6 min read • By Leena Chitnis, Founder, Timberdog®
As a frequent car camper, gear aficionado, inventor, and person who sees my dog as my kid, I feel uniquely qualified to speak about camping dog beds. I have no children of my own, so when I adopted my dog, Kashi, from the shelter, it was an especially significant day for me. We always had cats growing up and I cherished them all, but I sorely wanted a dog.
My mom and dad never allowed us to get one, because they believed dogs to be messy, smelly creatures, involving a lot more work than their feline counterparts. They weren’t all wrong! Eventually, I was living on my own and was finally able to bring a rescue puppy to a little dog-friendly apartment I had found just for the two of us.
I soon discovered that Kashi and I were two peas in a pod. To date, we are both wary of people at the start, but become very loyal when we are able to trust. We’re both loving and affectionate, but can be aloof at times. She’s extremely curious, with her nose constantly to the ground, while my nose is always in my laptop, tunneling for hours on what could make for great pet gear.
And when it came to gear, it ultimately came down to how unequal camping equipment is for pets versus people. There is a multi-billion dollar industry that treats humans to luxurious sleeping pads, inflatable pillows, temperature-controlled sleeping bags, and more. The mind boggles when you enter a sports store, replete with giant climbing walls, a dizzying array of backpacks, mini propane stoves, and rows of freeze-dried camp meals. Meanwhile, the dog section in such places are typical – small, with a sprinkling of pet products.
And the thing that’s always missing is a camping dog bed.
A CAMPING REALIZATION
I couldn’t imagine camping in comfort the way I do and tossing my dog an underwhelming sleeping bag, and yet, I bought Kashi one of these, since that’s all there was for dog camping. The first day we went camping went great, my puppy outfitted in her colorful puffy jacket, running behind me wherever I went. At night, I scooted her into her sleeping bag - a shell of stuffed nylon made by a reputable company. By morning, she was at the bottom of my foam pad, curled into a tight little cashew shape. When I went to pet her, she was shivering.
Because of my sore back, I use foam sleeping pads for camping, but found that my healthy puppy preferred it, too. So much so that she was willing to climb out of her sleeping bag in 40-degree weather just so she could have the foam-y comfort she missed from her pet bed at home.
I sighed. I had spent a hundred dollars on a sleeping bag that she was never going to use. I knew right then that I’d set my hands to crafting something she would. In fact, later that morning, while breakfast was sizzling in the skillet, I looked over the rest of her gear with a new set of eyes.
BAFFLING SEARCH RESULTS
Before inventing the RuffRest, I searched the Web for “camping dog bed,” and found it strange that the only images that popped up were of roll-up mats or envelope-style sleeping bags. “Where’s the bed?” I asked aloud while scrolling, as I was certain that someone had invented something more substantial by now. I saw a couple of options out there, but nothing exciting or multifunctional, as I needed a camping dog bed to be.
As car campers, we are forever balancing luxury and comfort with a minimal and streamlined experience. Often, one is sacrificed for the other; for example, minimalism can equate to an experience stripped of ease or comfort. That’s why we need our camp gear to be highly versatile: we want to pack the least, while having each item execute the most.
So why shouldn’t our camping dog beds have the same, Leatherman-esque quality? Why should I have to lug my dog’s giant foam bed from home for comfort, a separate sleeping bag for warmth, and all the rest in a piecemeal manner? Why can’t one dog bed do it all - provide a padded sleeping experience, a built-in sleeping bag for coziness, and a suitcase-style opening to carry all of her items?
THE RUFFREST BEATS DOG MATS AND COTS
The camping dog beds out there, no matter how much insulation they have, provide no protection from the ground. No matter what sort of nylon your tent is made out of, or how thick your footprint is, the cold, damp earth is going to win every time, going straight through your dog’s sleeping bag. I should know. When I was a novice camper, I went out without a sleep pad and the earth sucked the heat right out of me as I tried to catch some Zs in my “40 degree” bag. It was not only a miserable night, but a dangerous one, too. I ended up running to my car at 4 a.m, putting the heater on full blast.
Dog cots, meanwhile, have support, but no insulation! So, while your dog is elevated off the ground, he now has cold air passing under him, acting as an air conditioner as it blows through the nylon of the cot and onto his exposed belly. Anyone who has hammock-camped knows what I’m talking about. If you are going to elevate your pet, you have to make sure he is well-insulated, which requires packing extra layers for him. Again, this translates into a disjointed experience where you’re lugging separate things around in an ineffective manner.
RUFFREST, THE WORLD’S FIRST MULTIFUNCTIONAL DOG BED
I wanted Kashi to have human-like luxury when camping, yet have the packing experience be hassle-free for me. One inspired night, I scribbled on the backs of some old bills at the kitchen table, and soon, RuffRest took shape. To this day, I’m so glad that I was not educated as a designer or engineer, because this allowed me to create intrepidly, without technical fetters. In fact, I was rejected by scores of highly-trained technical pack writers, industrial designers, and manufacturers when I showed them my sketches. It can’t be done, they said. Due to the bed’s 16+ features, one expert even laughed and called it a kitchen sink, before hanging up on me. But I persevered. I knew that if I wanted and needed such a dog bed, others would, too.
So, I looked at thousands - yes, thousands - of dog beds, both indoor and outdoor, before creating RuffRest with the aggregate of features I believed to be the best and most regularly-used by dogs. In fact, I know those features are the most widely-used because I took my hunch to online pet forums and conducted multiple focus groups. And just for fun, I added a few “nice-to-haves” for dog parents, as well.
You can rest assured that RuffRest combines all of the best elements from your search for a solid camping dog bed. It elevates your dog and provides insulation from the earth, while providing warmth from a deployable sleeping bag. It opens like a suitcase to store items, but not messily: an at-a-glance organizer allows you to compartmentalize your dog’s items and find them quickly, so you never have to rifle through dark bags again. The organizer can also be hung up in your hotel room next to your things, or folded up to keep inside your tent. And for the forgetful or ultra minimal person, the shoulder strap handily converts into a leash, with reflective stitching so that people can easily spot and avoid your dog.
Unlike any other camping dog bed or pet bed on the market, RuffRest also has built-in safety features. The colorful trim around the bed does double duty as a zipper hood to keep your dog from chewing on or being poked by zippers. The loop “accents” on all four corners of the bed come with reflective strips, so you won’t trip over the bed after dark. And every organizer comes with a large medical ID card - necessary for those times when you have to board your dog or leave him with friends. All the emergency information they need is right at their fingertips.
Today, RuffRest is a reality, individually-crafted from the best materials - memory foam; ballistic nylon; and sherpa fleece. And its modularity allows you endless configurations for anywhere you roam with your pup: as a durable camping dog bed, a portable hotel sleeper, an office nap station, and pretty cool RV dog digs. It’s even flight-friendly for your overseas adventures.
I have put so much thought and heart into this design for the past five years, because creating and innovating is my passion. But to do it for a dog that has completely changed my life, RuffRest continues to be a labor of love. I hope you and your dog can sense this when you use RuffRest, or any of the products from Timberdog. We strive to be ahead of the pack, because our dogs aren’t just our best friends. They’re family.
In the photo: Brandon Davis-Loper
Photo Credit: Marc Prefontaine
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