Creature Comforts for the Trail

While unlikely ever to require a set of matched luggage, pets often are travelers too. Whether riding in the family car or winging it as a carry-on or checked-through airplane passenger, Fido gets around--so here's some gear to go with him. Prices do not include shipping and handling:

While any old bowl will do as a water or food dish, the collapsible Oasis Pet Bowl from Ruff Wear will please hikers and others disinclined to tote around a space-hogging plastic bowl. Made of polyester duck lined with waterproof nylon, the bowl is rigid enough when filled to bear up under constant slurping, yet folds flat to fit into a pocket or knapsack. I tried the Oasis out on my sister's big, black mutt, Simi--a decidedly picky eater--and he took to it immediately. And the bowl never collapsed under Simi's rambunctious pecking around. At five inches high, the bowl is designed to accommodate all but the tiniest dogs. Most cats likely would find the rim a bit too high for their comfort.

Ruff Wear Oasis Pet Bowl (No. E00055) is $13.95 from Boundary Waters Catalogue; telephone (800) 223-6565. If your dog is indeed your best friend, he shouldn't mind carrying his own load now and then. The Dog Backpack from Eagle Creek, a well-known manufacturer of soft luggage for people, gives Fido a chance to tote his own essentials on hikes or other outings. The very lightweight nylon pack has two large saddlebag-style zippered compartments connected by a mesh back panel for ventilation. The two adjustable clip-together belly straps and a chest strap keep the pack secure.

Seeking out my "nephew" Simi again as a guinea-dog, I found he preferred to play fetch with the pack rather than wear it. But a couple of stern commands had him standing still long enough to be fitted, and he adjusted easily to the pack. A word of caution: Go lightly on filling the pack. A small supply of dog food and other nibbles, perhaps the collapsible bowl above, a bottle of water and a Frisbee or other toy is probably all but the largest dogs will bear without complaint.

Eagle Creek Dog Pack for medium-sized dogs (No. E334-128) is $25; for large dogs (No. E334-129) is $30 from REI; tel. (800) 426-4840. In the woods, a clearly visible dog is a safer dog. This bright orange mesh vest will not only keep your pet from being mistaken for a hunting target, but also makes it easier to find the dog should it wander off on the trail. Made of featherweight nylon mesh, the machine-washable vest fits around chest, belly and tail with Velcro fasteners.

Orange Dog Vest (No. B38-0506) is $8.99 from the Pedigrees Pet Catalogue; tel. (800) 548-4786. Or, for a catalogue, write the company at 1989 Transit Way, Box 905, Brockport, N.Y. 14420. Pets may be great to have along for the ride, but their hairs all over the car are no fun--particularly for those with allergies. The CarPet Ride is a waterproof, machine-washable car seat cover specifically designed to handle all the shedding, drooling and muddy paws that come with pet travel.

Made from soft terry cloth bonded to vinyl, the CarPet Ride's two pieces attach together via hooks and loops, accommodating various configurations of seat belts. When assembled, the blanket measures 48 inches by 50 inches, fitting any back seat or pickup truck bench seat. The cover secures to side or back windows with suction cups and ties beneath the seat.

As a bonus, the blanket handles messy or muddy kids as well!

CarPet Ride Car Seat Cover (No. 25305101) is $41.99 from Master Animal Care, a mail-order company; tel. (800) 346-0749. Your pet may love accompanying you on trips, but not every lodging welcomes guests of the four-legged variety. "Vacationing With Your Pet," by Eileen Barish ($14.95, Pet-Friendly Publications), is a new directory of about 10,000 U.S. hotels, motels, inns, ranches and B&B;'s that allow pets in the room--and some even encourage them. The book lists lodgings alphabetically by state (most with room rates) and contains tips on traveling by car or plane, packing for your pet, and deciding if your animal is travel-friendly or would be better off in a kennel.

Also listed are toll-free numbers for hotel/motel chains, car rental companies (which sometimes have a no-pets policy) and state departments of tourism. I would have liked to see more detailed information about lodgings, other than just the address, phone number and room rate.

Vacationing With Your Pet is $14.95 from the publisher; tel. (800) 496-2665. Gear & Gadgets appears the first week of every month.

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