How Do You Successfully Car Camp With Your Dog?

Miranda Merchant 

If lugging all your equipment and dog to a campsite isn’t for you but you want to go outdoors and explore, car camping is for you.

Read on to learn: What car camping is, what vehicles are suitable for such a trip, what to check before you go, what items your dog needs, choosing an appropriate campsite, and how to make your dog comfortable.

Exploring the outdoors is a relieving activity. Experiencing the fresh air, scenery, and hiking routes gives you a great break from your everyday life and by taking your dog with you, it adds to this enjoyment.

What Is Car Camping?

Car camping is where you drive your car direct to your campsite. This is instead of having to park your car and hike to your campsite. With car camping, you can choose to either sleep within your car or setup a tent/other sleeping arrangements next to your vehicle.

Image: istockphoto.com

Car camping is a great idea when you’re with your dog as by removing the need to hike with your equipment, dog, and dog’s kit, you can drive straight to your desired location without exhausting yourself before the trip has started. Your dog will be comfortable too as you wouldn’t have had to sacrifice luxury items for your dog, to compensate for the weight of things you would have carried if hiking to your site.

What Vehicles Are Suitable For Car Camping With Dogs?

Three vehicles that are suitable for car camping and why are:

  • Fiat Doblo – a vehicle suitable for camping and everyday use. It’s long and the back seats can be flattened; you can comfortably lie down within the vehicle if you didn’t fancy sleeping in a tent and have space for your dog’s bed.
  • Nissan NV200 – this vehicle has rear and side sliding doors, meaning your dog can enter and exit the vehicle with ease. There are 7 seats that can be moved as required, providing ample space for you, your dog, and both of your equipment’s.
  • VW Caddy Maxi Life – it has a flat boot allowing room for your equipment and dog bedding. There is also extra space overhead for any extra comfort items. This vehicle would be more suitable if camping next to your vehicle, as the seats are not as easy to move like the other two vehicles mentioned above.

What Do You Need To Check Before Car Camping With Your Dog?

The most important thing to check before car camping with your dog is your vehicle and your dog’s equipment.

For your dog’s safety, ensure that your vehicle is fit for the trip ahead. If you breakdown in an isolated area and are experiencing uncomfortable weather, leaving your dog in this situation for a long period of time can cause them ill-health.

Additional factors to consider are:

  • Distance to location – does your dog get travel sick or restless? Multiple stops may be required (not only to use the bathroom).
  • Do you need a trial run? – if you don’t know how your dog copes on long journeys or car camping, take spontaneous car trips and set your tent up in the garden prior, to see how your dog gets on.

What Essentials Does Your Dog Need?

Dogs are not always able to express what they’re feeling. By not having all equipment required for your dog, it will not be a comfortable or enjoyable experience for them.

Basic essentials for your dog’s kit are:

  • Water and food bowls
  • Dog food, treats and drinking water
  • Stakes and leashes for tethering if required
  • Toys
  • Collar and leash
  • Dog First aid kit
  • Poop bags and somewhere to store them until they can be disposed of properly
  • Washing equipment for if they get mucky.

How Do You Choose A Car Campsite Suitable For Your Dog?

Researching into areas before you go is a great idea when trying to find a campsite for you, your car, and your dog. Some things to look out for are dog friendly sites if heading to organised grounds, and what wild animals are around for the wild campsites.

If choosing campsites open to the public, see what amenities are there before you go. If you know that there are fresh water and drinking water taps, you can reduce the number of jugs and water you need to bring yourselves. This leaves space for more comforts for you and your dog.

Consider what activities or hiking routes are nearby. Not being able to go out for the dog will leave them bored. These activities also include indoor locations and whether dogs will be accepted.

If the sun will be shining, consider parking/camping in a shaded area to reduce the risk of hyperthermia.

How Do You Make A Comfortable Sleeping Area For Your Dog?

This depends on where you want your dog to sleep e.g., the car or a tent.

Dogs can become comfortable in the most unusual locations or positions. Irrespective of this, these items can make your dog comfortable when camping:

  • Blankets
  • Cushions
  • Toys
  • Dog bed

These items go beyond the product itself, the scent of these items from home can bring comfort.

Be mindful of what the temperatures are outside. Temperatures too hot or cold can cause hypo and hyperthermia.

Dogs will be happy and comfortable sleeping somewhere either knowing where you are, or by having their beds set up directly next to you. By knowing where you are, dogs can sleep in the vehicle or outside the tent.

Dogs during the day can be made happy by having their own space set up within portable dog fences. Consisting of fabric or metal railings staked into the ground, they offer a private spot where your dog can be left off the tether, relax and enjoy the air. It also protects them from direct physical interaction from other dogs or wild animals.


Successful car camping with your dog can occur by incorporating appropriate locations, snug sleeping arrangements, and a reliable vehicle, to packing the exact equipment required without using all the space in the car.

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