Here at Tales of a Mountain Mama, we are all about quality outdoor gear for our families….including the four-legged members! We have put together a list of our most-trusted dog packs, jackets, collars, bowls, and other important gear for our hiking dogs.
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As a small animal veterinarian who lives in the mountains of western North Carolina, I enjoy educating my clients and friends about best practices when hiking with their dog. The conversation primarily centers around preventing injuries and illness while hiking, but I always stress the importance of keeping your dog both cool and hydrated in summer and warm enough in winter.
While dogs have a higher core temperature than humans and a fur coat in their possession at all times, they are certainly prone to hypothermia in the right conditions.
So when D-Fa dogs provided me with their cleverly named Puff Doggy to try and review, I was very excited to see if it lived up to my expectations.
The jacket, which is a cross between a puffy jacket and a sleeping bag, was designed in New Zealand for dogs who work with avalanche rescue groups. I was intrigued by something that could double as both a jacket and a sleeping bag for my dog, Josie, since I oftentimes bring a down jacket for her on our cool weather backpacking trips.
Josie isn’t used to wearing any type of jacket and was still recovering from a recent shoulder surgery, so I wasn’t quite sure how well she would take to the whole thing. Would she be as excited about wearing her fashionable new duds as I was, or would it be an exercise in frustration, only to be achieved with a pocketful of her favorite treats to coerce her?
I’m happy to report that both she and I loved her coat! It fit snugly to her body, but not so tight that it was restrictive. The design of the coat lended itself well to her deep chest, but Stunt Puppy’s “Fit-To-Move” design lends itself well to all body types, with simple adjustments to the cam buckles and straps under her sternum.
There are elastic loops for her legs and tail, both of which I’d only use if she was using her coat to sleep in a tent at night. Otherwise they may have annoyed or rubbed her skin if she was using them while walking, but they would effectively keep the jacket from shifting and sliding if she were sleeping in it.
As much as I wish she could verbally tell me if she thought it was warm, her panting shortly after I put it on was a good indicator that it was indeed keeping her toasty! To be fair, it was a warmer-than-average fall day, but it was undoubtedly providing a quick acting layer of warmth.
The quality of construction was impressive. I couldn’t find any areas of loose or unraveling stitching. The jacket is constructed of an outer layer of lightweight water and wind resistant fabric (Pertex) which helps the inner insulation layer of Thinsulate stay dry, even if a dog is lying on damp ground.
The Puff Doggy is easy to transport too, packing down into its own internal pouch. It weighs in at 11-1/2 ounces (I have the large size) and is machine washable, which is music to my ears since Josie tends to find the muddiest spot in the woods to plant herself!
All in all, I was most impressed with this jacket and look forward to using it on our winter hiking and backpacking trips soon!
I have been using a compressible dog bowl on my hikes that I bought over 20 years ago when I completed an internship in Alaska. I am quite attached to it because it conjures up memories of a frigid winter day when I watched the Yukon Quest dog sled race finish on the frozen Chena River, which is where I bought the bowl as a souvenir.
My fond remembrance of when I bought the bowl, however, is about the only thing that makes it worthy of keeping. It leaks water because there’s no liner in it, so it makes everything damp it comes in contact with in my backpack. It is also very big, too big really, and it adds unnecessary weight to my pack.
Clearly I was in need of an upgrade, but I had no idea if another bowl would have features different enough to make it more worthy of replacing something I love, despite its deficit of functionality.
It’s a bittersweet proclamation to make, but Stunt Puppy’s Nano bowl has, without question, stolen my heart. In short, it rocks!
The bowl weighs just under an ounce, it folds up on itself into something smaller than a deck of cards, and even has an elastic cord closure–perfect for tucking away in my pocket for quick access. It also has a waterproof liner, so gone are the days of my old bowl leaking and dampening other stuff in my pack!
I was initially skeptical that the bowl would be big enough for Josie to eat or drink from easily, but she quickly put that to rest. Her muzzle fit just fine and she didn’t seem bothered at all by the smaller size than what she had become accustomed to with her old bowl.
The liner easily shed the remaining water, and when it was folded up there was no leakage in my pocket. It would be just as simple to fill it with food and wipe it clean of any kibble crumbles.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t want to like this bowl because I knew it would mean replacing one of the more sentimental pieces of gear I’ve hiked with for two decade. I certainly didn’t expect to replace the old one unless it had some features I couldn’t live without going forward.
I imagine you can easily guess which one will find a permanent home in my pack now. The Stunt Puppy Nano Bowl is a solid winner in my eyes. Maybe I’ll bronze my old dog bowl like parents used to do with their kids’ baby shoes, to forever immortalize it!
Up next, team member Ginny gives us the scoop on a personalized custom collar from Stunt Puppy and Ruffwear’s Clear Lake Blanket
When I agreed to review Stunt Puppy’s Custom Artist Dog Collar, I was curious, but not overly excited. It was just a dog collar, right? I was SO. WRONG. This is the most awesome dog collar. EVER.
First, they asked me to describe my dog, Scotty in a few words and include a quirky detail. That’s it. Just a few words. I told them:
“Scotty is a 16 year old, black, male, border collie/husky mix. He’s a retired adventure dog and has been camping, hiking and backpacking in the Northwest, Rocky Mountains and Canada. His longest trip was 100 miles and he was so tired one day that he fell asleep in the middle of a pile of horse s**t on the trail. He loves hunting gophers, birds and anything small and furry. He also loves snow (part husky).”
I pretty much lost my mind when I received Scotty’s Personalized Custom Artist Collar in the mail. It was SO COOL and PERFECT for him. His name is printed in a graphic, along with some mountains, all around the collar. It’s not embroidered on like I expected; it’s actually part of the woven fabric.
The colors are brilliant and bright, and despite over a year of use, the collar has shown absolutely zero fading or wear. The material is silky and soft, which didn’t stick or get covered in hair – even with Scotty’s husky-like, super-thick undercoat.
Stunt Puppy is known for their Everyday Collar, which is the same style as the Custom Artist Collar. It’s made of a soft, nylon webbing, with the same extra-strong stitching used in climbing harnesses and heavy-duty buckles. It’s a beefy, tough collar that would hold up to big doggy adventures for his/her lifetime.
The double D-rings are a clever design: the one under the neck is for tags to hang, and, courtesy of gravity, and the other is actually in a convenient place to clip the leash to behind the head.
Since Scotty has crossed the Rainbow Bridge, this custom collar has become a precious keepsake to me. I never expected it to be such a touching memorial, but it reminds me of his adventurous spirit and a life well-lived.
If you know someone who loves their adventure dog, this Personalized Custom Artist Collar will make an amazing gift that will last for a doggy lifetime, and beyond.
Don’t want to pay the extra money for a personalized collar? Check out the cool designs on their Everyday Collars. It’s the same high-quality collar, without the customization!
Here in Montana, the sun sets before 5:00pm in the winter, and doesn’t rise until almost 8:00am, which means we do a lot of hiking, running, skiing, and playing in the dark.
It’s hard to spot a dog in the dark, both on the trail and in the neighborhood. I cover my child’s bike in lights, so I figure I should cover my dog in lights too! Having a good light gives me peace of mind that I’ll be able to find my dog in the campsite at night, and that she will be visible to cars, bikes, and other hikers.
I’ve used many different collar lights over the years, but they all have their drawbacks. The ones that clip onto a collar or harness are great, but are just not visible for 360°, especially if your dog is running away from you. Others aren’t bright enough.
The Nite Ize LED Safety Necklace is BRIGHT. It has the best 360° visibility I’ve been able to find in a dog light. The light can be solid, or flashing and the batteries last forever.
The Safety Necklace is universal-fit, so you can trim it to the perfect length for any sized dog. I cut ours so that it would just slide right over our dog’s head for easy on/off.
Because dogs are hard on equipment, weather resistance is important. We have never had any kind of problem in a year of heavy use in snow, rain, or mud. This thing is tough!
Note – it may look like one, but this is NOT a dog collar. It’s a light that is worn like a necklace, in addition to a dog collar. Don’t treat it as a replacement for your dog’s current collar!
I used cheap leashes for years and never had a problem. But my views on leashes changed after we acquired a rescue-pup, who turned out to be a regular Houdini. We have been through 3 different leash systems in the last 3 months, trying to find something she can’t chew through.
I’m so thankful we found CragDog!
Climbing rope is thick and tough, and has been the only material we have found that our pup can’t snap in half in 3 seconds flat. The bombproof design is equally at home hiking on the trail, cruising the downtown sidewalks, or hitching our pup to a tree in camp.
But I’ll be honest: it’s not just about the simplicity and extreme durability of the leash… CragDog is a cool company, too.
Their leashes are made of recycled climbing rope, meaning your leash has bonafide adventure cred, but also stays out of the landfill. You can even get a version with an up-cycled carabiner.
CragDog leashes are also made in the USA, and CragDog gives 30% of every purchase back to the climbing community. That just gives us warm-fuzzies, knowing this leash will do some doggone good.
Maybe it’s the result of “mom-brain” that I forget things all the time. I can attest, that there is nothing worse than being out for a hike or a walk, than when your pup squats to do their business and you belatedly realize you left all your doggie bags at home.
It’s happened to all of us at least once!! You can easily make sure you always have your bags going forward, thanks to a little piece of leash ingenuity: the Stash Bag.
I’ve always hated those big plastic poop-bag dispensers you get at pet stores. They dangle annoyingly off the leash, the hooks break easily, the lids fall off, and it’s a struggle to get bags out of the little dispenser hole.
The Stash Bag fixes every one of these issues. It has a 2-point attachment, so you can clip it to your backpack or directly on the leash with no dangling. Mine lives on my leash.
It has both zipper access for loose bags, as well as a dispenser slot for a full bag-roll. There’s a little extra stash space, so you can clip in your bulky car keys, or pack a couple treats for your pup.
Make sure you have one of these on your leash, and you’ll never have to worry about forgetting dog bags again. Then you can focus on packing the important things, like extra snacks!
Why does your dog need a pack? If you are backpacking with the family, it’s a no-brainer that your dog can save YOU some weight by carrying their own food, leash, bowls, and gear. If you are day hiking, your pup can carry their own water, leash, and poop bags.
I’ve also trained my dogs to recognize that they are “working” when that dog pack goes on, and they should stay on the trail with me, instead of tearing off after every squirrel they see (although those squirrels are so tempting that they occasionally forget). That means the pack goes on every time we are hiking.
Ruffwear is the top name in adventure gear for dogs for good reason: their packs fit extremely well and they are extremely durable.
We have used Ruffwear dog packs for both of our adventure pups. In 17 years of hard use, I’ve only needed two dog packs (One lasted 12 years). We have taken our dogs on backpacking trips throughout the Cascades and Rockies: from day hikes, to summit attempts, to 100-mile wilderness slogs. Ruffwear packs are built to last and will keep going, long after you and your pup are exhausted and ready to head home!
The Approach Pack has been my go-to. The Palisade Pack is their biggest, but not wanting to overload my dog with gear, I’ve found the Approach Pack is just the right size for both backpacking and day hiking.
In general, a dog shouldn’t carry more than about 25% of their body weight. For a 50lb dog, that’s about 12lb of food and gear.
In a size Medium, it holds 14L, divided over 2 panniers. That’s more than enough space for several days of food, leashes, bowls, dog first-aid supplies. There’s also 2 small top pockets to provide easy access to poop bags and small treats.
The Approach Pack is constructed of a heavy-duty 420-denier rip-stop nylon, which is the same material used in a high-quality backpack. It has reflective piping and the zippers are bomb-proof.
While it’s important to pack the panniers with even weight on both sides, the pack makes it easy with a a 5-point adjustable fit padded harness, which helps stabilize the load. It doesn’t slip, regardless of what kind of steep terrain you are tackling. The harness is easy on/off, with 2 side-buckles.
My favorite feature is the grab handle. It makes it easy to assist your dog over big rocks or logs, or quickly gain control of your pup when you see an approaching horse or mountain bike.
The Ruffwear Approach Pack is hands-down the best dog pack on the market today, both in terms of design and durability. We can’t recommend it highly enough!
If you hike during the Fall season, hunters are a real danger for both you and your dog. Humans wear blaze orange out on the trail to be more easily identifiable, so your dog should too.
We love the Ruffwear Track Jacket for making sure our pup is seen in low-light conditions and through the brush. We have used ours for many years, hiking in Colorado and Montana, where hunting season is long.
The vest is made of a durable waterproof polyester, so it won’t get snagged in the brush and it sheds mud and debris. It’s very lightweight, so even with our dogs’ thick coats, we never have to worry about either of them getting too hot.
The vest stays put, even when our dog finds a perfectly smelly spot or something dead to roll in, thanks to adjustable, elastic side straps. (Thankfully, it’s washable too.)
Bonus: When we run with our dog after dusk, this vest is reflective, making us both more visible to traffic! The brighter the better!
Ruffwear was kind enough to send me their new Clear Lake Blanket to test out for my extra-senior retired adventure dog, Scotty. Scotty is a border collie/husky mix, with a VERY thick coat. He is a snow dog, who loves cross country skiing with his people!
He almost never showed signs of being chilly, even when it was single digit weather, until he turned about 12. Getting old is hard though, and he started losing a lot of body fat in his senior age. Now, at 16, he gets cold and shivers when he’s camping in our tent and it’s in the 30s or low 40s.
I currently throw one of my jackets over him, but seeing as he sheds everywhere and loves to roll in mud and dead stuff, this obviously isn’t my preferred option! I was excited to try a dog-specific blanket!
The Clear Lake Blanket comes in a stuff-sack, similar to what you might expect with a sleeping bag, or a Rumpl down blanket, and it packs down quite small. When I first unpacked it, the first thing I noticed was the very tough build (well… that and the vibrant huckleberry color, which I love).
I was impressed with how thick and tough the material was. Clearly, it was designed with claws and teeth in mind. The edges are sewn with a thick nylon webbing material, so the blanket won’t fray at the edges with puppy abuse or light chewing. The ripstop nylon also sheds hair. Hallelujah!
That’s one problem with “human” blankets: they usually have a softer material on one side that dog hair clings to. Scotty sheds both his long outer coat and his thick undercoat, which sticks to everything like velcro… except for this blanket! I was super happy! (Of course, now that hair ends up on my tent floor, instead of stuck to a blanket, but at least a tent shakes out!)
The insulation is light and stays put, without bunching up in the corners of the baffles, even after being shoved in and out of the stuff sack a million times.
I’ve had the chance to demo this blanket for a little over a month, and it amazingly, still looks brand new. After I first unpacked the blanket, I set it out on the living room floor. Scotty came right over and, almost like a cat in a box, just hopped right on and made himself at home.
We’ve used the versatile Clear Lake Blanket in quite a few different situations: I keep it in the back of my Jeep for Scotty to lay on in the car, he snuggled in it in the front seat of a freezing U-haul during an early Colorado snow storm, and we covered him with it on a freezing night, listening to the elk bugle and star gazing.
It’s also made a great temporary bed as we have travelled, both in tents and in hotels. Most importantly, it’s helped him to keep him warm and cozy when the mercury drops outside. He tends to shiver when he sleeps in his dog jackets because he isn’t fully covered.
The Clear Lake Blanket gives better coverage, and when combined with a ground pad or dog bed, it works just like a sleeping bag for him.
The 500g polyester insulation is NOT thick enough for this to make a full-time bed, but it makes a great insulation layer between your pup and the ground when you need one! The size is also very adequate. I can fold it in half for Scotty to use as a bed, or roll him up in it like a burrito.
Scotty is a medium-sized build at 55 lbs. Bigger breeds like Golden Retrievers or Malamutes would likely feel a little exposed or wouldn’t fit if you tried to roll the blanket around them, but it certainly would work as a cover.
If you just want a travel bed, I’d recommend going with an actual dog bed like the Bachelor Pad or the Highlands Pad, which is thicker and more padded under your dog for longer-term use. But if you want something that is versatile, light and packable as extra insulation to keep your senior or short-haired dog warm, the Clear Lake Blanket is awesome!
We really love this one and we are happy that it kept Scotty comfortably camping and traveling with us for all his remaining years!
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