Friday, March 19, 2010

Dog Gear Reviews

And now...a guest post from my best friend Auz about her dog's backpacking gear:

In this post, I'll be reviewing Adelae's backpack, boots, collar/leash set, food, travel bowls, and other things that pertain to our backpacking experiences with a dog.

Ruff Wear Quencher Bowl

This was a really good investment for traveling, but maybe not the best for backpacking. It holds a TON of water, which is good, because after a long hike, I can just fill it up and forget about it. The only downside is that it doesn't dry quickly and if you need to fold it up and stow it while on the trail, it can stay damp on the inside, which is a good place for mold to grow. After our stint on the AT in GA, the moisture did become an issue for me. I didn't see any mold, but I think that was because every night at camp, I would turn it inside out and try and let it dry as much as possible before we turned in for the night. I wouldn't suggest bringing this on the trail, it may be best to find other options. One that I will hopefully will be exploring soon is a product from Tazlab, "Aqua-fur."

I also purchased the same bowl in the cinch top. The same complaints as before, including the fact that it was really small for Adelae's head. It's not that she's a big dog, it's the fact that the opening to the bowl is so small, she blindly pushes the bowl around to try and get the food out of the fabric folds inside the bowl. It's hard to clean on the trail, because of the excess fabric on the inside, and I have really no use for the cinch top, because I carry her individual days in plastic baggies. Again, I wouldn't suggest bringing this on your trip, you might as well just use your water bowl as a food bowl double. Save weight and you can just rinse it and add water after your dog as eaten and be done with it.

Wolf Packs Banzai Dog Pack

This is the best investment I have ever made for backpacking with Adelae. Not only has this company been HAND making packs for decades, they really know what they're doing. The chest strap reaches across your dog's chest, not too high and not too low, creating very little room for shifting that would create friction or "rubbed" spots. The rear strap goes right behind your dog's ribcage, unlike other packs which lay by your dog's armpits. This set-up allows the weight to be properly distributed across the shoulders, and keep it there with little movement.

This high quality pack is made with Ballistic nylon bush guards that protect the side pockets, Cordura Plus nylon fabric for the body of the pack, and 3M Reflective Trim on the sides, to ensure visibility. Wolf Packs put a brilliant lashing option on the top of the pack, where you can put lightweight rolled blankets, mats or anything else you can think of. It works very well with stabilizing the saddle bags, especially if it is fully loaded. The Banzai is available in red, forest green, royal blue, purple, and orange. I have personally chosen the orange, because it's such a highly visible color in the wilderness.

Even if you're not the avid trail adventurer, a pack for your dog is still a great idea. Honestly, dogs love it! Especially dogs that have excess energy or need more stimulation, like a "job". Even on a 20 minute walk with a pack on, your dog is using significantly more energy than it would without the pack. Good for you and good for your dog!

How to get your dog familiar with a pack:

Maybe you're asking yourself, "What if I do get a pack for my dog, how much weight would I be able to comfortably put in the pack without causing injury or discomfort?" The rule of thumb is the pack should weigh at most 1/4 of your dog's body weight, evenly distributed across both side pockets and the back of the pack. If your dog is larger, or has been conditioned to carry heavy loads, you can go to 1/3 of your dog's body weight.

Conditioning your dog to comfortably wear the pack is important for your dog's health. First, put the empty pack on, and adjust it to make sure the pack will be properly positioned on their shoulders and that there is enough room for two of your fingers to be slipped under each strap. When your dog feels comfortable with the pack on, slowly add evenly distributed weight. Start light. Your dog isn't used to having anything on their back. After a few walks or trips around the house with that weight, you can start to slowly condition your dog for a fully loaded pack. Remember to take it in small increments, dogs have the tendency not to show pain or discomfort, so even if they're sore, they will still jump for joy when they see the pack coming out for a walk or hike!

Keep in mind that the pack, when partially or fully loaded, my sit differently on your dog, so be sure to re-check the straps once you have added or removed items in it.

For more information, ordering or to read their testimonies, check out their website at Wolf Packs

Lupine Trail Mix Adjustable Dog Collar & Leash Set

Ok, I'm totally in love with this design. I have the matching leash and key fob that go with the collar. So far, I haven't had any problems with fraying, it's easy to clean and I've gotten many compliments while on the trail. It's very appropriate for the outdoor savvy dog in your family. Not only does Lupine offer a lifetime guarantee on the collar, they have an excellent selection of products for you to choose from, depending on your mood or time of year; they have something for everyone. You seriously can't beat the free replacements for chewed items!

Bark'n Boots Grip Trex by Ruff Wear

Before I get into the review for these boots, which I do love, you have to consider conditioning your dog to be comfortable with wearing them. Not all dogs will let you introduce them to boots and be okay with them right away. It's the same as with the pack, you may have to take it slow and make it a positive experience. This can be stressful and overwhelming if your dog isn't used to things on their feet or are particularly sensitive with their feet. With that being said, let's review!

I really have nothing but positive things to say about these boots. They have saved Adelae's feet from ice and mulch. She doesn't wear them constantly on the trail since it's not really necessary. We only use them if there's ice on the ground or in the snow, since it can harbor icy spears in the dirt that only the soft inside of her feet can feel. Mulch is also a culprit for splinters and injuries, especially with a heavy pack going downhill. They stay on relatively well (as well as boots on a dog can stay on) and it was pretty rare that I had to stop and adjust a boot.

Considering the sizing; I did measure her feet to see what size she should have been and I'm glad that I didn't order them online before a trip and be disappointed and unsure of the correct fit. Measured, Adelae's size would have been between a Medium and Large, but when I went into REI and grabbed a Medium, they were WAY too big for her feet. So a Small was the appropriate size for her (after making multiple trips outside the store to see if they fit her, while Adelae waited patiently in the shade). Because of that, I would suggest fitting your dog well in advance to a trip (as well as getting your dog used to the boots)to avoid any returns or discomfort for your dog due to mis-sized boots.

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