Best Tents for Camping with Dogs

Best Tents for Camping with Dogs

Our Dogs, or “fur-kids,” are important members of the family, so we wouldn’t dream of leaving them behind when we go camping.  But… dogs are not exactly “easy” on outdoor gear. It’s important to use a tent that will both hold up to the unique challenges of camping with a dog, and also keep you and your family dry. 

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The Best Style of Tents for Camping with Dogs

Avoid ultra-light or expensive tents

When picking the right tent for your family dog, try to avoid ultra-light or ultra-expensive.  While awesome, these tents are usually made out of lighter, thinner materials. While they are durable in regular circumstances, they tend to snag and tear more easily with claws.  Instead, consider a lightweight tent with slightly heavier materials. 

Consider tents without mesh walls

Many tents use mesh walls for better ventilation, but also to shed tent weight.  Mesh, unfortunately, doesn’t always hold up very well with dogs.  Not only will they try to get through it like a screen door, if they paw at it, they will rip a hole very easily.  Consider buying a tent with partial nylon walls instead, if your pup likes to paw at doors.

Camping and hiking with Dogs

Use a free-standing tent when camping with dogs

We recommend using a free-standing tent (usually 3 poles), as opposed to one that requires staking out (1-2 poles).  Free-standing styles are more stable, with stakes only necessary for extra stability and security.

If your pup runs into/over the guy lines with a tent that requires staking, your whole tent might fall down, or turn into a big hassle. Rooftop tents are awesome, but generally not practical if you have a bigger dog you have to get up and down a ladder.

Consider how much room you need in your tent for your dog and family

Next, consider how much room you need.  If you are camping with two kids and a Yorkie, you probably won’t need much extra space, but if you are camping with kids and a German Shepherd or a Lab, you might want to spring for a 4-person tent, instead of a 3-person for some extra legroom.

You’ll also want to make sure you have enough room to store your gear inside the tent, or that the vestibule is big enough to accommodate your packs, shoes, and other gear.

Making a Spot for your Pup to Sleep

While most dogs are fine sleeping on the ground, they can still get cold in a tent at night.  Some dogs might just sleep on top of you, but for most dogs, we recommend at least having a ground pad for some insulation.

To go the lightweight and inexpensive route, try a close-celled foam pad like the Nemo Switchback, which comes in a short length that is great for dogs.

Best Tents for Camping with Dogs

Ruffwear also makes an excellent pad for camping dogs called the Highlands Dog Pad.  I’ve used one for years and they are very durable and pack down very small for travel.  They clean easily (throw it in the wash!) and have a water-resistant bottom that’s perfect for both protecting your dog from the ground and protecting your tent floor from your pup.

If you are going to be somewhere cold, have a dog with shorter hair, or you just don’t want to share you sleeping bag with a dirty dog, consider buying a dog sleeping bag.  The Ruffwear Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag is a synthetic bag specifically fit to dogs, with easy entry/exit and just enough insulation to have your pup snoozing comfortably.

Dogs love routine, so help your dog be more comfortable by practicing with their gear at home.  Put their sleeping bag on their dog bed at home and they will get the idea quickly!

No Tent is Fully Dog-Proof

Real Talk: Dogs CAN and (sometimes) will destroy a tent.  Tents, and especially ones with lots of mesh netting, are just not made to hold up to teeth and claws if your dog is extra rambunctious or panics.  No tent will hold up to a dog determined to destroy it. 

Dogs that aren’t hypoallergenic (for example, a Doodle) will shed hair everywhere.  They might break a zipper trying to get in or out of the door faster than you can unzip it.  Your best friend might even vomit up that delicious poop or dead squirrel they ate on the trail that afternoon (or both in my dog’s unfortunate case).

Campground puppy

My cattle dog, Ripley, had a pretty big panic during a dry thunderstorm on her first backpacking trip.  She was outside our ultra-light backpacking tent and tried to get inside to hide.  Our tent ended up with some extra “ventilation” as a result.

In her panic, she wedged herself between the tent and the rain fly.  Luckily the poles didn’t snap, but she did put about 10 huge holes in the netting trying to crawl through the door, before we could get it open.  Thankfully, we had some patch material to keep the bugs out overnight. 

If your dog is young or panics easily, you might consider tying them off to a tree for the night (we like the Knot-a-Hitch system from Ruffwear). Alternatively, bring a crate along to the campground for them to sleep safely outside.

Pack a Repair Kit For Accidents

When tent camping with your dog, always pack some tent repair materials. Just like kids, dogs always find trouble.

Tent after dog accident
Emergency tent repair with duct tape after my dog punched some new ventilation in the roof. Avoid using duct tape, as it leaves sticky residue that is hard to remove.

For holes from claws, you’ll need some patches.  Duct tape is wonderful and works in a pinch, but tends to leave residue.  Instead, try Tenacious Tape and a mesh patch for bigger holes, or fun and highly flexible Noso Patches for both the tent walls/floor or the mesh ceiling.

Keep a pole splint with your tent stakes, in case of any broken tent poles from dog rough-housing or escape attempts. 

We also advise using a footprint with your tent.  This provides extra abrasion-resistance and protects the floor of your tent from rocks, sticks, and dog claws.  A footprint will extend the life of your tent considerably!

The Best Car Camping Tents for Dogs

Big Agnes Bunkhouse 6 and Bunkhouse 4

If you have a big family or big dogs, it’s hard to beat the Bunkhouse.  It’s tall enough to stand up in, which is a huge advantage when trying to get dressed.  The zippers are incredibly tough, which is nice when kids and dogs are running in and out of the tent all day long.

It also has a gigantic, pole-supported vestibule, which is big enough for both camp chairs and wet dogs on rainy days.  You can also stake out the awning as a sun shade for extra room on fair-weather days. 

It’s a big tent, but setup is a breeze (even if you lose the directions!) with Big Agnes’ classic color-coded poles and webbing.

Big Agnes has fantastic customer service and a great warranty.  They have repaired or replaced several tents for me, after some unintentional accidents and broken zippers.  Working with them is always a pleasure and they really stand by their products.

We also love the Big Agnes Sleep Station 6 for car camping. Read our full review.

Big Agnes Bunkhouse 6 Tent

REI Co-op Wonderland 4 or Wonderland 6

The new REI Wonderland tent is a fantastic replacement for the tried and true Kingdom tent.  The thoughtful design provides stability, good ventilation, and plenty of headroom to stand up in. 

While we wish the vestibule was a little bigger, it’s adequate to keep shoes and gear dry.  The amazing headspace and roomy overall footprint make the trade-off worth it. The Wonderland 6 tent has an interior divider wall with center zip that creates two interior rooms ideal for separating dogs if needed.

The dual doors are the real showstopper here, allowing you to get your pup out or in without disturbing sleeping children.  Like the Big Agnes, the poles and webbing are color coded, which allows for a quick and easy setup. 

REI Wonderland 6 tent

The Best Backpacking Tents for Dogs

Big Agnes Blacktail 2P or Blacktail 3P Hotel Tent

This freestanding tent has a classic design with plenty of headroom, vestibule space, floor space and is made with durable materials. The “Hotel” version of the tried and true Blacktail tent offers even more room for gear and dogs with minimal added weight making it a great dog backpacking tent.

We’ve always loved Big Agnes’ innovative features.  Our favorite is the ceiling media pockets, so you don’t lose your phone or contacts in your tent. The Quick Stash door keeper makes it easy to hold the tent door open with one hand. 

The 2P Blacktail Hotel comes in at a trail weight of 5 lb. 9 oz. and the Blacktail Hotel 3P comes in at 6 lb. 5oz. , so it’s light enough for backpacking or car camping

Nemo Aurora 3P Tent

The design of this tent works well with dogs, owing to the large side doors with extra nylon coverage and large vestibule space for gear storage. The side walls are also vertical, which allows for extra headroom and legroom for you, your kids, and your pup.

The best part about Nemo Tents, are the “Pawprint Compatible” designs (basically an extra footprint you can snap into the floor of the tent to protect it).

At 6lb 8 oz (for the 3P), this tent is just light enough for a family backpacking adventure. It’s also available in a 2P version.

Nemo Aurorora 3p tent

The Best Ultralight Tents for Dogs

Nemo Dagger 2P or 3P Tent

When you need to shave weight from your pack, but still want your tent to hold up, ultralight is the way to go. The Nemo Dagger is a freestanding tent with good doggy design.

The headroom space is excellent, thanks to an innovative pole design. The bathtub-style floor will hold up to your pooch with minimal drama. This tent is also the best for stargazing, with a white no-see-um mesh to give extra privacy on the sides, and black mesh in the roof for better stargazing at night. Plentiful pockets also help with stashing phones, headlamps, and leashes.

There’s also loads of ventilation, with plentiful mesh and strutted rainfly vents, to keep the air from getting stuffy on rainy days.

The 2P is a mere 3lb 14oz and the 3P is 4lb 5oz.

Nemo Dagger 2P Tent

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL 2, 3, and 4

This tent has been a staple in the ultralight market for years, because it’s highly durable and it’s won ALL the design awards, including the coveted Backpacker Magazine Editor’s Choice Award. It comes in multiple size options, making it an excellent choice for a full-family backpacking adventure.

As with all Big Agnes designs, the color-coded poles make setup a snap. Pockets and zippers are thoughtfully designed, and it is compatible with the excellent MTNGLO LED light system.

This tent stands out as great for dogs because of some innovative designs and add-ons. One of our favorites is an option to make your tent fly into an awning using trekking poles. This gives your pups some extra shade and fewer zippers to provide in-out access during mild weather.

The Copper Spur also has a “Hotel” rainfly option, which is excellent for dogs, providing an extra 9-square feet of vestibule room for your pup to curl up outside (or hold all your kids’ extra gear).

The Copper Spur HV UL3 weighs in at a mere 3lb 14oz, and the UL4 weighs in at 5lb 11oz.

Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 Tent

Taking Care of Your Tent

Wet dog in a tent

Just like your kids, you have to teach your dog good tent etiquette.  Specifically, teach them to wait before you let them through the door without barging in or out to protect your tent zippers. 

Also, make sure you clean their paws when they come in, so they don’t track dirt inside.  Just like removing your shoes outside the tent, this will help extend the life of your tent by preventing dirt buildup.

After each trip, be sure to give the tent a good shake-out while the poles are still up, to get the dog hair and excess dirt out. 

Finally, be sure to clean and re-seal your tent annually to prevent excess dirt buildup and keep your tent waterproof.

Read our tips on how to best clean your tent and other outdoor gear.

Backpacking dog

How to Choose the Best Tents for Camping with Dogs

There are plenty of great options out there for camping with your pup and family.  Just remember to look for free-standing tents made of more durable materials that are the right size to accommodate your family.  Dogs always have a nose for trouble, so be sure to pack a patch kit, just in case. Keep your tent clean to help it last for many years of family camping with both your kids and furry-kids!

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The Best Tents for Camping with Dogs

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  • Ginny has spent her career focused on getting people outside; working with the Park Service, Forest Service, Student Conservation Association and Keystone Science School, as well as spending a decade in the outdoor retail industry. She practices what she preaches, so can usually be found outside: downhill and cross-country skiing in the winter and hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, riding her dual-sport motorcycle, running, and SUPing in the summer. She has lived in Washington, Colorado, and currently lives in Montana with her husband, 2-year old son, and awesome trail dog.

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