My dog enjoys hiking. I haven't taken her on any overnight trips yet, but would like to try some summer/fall backcountry camping with her (i.e., what I think Europeans call wild camping -- not car camping). The wilderness areas near our home (Los Angeles) are mountainous, so it will be cold at night, even in the summer. I'd like her and me to get a pleasant night's sleep. I usually don't bring a tent (do sometimes bring a tarp) for summer/fall backpacking in California. She has fur, so I'm sure she could survive the overnight conditions just sleeping out in the open, but she'd probably be unhappy, and would whine and want to crawl into my sleeping bag, which would be uncomfortable for me.

Does anyone have any experience with this and suggestions for how to do it? I would prefer something compatible with an ultralight style. She's small (10 kg), so I could let her sleep under my lightweight down sweater, but she'd probably damage it. I wonder if it would make sense to get a cheap, used synthetic sleeping bag and cut a piece out of it for her to use as a blanket?

  • If you think she needs the comfort, definitely take a blanket or sleeping bag piece for her - wouldn't have thought she would actually need it if you are just under a tarp.
    – Rory Alsop
    Sep 9, 2013 at 15:25
  • My dogs refuse to use a sleeping bag or blanket until it's close to freezing (we backpack near Tahoe). However, they're bigger than yours (the small one is 70 lbs, the big one is 100 lbs.), and we do sleep in a tent with pads on the ground.
    – Kathy
    Jun 23, 2014 at 20:40

1 Answer 1


The breed of dog will make a difference, but most "backpacking" dogs will do just fine in the open or under the tarp with you.

A dog's metabolism works differently than humans, and they generate a lot more body heat. Consider sled dogs that stick their nose under their tail and sleep through a driving blizzard (and sled dogs usually aren't the thick-fur huskies you see in the movies.)

Try a night with various comfort items on hand, and see if your dog starts shivering excessively. If it doesn't then you can leave them home next time.

Also, consider a thin foam sleeping pad - instead of (or in addition to) a blanket. Nobody can heat up the cold earth with body heat, not even a dog. Besides, the pad becomes "their spot" and can help them to relax in unfamiliar areas.

Further thoughts: keeping the dog from being a nuisance requires some conditioning and training, but they'll get it. Remember: a dog is a dog. They will hear noises at night that you don't, will wander around when you want to sleep, etc... it is part of the trail-dog experience.

Though, in my experience, after a long hard day of hiking, trail-dogs are usually just as tired as you are, and content to give it a rest for a few hours.

  • 2
    +1 for the 'wander around you' part! I have had my dog lick my face when asleep. I woke up with a start thinking that some wild animal was tasting me up before gulping me down its throat! Sep 10, 2013 at 13:19

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