Where Do Dogs Sleep When Camping?

Bedding down at the end of a long day in the outdoors is a sweet reward … until you have to share your sleeping bag with a couple of doggos. Sure, we love to snuggle with the furbabies, but it can get a bit crowded when you’re in a tent. With a paw in your ribs and a wet nose in your ear, you may not get that much sleep!

Where do dogs sleep when camping? The best option is your dog’s bed from home inside a tent. Other options (if you have transport) is a sleeping bag, elevated bed, kennel or crate. Inflatable beds can be lightweight. This is perfect for backpacking with transport. You can place your dog’s bed outside, in your tent, car or RV.

Some dog owners just grab any old blanket for a dog to sleep on. There is actually a lot to think about when choosing the best bed for your canine camper.

Types of camping

The type of camping you do will inform your choice of a dog bed:

  • Backpacking requires bedding that’s compact and lightweight;
  • Car camping eases the weight requirements. You still have limited space to carry beds;
  • RVing allows for the most flexibility;
  • Beach camping demands tough waterproof and sand-shedding materials
  • Camping in the woods or desert, may require your pooch to keep safe in your tent overnight.

Where Do Dogs Sleep When Camping?

From plush to spartan, there are ideal camp beds for kind of camping you’re into. Let’s explore!

Elevated Beds

This type of bed will get your canine companion off the ground, out of the mud or sand, and leave them cool and dry even in hot/wet weather. There will be no twigs or rocks pocking their ribs as they sleep.

You can add a pad or sleeping bag to an elevated bed to make it warmer in cooler temps. This consideration is particularly important for dogs with arthritis or joint problems.

Depending on size and brand, most elevated beds will weigh between 5 pounds (for small dogs) and 12 pounds (for large dogs). This makes them unsuitable for backpacking. However, this is a great option if you’re car camping or RVing.  

Look for a sturdy mesh construction. It’s easy to hose off after a fun (muddy) day at the lake or (sandy) afternoon at the beach. So practical!

Some elevated pet beds even come with an attachable awning for shade! Canine cabana, anyone?

Cost: $20 – $100

Best for: Car camping, RVing, beach camping.

Recommendations:

Kennels and Crates

Kennels or crates are the safest way for dogs to travel inside your vehicle so they don’t become a projectile in an accident. They are also a familiar place for Fido to sleep.

Pro-camper dog hack #1
A quality kennel or crate mattress can perform double duty as a camp bed, if there’s no room for a crate inside your tent or RV.

This is the solution we’ve used when road-tripping and camping with our dog: a large crate for travel and a Kong® crate mattress for use in camp. Crates are dismountable, making them easier to pack than a kennel.

While some crate pads are not all that sturdy, a few major brands make durable mattresses with plenty of cushioning and tough, dirt-resistant covers.

Kennel pads come with bumpers, memory foam, and fleece or plush covers, so your canine companion can have all the comforts of home while camping. if the kennel and kennel pad is the same as your dog has at home, this may help them settle down in the night with all those strange wilderness sounds around them

If you’re backpacking, a kennel won’t work. Plus, most kennel pads are too awkward and heavy. However, some roll-up models weigh less than three pounds.

Cost: $25 – $100+

Best for: Car camping, RVing, beach camping.

Recommendations:

Crate for camping

Have a read of our article on the safest crates for road travel if your dog will be spending a lot of time in the car before you get to your camping destination. There are more crate options for larger dogs also recommended in this article.

Crate pads for camping (or home)

Inflatable Beds

If your doggo is the ‘Camp Queen’, splurge on a self-inflating bed. This is my Pi’s favorite camp bed because she is the camp queen!

Ideal for backpacking, most self-inflating beds compress down to a small bundle, weigh less than 3 pounds. Then it inflates to a cushy, cozy spot for your dog to bed down for the night.

This kind of bed may also retrofit to your travel crate and most are waterproof.  

Cost: $50 – $100

Best for: Backpacking, car camping, RVing, beach camping.

Recommendations: Lightspeed Self Inflating Fleece Travel Dog Bed.

Sleeping Bag

If you’re tent camping and want Fido to have his own comfy sleeping bag, you’ll have plenty of choices. This includes:

  • Synthetic or down fill;
  • Waterproof options; and
  • Lightweight backpacking models.

You may still want a pad under the bag for warmth and comfort.  

Keep in mind that many sleeping bags will be too small for larger breeds but there’s a hack.

Pro-camper dog hack #2 
Opt for a child’s sleeping bag when looking for a dog sleeping bag! Kid-size bags are perfect for larger breeds and are generally cheaper for a high quality, lightweight bag. Besides, doesn’t your furbaby deserve the best?  

Cost: $25 – $100

Best for: Backpacking, car camping.

Types of dog sleeping bags:

  • The envelope. Think of a round or rectangular envelope where your dog crawls inside through a slip in the fabric.
  • The cup. Typically round with sides, your dog steps inside and wraps their body around the sides.
  • The cave. Wide opening up the front, this bed is like a tent.

Recommendations:

Memory Foam bed

This is the Cadillac of dog beds.

Memory foam is supportive for sore muscles and joints, is warm and cozy, and comes in sizes for all breeds.

Memory foam mattresses are usually covered in microfiber, fleece, and/or faux shearling, are not weather-resistant, and are bulky and heavy, but offer the most comfort and support.

These beds are best suited for RVing where they can remain in the camper for long-term use.

Cost: $30 – $100+

Best for: RVing

Recommendations:

Pop up dog kennel

A pop up dog kennel is lightweight and collapsible. It won’t take up much room when packing your car or RV. With mesh sides, it’s great for camping in the summer because of the ventilation it provides.

If a normal kennel doesn’t suit the backpacking camper, a pop up dog kennel may do the trick. It’s also simple to clean. when your dog is full of sand or dirt.

Cost: Under $50

Best for: Backpacking, car camping, RVing, beach camping

Recommendations:

Booth these recommendations come in a bag for easy transport.

Folding soft dog crate

A folding soft dog crate can double up as a dog carrier if you have a small dog. The steel-framed version is stronger than the PVC plastic version. The frame is often stronger than a pop-up dog kennel.

Cost: Over $40

Best for: Backpacking, car camping, RVing, beach camping.

Recommendations:

Dog camping tent

This pooch pad is really great for not just camping but spending the day at the beach. During the day, a dog camping tent keeps your dog protected from the weather and hot sun. Mesh windows and doors allows for airflow.

It’s very portable and lightweight, making it perfect for the backpacker. It often some packed inside a small carry bag.

Cost: Over $40

Best for: Backpacking, car camping, RVing, beach camping.

Recommendations:

The recommendations below are for tents where your dog can stay near you or with you inside a tent that you share with your dog.

Where to Place Your Dog Bed

Now that you’re out there, in the wild, setting up camp, where exactly is your pup going to sleep?

Outside

While it might seem like the “natural” solution, sleeping al fresco can be dangerous for your canine companion.

Threats include:

  • Becoming protective or aggressive against other campers or their dogs.
  • Exposure to mosquito, fly, tick, and other insect bites.
  • Chasing wildlife or becoming spooked and then getting lost. This happened to us! Luckily, Pi finally returned in response to our camp whistle.)
  • Confronting wildlife only to be bitten or injured.  
  • Wandering into a hunting area and being mistaken for game.
True story: A German Shepherd was rushed into the vet clinic. Pi and I were in the waiting room, deep in shock. There was blood everywhere. The G.S. was left outside for “protection” while camping. A a porcupine wandered into camp and he chased it off, but ended up with a face full of quills. The owners drove more than two hours back to civilization to find the nearest vet. Their dog had to endure a very painful (and expensive) emergency surgery. 

If your canine companion absolutely has to sleep outside, at the very least he should be in a kennel or crate. It won’t protect him from a bear or other large predator, but it will ensure that your doggo doesn’t wander off or get nosy with a skunk or porcupine.

Tent

If you’re camping in cooler temps, a warm doggo curled up next to you can raise the comfort level significantly.

But what about a damp, dirty dog in your lovely tent? A bit of thick poly on the tent floor and layered between your dog and your sleeping bag can do wonders.  

If Fido has his own sleeping bag, you’ll want to be sure it’s well dried for the next night’s sleep.

Experienced campers say your dog should be near, but not blocking the tent egress, in case you have to jump out in the middle of the night.

Car

Sleeping in the car overnight can be a secure, dry, and cozy place for your dog. However, it can also create anxiety if your dog isn’t accustomed to being alone overnight.

With all the wild smells and sounds of the outdoors, some dogs can become hypervigilant and anxious about protecting the car which may lead to incessant barking or other stress signals.

If you’re planning on having your dog sleep in your car, make sure it’s a familiar routine for her. In considering your own safety, you won’t hear that warning growl if your doggo is 100 feet away in the car while you’re zipped up in the tent.

Pro-camper hack #3
Bring a portable, battery-operated baby monitor so you’ll know if your dog is sleeping peacefully or growling at a mama bear nearby.

RV

Whether you have a pop-up tent trailer or plush Prevost bus conversion, you’ll have ample space for doggos in an RV. Even in a compact truck camper, there’s a perfect hideaway under the dining nook for a dog bed!

Training your dog to sleep on his own bed in one particular spot can make midnight trips to the potty event-free, because there’s nothing like tripping over the dog in the dark to roust the whole camp.

Since the whole idea is to be outside, a second bed or mat for outdoors is perfect for reducing the amount of dirt Fido brings inside and your dog will be comfy while lounging around camp.

Things to Think About

Deciding where Fifi and Fido will sleep is an important part of camping with dogs, but not the only thing to consider. Some other important issues are…

Foot safety

Make sure your doggo has grippy hiking boots to protect his feet from sharp rocks, thorns, etc.

Physical stamina

Our canine companions will follow us to the ends of the earth, often beyond their ability. Make sure your dog is well-conditioned for the distance and terrain.

Hydration

Bring along a water bottle for your doggo and make sure she hydrates whenever you do.

Dog backpack

Larger breeds can carry their own pack, but be aware of potential rubbing and blistering. You’ll want to ensure your dog’s pack fits well and is properly adjusted to avoid causing pain or irritation to his skin.

Control on the trail

Even the most seasoned dogs can go a little berserk when they see or smell wild animals. Don’t forsake the leash just because you’re in the woods.

Whistle training

If your dog wanders off, you might not be able to make enough noise for him to hear, especially in windy or rainy conditions. Training your pet to respond to a purpose-built whistle can save your voice and, potentially, your pet’s life.

First aid

Familiarize yourself with canine first aid and carry a small first aid kit and instructions with you.

Identification

If you’re going camping, make sure to chip your dog and include a legible identification tag on his collar, just in case he gets lost.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m going camping with a dog, where does he sleep?

  • That all depends on how you are camping and what you can carry into the campsite.
  • Backpacking. Your dog can sleep in a pop-up dog kennel, dog tent, inflatable bed as the best lightweight dog sleeping alternatives.
  • RV and car camping offer the widest choice of sleeping arrangements for your dog, whether they share your tent or have their own sleeping quarters outside your tent by close to you.
  • For beach camping I would specifically bring an elevated bed for your dog to rest or sleep on made with mesh.

What are the best accessories for dog camping?

All the best accessories and best tips for camping can be found here.

It’s a Wrap

Where do dogs sleep when camping? With the right bed for the campsite, they’ll sleep right alongside you, in perfect comfort!

Where To Next?

Now that your pooches sleeping arrangements are sorted, are you ready for your next campaign adventure? We’ve created some very detailed guides of dog-friendly camping trips around the U.S. I know you will find them useful!

Michelle

Michelle loves enjoying the outdoors with her dogs. She grew in a big house near the beach with German Shepherds. Nowadays, Michelle has down-sized her dogs, proving small dogs can enjoy the outdoors too! Lucy loves playing fetch with her ball and frisbee. Max loves swimming and could walk forever. Latte's life is simple: follow Lucy and Max and fun will happen. Michelle and her 3 dogs enjoy escaping the city limits to hike, camp and swim.

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