A Preview of Adventures to Come

Hey everyone! Here’s a little taste of what is coming up next for Opal and I in what I’m calling “The Summer of Adventure!”

  • June 24th will kick off our Appalachian Trail Adventure in Virginia and head due north along the trail up through Pennsylvania. We’ll be hammocking each night in an ENO Doublenest to camp instead of pitching a tent. We’ve never tried this on an extended hike before, so I’m very excited to check it out! This trip should be a fun challenge for the both of us due to the many elevation changes, scrambling, overall terrain, and the fact that we will be carrying all provisions on our backs.
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  • July 8th we will be heading out to the southwest to explore the Sonoran Desert, the Grand Canyon, and Antelope Canyon if time permits. This trip will be Opal’s first trip to the southwest and will present all kinds of new challenges including the overwhelming heat, varied landscape, and dangerous wildlife. We’ll be tent camping in a comfy Coleman Sundome this time due to the lack of available trees in certain areas. The breath-taking views and natural structures will make it well worth our while on this trip! I have a feeling Opal’s boots will come in mighty handy here…
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  • Late August Opal and I will be driving down the Carolinas for a few days before driving further south to the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, also known as the “Land of Trembling Earth”. This is Alligator Country at it’s finest, and this swamp is the largest intact freshwater/blackwater wilderness in the country!
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  • Late August we will be driving down to our home in Florida and return to University. We’ll also check out the lovely Rainbow Springs for some kayaking and snorkeling.. or in Opal’s case, doggie paddling.
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I will be doing some heavy testing of several dog travel items through all of these trips to get a true understanding of their functionality, durability, and overall value. Products will range from packs, to harnesses, to bowls, treats, toys, seat covers and more! Each location is so vastly different from the last; I think that all of these locations together will help to provide a well rounded test to each product.

Also, I’ve added a second GoPro to my camera equipment in the hopes of capturing some action shots and better photos. Between the Hero2 and the new Hero3+ Silver, I should get some great shots!

Are there any canine products in particular you’d like to be reviewed? Let us know!

Happy Travels!

Checklist for Camping With Your Dog

“What should I bring when I want to go camping with my dog?”

Camping and hiking are some of the best ways to appreciate the outdoors. It is an even more enjoyable experience when you bring your best friend with you!

One of the most useful things you can bring on an outdoor adventure with your dog is a backpack of their very own! This gives your buddy a job to do on the trail and frees up some space in your backpack as well. There are many brands of packs for your dog, but I typically see Outward HoundMountainsmith K-9, or Ruffwear out on the trails.

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Depending on your level of experience and what kind of trip you have in mind, any one of these can be the perfect pack for your pooch. Opal and I started with an Outward Hound pack, which is an excellent place to start for casual camping, and later decide to upgrade to the Ruffwear Palisades pack (which I will post a review for later on) when I realized we needed something more heavy duty. The Ruffwear Approach pack is also a good starting point that could also be used on longer trips, although it is not as “heavy duty” as the Palisades. The Mountainsmith K-9 pack is another excellent choice for really roughing it on a more serious trip, and I hope to test it out in the future.

So, besides picking a bag for your dog that suits your experience level and how long you’ll be out in the woods, what do you actually bring to keep Fido happy?

There’s no concrete list, but here’s what I typically pack in Opals’s bag for a multi-day trip:

  • Food – Bring enough food for each day you’ll be away plus an extra day as a “just in case”. Trips can be delayed and things happen, so make sure you have enough to keep your dog fed.
  • Treats – Camping is always more fun with cookies.
  • Water – Depending on what pack you’ve purchased, there may be water bladders that you can fill. However, if the pack did not come with places to store water, you can always add a collapsable water bottle of your own. Worst case scenario, you can always carry water in your bag in the form of traditional water bottles or a Platypus/Camelback. Opal carries 1L of water in her pack that is hers to drink for the day while I carry around 2L. This may be overkill for the casual camper, but I also carry a Sawyer water filter in case I need more water than what I’ve brought.
  • A Travel Bowl – Opal and I have always used our Alcott Adventure Bowl on our trips. It’s lightweight, easy to open up and snap closed, and waterproof – No leaks here. Another bowl worth checking out is the Quencher Cinch Top bowl from Ruffwear; it has drawstrings that can be pulled tight while leaving a portion of food inside. I just purchased one of these, and we’re dying to test out on our next trip.
  • Leash & Nighttime Collar – A leash is a must have – don’t leave home without it. There may be times when your dog should not be off lead, like when you come across other dogs on a trail or if the area is congested. Also, If your dog is a little on the darker side of the color spectrum, a night LED collar can be a lifesaver. Opal and I use a Nite Dawg LED Light-Up Collar for when we’re exploring at night time, and for added visibility, I also clip a SpotLit to her collar where the tags are.
  • Boots/Paw Pad Protection – Depending on where you are heading, it may be too rocky for your dogs feet. Protect your dogs sensitive paw pads with a pair of boots or a product like Musher’s Secret and you’ll be able to enjoy longer adventures. Happy feet, happy dog.
  • Poop Bags – All responsible dog owners know to pick up after their dogs go. Earth Rated poop bags are eco-friendly, bio degradable, and lavender scented!

Dogs should carry no more than 25% of their total body weight in a backpack, so Opal can carry just about 7.5lbs. Start light and easy with your dog in the beginning, and work your way up to that total weight. Keep it fun! While Opal is carrying her essential gear, I carry these items in my own bag typically to keep her from passing her weight limit:

  • Surplus Food – Depending on how long our trip is, I sometimes have to put some of Opal’s food and gear in my bag so hers is not to heavy.
  • Medicine and First Aid – Bring it in the hopes that you never have to actually use it! I bring a roll of self adhering wrap bandage, a little hydrogen peroxide, and a small bottle of Vetericyn to create a protective barrier over a wound. A small jar of Benadryl can also be helpful to combat allergies, bug bites, and general itchiness.
  • A Tick Key – Tick Keys are a tool used to remove ticks from your dog (and you) while on the go. They are easy to clip onto a leash, key ring, or keep in a wallet so you always have one at your disposal. Even though I use a tick preventative with Opal, those creepy crawlers sometimes get a hold anyway. When doing your daily check for ticks, use the tick key to pull ticks off without fuss.
  • Bedding – Think about where your dog will be sleeping. In your tent? In their own? Opal steps in my tent with me on a fleece blanket, or on my chest when we hammock. Have a plan and a place for them to bunk down at night! I find it to be overkill to bring them an actual bed on most camping trips, and a fleece blanket is much easier to carry.
  • Medical Records – I keep scanned PDF versions of Opal’s Rabies vaccination and other pertinent health info on my phone instead of toting around physical copies.

Hopefully this packing list and tips gives you a good place to start planning your adventures. All that’s left to do is to grab your gear and go!

Let us know what your must haves for hiking are, and Happy camping 🙂

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Opal on the Schuylkill River Trail

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“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.”

– John Muir

Hello world!

Hey everyone!

It is with great pleasure that I lauch OpalTheACD.com 🙂

We’ll be running reviews on dog products, dog friendly spaces across the country, hikes, travel tips, and even hosting contests! Be sure to check us out where we started, on Instagram. Right now we are running Opal’s 1st Birthday Contest on Instagram, which has some great prizes from Ruffwear. Check us out on Instagram at OpalTheACD!

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