James StanburySee other accessory reviews written by James Stanbury
We love taking our pets on holiday, but we want to make sure they travel in safety and are comfy on site – here we test 10 dog bed and pet carrier products
If you really want to make your motorhome feel like a home from home, bringing along four-legged members of the family is the way to go.
But it can also be pretty challenging.
First, there’s the issue of getting said pet to your destination.
Taking the whole family on tour!
You are in a motorhome, so unlike in an estate car, pulling down a dog rack and allowing your dogs all the space behind the rear seats isn’t an option.
And what do you do with your dog, or cat, once you get on site?
Giving them free rein over your motorhome’s interior is extremely risky if your pet is a chewer, scratcher, or not the cleanest of creatures.
Even if your furry friend has been treated to a pre-tour bath and starts off the holiday smelling wonderfully fresh, long walks and swims in rivers and the sea can lead to a whiff that becomes overpowering, even in bigger ’vans.
What dog bed?
Of course, you could be lucky. Your pet might be the type of creature that nestles in a footwell and sleeps for the entire journey.
If that’s the case, all you need in the motorhome is a favoured blanket or rug to serve as a bed, because you don’t have to worry about mess or damage to the furnishings.
At the other extreme, the only sensible solution for really mischievous dogs on the road is a folding cage. And, once on site, a large metal cage is probably the best way of keeping your ’van’s interior safe.
It also means that you can leave them in any awning overnight – reducing the problem of doggy odour build-up the next morning.
In truth, though, most of our pets fit somewhere between the angelic and the nightmare scenarios painted here.
We probably need to bring a bit more than just a favoured blanket, but not go as far as a full-blown folding metal cage.
And because pets range from small kittens to Great Danes, their needs vary hugely, so we’ve cast the net wider than we usually do in our group tests.
Pet bed essentials
All products here are subject to the same criteria.
First, as with all motorhome accessories, we prefer kit that packs down small, can be built up easily, and has more than one use.
For example, something that keeps your pet safe and secure on the road, but doubles as a kennel on site, solves a multitude of issues.
Next, we factor in comfort. Hard ground can be jarring for any animal to lie on – particularly if it’s aged with aching joints – so support and softness are major considerations.
Then there’s temperature. If your pet is going to be living in an awning, warmth is a concern at the start and end of the season.
Equally, though, adequate ventilation has to be considered for trips in the middle of summer.
Because all pet beds need to be cleaned regularly, we also check how easily this is done – we especially like products that can be machine-washed.
Finally, we look at weatherproofing. Can your pet’s temporary home live outside, like a proper kennel?
EB Umbra Pet – three stars
- Price: £64.95-£89.95
This is a slightly sturdier alternative to the Dog Bag, also tested here, which utilises an umbrella-style mechanism under that orange top cover.
Both products are a doddle to erect, but the Umbra Pet is a little more intuitive to collapse – you don’t need the knack with sprung rings that the Dog Bag requires.
In other ways, the two products are very similar. Both have plastic-covered fabrics on their inner walls and base for easy cleaning, and both have corner straps to allow them to be pegged to the ground or secured to a ’van’s interior.
It comes in three sizes, from 60 x 60 x 67.1cm to 90 x 90 x 90cm.
EB Pet Tube – three stars
- Price: £42.50-£79.95
With no boot like that in an estate car, in most motorhomes the best place for a pet is on the travel seats.
EB’s Pet Tube is essentially a heavy-duty version of those pop-up garden waste bins and laundry baskets.
Accordingly, it springs from a flat disc to a usable kennel in seconds, and it’s a bit easier than the Dog Bag to flatten.
Once it’s on the seat, straps wrap around the headrest posts to secure it in place.
And, of course, there’s nothing stopping you from using the Tube as a kennel on site.
As well as the giant 61cm-diameter by 119cm-long version here (which can be shortened to half and two-thirds lengths), there’s a smaller model that’s 46 x 46cm.
Ruffwear Highlands Sleeping Bag – four stars
- Price: £109.95
Yes, you read it correctly: this really is a sleeping bag for dogs!
And while there are probably very few dogs that will entertain going in it, let alone staying in it, this is actually a really good idea if your dog is docile enough to be zipped in for the night.
Despite measuring a generous 89 x 66cm, it fits into a 10cm diameter by 30cm long stuff sack – just like the Highlands Bed, also tested.
What really makes the product work is the advanced foam inside it, which delivers surprising levels of thermal insulation and comfort from its minimal inch thickness.
The final bonus, as with the Highlands Bed, is the waterproof, machine-washable exterior.
EB Dog Bag – five stars
Practical Motorhome Editor's Choice
- Price: £69.95-£94.95
Using pop-up tent technology, the Dog Bag springs from a flat disc into a kennel almost by itself.
Collapsing it is a little more tricky, but easy enough once you’ve got the knack.
A small rucksack is also supplied, allowing you to take the dog bed with you on long walks – perfect for Fido to collapse into in the pub garden.
Other clever touches include easily cleaned, plastic-covered inner surfaces, hook-down straps to pin the Dog Bag to the ground or attach it to anchor points inside the ’van, plus the zip-down front can even be draped over upholstery to protect it from sharp claws.
The four sizes range all the way up to 90 x 90 x 85cm.
Ruffwear Highlands Bed – four stars
- Price: £64.95
So what differentiates a camping dog bed from the cheap-and-cheerful type, available for much less from your local pet store?
Well, the first clue that this is something a bit special is the 10cm-diameter by 30cm-long stuff sack – impressive, given that the flattened-out bed measures 89 x 66cm.
Granted, it’s only 2.5cm thick, but the synthetic foam used inside is another stand-out feature – it provides far more padding and warmth than you’d ever expect.
As with the Dog Bag, this product features fix-down straps so it can be made to stay put on the ground or inside the ’van.
Best of all, the polyester shell is both waterproof and washable.
Ruffwear MT Bachelor Pad – three stars
- Price: £79.95-£97.79
This is a premium alternative to the Highlands Bed and Highlands Sleeping Bag, with a noticeably softer finish.
The same hi-tech filling has been used, giving unexpectedly good comfort and thermal insulation, despite the bed being just one inch thick.
Two versions are available: medium (86 x 68cm) and large (122 x 91cm).
But while this is a good product, it does seem slightly lacking compared with the Highlands models.
A Velcro strap means the bed can be rolled up and fastened together, but not as compactly as the Highlands’ stuff sacks allowed.
Khyam K9 Dog Tent – three stars
- Price: £199.99
Unlike the other products in this group test, Khyam’s K9 Dog Tent is nothing less than a large (110 x 80 x 80cm) folding kennel designed for use in the great outdoors.
Even the two generous fresh-air grilles have Velcro-in-place covers, preventing water ingress or excessive draughts.
The K9 uses Khyam’s Rapidex joint system, so it takes only a few seconds to erect. It’s not quite as fast as the Dog Bag or Pet Tube also reviewed, but compares well with EB’s Umbra Pet.
Inside, a separate padded mat is included, which can be removed for easy cleaning.
Although the K9 can be pegged to the ground, it cannot be directly secured to anchoring points inside your motorhome.
RAC Fabric Pet Carrier – three stars
- Price: £39.99-£59.99
This is not a bad budget alternative to the Dog Bag and EB’s Umbra Pet, but the lower price does bring with it some compromises.
Not least building the unit. While the steel frame is hardly rocket science to install, it certainly cannot compare, from either a speed or convenience point of view, to the Dog Bag’s pop-up structure or the Umbra Pet’s simple umbrella mechanism.
And although hook-down straps have been built into the body of the unit, they can only be staked to the ground.
With the right straps and hooks they could, no doubt, be attached to anchoring points inside the motorhome.
The three sizes on offer range from 51 x 33 x 31cm to 75 x 51.5 x 51cm
Ruffwear Highlands Pad – three stars
- Price: £33.95
The cheapest bed from the Highlands stable comes in the familiar 86.5 x 64cm size.
But at just 1cm thick, it cannot really be viewed as a dog bed in its own right.
Its size means that it complements the other two Highland products well, and it’s definitely worth considering if you’re happy for your pet to sleep on one of your motorhome’s sofas.
The pad’s polyester shell is waterproof, so protects the furniture from fur, grime and – to a degree – minor accidents.
Unlike the other Highlands products, this doesn’t have fix-down straps, and uses a neat folding pattern rather than a stuff sack.
Kar 9 Tunnel – two stars
- Price: £134.95
Don’t let that score mislead you: this is a high-spec piece of kit that’s another good option for anyone using their ’van’s travel seats to transport pets.
The trouble is that EB’s Pet Tube does much the same for a lot less money, and with a bit more versatility.
For instance, the large Pet Tube can be set to full, two-thirds or half length, making room for luggage (or a person) on the seats.
This particular dog bed/pet carrier, in contrast, measures a generous 122 x 65 x 61cm and can’t be shortened, so it will always take over your whole rear bench.
And, although the assembly process for the Tunnel comprises nothing more than connecting together four half-length poles and threading them through four sleeves, this is still time-consuming compared to some rivals.