I have had dogs my entire adult life, and as a travel writer, there are plenty of times I cannot take my dog (or dogs) with me because of the flights, distances or other complications. To compensate, I make it a point to traveling with my dog whenever possible, which means just about every driving trip, outdoor adventure and so on. My dogs have stayed at campgrounds, in cabins and at numerous urban hotel and nonurban resorts, from budget to Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotels.
Through the past two decades of traveling with dogs, I’ve used a ton of products to make my dog’s life better—and safer. The good news is that as Americans have spent more time, effort and money attending to their dogs’ needs, the range of available items has gotten better and better. These are my canine travel favorites.
Safe Driving: Kurgo Impact Dog Car Harness
Every single state has seat belt laws for humans, and there’s a good reason. So why not a seat belt for your dogs? The use of car harnesses for dogs has been growing, but most people still don’t think about what would happen if you got in an accident with your dog loose, especially at high speeds. I always use a car harness, and it also stops the dog from moving around the car and potentially distracting or interfering with the driver, making the ride even safer. There are lots of harnesses for this purpose on the market, but no agency regulates the quality and in testing many have failed horrifically. That’s why I like the Kurgo Impact, the newest crash-tested model from a highly respected dog-gear manufacturer.
A totally new harness design, it uses a single piece of high tensile (4000-pound) tubular webbing, with all steel buckles and hardware. Your car’s seatbelt goes through the back, requiring no additional straps or attachments, and the Impact was developed over 8 years, purpose-built for both car accident safety and your dog’s comfort, tested using the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for child restraint systems. It comes in four sizes, for dogs 10-105 pounds, and has four adjustment points to dial in the perfect fit.
Travel Kennel: Gunner GI
Some pet owners like to transport their dogs, especially sporting dogs, in crates. Others use one if they want to bring the kennel for overnight lodging. If your dog is going to ride in vehicle inside a kennel there is only one legitimate choice, the Rolls Royce of travel kennels, the Gunner G1. Yes it is pricey, but that is because it’s better—this is simply the best quality dog crate in the world. It comes in four sizes and is made of double-walled, rotomolded polyethene, the same process used to form competition kayaks, and it is brilliantly engineered—every screw, hinge and feature is perfect, including the integrated molded tie down bars to secure the crate in your vehicle. As a result, it is the only crate ever to earn the highest rating from the Center for Pet Safety and carries a lifetime guarantee.
In addition, Gunner tested the G1 on its own in some unusual ways, including firing a 12-gauge shotgun at it (no penetration), throwing it off a 200-foot high cliff and putting it in a force testing vise—which broke at 4000 pounds of pressure, before it could damage the crate. Gunner makes nothing but these kennels and really useful accessories like a fan, and the entire company was built from the ground up to make the world’s toughest dog travel crates. Think of Yeti coolers or Dyson vacuums and you get the idea.
Westpaw Montana Nap
When it comes to things that are in touch with me or my pet all day, I try to avoid anything made in China, which mean most pets beds. That’s why I love Westpaw, the Montana-based dog specialist that makes everything in its home state, sewn by hand, out of exclusively domestically sourced materials. It’s safe, high quality, very durable, and I’ve used lots of Westpaw toys and beds. The Montana Nap is an extremely portable pet bed in a thinner mat style, with stuffing but no solid mattress, so it rolls, folds or squishes yet provides a very comfy sleeping surface—and is perfect in a folding or solid travel crate, as well as on its own. It is easy to wash and comes in five sizes and many colors.
Ruffwear Urban Sprawl Bed
Ruffwear’s Urban Sprawl Bed is the go-to travel bed for those seeking something thicker, those who want to use the same bed at home and on the road, or those going camping (or glamping). Whatever the purpose, this is perfect, and both the mattress and cover are double sided, so you can choose from a softer or firmer foundation, while the cover is soft, cozy micro-suede on top, and has a slip-proof, water- and stain-resistant rubberized coating on the bottom, so even if you use it on the bare ground while camping it stays clean. I use mine at home and in hotels. It comes in two sizes and two colors, and is made by one of the most respected dog-gear manufacturers in the world.
Orvis Dog-Proof Fleece Coverlet
If your dog sleeps on the bed or furniture at home, there’s no way for them to know that’s not okay at hotels. (After all, you might get hit with some surprising cleaning charges.) The simple solution is Orvis’ Fleece Coverlet, a double-sided spread that comes in twin, queen and king sizes and is specifically designed to protect a bed (but also works great for other furniture like a couch) from dog hair or muddy paws. It’s made of cozy fleece with a waterproof bottom layer and is light, packable, washable, comes in two colors, and once you have one, you will find a hundred uses for it. I even use mine at home after my dog has gone swimming.
Dog Crate: EliteField 3-Door Folding Soft Dog Crate
I always travel with a folding crate for hotel stays, and the best fold totally flat, are lightweight, assemble and disassemble in seconds, have plenty of venting and multiple means of egress. The best portable folding crate of this style is the three-door model from EliteField—and it’s also a bargain. It comes in five sizes, multiple colors, and it is slightly higher and wider than most competitors, so your pet is more comfortable. EliteField, a New York State-based company, is loved by traveling pet owners and offers a two-year warranty and unconditional satisfaction guarantee.
Pet Backpack: Kurgo Dog Carrier Backpack
Small dog owners prefer to carry their dogs in bags rather then walk them on a leash, but Kurgo’s G-Train backpack takes this to new heights as it works for dogs all the way up to 25 pounds, giving them a great view of the action. It’s also stylish enough to do the urban coffee shop crawl and packs in lots of extras—like laptop and tablet sleeves, two water bottle sleeves and a heavy-duty dirt- and waterproof bottom. It’s both a commuter bag and full-blown outdoor backpack suitable for real hikes, with a hip belt and sternum strap. The G-Train converts into a more standard pet carrier with stow-away shoulder straps, has vented sides and an interior tether for securing your dog’s harness. It comes in three colors and is also TSA-approved for flying. I’ve not seen another dog bag that does so much so well for so many different lifestyles and uses.
Car Hammock: Ruffwear Dirtbag
If your dog regularly rides in the backseat, you need a hammock-style pet bench. There is just no better alternative for keeping your dog comfy and your car spotless. These liners connect to the front and back headrests to totally cover both the backseat and the rear floor like a hammock, so your dog has more room and a nice big surface, but they come in and out in seconds and are washable and completely cover all the surfaces dog hair and dirt would get on. I have used them forever and have not found a better model than Ruffwear’s Dirtbag—I have them in all my cars right now. In addition to the usual features, it has side flaps that cover the outer edges of the rear seats by the doors, extra panels with little bars in them that slide into the gap at the bottom of the back seat for even better fit and stability, and lots of great features like snaps to go around the shoulder seat belts and zippers for the other seatbelt openings. So stop vacuuming and wiping the back of your car—and start riding in style.
Food Carrier: Orvis Dog Weekender Travel Kit
Your dog needs to eat and drink on the road, and it’s hard to do this with more style and function than with the Weekend Travel Kit from Orvis. We’re talking an airtight bag that holds up to five pounds of kibble, matching collapsible and easy to clean food and water bowls. It’s all BPA-free and comes in a custom carrying case that packs everything neatly and efficiently and has a shoulder strap. It’s like a picnic basket for your dog, and you can also personalize it with your dog’s name embroidered on the outside.
For Haute Dogs: Louis Vuitton Dog Carrier 40
I’ve never owned a small dog, but I have toured the Louis Vuitton luggage production facility in France and seen all the painstaking work that goes into producing the company’s famously pricey and luxurious pieces. So this is how I imagine dogs travel in Hollywood or in private jets. The Louis Vuitton Dog Carrier 40 bag has the brand’s trademark monogram logo in canvas fabric that is water- and scratch-resistant with an easy to clean lining, leather handles and personalization available. It has breathable mesh sides and a roll up cover, and is also available in a larger size, the Dog Carrier 50.