6 min read • By Leena Chitnis, Founder, Timberdog®
As an avid car camper, gearhead-turned-inventor, and person who sees my dog as my child, I feel uniquely qualified to speak on the topic of camping dog beds. I have no human children of my own, so when I adopted Kashi from the pound, it was an especially momentous day for me. We always had cats growing up and I loved each and every one of them, but I badly wanted a dog.
My parents never permitted us to get one, because they believed dogs to be rambunctious, messy creatures, involving a lot more work than their feline counterparts. They weren’t wrong! However, when I was living on my own and my career started to stabilize, I was finally able to bring a rescue puppy home to a little dog-friendly apartment I had leased expressly for the two of us.
I quickly discovered that Kashi and I were made for each other. To this day, we are both wary of people at the start, but become fiercely loyal when we are able to trust. We’re both very loving and affectionate, but can appear aloof at times. She’s extremely curious, with her nose constantly to the ground, while my nose is perpetually in books and the internet, tunneling for hours on what could make for great pet gear.
Speaking of gear, it ultimately came down to how unequal camping, travel, and outdoor equipment is for pets versus humans. There is a multi-billion dollar industry that treats humans to foam sleeping pads, inflatable pillows, temperature control sleeping bags, and more. The mind boggles when you enter an REI, as they are replete with giant climbing walls, backpack fitting station, mini propane stoves, and rows of freeze-dried camp meals. Meanwhile, the dog section in such outlets are fairly typical – small, with a sprinkling of pet paraphernalia.
And what’s always missing is a camping dog bed.
A CAMPING REVELATION
I couldn’t imagine camping in comfort the way I do and relegating my dog to a flat sleeping bag, and yet, I bought Kashi her first, since that’s all there was for dog camping. That first day at camp went great, my puppy snugly outfitted in her colorful puffy jacket, trotting behind me wherever I went. At night, I scooted her into her sleeping bag - a taco shell of nylon filled with stuffing, made by a reputable company. But morning found her at the bottom of my foam pad, curled into a tight croissant shape. When I went to pet her, she was shivering.
Because of my bad back, I use thick foam sleeping pads for camping, but found that my hale and hearty puppy preferred it, too. So much so that she was willing to climb out of a warm sleeping bag in 40-degree weather just so she could have the yielding comfort she missed from her pet bed at home.
I frowned. I had spent nearly a hundred dollars on a sleeping bag that she was never going to use. I knew right then and there that I’d set my hands to crafting something she would. In fact, later that morning, while the cast iron was heating up, I looked over the rest of her gear with a new set of eyes.
STRANGE SEARCH RESULTS
Before inventing the RuffRest, I scoured the Web for “camping dog bed,” and found it odd that the only shopping images that popped up were these roll-up mats or envelope-style sleeping bags that had a bit of stuffing between nylon baffles. “Where’s the bed?” I asked myself, as I was sure that someone had invented something more substantial by now. I saw a couple of options out there, but nothing exciting, rugged, or multifunctional, as I needed a camping dog bed to be.
As car campers, we are forever balancing luxury and ease with a minimal and streamlined experience. Often, one is sacrificed for the other; for example, being minimal can equate to an experience stripped of comfort. That’s why we need our tools and other camp gear to be highly versatile: we want to pack the least, while having each item perform the most.
So why shouldn’t our camping dog beds have the same Swiss Army Knife quality? Why should I have to haul my dog’s big 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 cushioned sleeping experience, a built-in sleeping bag for warmth, and a suitcase-style section to carry all of her things?
WHY THE RUFFREST BEATS DOG MATS AND COTS
The so-called camping dog beds out there, no matter how much stuffing they have, provide no insulation from the ground. That's because they aren't beds, they're sleeping bags. And 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. 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” sleeping bag. It was not only a miserable night, but a potentially dangerous one, too. I ended up running to my car for a fitful night of sleep, heater blasting away.
Dog cots, meanwhile, have all the support, but no lining or cover! So, while your dog is elevated off the ground, he now has cold air passing under his exposed belly, literally acting as an air conditioner as it blows through the nylon of the cot. Anyone who has hammock-camped knows what I’m talking about. If you are going to elevate your pet, he has got to be well-insulated, and that requires packing extra layers for him. Again, this translates into a piecemeal experience where you’re lugging things around in an inefficient manner.
CREATING THE RUFFREST, THE WORLD’S FIRST MULTIFUNCTIONAL DOG BED
I wanted Kashi to have human-like luxury when camping, yet have the packing experience be a pleasure for me. One inspired night, I scrawled wildly on the backs of old bills at the kitchen table, and very quickly, RuffRest began to take shape. To this day, I’m so glad that I was not educated as an engineer or designer, because this allowed me to create audaciously, without technical fetters. In fact, I was rejected by scores of highly-trained tech 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 designer 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 hundreds, maybe even thousands of dog beds - both indoor and outdoor - before creating RuffRest with an aggregate of features I believed to be the best and most regularly-used by dogs. In fact, I know those features to be the most widely-used because I took my hunch to online dog forums and conducted multiple focus groups. For fun, I added a few “nice-to-haves” for pet parents, as well.
Rest assured, RuffRest combines all of the best elements from your search for a good camping dog bed. It elevates your dog off the ground and provides insulation from the earth, while providing heat from a deployable blanket that can convert to a sleeping bag. It opens like a suitcase to store items, but not haphazardly: an at-a-glance organizer allows you to compartmentalize your dog’s things and find them in a flash, so you never have to rifle through bags again. The organizer can also be hung up in a hotel room next to your things, or folded in thirds to keep in your tent. And for the forgetful person, the shoulder strap handily converts into a leash, with reflective stitching so that people driving into camp at night can easily spot and avoid your dog.
Unlike any other camping dog bed or pet bed, RuffRest also has built-in safety features. The colorful trim around the bed is actually a zipper hood to keep your dog from chewing on or being poked by zippers. The decorative loop “accents” on all four corners of the bed come with reflective strips, so you won’t trip over the bed at the campground. And every organizer comes with a large medical ID card - critical for those times when you have to board your dog or leave him with friends. All the information they need is right at their fingertips.
Today, RuffRest is a dream come to life, individually crafted from the best of materials - memory and high-density foams; military-grade nylon; and short-nap sherpa fleece. And its modularity allows you endless configurations for a full and varied life with your pup: as a durable camping dog bed, a sleek hotel sleeper, an office nap station, and cool RV dog digs. It’s even TSA-friendly for your overseas adventures.
I have put so much heart, thought, sweat, and tears into this design for the past five years, as creating and innovating is my passion. But to do it for a pet that has completely changed my life, RuffRest became - and continues to be - a labor of love. I hope you and your dog can feel this when you use this, or any of the products from Timberdog. We strive to be different from the pack, because our dogs aren’t just our best friends. They’re family.
In the photo: Brandon Davis-Loper and Kashi
Photo Credit: Marc Prefontaine
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