Dogpacking 2.0: A Guide to Bikepacking with Your Dog

Share This

Thanks in advance for spreading the word!

Bikepacking with your dog, aka dogpacking, can be an intimidating proposition. Fortunately, folks like John Freeman have spent the last seven years figuring out what works and what doesn’t. In this new guide, John (and Mira) walks through everything you need to know about dogpacking around the world…

Words and photos by John Freeman

Several years have passed since I wrote my first Dogpacking article for this site. In that time, the bikepacking community has continued to grow, and naturally, the idea of bringing a dog along has also gained in popularity. All the things that we, as humans, love about bikepacking, just so happen to be most dogs’ favourite things too.

Upon reflection of our first, longer international dogpacking adventure, I am admittedly surprised that it worked out as well as it did. On this first big trip in the fall of 2015, we left Canada on a flight bound for Madrid, Spain. I had a fair amount of international travel experience, but I’d never ventured outside of North America with my then dog, Melan. In fact, I really hadn’t attempted any significant bike trips with a dog. With plenty of time spent scouring the web, we were able to learn enough, both prior to departure and in the first weeks of the trip, to piece together an incredible six-month ramble through Spain. The information and inspiration that I found on BIKEPACKING.com was massively helpful, to say the least.

On that first big trip, we followed the Altravesur, the Trans Pyrenees, and several other trails, linking almost every corner of the Spanish mainland. It was six months of amazing riding, food, and culture. Likely the best memories from that trip are of the joy I witnessed in my dog each day, and of meeting curious and friendly strangers along the way. It likely goes without saying, but bicycle touring with a dog is one of the quickest and easiest ways to meet the locals. That first trip set the stage for the many trips that have come after.

Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog
  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog
  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

Fast forward to 2021: I can’t even imagine travelling without my canine-sidekick, Mira. During 2019 and 2020, we rode (and ran on four paws) over 25,000 kilometres from Canada to central Mexico and back, crossing the American West nearly four times north and southbound, almost exclusively on dirt. Some of those adventures can be seen on Ryan Van Duzer’s Youtube and Mira’s own Instagram feed. We had an incredible experience and have continued to learn how to make dogpacking fun and safe for everyone involved. The following guide is an updated information addendum to the first article. Whether planning a longer trip, or maybe just a weekend to a favourite bikepacking destination, I’m hopeful that this article will inspire you to include your canine friend in future bikepacking adventures.

Visit Your Vet

Your veterinarian will be an invaluable resource before departing on any trip, and will help confirm your dog’s health. A visit to a veterinarian is an absolute must if you are traveling internationally (more on that later). Your vet will need to complete parts of the paperwork required for border crossings. At minimum, make sure that all vaccinations are up to date for the region you plan to ride in. Keep in mind, even parts of your own country may have different vaccination regulations than your home region. Some international borders may require a vet visit or medications within a prescribed time period, before presenting your dog for inspection. Physical copies of health/travel documents will be required at most border crossings. I have also found that even with the lower cost of veterinarian services in some countries, it’s a bit more convenient to stock up on some medications before leaving home, as this leaves one less thing to worry about once on the road. The process may seem complex and laborious, but we have always had success when following a few simple steps:

  • Research the requirements for the area to which you are travelling, well in advance of your departure date.
  • Keep a list with dates and requirements for border crossings or flights, in the order needed, and check them off as completed.
  • Keep your documents in a safe, dry place on your bike, as well as copies on your phone.
Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

Food and Water

Food

On shorter jaunts, it is very easy to pre-package dog food just like you would your own. Keep in mind, however, that like you, a dog will also require more calories each day when on a bike tour. Quality dog food that is low in fillers will also likely be more nutrient dense, and make for a happier, healthier companion over the course of a tour.

On extended trips, it will likely be necessary to purchase food as you go. Depending on where you travel, the options will vary. It’s sometimes difficult to keep Mira on the same food brand, so I try to mitigate any stomach upset by blending a new dog food with some of the old that she has adapted to. Food changes haven’t caused many problems for Mira but some dogs may not adapt so well. Small bags of 2-4kg (4.4-8.8lbs) are a common size in many places around the globe, and make for a convenient packing size.

  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog
  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

Last summer, while riding the singletrack-intensive Orogenesis route (which winds its way along the western mountain ranges of the USA), even these seemingly small bags were a heavy load to bear, especially on days where we gained over 2,500metres (8,200 feet). For more on this, see Pacing and Tactics below. In Latin America, small, independent food shops will often sell dog food in bulk, by weight. Scoop from a larger bag and purchase only what is required to get to the next resupply. Snacks are a great way to add calories, and prove useful in reinforcing a dog’s training. Mira, like many dogs, loves cheese. Butcher shops or local restaurants are often generous with protein scraps that are unsellable to humans, but dogs are thankfully far less picky. Mira and I have also been pleasantly surprised by the spontaneous generosity of people, offering much-needed treats at exactly the right moments. Eat before you’re hungry, eat often, and stay hydrated. The same simple principles apply for your canine partner. I typically feed Mira early in the morning while I am enjoying my coffee. This gives her the time to digest while I pack up the bike for our day’s ride. She will receive treats/snacks during the day. She gets her final meal for the day once we’ve found our campsite for the night.

Water

Water can be an ongoing challenge with any bikepacking trip, especially in desert regions or in winter. Thorough research in advance of departure is the key to success here. I always try to think three to four days ahead of where we currently are on a trip since Mira lives “in the moment.” We have carried up to 15L for multi-day dry sections. About 30% of that water was for Mira on these sections. Until someone starts selling dehydrated H2O, this is going to be heavy.

Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

Backcountry campsites may have water for at least a portion of the year. Town shops or gas stations typically offer free water for the polite inquirer. In some regions, purified water is only offered in a few shops, where you can fill your own bottles for a small fee. Regular bike bottles or specialty bottles, designed for dogs, are perfect for on-the-go hydration. I keep a dedicated bottle for Mira (the cup attaches to most soda/water bottles), which I keep separated from my own bottles. This helps keep me healthier, and helps to track our different water rations. Using a collapsible bowl (plastic bags can make a quick water bowl in a pinch) is handy when taking longer breaks, such as a lunch stop, or a heat-of-the-day nap.

Staying on top of a dog’s hydration is critical. As soon as Mira and I stop for the day, I will immediately set out her dinner, and also monitor how much she is drinking. Dogs will also frequently drink from surface water throughout the day, which means that one can carry less water weight on the bike. However, if surface water sources are suspect, or the risk of parasites is high, it is best to play it safe, and ensure that everyone is drinking treated water.

Pacing and Tactics

Pacing is as critical for a dog as it is for anyone. A steady pace and well-timed snack breaks will allow everyone to recover after big miles, and hopefully finish the day with energy to spare. A dog may run a large portion of the distance a rider has ridden if the trail is rugged. The back and forth, plus detours to investigate various sights and smells can really add up. To help manage your dog’s energy, it’s helpful to keep a note of this behaviour as the day progresses. If I know most of the climbing comes towards the end of the day, I will limit Mira’s running miles during the earlier part of the day. Several brands of GPS dog trackers have now come to market, though we haven’t used any of these yet, so can’t make any recommendations.

I have found several effective tactics for managing Mira’s energy output. On asphalt or flat dirt roads, where riding speeds and traffic are likely to be much higher, Mira spends most of her time in the basket, and only gets out to stretch her legs, and to run on bigger climbs. The same applies for long flat sections, sharp rocky surfaces, fast descents, or when the surface is too hot for bare paws. On most climbs, she will typically walk or trot along beside the bike. I use a ‘runner’s leash’ (5.5’ to 7’ length is best for us), which fastens around my waist and has an elasticized section. The elasticized section helps to shorten the leash when not loaded and keep it away from the spinning wheels. The leash is then connected to the back of Mira’s harness; not to her collar. This way, she is less likely to be injured if there’s a sudden stop, and I am also able to assist with her hops to the ground, and her jumping back into the basket, with a well-timed tension on the leash. I always make sure to keep the bike speed slow when she jumps out, and will come to a complete stop to allow her to jump back in.

  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog
  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

Since trailers are lower to the ground, it will naturally be easier for a dog to jump in and out while the bike is on the move. Larger or older dogs may find this the best option. Special care must be taken not to allow the leash to become tangled in bike wheels. I will typically clip the leash through a carabiner, which I will mount (with zip-tie) onto the seatpack, in order to keep things away from any moving parts. I can then reach back without needing to look and unclip the leash from the carabiner before she jumps out. This will take some practice to master. If using a rear rack, then there is some built-in protection to prevent the leash from tangling in the bikes’ rear wheel and it is not usually necessary to control the leash in any other way.

On long days, I use the leash to help limit the amount of extra miles Mira would otherwise run by allowing me to have control over her pace. However, I typically allow Mira to run off-leash on singletrack trails. She enjoys it, and it’s definitely safer for both of us since she can stay clear of getting caught up in the wheels or other obstacles on a narrow trail.

Mira has learned the command: “Back” and this ensures that she understands that her place is behind the bike on singletrack. This way, I have a clear view of the trail ahead and I can control any interactions with other trail users. I have also taught her left and right (in Spanish) and “this way” for times when she thinks she’s the navigator. Other, more standard commands will of course be useful. I attempt to limit Mira’s daily overall distance to around 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) of out-of-the basket running. All dogs will naturally have different distance thresholds that can be safely sustained over a trip.

Advance knowledge of a dog’s abilities, and overall fitness level, is important to help prevent injury. Off leash, dogs seem to prefer to sprint-rest-repeat over a steady pace. When preparing for any dogpacking trip, Mira and I will progress through a gradual build-up of distance on different surfaces, over several weeks of “training” rides or during the initial weeks of a big tour. I find it helpful to think of Mira as an athlete and myself as her coach. I will always ensure that she has enough rest to recover from a day’s effort before increasing the distance or intensity.

Dog Transport Options

On short and hilly trips, a well-conditioned dog may be completely fine with four-on-the-floor over several days. For longer distance, higher speeds, or multi-day trips, some sort of dog-carry option will be essential. Many folks with smaller dogs have had great success with front or rear baskets, and in some cases a backpack (see the Cargo Bike section for details about baskets). Others with a large breed or two dogs have towed two-wheeled trailers designed for use with children on wide tracks and roads.

Since we are riding mainly off-road, and Mira tips the scales at 19kg (45lbs), a Bob Yak (or similar) single-wheel trailer has worked well for us in the past. Trailers have some inherent drawbacks, so we have switched to a mid-tail bike with a longer wheelbase. Whichever type of carrier you choose, it’s imperative to pad the floor and walls well. The rough trails and hard-sided carrier could injure your dog. Wall/floor padding and a compact area that’s just big enough for the dog to curl up in will help to keep a dog safe and comfortable during long days on bumpy trails. Some dogs may prefer to stand up. Take care to avoid sudden turns or braking that may cause your dog to fall out.

The leash I use is the same for all setups (see Pacing and Tactics). This setup works while on the bike or while you’re walking beside and pushing the bike. After all, with bikepacking comes hike-a-bike.

Trailer

A single-wheeled trailer, such as the BOB Yak or Burley Coho XC, will allow you to use your current bike. The Robert Axle Project has thru-axle solutions for the BoB trailer and many other bicycle axle configurations. This setup allows you to tackle singletrack trails and urban sections with relative ease. The centre of mass is kept low and shared between wheels. These trailers are not really designed for live (non-static) loads or high speeds (40kmph+), so it is essential that you make the choice that’s best for you and for your dog. To improve comfort and to protect Mira, I contacted Scott at Porcelain Rocket to build us a custom padded and reinforced liner for the trailer. Rockgiest Bikepack USA now owns the Porcelain Rocket designs and would be a great place to contact if you are interested in the best BoB trailer liner. With some creativity, and a few visits to the hardware and fabric store, you may be able to DIY pad the trailer basket quite well at home. A simple plastic splash guard, the type designed for MTB downtubes, mounted to the front yoke of the trailer is key in order to provide protection from spray/debris from the bike’s rear wheel. We use RexSpecks to help protect Mira’s eyes from sun, wind, dust and debris as well.

Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

It only required a few days of training in our local park for both Mira and I to become accustomed to the nuances of the trailer or basket. Attention should be paid to the leash to prevent entanglement with the rear wheel while the dog is in the trailer. This is a video of our training sessions. Unweighted trailers bounce on rough terrain and won’t always track very well. This can shorten the life of the trailer wheel bearings. Spare bearings are simple to install and it may be useful to pack extras for longer trips in remote areas. This liner/trailer combo has proved dependable for covering big miles on dirt. Eventually, the downsides, mostly weight, length, and added mechanical anxieties, got me thinking about other options.

Cargo Bike or Basket

Our current bike setup is the Salsa Blackborow. The Blackborow is a mid-tail fatbike with a robust rear rack. The extended wheelbase conveniently provides room for a padded basket on top of the rack. This design creates a surprisingly well-balanced rig that is stable at all speeds yet responsive enough to handle technical singletrack. The overall weight and length are also far less than with a trailer, and it handles well when unloaded. Mira is able to jump into and out of the basket many times a day. I use well-timed tension on her leash (connected to a harness) to help with this.

Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog
  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog
  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

Remember that padding is key for your dog’s comfort and safety. Mira is at home in her basket, and will stay in it without complaint, so much so that she’ll often fall asleep if I leave her and the bike leaned up against a wall outside a shop. If your dog is on the smaller side, then a padded basket mounted to a standard front or rear rack may be a great option for you. The height of a bike-mounted basket may also help to protect your dog from hazards such as aggressive dogs. Plus, it’s easy to reach them should you need to while riding.

Notes:

  • I strongly advise against placing packs on any dog while bikepacking, as the extra weight may lead to joint injury.
  • In bear country or around livestock it is best to keep your dog on a leash. Dogs may return to owners with angry mama bears in pursuit. Agitated cattle are at risk of injuring your dog or themselves and ranchers will not take kindly to your pet harassing their animals. They will hold you responsible for any damage.
  • Traffic patterns where we ride are mainly on the right side of the road. For this reason, I have trained Mira to run on the right side as well. This way, I can help protect her from other vehicles when on the road. Make adjustments as needed.
  • If leaving the bike unattended with a dog in the carrier, be sure the bike can not tip over and cause injury to the dog or bike. I will often connect the leash to a post as cheap insurance against this happening. The same applies if your dog is out of the carrier. Connecting the leash to a pedal or somewhere low on the bike will reduce the chance that an excited dog will be able to topple the heavy bike over on them.

Special Considerations

Weight

Bikepacking is no different than any other outdoor pursuit: a lightweight setup, consisting of just the basics (and maybe a few small comforts), will enhance the overall experience of the trip. If you’ve ventured out on a few bikepacking trips already, you’ve likely established a setup that works well for you. On my own bikepacking missions, I’ve tried to follow the idea of “durable lightweight.” That’s to say, light but not excessive to the extent of risking equipment failure on a remote trail, kilometers away from help.

By nature, dogpacking will add significant weight to any bikepacking setup. Add in dog, dog food, transport for dog (trailer, basket), and you’re getting the idea. Unless you have trained extensively with a loaded dogpacking setup, it will undoubtedly take time to adapt to the extra weight. If pushed too far, too early in a trip, both you and your dog may experience significant discomfort or injury. If ignored, these early pains could suddenly put an end to a trip before it has really begun. We have learned to take it easy in the first weeks of any new adventure, and are never afraid to walk those steep sections. Frequent breaks and planning for shorter days are great ways to mitigate injury and disappointment early in a trip. I have also resisted the temptation to put packs on my dogs, mostly because the added weight combined with large amounts of running is a recipe for injury. The bulk of a pack would also make jumping in and out of their basket much more difficult.

For folks travelling with a partner, you may be able to share the extra load. If a trailer is used, it may be helpful to set up both bikes with the ability to pull the trailer (BOB QR axle, Robert Axle, etc.). On my mid-tail Salsa Blackborow, I employ a simple plastic basket, strapped to the rear rack, to carry Mira. Some bicycle touring couples that have seen our Instagram are now using a similar setup on both of their bikes. This allows the dog to simply hop from one bike to the other and in this way both dog parents get to experience the joy of mid-ride pets. Naturally, a patient travel partner who shares your travel goals will help make any trip a success.

  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog
  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

Gearing 

The added weight of dogpacking is likely to require a lower gear range that allows for a comfortable spinning cadence on climbs, due to the excess weight of dog and dog stuff. This gearing strategy will, of course, sacrifice the high end of the range in favour of low range. I currently use SRAM Eagle 12-speed, with a 28T chainring and a 10-50T cassette. This range is low enough that I’ve been able to manage riding with multiple days’ worth of food and water, even over mountainous terrain. With modern one-by systems, this is very easily accomplished by simply installing a smaller chainring up front. For other gear systems, the details will change but the goal remains the same.

Brakes

The extra weight of dog and dog stuff may require an upgrade to your bike’s braking system. Consider the entire weight of your setup. In my case, the average statistics for most trips are: Bike and gear: 40kg + Rider: 80kg + Dog: 18kg = 140kg (85 + 180 + 40 = 305lbs!) This is a lot for any braking system to handle, especially off-road in the mountains.

I often find that I will need to “drag” the brakes for an extended period on descents to avoid engaging “ludicrous speed” mode. Naturally, more power is required, and managing heat build-up is key. To help with this, I have installed 4-piston calipers and larger rotors: 203mm front, 180mm Rear (stock rotors are often 160mm). If I feel the brakes beginning to fade on long descents, I won’t shy away from a quick stop to take in the scenery in order to allow the brakes to cool. I always pack several spare brake pad sets on all trips and replace rotors as needed.

Note: We tend to ride in very mountainous terrain. Flatter routes may not require as much braking power.

Shelter and Lodging

Camping

Wild camping has always been our preferred option and is a great reason to go bikepacking in the first place, as long as it’s done responsibly. A tent is little more than a portable den, so most dogs will acclimatize quickly. Naturally, some precautions should be taken to protect the tent’s delicate fabric, poles, and inflatable sleeping pads. These materials may easily succumb to a dog’s claws. A closed-cell foam pad for your dog provides comfort/warmth and reduces the chance of damage to the tent floor. This pad could potentially also double as a pad for the bottom of the trailer/basket. In most cases, a dog will also act as an early warning for animals or people that may approach in the night. Depending on the dog, it may be wise to attach a leash while in the tent to help prevent an “emergency exit” and tent damage if they feel they simply must get outside while tent zippers are closed.

  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog
  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

Taking the time to give your pal a quick comb before bed is most certainly worth the effort. A dirty dog means dirty everything in close quarters. This also provides the chance to do a quick once-over for ticks or hidden injuries to the paws. Nails should be kept well trimmed. On long trips, Mira’s nails self-trim from all the running. Check under collars and harnesses for wear points. Not all harnesses will work well for extended trips and may cause irritation at contact points. This can take some experimentation to figure out and is best dealt with before it becomes a problem.

Camping Alternatives

Hotels, Airbnb, Warm Showers, and charitable locals are all great options if camping isn’t in the cards every night. The reality is, not every type of accommodation will allow you to stay with a pet, and those that do will often charge a small fee. While not every Warm Showers host or hotel is open to dogs, we have usually been able to find them when needed, and the experience has typically been a positive one. If booking online, set the filter to include “pet friendly” and read the house rules carefully before booking.

  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog
  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog
  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

International Travel

International travel with a pet can seem scary and intimidating. There are entire businesses devoted solely to sorting out the details. Depending on the borders you plan on crossing and the countries you plan to travel through, the requirements will vary greatly. I have found that with some patience, and a few web searches, I was able to sort the bureaucratic hurdles fairly easily.

The following links are a great place to start, if you are a resident of Canada or USA. If you are a resident of Europe, this link should get you started. Many land borders will be fairly straightforward. When we crossed the Canada, USA, and Mexico land borders several times last summer, I wasn’t even asked for Mira’s documentation. Airlines do not have the same exchange agreements for live animals as they do for baggage. So, unless you book flights with the same airline for all legs of your travel, each separate airline will charge a separate fee for flying with your pet. This can lead to unexpectedly high charges. With layovers over two hours, there may also be a fee for care. If this is the case your dog will have a chance to stretch their legs and hydrate. Always check the airline website for requirements and restrictions before booking. When booking, the airline will need crate dimensions and total weight with your dog inside. Dog crates will need to meet regulations for air travel. Follow these to the letter and bring your travel documentation along with copies to the check-in desk well in advance of boarding.

Being well prepared for this stage of your trip will go a long way to reducing stress and starting your trip off with a sense of fun and excitement. Sedatives are not recommended and can be dangerous for your dog. Light feeding and H2O well before the boarding will allow your dog time to digest. Panting may be a sign of stress, more than overheating. If your dog is small enough, you may be able to opt for in-cabin flights. Check the airline websites and read all restrictions/fine print carefully, in terms of pet travel, before booking!

Caution: Covid-19 has and continues to alter our privilege to travel and cross borders. It can be very challenging to get up-to-date information on current restrictions. These regulations can and do change with little warning. Plan accordingly.

Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

Arrival at the Airport

Traveling with a human companion will go a long way in simplifying this portion of the trip. I often travel solo, so this part of our trips is always a bit of a stressful time. Imagine the scene: the plane touches down and you find your way to the baggage claim area. One eye on the baggage carousel while you’re at the oversize baggage area waiting with crossed fingers hoping that everything arrives undamaged. In Madrid, Mira was simply placed on the conveyor belt after the baggage handler peered through the rubber curtain and exclaimed “¡Perro!” Normally, you will go to the special baggage area where you will collect the bike, the trailer, and the dog. Gather a luggage cart as soon as you get to baggage claim, because you’re going to need it! I am always happy to accept the help of strangers when it’s offered. Take pictures and some video! You are going to want to share this memory. Regardless of the duration of the flight, any dog is going to need to find some grass ASAP. Many modernized airports have designated dog runs for this purpose.

Dog Health

First Aid

My first aid kit is compact but covers dog and human needs. The main focus of the contents of the kit is on dealing with the road/gravel rash that might be expected from a crash. Additionally, I will always carry some Vetrap to cover any first aid applied to Mira or myself. A set of lightweight dog booties are great if there are hot roads, sharp rocks, or lots of cactus thorns about.

A cut on a paw is a bit like a small superficial head wound a human may suffer in that it may bleed a surprising amount without being all that critical. However, it is crucial to thoroughly clean/inspect any wounds your dog may encounter, big or small. While not necessarily a first aid item, I also pack a small set of tweezers and comb for Mira to help remove ticks. She takes a flea/tick medication orally, but when ticks are a concern, I give her a thorough inspection and a brush before bed each evening. It’s always best to remove ticks before they have the opportunity to embed themselves in the skin. Once they embed in the skin, careful use of tweezers is your best bet for removing ticks safely.

Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

I also pack eye drops, just in case of eye irritation. As mentioned, Mira will often wear her Rexspecks to protect her eyes from all the same things that affect our own ocular health on an off-road bike tour, such as wind, dust, and debris. Plus, they just look super cool! For other recommended medications, consult your veterinarian before your trip.

Puppies

I have had several questions over the years from people wondering about taking their puppy dogpacking. Because puppies are still growing, too much running has the potential to damage growing joints. Consult your vet about the status of your dog’s growth plates, and ask their opinion on the amount of exercise they think is appropriate for a dog of this age. I introduced Mira to dogpacking when she was still a puppy. At three months, she was on a plane bound for Spain for four months of travel. This is the youngest allowed for air travel due to vaccination requirements. As the months passed, Mira grew and put on weight, making the climbs more challenging for me because she couldn’t yet run long distances beside the bike. Also, I had to lower her out of the basket and lift her back in each and every time. Many times, we would simply walk hills together. I began by connecting her harness to the basket when riding to prevent her jumping out. As we both gained confidence, I no longer clipped her in.

  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog
  • Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

I was always, and still am, extra careful on rough or loose terrain. A crash could easily cause injury to your little fur-child. Be prepared for shorter, slower days than normal, and you will find joy in the process as your pup grows and explores. One major benefit I have gained from travelling with my puppy—because the environment was always changing and I was the only constant—is we now have a very strong bond.

Dogpacking, Bikepacking with your dog

Final Thoughts

So, if you made it through to the end of this article you may be thinking to yourself that dogpacking sounds like a lot of work. Why would I want to do it? Honestly, it can be a lot of work some days, but the vast majority of days are an absolute blast.

The unique joys that I experienced bikepacking with a dog have been truly incredible, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. I have made some amazing friends on dogpacking trips too. There is nothing better than coasting down a hill, only to reach back to give Mira a little scratch behind the ears while taking in another incredible view.

Mira absolutely loves dogpacking, and she has told me as much. If I move a bike at home, she will come running from any room in the house to see if we are heading out. Sticks, water, running through the forest, people, and a world of new smells. These are her favourite things.

Heaven to me is those moments of waking up at a wild campsite, packing the bike for another day on new trails, and knowing that I’m doing them all with my best friend and favourite riding buddy. We hope to see you and your dog out on the trail.

To compliment this guide, Neil dives into the world of dogpacking in our latest Youtube video with a primer on the subject and an interview with John Freeman. Watch it here. And make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel if you haven’t already done so.

Q&A

Are you afraid someone will steal your dog while left unattended?

Not usually. If I am, I will ask a local to keep an eye on Mira and the bike. Usually, I come out to find people taking selfies with Mira. I have seen large crowds doing this. Then it’s Q&A time.

How to you handle other dogs, such as aggressive stray street dogs?

We typically just keep riding. Mira ignores them for the most part. A well-timed spray from a water bottle usually does the trick for dogs that didn’t get the memo. A fake or real stone throw can be effective. The advantage of the basket is that it keeps Mira high and safe from other dogs.

What is Mira’s favourite trail snack?

Mira loves cheese, and so do I.

How far do you ride each day?

It depends on the terrain. The average is about 80km with 1,500m elevation gain on good dirt. The range is 30km to 250km (18.6 to 155 mi) with elevation gain up to 3,000m.

How far does Mira run each day?

I try to limit her to under 25km (14 mi). Only what she is fit enough to handle. Sometimes, this means that I have to work extra hard while she is in the basket.

Where does Mira’s name come from?

Travelling through Spain with my previous dog, Melan, people would exclaim to their friends “Mira, mira, mira!” Look, look, look. When Melan died and I found Mira, I thought it would be a great way to continue his memory. It has a nice ring to it as well. It’s funny when I call her in a Spanish speaking country and people look our way.

How much dog food do you carry?

It maxes out at 4kg (8lbs). As little as needed to get to the next shop. Two to three cups per day on average. The brands of dry food do change but I try to blend the new with the old to reduce stomach upset that could be caused by change in diet.

How much water do you carry normally?

Only enough to get to the next water source. Max 15L. Mira drinks from groundwater sources. This helps reduce the amount of water that I need to carry on the bike. I can treat water as needed.

Do you have a YouTube channel?

Yes, find it here. It’s only just started but we will have regular videos uploaded starting later summer 2021. The hope is to share our continuing adventures with everyone who loves dogs, bikes, and travel. We have Instagram and Strava if you’d like to follow there.

How do I know if the trail/road surface is too hot?

Dogs will lift their paws, while standing still, if the surface is too hot. You can also check with a bare hand. If you think it is too hot then it likely is. Asphalt and beach type sand become extremely hot in midsummer direct sun.

Do you have pet insurance?

I don’t, but I am currently researching to see if it is something that may be worth the cost.

How do you protect Mira from cold weather?

I will pack a shelled fleece vest for her during cold trips. Booties will help to protect paws if you expect to encounter salted roads. Also, Mira will have had time to adapt to changing seasons before we head out on a trip.

John Freeman and Mira

About John Freeman and Mira

John and Mira have been bikepacking all over North America for the last few years and document their travels on their Youtube channel and Instagram at @mira_la_perra. Make sure to follow along for more dogpacking adventures as they continue their travels on two wheels…

Related Content

Make sure to dig into these related articles for more info...

FILED IN (CATEGORIES & TAGS)

Bikepacking Gear

Accessories

Bikepacking Guides

Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.

22 Comments