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Cold Weather Dog Pack

Geezer Tom

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I am getting ready for a March trip to Eastern Arizona. I'm fairly excited because it is new territory for me and it is the first trip after a lengthy recovery.

My wife started a new job and has no vacation time so it is the dog and I. Here's the I way pack for Brooke (The Wonder Dog). I made this up a couple of years ago.  If there are better ways, or you do it a better way, I'm all ears. 


Brooke posing with the Ruff Wear pack. She is never sure of what were doing when the pack first goes on. Sometimes acting like it is the dumbest of all ideas. Four steps towards the trail and she forgets she has anything on her back. Brooke is my first dog and I a chose a vet that I thought would know enough to advise me. She said with the dogs' weight (50lbs) she could carry 10lbs or 20% of her mass. That would be for a Huskie. From that we decided that long trips probably should max out at 8lbs. She is a herding dog and has smaller feet and limbs. The coming 7 days on trail with food and accessories has the pack at 6.2lbs. I feel good about this weight.


Inside she carries 2 waterproof bags, antibiotics for bad water/stomach problems, canine pain relief for twisted limbs, sprains or such and a salve for cuts or roughed up pads. I have a small kit I carry for me that includes moleskin. I figure if she rips a pad I would treat it like I would treat me.


One side of the pack will have the same amount of food as the other. Balance is important. The food is in a bag that represents one meal...2 bags a day, once in the morning and once at night. In my pack I carry treats for the trail. One bag has 2 bowls. One is for camp water and the other is for camp food.


Here's the water bowl and her down jacket. The jacket is usually for sleeping.


The other bag will have a towel and her daytime quilted jacket. Extremely cold days she can layer up. If it is strictly a trail day Brooke will just have her pack for warmth. The red jacket is a rain cape. I carry that in my pack with my rain gear. The pack, like most dog packs, has a handle in case Brooke needs assistance and a metal leash loop. To get my dog used to the pack we start a month out with every other day pack on walks. Short at first then a week before we will do some hills nearby for 2-4 miles. Brooke seems comfortable with this pack and is just like me. It always feels good to get into camp and shed the pack.


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Aaron Zagrodnick

Looks like a dialed in system! I agree it seems the 20% weight figure gets thrown out a lot but I like to go quite a bit lower and I will carry the extra weight. The pack itself factors in as well. On higher mileage days or rough terrain I even carry all the weight.

I used to have the dog carry their food but lately I’ve been keeping that in my pack, and then I pack each saddlebag with lightweight, equally weighed out (at home using a scale) items that stay static during the trip. Do you take any type of sleeping pad? I’ve found that when it gets chilly my dogs need some insulation underneath combined with a jacket and top insulation (jacket or sleeping bag). I don’t carry the multiple dog jackets however - just one.

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Aaron-For the upcoming trip I am going to have a RuffWear pad. I have cut up an old surplus closed cell foam pad and inserted into the pad. I bought an inexpensive OutRav sleeping bag. The bag has a zipper. Brooke will probably sleep with her down coat. As another measure I can throw my down jacket over her.

When I first started taken Brooke on trips I woke one night with her shivering. I threw my down jacket over her and pretty soon she was snoring. I vowed never to let her sleep cold again.

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  • 9 months later...

I have been packing dogs for 50 years.  I used to pack mules and horses.  Your set up looks fine.  Keep the load balanced and try to keep Bags out of the water.  I love hiking with dogs. 

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I have been absent from the forum for a long time. I've been taking care of my fragile parents (Dad 100 and Mom 93). I just happened by here because both of my brothers situations have changed and they will be able to cover any absences.

I have just loaded up my pack and my dogs' for a 3 day 2 night trip into the Manzana River area. If this works out I 'm going to be in the San Rafael Wilderness as much as schedules permit.

I love being in the back country with my dog. She seems to perk up and become more of a companion to me. Looking forward to being on here more often. Hopefully with some Geezer stories.


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  • 2 weeks later...

I hike in the desert behind the house several days a week and always take my Border Collie.  Use the same pack summer and winter.  Robust outdoor dogs are fine in cold weather.   Sled dog teams can't run in temperatures over about 32 degrees F without over heating.  they just need some insulation from the ground to sleep at night. 

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