The first in a series of gear reviews
I left on my first bicycle tour in March of 2009. I strapped a 60 liter travel backpack to my bicycle rack, bought $30 panniers and never looked back. I didn’t look into gear too extensively nor did I want to. For me, it was about learning as you go and taking the punches that go along with it. After 4,300 miles I definitely learned about myself and more importantly about my gear. Many items became obsolete and others became essential. Avenue now has 2,000 miles under her paws and I have a new found respect for Ruffwear Performance Dog Gear. The first harness I purchased for Avenue was from Ruffwear and it’s still going strong. I looked into similar products at Petsmart, Amazon, etc. Most looked like they would do the trick but the quality ultimately led me to purchase from Ruffwear. Looking back this was the best purchase of my life and Avenue’s as well. I contacted Ruffwear about 1000 miles into the tour and requested some kind of sponsorship. Within days they had sent a slew of products for Avenue to test. This post is dedicated to the amazing people at Ruffwear and more specifically to the amazing products that have stood the test of 2,000 miles of non-stop bicycle touring. Many thanks to Susan and Vince for supporting Avenue as we meander the world on our cycles. Below is a list of some badass gear.
The Highlands Bed is a key item to have if you have room for it. It packes down to roughly 11″ in length and 5″ in diameter. For those of you who own an Exped Downmat 7-UL LW (long and wide), this dog bed packs down to nearly the exact same size. In short this is a useful item to take with you if you have sufficient space. Keep in mind that as a bike tourist I am extremely limited on weight and space so this concern for space would not be an issue for any other type of outing. Avenue, like most dogs, loves to have a place to call her own. She knows exactly where to go when I throw this pad into our tent. The padding is thick enough to keep the cold ground from stealing her warmth and accompanied with a dog sleeping bag, this is an ideal solution for cold nights. I would recommend this product to keep your tent floor clean, keep the morning mountain dew from chilling your pup, or to simply give them security by providing them their own dedicated space. Combined with the Palisades Pack this bed can easily be carried by your pup. You could stuff it into one of the packs but I found it more simple to use the stuff sack and attach it with s-carabiners to the Palisades Pack. The stuff sack has sewn loops on the outer part allowing you to attach it easily to anything…I just put two and two together and attached it to the pack which also has sewn loops running along the top.
The Beacon simply put is a MUST HAVE. Before the Beacon I zip tied a bicycle light to Avenue’s harness. This was “okay” but the light was limited. I could not see her in the dark if she was facing me and it was a permanent addition to her harness meaning I could not take it off unless I cut the zip ties. The Beacon is a great design with three functions which light up any surrounding allowing me to keep a watchful eye on her without limiting her to a leash. I also run Avenue along side my bike by linking her to my leather belt with a carabiner. Having this light attached works wonders for cars, people, and simply gives me comfort-of-mind knowing she is clearly visible. I have not had any issues with this light in terms of water, battery life, or breaking parts. I would recommend taking the light off if your pup plans on swimming as I am not sure how well it would hold up submersed in water for long periods of time. This piece of equipment has been my favorite edition of Avenue’s gear.
This compact dog bowl is great for those limited on space and weight like myself. I carry Avenue’s bulk food in a Sea to Summit compression sack and leave this bowl full in an accessible place in my panniers. When we stop for lunch I can easily take this out, un-cinch the ties which enclose the top keeping the dog food secure, and plop it out for Avenue. The design is simple and would be a great addition to your pups gear.
This bowl along with the Quencher Clinch Top serves a great duo. The bowl is rigid enough to stand upright in any condition even when filled to the brim yet folds down small enough to put into a coat pocket. I love this water bowl, however, I wish it had more characteristics of Sea to Summit’s bowls which are not marketed to K9s. Again, since space is a huge issue with bicycle touring, items which compact smaller are more ideal. I ended up using the other bowl only for the fact that it compacts into a disk. With that said, this bowl will still remain a useful addition to Avenue’s gear and will be going along for the ride.
- Removable Saddlebags
- 2 hydration bladders (1 L capacity each)
- Load Compression System
- Balanced Assistance Handle
- Waterproof zippers
- Light loop for the Beacon
- Reflective seams
Right, to the best item on the list! Let me touch base once again on my thoughts regarding price and quality. This product is priced around $110.00-130.00 depending on where you shop. This may seem like a high price to pay but in actuality you are receiving two products for the price of one. Lets touch base on the design so I can clarify how this is the case. Located at the top of the harness is a four point buckle system, similarly, on the pack there are four buckles which connect to the harness. One can easily remove the packs from the harness making this ideal for anyone who would like the option of packs in case you find yourself needing to carry extra water, supplies, or other Ruffwear items for your pup. If you find your pup does not need to carry extra gear simply remove the packs and what you are left with is a modified version of the Web Master harness. The versatile and durable harness which, in my opinion, is the “poster product” for Ruffwear is hands down the best harness/pack on the market. Even after five miles of running everyday for over four months, Avenue has never shown signs of chaffing or balding around her underarms or stomach. Located on top of the harness is a stainless steel loop which has been sewn so tough you would be able to hook and hang a truck from it. After owning my first harness for over two years I have yet to see signs of structural wear. You may be wondering what I do with these when they are not on Avenue and we are bicycle touring…with a little innovation this also turned into a useful bike touring pack.
Yet another key element for keeping your pup visible and safe. The simple design of the Track Jacket easily allows you to throw this over the Web Master harness or Palisades Pack Harness. Basic, simple, and legit. Located at the top is a light loop for the Beacon. Reflective seams are an added bonus as this is already bright as day at night. I think this is a product every camping, hunting, or public safety dog should own.
This was the first product I purchased from Ruffwear. I have owned this harness now for over two years and Avenue has roughly run over 100 miles in this harness without signs of wear on Avenue or the harness. If you are absolutely positive you will not need packs for your pup then this would be the more economical way to go. For those of you on the fence, purchase the Palisades Pack because they are one in the same. Unlike other harnesses, the quality of these make it a one time purchase that will last your pups lifetime.
This last piece of gear I purchased for Avenue. It is just as, if not more, important as the items listed above. Waterproof, warm, and durable, the Cloud Chaser has kept my pup warm and sheltered from the winter rains of the west coast. We cycled over four weeks in straight rain. Avenue’s trailer is not protected from the elements so not to have this would have proved disastrous. This jacket easily fits over any harness while allowing 100% freedom to sprint, run, or curl up into a ball at night without constricting movement or comfort. Located at the top is a light loop similar to the Track Jacket and reflective seams providing added visibility. This is a simple choice to own if your pup does not have a thick set of fur.
Speaking off the top of my head, I would expect Ruffwear to have a sweet R&D department because my total experience with their product is epic. I sense the feeling of extreme thought on their behalf, countless hours of trial and error, and actual consumer feedback being applied to their gear. Their sizing charts are precise leaving no room for guess work. Their sewing quality is nothing short of perfect. Their customer service and company ethic are superb. Ruffwear Performance Dog Gear is a company worth supporting for the simple fact they rock the market with quality that leaves a true impression.
AS ALWAYS—YOU CAN FOLLOW THESE ADVENTURES ON INSTAGRAM