Update: The bowl started inexplicably leaking about two months after the review was published. I can’t figure out where the leak is, and it doesn’t happen immediately – it’s a slow overnight leak. But I would recommend skipping this bowl for providing water, based on its unreliability.
We’re Trail Testers for @dogsthathike! We get a quarterly box of goodies to test out, and we report back with what’s good and what isn’t.
Price: MSRP $5.99 – $6.99 USD ($3.99-$4.99 on some websites)
Sizing and colors: 24 oz and 48 oz, only in blue on the website, but older versions exist with other colors.
We’ve tried quite a collection of collapsible dog bowls. While hiking, we use travel bowls for food more than water, because Robin’s delicate little appetite calls for three meals a day and more often than not, he eats one or two on the road. A bowl generally isn’t needed for water breaks since he’ll drink from my Camelbak stream, so while waterproofness is still of primary importance, foldability and flexibility are also important to us so that we can mix up his dehydrated raw, and seal food residue inside after a meal. So far, none of our bowls have leaked during an overnight test, but we haven’t found the perfect thing yet:
Generic collapsible silicone bowl ($1): Cheap and ubiquitous, fold-flat disc shape is easy to keep in car door pockets, but the small bottom makes it tippy, it doesn’t fold up to keep food residue inside, it snaps water everywhere when re-folding and the fold lines wear out over time.
Guyot Squishy Cup ($14.95 for cup and bowl set): Packable size for small dogs, thick, durable and guaranteed waterproof due to material, rinses well due to slick interior, but doesn’t stay folded to retain food residue/water droplets, tippy due to globe shape, and and attracts lint/dirt/sand on its textured outside.
Ruffwear Bivy Bowl ($25): Distinctive look and generously sized for watering multiple dogs, but too big for Robin on the trail, can’t unfold just halfway because water gets trapped inside, a little annoying to collapse, and can’t be folded in half to keep pack clean after it’s been used for food.
Alcott fabric bowl ($12): Folds easily and keeps food residue inside, wide but shallow shape is flexible for various face sizes, but likes to fold itself up during use, and outer fabric is absorbent, so easily gets soaked.
Wild Hound Waxed Canvas ($20): Interesting and natural material, sustainable and re-waxable for longevity, shakes clean of sand and dirt, folds up easily to keep food residue inside, but a bit heavier and bulkier than the synthetic fabric options, and requires a bit of time to unfold and shape.
The Outward Hound bowl is basic, yet functional. While it’s missing some of the unique traits of bowls above, it’s a simple, bright-colored, and well-made travel bowl option that I surpised myself by using regularly.
The Port-A-Bowl is solidly made, constructed of a blue outer nylon fabric and gray liner with reasonable stitch quality and durability. The liner is joined to the outer shell only at the rim, and has no seams to compromise waterproofness. The top edge of the bowl is finished with wide seam tape, which gives it some extra structure and helps keep water from collapsing the edge. The outside features four vertical stripes of reflective piping, an oversized Outward Hound reflective logo (starting to peel slightly), a small Outward Hound tag, and a loop to attach the bowl to your pack via a carabiner. The blue shell actually uses panels of two different textures for a slight contrast – a standard woven and a ripstop-like square pattern. I’d definitely prefer a smaller or more attractive logo, but otherwise nothing about the bowl’s appearance says “$6 travel bowl” – it looks nice!
The bowl fabric is very soft, so it can be folded or rolled up any which way you prefer to contain water droplets or food residue; it can be jammed into a tiny pocket on your bag, it fits into a pocket, and it can be pulled inside out for rinsing. After our first trip with it, I just threw it in the wash with the rest of the laundry since it didn’t make sense to wash with the dishes, and nothing bad happened, so I kept doing it! I’m a fan of letting the washing machine do the work for me.
The overall shape is slightly wider on the bottom, narrower on the top, which leads to more stability than our round and small-bottomed silicone bowls, without making it difficult to get food out of the corners. The Port-A-Bowl is slightly on the tall side, and Robin’s usually reluctant to stick his face in, but he forgets about the shape once he starts eating. The bowl can be mashed down a bit at first to make it shorter for fellow fussy eaters.
It’s all good except for one thing: my big concern here is that I don’t know what makes the bowl hold water. Without that information, I don’t know if it needs special care to preserve the waterproofness, or whether I can expect failure after a certain lifespan. Does it use coated fabric (that could peel with friction/heat)? Does it have a membrane that will start to bleed over time when the membrane develops micro tears? It’s pretty frustrating to find oneself out in the backcountry with gear that isn’t working, so I like to to know what factors are at play before I commit to an item. Outward Hound offers no details, aside from saying the bowl is “water resistant”, and did not respond to my email requesting more information.
We have the smaller size 24oz bowl, and the capacity is appropriate for dogs up to about 30lb. It’s not so big that I feel like we’re wasting tons of water for a quick drink, but it’s plenty big enough to mush up Robin’s dehydrated raw with water without any spillage. The Port-A-Bowl is on the deep side for smaller dogs, as mentioned above, but Robin generally doesn’t mind once he starts eating. When using it for water, I generally fill it a bit fuller than I normally would so that he doesn’t have to dip his nose as far, since he can be reluctant to drink enough if it’s too difficult.
Reviews on Outward Hound’s website suggest that large dog owners have about the same experience with the large bowl, finding the opening a bit narrow but the capacity about right.
Overall, the Port-a-bowl works great for us: it’s big enough but not huge, it’s super light, it can be folded up and jammed into tiny pockets, and it’s flexible for mixing up Robin’s freeze dried food with water (not possible with the collapsible silicone and Ruffwear Bivy, and not advisable with the shallow, fold-happy Alcott bowl). The bright blue is hard to miss on any terrain when packing up camp, which is always a plus and it has just enough structure to stay where you put it, even when full. According to my scale, it weighs 1.5 oz exactly, which is exactly half the already-light Ruffwear Bivy Bowl.
The outer fabric does get a little wet – it’s not an absorbent fabric (like the Alcott bowl) so it doesn’t wick up water, but it can get damp when water is slopped over the sides. It’s nice and thin though, so it dries quickly.
Ours holds water overnight with no leakage, but another Trail Tester with an older version found that it leaked, and two of thirty-three reviewers on the Outward Hound website also suffered problems with leaks. As I said above, this is my main concern with the bowl- I have no way of knowing whether the other bowls were just flawed, or whether mine will suddenly fail as well.
This bowl is awesome for the price. Despite being cheaper than everything else we’ve tried except for the collapse-flat silicone bowl from eBay, it’s attractively designed, super light, foldable and flexible, and seems to wash fine in the washing machine. However, since I don’t advocate for disposable products, if the bowl starts to fail I will definitely drop this rating. I’d much prefer to pay more up front and not have to replace something that doesn’t work.
The Outward Hound Port-a-Bowl surprised me. In a world where you can barely grab lunch for under $10, it’s a shock to get a functional, attractive and well-designed product for half that. I’m impressed with its light weight, thoughtful design and waterproofness so far, and hoping that it continues to hold up well.
Best for: Feeding and watering pretty much any dog on the trail, in camp, or on the road.
Not ideal for: Extremely finicky dogs (deep shape), thru-hikers/long-term backpackers (reliability unknown)