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 BackTrak Dog Evacuation Kit
The BackTrak Dog Evacuation Kit is a complete emergency carry-out system designed to give dog owners the confidence to go for outdoor adventures with their dogs. This kit includes a lightweight first-aid dog muzzle and a human vest with a built-in dog-carrying sling. It is ideal for those unexpected situations when your dog is sick or injured and unable to get back to the car by themself.
The first-aid dog muzzle is designed to provide emergency assistance in the event of an injury or medical emergency. It is adjustable around the snout and has a buckle for quick and easy securing behind the dog’s ears. It is lightweight and easy to put on and take off. It is designed for first-aid use only in case you need to clean up or secure a painful injury that can make even the friendliest dog bite. Since it keeps the dog’s mouth closed, it cannot be used for longer than a few minutes, as we discussed in another article about textile muzzles.
Depending on your preference and the situation, the BackTrak can be worn with the dog in the front or back. The vest is designed to be comfortable and supportive, with adjustable straps and lightly-padded shoulder straps. The 50 denier polyester ripstop shell around the dog helps bear and distribute weight.
The BackTrak Evac Kit is available in different sizes, and sizing is based on the dog’s girth size. The Evac Kit can support dogs up to 103 pounds (46.7 kg), but you also need to consider if you can stand up and walk with a dog that size on your back. The human vest measurements are the same for all sizes, with the (human) chest strap fitting up to 67 inches (170 cm) and the waist strap fitting up to 79 inches (200 cm).
The kit packs into the mesh pocket on the front of the human vest, making it easy to store and transport when not needed.
Ruffwear BackTrak Dog Evacuation Kit Review
In times of emergency in the backcountry, having an evacuation kit for your dog is essential. The Ruffwear BackTrak Dog Evacuation Kit is a reliable option that ensures you can carry your dog out when needed. But having the kit is not enough; it’s equally important to practice using it to be ready during a real emergency.
For instance, if your dog is like Zulu, who is gear-shy and doesn’t like being lifted, practicing with the sling beforehand is crucial. Short sessions with plenty of treats help them get used to being carried, making a real-life experience less stressful for them.
Practice is also crucial because adjusting all the straps and putting on a carry sling can be overwhelming at first - even if one is not under pressure in an emergency. Although the BackTrak Evac Kit has plenty of straps, they are reasonably easy to set up once you lay them out and follow the steps.
Ruffwear did two things to make putting the Evac Kit on fairly easy: they color-coded each end of the straps that should be connected to make it easy to match the right ones. The front and back of the sling are also identified with little drawings to make it clear which side goes where.
Although these may seem like minor details, they become invaluable when putting the harness on a dog in a stressful situation.
All the straps can be opened and adjusted, so the harness is “built up” around the dog without lifting their legs which is especially important if they are injured. After the adjustment looks perfect, you will probably still need to re-adjust them a few times since it will look all different once you lift them.
Zulu has very awkward, almost whippet-like ratios, and this sling still fit her well and didn’t allow her to slide around at all.
Below you can see the harness used as back carry. The grey back leg loops are not visible on Zulu in the photo below, but they support the dog’s rear end reasonably well. After this session, I tightened those a bit more, but you must be careful not to tighten them too much.
The human vest is well-thought-out, making carrying more comfortable than the simple straps on most other slings we have reviewed.
The human harness could also be pulled higher than displayed in the previous photo to give more stability to the dog when walking; however, I like to keep it lower for training purposes. Zulu is small, and the longer straps on me allow her to still stand on the ground while I get ready to stand up with her. I also find it easier to reward her while practicing if she is positioned lower on my back, but that’s just a personal preference.
In a real emergency, a higher carry would eliminate some bumping and be more comfortable for the dog and easier on the human. Ruffwear recommends the dog’s back to line up with your waistline for optimal placement for both you and the dog.
How does The Ruffwear BackTrak Dog Evacuation Kit compare to the other Dog Rescue Harnesses on the Market?
We wrote an article comparing four other emergency carry-out systems on the market that you can check out. The Ruffwear BackTrak Dog Evacuation Kit has yet to be featured in it, but an updated version is coming in the future!
The BackTrak isn’t as packable as its competitors (the Pack-a-Paw, the Back Country, and the Airlift). In return, it provides adjustability all-around the dog, has a more comfortable human vest, and comes with a first aid muzzle.
Among its competitors, it is most similar to the Ruff Rescue Back Country Rescue Harness in that it also has adjustable straps around the legs that the other two don’t have.
The Back Country is much more packable, but a significant part of BackTrak’s additional weight and material comes from its more complex human chest piece. Back Country’s wide chest panel on the front of the dog can also fit some dogs awkwardly, while the BackTrak’s front fits more like a Y-harness.
The most significant difference between the Back Country and the BackTrak is the ease of use that the colored straps provide on the BackTrak and its more ergonomic human vest, which I felt slides around less while carrying on technical terrain. The only area where the BackTrak wouldn’t perform as well as other options is if packability is a big factor for backpacking, thru-hiking or similar.
BackTrak Dog Evacuation Kit Review Summary
The BackTrak Evac Kit has plenty of straps, but Ruffwear made it easy to navigate them by coloring them and labeling the ends of the sling. All the straps can be tightened without lifting the dog’s legs, which is important if they are injured. The human vest is well-designed for comfort and stability while carrying the dog; however, this adds to its bag size when packed up.
With the BackTrak Dog Evacuation Kit, Ruffwear came up with a thought-through product that was a missing piece from their outdoor focused pet product line. As Ruffwear is the first big, international company focusing on carry-out systems, we will surely hear a lot about the BackTrak in the following years.
Where to Buy
For reference, Zu needed the smallest size - which is the same as her size in all the other Ruffwear products. The Evac Kit currently comes in three sizes (small, medium, and large).
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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)