If you follow me on Instagram (and who wouldn’t??!!) you’ll have seen that I love to be out and about exploring with my girls. My girls, two small terriers and one lab, are adventurous and love to visit new places. Here’s what kit I pack as how I prepare for our adventures.
Essential whatever the weather, also good back up if the van overheats
I use two types: 1 the Road Refreshers, the small dogs like to have access to water all the time and these reduce (don’t prevent) spillages. 2. Rubber bowls that fold flat so take up minimal van space (they hang from the cage doors) and can be attached to my backpack. Use for water, for dinner and for first aid, e.g. if a wound needs cleaning
First aid kit
Another essential. We needed it yesterday for Cherry who cut her leg and who picked up a tick. Sadly our tick twister wasn’t in the kit – I’d taken it out to use it and then it got packed with all my house contents when I moved. But I recommend them, the best method by far for removing ticks. We had to go old school and did manage to get it all out, head and all.
Spare collars, harnesses and leads
If collars or harnesses get wet or sandy or rolled in fox poo/any poo/claggy mud, instead of enduring a stinky day, I take them off and pop them in a poo bag ready to be cleaned when we get home. It also stops any rubbing or discomfort for my girls. With the leads, I don’t want to put wet leads in my pocket, so always have lots of spares.
Nine times out of ten we go to places where there’s water. The girls love to swim and it’s cooler and often less buggy. Yep, the Scottish bugs have found me! The midgies still hate me but as for their much larger more painful friends the cleggs (know to my Southern friends as horse flies), they love to get a bite of me. Anyway, I digress. If the bedding doesn’t get wet due to swimming sessions, it can get wet from the rain. So it’s always good to have dry bedding to swap over, especially if I’ve got a long drive home after our day.
see above. Also good for stemming bloody cuts, cooling hot dogs and sitting on if I get soaked too.
I have coats for all weathers and conditions. Ettie especially, can get cold so the most used coats in our collection are definitely the Equafleeces. (For more info on the coats I use and why, check out this previous blog post.)
When we’re out for a whole day, I like to have some chews for the girls. This gives a good mid-day snack, and keeps them happy if they have to stay in the van for a period of time. For example, yesterday we sat in the van so that I could have a cat nap (early mornings are not my friend). Or when I read or sketch or when there’s lots going on and I’d like them to settle and ignore what’s happening outside the van. Our current favourites are the Acno Naturals chews.
No floating toys, no swimming. Cherry loves to swim but hasn’t got her head around swimming for the pure pleasure of it. She likes a job to do and retrieving is it. I choose floating toys that fill her mouth (this stops her ingesting too much water) and are easy to hold. Balls tend to bob away as the dog tries to grab them. And as a result more water is ingested and the ball can move farther away than either the dog (usually Ella) is comfortable with. If it’s good for Cherry it’s good for the small dogs. I’ve tried using smaller toys for the little dogs but they always want what Cherry has so we stick with one big toy per session. Usually it’s the Chuckit Amphibious Bumper (our fav) or the Puller tug ring or a Kong Fetch Stick.
I also like to take a ball. Not so much for the retrieving aspect, but for the searching. Tossing it for the dogs to find is a great way to keep them engaged when we are in a new place. If I’m not sure where the path leads I want to keep them close without nagging. They will always pay more attention when I’m carrying a toy and will often ignore other people and dogs in favour of the toy. Plus the ball is easier to carry in my pocket than anything bigger.
Shades for the van
I’m often on my own with the dogs so there are times when I might need to leave them in the van. I chose this van because it only has windows at the front. This makes it easier to shade them off. I mostly use the Country Mun silver backed sheets that I bought 10 years or more ago. But I also use just a regular silver windscreen cover too for when I’m just nipping out quickly. Plus these covers make it harder for folks to see what’s in the van. No sign writing or the hint that this is a dog van. And I’ve had cages made that lock. Overall, my setup means I’m less worried about the dogs being stolen. And happier that they can stay cool for short periods. I travel with the aircon on so that it’s always cool in there. And it stays cool. So if I do need to queue for food or toilets, I know that they are all safe and secure. When I just had a car I found this part of travelling with dogs way more stressful and difficult.
If you’d like to see a short video where I show you my van set-up, head on over to Instagram for the tour.
I rarely know how long we will be out for so I tend to have some dinner in the van for them just in case. They mostly get dry kibble so this isn’t an issue. Plus it can double up as treats if I need some extras.
I’ve always got this with me even though I don’t always use it. I use it most if we are in people/dog heavy areas where I will need to work and reward my dogs more often. I tend to take soft treats mixed with small biscuits. Diced cocktail sausages are a fav with the girls. This suits me fine as cheese isn’t the best on hot days (it melts) or long days (it gets hard or crumbles into mush). But it’s also useful for carrying keys, poo bags, ball, mask, sanitiser, etc.
Another essential. I’d imagine that you are like me, have a poo bag in every jacket, every trouser pocket and every bag. Apart form the obvious they are also useful for carrying and storing wet or filthy toys, collars and socks!
Spare shoes and socks
I usually have 2 pairs of shoes, one for water, one for hiking. Plus my wellies.
For if we get caught in a downpour, or I fall over in the mud, or I end up in the water with the dogs.
As I’ve been reminded since I’ve returned to Scotland, UK weather is unpredictable. So I have a variety of jackets, from waterproof to woolly. I also have a long sleeved T-shirt or something similar plus a hoodie. Ready for all weathers.
I have a baseball cap and a wooly bunnet. And yes, I have used both on the same day!
What’s an adventure without snacks?! The most important, and boring, is a soft drink. It’s really easy to get dehydrated. So I always have a reusable bottle of water/cordial. Plus if, like yesterday, it’s an early start, a cup of coffee. This is useful too if I stop to refill late rain the day, I’ve got my own cup with me. After that, all snacks are good. I usually take a selection of sweet, chocolate and savoury. So some Colin the Caterpillars, a Snickers bar and some crisps. These keep me going as often I can’t find somewhere that’s dog friendly and manageable. It can be tricky ordering food and it’s impossible to carry a tray plus wrangle the three dogs.
This is my essential. It’s both my sat nav and my in-van entertainment. And these days, it’s how I pay for everything. No purse required, I love it! Plus it’s essential for safety and calling for help. Along with this is a power cable for recharging plus an AUX cable for the entertainment.
Spays and pills
Bug spray has become an essential. And I wish I’d had some with me yesterday! But I did have suntan spray. Plus antihistamines (there’s always some in the dogs’ first aid kit) and some painkillers for headaches, back aches, etc.
This is an optional extra as it’s not often that I get to use it. But yesterday we snagged a great spot on the shore of Loch Ken. It was near enough to the road for me to set up my chair, drink, book and then return to the van to get the girls. So it’s worth having in the van for the odd occasion when it’s needed. And of course, if our adventure involves a doggy event, it’s often a must have!
So there it is, my adventure kit. It might seem a lot, but most of it lives in the van anyway. It’s all stowed so it’s tidy and easy to access. And it’s there ready for our next adventure, be it long planned or spontaneous. All I need to add are my snacks and we are ready to roll. What are your essentials? What do you never leave home without? And what are your most useful pieces of equipment when you travel with your dogs? Leave a comment, I’d love to know!