Best Dog Bowls for Hiking and Road Trips

Dog bowls—literally the first thing I pack for any trip. A durable, packable dog bowl is a key part of a successful adventure with your furry friend. And there are plenty of options out there, so it’s just a matter of figuring out which travel dog bowl meets your needs best. Listed here are a few of the best dogs bowls for hiking and travel that work for us. 

MuttRuk RollOut Travel Bowl

How to Choose a Dog Bowl for Hiking and Road Trips

At home, most dog owners (myself included) use ceramic or metal bowls of some sort. These are great, for home. But they’re a bit heavy and bulky to fit in a back pack for a hike. Less is more for road trips as well. That’s where the dog bowls designed specifically for travel come into play.

What to look in the best dog bowls for hiking and travel:

  • Collapsible or Foldable – A dog bowl that will collapse down to a smaller size saves space in your backpack or car. More room for snacks!
  • Weight – If you’re a backpacker or hiker, you don’t want a heavy bowl in your backpack or your dog’s backpack. This is where the fabric bowls win, without a doubt. But the collapsible silicone bowls are still doable and a great option for road trips and more.
  • Waterproof – Not all travel dog bowls are meant for water. And for those that are, some are more waterproof than others. Many of the fabric-style bowls are only intended for a quick drink on the go; they may only have a light waterproof  or water-resistant seal. Your best bet is a silicone bowl if you’re leaving water out all day. 
  • Capacity – How much water do you need your bowl to hold? Small dogs drink less than large dogs. Whoa, what?! Yeah, wild, I know. 
  • Durable – Many of the collapsible dog bowls are made of silicone, which is quite durable. But also consider any other materials used, such as a plastic top edge that could crack or break over time. And don’t discount those fabric bowls in this category! Most foldable, fabric-type bowls use a 600-denier fabric, which is durable enough to stand up to your backcountry treks or inner-city strolls.

​What is Denier? It’s a unit of measurement to determine the fiber thickness of individual threads used in the creation of fabrics. Fabrics with a high denier count are thicker and more durable. Those with a low denier count are softer and silkier.

​Dog Bowls for Travel

​These are the travel dog bowls Hercules and Cool Whip have used over the years. Also the ones they currently use.

Foldable Options

​These are the most compact and packable dog bowls for hiking. They’re typically made of a 600-denier polyester outer layer and a waterproof interior.

MuttRuk: RollOut Travel Bowl ($20) – This is my current go-to travel bowl for outdoor adventures (I have both colors!). MuttRuk has thought of everything for this bowl: flexible, durable, waterproof material that rolls up and secures with a snap; plus, a small carabiner to hook the bowl right to the side of your pack, leash, etc. You don’t even have to take off your backpack to access the bowl—unclip it, unroll it, and fill it with water from your hydration pack.

Ruffwear: Quencher ($15) – I received the small version of the Ruffwear Quencher in a Cairn subscription box several years ago. It was a great win back then and still is. Packable and durable. It also has a loop to attach a carabiner. 

Outward Hound: Port A Bowl ($7) – This was the very first travel bowl I purchased for the dogs. It has an elastic loop to attached a carabiner or, as I use it, to keep the bowl rolled up when not in use. Not quite as waterproof as the other two, but still a solid option—especially for under $10!

MuttRuk RollOut Travel Bowl
Ruffwear Quencher Travel Bowl

Collapsible Options

These dog bowls collapse down flat. They aren’t quite as compact and light as the foldable bowls, but they are a bit more sturdy. I prefer these when I know we’ll have a home base, such as when we’re camping or on a road trip. You can leave the bowl full of water all day and it won’t leak out at all.

Kurgo: Collapse A Bowl ($10) – I love these bowls and have one in every color! I leave one in the car for emergency water needs and use the other two during road trips. Because they collapse down flat, they fit right in the dog food container without taking up any extra space. Plus, they have the small carabiners to attach them to a backpack if you take them hiking, etc. 

Ruffwear: Bivy Collapsible Dog Bowl ($25) – I don’t remember how I wound up with this bowl, but it was my first introduction to a collapsible dog bowl not made of silicone. What’s important about that? It’s weighs a lot less.

Kurgo Collapse A Bowl on the left, Ruffwear Bivy Collapsible Bowl on the right

​Fixed-form (Silicone) Options

Not the type of bowl you’d toss into your backpack for a hike, but a fixed-form silicone bowl is perfect for road trips and extended camping adventures. The collapsible bowls are pretty durable, but my dogs inadvertently collapse them part way if I leave them out unattended. This is where a fixed-form bowl comes in handy: hotels, campsites, in the car, etc. 

Sleepy Pod: Yummy Travel Bowl ($30) – I received this bowl set in a gift bag at a dog car-safety event. Legit the best thing I’ve ever received in a gift bag! It doesn’t pack down smaller but it is still well designed for travel. The inner bowls are too small to use as food bowls for Cool Whip and Hercules, but the no-spill water is a total significant change for road tripping. Bonus: I accidentally ran it over once and didn’t do it a bit of damage. 

Kurgo is one of the only other companies I’ve seen with a similar bowl suitable for adventure travel. So, if you don’t need the interlocking food bowls, this could be a great alternative for just the no-splash water bowl. (Note: I’ve never actually tried Kurgo’s no-splash bowl.)

Sleepy Pod Yummy Travel Dog Bowl
A silicon dog bowl survives being run over!

Hiking Pawnee Buttes National Grassland

A little way off the beaten path, down quite a few miles of dirt roads, this national grassland is the perfect place for a pit stop and a hike. Here’s what you need to know about hiking Pawnee Buttes National Grassland.

Pawnee National Grassland is in Weld County, northeastern Colorado, about 35 miles east of Fort Collins. Eastern Colorado quite unlike the rocky mountain views most expect from this state. In the eastern plains, you’ll experience low, rolling hills and expansive views of flowing grass, cattle, oil rigs, and wind turbines. The Fence Post has an excellent overview of the area’s history. 

We stop here on almost every road trip between Arizona and Minnesota. While national parks aren’t always the most dog-friendly places to visit (but Petrified Forest and White Sands are our favorites!), national forests and national grasslands are some of the BEST places to go with your pup!

Getting to the Pawnee Buttes Trailhead

​From either direction, you’ll turn from a dirt county road onto more of a two-track dirt road. A few signs are pointing the way there. But I usually rely on Google Maps to guide my way to the trailhead. I got decent cell service through most of the grassland unless I was tucked into a dip between the prairie hills. 

Hiking Pawnee Buttes Trail

Pawnee Buttes Trailhead has several covered picnic tables, grills, toilets, and informational signs. The trail is about 4.5 miles roundtrip and relatively easy for most hikers.

Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be on a leash or under voice control at all times. There are free-range cattle in the area, along with plenty of wildlife: coyote, prairie dog, swift fox, mule deer, burrowing owl, pronghorn, rattlesnakes, and more.

​​From the trailhead parking lot, you’ll pass through a gate to begin the trail. After that, you’ll come to a short trail forking off to the right for a lovely view of Lips Bluff. Continuing on the main trail, you’ll cross in front of Lips Bluff. Eventually, you’ll drop down between Lips Bluff and Overlook escarpment. Here you’ll notice a slight change in this semi-arid landscape, with more trees and bushes sprouting up along the washes.

Hiking Pawnee Buttes National Grassland

Along the backside, after your hike up out of the washes, you can hike up onto Lips Bluff. There is a seasonal closure of Lips Bluff and the Overlook from March 1 to June 30 to protect birds nesting in the area. Many visitors come to the buttes for bird watching (prairie falcon, red tail hawk, golden eagle, lark bunting, and more). Even if that area is closed, you can continue on the main Pawnee Buttes Trail to West Pawnee Butte and East Pawnee Butte.

​The second butte, East Pawnee Butte, is on private land. Be sure to leave any gates you pass through as you found them. Additionally, do not climb on the west butte, east butte, or other surrounding mesas. The ground easily erodes, causing damage to the landscape and danger to the hiker. 

Camping at Pawnee National Grassland

Throughout the Pawnee National Grassland, there are options for dispersed camping or staying in a designated campground. Most of the dispersed camping is along the dirt road to Pawnee Buttes Trailhead. If you’re selecting a camping spot along this road, be sure to stay only in a previously used site. For a designated campground, consider the Crow Valley Campground, along the eastern section of the grassland closer to Briggsdale and Greeley, Colorado.

Check the Weather and Be Prepared When Hiking Pawnee Buttes National Grassland

We’ve camped in the Pawnee Grassland multiple times, and each time there were strong winds and usually a storm right before or during our stay. The county road is typically passable, but the dirt road leading to the trailhead is a bumpy washboard on a good day. After a strong storm, there are large standing puddles, mud, and some severe washouts. Know the capabilities of your vehicle and what to do during a lightning storm.

Additionally, the weather can get quite warm. Be sure to bring plenty of water along during your hiking. Check out these dog bowls for hiking if you need one for your pup!

Camping in the NHAL State Forest in Wisconsin

If you’re looking for that quintessential Northwoods camping experience with big trees, lakes, and wildlife, camping in the NHAL State Forest is it. The Northern Highland–American Legion (NHAL) State Forest is a beautiful space in northern Wisconsin.

Camping in the NHAL State Forest

There are many options, so this truly depends on what you’re looking to do and what type of amenities you want. Most of these campgrounds have sites you can reserve.

Modern Campgrounds

Want to be able to shower and use a regular flush toilet? These are the campgrounds you’ll need to check out. There are no electrical hookups, but you can get a free permit to run a generator if that’s your thing.

  • Clear Lake
  • Big Musky
  • Firefly
  • Crystal Lake

Rustic Campgrounds

Just the essentials—hand-pumped water, pit toilets, and no electricity. However, these campgrounds usually offer wider site spacing than the modern campgrounds. This is what we opted for. Six campgrounds in this list (East Star through West Star) were non-reservable as of Fall 2020.

  • Big Lake
  • Buffalo Lake
  • Carrol Lake
  • Cunard Lake
  • Indian Mounds
  • Plum Lake
  • Sandy Beach Lake
  • South Trout
  • East Star Lake
  • North Trout Lake
  • Razorback Lake
  • Starrett Lake
  • Upper Gresham Lake
  • West Star Lake

Primitive Campgrounds

Just the basics—tent clearing, fire ring, picnic table, box latrine.

  • Allequash Lake
  • Bittersweet Wild Lakes Area
  • Clear Lake
  • Day Lake
  • Nebish Lake

Backcountry Camping in the NHAL State Forest

For those looking for even more solitude and adventure, you can request a permit for backcountry camping.

Camping with Dogs at Carrol Lake

While having a shower sounded luxurious while camping, we wanted a small campground—this meant fewer amenities, fewer people, and more seclusion (for the dogs and us). Carrol Lake won partially due to availability when we made our reservation and because it has some tremendous walk-in sites.

Don’t worry; you’re not going to be hauling gear across a football field. It’s more like walking the length of your house (if you have a small, 1300-sq-ft house like me). Easy peasy.

Our site, 102, had a lot of room and a lovely view of the lake. If all the sites there had been open, I might have chosen 103 because it had a little more grassy space and a more open view. However, it was slightly closer to the boat ramp (not that the boaters were noisy, or at least it didn’t sound like it from 102). Site 101 was a bit uphill from us, so more seclusion, but closer to the road. Even from our site, you could occasionally hear cars (noisy ones).

There were also regular campsites you could pull right up to and a few other walk-ins at the other end of camp. I don’t think those walk-ins had a great view of the lake. Plus, on our side (101-103), we were closer to the docks and dog-accessible waterfront. The actual beach area farther into camp does not allow dogs.

Carrol Lake is just a few minutes from town (Woodruff) and Clear Lake Campground, which has a ranger station and access to firewood.

Note: Pets must be on a leash. A State Parks and Forest sticker is required for camping (throughout the NHAL State Forest).

​Hiking in NHAL State Forest

Our camp host gave us a great local newspaper guide filled with things to do, from local shops to local hikes. The Wisconsin DNR also has a great breakdown of hikes in NHAL State Forest. Try to check in with local guides whenever you can, whether it’s your camp host, a ranger, or some locals in town. They typically have a better grasp of current conditions and what’s accessible, plus they may have some “locals only” trail knowledge they can pass on.

While we spent part of our trip exploring the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness in Michigan, we did some local hiking as well. We headed up to Escanaba Lake for the first part of our day and then explored Minocqua in the second half. The Escanaba Hiking Trail offers several loops, from 2.36 to 8.48 miles. The trails are well-maintained and relatively wide. There is some logging regrowth you’ll hike through, but most of the time, it’s just beautiful forest views along with an occasional lake sighting.

Also, bring mosquito spray. There were zero bugs at our Carrol Lake campsite, but we encountered quite a few on the Escanaba hike.

Extra also: Don’t forget to bring some local(ish) brewskis!

Camping at City of Rocks State Park NM

Add camping at City of Rocks State Park NM to your to-do list. This is the type of place that blows my mind. A seemingly random, relatively small space that stands out in stark contrast to the surrounding landscape. Small but mighty.

Visiting City of Rocks State Park

You’ll roll into the area on some quiet highways and paved roads, passing Faywood Hot Springs, a small resort with – yes, you guessed it – hot springs.

City of Rocks doesn’t even appear until you’re practically right at the front entrance of this massive cluster of giant boulders melting into each other. This monolithic structure is volcanic rock. Wind and water etched the formation over time, leaving smooth, rounded surfaces.

As always, I recommend making the visitor center your first stop. The rangers on duty can give you up-to-the-minute details along with the usual maps and souvenirs. I let them know I had two dogs and asked if I should be aware of anything besides keeping them on leash throughout the campground.

They told me they had spotted a mountain lion nearby the day prior, and that elk and bear were in the area, so I should keep a close eye on my pets. ​Of course, when they met Cool Whip and Herc later, they realized we didn’t have quite as much to worry about than if they’d been small, snack-sized dogs.

Camping at City of Rocks State Park NM

You can’t pick a bad spot in this park, but our friendly ranger did offer a couple of recommendations to help us stay out of the wind that day. Just one of the many reasons to make time to talk with the local rangers. It’s their job to know these parks, so they can provide information on things you didn’t even think to consider.

​Campsites are $10.00 per night. You can make reservations for some campsites, but others are first-come-first-served only. I wasn’t visiting during peak season, and I didn’t need electrical hook-ups, so I relied on the FCFS options.

Each site has a picnic table and campfire ring. There are garbage cans tucked throughout the campground and several pit toilets. The visitor center also has flush toilets and showers if you want to feel fancy.

Cell Reception at City of Rocks

I didn’t have cell reception throughout most of City of Rocks State Park.

So, then what do you do when it starts pouring rain right after you pull into your campsite? ​Like your-tent-isn’t-even-set-up-just-pulled-in.

You turn your vehicle into your tent. Redistribute a few gear bags, blow up some sleeping pads, and spread out sleeping bags. Kick back and relax.

I listened to my downloaded podcasts. And, ironically, this is when I came across How to Unplug with Danny Kim, episode 100 from Wild Ideas Worth Living. It covered exactly what had been running through my brain: Do we need to unplug, and, if so, how can we?

Honestly, to answer that, I’d just be repeating what I heard on that podcast, so give it a listen for yourself. Trust me; it’s worth listening to.

Because once the sun did come back out and I inadvertently found cell service while hiking, I resisted the urge to jump on social media. I heard a few notification dings, then turned my phone on silent. And challenged myself only to use my phone for pictures until I left City of Rocks the next day. It was refreshing!

Is City of Rocks State Park Dog Friendly?

Yes, City of Rocks State Park is very dog friendly! Once the rain cleared, we scurried all over the park. The whole place is dog-friendly aside from inside the buildings. There are trails to hike, but we mostly stuck to scrambling around on the boulders because there seemed to be endless nooks and crannies to explore.

Whether this is a destination or a pitstop on a more extensive adventure, I highly recommend it. After backcountry camping at White Sands National Park, we spent the night here. And I’ll definitely stop again if we’re cruising through southern New Mexico.

Backpacking to Whipple Valley

I’d categorize Utah as my freshy fresh 2017 love interest (the Supes are my local love, and Canada is my big love). There are lovely national parks in the state, but I’ve found that national parks only seem to have one or two relatively short trails that dogs are allowed to hike. On the other hand, national forests are prime-time adventure dog real estate! Backpacking to Whipple Valley would be perfect.

Trail Details for Backpacking to Whipple Valley

For this trip, my eyes were on Dixie National Forest in the southeast corner of the state – Whipple Trail in the Pine Valley Mountain Wilderness, to be exact.

Trail length: 12 miles (O/B)
Elevation gain: 2,890 feet


There is something to be said for planning far enough ahead. We’ll just get that statement out of the way right now.

A week before we rolled out is when I decided we’d be rolling out. The plan was to leave work early on Friday to drive the 7 hours to the Pine Valley Recreation Area. This is where you’ll find the Whipple Trailhead. We’d camp at a designated campsite. Then start hiking right away Saturday morning and sleep in Whipple Valley. Sunday afternoon, we’d hike down to spend the night at the campsite again. And then head home early Monday morning.

Not a bad plan for a regular weekend. But a horrible plan for Memorial Day weekend when everyone and their uncle’s cat decides to go camping and you’re trying to stay at a first-come-first-served campsite and work gets busy, so you can’t leave until Saturday morning.

Spoiler alert!
We still had a grand adventure!

The Hike up to Whipple Valley

We arrived in Pine Valley around 2:30pm. As expected, no campsites were available. Luckily you can park for free at the trailheads if you’re just hiking for the day or doing overnights on the trails.

A three-person family was gearing up as I pulled into a parking spot. We compared notes on what we knew about the trail: Rangers had yet to clear it. Downed trees across the trail. Potential snow at higher elevation on north-facing areas.

The weather was warm, and the elevation hit me a little harder than expected. But it was a beautiful hike with spectacular views and just enough shade to even out the warmth. The hounds were on their best behavior – or maybe the elevation was hitting them a bit as well.

There was no water on the trail until we hit a few streams halfway up. Here we ran into our second human encounter. A couple was setting up camp. They reported that they’d only gone halfway up the remainder of the trail before turning back because it was more challenging than the first portion. Super!

I kept on trekking, taking breaks often, thinking about how easy it would be to turn back or just set up camp at any of the other sites we came upon after that point. We reach the first pocket of snow tucked up under some pines. Then a patch, closer to the trail. Another blob covering half the trail. Just as we came upon the next set of campers, snow-covered the remainder of the trail as it headed from the summit area of the trail down to where the trail spilled out into the valley.

We hopped and slid down to the green space ahead. I stared in awe as we stepped from the trees into the grassy valley that opened up ahead. Green grass, tiny spring flowers, a stream down the center. There was still snow tucked away in the shadows of the tree line, rumpled up dirt where the snowpack had moved along, and water simply flowing out of the ground from the thawing process.

We located a narrow portion of the stream to cross and set up camp across the way. I could see two other campsites when we explored a bit more. The the family of three arrive a short time later. We wound down with a beautiful sunset and retired for the evening.

Shoulder Seasons

The houndy hounds were a bit chilly at night (it dropped below 40) because someone forgot their winter jackets – no names mentioned – okay, it was me!! I covered them in every extra piece of clothing or fabric I had. And I was extra thankful for the morning sunrays that were a toasty piece of heaven.

We explored the valley for a while before making our way back down the trail. Then we were greeted by a dead car battery. I was grateful for friendly hikers willing to give me a jump start. Also for my dad for making me carry jumper cables in my car at all times because the other hikers didn’t have any. If you take anything away from this post, take that: Always carry jumper cables in your car!

Even with a few detours to the original plans, I loved every second of our adventure. And I can’t wait to get back to Utah for another one. I definitely recommend backpacking to Whipple Valley!

Backpacking to Whipple Valley

Hiking Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

​Embarking on what I considered to be our first actual day of adventure, we set off for hiking Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. The journey there was, of course, spectacular. No amount of rain or stormy weather could diminish the beauty of this wilderness.

Emerald Lake Trailhead

​I pulled into the Emerald Lake parking area and crossed every finger and toe. It looked busy – definitely hoping that what I’d read about the touristy areas was true: 20 feet away from the main viewpoint, you’ll encounter hardly anyone. I saw the trailhead, then off to the left was a bridge leading to several lovely lodge buildings. Fancy. Canada, you are one legit classy broad.

​But first things first, I had to pee. I spotted an outhouse by the trailhead. Jackpot.

​Let it be noted that not only do Canadian’s have stunning lodges, but their outhouses also are really freaking nice! There may not have been running water or plumbing of any sort, but each one I stopped at was clean and equipped with plenty of TP and hand sanitizer. Small but significant comforts.

I assessed the trail map by the bathrooms and walked back to collect the pups. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the start of our new routine: First, park the car. Then stop at the trailhead bathroom. Next, assess the maps. Return to collect the dogs. And finally, hike!

Hiking Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park

Emerald Lake Trail: 3.2 miles (5.2 km)​, approximately 2 hours of hiking, minimal elevation

We shimmied past the crowd of people collected by the maps. I chatted with a park ranger for a moment. Then continued down the path. The first thing I noticed was the silence. Or rather, the lack of human noises. It was like everyone had disappeared. Bliss.

​The trail was wide enough for the pups to walk along my sides most of the time. First, the trail was mostly dry, with just a few puddles and muddy sections along the way. The trees blocked most of the rain, not that I minded it too much – nothing could distract me from the scenery!

​Aptly named, Emerald Lake was a vision of color! Standing there, looking directly at it, it was still hard to accept the colors as real. I just stopped and stared many times along the way.

​We came across a few other hikers. Many seemed to turn around once they reached the end of the lake opposite the parking lot and trailhead. At first, I wondered if I’d missed something. But it was actually rather convenient because now the trail was getting muddy. I was becoming quite a mess!

The dogs were barreling through not just some but all of the mud puddles. Cool Whip now had brown legs, and if my pants hadn’t been a dark color already, they’d have been brown as well from all the dirt and water the dogs splashed up. Perfect. My car is about to get really dirty!

We made it back to the car just as the rain stopped—a perfect time to brush off some of the mud and give the hooligans a snack.

Hiking with Dogs in Yoho National Park

Leashed dogs are welcome on all trails in Yoho National Park unless otherwise noted. Some trails are closed to pets and small groups during times of heavy grizzly bear activity. Be sure to pack poop bags, a water bowl, and water for your hiking adventures.

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