For over 40 years, I have had a dog by my side on camping trips. There is just something different about camping when you have a buddy sitting by the fire with you, exploring with you, or laying by your side in your RV. When you have a trailer, you have to be careful of what items you pack though; after all, you don’t have much space to work with, especially with smaller units. Here is the top camping gear for dogs I must-have with me on every camping trip. Each one is easily packable, tried and tested, and depending on your situation, essential to have for the comfort and safety of you and your dog!
For many years, we’d load up, get the dog in the car and go without giving a second thought to restraining our dogs. In today’s world, with so many more vehicles, RV’s and crazy drivers, ensuring your dog’s safety has become an absolute necessity. After researching several seat belt options, I chose to purchase the Kurgo Seatbelt Zip Line. It gave my dog more freedom to be able to get up, re-situate and lay back down without getting tangled. Kurgo also has seat belts that buckle into the car safety belt clasps. Just be sure to have your dog wear a harness and buckle into the harness, NOT a collar. If you latch your dog with their collar, a crash could easily snap their necks and cause more injuries than not being restrained. A harness distributes the weight and force and keeps it away from their neck.
When you are camping, you have the inevitable potty breaks after dark. This is where the light up collar comes in handy. Pick your favorite color when you order and then you have an easy way to find your dog. If you don’t take your dog off-leash, you can purchase a light up leash as well.
When you are hanging around camp, but want to keep your dog on leash, you can purchase a basic tether system (usually a metal pole that you can screw into the ground), or you can get a higher-end zip-line system. This system has various lengths and it much more secure than the small screw-in type. It does require a little more effort to put up, but it allows your dog to move around much more easily and gives them a bit more freedom. I use mine on longer trips when I need to have my girl secure while cooking, cleaning up the trailer, or just when it’s too hot to be inside, but I want her to have more freedom than the 6 ft leash I usually use.
If you don’t want to hassle with the setup of the zipline system, or a screw-in tether pole, go old school! Add a basic long line leash to your camping gear for dogs list and tie it to a tree. It’s simple, takes up less space and it’s the most affordable option. This type of system works the best in campgrounds without a lot of rocks, trees, bushes, or other obstacles that the leash can get caught on. It is also a great item to have for training a “come” cue.
This one is my favorite item from my camping gear for dogs list. You can purchase a throw rug or blanket and train your dog to go to their “spot,” “place,” or “bed.” Then take that item with you and put it wherever you need your pup to be. While you are sitting around the campfire, they can be hanging out on their rug out of harm’s way of embers, the dutch oven, and other people.
Small Slow Feeder & Collapsible Water Bowl
Many studies have shown feeding your dog in a slow-feeder bowl helps with digestion and prevents your dog from eating too quickly. These come in small sizes and when paired with a collapsible water bowl, are easily mobile. Grab one of each, stick them in a drawer in your trailer and be prepared for meals throughout your trip. (And don’t forget a can of pumpkin to help keep your pup “regular!”)
Kongs are my go-to small treats for my pup. On the first day of the trip, I fill 2-3 Kongs with wet food, pumpkin, or other yummy treat, then stick them in the freezer. Then, when I want to give my pup a quick enrichment activity or an easy meal, all I have to do is grab one and let her chew on it until she empties it out. When it’s gone, I’ll rinse, refill, and re-freeze. They are simple, quick and make life a bit easier on busy (or not so busy) days! Another tip is to put each one in a baggie before freezing to keep the mess down.
Cooling Vest, Mat, or Bandana
Your RV can get pretty warm if you don’t have hookups, so another must-have item for long-haired or otherwise “hot” dogs is either a cooling vest or a cooling mat (or both!), depending on your situation. If you are out hiking by water, a cooling vest is a great item to pack because you can dunk it, then put it on your dog under their harness and it will help keep them cooler. Rather, if you are hanging out in the trailer, a cooling mat is great for the dog to lay on. Make sure the cooling mat doesn’t go outside without something under it though, because they have gel inside and you don’t want to poke a hole in the bottom of it. They also have cooling bandanas if your dog is used to wearing those.
High Visibility Reflective Vest
If you go camping in the fall or during hunting seasons, make sure your dog has a highly visible, orange vest. Likewise, these can also be great for hiking in the dark due to their reflectivity. The Ruffwear one is lightweight and very packable.
While we are on safety measures, I always recommend to my clients that they get a GPS for their dog. It is the camping gear for dogs that I won’t leave without. City GPS’s like Whistle, Tractive, Link, and others, typically won’t work well in backcountry areas because they rely on cell phone towers and signals. If you are an avid camper and want to make the investment of a GPS system for your dog, the one I recommend is the Garmin Astro. This one does NOT have shock capability (it does look like a shock collar, however). For a more in-depth article about GPS’s, visit my GPS review blog. The Astro is not a device you want them to wear 24/7, and it won’t be suitable for smaller dogs.
Do you paddleboard, kayak or participate in other water sports? If so, I recommend you have a life vest around for your dog if they aren’t a strong swimmer. Never force your dog to swim if they are scared of the water or just don’t want to participate. Forcing them will only increase their fear (Look up the technical dog training term “flooding” for more information on this). However, if you want to encourage them to swim by coaxing them to enter at their own pace or throwing a toy into the water to fetch, take it slow, let your dog make the choice of when and when not to enter the water and use a life vest to help them gain confidence.
Don’t forget to take a towel and use a seat protector to dry your pup off after they have had fun in the water. A household towel works great, or they have special micro-fiber towels for dogs if you want to go that route. Then, a nice seat protector for your vehicle will keep your seats clean and dry.
Blue Green Algae Test
In the last several years, you have more than likely hear about Cyanobacteria or Blue/Green Algae. This is becoming more and more abundant because of the heat, but due to the last several years and the economy, the government hasn’t been testing the reservoirs as much, so you have to be very careful about where you choose to swim with your dog. Luckily, you can now add a home test for Blue Green Algae to your camping gear for dogs list. I highly recommend you purchase one or two to have on hand in case you need it.
Collapsible Pet Stairs
The towing capacity of most rigs requires a truck, and many of those trucks have to have high clearance for camping spots. That can make it difficult for your dog to get into the truck, especially if they are older or aren’t strong jumpers. If this is the case for you, a collapsible pet stair unit is a must for your camping gear for dogs list. They open and close easily, and fold up to store. Make sure you spend some time training your dog how to go up and down the stairs before you go camping though. Take it slow, use their favorite treats and coax your dog, one-step-at-a-time to gradually learn to go up the steps. When training is done right, your dog won’t have a minute’s trouble getting into your truck.
First Aid Kit
This one might be a no-brainer, but always have a pet first aid kit nearby. You want basic tools and medical supplies in case you need to patch your pup up. From torn nails, to cut paw pads, ticks or just a simple hair trim, make sure you are prepared. Check with your vet about flea and tick preventative and other items you may need, depending on the area you camp in.
Pet Hair Remover
Everybody with a pup has dog hair in some manner or other. Pet hair remover products are everywhere and some work better than others. One I use regularly in our trailer, is the Fur-Zoff stone. It works well on rugs and other fabric. You may also want to invest in a travel vacuum. Some you can charge prior to your trip and others plug into a cigarette lighter.
Camping trips are the highlight of many family vacations. They can be great for family time or solitude alike, but when you are able to bring your furry friend along, each trip is just a little bit more special. Luckily, there is camping gear for dogs that makes camping trips with Fido safer, more fun and high on everybody’s to-do lists. Make sure you treat your pup with some fun camping gear during your next trip!
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