Travel with Dogs: Packing lists.

The sun sets over the San Juan Mountains and I make a fire. Harold lies on the blanket near me and the two pups wrestle in the trees. I settle back with a beer and book, glad to have found such a perfect campsite in the woods.


A tree branch cracks in the hills behind us. The twilight closes in around us. Another tree cracks and breaks. Harold sits up, sniffs, and runs for the truck. Rosie and Ollie stop playing. They listen. They run for the truck and jump in. I sip my beer and wonder why. Harold and Rosie climb into the front seats and look away. Ollie sits on the tailgate, stares at me and then behind me. He clears his throat with a soft gruff bark. I look up. He does it again. And then again. A heavy footstep and a low huffing grunt reach my stomach. I stand up, slowly holding my beer and book; I walk over to the truck, climb in the back, and close the tailgate. Ollie relaxes.


Camping with dogs has its perks. Packing for a camping trip with two or three dogs can be challenging though. I have a list, a book filled with notes of what to bring, what would help, what I wish I had, and ideas of future trips. The lists help although last September I took a long weekend in the Jemez and forgot to check it first. I’d forgotten the bottle opener, a jacket for Ollie who always got cold at night, I’d only brought two leashes instead of three, and the batteries in the flashlight died after a couple of hours. Not my most effective packing. Stevie likes to help but he’s not into the 4Runner, we need a van he says.


This year, we’re heading off for three months into the Northwest. A long time gone. I need to be more aware of what we’re doing and where we’re going. The 4Runner is our home for three months, along with a tent, bedding, tools, and food for at least four days at a time, coffee making supplies, and dog food. That is the basic list but there is more to it than that. I pile up the camping gear, the tent, and the big thick plastic container for the kitchen and congratulate myself for being ready to go. Then I add a 5-gallon container of water, the cooler, a folding camp chair, and the pile grows larger. Still, it’s not too bad. Oh, but then there’s the clothes, enough for the potential snow and freezing nights in Montana and also for the beaches of Oregon in August. The containers and piles keep growing. It’s still pretty minimal though…


It’s time to recheck the lists.
This year, I am taking two dogs only as Ollie has found a new family in Arizona and is off on his own adventures. These days Harold and Rosie are my companions, and I pack accordingly.
• Two leashes.
• Two harnesses.
• Two ropes and tie-downs (for in the regulated campsites).
• Blankets.
• Medicines for Harold.
• Bowls for food and water.
• Bucket for water when we’re near a lake.
• Dog food for a week at a time, in this case, approx. 10 #s total for the 2 pups, contained in metal canisters if you’re heading into bear country.
• Water: my biggest challenge when we’re camping is the water. They need at least three gallons a day, preferably more if we’re going into the forests and the lakes are not within reach. Two smaller containers are easier to deal with.
• Paperwork: including their rabies certificates, Health Certificate from the vet. License and microchip information, a couple of photos of each one. I should be able to cross into Canada with this file on hand. How could they resist us?

Notes to self: I never used the oil lamps. I needed better firelighters and starters for damp days. Some of the newspapers burnt easily and others didn’t, but I won’t mention names here. I need to bring rain gear and wellies, just because I have lived in New Mexico for so long doesn’t mean that rain doesn’t fall in other places. I’m most relaxed when we stay in dispersed campsites rather than the official campgrounds. My mind quietens finally when we’re in the trees and near lakes. This is my goal for summer, to find free dispersed camping areas near water and trees. Oh, and my dogs are amazing on road trips, staying close, listening, playing, running off-leash, and loving the attention of strangers.

Last but not least, I need to bring the dog brush, the Ferminator! The truck seats become a fur magnet over the days and weeks on the road. Sheesh, it’s bad. I need to find a 12-volt vacuum that can deal with their fur. Any suggestions?

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