Podcast Episode February 5, 2024

Episode 97 | Backpacking with Dogs



In episode 97 of the Backpacking Light podcast we’re going to learn what it’s like to hike with your dog in the backcountry.


In this Episode:

What’s New at Backpacking Light?

Main Topic: Hiking with Dogs

Our guest today is Dave Swink. Dave is a long-time member of the Backpacking Light Community, he is also a guide and instructor in Backpacking Light’s Wilderness Adventures Program. Dave is an accomplished long-distance hiker, and resides with his wife and canine friend in Boulder, Colorado. He joins me today in a discussion about what it’s like to hike with your dog. Enjoy the interview.

a man with a backpack and a dog standing next to a sign
Dave Swink and Kokopelli on the CDT.
a dog standing on top of a large rock
Kokopelli on the Colorado Trail.
a man walking down a trail with a dog on a leash
Kokopelli and Dave hiking through a burn area along the Colorado Trail.
Sierra and Chase Jordan at the shore of an off-trail lake in the Medicine Bow Mountains.
a dog sitting in the snow with mountains in the background
Sierra sitting in the snow on a winter backpacking trip.
a dog laying in the grass next to a tent
Sierra sacked out after a long day of sniffing and exploring in the mountains.

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Home Forums Episode 97 | Backpacking with Dogs

Viewing 16 posts - 1 through 16 (of 16 total)
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  • #3803235
    Backpacking Light


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    Companion forum thread to: Episode 97 | Backpacking with Dogs

    In episode 97 of the Backpacking Light podcast we’re going to learn what it’s like to hike with your dog in the backcountry.

    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    All pooped out after a long day on the trail, Medicine Bow Range, Wyoming:

    Terran Terran
    BPL Member


    I carry Stella and Chewy’s raw freeze dried dinner patties as a treat and for extra protein. They can be a little expensive to use for meals as are the high protein dog foods. I switch back and forth. I mix it up at home so there’s no change on the trail.
    My dogs don’t want to go very far. They’ll go a few miles. Really fast if I let them. Then they need a good break.
    I found the Ruffwear pack ill fitting and it was too hot. I bought a Saker which I haven’t used yet. A bit heavier, but well built and looks like it will breath better. I can remove the bags and carry them. I can attach the harness to a rescue sling, though she’d be hard to carry by myself.
    I carry all the food. It goes in the Ursack anyway. Less chance of it getting wet. I just keep a few things I want handy.
    I carry long nose pliers around cactus. The dogs will step on it, then they try to bite at it. I get a much better grip with pliers and I don’t get stuck in the process.

    Great interview. Not all dogs are cut out for it. You have to hike your dog’s hike, which isn’t a bad way to go anyway.

    Thank you.

    BPL Member


    Locale: N NY

    I hike and daily walk Pickle a 56 lb blue healer. If we don’t get 5 plus miles a day he is annoying. I carry his gear,food. Great partner for me, loyal ,obedient , Velcro dog ,never tired. Always wants to share my food and I give in . I’m pretty sure he is smarter than me .

    BPL Member


    Locale: N NY

    BPL Member


    My ten year old McNab ready to get a rope assist on the last part of a multi-tiered climb up from the river.

    This was on an unsupported 15 day canyon trip back in November, where he needed 8 lbs of food. Given his age I allowed him to haul five pounds on day one. He’s 38 lbs, and a slender, grey hound-like cattle dog with a short coat. Doesn’t shed, smell or slobber but needs lots of exercise. Also a Velcro dog. Gets cold very easy, hence the dog bivy we developed.

    View post on imgur.com

    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado

    I have had so many wonderful canine hiking companions over the years. If only their lives weren’t so short!

    In Zelda’s last summer, she had a new big young friend to carry her food and gear and share body heat.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado

    Accidental double post, not sure what happened.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado

    And if you’ll forgive a nostalgic post, here are some photos from a short trip in 2008 that I will never forget. My once-in-a-lifetime dog, Rosie, was 12, Piper was 6, and Lola was only about 5 months old, IIRC. I took them for a two-night early season trip as a trial run. Poor Piper had all the food, but Rosie carried some light gear like their fleeces. It went well, and we had some great trips that year. It was Rosie’s last backpacking summer, by the next year, she was just doing short walks and hikes on local trails.


    Mark Ferwerda
    BPL Member


    Locale: Maryland

    Just listened to this and I thought it was enjoyable and worthwhile. I don’t have a dog but I’ve often thought it would be nice to have a “buddy”.

    Ryan – FYI: I’ve noticed that on some BPL podcasts, the audio is barely loud enough (and sometimes not). I have a hearing loss so part of that is me. I turn the volume up all the way. In this case, I could hear Dave fine, but I often I could not hear you clearly. Anybody else have this issue?


    Chase Jordan


    Locale: Northeast US

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for letting us know about your podcast issues! I’ve looked at addressing this, but can’t do so without adding electronic distortion to the sound for this episode. It should be fixed in epsiode 98 though! Please do let us know if you run into any further issues!

    Mark Ferwerda
    BPL Member


    Locale: Maryland


    BPL Member


    Iride and Skye are always with me in the mountains. They ‘re my true friends and companions. Last summer we hiked the Alta Via nr. 1 in Aosta Valley, Italy. We were out for 11 days. It was so great we shared this experience together.

    YouTube video


    BPL Member


    Okay, that’s a good hiking dog video! Turned the captions off and enjoyed the Italian language instead, picking out words I remembered from my many summers in the alps.


    BPL Member


    so nice somebody knows Italian and the Alps!

    Anyhow, I want to comment on dog poop. On multi days trips I also dig it like Dave. But on shorter day hikes I carry it with me in a green bag.

    I have also left the green bag on the side of a trail on occasions, but only when I know that I’ll come back from that same path.

    Stephen M
    BPL Member


    I’ve hiked with three different border collies over fifteen years. Each of them was smart, athletic, and had great endurance. Once I mountain biked a fire road in the White Mountains of NH which was up and down hill. I beat them downhill and they beat me uphill. We did 20 miles in several hours. It was the first and only time that I had to lift them into the back of my vehicle. While biking on rails-to-trails I can go 15 mph and they can keep up with for me for at least 5 miles. Their obedience was perfect and wonderful with me and people. My current dog needs training to get along with other dogs, but he’s the exception among the 3 I’ve had.

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