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Adventurer Andrew Skurka Offers Tips for Hiking with Pets

Adventurer Andrew Skurka on a hike in Grand Canyon National Park.

Named “Adventurer of the Year” by National Geographic in 2007, “Person of the Year” by Backpacker Magazine in 2005, and “Adventurer of the Year” by Outside in 2011, Andrew Skurka typically makes headlines for his hiking and backpacking expeditions. After all, having skied, backpacked, and packrafted across more than 30,000 miles of the world’s backcountry, he’s somewhat of an outdoors expert.

Though he grew up on the East Coast, Skurka found the perfect place to nurture his adventurous spirit was out west, specifically in Boulder, Colorado where he now resides. There, he has taken to the trails with many different partners but, recently, he has decided to turn his focus toward raising awareness about one in particular—your pet.

“I love being outdoors and being in nature; having a very simple existence,” he said. “I’m also an endurance athlete and so I love the mental and physical challenges that come with hiking.”

A recent survey done by Petco found an increasing popularity in bringing dogs along on hiking adventures. But, hiking with your dog requires extra preparation and awareness. Though Skurka does not have a dog of his own, he has taken multiple trips with other pet owners, which have inspired him to get involved with the Petco campaign.

“Hiking with your dog requires a lot of additional skills because it’s not just you that you are responsible for,” Skurka said. “It’s also this other being that is not as capable of anticipating risks and can’t communicate its needs quite as well. So by having strong backcountry skills, you are going to make your trip safer for you and your pet.”

Inspired by the many dogs he has hiked with, as well as his wife’s cat, Oden, Skurka held a seminar last month offering the best tips for how to bring your pets on outdoor adventures. Here are his best suggestions for keeping your pet safe:

  • Do some research: Learn about the area and understand the conditions of where you will be hiking. This includes knowing about the path, the local weather, and the wildlife. It’s also vital to check that your dog is permitted. This information can easily be found online by visiting the park service website.
  • Know your pet’s abilities: Be sure your pet is up for the challenge before you bring them along. This means you should check with the vet so you know they are physically able to handle the rough conditions. In case of an emergency, always bring a first aid kit as well.
  • Gear up: Anytime you go on a hike, it’s important to bring plenty of food and water for both you and your pet to prevent fatigue and dehydration. It’s also a good idea to bring along sun screen for both of you, especially if your dog has a lighter coat. And always be sure your pets are equipped with a collar and identification just in case they get away from you.
  • Think: No matter who your hiking partner is, Skurka said the most important thing is to “take your brain.” You have the ability to accurately assess any risk, so be smart when you’re out in nature.

This is not the first set of hiking tips Skurka has written. He released The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail earlier this year. Visit Skurka’s website to learn more about his adventures and tips for summer hiking.

Image courtesy Andrew Skurka

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