Last updated on 5 May, 2023
Are you going on a road trip or camping with dogs? Unsure what dog camping gear to pack? What does a dog need when camping? This dog camping checklist will help you decide what to take for your dog and what to leave at home.
Dog-friendly camping is fun. So is a road trip. We know we have been doing it full-time for over three years with our dog Chika. We have camped in many fantastic dog-friendly campgrounds and even the occasional caravan park as we have travelled around Australia.
Chika an active, adventure-seeking border collie, loves our life on the road. What is not to love? We get to explore mountains to beaches, forests to the deserts and cities to remote towns. Chika loves the great outdoors and thrives on every day being different.
Taking your dog on a camping road trip requires some planning and prep. Our gear guide to the pet travel essentials covers everything you will need for your furkid to keep them happy, safe and healthy.
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- What Does a Dog Need When Camping?
- Dog Car Restraints | Dog Car Harness or Pet Carrier
- Dog Car Hammock
- Portable Dog Pens and Tethering
- Protection from Parasites
- Dog Muzzle
- Dog Boots
- Life Jacket
- Dog ID Tag and Mircochip
- Dog Lead
- Dog Camping Bed
- Dog Food and Water Bowls
- Dog Nail Clippers
- Dog Brush or Comb
- Dog Jacket or Coat
- Sunscreen for Dogs
- Poop Bags
- Dog Toys
- Doggy Carry Bags, Backpacks and Strollers
- Vehicle Cargo Barrier
- Dog Car Ramp
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What Does a Dog Need When Camping?
Dog Car Restraints | Dog Car Harness or Pet Carrier
An unrestrained dog in a car is a risk. A dog not restrained could distract the driver or, in an accident, become a missile and cause injury or death to themselves or others. For these reasons, it is a legal legal requirement in all states in Australia except the Northern Territory to properly securing your dog is a car.
Restraining a dog in a car is best done using a harness, a pet carrier or a portable crate. Which option to use will generally come down to your dog’s size and temperament, the number of dogs you have and your vehicle.
Our choice of car restraint for Chika is the in-car dog harness. With our caravanning setup, Chika has the entire back seat to herself. Most of the time, she will sleep and occasionally glance out the window or stretch before finding a new position and sleeping again. So much for border collies having limitless unrelenting energy!
Dog Car Hammock
Sand, dirt, mud, water, leaves and anything else dogs can pick up and carry in their fur are likely to end up in your vehicle.
I do not know about your dog, but my Chika is the happiest, the wetter, sandy or dirty she is. By far, is one of the best purchases we have made is our dog car hammock. The car hammock has made allowing our mess-loving dog into our car much less stressful.
There are a lots of car hammocks available. The main features to carefully consider when getting one for your dog and car:
- attaches easily (usually to the headrests),
- has slits for the seat belt,
- has side flaps which give added protection to the doors,
- has padding, pockets for storing items; and or
- ventilation mesh.
Portable Dog Pens and Tethering
Keeping your four-legged family member within the limits of your campsite is essential. The desire in dogs to go exploring and to meet others can be overwhelming for many, but their wanderings can make them unsafe and annoying to other campers.
Tethering (tying up) your dog is an option, as is using a soft pen, a portable pen or portable fencing. It is a matter of deciding which is best for your dog.
We use a rope to tie Chika to our caravan. As medium size dog, portable pens and fencing are too small and low for her. These are better suited to small dogs.
Protection from Parasites
Have you had a dog with fleas, ticks, mites, or worms? It is horrendous for your dog and you.
Their stress, the annoying scratching, the secondary skin infections they can get from scratching, the messy treatments, the vet visits and so on, are enough to send you and your dog mad. Then if that is not all bad enough, there is the real potential your dog could get very sick or die. Ehrlichiosis is a disease carried by ticks that are killing dogs in Australia.
It is highly recommended that:
- your dog is given a monthly over-the-counter preventative to protect them against fleas, ticks, mites, intestinal worms, and heartworm,
- your dog wears a tick collar, and
- you keep a tick remover handy.
Our choice for Chika is the Big 5 Pack because the pack includes Credelio and Interceptor Spectrum and gives the broadest preventive on the market. Even so, it still does not protect against mites.
Sentinel Spectrum provides monthly protection in a chew against fleas, heartworm, and intestinal worms. Additional treatment for mites and ticks is needed. Nexgard Spectra protects against fleas, ticks, mites, heartworm and intestinal worms, excluding tapeworms.
Your dog’s safety while camping is paramount. Not to scare you into thinking it might be easier to leave your dog at home, another risk to dogs on a road trip is 1080 baits used to kill wild dogs and foxes.
The 1080 baits deliberately made irresistible to dogs are also attractive to our pet dogs. So it is necessary in some areas of Australia to protect your dog against eating the baits by using a dog muzzle that will stop your dog from scavenging for things to eat on a walk.
Muzzles available to choose from are:
- soft nylon muzzles are close-fitting to a dog’s snout and usually limit your dog’s ability to pant and drink, or
- cage or basket muzzles are slightly heavier but let your dog drink and pant, or
- plastic basket muzzles that can be heated and moulded to the shape of your dog’s snout for the best fit and comfort.
When selecting a muzzle, choose one that is well-fitting and comfortable. There is no point in having one your dog can remove (and many will try) or causes discomfort. Ideally, a muzzle should have good airflow and adjustable straps and allow enough jaw movement for your dog to pant and drink water.
Chika has a soft and plastic cage muzzle. We use them on her for short periods when necessary for her protection as she is a highly food motivated dog.
Prickles, box thorns, searing hot road surfaces, and even occasional snow or ice can cause injury to the dog’s paws. Sometimes, dog boots that look cute and rather ridiculous (sorry if I am alone with this, but a dog in shoes always makes me giggle) are a viable solution.
Dog boots are available in different sizes. It seems that, with training and time, most dogs get used to wearing them. Chika does not have dog shoes, although we have thought about getting her a pair.
A dog life jacket may not be something you have considered for your dog. If you enjoy spending time outdoors in, around or on the water and your dog enjoys joining in, then your dog may benefit from having a personal floatation device (PFD).
Although dogs have the natural ability to swim, I can say from experience not all breeds can swim confidentially or safely. Therefore, dogs can benefit from wearing a dog life vest when:
- out on boats, canoes, or kayaks with their owners,
- your dog lacks confidence swimming and or is fearful of the water,
- assistance to stay afloat in various water conditions such as waves, currents, and debris, or
- there is a risk of your dog suffering swimming fatigue.
Available in different sizes, life jacket for dogs supports your dog in the water, giving them confidence and reducing the risk of fatigue.
The one you select for your dog should be durable, lightweight, fit well and be the correct size (recommended weight). Also, look for one that is bright in colour and has a handle on the top (very useful for getting your dog back into your water vessel).
Chika has a PFD. She wears it whenever we are out on the water. It gives her confidence in the water and peace of mind that she will stay afloat.
Dog ID Tag and Mircochip
Every dog must have an identification tag and microchip with your contact details. A dog tag and microchip with your correct contact details are your best chance of having your dog returned to you if your dog becomes lost, wanders off, or takes off in fright. The contact information on your dog’s ID tag and microchip allow anyone who finds your dog to contact you quickly and easily.
Having both experienced Chika escaping a friend’s backyard and finding a lost dog on our travels around Australia, I cannot drive home strongly enough how necessary it is to have your contact details on your dog. An ID tag is a first and best option, and a microchip is an essential backup.
Chika was quickly reunited with us when the person that found her used our mobile number on her ID tag attached to her dog collar to contact us. We did not know she was missing!
The time we found a lost dog at a lake, it was only thanks to social media we found his owner when he had no ID tag and vets were closed for the long weekend.
Please, make sure your dog has a collar with your contact details. Too often, I see dogs camping with no collar and no identification. It makes me nervous because I also see how much these dogs are loved. It would be devastating to lose them.
The purpose of a dog lead is to keep your dog close to your side and tethered to you. A dog lead is an essential item for any dog. When camping or on a road trip, there are countless times when a dog leash will be necessary.
Dog leads come in a variety of types as well as lengths, colours and styles. Some you may like to consider are:
- A retractable lead is perfect for dogs that cannot be off-leash because they take off. A retractable leash is a good compromise as it allows you to vary how much distance to give your dog away from you by shortening or lengthening it.
- Hands-free leads that attaches to your waist are a popular choice among hikers and runners. Another time they could be handy is doing camping activities when you need to use your hands and your dog is with you; activities such as building sandcastles on a beach or fishing.
Typically selecting a lead comes down to what appeals to you and will work with your dog’s temperament. It needs to be a reasonable length and feel comfortable in your hand when walking your beloved dog.
Our Chika loves a leash-free walk nearly as much as she loves food; nearly. When she needs to be on a dog lead, we use a standard 2m long lead.
Dog Camping Bed
There is a wide range of dog beds available on the market. For most dogs their current bed is a suitable option and often the best because it is familiar. Familiarity often helps a dog to settle more quickly in new places.
Every so often, however, your dog’s bed is impractical to take camping like Chika’s bean bag bed she had before we started travelling. A large, smelly bean bag covered in dog hair. She genuinely loved it but was in no way suitable for a road trip.
Choosing the best dog camping bed for your beloved dog typically has to meet two requirements:
- your dog must like and be willing to use the dog travel bed; and
- be practical to pack up and transport in your car or caravan.
Dog Food and Water Bowls
Pet food and water bowls are items to take camping for your dog. There are a few things to consider when deciding which type is best to take.
When it invariably comes to choosing which type of dog bowls to pack, there are a few things to think about:
- Travel bowls are great. Made from waterproof fabric and foldable, these are super easy to store and transport. They can be carried in your pocket or bag for days out or long walks and used to give your dog water while out. On the other hand, the waterproof material does not last forever, and leaking can become a problem. They are also often small and not suitable for large dogs.
- Portable, collapsible lightweight bowls made from melamine or silicone are also great for travelling dogs. We had lightweight bowls for Chika, but she tipped them over.
- Solid stainless or ceramic dog dishes have the benefit of them, if you have the space to store and transport them, of being sturdy and robust.
For Chika, our preferred pet dish is sturdy and difficult to knock over.
Dog Nail Clippers
Undoubtedly Chika’s least favourite dog grooming task is getting her nails clipped. I cannot disagree with her; doing it is my least favourite.
The options for keeping your dog’s nails trimmed while travelling are:
- getting a groomer to do it and this can be done while travelling by booking grooming appointments as needed, or
- doing it yourself using:
- pet nail clippers with stainless steel blades, or
- if you are worried about cutting too close to the quick use a cutter with technology for detecting the quick, or
- a dog nail grinder that is reportedly easy to use and painless.
Whichever option to care for your dog’s nails while on a road trip chose, make it the one that you are confident using.
Dog Brush or Comb
Regular dog grooming of dogs is an essential part of having a dog. That continues to be even when you and your dog travel. The outdoor lifestyle of camping and caravanning means there are countless opportunities for dogs to collect all kinds of debris in their fur.
A dog’s coat needs to be taken care of. One of the best ways to do this is by regular brushing and or combing with the potential benefits being it:
- aids in removing dirt, sand, foliage and all other debris from its coat,
- keeps their fur free of tangles,
- removes loose dead hair and prevents painful mats,
- a groomed coat makes it far easier to check for fleas, ticks and possible skin lesions or injuries,
- stimulates the natural oils giving the coat a healthy shine,
- ensures your dog is looking healthy and at its best, and
- helps to reduce the amount of loose hair that gets into your car, caravan, camper trailer or tent and your clothes.
You want a brush or comb suitable for your dog’s fur type. Chika is a long-haired border collie who shreds fur like glitter at a four-year-old’s unicorn party. For her, I use a rake comb and a de-shedding comb.
There is a wide choice of dog brushes and combs available. When selecting which dog comb or brush to buy brush or comb and take on your camping trip:
- ensure it is suitable for your dog’s fur type; and
- it is comfortable for you to use and hold in your hand.
Dog Jacket or Coat
It is best to find one winter jacket for your dog that is good quality, waterproof as well as warm and cosy. Another feature to consider is for the vest to be reflective. A reflective coat means your dog could be more visible at night.
Road tripping a lap around Australia can mean following or chasing the best of the weather. If so, your dog may not need a dog jacket.
There are also dogs like our Chika that flatly refuse to wear a dog coat regardless of the temperature. Not without behaving as though we had completely broken her heart and endured her life of suffering (insert eye roll).
Even so, life happens. It is not always possible to follow the best of the weather.
Sunscreen for Dogs
Same as humans, dogs can get sunburn. Applying sunscreen to exposed areas, most commonly on the nose and ears, will help protect your dog.
Chika has an area of pink, unprotected skin on the bridge of her muzzle. Sadly, while we were travelling around Tasmania, Chika suffered one bout of painful sunburn. The area on her nose formed a scab before it eventually healed.
Thankfully, she has not suffered sunburn again because we routinely use sunscreen on her nose.
Fact, dogs poop. Another fact, it is the responsibility of a dog’s owner to clean up after their dog. That means picking up, bagging and disposing of the poop in a waste bin.
Dog poop bags are a necessity when camping or on a road trip with your dog. There is the option of reusing plastic bags such as bread bags which is very plausible. Alternatively, or in addition, there are eco-friendly, biodegradable and compostable dog poo bags on the market.
We have learned with Chika that we can never have too many poop bags at the ready.
Your dog may benefit from or love having familiar favourite dog toys while camping or as you travel.
Putting together a collection of toys to take camping for your dog does not need to be stressful. Keep the pet toys to a limit of 3 – 5, ones your dog loves and varied.
Chika’s toys include a small ball, a food dispensing ball, a toy batman and a dog chew bone recommended for reactive dogs like Chika. She has had other toys. We swap and change them as she gets bored with them or loses them.
From experience, I will advise against toys with beads inside for dogs who see every toy as a challenge to destroy. There is not much that is more tedious than trying to clean up plastic beads off the ground that has come flying out of a toy, like confetti that your dog has triumphantly masticated.
Doggy Carry Bags, Backpacks and Strollers
For owners with an elderly, injured or disabled dog, a dog carry bag, backpack or stroller could be the difference between being able to go camping with your dog or not. The other added benefit is containing a pet while out and about.
When selecting a dog carry bag or dog backpack, look for one that is comfortable for you and your dog. Ideally, you want it to have good ventilation, be sturdy, have wide padded shoulder straps, have compartments and look great.
As a traveller or camper, select a pet stroller that is sturdy, and easy to fold up and transport. One that has multiple purposes such as it is also an in-car carrier.
Vehicle Cargo Barrier
Do you have an excitable and loving dog that wants your constant attention? Does your dog wander about the car rather than stay in its designated spot? Does your dog lick or nudge you to get your attention, distracting you while driving?
A vehicle barrier may be the solution. Car pet barriers create a physical boundary for your dog, confining and limiting their mobility.
Car barricades or barriers made from mesh or powder-coated steel are easy to install and remove. The universal barriers are adjustable and expandable and do not impede the driver’s vision.
Dog Car Ramp
Elderly, sick or injured dogs can struggle to get in and out of vehicles. If this is your dog and you are worried about how they will fair having to get in and out of your car and caravan, then a vehicle ramp could be the solution.
Dog car ramps are helpful by having a gradual incline that makes it easier and safer for dogs with health issues such as muscle weakness, arthritis, hip or joint pain.
- If a dog vehicle ramp could benefit your dog as you travel, features to look for are that the ramp is:
- compact, lightweight, portable, foldable or telescopic so that it is easy to use, transport and store in your vehicle,
- anti-skid or anti-slip, and
- the weight limit is sufficient for your dog’s size.