What to pack: 14 essentials for hiking and camping with a cat

When you head out for a hike, camping trip or any other outdoor adventure, it’s best to be prepared for everything from a serious injury to inclement weather. When you go outside with your adventure cat, you need to prepare even more.

As a human living in a cat’s world, you’re likely accustomed to catering to your feline’s every whim, so before you step foot outside with your cat, make sure you have everything you both might need.

Please keep in mind that the 14 items outlined below are only the beginning. No one knows your kitty better than you, so bring along anything else your cat may require, especially any medications.

1. Hydration

Make sure to bring plenty of potable water for both you and your adventure cat. It’s easy to become dehydrated when you’re exerting yourself, especially if you’re hiking in warm weather, and even cats on a wet-food diet will require frequent hydration.

While there may be water available along the trail from a river or stream, don’t rely on it for your main source of water unless you’re also bringing along a water filter or purifying tablets. And don’t expect your kitty to drink from the stream either because she’s also susceptible to giardiasis and other waterborne diseases.

In addition to packing plenty of water, also bring along a collapsible water bowl or other means for you cat to drink.

2. Nutrition

You and your kitty will burn a lot of calories as you hike, so it’s important to refuel. If you need a snack, keep in mind that your feline friend probably does too.

Bring along nourishing, lightweight snacks for yourself like trail mix and dried fruit, and pack more food than your cat would normally consume because she’ll be exerting herself and burning more calories than usual. It also never hurts to be prepared.

3. Navigation

At a minimum, pack a map and compass when venturing into the great outdoors. A GPS is great to bring along, but a compass weighs less and doesn’t rely on batteries.

If you don’t know how to read a map and compass, the video below offers a good introduction.

4. First-aid kit

Even if you’re only going on a short nature hike, it’s a good idea to bring along a first-aid kit that’s equipped to treat both you and your adventure cat.

For the humans in your hiking party, that kit should contain bandages, tape, antiseptic and painkillers at a bare minimum. For a full list of what your outdoor kit should contain, check out REI’S checklist, and for your kitty, read the Humane Society’s pet first-aid kit list.

You should always make sure that your cat is up to date on flea, tick and heartworm treatments before heading outside, but it’s also a good idea to bring along tweezers or a tick key just in case.

5. Sun protection

When it comes to keeping yourself safe from the sun, that includes sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, as well as sunglasses that block UVA and UVB light. Sunglasses are even more important if you’ll be hiking in snow.

Your kitty may need sun protection as well, especially if she has light-colored fur.

6. Fire

Even if you’re not planning to camp out, bring matches in a waterproof case or pack waterproof ones. It’s also a smart idea to bring along a chemical firestarter, dry tinder or dryer lint.

Never built a campfire? Check out the video below.

7. Illumination

Unlike your adventure cat, your night vision probably isn’t so good, so pack a flashlight, lantern, headlamp or other light source, as well as some extra batteries. A headlamp may be your best bet because it leaves your hands free to hold onto a leash — or a cat, if need be.

8. Insulation

Weather conditions can change quickly, especially if you’re venturing into the mountains, so dress in layers and bring an additional layer, as well as rain gear. Before heading out, think of the worst possible conditions you may face weather-wise and pack accordingly.

You may also need to bring along a little something to keep your kitty warm too.

9. Pocketknife or multi-use tool

A knife, screwdriver and scissors can help you do everything from opening a can to cutting bandages. For a low-budget multi-use tool, wrap some duct tape around your water bottle or trekking poles and use it as needed.

10. Emergency shelter

You may not be planning to spend the night, but if you get lost or injured, you’ll be grateful you packed a tent, tarp, emergency blanket or even simply a large trash bag.

Bring along a tarp and some paracord and you can have an emergency shelter in just a few minutes if you follow the instructions below.

11. Collar and ID tags

Your cat should always have easily readable identification tags with your name, address and phone number. Some states, such as Rhode Island, actually require cats to wear identification at all times.

We also recommend having your pet microchipped before ever heading outside.

12. Harness and leash

Your adventure cat should wear a harness and leash at all times when you’re outside. Add reflective tape or LED lights to the harness and leash to help your cat stay visible. This will come in handy in case you get separated, and it’s essential if you’re hiking in an area where hunting is allowed.

13. Recent photo of your cat

Carry an up-to-date photo of your kitty or keep it on your phone. (Yes, Fluffy was adorable as a kitten, but if you’re hiking with a 5-year-old Fluffy, that photo won’t be a lot of help.)

If you and your cat get separated, you can show your pet’s photos to other hikers, and you’ll have an image ready to photocopy or print if you need to make fliers or posters to post nearby.

14. Poop bags and/or Litter box & litter

Leave No Trace applies to kitty waste too. Cat feces can contain harmful parasites like T. gondii so it’s best to clean it up and carry it out. If your adventure cat prefers to use a litter box, there are many disposable and foldable options available.

Before you take your cat outside, please familiarize yourself with these adventuring best practices.