Dog is my Co-Pilot

From a dog’s perspective each and every day is ‘the best day ever’.  Seeing Kaylee bouncing around and yipping like a coyote when she hears the freehub turn as the bikes are pulled out of the van, its hard not to be infected by her stoke.  Rolling back into camp after a long ride and watching the pup belly up to the water bowl and follow up with a dogger nap in the sun are also quite satisfying.  Our four-legged furries definitely add dimension and depth to our lives at home and on the road.  Yeah, dogs and #vanlife go together pretty dang good.

All this said, life is different on the road for all of us, including the pups.  It’s definitely worth the effort to properly prepare for travel with the dog – just as we would for ourselves.  We try to make Kaylee’s life as comfortable, or more so, than ours.

Just like us, Kaylee has her own dedicated space for food, gear, and care/medical items.  Organization is a necessity when you eat, sleep, and lounge in a small space.   We chose the Mountain Hardware cube to organize and stow much of her goods.


Food is fuel and the dogs need a lot of it when they’re active.   Its your responsibility to keep the van’s pet pantry properly stocked with similar food, treats, etc. as you would in your stick & brick home.

A dog’s digestive system is fairly sensitive to changes in diet.  Being able to bring along and safely store their go-to food is really important to maintain diet and overall health.   A couple of challenges to consider when traveling are the availability of resupply and the quantity of food you’ll have to store.  An air-tight container like the Vittles Vault provides efficient storage to keep the food fresh, rodent-proof,  and keeps your van from smelling like a pet store.

There are a number of additional food items to have along just as you would at home.  Training treats, dental chews (Kaylee loves the Greenies), and other reward snackies should be in the van also.

Just like your kitchen, dogs need dishes too.  Stackable or nesting bowls minimizes storage space required.  We have a stainless food bowl (easy to clean) and a ceramic coated water bowl (to prevent scale or grunge accumulation) that we deploy at camp.  When traveling, we always have water accessible in a no-spill bowl.  Travel days are an upset of daily routine, so ensure that your pet is eating, and more importantly, drinking enough to stay healthy.

Oh, and what goes in definitely comes out.  Make sure that you are good pet ambassador, have a stock of biodegradable pet poop bags for pick-up, use them, and dispose of waste properly.


Dogs are creatures of habit and routine, so threading familiarity and comfort into their day is much appreciated.  We try to ensure that breakfast and dinner are pretty much at the same time of day.  On travel days we make frequent bathroom break stops and encourage drinking.

It’s great to apply this approach to your camp setup as well.  Kaylee has an outside lounging rug that we deploy at camp.  This cuts down on her tendency to lay in the dirt, easily shakes off, and can be hosed off when it gets super dirty.  In the van, we have a Ruff Wear dog bed that we put on the couch or bed.  This keeps the furniture surfaces a bit cleaner and identifies her “space”.

Lets face it, we’re typically camping in the boonies.  So, we put function over fashion, even with Kaylee.  While not a necessity, she has a sweater for colder nights.  She also has a Kurgo Jacket for truly cold nights; she really doesn’t need this but some nights sitting outside it’s nice to throw it on and it keeps her status as a fashion icon.  LED collars increase visibility at night and allow you to better follow your dogs ramblings through the surrounding countryside.

It’s helpful to have a 15-20 foot nylon leash for camp areas or campgrounds that require closer control of pets. We attach a climbing carabiner to the ‘human’ end for easy attachment to most anything.

Lastly, you may consider having a few of your dogger’s favorite play toys along for entertainment and/or comfort.   Having a quick sesh of tuggy, squeaky toy, frisbee, or fetch is a great way to make their day better (and a necessity for some…).


Just like the people, a dog’s need for specific gear is dependent on the activity, condition, and longevity of daily fun-hogging.  However, there are some staples in Kaylee’s gear bin that you should consider.

Leashes – For sure, the entire pack prefers off leash rambles.  However, a responsible dog owner should always have a leash along.  You just never know what or who you will encounter when adventuring.  The leash seems like a simple tool, but there are a couple of options and applications that stand out.    Retractable leashes are great for scrambly climby trails as you can let them freewheel up or down a short tech trail section.  We have a couple of 6’ leashes, one light duty that easily fits in a pocket or hydration/backpack, and a heavier duty one that is the standard leash for any use.   When hiking or trail running, its good to have a good fitting and comfortable harness that is easy to grab and does not apply pressure to their neck/collar area.  The RuffWear front-range harness is super comfortable, has a behind the shoulders attachment point, flexi-strapping for comfort, and an ID pocket to minimize tag jangle.  You never know when you’re going to have to “belay” your dog down a 10’ nearly vertical cliff of root steps onto a narrow singletrack trail when she so easily bounded up it on the way in.

These Boots are made for… – There are some terrains that just absolutely shred a dogs paws no matter what their conditioning is.  Having a pair of secure and proper fitting dog boots when visiting areas with sharp volcanic rocks, sharp gravel, or alkali/salt flats will save their pads for the next day’s adventures and spare thee a good bit of pain and healing time.  These are no substitute for paw conditioning, but they are indispensable if your travels take you to areas or conditions like those mentioned above.

Lastly, you should never leave camp or trailhead without water and a collapsible bowl.  Dogs don’t sweat, but they require as much or more water than you will during an adventure.  And, this need is even greater for dark colored or thick coated dogs and in warmer temperatures.  Hydrate or…well, just bring more water than you need.  If you have extra, you can pour it on their backs for the “swampcooler effect”.


Its important to have the proper paperwork when traveling, the dog’s needs are no different. Ensure that your dog’s vaccinations are up to date and bring a copy of the vaccination record.  These are typically required at international border crossings and also at doggy daycares when the pup needs a break from #vanlife.

Medications – Its helpful to always have a stockpile of any prescription medications that your pet may need.  These should be in the original bottle from the vet’s office and include legible labels.  Other useful medications might include antibiotics, anti-nausia, doggy aspirin, Flea/Tick medication, and HeartGuard.

Doggie day spa – We all need a little personal maintenance.  Dogs use their mouths for everything, so good oral care using doggie toothbrush/ toothpaste, doggie nail clippers to trim dew claws, and a Furminator for excess hair removal are nice to have along.

Skunk-off. We hope we never need this but if Kaylee ever got sprayed we wanted to be prepared.  Don’t believe the websites that tell you feminine douche works, all that will happen is you will drive to the store in the middle of a night to buy 6 boxes of feminine hygiene product, spend too much money, and get disgusted looks from the checkout clerk.  And as a horrible ‘bonus’ after the douche-down, the dog will still stink.   Use the Skunk-Off.  It’ll knock about 90% of that horrible stank off after a couple of washes.

Final Thought:

In the end, don’t hesitate or think twice about bringing along your furry family.  Having your dog in the mix every day of your travels is worth the effort!

For ideas on useful gear for the furry, check out our Amazon Ideas List.

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