Best Dog Gear from Small and Startup Outdoor Brands

Katie Houston

A commonly known mantra on trail is that the trail will provide in a moment of need. Usually this means a hitch coming at the perfect time, a spot in the shelter still free for the night, or the rain stopping just as you were about to set up camp. In my case, I apparently needed to find my best friend, Thru!  

We’ve come a long way from the hunk of cheese and rope “leash” that Thru’s previous owner left us with on trail. This list includes some of our favorite pieces of gear that always make the cut for our adventures. 


EZ Latch™ Dog Pack (2-PIECE) by Alpha Pak

Best Backpacking Dog Gear Alpha Pak Pack

Whether you’re on a day hike or a multi-day adventure, this pack really takes the cake (or in this case, treats). Especially helpful is the ability to latch a leash both in the front and on the back of the pack. This means I can confidently walk my great dane, who weighs as much as I do, with added control. 

With removable saddlebags, this pack also has the ability to turn into a harness that we use frequently as our main harness on walks in the city. The saddlebags are roomy and can be filled with any necessities that you or your pup may need on your adventure including booties, a doggy first-aid kit, dry food, their bowls, and more! 

My favorite memories with this piece of gear take me back to hiking the Colorado Trail. My partner Legs would frequently hike the pups up the trail a few miles to meet me with a resupply. Flynn and Thru would come bolting around a corner, both with packs on, and saddlebags filled with treats for me from coconut water to frosted animal crackers. So, I guess you could say I’m conditioned to get very excited (and hungry) when seeing these packs on my pups.


Custom Harness, Pack and Quilt from Groundbird Gear

Best Backpacking Dog Gear Custom Quilt Groundbird Gear

Looking for a more custom fit for your dog? Another worthy, trail-tested option is Groundbird Gear, which hand-sews ultralight harnesses, packs and quilts specifically to fit the dimensions of your pup. This USA Made, cottage brand is run by thru-hikers Marie 'Bobwhite' and her husband 'Powder River' in Baltimore City.

Especially worth checking out is the relatively new and quite innovative Turtle Topquilt, which is a dog quilt that attaches to a harness so that the quilt will not slide off your dog. It's made with responsibly sourced down and will keep your furry friend comfortable when temps drop. 


Whyld River Dog Sleeping Bag

Best Lightweight Backpacking Dog Gear Sleeping Bag Whyld River

A somewhat more affordable option for keeping your dog insulated at night is the Whyld River Dog Sleeping Bag. The founder intentionally designed this piece of gear after a scary night spent wrapping her own mummy bag around her shivering rescue dog, River. As a result, it includes several useful and well thought-out features: snaps instead of zippers (for safety, ease of use and comfort), a draft sleeve (to insulate against wind and double as a bolster), an integrated pad sleeve (for extra ground insulation), and reflective logos (making it easier to find and set up the DoggyBag by headlamp).


Ultralight DCF Dog Bowl by BeenCampin

Best Backpacking Dog Gear UL Ultralight Dyneema Bowl BeenCampin

As someone who hikes with an aura of DCF surrounding me, this bowl from BeenCampin combines my love of ultralight hiking with the realities of bringing a pup along for the ride. Weighing in at only 0.14 oz, this bowl is virtually undetectable and can easily be stashed in saddlebags. Just make sure to throw it in your bear hang at night to avoid unwanted critters visiting your camp!

While not exactly for my dogs (see below), BeenCampin also make an ultralight dog leash, weighing in at an impressive 22 grams (0.77 oz)! 

Stunt Runner Leash by Stunt Puppy

Best Outdoor Dog Gear Stunt Puppy Stunt Runner Leash

As an experience with herding pigs at a hostel on the AT taught me, Thru is an on-leash dog. But as countless falls on treacherous terrain has taught me, I’m a hiker who needs trekking poles. This leash by Stunt Puppy allows me to clip Thru in around my waist and keep my hands free. Even when she sees something that makes her bolt quickly ahead, the flex in the bungee section makes it so she doesn’t immediately jolt me along with her. Bonus: heading uphill is always easier now with my little husky pulling me along behind her!


6’ Crimp Classic Leash + Locking Carabiner by CragDog

Best Outdoor Dog Gear Small and Startup Brands Climbing Rope Leash

Because Thru is a siberian husky through and through (no pun intended), she is an accomplished escape artist (with her most recent leash-slip ending with her in the produce section of an Aldi). That’s why a leash with added security and durability is a priority for us, and this one from CragDog really delivers. Made from up-cycled climbing rope, this leash includes a locking carabiner that even the most impressive escape-artists can’t wiggle their way out of. And, with 30% of each sale given back to the climbing community, this leash is a win-win.


Adventure Leash by Pupups

By this point you know my dogs are crazy on a leash, so I’ll just jump to my favorite part about the waterproof 4-foot Adventure Leash by Pupups: the traffic handle. When I’m not on trail, being able to control my howling husky by keeping her from lunging at other dogs or into the street is a big deal. In addition, it’s easy to clean and stays vibrant in the Texas sun: what’s not to love?


If your pup loves adventuring as much as mine do, this gear is a good start to a setup that will make them happy on trail and also give you peace of mind. What are your favorite small and startup brands to bring along on an adventure with you and your pup? Leave a comment below to let me know what I’m missing!



Katie got bit by the thru-hiking bug in 2019 on her trek of the AT. She now lives in Texas with her partner and two pups and is currently converting a school bus into a tiny home. She has a goal of completing the Great Western Loop in 2022 and hiking 10,000 miles by 25.
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Groundbird gear and Been Campin’ dog bowls…really really great stuff. I have 4 harness and 3 packs for my terriers as well as bowls for everyone! When you only carry 1.4 kgs every gram helps!! The service is great, the packs fit and are hardy on trail- highly recommend!!

Michael Woodruff

Michael Woodruff

lol this is basically knock off ruffwear gear…… yall tryin to pass it off as your own… lol

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