Ruffwear is an outdoor dog gear brand based in Bend, Oregon, founded in 1994. The company is dedicated to creating gear for outdoor adventures and is guided by principles of performance, adventure, and sustainability. They are committed to conducting business to maximize the good they can do in the world while being conscious of their impact on the planet.
About The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack
The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack is a versatile and thoughtfully designed backpack for longer adventures when you need to distribute some of the gear between you and the dog.
This backpack is tailored for day hiking and light overnight trips, offering excellent performance, fit, and functionality. One of its standout features is the radial cut saddlebags, ensuring efficient load carrying over the dog’s shoulders.
The Approach Pack prioritizes lightweight materials, a streamlined design, and efficient gear organization. Using lightweight materials minimizes the additional load on the dog while maximizing their comfort during outdoor adventures with the durability of the 150 denier polyester shell. Including a vertical stash pocket allows for organized storage of gear and keeps heavier items like food and water closer to the dog’s center of gravity. External gear loops offer added gear organization and quick accessibility during the adventure. The reflective trim ensures visibility in low-light conditions, and a dedicated light loop is provided for attaching The Beacon light, enhancing safety in the dark.
In response to customer feedback, Ruffwear has made several updates to the Approach Pack, including enhanced breathability and flexibility through a perforated, molded foam chassis. They improved fade resistance using new materials and added a flopper-stopper system for saddlebag stabilization.
The padded handle and girth straps offer controlled and comfortable lifting, making it easier to assist your dog when needed. Additionally, this backpack is attached to a three-strap harness featuring two leash attachment points: an Anodized 6061-T6 aluminum V-ring and a reinforced webbing loop - both on the back. The chest straps feature two ITW Nexus Airloc buckles.
Should A Dog Wear a Backpack? Is it safe?
While backpacks can be a great addition so dogs can help carry some of the load on hikes, there are a few things to keep in mind to keep them safe:
- For optimal comfort and safety, it is advised that your dog’s backpack and contents do not exceed 20-25% of their body weight. This highly depends on the dog’s fitness level, temperature, terrain, and many other factors.
- If your dog is unfamiliar with wearing packs, it is recommended to begin with a light load and gradually increase the weight as they become accustomed to it.
- When using packs, ensure that the weight distribution of the two sides is as close as possible to prevent the backpack from rotating to one side and chafing the dog.
- Do not put backpacks on dogs who are still growing, have joint problems, or are prone to overheating even without carrying a pack.
Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack Review
The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack is super lightweight and well-made. The base harness under the backpack is designed very similarly to the Ruffwear Webmaster harness that we reviewed before. The saddle bags are integrated with this harness, and they are not detachable.
Previously, we talked about safely fitting a three-strap harness, and it’s important to note that those general guidelines apply to backpacks as well. Especially with the pack’s extra weight, we must carefully adjust the last strap to prevent pressure on the stomach area as the dog moves. The Approach pack is compatible with Ruffwear’s Brush Guard Add-On and Swamp Cooler Core Add-On, which both can help to improve the pack’s stability and the position of the last strap if it is causing any problems.
We showed the difference that the Brush Guard could make in the fit of the Webmaster in that review.
The fit of the Approach pack was similar on Zu as the Webmaster’s. She needed a size small in both but her small neck and deep chest made it challenging to make them fit perfectly - which is due to her awkard ratios, not the issue with Ruffwear’s sizing.
The Approach Pack’s neck straps were too long for Zu even when tightened all the way, and the first chest strap was sitting a bit close to the armpits. With backpacks, the latter can be helpful to keep the packs in position and prevent them from sliding up to the neck. Still, it’s something to keep an eye on to see if they chafe the armpits over longer hikes, especially since the packs cover that area, so it might not be obvious if there is a problem there unless purposefully checked during the outing.
The shape and the placement of the packs help to move the weight forward so they fall mainly over the shoulder area, not the spine, which can cause injuries and other issues when worn over a longer period. Many saddle bags flop around a lot when the dog runs, but this backpack is pretty stable even before securing the elastic flopper stopper system that helps to keep them down even more.
This backpack is on the roomier side with the following capacity: XS - 5L, S - 10 L, M - 13L, L/XL - 21 L, which is plenty to pack for most day/overnight hikes.
The chest straps have their buckles on the left side of the dog, so when the pack has no weight in them, this causes the entire backpack to rotate to the left. This really shows how little imbalance in weight is needed to make any backpack continuously rotate to one side, which will cause rubbing on the inside of the other leg where the strap will be pushed against the leg.
Zulu got used to wearing a big pack pretty easily. Putting it on is not the easiest process with a gear-shy dog as you need to pull it over the head, lift the right front leg, and then secure the buckles under the backpack, but she was fine with it once all these were done.
To desensitize her to wearing a bigger pack, I filled it with packaging material at the beginning to add to its size without adding weight, and that helped her gain confidence quickly.
Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack Review Summary
The Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack is a great option for day hikes and light overnight trips, featuring radial cut saddlebags that distribute the load efficiently over your dog’s shoulders. It is lightweight and well-made, and compatible with Ruffwear’s add-ons. The only con some people mentioned is that the saddlebags are not removable, making it a less versatile gear than the Ruffwear Palisades Backpack, which is designed for multi-day hikes.
When considering backpack use for your dog, it’s essential to follow safety guidelines, such as not exceeding 20-25% of the dog’s body weight. Start with a light load for dogs new to wearing packs and ensure proper weight distribution. Avoid using backpacks on growing dogs, those with joint issues, or those prone to overheating, and always try to balance the weight on the two sides as closely as possible.
Where to Buy
You can buy the Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack on their website.
For reference, Zu needed a small size - the same as her size in all the other Ruffwear products.
Disclaimer: this review contains an affiliate link, which supports Dog Gear Review if you purchase the product after clicking on it without costing you anything extra. Using affiliate links will never compromise us in writing unbiased, honest reviews!
Many of you asked for the dog’s measurements in reviews to better understand the different products’ fit, so I’m sharing Zulu’s below for reference.
Shoulder height: 19 inches (50 cm)
Weight: 29 pounds (13 kg)
Widest chest circumference: 24 inches (60 cm)
Neck circumference for collars: 14 inches (35 cm)
Back lengths: 17 inches (44 cm)