking life, Shunka came into the tent only once---during a -10F night with popping trees which sounded like gunshots and he got spooked.

Difficult Postholing
Here Shunka is having a difficult time on a ridge hike thru snow drifts so I have to take his pack and carry it myself.

A Human And A Dog Load
Sometimes in deep snow you've got to unstrap the dog's load and put it on your own. Here I am wearing a meat necklace---a fully loaded dog pack.

Flats Mt Trailhead at Beehouse Gap
On another trip we come off the Flats Mt trail and stop at Beehouse Gap for a rest.

Red Staika
In the South Col Camp on Gorak Mountain we hang out and prepare for another cold night. Shunka always made a circle nest in the snow and often could reach the dead leaves underneath.

Hiking Out
On this trip my evac ride could not reach me so we had to pull a long frozen roadwalk out to "syhpilization".

Edited by TipiWalter on 01/27/2012 06:56:22 MST.

David A
(DavidAdair) - M

Locale: West Dakota
Re: Dog Packing on 01/27/2012 09:19:32 MST Print View

Great photos, Walter. A good dog is fine company. In a couple photos I see you are wearing that particular smile frequently seen on the trail but rarely in the city.

Edited by DavidAdair on 01/27/2012 09:20:26 MST.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Winter Hiking With Your Dog on 01/27/2012 15:32:08 MST Print View

Wonderful photos!

Having been quoted as an "expert" above I feel obliged to respond. Actually, I don't backpack in winter, mostly because I can't stand 14-15 hour nights in the tent. Once it's pitch dark more than 12 hours a day, it's just dayhiking for me, and usually below the snowline.

However, I do backpack in "shoulder season" which in the high Cascades can mean temps down to 15*F. I take a Gossamer Gear torso length Nightlite pad for my dog (it helps support my pack, since I use an insulated air pad), and if below freezing temps are expected, I'll put a dog jacket in my dog's pack. Hysson is mostly Lab, and of course has that very fine, dense (and perpetually shedding!) undercoat designed to let him survive in freezing water, but since he's an indoor dog at home, he doesn't have as much as if he were outdoors most of the time. It's really important to have a dog jacket loose enough that it doesn't compress the dog's natural furry insulation!

Because Hysson stands up and stretches every few hours during the night and then turns around three times before lying back down (I call him my Robert Benchley dog), I've found it's useless to put a blanket or other cover on him. It will end up in a back corner of the tent. That's why I use a jacket to keep him warm on cold nights. On cold nights he is definitely part of my sleep system!

Should I ever want to camp in zero F temps, my daughter recently gave me a really heavy fleece coat she had for her Viszla (their hair is so short and thin that they need a lot of covering--in fact, she used it under a rain jacket). It's "Apache River" brand and has more belly coverage than most fleece dog coats. However, those who sew can probably convert a thrift shop child's fleece jacket for their dog for a lot less money.

Actually, Hysson's biggest snow experience was last week in Seattle, of all places. It started snowing Tuesday morning and, except for a few bouts of freezing rain, never really stopped until warmer rains hit on Saturday. Awesome sledding on the steep hills near my son's place. Most of the parents were out, too, making sure their kids didn't slide into the few cars that were trying to venture out. My grandkids had a ball, and so did their parents. My son said that the rare snowstorms are really the only time that the neighborhood gets together as a community! We were out for several hours each day. Hysson was just fine in the snow, although his paws got a bit sensitive, especially later in the week when the snow had a nice crust on top from the freezing rain.

Edited by hikinggranny on 01/27/2012 15:47:11 MST.

Doug Smith
(Jedi5150) - F

Locale: Central CA
Sierras on 01/27/2012 23:48:05 MST Print View

I took Vixen, our 5 year old Belgian Malinois (60 lbs) backpacking with me last summer in the Sierras. Beginning of summer in the Sierras meant that there was still a good 5 to 6 feet of snow covering most of the trail. I'm honestly not sure how cold it got that night, but we were at roughly 9k feet in elevation, and I'd guess the temp dropped to the low 40's. The tent was set up on dry ground, surrounded by about 2 foot deep snow on a ridgeline. Vixen was comfortable on my TNF fleece jacket, although she does like to push up against me in a sleeping bag.


This is what the first week of summer looks like in the Sierras:


[img][/img] appears my photo posting skills are weak. :)

Edited by Jedi5150 on 01/28/2012 00:06:02 MST.