Fresh air and the open road is the perfect recipe for a dog-friendly adventure. Throw in a few walks, a dip in the lake, and evenings sitting around camp and your pooch makes a dreamy campervan companion. Bringing your dog along on your next trip takes just a little extra planning, but provides a memorable time away for you and your furry friend.
Since he was a pup, I’ve camped, road-tripped, and hiked with my now nine-year-old rescue, Trapper. He’s travelled through three different countries, splashed in countless alpine lakes, and enjoyed many a night lying around a campfire. Packing him along on my campervan excursions is just par for the course, and I couldn’t imagine a trip without him. So, before you book a pet sitter for your next campervan adventure, read on to see how your pup can enjoy the campervan life, too.
Make the campervan fun
Some dogs aren’t as accustomed to #vanlife as their humans, so start small. Take short trips in your campervan that end in fun places (say, their favourite park or beach) and pack plenty of treats for rewards. Campervans can make noises that are scary to dogs, such as rattling dishes clanking doors, so be sure that you’ve made the campervan a pupper-friendly zone.
Give your pooch their own space
You have your own seat, so be sure your pup does, too! When travelling, make sure your dog has a safe and secure spot. When parked up and camping, bring some comforts of home. For Trapper, I pack his bed, which is made from a durable canvas and ideal for the ground. This immediately gives him his own “space” outside, and he lies there while my partner and I unpack, cook, or relax. When it’s time for bed, we give up a section of our mattress that’s designated for him, as our floor space isn’t big enough to fit a husky.
Food and water
The necessities of life are the same for dogs, right? Your self-contained van should have plenty of water on board, so packing a collapsible bowl that can easily be taken on tramps or trips to the beach is a good start. If it’s summertime, carry a few extra water jugs just in case. Be sure to keep their bowl topped up at all times!
Food may be more difficult, but certainly not impossible. We feed Trapper a raw diet at home, which even with our 30L of fridge space, is tough to maintain while on the road. After some trial and error, we found a high-quality dry food that we switch to for camping trips and store in an air-tight container behind the passenger’s seat. If you’ll be switching your dog’s food on the road, be sure you’ve trialled the food before the trip to make sure they don’t have any adverse reactions to it. Better to find out at home than in the backcountry.
Pack the essentials
Aside from the aforementioned, Trapper doesn’t need much, but we do have a few key items we pack for him. Poop bags are our number one, along with plenty of treats, his life jacket, and any dog permits needed for camping and tramping. If we know he’ll get particularly dirty, we pack a few extra blankets that can also act as other mats if he tires of lying on his bed.
Make frequent stops
Dogs can’t annoy you by asking “are we there yet?” but they also can’t tell you when they need to go to the bathroom or stretch their legs. Don’t wait for cues like whining, just plan more stops when travelling with a dog. Quick jaunts around town or a dog-friendly park are often all your dog needs to relieve himself and expel some energy.
Find the perfect camping destination
Many campsites, especially in New Zealand, aren’t dog-friendly. While this complicates things slightly, it simply means that planning ahead becomes all the more crucial.
When I’m looking for a new place to camp, I check Campermate’s dog-friendly filter. This gives me a great idea as to where I’m allowed to take Trapper. I also check our Department of Conservation’s site, as some places are dog-friendly, but require permits for dogs. From there, I also search around the campsite to make sure there are enough activities nearby that Trapper’s allowed to do, as well.
There are some campsites in New Zealand that are dog-friendly but surrounded by no-dog areas, meaning I’d have to drive for miles to find suitable walks or other outdoor activities. I also give bonus points to campsites with a natural water source like a stream or lake, as this means less water to pack and a great cooling-off source on hot days.
Obey dog rules
As mentioned above, finding dog-friendly spots can be tough. Some places that allow dogs have restrictions, like dog-friendly hours or leash laws. Obey them all, as they exist for a reason, and it’s usually to protect wildlife. If you’re unsure about what’s appropriate, just leash your dog and stroll together. And lastly, always pick up your dog’s poo.
Explore around the new area
Dogs are curious and love to sniff. Few dogs will be content with just a quick smell of the ground outside the campervan, so take the opportunity to explore your new campsite. Leash up and stroll around your new spot, allowing your dog to sniff along the way. This not only tires them out but makes the areas outside of their leash, or the van, seem less enticing.
So next time you’re ready to pack up, consider taking your furry friend. They need a lot less gear than a human, take up less space, and typically, complain less. With a bit of extra planning, you and your pup could be enjoying a night under the stars together.