Setting Up The Beast! Part 1 – Expedition Dog Crates

Initial Fit Looking Better

So where have we got to?

As you can see there has been a bit of a delay since our last posting (OK 5 years is probably more than ‘a bit of a delay’ to be fair) but after a number of trials and tribulations with Exped 3 (or ‘The Tank’ as it is now known) including (but not limited to) cylinder head problems, lack of breaks, strange noises etc. we are once again sitting down to work out how and where to do some more touring. Despite the problems the Tank has had, we have actually become attached to it and have decided to keep it, at least for ‘easy’ tours through the UK and Europe. If we decide to go further afield we will probably try to upgrade to something slightly more reliable (such as a Lada or Trabant  🙂 ) but for now the Tank is behaving itself .

Mmmm maybe we took too much stuff!

Mmmm maybe we took too much stuff!

One problem we have is how to transport the two of us, two dogs, a teddy bear and all of the ‘stuff’ we need on our travels and to do it safely. Previously we have used the ‘Stuff it in the back and forget about it’ method which works but only if you are going away camping for a weekend. For longer trips it pays to be slightly more organised. (For those of you who are wondering where the dogs traveled in that mess, at the time the photograph was taken we only had one (Twiglet) and she was buckled in on the back seat – again only for short trips but not ideal for tours.

You want to put what where??

So we have started thinking about how we could organise all the ‘stuff’ for a trip and what stuff we actually need. Basically it boils down to (in order of importance):

  • Where are the dogs going to sleep (and travel)?
  • Where are we going to put the things we are going to take with us and how are we going to keep everything together?
  • Where are we going to sleep?
The space we have to play with

The space we have to play with

The short answer to the first question is a roof tent but we are currently investigating the various options for that and will post our thoughts and findings in a separate post. Here we will start looking at the other two questions. One criteria we have tried to use is that everything we put into / onto the Tank should, where possible, have more than one purpose. For this part of the discussion on setting up the Tank we will look at the inside of the Tank specifically the back.

So where are the dogs going to sleep?

Our first solution for travel with the dogs

Our first solution for travel with the dogs

Obviously (well obviously to those owned by dogs) the question of where the dogs will travel and sleep. Since the roof tent will be on top of the Tank it won’t be possible for them to climb the ladder to get in and out and I, for one, am not going to carry Delta up and down every night – he is one heavy puppy! And that does not address the issue of where / how they travel when we are away. The initial solution we came up with was a normal Dog crate (both of the dogs are already crate trained) fastened in the back of the Tank. This worked quite well for normal everyday transporting for the dogs – to and from walks / vets etc. but had a number of drawbacks: Being designed for inside a house it wasn’t as rugged as we liked and, having no divider, meant that we usually ended up with Delta sleeping on top of Twiglet which was not helpful to either of them.

So when we started looking into doing some more touring with the Tank we decided early on that we would have the dogs travel in a divided dog crate specially designed for the task. Our requirements were:

  1. The construction should be robust enough to handle the type of touring we want to do
  2. Each compartment should be large enough so that both dogs can lie down and sit upright without any space issues
  3. There should be an escape exit opposite the main entrance for use in an emergency
  4. The construction should allow adequate ventilation for both dogs
  5. Affordable (well within reason)

These requirements also allow the crate to be the sleeping area for the dogs which fulfils for this item at least the criteria of everything having more than one use.

So having determined what our requirements were we started to look around at what options there were for the type of car crate we wanted.  There are a large number of different manufacturers out there ranging from cheap and nasty to seriously solid. We quickly reduced our list to 4 manufacturers (just to say, this is the list of manufacturers that we feel fit our requirements the best – there are others that may fit yours better). These were:

  1. Barjo: A local manufacturer (based in Wokingham) who have a good reputation. Lots of people we know have crates from them and are very happy
  2. Guardsman: Manufacturers of heavy duty dog crates and suppliers to organisations such as Guide Dogs and also very good (from personal experience) customer service
  3. Safedog: Some seriously strong dog crates which they say have been crash tested
  4. TransK9: Again seriously strong dog crates

Having looked into it we are 100% sure that a crate from any of the above would have satisfied our first three requirements. The problem, for us, with the crate from TransK9 (and to an extent from Safedog) was that it had solid side walls and divider which we were worried would make it too hot in warmer conditions (this may not be the case but we would rather not find out when it is too late) so that ruled them out of the running.

Old or New?

Sleeping quarters for Delta and Twiglet

Sleeping quarters for Delta and Twiglet

Now that we had three makes in mind we had to decide whether we wanted to go old or new. Whilst the Safedog and Barjo come in a standard set of sizes (although Barjo will make custom crates to order), Guardsman are all custom which is nice. The problem is that none of these crates is cheap – typically the Barjo is around £400, Safedog around £550 and the Guardsman … well lets just say I would have to auction off parts of my anatomy. But there is a potential solution – secondhand versions of these crates are available from time to time. Indeed Safedog advertise them on their website and eBay will have each of them from time to time. So we decided to put a search into eBay and see when a crate became available from one of them at the correct size. And then we waited. And waited and for some good measure waited some more. Eventually one did pop in to our inbox. A Guardsman! At 94cm long x 102cm wide x 78cm high it was a bit bigger than we wanted but a lot cheaper than new! We rushed outside and re-measured the back of the tank and thought “Yes it will fit” so we ran back and clicked on the “Buy It Now” button of poverty. A couple of days later a poor man from the courier company struggled up our drive with a large and, I found out, seriously heavy parcel. Our new dog crate had arrived!

Unpacking it led to our first problem – the seller had got their measurements mixed up! The crate was actually 94cm wide x 102cm long x 78cm high – Bummer! Once more unto the Tank dear friends! Once more! With tape measure in hand we climbed into the back of the tank (along with a very helpful Delta who wanted to make sure we got it right this time!) we looked at it again and luckily the crate would fit just – phew!

Back in the house the next problem emerged (oh the joy of buying things from eBay!) – whilst the crate came with a no slip fitted mat it didn’t actually have a floor. Since we wanted to mount this on a frame and Delta is a well known escape artist of high repute we thought it better to get one. One phone call to Guardsman and we were advised that, while they could cut a floor for us we would have to go to them and it was cheaper to go to a timber merchant and get some 9mm marine ply cut to the right size. Also the bolts that we got with the crate weren’t the originals (we could tell this because they were all different) and the lady at Guardsman very kindly sent us a complete fitting kit free of charge – why isn’t all customer service like that?

So a quick search of the Yellow Pages and a number of telephone calls later we ended up at Arnold Laver in Reading who not only sold the ply board but cut it (at no extra cost) to the correct size. Once back at home a bit of sanding and a mallet helped us put the floor in. Once that had been done and the correct bolts used to put the crate together we enticed the dogs into going in and out so make sure they were OK with it (which they were).

Road Refresher Bowls fitted to the Dog Crate

Road Refresher Bowls fitted to the Dog Crate

We then took the crate apart and fitted in it into the Tank (even though we were looking into putting it on top of a storage unit eventually we thought it best to start using it as it was much more robust than the original crate we were using) and fitted it out with blankets and water bowls (Road Refresher – highly recommended). The dogs had no issues at all using it and it allows them to travel without being on top of each other and with enough space to lay down if they want to. The only problem was that opening the side windows on the Tank at the back didn’t give them much ventilation but that will change when the storage unit is fitted. But that story will be told in Part 2…..

Solid Door Handles and Locks

Solid Door Handles and Locks

For use in an emergency

For use in an emergency

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