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After living in my Sprinter van for a year with my two border collies, I have 10 items that make my life WAY easier (and a bit cleaner). If you’re thinking about #vanlife with your dogs, you’ll want to check out this list (including my favorite leash, a crash-proof crate, the best fan on the market, and a few tricks to keep muddy paws from ruining your bed).
10 Items that Make Living in a Van with Dogs Much Easier
- De-Matting Spray: this is great for keeping my border collie’s thick coat free of burrs, sticks, and mats. It also makes him smell nice!
- MudBuster Paw Cleaner: this is a great way to clean the dogs’ paws quickly before letting them back into the van. Simply fill it with water and give the paws a quick scrub.
- Ryobi Battery Powered Fan: I can hang this battery-powered fan on Niffler’s crate to keep him cool. Even better, I charge it on my solar and can use it to keep myself cool at night or while working. The ONE+ system also allows me to swap the batteries between tools, so the same battery also works for my mini vacuum. Amazing!
- Biothane Leash + Carabiner: I use a 12-15 foot long line made of biothane. I like having a long line with a hand loop and a carabiner so I can clip the dogs to my hitch, the grab bar, or a tree. It keeps us all safe and in-place at camp. Biothane is great because it is smooth and slippery, so it won’t get muddy or torn.
- Dog Information Magnet: I made a custom magnet that says that the dogs are fine in a climate-controlled and solar-powered van. It also has my phone number and I will translate to Spanish for the upcoming trip.
- No-Spill Dog Bowl: this is a nice addition to keep your floors from getting too sloppy when your pups are thirsty or if you forget to dump water before hitting the road.
- Pump Hand Sprayer: I’ve used this to clean cow poo off of a naughty Niffler, to
- Dog Food Bin: it’s nice to have a consistent square container that fits all our dog kibble. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s nice to have!
- Waterproof Blanket: this fluffy blanket catches hair, sand, and water that the dogs otherwise would bring into my bed. It smells a bit between washes, but I can easily throw it over my bed to protect the bed and remove it to shake out later.
- Crash Safety Tools: I use a crash-proof harness for Barley and a Variocage kennel for Niffler. Read more about our crash safety tools here.
We also bring along some dog grooming gear and trail-running/adventure gear for the dogs.
Kayla grew up in northern Wisconsin and studied ecology and animal behavior at Colorado College. She founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She’s an avid adventurer and has driven much of the Pan-American Highway with her border collie Barley. She now travels the US in a 2006 Sprinter with her two border collies, Barley and Niffler. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams.