Planning a road trip with dogs means more logistics. However, if you’re anything like me, leaving your pup behind isn’t an option. After all, what’s the point of taking a trip if your best four-legged pal(s) can’t join in on the fun? Below are 10+ road trip essentials for dogs.

Relaxing after a ruff day road tripping
Credit: Haley Bissonnette

Planning a Road Trip for Dogs

One strategy that helps when planning a road trip for dogs is to make a list of the things that you and your dog(s) use regularly. This helps you identify the most crucial items. Other considerations include the amount of space you have (which on road trips usually is limited) and the size and number of dogs you’re traveling with. For example, my partner and I travel with two Newfoundlands—that’s roughly 200 pounds of dog! As you might imagine, they take up a lot of space.

Dog relaxing after a long day travelling
Credit: Haley Bissonnette

10 Must-Have Items for Road Tripping with Dogs

You’re going to want these items on hand when road-tripping with dogs.

1. Leash, Collar, and Harness

I pack a six-foot leash per dog, plus an extra in case something happens to one of them. If you have a dog that can’t be off-leash, a long lead is also a great option for places that allow it. I used to do this with my dog Fern before her recall was reliable. We love Ruffwear brand leashes for their blend of durability and cuteness.

One of my dogs, Fern, absolutely hates harnesses so to save her that stress we don’t make her wear one. However, I do use one for my other dog, Sage. This provides me more control when we walk—something you appreciate with a Newfie—and doesn’t place any strain on her neck.

Pro Tip: Add some cold water to the harness for a little extra cooling when heading out on a hot walk! Sage’s harness is from Ruffwear and has held up to almost four years of regular use!

2. Dog Hitching System

Most established campgrounds require dogs to remain on a leash, which complicates camping. By my unscientific calculation, it takes five times longer to accomplish anything with a dog leashed to you. Tying your pup to a picnic table or tree seems like a good solution—until you realize that it takes them mere moments to become ridiculously tangled.

Once again, Ruffwear is to the rescue. Their dog hitching system lets pups remain on leash (in compliance with campground regulations) and provides them the freedom to run around without tangles, you holding on to them, or tying them off to something. What can I say, Ruffwear makes some of the most amazing items for dogs!

3. Dog Bed

Sage and Fern are lucky girls; they have their own camp chairs that convert into dog beds. This gives them a comfortable place to sleep and provides a nice buffer from the ground, but the beds aren’t so insulated that they overheat. After all, Newfoundlands already have two coats.

4. Layers

The type of layers you need for a road trip with dogs depends on several factors, including the weather, location, and breed of dog. For example, Newfies like Sage and Fern are comfortable in cold temperatures. Not only do they not need extra layers in freezing weather, but they’re mad if you even try to sneak a coat on them in anything above 0 degrees. That said, anything above 80 degrees is pretty warm for them. Consequently, in hot temperatures, we outfit them with cooling vests and bandanas. Ultimately, make your dog’s comfort your priority.

When walking off-leash, it’s also extremely important that your dog is visible, especially if you’re traveling in an area where there’s hunting. For example, because of Fern’s size and black coat, she could easily be mistaken for a bear. I’ve even done it—trust me, the resemblance is uncanny. Because of this, I make sure my pups are wearing an orange vest before letting them roam free.

5. Food and Water

Big dogs like Sage and Fern eat a lot! I keep a full-size bag of food in my Thule box and fill smaller containers to scoop from in my vehicle. Another option if traveling with a big eater(s) is to purchase smaller quantities of dog food throughout your trip. Have dogs with a more modest appetite? Stash their food in a sealable container.

My partner and I travel with a five-gallon water cube. It’s big and it’s heavy, but it means we never need to worry about rationing or running out of water, which is something we and our girls appreciate.

It's a dog's life road tripping
Credit: Haley Bissonnette

6. Collapsible Dog Bowls

Solid dog bowls are great—they’re sturdy, durable, and often fun—but not worth the space when traveling with two people and two people-sized dogs. Collapsible bowls are super packable and worth their weight in gold when space is at a premium. In addition to folding flat for easy storage, our bowls have held up well to our two ravenous eaters.

7. Waterproof Dog Blanket/Car Hammock

Packing two wet, stinky dogs along with all your stuff is an adventure in itself. A waterproof dog blanket or car hammock can help protect your precious cargo from your precious pets—keeping it clean, dry, fur-free, and not smelling like a dog. A bonus is that it gives your dog a space of their own.

8. Pack Towels

If your dogs are as water-obsessed as mine, carrying a pack towel is a must. A pack towel works great for drying them after a swim, a wet walk, or an impromptu bath after rolling in something unsavory. I’m able to make one regular-size pack towel work for both of my fluffy beasts.

Microfiber pack towels made for backpacking work great—they’re super absorbent, dry wicked fast, and are extremely packable.

9. Dog First-Aid Kit

Injuries happen and it’s important to be prepared for them. Many fantastic dog-specific first-aid kits are available or you can assemble one yourself—just make sure it contains these ten essential items. The best-case scenario is that you never need to use it; in the worst case, you’ll be ready in the event of an accident.

Carrying the right stuff is important, but so is knowing how to use it. Learn basic dog first aid and, when in doubt, bring your dog to the vet.

10. Poop Bags

Everyone poops, including your pooch, and you must clean it up. After all, you don’t want to step in poop on the trail and neither does anybody else. And picking up after your dog doesn’t mean leaving a full poop bag on the side of the trail, it means taking it with you and disposing of it properly—there are hooks available that attach to a dog’s harness that let them carry their own waste.

Pro tip: Attach a small bottle of hand sanitizer to your poop bags to clean up after pick up.

Road tripping is ruff
Credit: Haley Bissonnette

Useful but Not Necessary Items Road Tripping With Dogs

Although you don’t necessarily need these items, you’ll be glad you have them on hand.

Dog Wipes

I don’t personally like a lot of sand on my bed or in my tent. Dog wipes help keep your space a little neater and can help control dog smell. I use them to wipe my pups’ fur, faces, and paws.

Dry Shampoo for Dogs

Close quarters and smelly dogs stink! Literally. I use dry shampoo for dogs to help keep them—and our space—smelling pleasant.

Cooling Mat

A cooling mat became one of my dogs’ favorite items during a one-month road trip to the desert and has remained popular throughout the heat of the summer. Sage and Fern lie on it together and nap to keep cool during the heat of the day.

Insulated Dog Bowl

Another item that helps keep our dogs cool is a bowl full of water with ice cubes in it. An insulated bowl helps the ice last longer. (Unless Sage eats all of the ice!)

Final Advice for Road Tripping With Dogs

At the end of the day, you don’t need a ton of fancy things or to go to a bunch of fancy places to have an awesome road trip with your pups. The most important thing is that you and your dogs are comfortable and happy. Remember that your dog is not your whole life, but you’re theirs. It’s worth the extra effort to take them adventuring. I hope to see those waggin’ tails out on the trails!