After hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2015, I became dedicated to the mountains. Camping was no longer just a hobby for me, it became my motivation to get up in the morning—I  discovered a totally different way of living. So, when Bowser (part beagle, part pit bull) came into my life, I knew we had to find a way to adventure together—for both of our sakes. Since then, we’ve made it a habit: Every few weeks, we drive my blue Subaru Crosstrek down a ponderosa pine-lined dirt road before we pull up to a dusty Colorado campsite. Bowser whines the whole way, knowing he’ll get to stretch his legs and sniff everything in the forest when the car comes to a halt. The mountains are our happy place … until it gets cold.

When darkness descends, Bowser becomes a ninja. He’s so stealthy when the temperatures start to drop that I barely notice him sneaking into my sleeping bag and kneading my ultralight sleeping pad with his switchblade claws before plopping down for the night. He, like me, is a wuss about the cold, so I understand his dilemma. But after I hear a thump and a swoosh of air, I know my sleeping pad is a goner. It’s time for a change.

On previous adventures, I would use a spare sleeping pad and my puffy to tuck Bowser in for the night. I’d wrap a jacket around him, fixing it in place with the jacket’s arms. Inevitably, he’d squirm until the jacket fell to the ground. Then he’d make his way to my side to challenge the durability of my ultralight gear.

Bowser is such a diligent protector that he struggles to sleep even on his best nights. He’s always on the lookout for a resident bear or, God forbid, a moose! Thanks to the new campsite and all the new sounds and smells, he’s usually wired for half the night before I persuade him to go to bed.

Enter the Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag from Ruffwear, which has completely changed our camping experience.

Fresh out of the box, it puffs out into an oval shape, with decorative stitching throughout the fabric and a gray interior. Looking at it, you wouldn’t immediately think it capable of reducing your highly anxious dog’s stress, but apparently it can.

On our next trip, Bowser initially ignores the sleeping bag. I slide the bag next to mine, waiting for his classic nerves to come out. His eyes widen when I begin coaxing him inside. Once he’s in, I zip it closed before he has the chance to escape. Surprisingly, he grows silent in just a few minutes and stays put for the rest of the night, resigning himself to his new outdoor bed. I never even hear him budge.

A happy dog rolls on their back on their Ruffwear sleeping bag at a campsite.
Ruffwear Highland Dog Sleeping Bag,$99.95–$139.95. Buy here.

Unlike the delicate fibers of my überlight backpacking quilt, the bluesign®-approved 75-denier polyester of the Highlands Dog Sleeping Bag seems especially tenacious. It handily stands up to Bowser’s claws. The purple pooch pouch is sturdy and soft, which is exactly what we need since we often find ourselves in unforgiving terrain. Knowing that the Highlands dog sleeping bag is reinforced also gives me the courage to inch it closer to the campfire on nights when s’mores and music are the focus.

The price is right too. The medium-size sleeping bag clocks in under $100, and is built for some serious usage: It has what it takes to handle Bowser’s scissorhands. It felt like easy money to spend for his (and my) comfort.

Another bonus: The bag is water-resistant—essential for Bowser, since he never shies away from a good dousing. In fact, I often find him lying in puddles just to take a sip of mud water. Fortunately, his sleeping bag’s interior is filled with synthetic down, which keeps him warm even after he tucks his damp body inside for the night. 

As someone who’s traveled several thousand miles by foot, I’ll admit I initially winced at the Highlands’ bulk. At close to 2 pounds, it weighs about the same as my sleeping pad and quilt combined. The sleeping bag also doesn’t have a temperature rating, making it tricky to determine whether or not it’s adequate for, say, the Rocky Mountains’ mercurial conditions. But it does feature an integrated sleeping pad compartment that allows me to bump up his system with additional warmth. (It fits the closed-cell Highlands Dog Pad, but you could also create a DIY sleeping pad for your pup, like I did.) 

Previously, I’d had some bad experiences washing delicate sleeping bags, noticing afterward that the down had become limp and the warmth deteriorated. Unlike those sleep sacks, Bowser’s new bag is hand- and machine-washable, and comes clean easily. For small stains, I pull out a soapy rag to spot clean. After long trips, I stuff it into my front-load washer for a quick, cold spin. After drying, the bag is fluffy and warm again. And knowing that the sleeping bag will contribute to a better night’s sleep for Bowser (and me!) the next time we go out for an adventure brings a smile to my lips.

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