Ever been camping with people who complain the WHOLE time? You know, the ones who go into an acute withdrawal when separated from their TVs and Facebooks for more than twelve hours? Who spend hours looking for a shiny surface to use as a mirror? They make you swear off of ever throwing your gear in your RV again.
But you really miss that outdoor experience; sleeping in the night air, sitting by a fire late at night looking up through the trees at the night sky, undiminished by the glare of streetlights and the unnatural haze of city lights settled like a radioactive shroud over the earth. Yet you don't really want to go all alone, but you sure don't want to take another stab at it in the company of the narcissistically challenged.
With a little forethought, some basic planning and adequate preparation you might find you've discovered your perfect camping companion. Once you've made some initial preparations and laid your plans out you'll be able to pick up and pack up again and again with much less work because the bulk of it will already be done for future trips; you'll be able to pack your pooch's gear as readily as you pack your own.
Have a good idea of what kind of area you're going to be camping in and the conditions there, just like you'd do for your own preparations. If, for example, you like going up into the high country where it gets cold, invest in cold weather gear for your dog just as you do for yourself, depending on your dog's acclimatization to cold. Use your commonsense and knowledge of your dog's capabilities to decide what to pack.
Hiking is a large part of the camping experience for many people, and a dog can be the ideal companion on a trek. Not only is he good company, but he'll force you to stop and look around you, to breathe the air and take time to savor your surroundings. He'll also alert you to interesting critters you might otherwise never see! If you like taking long hikes, get your dog his own backpack to carry supplies. Most dogs get used to them quite easily, especially when they've figured out that the backpack means a really great walk! It's great to watch your dog in his natural element, too. Even the most citified dog seems to find his inner wolf when he's out roaming through the wilds. Dogs don't miss those blow dryers and eyelash curlers one little bit!
If you're going to a campground, check ahead to be sure they allow dogs. Most state and federal parks welcome dogs as long as they are kept on leash.
That “leads” to another planning point. Get your dog a good, slip-proof collar or harness and a long leash that's sturdy enough for your dog's strength. You'll want to take both along and a shorter leash. Take something you can use to stake your dog at the campsite, too, just never, ever leave your dog unattended and don't leave him staked out at night. He needs to be inside the tent with you. A tethered dog is easy game for many predators, not to mention if he starts barking you will become a certified nuisance to your fellow campers in the area. You'll both be much happier and sleep better when sharing tent space. Whether you share the sleeping bag or not is a personal choice,mostly his, not yours.
Be absolutely, 100% sure your dog's rabies vaccination is up to date and keep a copy of the certification in the glove box of your car or some other accessible place. Also, while you're checking on whether or not the park you want to visit is amenable to canine campers, see if they require any particular vaccination certifications. And remember, if you need insect repellent, your dog is likely too as well, especially in areas with tick populations.
Pack a competent first aid kit for your dog. Pet wrap, the proper size splint, Benadryl, sterile eye wash, sterile saline wash for wounds, antibiotic ointment, something for emergency pain (see what your vet recommends), ipecac, activated charcoal, and whatever else you feel you might need, depending on your destination. There is something infinitely gratifying in watching the pleasure your dog will get from a well thought out camping trip with you.
And another thing . . . your dog will never ask you “are we there yet?”