Dog Gear Travel Bag Essentials: Protecting Fido from Head to Tail on Your Journey

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When it comes to traveling, I often go out of my way to find places that welcome my dog, Nemo. That can mean carrying around a hefty dog gear travel bag.

Over the years, I’ve collected a wide assortment of gear meant to simplify my excursions and protect my dog from head to tail. Some of it works and some of it has been a waste of money.

In the name of minimalism, I decided to take stock of my supplies and whittle down the elements of my dog gear travel bag to those that are really useful. So, if you travel frequently with your dog, these are the items you don’t want to be without, particularly if your pursuits tend toward outdoor adventure.

Rehydration with PupFlask

Pup Flask hydration system viewed outside.
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When we head out for a pet-friendly hike or a long day outdoors, the first item into Nemo’s dog gear travel bag is his PupFlask. While collapsible bowls are fine for the car, this handy bottle is great for the trail or on location.

What I like most about PupFlask is its design. Someone really thought about this one, making it lightweight and easy to carry with a top that doesn’t leak. I’ve had Nemo’s PupFlask in my car for weeks on end before and have never seen even a drop of water from the lid. I also like that it’s made from food grade stainless steel and silicone rubber—no harmful BPAs.

PupFlask is simple to use. Just peel up the silicone leaf, turn the bottle on its side and push the button on the lid at the top. Water is dispensed as your dog drinks, meaning you won’t waste water like you do when using a bowl.

When your dog has finished drinking, just push the little button on the side of the rim and PupFlask will stop dispensing water. The little bit that’s left in the silicone bowl can be easily dumped on nearby plants, to rehydrate foliage as well as your pup.

PupFlask is on the high side for price where water bottles are concerned, starting at $24.95, but when you consider the quality construction and the convenience, it’s a price I’m willing to pay. It’s also cheaper than buying disposable water bottles and also more environmentally friendly.

When I bought Nemo’s PupFlask for his dog gear travel bag, the largest size available was a 27 oz bottle, which doesn’t hold much for a large dog like a Golden Retriever. I was glad to see that the company has since added a 40 oz bottle to their lineup. For longer hikes or days on the run, this bigger size is a must, and something I’ll be adding to his dog gear travel bag as soon as I am able.

Advantages of PupFlask

Advantages of the pup flask hydration system
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Graphic courtesy of PupFlask

PupFlask has made it on every hike we’ve taken. The handy loop handle makes it easy to clip to a backpack or belt loop for simply hydration on the trail, an essential in hot conditions.

No Muddy Paws for Your Dog Gear Travel Bag

Running through water and mud just happens to be one of Nemo’s favorite things and keeping his feet clean can be a challenge. If you have a Golden or any other web-footed breed, you know how easily dirt becomes embedded in their paws and how hard it is to get out.

Enter the Paw Plunger.

There are several varieties of these on the market. To save some money, I first purchased the Paw Legend Portable Paw Washer. It operates on a similar premise as the Paw Plunger, and while it’s effective at cleaning dirty paws, it isn’t as simple to use. I find that I must twist the container to remove debris from the fur between his pads, and I’m always worried about catching his dew claw on the silicone fingers inside the cylinder when I do so.

The Paw Plunger, on the other hand, is engineered to be more dog friendly and quite frankly, far simpler to use. Simply fill the container with water, secure the lid and then dip your dog’s paws into the basin a few times. There are some soft bristles in the well that help to dislodge debris and mud.

Once you’ve, removed the dirt, dry your dog’s paws with a towel.

Before getting the Paw Plunger, I would have to drag in a bucket of water for really dirty feet. Nemo didn’t care for having his feet dipped into a deep bucket of water, so more than once, dirty water was splashed from the bucket onto the floor as he tried to pull his leg from my grip.

The Paw Plunger simplifies the cleaning process and returns some pretty clean paws. I find I use this in my house as well as my car to keep things clean and tidy.

The Paw Plunger starts at $14.95 on the company’s website for a small dog and runs as high as $26.95 for larger dogs. You can compare prices on Amazon as well.

Microfiber Cloths a Must for Any Dog Gear Travel Bag

a stack of microfiber towels in multiple colors ready to be added to a dog gear travel bag
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Microfiber cloths go hand-in-hand with my paw plunger for drying feet, but they’re a pretty good staple on their own. Larger microfiber towels can be used to dry your pup after swimming or getting wet on the trail. Smaller microfiber cloths are great for quick clean up of paws or furry areas such as Nemo’s feathering.

Microfiber cloths are also great for getting dog hair out of the car. Anyone who travels with a dog understands that hair can get everywhere. I keep microfiber cloths inside the car at all times for quick wipe downs.

When it comes to purchasing microfiber cloths, I don’t have a brand that I stick to. I’ve found cheap thin ones work just as well as thicker cloths when it comes to wiping down the interior of my vehicle. However, when cleaning muddy or wet dogs, I’ve found that thicker is better.

A Harness Keeps Them Safe: A Dog Gear Travel Bag Essential

Ruffwear Harness in wildberry for your dog gear travel bag
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Losing my dog while traveling is one of my biggest fears. While I know he isn’t likely to run away on his own, a scared dog can do a lot of unpredictable things. And there are many new and unusual circumstances you could run into on the trail or in a new location.

To keep Nemo safer, I always have a harness in my dog gear travel bag. When a dog gets frightened, it’s easy to slip out of a standard collar, but a harness is more likely to keep him securely attached to the leash. The right harness may even provide a bit of security for your pup in an unusual circumstance by wrapping him or her in a comforting grip.

I’ve tried several different harnesses, but eventually landed on the Ruffwear Front Range Harness. As a hunting dog, Nemo can get very amped up on the trail or when visiting new places. This means he has a tendency to pull until he gets his first blast of energy blown off.

Ruffwear’s Front Range harness helps to curb Nemo’s pulling. The leash can be clipped to a D ring on the dog’s back or to a ring at the chest. When in the chest position, pressure from the leash turns the dog back toward the handler when he tries to pull, discouraging the habit and making him easer to control.

Nemo, mascot at Seconds to Go, models his Ruffwear harness in orange, a staple in his dog gear travel bag.
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Ruffwear makes a lot of great harnesses for different conditions. All are designed to be comfortable with foam padding at common pressure points. No rubbing or pulling here.

I’ve also found Ruffwear harnesses easier than other varieties to put on and take off. They come in different colors and a wide range of sizes, so you should be able to fit your dog with ease. Harnesses are also adjustable through the chest and over the back, adding a bit of customization for easier wearability.

If you’ll be hiking in the summer or in hot locales, you might also want to add Ruffwear’s Core Cooler to your dog gear travel bag. This insert fits inside a harness using hook and loop sleeves and cools the chest area of the dog.

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For extremely hot weather, try the Swamp Cooler. This cooler works through evaporative cooling and fits over the dog’s harness. I haven’t tried either cooling device yet, but the Swamp Cooler is the next piece of gear on my list. I’ll update this blog once we’ve tried it.

Getting back to Ruffwear harnesses, they start at around $40, but are extremely durable and designed to be comfortable for your dog, even during long excursions. Last summer, we were out on an excursion with Kimber, my daughter’s dog and our Oregon mascot. Due to the intensity of the hikes we were taking, her current harness just wasn’t cutting it, so we stopped at Mud Bay in Bend, Oregon and picked up a Ruffwear harness for her. She was never happier!

Mini Aussie wears a Ruffwear Harness on the trail
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A Word on Identification

While I use a harness to keep my dog securely at the end of his leash when exploring, I never let him go anywhere without a collar. Should he get lost, his collar is the first line of defense for identifying him and getting him back to me.

Several years ago, while exploring a back road in Massachusetts, two dogs came lumbering up to me. Both were tired and thirsty, and when I opened the door to my car in search of water, both jumped in and refused to get out. Neither wore a collar with identification.

Rest assured, the story has a happy ending, but my daughter and I spent an afternoon driving the miles between houses trying to locate the owners of these poor pups. A collar with identification would have made it much simpler to return these two guys to their owners.

To improve the odds of Nemo being identified and returned, I always have a collar on him. Since tags can fall off and get lost, I also make sure the collar itself contains his name and a phone number where I can be reached.

There are many manufacturers that make durable collars enhanced with your dog’s name and a phone number. The first monogrammed collar I ever ordered was from Orvis.  It was for my rough and tumble Golden Retriever, Buffett. This guy was as active as they come, but this collar lasted him through thick and thin. The quick-release clasp was sturdy. It never broke or slipped out of place and the monogram didn’t pull or fade.

Orvis embroidered dog collars in multiple colors
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Buffett passed away many years ago, but I still have this collar. It’s a little stained, but otherwise as durable and strong as the day I bought it. Since then, I’ve purchased Orvis collars for two other dogs and have never been disappointed.

Rather than slipping your dog’s collar into your dog gear travel bag, why not keep it on, just in case he should get away from you.

Modern technology has also made it possible for you to keep track of your dog via your smart phone. While I don’t ever advise off-leash roaming for dogs on trails (think, bears, cougars, coyotes, snakes, etc.), their are a number of GPS-enabled collars on the market now that could make it possible for you to locate your dog if the two of you inadvertently become separated.

I have my eye on the Fi Smart dog collar. It’s chew proof, waterproof (even in the ocean) and blue tooth enabled, so it sounds great for just about any adventure. Plus, it has the added bonus of doubling as a FitBit for your dog. Put it on and see which one of you works hardest.

Feeding Your Pup on the Go

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If you and your dog travel for days at a time, he’ll need bowls for food. Since these take up space in your dog gear travel bag, collapsible bowls have become quite popular in recent years.

Made from silicone, collapsible dog bowls do just what the name implies. They fold down accordion style, and some are quite slim at less than a half an inch thick when fully collapsed

I haven’t tried collapsible bowls yet. I currently have a foldable fabric bowl that is extremely durable, but hard to clean. For that reason, I will be adding a collapsible bowl to my dog gear travel bag soon and will update this blog with a review.

When selecting a collapsible dog bowl, I am taking the following factors into consideration:

  • Space in the dog gear travel bag: You’ll want to make sure your collapsible dog bowl has a slim enough profile when flattened to fit in the space that you have.
  • The capacity of the bowl: If your dog eats two cups of kibble at a sitting and the bowl only holds one, you’ll spend time refilling it at each feeding.
  • How easy it is to clean: Some collapsible bowls are dishwasher safe, while others are not. This may not make a difference when out on the road, but it certainly does make it easy to give the bowl a thorough cleaning when you get home.
  • Durability: Collapsible bowls undergo their share of hard living, from being taken in and out of your dog gear travel bag to being popped open and closed. Check the reviews and durability ratings
  • Stability: Some collapsible dog bowls are too narrow at the bottom and prone to tipping. Look for a base and a bowl top that isn’t too heavy.
  • Weight: Just like size, weight can play a factor when packing up your dog gear travel bag, especially if you’re carrying it for long distances. A heavier bowl might be enough to tip the scales on your bag, making it unmanageable for the long haul.
  • Ease of use: Some bowls are not as plug and play as others, requiring you to snap pieces together before you can pop them open or collapse them down.

It comes in two sizes. The small holds one and a half cups of food, but the large holds up to 5 cups. The container is made from 100% food grad silicone and folds down to a mere three-quarters of an inch. Not bad for a bowl of this size. It also includes a quick-release carabiner to attach the bowl to your belt loop, dog gear travel bag, or even your dog’s harness.

If I had a smaller dog, Amazon’s Choice Collapsible Dog Bowl 2 Pack would be a heavy contender. It collapses down to a half inch and also sports a handy carabiner that can be clipped to a belt loop or a dog’s collar. You also receive two bowls for less than the price of one. Ratings are good on Amazon.

2 pack collapsible bowls for your dog gear travel bag
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Keeping Your Pup Safe at Night

There is one item that I use regularly at home that also makes its way into my dog gear travel bag. That’s a glow collar for Nemo to wear at night.

We purchased the Night Howl LED Safety Necklace on a whim while in the checkout line at Home Depot. We have a rather large yard, and when Nemo would go out at night it was hard to find him.

Lighted color in packaging with Golden retriever in the background
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Now, we turn on the safety necklace—you can opt for a steady glow or a flashing light—and we rarely have trouble finding Nemo in the dark. In addition to acting as a beacon, it also doubles as illumination for night walks.

When on the road, I keep it handy for the same reason and for general safety. I can also see this working well while staying at camp sites, stopping at rest areas or other dark outdoor travel locations.

Putting It all Away: Selecting Your Dog Gear Travel Bag

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When it comes to packing up Nemo’s supplies, I’m still haphazardly shoving things into random bags depending on the length of the journey and our destination. But someday, I will own an Overland dog gear travel bag.

My thought is to opt for the Week Away Bag for longer trips as this should handle most of Nemo’s adventures. The compartmentalized interior makes it easy to store (and find) gear. It also comes with two collapsible bowls and zippered containers for food and treats.

This particular dog gear travel bag also comes in three styles: shoulder, roller and duffel. I particularly like the idea of the roller bag, especially since it also sports a shoulder strap for carrying.

UPDATE: For Christmas, I purchased two of the Overland Weekender Backpacks for two of my daughters. It comes with the same features as the Week Away Bag, but in a smaller scale and more portable design. Let me just say, these bags are phenomenal.

Not only is the bag itself constructed of durable materials, but each item inside the bag also seems to be made for standing up to not just weekends away, but our kind of travel. So far, Kimber has used hers mostly on trips to Grandma’s, but we will be putting it to more active use this summer on our next Oregon road trip.

Overland dog gear travel bags can be purchased directly from the company’s website, but I’ve spotted better deals from Amazon, using the links above. This Christmas, also had a great deal on the bags at almost 25 percent off!

Selecting the Right Dog Gear Travel Bag for Your Needs

Regardless of the style you choose, here are some points to consider when selecting a dog gear travel bag:

  • Size: Will it be big enough to hold all of your gear?
  • Style: Will it fit your travel style? I spend a lot of time rolling in and out of hotels, so the roller style works well for me. If you’re back packing the Appalachian Trail or seeking out remote waterfalls in Oregon, you’ll want something lighter and more portable.
  • Durability: Are exterior and interior materials made for traveling and are straps and flaps securely connected?
  • Organization: If you like to keep things neat and organized while on the road, look for a dog gear travel bag with plenty of compartments. If you don’t mind digging through supplies, an open bag will do.
  • Comfort: How easy is the bag to carry? Make sure handles or straps won’t dig into your shoulders when carrying and that the shape of the bag isn’t too awkward for the size of the handles. Short handles on a long bag may be nice when carrying the bag by hand, but if you ever want to place the bag on your shoulder, a wide body design could be cumbersome.
  • Cleaning: Let’s face it. When it comes to travel, especially with dogs, things get dirty. Making sure your dog gear travel bag spruces up in a jiffy will keep it looking new and fresh for longer.

What’s Your Favorite Gear?

Now that you’ve seen our roundup of pet travel gear, let us know if you have a favorite we’ve missed. If we add it to the list, we’ll be sure to give you credit!

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Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughter, Ali.

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