NOTHING PINK, NOTHING DAINTY. When venturing outdoors with your four-legged friend, there are serious gear options to consider. The frugal-minded might wonder why a collar and leash aren’t good enough for a camping or backcountry adventure. Well, imagine no longer carrying your dog’s food, water, treats and other necessities.
Ruff Wear makes some of the best dog packs on the market today. Emerson, my eight-year-old Siberian husky, has been using a Palisades Pack(tm), known as the “ultimate backcountry” pack, since 2004, including a seven-mile hike to Mirror Lake in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. When he sees the pack come out of storage, he knows he’s in for the best vacation ever.
Based in Bend, Oregon, Ruff Wear knows how to make dog gear that endures Northwest wilderness conditions. The newest version of the Palisades Pack(tm) ($95.95) is even easier and more practical to use. With detachable saddlebags, waterproof zippers, reflective trim, load compression, two hydration bladders and a five-point adjustable fit, my dog hardly seems to notice he’s carrying his own gear. Moreover, the underlying Web Master(tm) harness gets double use for skijoring or pulling/running alongside my mountain bike.
For a less rugged trip, Ruff Wear’s Approach Pack(tm) (up to $69.95, depending on size) is a good choice. Although it has fewer features than the Palisades and includes non-detachable saddlebags, it provides the same function – a way for your pet to pack it in and pack it out.
Of course, the pack doesn’t travel empty. In addition to dog food, a lightweight water bowl is an essential item. Two great options are Canine Hardware’s Hydro Bowl(tm) ($5.99-7.99) and Olly Dog’s über-fashionable ones ($14-20). Both companies offer them in three different sizes, and their bowls are actually waterproof enough to hold in the water.
For treats on the trail, it really doesn’t get much better than Zuke’s ($4-16) – all natural and made in the USA. Zuke’s Power Bones(r) ($5.59) are like energy bars for your dog to eat before, during and after vigorous exercise. Emerson and his little “cousin,” Kenai, also recommend the Hip Action(r) with Glucosamine & Chondroitin and the lightweight, high-protein Z-Filets(r), especially the Glazed Chicken. For ultra-light travel, the Jerky Naturals (6 ounces per package) and Mini Naturals (6 or 16 oz. packages) are tasty, based on my huskies’ lip licking, and both come in salmon flavor, among others.
Finding a rugged collar is easy. Olly Dog makes a waterproof Marin Collar ($19-21), while Stunt Puppy has a Dry Collar(tm) ($21), which is odor proof as well as waterproof. It’s made of BioThane(r), described as “virtually indestructible.” Ruff Wear’s DoubleBack(tm) Collar ($19.95) and Leash ($29.95) are exceptionally strong, and I liked the locking carabiner that attaches the leash to the collar’s anodized buckle. The hand loop can be attached to a human backpack’s lumbar strap, although for a real hands-free leash option while hiking or running there are two notable choices that include a waist belt. Stunt Puppy’s Stunt Runner(tm) ($35) is unique with its “Flexible Connector” – basically a bungee to reduce tension for when your dog pulls. Although without the cool bungee-like technology, the Liston brand Dog-On Easy Combo ($30) has a more comfortable nylon webbing waist belt and a longer leash portion.
While perhaps not as essential, dog booties are occasionally a good idea for protecting your dog’s paws from long-term exposure to ice, heat or sharp rocks. Ruff Wear’s Bark’n Boots(tm) Grip Trex(tm) ($59.95, set of four) with Vibram(r) soles are impressive, even if your dog does some high-step prancing before getting accustomed to them.
For car camping (or even backpacking, if it fits in your dog’s pack – or yours), there are two great travel bed options. Emerson immediately preferred Olly Dog’s Plush Pad ($35.00) over his well-used previous favorite from Costco. This two-color reversible, fleece bed comes in multiple sizes and rolls up nicely for packing and storage. But a few days later, I offered him Canine Hardware’s Travel Bed ($39.99), a 30×39 inch bed reminiscent of the North Face Cat’s Meow. Since the old guy’s already partial to my goose down sleeping bag (bad dog!), this dog-friendly version made him deliriously happy. Although it comes with its own stuff sack, it’s not lightweight enough to take into the backcountry.
As for toys, there are a few that are compact and lightweight enough to be worth the effort, such as Canine Hardware’s Chuckit! Pocket Ball Launcher (only 12.25 inches long; ball included) or their Amphibious Flying Ring.
For those who desire more bling for their dog (and don’t already have a GPS), the Garmin Astro 220/DC 20 GPS Dog Tracking System ($599.95) qualifies. According to the product details at REI.com, every five seconds it relays back your dog’s position and indicates if he or she is “running, sitting, on point, or treeing quarry from sensor information inside DC 20 transmitter.” Hunters and other off-leash recreationists take note: each GPS unit can be used with up to 10 dogs (each wearing a transmitter).
Another indulgent option is the Croozer Dog Trailer ($250). Weighing only 31 pounds, it can hold up to 100 pounds – so, like ten Chihuahuas or one really lazy Labrador Retriever.
Locally, REI and Mountain Gear as well as Urban Canine, a specialty pet boutique in Spokane, carry some of these items. And after spending most of your tax refund to outfit your dog, go splurge what’s left on yourself.