When you escape the office and break your furry friend out of the doghouse, adventure will nearly always ensue. But long days outside navigating rugged terrain can take a toll not only on you, but on your pup as well.
You’ve probably kitted yourself out with fancy trail runners or hiking shoes, a hydration vest, and a rain shell to fend off the elements—but what about your dog? Outfitting your dog properly can make the difference between a pleasant backcountry weekend and having to carry your dog back to civilization over miles of rugged terrain.
We love the brand Ruffwear, which creates products for four-legged customers, be they working guide dogs, rescue dogs, avalanche dogs, or just Fido next door. We’ve selected a few of our favorite Ruffwear products and paired them with photos and excerpts of product reviews from Backcountry.com customers and employees. These are the Ruffwear products our pack can’t live without!
Left to right: Oliver, Hank, and Deso ready for doggie adventure.
You may have seen ridiculous YouTube videos of dogs trying out their Ruffwear Bark’n Boots Grip Trex Booties for the first time, but these fancy boots are essential for dogs headed out on lengthy treks. Grippy Vibram outsoles protect your dog’s paw pads from abrasion and prevent snow and ice from balling up between them.
Customer Serendipitie and her very photogenic Hank are big fans. “Not taking him hiking was just not an option, so I decided to invest in the Ruffwear boots for him. These are almost crucial on some of the desert hikes we go on, protecting him not only from sharp rocks, but cholla cactus and the hot ground as well! He also has added traction with the boots on, allowing him to almost stick to the side of slippery rocks when climbing.”
Customer Service Gearhead Cory D. grabbed a set for her buddy Oliver, who accompanies her on many long days down in southern Utah for her geology field work. “Though he looks like a total dork in them, these boots are the answer to our problems. He’s a little confused each time I put them on, but after a few awkward prances he is ready to hike all day long.“
Left to right: Gracie, Cash, and Baya (and Baya’s human, employee Alyssa F.)
The Ruffwear Hoopie Collar is a stylish and tough collar with an easy side-release buckle, two separate attachments for a leash and ID tags as well as a silicone tag silencer to ease the jangle on the ears. Scott L. really appreciates this feature: “Before the silencer, we’d have to rig up some rubber bands to keep those tags together to prevent them from clangin’. Not anymore!”
Julie W. comments, “The collar is very light and thin. Initially I thought it would not be as durable as prior collars we have used, but to my surprise it holds up well.” Another bonus is the adjustability of the Hoopie collar.
Backcountry employee Alyssa F. explains why she purchased this collar for her puppy Baya: “The sizing range on this collar is huge! I bought the large for my pup so she could grow into it.”
Bandit and Gracie demonstrate the Flat Out Dog Leash in action
Pair the Ruffwear Flat Out Dog Leash with the Hoopie Collar and you have a solid combo. The Flat Out Leash features an easy-to-use clip, an adjustable padded handle you can also attach to your waist for running, and an oh sh*t loop near the collar where you can grab your pup should she react to cars, other dogs, or an irresistible squirrel. Scott L. praises the attachment clip saying “Of all the leashes I’ve used, the ease of the Talon Clip design is way ahead of its time. At six feet long, the Flat Out leash obeys all the leash laws.”
Lauren S. was a bit worried about attaching her dog Bandit to her waist, but she came around: “Before, I was wondering, ‘do I really want to be that nerdy person attaching a dog to my waist?’ Give it a shot … we were those skeptical folks and have been completely impressed!”
For all the doggie paddlers out there both recreational and professional
For water dogs we recommend the Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat; if you log long days dog-paddling on the water or your dog is a new swimmer, the Float Coat is an essential. User Umicheng gushes, “We love this float coat for our Australian shepherd pup! She was so fearful of swimming the first few months so we bought this for her. She started swimming immediately once she realized the assistance the jacket provided. Now she’s jumping off docks!”
Chris H. uploaded a shot of his German Shepard Hope in action. “This is my dog Hope assisting local law enforcement. We love her Ruffwear Float Coat. Great fit and safety!”
Scott L. grabbed his dog Gracie a Float Coat because he found the coat helped Gracie keep her head above water when she grew tired.
A pack worthy of the pack
A huge hike or backpacking trip is all the more enjoyable with a four-legged friend. Even better, a friend who can carry his own chow and water! The Ruffwear Palisades Pack has generously sized removable saddle bags, included water bags, and a comfy, adjustable harness. AJ S. states, “The separate harness is a great feature! I typically leave it on once we reach camp, as the handle is convenient for lifting over big logs/boulders or out of the water when needed.”
Avid hiker Leigh says of her Airedale terrier, “She loves it, and had no issues wearing it with a week’s worth of food. You do have to be pretty careful to make sure the load is even, and I still had to adjust it every once in a while, but it works like a champ! The added water bladders were great, too! I loved that I could unclip the pack itself and it doubled as a bear bag to hang the dog food!”
Another crafty customer employs his Jack Russell terrier to carry out the bagged dog poop and dirty diapers to practice Leave No Trace principles while backpacking. One last tip: never load a dog with more than 25% of its total body weight.
Softshells aren’t just for humans anymore.
For four-season dogs of all shapes and sizes there’s the Ruffwear Cloud Chaser Dog Softshell. A hiking enthusiast says “This coat is high quality and the XXS fits my 7lb Yorkie perfectly. It’s been to the top of 14ers, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, and on numerous day hikes.”
Conservation biologist Lauren K. and her intrepid dog Doc don’t let frigid temps slow them down in the winter. Lauren states, “Doc loves his softshell and loves that it can be layered with his Webmaster Harness — He reminds all dogs that layering isn’t just for humans! It seems to breathe super-well for him (from what I can tell reaching under it when we stop) and cuts the wind—he doesn’t hunker down behind trees in windy spots anymore when we’re knocking out 4000 footers in NH.”
Community all-star Brandon Riza outfits his Aussie shepherd Neutron when exploring the Sierras in California. Brandon admits, “When I tell my climber friends that my dog has a softshell, they raise eyebrows skeptically, but this thing is full-on. What it most definitely prevents are the dreaded fur, clot, balls-of-ice…thing…that happens on her belly. Actually, sometimes I don’t wanna put it on her, because watching her try to walk and the look on her face when she’s trying to process the meaning and consequences of the cantelope-sized spherical orbs that build up like so many dangling snowmen on her chest and belly fur is just downright hilarious.” But of course, Neutron need not worry because Brandon always outfits her and her sister Kali with the Cloud Chaser Softshells.
Oliver and Indy, keeping their cool.
For hot climates, Ruffwear offers up the Swamp Cooler Dog Vest. Soak it with a squirt or three from your water bottle, and the process of evaporation will help to lower the core temp of your dog when the sun is beating down. Backcountry.com Gearhead Cory D. outfits her dog Oliver in the Swamp Cooler for all her adventures in Southern Utah. “Oliver insists on joining me on every adventure, but it’s ‘ruff’ out there for a black doggie in the sun. He was constantly huffing and puffing and refusing to leave shady alcoves along the trail. This Ruffwear Swamp Cooler vest was the answer to our problems. After pulling on his new outfit, a few intermittent squirts of water along the way are all it takes to keep him cool and happy all day long.”
Nicole H. and her dog Indy wouldn’t venture outside in the summer months if it weren’t for Indy’s vest. “Since we started using the swamp cooler vest I have noticed a significant difference in his energy level and panting while outdoors. When you place your hand on his back underneath the vest you can feel the difference; his fur is cool and airy. Indy knows that when his vest comes out, it’s time for an adventure.”
Have a piece of doggie gear you couldn’t live without? How about tips to keep your pooch happy in the wilderness? Leave us a comment below!