Living on the west coast, we are blessed with beautiful weather and gorgeous natural areas. Camping is an outdoor pastime that is beloved by nature lovers, allowing you to become a deep part of the world around you. What better way to experience this beautiful hobby than with your furry best friend?
Pet Companion Magazine met up with 21-year-old Leslie and her Australian shepherd sidekick Odin, who have been camping since 2016. The two quickly became experts through their mutual passion for outdoor fun. After a terrifying accident left Leslie in need of a trusty helper, Odin came into her life as a service dog. Together, they explore the beautiful California landscape and share in exciting adventures with Mother Earth.
PCM: Tell us a bit about yourself and your furry camping companion.
Leslie: My name is Leslie, I am 21 years old, and my shadow has four paws. Odin is a 4-year-old Australian shepherd who is also my service dog. Every step I take, he is right by my side. We both really enjoy exploring the world together. Every path we take together is a new adventure.
PCM: How long have you two been camping together?
Leslie: Odin and I began our outdoor journey together in 2016. It all started with local hikes in Palos Verdes—we enjoyed it so much that I began to do some research and befriended like-minded people. We then expanded our hikes to the Angeles National Forest.
PCM: What attracted you to the outdoors in the first place?
Leslie: When I was a senior in high school, I was in a life-threatening car accident that caused me to be unable to go out with friends or socialize much. I suffered injuries that confined me to my bed—hence, Odin became my service dog. I fell into a deep depression and began to seek an outlet. My dog is a fairly active breed, so we began taking walks around the park, and I really enjoyed the solitude, bonding, and connection between us. So I thought, why not try hiking?
We’ve done countless hikes in nature … it became my outlet, and what better company than my dog? I looked into camping, and our first trip was to Bishop, in central California. Such a fond memory!
PCM: Where have you camped, and what adventure was your favorite?
Leslie: So far Odin and I have camped in the Angeles National Forest, Inyo National Forest, Joshua Tree, and Sugar Pine Point State Park. My favorite adventure with Odin has got to be Little Lakes Valley in the Inyo National Forest. The views on this hike were beautiful, and Odin really enjoyed swimming in the lakes. My best experience was traveling to Mount Shasta and staying in the Lodge Camps—they are so nice and very pet friendly.
PCM: What equipment do you use? What does your dog have?
Leslie: Our equipment varies, depending on what kind of trip it is. On simple hikes, all I need is my backpack, appropriate snacks, water, and a first-aid kit. When we go camping, we use a two-person tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a pillow. I bring along some groceries and a jet-boil for cooking. We keep it pretty simple.
Odin has his own backpack and appropriate footwear for any conditions. He’s also got jackets of all types … a snow suit, rain jacket, sweater, insulated jacket, and even pajamas!
PCM: What would you consider “must-haves” to pack for your adventures? What do you pack for Odin?
Leslie: To me, the essentials are water, a first-aid kit, and my Garmin! I always make sure to pack Odin’s boots, harness, and Rex Specs, which are goggles I use to protect his eyes. Our gear depends on the type of adventure we are out for.
PCM: What do you feel is the most important training someone should do with their pup before setting out to hike and camp?
Leslie: Hiking and camping with a dog isn’t always as easy as it looks. Finding pet-friendly sites and trails can be a challenge at times. When on the trails, I make sure my dog has a solid recall. I think that’s a very important thing to work on. I like to let my dog off leash so he can enjoy the hike at his own pace, but sometimes you encounter other people along with their pets, so calling your dog back can really come in handy. It’s important to give others space and respect. Also, many dogs have a strong natural prey drive, so when they’re off leash, they may encounter little critters that are irresistible and must be chased, such as squirrels. Having a good recall in this case might just prevent your dog from chasing a squirrel off a cliff. Yikes!
PCM: How do you protect Odin against weather conditions and outdoor dangers?
Leslie: Before going on an adventure, I research what the weather and conditions will be like, and then prepare the gear I need to take for my dog. For example, when we went snow camping, I made sure to bring all his warm attire. Odin has a body warmer, an Extreme Warmer Winter Jacket, Downpour Suit, snow boots, and Rex Specs. So before heading out on an adventure, I always make sure I have the appropriate attire for him.
PCM: What’s been your scariest experience and how did you overcome it?
Leslie: Last year, we were hiking Bridge to Nowhere in the San Gabriel Mountains of Azusa, California. With the heavy rains we had, the river was overflowing parts of the trail. We had to hike through the river, thigh deep. While trying to cross the river at one point, Odin slipped on a rock, his leash slipped from my hand, and he began to get dragged away from me in the strong the current of the river. I remember looking back and yelling his name … my friends Alex and Erick acted quickly and jumped in the river after him. Thankfully, my friends were able to catch Odin and carry him back. I totally and completely froze in terror. Quick advice … don’t be me!
PCM: What advice do you have for those wanting to camp with their dog(s)?
Leslie: My advice to you is that if you want to start camping with your dog, GO FOR IT! It’s a whole lot of fun. Do your research, train your dog, and start small. Get your dog used to whatever gear he/she will need. Find local trails around you and start hiking, to see how you like it. Camping is an amazing thing, but you have to sacrifice your comfort. It takes a real passion for the outdoors.
PCM: Where can we follow your outdoor adventures?
Editor’s note: Check with the regulations of the trail sytem, park or campgrounds before bringing your dog or allowing it to go off leash. Many areas require that dogs be kept on a 6-ft leash at all times, and some parks do not allow pets at all, unless they are service animals.