Camping with dogs can mean freedom and an escape from the city, but it can also have it’s own complications, especially if it’s your first time or you camp solo. A good tent can really ease the transition and prevent accidents that might happen. There is a large variety of tents prices to go with those and since this your “home” while outdoors, it really is worth choosing wisely.
So you want to go camping but your dog’s never been in a tent? After you purchase one, it’s a good idea to set it up at home, or in the backyard and take a nap together inside. Work on going in and out with treats and teach your pup it’s a good place. Check out this other post I wrote about first time camping with a dog and things to think about, as well as how to introduce the tent. Just please do not zip your dog inside the tent alone unless your dog is very chill, trained, and calm.
A Large Doorway
When choosing a tent, look for a larger doorway. Doorways that are small and narrow will be difficult to get in and out when you are stepping over a sleeping pup, and can be frustrating at night. You want a good zipper that doesn’t snag, and ideally several options to open it quickly from inside and out. It’s great to have space to put a towel on the ground to clean paws before they jump onto your sleeping bag, and also space to put shoes, a bag, easy access to leashes. Finally you want to have a wide sightline outside for your dog, approaching animals, and anything else. The more animals you have, the more you will appreciate a wide entryway.
I cannot stress to you how much a good quality mesh is important with dog nails. UL or Ultra lightweight tents sacrifice tough materials including mesh for weight so it’s easier to carry but this lightweight mesh is very easy to puncture. Whiskey likes to “paw” at the doorway to enter and my heavier tents have withstood this. There are many snags in the mesh, but no holes but I’ve heard so many dogs ruining the popular UL Hubba Hubba mesh trying to jump out at the wrong moment.
Some tents, especially lightweight tents can be non-freestanding where you need to stake lines in order to create the tent shape. They prioritize weight over convivence and can also use trekking poles as tent poles. I don’t recommend these for dogs for several reasons. The more lines you have running from the tent, the more entanglement you’ll get with legs and leashes. Bourbon seems to have fun pulling out pegs on my last trip and the inside of my tent tends to wander with two dogs so a strong, freestanding tent is my goal. If your tent structure goes down every time a stake gets pulled, it could get frustrating! These tents also take longer to set up and especially with multiple dogs, rain, and wildlife, you just might want to have less complications in life! Lastly, I camp in rocky locations and places where pegging isn’t really an option, so a freestanding tent is a must.
I LOVE pockets! Pockets in tents are amazing. There’s always collars, leashes, sprays, towels, and a multitude of things that need to be packed away in it’s own place. I always put my headlamp, dog collars, and first aid things right next to my head. Pockets are also great for drying out whatever the dogs get muddy, and keeping the tent floor from becoming a huge mess when they start digging into your sleeping bag.
Buy it, use it! Spend the extra cash for a footprint and use it, or a tarp is just as good. A thicker tent may not need a footprint (I don’t always use one myself when it’s dry) but lighter tents will need one and it will keep your tent lasting longer and dryer and prevent abrasions from rocks and dog paws digging.
Some lighter tents or cheaper tents may be single-walled. They tend to be solid so water does not go through but if pressed, water will condense through. These will not be as ventilated as double walled tents that will have mesh as an inner layer with a waterproof fly. I highly suggest double walled tents. Many dogs will like to lay in a corner of the tent pushing against the tent walls and if it’s a single layer, can bring water in. The single layer laminated wall is also the only layer between you and the elements so if it rips, you will need to pray you have enough duct tape! When the weather gets too warm or stuffy, it’s also nice to be able to take off the rainfly and let the tent air out or even enjoy the stars! But if your dog isn’t feeling safe open to the elements (many dogs feel uneasy) you can put the fly back on and create a closed off den.
With weight not a problem, I would suggest a large tent you can stand inside (check the height) and a second-hand or affordable one. You don’t need lightweight, and most tents these days are made well enough to withstand wind, rain, and typical use. The ability to stand-in and change or wrangle dogs without kneeling is SO helpful. Unless you’re camping more than 30 days a year, most cheaper tents will work just fine. We forgot our tent on our trip to Alaska and bought a cheap Coleman tent at Canadian Tire that lasted the entire trip fine under all weather and even crazy winds. With cheap tents, expect to replace pegs and take a little bit extra time to put together. The poles may have cheaper elastic but that’s also easily fixed with duct tape. Our North Face tent was much better made and still survives to this day, but it’s heavier (better fabric), packs easier, and has better zippers. If this is your first time out camping, put your money elsewhere (like a good mat!).
This is where weight and packability matters. For most brands, there are UL tents of various sorts and a cheaper line of tents. Even though the UL tents tend to be more expensive, I do not suggest them because the material is easier to break and do not stand up to dog use well. Unless you have one well trained dog and weight is of utmost importance, I would suggest a heavier, cheaper tent and take on the extra 2lbs it may weigh. Either way, bring some duct tape on your trip in case something rips open and a big scoop of good humor! Camping with dogs is always interesting!
We’ve used the Marmot Ajax 3ppl tent for 2 of us and Whiskey for well over a decade. I’ve got a UL 1ppl tent for solo camping that’s only 2 lbs (it’s the Fishook tent with no zipper) but that would be too tight with 2 dogs, camera gear, and clothing. I still carry the 3ppl 6lb tent when just solo camping with Whiskey sometimes because it’s just so much more comfortable if the conditions are rainy. Being stuck in a 1ppl tent for a rainy evening or afternoon is SO uncomfortable and I would rather carry weight than be stuck in an awkward tight position. Researching further I just ordered the Nemo 2ppl tent as my new solo tent and I’ve been considering the Copper Spur 3ppl tent as a new 3ppl option but am holding back due to the flimsy material and huge cost. I think if I’m sharing a tent, then sharing the load would be acceptable.
I haven’t done too much backcountry snow camping but I did buy a heavier vintage tent for the purpose. It’s very warm, with loads of venting options, space, and can seal up tight if needed. Winter tents that are light are very expensive, so vintage was the way to go! Even though it’s not the latest tech, the huge zippers, heavy mesh make me so comfortable with dogs running in and out. The last time I used the tent it was actually too warm in the morning, and I haven’t found too many friends that want to winter camp so I just haven’t had the opportunity to use this one too often.
What’s the best backcountry tent for 1 person and a dog?
I would suggest a stand-alone, double walled, cross-bar 1 or 2 person tent to share with a dog. Crossbar tents are quick and easy to set up with a large door and slightly thicker mesh (not super UL). Make sure the zipper is well made and does not snag.
What’s the best car camping tent for dogs?
If you are starting out, get something that is easy for one person to set up (unless you always camp with multiple people)
How do I teach dogs to camp in a tent?
Check out this blog about first time camping with dogs!
What other gear is good for camping with dogs?
Here’s a blogpost on Our Best and Tested Gear for Camping with Dogs