Published on June 3rd, 2011 | by Rita0
Ruff Wear: Smart Hiking For Dogs
One of my favorite things to do is hike. Living in Hawaii makes hiking a year-round activity for me, and in the last few months I’ve found myself in the company of a very sweet greyhound/collie named Nai’a. She also likes to hike, and so it has become something of a staple in our weekly routine.
Some of you may remember that I am also a rock-climber, which means that Nai’a has often found herself hiking up very steep inclines, and over large boulders. These types of activities cause everyone involved to huff and puff a bit harder than normal, and drink far more water than your average walk in the park.
The people I hike with all carry Camelbak hydration systems, and we have all mused that it would be great if Nai’a could do the same. Needless to say, everyone was quite excited to have the Singletrak Pack from Ruff Wear show up for Nai’a to wear.
The Singletrack Pack works much like any hydration backpack system, except it’s specifically for dogs. It comes in three different sizes, so you will need to get out a flexible tape measure (the kind you sew with is ideal) and take a few measurements before ordering one of these for your own pooch. The harness system has five points of adjustability for a customized fit, and buckles in two different places. While the straps are a bit fiddly to figure out, once you’ve got it adjusted there is nearly no need to readjust. Don’t worry about pulling straps snug—each strap around the waist, ribs, and chest are all very well padded. In fact, you’ll find that the bag works best when fit well; too loose means it will sag to one side or the other. The material is designed to be very breathable, and the overall fit of the bag is slim. Nai’a had no trouble adapting to the extra width.
Two bladders come with the Singletrack, both are .5L Platypus bottles, which are BPA and taste free, with a sport-bottle type valve, that pop open and close. They fit nicely in the zippered pouches on the flanks of the pack. For shorter hikes we fill one bottle and put a ziplock baggie of food and her bowl in the other. (Ruff Wear offers several different pack and harness options, so if you need a bag that can hold enough stuff for a multi-day hike be sure to look through all of their different packs.)
Clean up for both the pack and the bottles is easy. The pack is machine washable in cold water on a gentle cycle, and I hang dry it, much like all of my other bags. The water bottles get rinsed and washed in mild soap, inflated and set out to dry completely after each hike.
Obvious benefits of this bag aside, some of the best features of this pack are discovered only by field use. There is a handle on the top of the harness that works extremely well for helping Nai’a up and down larger boulders and jumps than she might be comfortable attempting on her own. Wearing this pack has both increased her confidence level in her own ability, and has allowed us to take her into valleys and up to waterfalls that have been strictly off-limits before. Everyone has noticed that she requires less help as she gets stronger as well. It’s worth mentioning that you shouldn’t ever have a dog carry more than 25-30% of their own body weight, and it’s best to work them up to a full load. Much like people, dogs need time to condition and build up strength.
The Singletrack Pack can be found on the Ruff Wear website for about $90, and on Amazon for a little over $100. It comes in two colors, both orange (good if you’re hiking in areas where there may be hunters) and brown, and both have 360 degrees of reflectivity, helping to insure that your best four-legged friend will be visible, even in the dark. Happy trails!