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July 2023

Ruffwear Gear Review: Taking Best Friends into the Backcountry

Gear Reviewer: Kevin Black @greatislandadventures

Backpacking and exploring has been one of the most important things in my life the last few years and when I adopted my newest puppy Cedar I knew he would be joining me on the majority of my adventures.

The first year of his life I carried all of his gear on our adventures but as he grew I wanted him to be carrying his own gear so I started researching brands of different packs available for a dog his size. It was important to me that the pack had good organization, a leash loop, handle for the harness, and was made of a durable material that would withstand some abuse.

Having previously used other Ruffwear gear I knew their quality was top tier and I decided on the Ruffwear Approach Pack. This pack is well designed with many well thought out features such as;

  • Two leash attachment points
  • A handle for helping guide your dog up or down steep terrain.
  • Reflective piping for those early morning starts or late night finishes, as well as a loop to attach a light on the top.
  • Zippers that won't get undone accidentally when your best friend is bashing through the bush off trail to the hidden lake in the alpine

Having a proper fit is extremely important and Ruffwear nailed the sizing on these packs.

Cedar fits into a size small at 40 lbs. The pack has 5-way adjustability on the padded straps to get the perfect fit so your pup won't be irritated during their hikes. The pack has 4 pockets and gear loops on the top that can be utilized. Packing the Approach Pack is simple and you should follow the same general principle as packing your own backpack with heavier items close to your body. The Approach Pack does an excellent job at this by keeping the weight forward on your dog and having elastic straps on the bottom to hook Into the padded straps underneath to stop the bags from flopping around when running.

Equally as important as a proper fitting bag is having foot protection. With longer days on sharp rocks I knew I had to protect Cedar's feet. We did one hike last year and he unfortunately cut a pad which required me to carry him out to minimize suffering. This is also a good time to mention carrying a dog specific first aid kit, you can keep this kit inside your pups pack!

Since I knew Ruffwear made a quality product I chose to get Cedar the Grip Trex boots. Having used climbing shoes and hiking boots with Vibram soles I knew they could take punishment, the Grip Trex also used a Vibram sole so I knew they would be perfect for cedar. Most dogs will not find the boots natural and they will take some getting used to. I suggest doing an activity your dog loves to get them used to having them on their paws. You want them to think of the activity and not the boots. For Cedar, I took him to a spot to run after a ball. Within minutes the foreign feeling of the boots was gone and he was focused on his task of getting the ball.

The boots are also very breathable with mesh on top to keep dirt and other debris out. Cedar loves to swim and the boots did not slow him down at all, they stayed on his feet and dried quickly. The boots are secured with velcro making them easy to adjust tightness and there are no laces to get caught on branches on the trail.

Sizing is also quick and easy!

It is important to note that your dog's paws might not be the same size - Cedar has slightly larger front paws so two different sizes were ordered. Ruffwear did a great job in making it easy to tell the different sizes apart by making the velcro strap slightly thicker on the larger ones.

I opted to also get the Ruffwear Bark'n Boot liners as Cedar has dew claws and they helped keep the boots on better. The liners are made to be quick drying and provide additional comfort to your dog's paws.

Ruffwear has done an excellent job in creating products that allow me to take my best friend into the mountains for multiple night trips and explore areas that are not frequented by the average person. I am very happy that I can find them at my local Valhalla Pure Outfitters store so I am able to confirm the sizing on him before purchasing.

Cedar has been loving this combo of boots and pack as he knows once they go on that it is time to go on another great adventure into the Vancouver Island Alpine.