Dog Sleep System

When we first started backpacking with Dakota, we had a lot of questions about gear. Does she need a pack?  How about boots?  Jackets?  Suffice to say, Dakota is probably has enough gear to rival her human counterparts.  The biggest question was about her sleep system.  While some dogs have thick coats and are suited for cold weather, Dakota’s short coat does not retain enough heat to keep her warm.

While on one of our trips, the weather turned from a 75 degree day, to dipping in the low 30s at night.  Dakota was freezing.  Her Rough Wear jacket (photo below) and bed were not keeping her warm enough, instead, she forced her way into our quilts and huddled close to our bodies.


To decide on the best sleep system, we looked at several factors:

1. Weight – It needs to be light enough to keep her pack weight low, and keep her mobile

2. Size – A small form factor matters. Dogs need to be nimble enough to navigate through technical terrain.

3. Warmth – Why else would you buy a sleep system?

We found three options that worked best were, but not all satisfied the requirements.

A thick coat

We bought a cheap and thick dog coat at our local pet supply store for about $20.  The coat keeps Dakota warm at night and has holes for her legs to pop through.  The problem we found is that it is bulky, heavy, and not designed to be used for backcountry camping. Dakota could not carry the coat on her own, and it added a good pound and a half to our pack weight.

An old sleeping bag

IMG_20140426_141503We had an old Suisse Sport sleeping bag in our gear closet with a broken zipper. Originally, we were planning to cut the bag up and use it as a quilt system.  Instead, we used it as a full sleep system for Dakota.  Bottom folded up into a bed, and the top wrapped around her body, keeping her warm in cold weather.  At two pounds, it was relatively lightweight, Dakota could carry it with ease and this increases her cuteness factor by at least 10 fold.  However, it didn’t stay on her very well, and when she moved around at night, we would have to get up to fix the bag so she would stay warm.

A child size quilt

IMG_20141009_173243By far the best solution was a child size quilt with snaps on the back.  We purchased a used Enlightened Equipment  Protege quilt.  The Protege quilt was designed as a child’s size quilt, but is perfectly suited for a dog her size.  The snaps allow Dakota to walk around freely with the quilt on in the morning, move around the tent as she pleases, and stays securely strapped to her.

We’d love to hear what are some ways you keep your dogs warm during backpacking trips!


4 thoughts on “Dog Sleep System

  1. How was sleeping with your dog under a quilt? My partner and I are planning to move from mummy bags to a 2-person quilt and are wondering whether it will be breathable enough for our pup to sleep under it, too (she usually sleeps under the covers by our feet at home). Once on a cold night she crawled into my bag with me, and her wet doggy breath clammed it up – so freezing! After that I cut the bottom and zipper off an old synthetic bag and added velcro at the neck. It fits her like a cape, so she can move around, but it covers her when she curls up. It works, but it’s another thing to take, and if the quilt is breathable enough for all three of us, I’d rather just bring that. What was your experience?

    • Emily, we do not have the problem wet/clammy air when we share our quilt with a dog. Our quilts can be used as a flat blanket or with the foot box open, allowing good ventilation. Coupled with a well vented tent, it keeps condensation to a minimum. But, you will sleep a bit colder because of the heat loss. This is why our dog has her own quilt. At 12 oz, it is not too heavy and compresses well.

    • Hi Eric, I’m not sure about the exact measurement of her chest but she’s a 50lb medium size dog. If you are thinking about getting your dog a child size quilt or a old sleeping bag, the size of the chest won’t be your limiting factor. Dakota had plenty of room in both. Hope this helps!

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