eXtreme Upland's Official Dog Kennel Review

Written By: C.J. Steely

Which dog kennel best suits your upland hunting needs?


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The small hunting party was teeming with anticipation following a long but scenic drive as they journeyed north along the majestic Yellowstone Mountain range. Their ultimate destination was the upland hunting fields of Northeast Montana, bordering the great Missouri River. The annual pilgrimage was sacrosanct. It was an outing, carved out from professional hectic work constraints. The hunting party’s fully intended to spend quality time with family and close lifelong friends and of course their dogs.


The crew had usurped Josh’s wife’s suburban, allowing for eight hunters to travel in style. They were pulling a 12’ utility trailer stacked full with gear and most importantly four valuable canine hunting companions tucked deep inside the confines of the apparatus. Special accommodations had been made to protect the dogs from any adverse weather conditions, including heated dog pillows, and straw. The dogs were closely monitored at every stop along the way to ensure their well-being.


Brad was particularly anxious to spend time with his year and a half old German Wirehair Pointer- Duke. Duke, had been carefully selected from a reputable breeder who was also responsible for producing Brad’s other and older wirehair, who was in his waning years of service. Brad had spent innumerable hours training Duke and had made it a point to rectify some of his previous dog training mistakes. He was intent on making Duke into a first-class versatile hunting dog. Duke was an impressive looking dog and carried himself with an air of confidence. Duke could back it up in the field as well and Brad was anxious to stack up the dog’s hunting prowess against his brother's prized English Pointer and his buddy’s French Brit.


The suburban, full of weary travelers, anxious to be done with this part of their sojourn, drove into the pre-arrange motel parking lot. Josh was going to secure their reservation while the rest of the crew would see to the dogs and the handling of the gear. Brad started to unravel the tarps when, with a great deal of horror, he saw the corner of his dog kennel torn apart, the door ajar and Duke was missing. He hurriedly checked through the trailer futilely hoping to find the dog had made alternative bedding arrangements somewhere within the confines of the trailer, but Duke was nowhere. His mind started to spin, and he was trying to regain a more reasoning presence of mind, to assess the present emergency. The rest of the party became aware of the situation and they started backtrack step by step. When was the last time they had checked in on the dogs and their condition? It was collectively agreed that they had traveled a little over three hours since they had last seen Duke at a truck stop where they had last gassed up their vehicle.


Calls went out to the highway patrol as well as the various local county sheriff’s offices. Emotionally, Brad called his wife back home in Utah to relay the distressing news. She suggested they research local social media groups in the area and posted “Duke missing”, throughout any possible media. Well into the morning hours, Brad’s phone rang and a woman, who lived about fifty miles north of the truck stop, had found Duke! She had seen the social media posting and contacted Brad as to her discovery. She reported Duke was in bad shape, most of his right ear was missing, he couldn’t walk on his right back leg and his front left leg. Among the bodily injuries were several road rash abrasions she had benevolently doctored up and she had been seeing to Duke’s comfort and well-being to the best of her abilities and resources. Brad made haste to retrieve Duke and found a vet who could see to his condition.


Duke survived, but will never be the same. What could have been an amazing hunting trip ended abruptly. It was later determined that the dog carrier holding Duke, had become brittle with wear and tear, ultimately causing fissures amongst the molding of the crate. For whatever reason, the crate’s upper corner had given way in route which in turn caused the door casing to unhinge. Duke must have adventured from the crate and had jumped from the moving trailer.


Throughout my career, I have experienced countless incidents of valuable hunting dogs either becoming lost, injured, or dying because of faulty transportation crates or ineffectual management of the crates. Brad’s sad story joins other disappointed hunters who spent significant resources, time and devotion to their hunting dog companions only to have faulty door locking mechanisms, adverse weather conditions (hot and cold), and/or inadequate crate materials become the source for other equally sad outcomes.


One other such incident occurred when a hunter I knew, was transporting his dogs in the bed of his pickup. The hunter had placed a tied-down strap over each of the kennels and was headed out for an awesome day afield. When crossing through an intersection a man who had just worked a 12-hour shift and was traveling home, dozed off and failed to heed the traffic light of the intersection. The hunter and his dogs were heading through the intersection with the lawful right-of-way at that very same unfortunate moment. The sleepy driver T-boned the back bed of the truck sending the kennels flying into oncoming traffic. The tie-down straps were completely ineffectual in counteracting the accident because the kennels were not crash-tested and were constructed with inferior design. They would have been kennels that a hunter could purchase at most box store and or pet store chain locations The resulting outcome was not favorable for the dogs.


We place such resources and effort into our incredible hunting companions. Most hunters don’t have the financial ability to acquire expensive all-aluminum dog trailers and or truck bed inserts. Many hunters use the portable dog crates not only to transport their dogs but to facilitate in-house training and living accommodations. Not only are our canine hunting companions valuable but they have become members of our family. These valuable loved hunting companions deserve transporting and crate equipment that match their importance.


The eXtreme Upland staff have personally reviewed many dog crate options available in North

America. Listed below are some of those crates we reviewed. We used the kennels in conjunction with our various hunting pursuits. Most of the crates have seen thousands of miles and hundreds of hours of use. eXtreme Upland hunts with over thirty different dogs and ten different dog breeds; from smaller Springer Spaniels to larger retriever breeds. Our recommendations come down to those crates we felt offered the best value for our money, proved the safest, the most versatile, and best constructed. Additionally, we evaluated the effort it took to work with the different manufactures to gauge the people behind the crate's interest in servicing you their customer. 


There are some really good dog crate makers out there. Many of these dog crate manufacturers make products that are long-lasting and, in some cases, may last for a lifetime if properly cared for. The four crates we are recommending are worth the investment. They will certainly prove more spendy than a box store plastic crate, but over the long run, not only can they keep your dog safe but will prove more economical as you would only need to buy them once.


The crates aren’t listed in any particular order of preference, although each of the crates listed found favorability with different staff members/hunters within the evaluation for one reason or another. I believe you will find the review helpful. We would strongly encourage hunters to plan on purchasing a crate for Christmas. It is a perfect time to both upgrade your equipment and get something nice for you and your dog. We would also make ourselves available if you would like a more detailed or personal review. Please email me at the following and I will respond directly. 

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Crate Reviews


Our review included but was not limited to the following crates:


  • Dakota Kennels 283

  • Gunner Crates G1

  • Impact Dog crates

  • Rock Creek Crates

  • Lucky Duck Dog Crates

  • Ruff Tuff Kennels (Ruffland)

  • Primos

  • Zinger Winger PR4000

  • Owens Dog Box

  • KBC Kennels

  • MIM Variocage

  • The Diamond Deluxe


 After an intensive, real, hunting dog, environmental, hands-on review, the following four crate manufacturers were evaluated as our clear choice(s) for best crate options. Each of the following crates is worthy of your business and will serve you well:

  1. Gunner Kennel

  2. Dakota Kennels 283

  3. Lucky Duck

  4. Rock Creek

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Our experience with the Gunner Kennel was very positive! The company is reliably reachable to answer questions or address technical needs - they care about earning your business. The crates are solid and provide significant protection for your dog.


Gunner Crates provide a tough, reliably-constructed crate. Gunner is among only a few crate manufacturers boasting a five-star crash test rating. The double-wall construction has been tested to withstand 4,000 pounds of force without crushing. The crate arrived requiring some minimal assembly.


The Gunner crates feature water-repelling windows to prevent outside moisture. It is simple to maintain and nearly effortless to clean. The crate is designed to be easy to tie down and to be established in the back of a pick-up. We liked, and felt safe with the superior doors, latching assembly, and the secondary safety locking mechanisms.


Gunner Crates are everything that they claim to be. The crates are as good as they look in the advertisements. Hunters who will be utilizing the crates on a more permanent stationary basis (i.e., in the back of a pickup in concert with tie-down straps), will love the utility and protection of the crate. 

Possible Considerations:


Because of the crate’s wall thickness, they do have less interior room than one might expect. It is important when purchasing a Gunner crate to allow for added wall thickness, which may require a hunter to purchase a larger size than would be the case with other crate manufacturers.

While we appreciate the quality wall construction and moisture repellant air vent system, the kennel maintains a warmer temperature and less airflow ventilation during warmer weather conditions than other crate alternatives. We found we had to be careful to plan around warmer temperatures when transporting our dogs during the summer. Great for colder temperatures, however.


The Gunner is solidly constructed but is also much heavier to move around. I noticed, that at times, our hunters selected other crate options when going out on shorter hunting expeditions. When we inquired as to why our hunters' response was simply the added effort of loading and handling a much bulkier and heavier kennel. It may seem odd to provide the quality construction (thus heavier handling), as potential purchasing consideration, however, if you are going to be frequently loading dogs/crates in and out of vehicles or trailers it something to note.


The $700 price point isn’t insignificant for most consumers. On the positive side, the kennel is well worth the money if it fits into your budgeting plans. 



If you hunt in colder climates and will primarily keep the crate loaded in a stationary set-up (i.e., in the back of your pick-up), and safety, quality and a great company backing the product are important -and- if you can figure the $700 into your budget, The Gunner Crate is worth every penny and is a fantastic choice.

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The single-walled, one-piece roto-molded construction Dakota 283 Kennel is a crowd favorite. The crate is easy to handle, bolstering quality construction and unmatched utility. The crate door is high-end and maintenance was simple and easy to facilitate. The company has a fantastic response mentality and we found the Dakota kennel’s roots originated in the company’s ownership dedication to upland hunting.


Dakota has produced a stackable kit technology making multiple dog sets possible. The water drains and construction design make the crates the most innovative on the market. The airflow and lightweight construction helped safely transport our dogs in warmer weather.


The simplistic built-in handle, lightweight construction, and ingenious design made the kennel one of the most popular choices amongst our hunters. The Dakota crates got used more than any other kennel choice because it was easy to load, easy to clean, and the door is higher quality comparable to more expensively-priced crates.


In terms of price, value, and quality of construction the Dakota is a higher-end entry crate competing primarily with the Ruff Tuff Kennels.  The Dakota 283 vs the Ruff land Kennels are far and away the better option for your money.

Possible Considerations:


Dakota 283 crates are not designed or promoted as crash-test durable. High-anxiety dogs may find the ability to leverage inside construction mold points, chewing their way out of the material.


The awesome crate handle makes a great place to anchor the kennel but, in a crash situation, we wondered if the roto-mold material would handle the tie-down strap pressure. The Dakota is slightly more costly than the Ruff Tuff, which may give some consumers pause for consideration, however, our experience with the ease of use and side-by-side use of both kennels made the Dakota a clear winner.


Consumers seeking a more stationary crate with stronger crash test capabilities may find the Dakota 283 does not meet those expectations.




Consumers looking for a great value mobile dog crate should find the Dakota their product of choice. If you’re a dog owner that needs to load and unload kennels from different vehicles, trailers, in and out of the home, and or need to use your crate in various and differing uses, the  Dakota is an awesome choice/product selection.


We loved our experience with Dakota 283 crates!

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We came across the Lucky Duck Kennels later in our review process. What immediately caught our attention, was the fact that the kennel seemed to be constructed as a culmination of all the best features of other kennels we loved. Once we had a Lucky Duck Kennel in our possession, we were pleased to find that the feature set of the kennel was remarkably well designed. We proceeded to put the crate through the same process we had done with all other crates.


The single-sided, roto-molded construction promotes a lightweight design allowing for the crate to be easily loaded and unloaded, very similar to the Dakota Kennel. It is easy for one person to accomplish the maneuvering of the crate.


The door mechanism is of good quality and we appreciated the ability to have additional safety locks -both top and bottom- of the door. Sturdy tie-down strap locations are easily latched, and lifting handle locations are ideal for moving the kennel wherever it needs to be placed. In their words, “the quick-flip, injection-molded door can be reversed in seconds and comes with a locking paddle latch that opens and closes easily with just 1 hand.”


Inside the kennel is ample room for most hunting dog breeds with a moated floor, good draining capabilities, and adequate airflow ventilation. The folks at Lucky Duck are fantastic to work with and are very responsive.


The crate justifiably boasts a five-star crash test rating. The Lucky Duck Kennel is extremely popular with our hunters who enjoy its ease of use, the safety it provides, the non-slip rubber footings, and the nifty tie down ability. The clever design allows multiple kennels stacks. The kennels come with a manufacturer's lifetime guaranty.


Strategically-placed ventilation holes help keep your dog cooler on hot days. A pitched floor, side drain channels, and carefully-placed drain holes drain water and make cleanup faster and easier. Corner locking pins in the door provide added safety during transport. Stainless steel hardware throughout.


Possible Considerations:


High anxiety dogs may find the ability to chew through various molded injection points within the kennel. High-anxiety dog owners should likely select a high-anxiety metal dog crate instead.




Lucky Duck Kennels are a phenomenal kennel. They have the lightweight design of the Dakota Kennel 283, and the five-star crash test ratings of the Gunner/Rock Creek Kennels. The $499 price point strategically places the kennel as an optimal choice between the various options.


We thoroughly enjoyed our experience with Lucky Duck Kennel. If you’re a hunter who wants the mobility of lighter weight kennels, but the design quality and five-star crash test ratings of more expensive crate options, Lucky Duck is an optimal choice!

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Rock Creek Crates was imagined in a garage by Jed and Mike, two professional hunters/breeders of champion Golden Retrievers who were tired of replacing cheap plastic dog crates. In cooperation with the Carlsons, the team built set out to build the best metal dog crates on the planet. Mission accomplished!


The result is a dog crate with an internal welded frame resulting in the sturdiest metal dog crate on the market. The professionally designed crates were innovated from professional hunters/breeders building what they needed for their use and transportation of valuable hunting dog assets.


The crates sport ample room and ventilation, come standard with a non-corrosive powder-coated finish, and a 10-year warranty. The crates are ITAA compliant, offer a high anxiety version, and are five-star crash-tested crates.


As we used the crates to transport in and out of the field, it was apparent to our hunters the attention Rock Creek paid to the smallest quality detail. The professional door locks and assembly, the completely welded door construction, and the uniqueness of the frame assembly all speak to excellence.


Rock Creek Crates are surprisingly relatively lightweight. Rock Creek Crates have designed handles on both top ends of the crate allowing a hunter to easily move the kennel in and out of their pick-up, or to be hauled around effortlessly by two hunters. There is an innovative pull handle located on the front of the crate just below the door for adjusting the position of the kennels once placed in a pick-up or a trailer.


The crate’s material is lightweight yet durable. The construction proved ideal for transporting our dogs during warmer weather. The canvas optional crate coverings help insulate the dogs in colder weather requirements. The kennels have ample interior room and oftentimes we would use the crates to transport two dogs simultaneously.  The crates have well-designed drain holes for ease of cleaning and maintenance. 


Because of the company’s humble roots, Rock Creek is very responsive to their customer’s needs and are continually working to tweak any potentially needed modification(s).


Possible Considerations:


The price point of the Rock Creek Crates ($749) is pricier than some other plastic or composite crates product alternatives. The Rock Creek Crates are designed, however, for a lifetime of use as a proven five-star crash-tested product, to transport your dogs in and out of the field for decades to come. They need to be approached as a long-term quality investment. 




Rock Creek Crates are a remarkable, professional, and an attractive mobile dog transporting option. They look great, and the dogs love to ride inside of the well-proportioned interiors. The professional quality, and exceptionally well-designed full metal framing, make the Rock Creek Crate an excellent investment for many hunts to come.


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