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The Gearzette


- May 17, 2024

Travel can already be a stressful experience, especially when you add a spirited pet into the mix, then stress levels can skyrocket. That's why we've reached out to four seasoned off-road adventurers, each well-versed in traveling with their furry co-pilot companions. Meet Eva Zu Beck and Vilk, Tiana Walton and Pickle, Acacia and her adventurous van life cat, Rusks, and lastly, Hannah Hickam parent to Harley and Orion.​

© Eva Zu Beck © Yeti The Van

Start your pets young   

Eva: I got Vilk, my nearly two-year-old German Shepherd, in Montana, USA, when he was only nine weeks old. We then traveled together for 18 months in my Defender 110 through Canada to Alaska and back to Baja, Mexico. A west-to-east crossing of the USA followed this, so, it was a long journey, and Vilk did it all; he slept, lived, and camped in the Defender.​

Acacia: Rusks, our black cat, found his forever home in Yeti, our van after we got him from a rescue sanctuary in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa. He was only eight weeks old and has been traveling South Africa since with us. Getting your cat used to a harness and leash is necessary, as these are needed in certain situations. Let them run around with it on at first before going outside with them. ​

© Hannah Hickam © Yeti The Van

Properly secure your pet in your vehicle 

Eva: The safest option is to have your dog inside a quality plastic or metal crate. This means that if you have an accident, your dog won’t fly across the vehicle into the windscreen. Due to the size of my dog’s crate, it won’t fit into the back of the Landy, so I put Vilk in a harness and secured this to a special doggie seat belt. ​

Tiana: Pickle, my three-year-old half-German Shepherd crossed with a Lurcher, is fitted into a Ruffwear body harness and buckled into the seatbelt in the cab of my Hilux. I have removed the rear seats so she has more legroom, as she’s a big dog that weighs 35kg. ​

Hannah: My Golden Retriever, Harley, and Border Collie,Orion, are crated in the car in their Ruffland Kennels. Crating your dog in a crash-tested car kennel is the safest option. A dog can quickly become a projectile at 35 times its weight, even in a fender bender at only 25mph.​

Acacia: Since the van is Rusk's full-time home, he has his favorite spots to hang out, and he is very used to driving since we move every few days. As soon as we start driving, he makes his way to the overhead hammock in the cab area; this provides extra suspension and is a cozy spot to hang out nearby while enjoying the views. The van is his only home, so we feel that he is calmer with the freedom to roam and find safe places rather than being constrained. ​

© Hannah Hickam © Eva Zu Beck

How to prepare pets for travel

Hannah: It all starts when they are puppies; take them everywhere and socialize with the world. Create positive-neutral associations with other places and things, like the car. It will make traveling with them as adults so much easier.​

Eva: I was lucky as I traveled with my dog when he was a puppy. I made Vilk comfortable touring in a car; he had to perceive the car as his home and that driving long distances in it was normal. My early training focused on making him feel comfortable in the car and not stressed. I fed him his meals in the Defender, and he became excited about being in it over time.  ​

© Eva Zu Beck © Yeti The Van

Tips for novice travelers with pets 

Eva: Put yourself in your pet’s shoes; people don’t realize that not every single dog loves to travel and is comfortable with it. Ask yourself if your dog is happy traveling with you or if they would be happier staying home. ​

A great tip is to start with smaller trips to the local forest or a one-night camping trip. A guarding breed like my dog might find it hard to relax in a tent with all the unfamiliar sounds. It might take a few sleepless nights for your dog to get used to this environment. ​

Acacia: Time and patience are critical, as it can be intimidating taking your animal into new environments. We’ve installed a fan in the van; it is insulated, just like a house. We also open the roof vents to ensure airflow so it stays relatively cool. We don’t leave Rusks in the van during the middle of the day.


© Tiana Walton © Hannah Hickam

Be aware of the challenges (and joys) 

Tiana: Due to Pickle's size, I reduce the things I bring with me in the Hilux cab when travelling with her. When it’s just her and me, I have no one to leave her with if I want to surf or go into a supermarket that is not dog-friendly. I must adapt my trips to fit around these obstacles. ​

Eva: I love being outside with my dog. It makes me feel safe, and I always have a companion. I have also become more comfortable outside after dark with my dog around me. Anyone with a dog will know how amazing it is to go on adventures with your furry companion. ​

Hannah: My dogs are my whole world, providing good company. They help a lot to alleviate my stress and make me feel comforted when we’re a long way from home. 

© Eva Zu Beck © Yeti The Van

Know where to get help and comfort for your pet 

Eva: I use a virtual vet who I can consult with via an app. This has been very useful for me.​

Acacia: Traveling with a cat has been much easier than we thought. We’ve found there are plenty of pet-friendly campsites and we use a Google Maps link that has over 100 pet-friendly campsites. We enjoy the private campsites where each camper has a designated area. We feel safer with Rusks running freely with no other animals nearby. ​

© Tiana Walton © Hannah Hickam

Consider the impact of the weather on your pet

Tiana: Pickles is a double coat, so she gets hot. To counter this, we do a lot of swimming; she even goes paddle boarding with me. To manage the risk of overheating, I don’t take her away on summer road trips. I hope to make it up to Norway and Sweden with her this year, and I know she will thrive in the colder temperatures. ​

Acacia: Rusks fits into our travels well, but the most significant change has been scheduling our day around the weather. We try adventuring with Rusks earlier in the mornings when it’s cooler, as he does not cooperate in the heat. ​

Hannah: We leave before noon to avoid the day's peak heat. I give them lots of water, and they wear booties if the ground is too hot. They also sometimes wear their rexspecks to protect their eyes from the sun. We tend to stick to indoor activities and limit outdoor time if it's freezing. ​


© Hannah Hickam © Yeti The Van

Take along the right bits of gear for your pet. 

Eva: Portable bowls for water and food are good. Have a fridge if you feed your dog raw food like I do. Have a decent bed for your dog that you can quickly set up. Your dog will know that it can lie down and be comfy there. I use a long leash when staying in public campsites so that my dog can still move around. Another accessory I use is an FI location collar; they can help you find a lost dog. ​

Acacia: We’ve attached an AirTag to his collar, which gives us peace of mind when he’s exploring or if we are hiking in new areas. The AirTag makes a noise and is notified if Rusks wanders off. Since we live in the van full time, we always have a litter box in the cab area; we clean it daily. 

© Hannah Hickam

Ensure you have and know where to get the right pet food: 

Tiana: Pickles is on a raw food diet, which is not too camping-friendly, but I have a big Dometic fridge in the back of my Hilux to store her food in for longer trips. ​

Eva: Traveling with my dog is more complex than solo travel because you must plan your trip with a dog. Humans can eat in a restaurant, but with a dog, you must have enough of its food with you. Is the food your dog eats available where you are going? I feed my dog raw meat with supplements, so I can easily get it from a supermarket.​

© Hannah Hickam © Eva Zu Beck

Plan for the destination  

Acacia: We try to take Rusks on as many excursions as possible. We have a cat backpack which is used all the time. We feel it’s slightly easier having a cat since many places are not pet-friendly, but when they see Rusks, they’re usually very intrigued and accommodating.​

Eva: In many countries, it’s not possible to go inside shops or museums with a pet, so you must seek out the less obvious attractions or come up with a plan. Do consider whether your dog will be happy staying alone while you are out exploring. ​

Hannah: When planning a trip, my searches usually start with “pet friendly….” and our itinerary considers my dogs. ​

The fab four featured in this article have shown that travel with pets to faraway places is possible provided you do your research, take along the correct gear and food, know the animal rules and regs for where you are going, and most importantly feel confident that your pet will be able to handle the weather and planned adventures which lie ahead.