First Snow Camp


I have camped throughout April to October. During the colder months, it may have been car camping, and closer to the warmer months backpacking. With all I have experienced from the numerous camping trips, I started to think of the best way to comfortably camp not only in the winter, but in the snow.

When Colten tells me, pack up, we’re going backpacking on New Year’s Eve and leaving in a matter of hours, my first thought is, we won’t have time, it will be dark. With three of us, humans and four dogs, I re-think that initial thought, we’ll be just fine hiking into camp in the dark.

I pack up, light up and off we go. We knew where we were going and have done the trail several times, so there was no worry about getting off track or lost. I wouldn’t recommend hiking in the dark if you have never been to your desired destination. If you have, you will most likely already see a good set of tracks in the snow. As for us, there were some light tracks, but as we went along, we had to navigate around the trail due to some fallen trees from a recent storm.

The hike in and set up, I was comfortable, even though it was around -4, when you are layered up appropriately and moving, you wouldn’t guess it’s freezing temperatures. After set up, I was ready to make dinner, during this time is when I started to get cold. This is where I had thought ahead with the anticipation of being cold. I packed a hot water bottle, boiled water, and when ready put the hot water bottle with my clothes and sleeping bag to heat up for when I was ready to go to bed. Now, I wasn’t going to sleep yet, I still needed to make dinner. My lifesaver… hand and feet warmers. I stuck some in my gloves, and I should have in my boots too, but sucked it up, as I knew I wouldn’t be staying up much after dinner.

At night, having proper gear is key. I am going to run through my clothing and sleep set up.

For clothes, I wore merino wool leggings, socks, underwear, tank, long sleeve and then added a fleece zip hoodie. I put hand and feet warmers in my socks and gloves. I also wore a toque, which in the night had to be taken off, I was so warm.

For the sleep set up. The first layer is a Thermarest Z-Lite pad, then a NeoAir Trekker pad, these were inserted into a down coupler. On top, I had my sleeping bag and finished off the layers with the Thermarest Vela Quilt, which also provides additional comfort for my dogs.

Now, I can’t forget to talk about the dogs. Hiking in they wore Ruffwear Powder Hound jackets, and packs. My smaller dogs wear the Ruffwear Approach Pack, and Ruger wore the Ruffwear Palisades Pack. Inside they carried their food, bowl, and sweaters. On their packs had their ID tags and lights to have them glowing in the night. Normally, they may even carry water, however, this will depend on many things like size of dog, length of hike and amount of water needed. An example, Ruger will carry a minimal amount of gear because 1. He’s still young and 2. He is still in the process of being conditioned for duration and terrain on hikes.

At night, the dogs will be switched into their sweaters. Ruger and Cali wear Ruffwear Climate Changer, while Kona wears the Ruffwear Fernie. I have two beds I pack along for them, the Ruffwear Clear Lake Blanket and Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag. For most trips, only one will be needed, however, on this trip we had an additional dog and so we brought both.

The dogs eat raw, but for backpacking I feed them Primal Pet Freeze Dried Nuggets. I had pre-portioned their meals out and bagged them. All that I have to do is add water. In additional I always make sure there will be clean drinking water available, whether that is a drinking source that can be treated or I pack in water.

Other items packed included a first aid kit, headlamp, shovel, and GPS 2-way communicator.

Things to keep in mind. Depending on weather, location, terrain, some other items I may pack are Rex Specs to protect the dog’s eyes, and/or Ruffwear Polar Trex Boots to protect the dog’s feet (this would be most important at more populated recreational resorts where roads, sidewalks and parking lots will have salt). If you are ever unsure, pack to be safe than sorry. Weather can change instantly, and unexpected events can occur in the backcountry.

Adventure Dogs Get Nicked Up

Being out on the trails every day it's bound to happen that your dog get the occasional cut and scrape. It happens to Kona and Cali from time to time. 

A couple months back I noticed Kona had a decent cut on the "knee" of her back leg. I cleaned it with gentle soap and water. Carefully I pat dried it with a clean towel. Once dry, I applied Loyal Canine First Aid Ointment to the cut. Within days the cut quickly healed.

Here are some photos over three days of Kona's cut. 

This isn't the first time I have used this First Aid Oinment and have been pleasantly surprised with its fast action healing process. 

Look at our Review page where you can see when Cali got a nick by her eye.

I carry this is my first aid kit. I've even used it on myself when I've got scratches. What I like most about this product is the natural ingredients. There is no harsh smells. No stinging. It's also not greasy.

Harness Patches and Design

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I put together a short video to show how I put patches on my dogs harnesses… see below.

We use Ruffwear harnesses for our training and information patches because of the Y shape design which allows for free range of motion.

Harnesses with straps that run across the shoulder/chest of a dogs body restricts movement and create physical problems.

I encourage everyone research the best harness for their dog.

I order custom patches from this Etsy shop.

Check this out:

Training Using Rex Specs

I wanted to show everyone how I started off adjusting the dogs to wearing Rex Specs. Below are two videos. First video is how I trained the dogs. Second video is them using the Rex Specs. 

Quick notes:

1. Starts off with no lens in the Specs. 

2. When adding a lens in, start with the clear lens. Once comfortable with the clear, then add one of the other mirrored lenses. 

3. Remember to take your time with building up the duration of your dog wearing Rex Specs. There is no rush and you want to make sure your dog is comfortable wearing them. All dogs learn at different paces. Some will be fine with them almost instantly, while others may take several days or weeks to become comfortable with them. 

Here in video 1, I demonstrate how I build up to Cali wearing the Specs. 

Now in video 2, you can see the dogs in action wearing the Specs.

The Ticks Are Back In Town

Apparently, the ticks are back in full force. After an unusually cold winter for us on Vancouver Island the ticks weren't around, however, with spring finally creeping out, so are the ticks, or so we've heard. Luckily, we've been using an all natural repellent from Pawsitive Scents. 

This time last year, there were certain trails we'd hit and come back finding multiple ticks on the dogs. I looked up natural remedies to repel ticks because I avoid traditional flea and tick medication provided by the vets. After trying to make one myself and not having much luck, I found someone locally that was making repellents. 

When it comes to traditional flea and tick medications, I essentially don't want to give my dog a poison that either (orally) sits in the bloodstream to then kill a tick or flea once it bites my dogs, or (topically) put a poison on my dog that then kills a flea or tick from biting my dogs. Now, yes many dogs do just find on these traditional medications, but there's a large number out there that don't. I've read too many reports of death to dogs that have taken a popular medication, Bravecto. Too many reports of dogs receiving burns from medication such as, Frontline.

Now, here's something funny... these medications don't actually prevent your dog from getting the diseases ticks carry. Which made my decision very clear, I wasn't going to give my dogs something that won't actually prevent disease but could cause them more harm than good. 

In the last year (minus the winter, freezing months), I apply Pawsitive Scents Tick Repellent to the dogs prior to every hike. In this past year of using this repellent, I have found, and taken less than 5 ticks off of the two of them combined. I'd say that's amazing, considering with the traditional medication, ticks can still be biting your dogs after every hike. Using Pawsitive Scents and doing my daily check over on the dogs has shown that the repellent, does just that, REPEL the ticks from even biting my dogs. The reason I am comfortable using Pawsitive Scents on my dogs is because it's natural essential oils that have been shown to be safe for dogs and not cause any harmful side effects. 

Now, that I've said all this, I want to make it very clear, this is not a paid for blog and/or post. The products I use for my dogs are because it's what I feel is best for them. What has worked for us. What we stand behind. 

What We Take On Every Hike

Whether we go on an hour hike or a day hike, there are a few items we always carry. 

Items we have used the most are of course the water and food. From the first aid kit we mostly have used the the Loyal Canine Co No1 Pawmade and First Aid Healing Ointment. Since using the Loyal Canine Co No1 Pawmade Kona and Cali's pads have not torn, which in the past has happened once or twice after the first bike ride of the year. This year this did not happen as we had been using the Pawmade. Every now and again Cali gets some scrapes from her ventures in the woods. Most recently she received a cut near her eye. After cleaning it, I applied the Loyal Canine Co First Aid Healing Ointment and after 24 hours it looked dramatically better. We used to use our tick remover often, but for months now we have been using Pawsitive Scents tick repellent and since using it, have not had any ticks on the dogs. 

Tick Me Off!

UPDATE** It's been a little over a month since I've been using this repellent. I do think it works, however, I did still find a tick, 1 on each dog. This is still great because prior to using the repellent I was seeing ticks on them after each hike. I have met with a local dog professional who has created her own natural formula which includes Geranium and have been trying that out this past long weekend on a camping trip. I have not found 1 tick since using her formula. If you would like to know more about her and her tick repellent, read more here. 

Ticks! What are they? Ticks are an external parasite that can carry many disease effecting humans and dogs. The most common one you may hear of is Lyme disease. They latch onto their host (mammal) and feed on blood. Ticks will stay on their host from anywhere from days to weeks until they are ready to shed skin or lay eggs.  They say ticks sit in trees and wait for the right moment to drop onto their host, this isn't exactly true. While they do wait for a host, they are most likely in the grass holding on with their back legs and waiting to climb onto their host with their front legs. They pick a host based on your dogs breath, body odour, body heat and vibration. 

If you are someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, make sure you check yourself and your dog(s) daily.

This year has been bad for ticks. For the last three years I have taken off 1 tick from one of my dogs. This year I am taking ticks off both of them near weekly. 20 minutes ago I took a tick off Cali and had my partner record it so you can see how to remove a tick. I do not give my dogs anything with chemicals, so they do not get flea medication, instead I have made them a natural flea powder. I've been searching online for a tick spray and have found a few and will show you the one I'm trying and will update at a later time with how it's working. 

Usually when I see a tick on the dogs it looks like a popcorn kernel with little black legs. First, I wear a headlamp, it helps me see the area bette. I use a tick remover but sometimes the tick will be so small the remover doesn't work well and I use tweezers. If you use tweezers, pinch the tick as close to the base at the dogs skin as possible. Pinch and pull straight up. The video you will see I used the tick remover. Afterwards apply an ointment such as Polysporin. The tick remover has a similar method to the tweezers. Scoop the tick so it's trapped in the remover and pull straight up. 

Looking at many different natural remedies I made the following:

In an empty spray bottle add:

  • 1 tablespoon witch hazel
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 30-40 drops 100% Geranium essential oil

Spray on the back of the neck and base of the tail. I have sprayed the dogs tonight and will spray them on every day we go hiking. Will make an update in a few weeks to let you know how well this spray had worked.