Van Camping with a Dog: Tips and Advice

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Tiny Van | van life dogs

Van Camping with a Dog: Tips and Advice

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Camping with a dog is incredibly enjoyable and fun, but it can also be challenging. Camping with or without a camper can have its challenges for humans alone, but trying to get organized for human(s) and a dog can be tricky. This post is about tips and items that I have learned to make van camping with a dog easier and way more enjoyable for everyone!

Tiny Van| Van life dog

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Dispersed Camping is best

Before we went van camping with Borealis for the first time, we went camping in New Mexico. This was when my van was being repaired, and I had a rental car, thus we opted for tent camping. This was a last minute trip, and we had arrived very late. For the sake of convenience, we opted to camp at an established campground.

Obviously, established campgrounds are great for amenities like bathrooms and water. However, as most campgrounds don’t allow dogs off leash it can be frustrating for the dog and human. On most hiking trails and other things people plan on doing during camping trips, their dog must be on a leash. Therefore, the entire time you are camping, except when inside a tent/camper that dog has to be on a leash. We use a long leash like this to at our campsite so Bori can roam semi-freely which does make a big difference.

Tiny Van | van life dogs

Bori’s first time in the mountains

The leash issue is why I prefer dispersed camping simply because a dog can be off leash and not bother others or be breaking any rules. You can use sites like freecampites and campendium find free dispersed camping.

Bring enough food and water for your dog

You would think this is common sense, but it can be a quick oversight if you are a new dog owner. As much as I love camping, packing and planning is my least favorite part. Trying to prepare and figure out all the meals and how much water that will be needed for one or more humans is a task in itself. You also now have to make sure you have enough dog food, and also store it in a place where it will be safe.

Have a designated spot for your dog in the van

When I picked my van and the build I wanted, I didn’t consider having a dog. So, I didn’t particularly plan a designated dog space, but we are making it work. We don’t have a regular dog bed or camping dog bed yet because he still chews on everything, so we have a few blankets that are just for him. There is a lot of places he can wander around in the van, but having his familiar designated spot in the van with his blankers is helpful. I still occasionally find him on the bed in the morning but we’re working on it :).

Tiny Van | van life dogs

Pre plandog-friendlyy activities

It’s really not ideal to leave a dog unattended in a van camping situation. It can be reasonable in mild weather or perhaps RVs that have better ability to regulate temperature. However, van camping, my van especially is a car and cannot regulate the temperature well.

Side note: If you are in the pre-planning stages of van life, I highly recommend a vent, this helps with airflow without having to have the car running for you and your pet. This is the one I personally use and this post goes into greater detail about my conversion.

Therefore, in order to have a successful van camping trip, I recommend making sure all your activities allow for a dog to come along. Some trails and national parks don’t allow dogs at all if you plan on hiking. If there is something that you really want to do that your pup can’t go along, check out Rover for on-demand dog sitting services.

Make time for plenty of exercise

Try dealing with a bored dog in less then 100 sq ft, it can get old real quick! I know our dog gets so bored and weird if he doesn’t get enough exercise. If your dog loves to be social, check out local dog parks or off-leash areas near your camping spot. I would also recommend hiking and biking with your dog while camping within local regulations. Exercise for a dog is an important routine for everyday life but you will have an easier time trying to go to sleep at night in a van with a tired pup!

Tiny Van | van life dogs

Bori stays fit with dog bouldering

Teach your dog important and safety commands

Living on the road can make owning a dog a bit more risky. With constant changing environments, it can be challenging for a dog to constantly adjust. Some commands are going to make life easier and safer on the road. We have trained our dog to always wait at open doors to prevent him from jumping out of the van and running into a street. I would also recommend working on excellent recall so your dog will always come back even in unfamiliar places when on the road.

Check out this dog gear at REI to make your camping trip a bit easier!

Van camping with a dog makes life better

Don’t get me wrong, it makes van life more complicated but I think it’s worth it! We spend twice as much time outside and exploring with a dog then we did before without one. We also find ourselves meeting tons of more people talking about our dog, their dog, where to take the dog etc.

Do you enjoy camping with your dog, what advice do you have?

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