The Minnesota Malamute Club usually hosts two backpacking excursions each year - one in the spring (April or May), one in the fall (October).
What is backpacking? Backpacking is hiking! Instead of free-walking, however, we put our dogs to work with backpacks. They can carry their water, supplies, first aid, keys, lunch, etc. Whatever you can think of! When they feel that weight on their shoulders, they go into working mode. Every hike counts for more when they are carrying weight.
How does one get a hiking leg? Dogs are expected to pack 30% of their weight on an excursion of at least ten miles for a single leg. To get their title, one can either do four 10-mile legs or three 10-mile legs with an overnight camping trip bookended by two 5-mile stretches. These hikes must be completed on natural surfaces - grass, dirt, or loose gravel - to offer shock absorbency to protect the dogs' joints. Elevation can account for mileage (1,000 feet of elevation is equivalent to 1 mile of flat terrain).
"Vesta." Owned by Julia Berquist.
What kind of equipment do you need? Dog backpacks can be purchased through many outfitters. Wenaha packs are an oldie and beloved favorite, although they have gone out of business and packs are hard to find. Wolf Packs and Ruffwear also offer options. It is also nice to buy large water pouches and portable water bowls.
How do you train? Start by acclimating your dog to the bulk of the backpack. They will sometimes thump into your leg or trees at first, but quickly acclimate to the extra inches on either side. Little by little, add incremental weight to the pack. All dogs shooting for a leg should be conditioned before they hit the trail for that 10-mile leg. Young dogs (<1 year old) should not backpack a high percentage of their weight so as to protect their growing joints.
What do you earn? A total of 30-40 miles is required to earn a Working Pack Dog title (WPD) from the Alaskan Malamute Club of America. See the AMCA website for more information. You also earned a tired, contented pup at the end of the day!
"Rae." Owned by Karina Burger and Tim O'Brien.
"Varda." Owned by Alexis Smith.
Banner: "Club Hike at Nerstrand." Julie Smith and Solo. Karina Burger and Rae. Alexis Smith and Varda. Julia Berquist and Nero and Vesta.