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My dogs, Hitch and Porter, represent two extremes when it comes to traveling with pets. Porter, a rescued Lab-boxer mix who’s afraid of his own shadow, is an absolute joy in the car. He curls up quietly in the back seat, doesn’t make a peep, and occasionally rests his head on my shoulder or balances on the center console to get a look out the windshield. Hitch, an 11-year-old Lab-pointer mix with the disposition of a toddler who loves everyone just a bit too much, is a terrible road-tripper—he barks incessantly every time he gets in the car. It got so bad that our vet recommended a mild sedative for long rides. To our great misfortune, we found out on a 14-hour trip that it only revved him up more. Miraculously, my marriage survived that drive. A few months later, I bought a truck, in part so that Hitch could ride in the camper-shell-covered bed and bark to his heart’s content, far away from our ears.
Over the years, we’ve taken a lot of road trips with our pups and tried out a lot of dog gear. While I’d argue that buying a pickup was the best thing I ever did for my dogs, because they get to go more places and I don’t have to worry about them tearing up the back seat, there are a few other things I’ve used over the years that keep us all—two- and four-legged creatures alike—happy.
Orvis Dog Weekender Travel Kit ($89)
Keep your pup’s food fresh, dry, and organized with this rugged kit. It comes with an airtight nylon-canvas carrying case that holds a four-to-five-pound food bag and two bowls, more than enough for a long weekend. The interior lining is BPA-free and easy to clean, and exterior pockets keep accessories like leashes organized.
Lazaga Ultrasonic Bark Controller ($25)
I never thought I’d be able to ride in a vehicle with Hitch again, but the Lazaga made it possible. This tiny box attaches to your dog’s collar and emits an ultrasonic frequency when they bark that humans can’t hear, but annoys the dog enough to get him to stop. It’s harmless but very effective.
Ruffwear Pack Out Bag ($35)
I am not a fan of leaving bagged dog poop on the side of a trail to pick up when you return—I’d love to see the numbers on how much of it actually reaches the dumpster. This waist pack solves the problem by making carrying your dog’s poo on the trail easy and hands-free. Its waterproof nylon lining keeps a full bag from smelling, and the low-profile design fits comfortably against your waist.
Nemo Helio LX Shower ($150)
Rubber floor mats can help keep your car clean during an adventure, but if you’re on a long or particularly muddy mission, you—and your pet—are going to need a bath. Unlike other portable gravity showers that need to be hung up and provide minimal pressure, Nemo’s lightweight construction rests on the ground and is pressurized by a foot pump; a few stomps give you a seven-to-ten-minute full-power rinse. The tough, 5.8-gallon polyester bag won’t leak, and the setup doubles as a great tool for rinsing gear and dishes.
Nite Ize SpotLit LED Carabiner Light ($9.50)
These battery-powered, weatherproof lights are indispensable for camping. They’re not much bigger than a dog tag but put out enough light to keep track of your pup in the dark from dozens of feet away. Like a headlamp, you can set it to flash or glow, and it lasts up to 20 hours before you need to change the batteries.
Carhartt Chore Coat ($40)
The quilted nylon lining in this jacket helps dogs stay warm on chilly nights, and its duck canvas outer has a water-resistant coating that keeps them dry if things get wet and windy. Most important, this workwear-inspired chore coat will make your furry friend look way more stylish than all the other dogs at the campground.
Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag ($100)
Dog beds are too big and bulky to travel with, but this pup-size, synthetic-fill sleeping bag weighs just over a pound and packs down into a 12-by-7-inch stuffsack. Your pet can lay on top of it in the car and curl up inside it on cold nights.
Whistle Go GPS Tracker ($100)
Whistle’s newest tracker is waterproof up to three feet deep and features real-time GPS location tracking via AT&T’s cellular network and Google Maps. Aside from offering great peace of mind when on the road with your pet, it can be programmed to track vet appointments and medication as well as monitor scratching, sleeping, and licking.
Yeti Boomer 8 Dog Bowl ($50)
Don’t bother with flimsy, collapsible, or fabric dog bowls; they won’t stand up to long-term abuse and will eventually leak. Like all things Yeti, this bowl is built to last. It holds up to eight cups of food or water, and the double-walled, non-insulated stainless-steel construction ensures it will hold up to tough trips (and the dishwasher) for years to come.